By Dick Blackford
No doubt most who are reading these lines watched at least a portion of the funeral of the late Princess of Wales. Diana’s brother, Charles, the ninth Earl of Spencer, delivered a passionate and pointed speech. I thought the speech was exceptionally good. There was a small portion of the speech with which I disagreed, which is what this article is about. That portion expressed a belief held by many. He said, “God gave Diana only half a life. I will always feel cheated that he took her away.”
This brought back memories of a funeral I preached several years ago for a seven-month old baby whose four-year old brother accidentally pulled a portable television over on top of him. On why the young, and often the evening before the funeral, family members were heard saying “It was God’s will. He took him away from us.”
What This Belief Does
This belief makes God an unloving tyrant who shows respect of persons (Rom.2:11). I do not believe that was the impression the princess’ brother intended to leave, but it is the logical conclusion. Why the young, and often innocent, are caused to die prematurely but the wicked are permitted to live is hard to reconcile with a loving, all powerful God. Why are the lives of those who are doing good for others snuffed out while the evil continue to prosper (Ps. 37)? This shortsighted view of God causes one to misjudge him. It leads to skepticism. The problem of suffering and death is the major and strongest argument used by atheists in debate.
Man’s Freedom To Choose
God gave man freedom to choose (Gen. 2; Josh. 24:15). Much of the Bible is taken up in trying to motivate and persuade men to make right choices. If he intervened every time someone made a wrong choice, that would cancel man’s freedom to choose. Freedom involves being able to make wrong choices as well as right ones. Man is free to act hatefully and “Princess Diana” continued from front page foolishly, as well as lovingly and wisely. If God intervened every time one made a wrong choice, what we know as laws of nature would not really be laws at all. In fact, God would have to intervene in everyone’s life, virtually non-stop.
If all choices, both good and bad, produced exactly the same effect, how would we ever learn to choose the good and reject the bad? Finite beings with personal will power must be allowed to suffer consequences of their wrong choices if they are to learn that good is to be valued over bad.
Where The Atheist Is Coming From
The atheist’s argument is that, if God is a loving God, he wouldn’t let bad things happen to people, especially good people. Take note that this argument does not prove any-thing about whether there is a supreme being. It only objects to his nature (or their misperception of it). All other arguments for a supreme being still stand. And if there is no supreme being, where did the atheist get his concept of a standard of good and evil, of loving and unloving?
Answering The Atheist
Our point in all this is that God cannot do two things that are mutually exclusive. Such is not in the realm of possibility. This is the case with an all powerful, loving God and a man who has free will. To give man free will, God chose to limit his power to intervene when man makes a wrong choice. If God intervened on every such occasion man would be no more than a robot or a computer, neither of which can make conscious choices. I have never met anyone who wished we did not have freedom to choose, for we would then be inanimate objects.
It is true that God made the world and set in order the laws of nature. But he didn’t intend that they be misused.
To blame God would be somewhat like blaming Henry Ford for all the car wrecks or the Wright brothers for all the plane crashes. Several wrong choices were made by various individuals on the night of Princess Di’s death. There is no reason to blame God. Most of what happens in the world is not God’s will. He allows it only because he gave freedom to choose. Because of this freedom he allows both good consequences and bad.
Why Some Suffering Comes
This article is not an attempt to study all the reasons why suffering is in the world but some suffering comes as a result of the sin and/or wrong choices of others. We can’t argue that we should be allowed freedom of choice but it should be denied everyone else. Because of that, we some-times pay a price so all can have this freedom. If we reap the good benefits of former generations (inventions, scientific discoveries, cures), can we avoid reaping the evil as well? This is the price we pay for freedom to choose. Innocent people may be killed by a drunk driver. A baby may be born with AIDS or addicted to drugs because of the wrong choices of its parents. We live in a world where others have free will too. Life is not always fair. We do not live in a perfect world yet, but a time is coming when God is going to set things right and balance the scales of justice (Acts 17:30, 31). That is the only way it can be in a world where man has this freedom.
It’s not a perfect world but it sure beats the other alter-native of a world without God.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 21 p. 1
November 6, 1997