Thursday, April 19, 2007


A gunman walks into various dorms and classrooms at Virginia Tech and opens fire on students and professors. Students jump out of four story classroom windows to get away from the carnage. Then, the gunman, a fellow student named Cho Seung-hui, turns the gun on himself. In the worst school shooting in U.S. history, 33 students (including Cho) and professors are dead.

Immense tragedies such as this raise a host of questions. Where is God in all this? How could he allow this to happen? What kind of anguish would cause someone to randomly shoot people, and then commit suicide? What can we do as a society to prevent such tragedies in the future?

We are again facing the age old question of evil in a world both created and controlled by a good God (known, in theological circles, as theodicy). In case you are unfamiliar with either the term or its definition, here is one way the problem is presented:

God cannot be both all good and all powerful because:

  1. if he is good then he would do all he could to stop evil; evil exists, therefore God did not stop it and is not all powerful.
  2. if he is all powerful and evil exists then evil is his doing; therefore he is not good.

N.T. Wright makes the following point in his brilliant book Evil and the Justice of God:

If you offer an analysis of evil which leaves us saying, “Well, that’s all right then; we now see how it happens and what to do about it,” you have belittled the problem…. for the Christian, the problem is how to understand and celebrate the goodness and God-giveness of creation and, at the same time, understand and face up to the reality and seriousness of evil.

Evil cannot be explained. It can be viewed from different perspectives, but we, as finite creatures, do not fully know why evil is in the world and what God’s purpose for it is. What we do know, as Christians, is that we believe in an all powerful, all holy, all loving, all knowing, just God who has acted faithfully in the past and in whom we can be confident will act in the future.

At the end of the day there are no worldviews or religions that give a satisfying reason for evil in the world. What Christianity does have to offer above all other worldviews is the confident hope that God will restore the world. On that day, and not a day sooner, will we then understand the ‘why’ of the problem of evil.

“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.” Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

For further reading:

The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

Evil and the Justice of God by N.T. Wright

Unspeakable by Os Guinness

How Long O Lord? by D.A. Carson

Why Does It Have To Hurt? The Meaning of Christian Suffering by Dan McCartney

Suffering and the Sovereignty of God by John Piper

Peace, ron

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