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Archive for Saturday, May 11, 2013

Faith Forum: Why does God allow events that kill innocent people, like the recent Texas fertilizer plant explosion and Boston bombings?

May 11, 2013

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Answers difficult, questions welcome

The Rev. Darrell Brazell, pastor, New Hope Fellowship, 1449 Kasold Drive:

The question of why the innocent suffer goes all the way back to the ancient book of Job. The first verse declares Job an innocent man, yet he suffers horrifically. His three friends believe a form of Karma, “God gives what you deserve,” so they declare Job must have blown it or he wouldn’t be suffering.

Job argues with them and with God. The “friends” claim to defend God yet actually defend their preconceived beliefs. Job accuses God of being unjust, declaring that if he could plead his case before an unbiased judge, he would rule in his favor, finding God in the wrong.

Job aggressively questions God, demanding answers. He even tells God that He made a mistake when He let him take his first breath! Yet when God finally replies, Job is speechless. One glimpse of God silences him even though God doesn’t answer a single one of his questions.

To the friends God says, “You have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” What is the difference? The friends spoke about God, defending their preconceived beliefs. Job spoke directly to God, wrestling with suffering and God’s unexplainable nature.

Why do the innocent suffer? I couldn’t answer that by writing 300 books, let alone 300 words. However, I am thankful God welcomes my questions. Thankful He isn’t angry with me for asking, or even shouting, “WHY?” In fact the ones with whom I see Him frustrated are those who think they have the answers yet refuse to look honestly at the realities in front of them, those who are afraid to look because looking requires questioning what they believe. There are no simple answers, but suffering provides an opportunity to know God when we wrestle with and talk to Him rather than about Him.

— Send email to Darrell Brazell at darrell@newhopelawrence.com.

God not behind recent tragedies

Rev. Dr. Ira DeSpain, minister to Baker University, Baldwin City:

I am asked this question often. When tragedy occurs we often need to blame someone. Sometimes we need to blame God. Yet God gave us free will. We are not marionettes on a string with God as a giant puppeteer.

Whether it’s Boston or West, Texas, or China, God did not decide one day to bring deep tragedy into the lives of people. We live in an imperfect world. Sometimes it collapses, or explodes or gets altered by people of ill will. God was not involved in the production of any of our recent tragedies. We have free will.

Sometimes people say that everything happens for a reason, or that we are never given more than we can bear. I don’t agree. I don’t believe these statements are Biblical. Each one of us is given more than we can bear.

The best words I’ve heard on this subject come from William Sloane Coffin, in a sermon he preached at his son’s funeral: “Nothing so infuriates me as the incapacity of seemingly intelligent people to get it through their heads that God doesn’t go around this world with his fingers on triggers, his fists around knives, his hands on steering wheels. God is dead-set against all unnatural deaths. And Christ spent an inordinate amount of time delivering people from paralysis, insanity, leprosy and muteness. The one thing that should never be said when someone dies is ‘It is the will of God.’ Never do we know enough to say that. The first heart to break when Alex [his son] died was God’s heart.”

Coffin concludes that what God offers is “minimum protection, maximum support.” We do not know what the future holds, but we do know who holds the future. If God holds the future, it will be OK.

— Send email to Ira DeSpain at idespain@bakeru.edu.

Send your questions about faith and spiritual issues for our religion columnists to religion@ljworld.com.

Comments

Darrell Brazell 1 year, 5 months ago

As I alluded to in my article, 300 words barely scratches the surface on this question. While not fully addressing the question, I do expand on it greatly in a message, "Embrace The Spiritual Journey," I presented several years ago. You can listen to it for free at www.newhopelawrence.com/job.html .

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FloridaSunshine 1 year, 5 months ago

Rev. Dr. DeSpain...

I agree with you 100%...and also with William Sloane Coffin when speaking at his son's funeral.

What I've noticed with the commenters on LJW is that so many do, indeed, blame God for EVERYTHING (except good things, of course)...and strangely enough, it is often the agnostics and atheists. I have YET to figure out how one can blame God if one does not believe there IS a God.

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Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 5 months ago

A couple of years ago the rabbi at the Jewish Temple in Topeka addressed this subject. The question was more or less, "Why doesn't G-d perform miracles to prevent the accidents that we cause ourselves, and that are caused by our lack of preparation for the natural world?"

I could hardly provide even a synopsis of what all the sermon stated, but the basic premise was that if He did, we would then be living in an unpredictable world because miracles would be happening all the time, there would be no consequences for our own actions, and we would be robbed of free will.

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Charles McPheeters 1 year, 5 months ago

Unanswerable question? Why did God give a commandment "thou shalt not Kill"/ Then according to old testement there was more killing and taking of each others lands. It is no wonder that religions go to war in the name of God or Allah or what ever god worship. I wish we could follow the teaching of Jesus. I do not think he advocated killing someone who does not beleive like me or you.

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jack22 1 year, 5 months ago

Whomever wrote the bible got it all wrong. God, if there is one, is a woman. Think about it, did you ever hear of or see a man give birth to anything.

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true_patriot 1 year, 5 months ago

I don't like the second essay - it seems to say "don't blame God when bad things happen" but of course God is always thanked when good things happen. It's a contradiction.

Now, I do believe there is intrinsic value in thanking God in general for what we have, out of a sense of gratitude. But I think it's kind of silly when you look at in in context to say don't blame God for this because he's not that involved but if something good happens people go out of their way to ostentatiously thank God for having his finger on the lever and his hand upon the wheel.

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