There was a little old lady who would come out every morning on the steps of her front porch, raise her arms to the sky and shout, “Praise the Lord!”
Well, one day an atheist moved into the house next door. Over time, he became irritated at the little old lady. So every morning he would step out onto his front porch and yell after her, “There is no God!”
Time passes with the two of them carrying on this way every day. Then one morning in the middle of winter, the little old lady stepped onto her front porch and shouted, “Praise the Lord! Lord, I have no food and I am hungry. Please provide for me, oh Lord!”
The next morning she stepped onto her porch and there were two huge bags of groceries sitting there. “Praise the Lord!” she cried out. “He has provided groceries for me!” The atheist jumped out of the hedges and shouted, “There is no God! I bought those groceries!” The little old lady threw her arms into the air and shouted, “Praise God! He has provided me with groceries and He made an atheist pay for them!”
The above joke has been a favorite of mine since I first read it a few years ago. Sometimes in life we are blessed enough to see the end result of our faithfulness, and our efforts to give thanks to the Lord despite our circumstances. Others in life don’t see the end result, or worse yet, believe what they were trying to do was an abject failure and a waste of time, effort, money, or worse of all, life.
Seventy seven years ago the men of Torpedo Squadron 8 in World War II may have felt that way in their final moments. Their efforts only wasted their lives, and the future they would have had with their family, friends, or loved ones at home. On June 4th, 1942, the men of Torpedo 8 Squadron launched off the deck of the USS Hornet with the mission of sinking as many Japanese ships as possible. With large Japanese and American tasks groups within striking distance of each other, both sides were preparing for battle, launching attack squadrons and defending fighter cover. Torpedo 8 was one of the first attack groups to assault the Japanese, and it was imperative that our naval forces had success since we were still recovering from the devastation of the Pearl Harbor attack. Torpedo 8 was a squadron of torpedo bombers, consequently they flew on the deck, (low over the water), launching their torpedoes at the enemy ships, which included the Japanese carriers Akagi, Kaga, and Soryu.
Not only did Torpedo 8 Squadron fail at their mission, not one of them managed to even damage an enemy ship, and all of them were shot down by the defending Zero’s, (Japanese fighters). Twenty-nine men of the Torpedo 8 Squadron lost their lives that morning with only one man surviving, who, after spending 30 hours in the water was finally rescued. Not a single plane of that squadron returned. When you look at those facts, it is difficult to see any good come of it. In fact, it is difficult to see any good coming from any loss of life in war time.
It is also difficult to see the reasons why children might lose their parents at a young age. What good could possibly come from those kinds of circumstances? Daniel, who was a former 8th grade student of mine, lost his father not long after he graduated 8th grade. Daniel and I had some heart to heart talks before he left early in the school year. I was really sorry to see him go, because I saw the potential for a very fine young man.
Blake, another 8th grade student I had, did not have his father in his life, because his father made the choice not to be involved with his son. Frankly, I find it unconscionable that dads would opt out of being involved in the lives of their own children, but it is a choice men and women sometimes make. Going back a few more years, I had two wonderful students, one in 7th grade and the other in 8th grade, whose mother opted to stay with an abusive boyfriend rather than care for her girls. Where was their dad? In prison. Consequently, they were moved to a foster home and have since moved on to college out of the area.
How do Christians address the problem of evil when we have an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God that could stop evil if he choose to?
Epicurus ( 341-270 BC) a Greek philosopher wrote,
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?”
Doug Powell, a Christian apologist, phrases it this way,
If God is truly all-powerful He could prevent evil.
If God is omniscient [all knowing] He would know when evil was about to take place and therefore could act to stop it.
If God is morally perfect and benevolent [kind and charitable] He would want to prevent evil.
Therefore, God, at least with those characteristics, does not exist.
That is tough. How do you respond to such difficult statements that make sense, seem logical, and undercut our belief in an all powerful, all knowing, all loving God. This can be the greatest intellectual challenge for the Christian and the non-Christian’s. Can anyone calculate the amount of suffering man has endured by man? On top of that, you have what some call the natural evil of the world, which would include hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires, and earthquakes. These natural events have added tremendous pain and suffering not only because of those killed, but to the family and friends who survived. William Lang Craig in his book, Hard Questions Real Answers, gives us a distinction between types of answers, namely an intellectual and emotional response. He wrote, “The intellectual problem of evil concerns how to give a rational explanation of God and evil. The emotional problem of evil concerns how to comfort or console those who are suffering, and how to dissolve the emotional dislike people have of a God who would permit such evil.”
We can’t calculate the sufferings humans have endured, but then can you even place a value on suffering? Our court systems certainly think so since every day people are rewarded with a monetary value for pain and suffering caused by the mistakes or actions of others. Are there things that are incalculable, but serve a purpose? Sure, just consider the number pi, 3.1415… which has been calculated up to ten trillion digits. No one has been able to calculate pi, but ask any mathematician what purpose it serves.
Does the small child who receives a vaccination shot understand the pain and suffering they must endure to avoid a greater evil? Certainly the parent does, but despite the child’s cries and pleas, the child receives the shot anyway. My point in this is to say that you may not not ever understand why you have suffered, but just maybe, there is a reason you cannot see yet. It may take months, years, or even a life time to see why you had to endure a particular hardship, but there was a reason. Maybe, in this life you will never know why you had to suffer as you did.
I asked a friend from church, Larry Buck, what he thought he’d done in his life that was the most pleasing to the Lord. His first reply was, “That is a good question.” Then after several moments of consideration, he replied, “Maybe it is not just one thing, but the addition of all the little things I do.” I think he was right on. Could it be God looks at the big picture, the accumulation of being a good husband/wife, father/mother, friend, helping those in need, and acting Christlike to those around him or her?
Seventy seven years ago, 29 men lost their lives for this country, but those who survived the Battle of Midway saw a reason for that sacrifice. The Japanese fighters had to drop down low to shoot down all those torpedo bombers that were flying just a few feet above the water, and just a few minutes later our dive bombers came in at 17,000 feet. The dive bombers were virtually unopposed and had a very successful strike, hitting all three of the Japanese carriers, which had aircraft loaded with fuel and ammunition; you could not have asked for a better target. Before the battle was over, the Japanese would lose all four of their carriers, the U.S. would lose only one. The Battle of Midway was a turning point in the Pacific War for America, and Japan suffered their first defeat in over 300 years.
William Lane Craig address evil this way, “First, the chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.” “…people tend naturally to assume that if God exists, then His purpose for human life is happiness in this life. God’s role is to provide a comfortable environment for His human pets. But in the Christian view, this is false.” Craig goes on to say, “Many evils occur in life which may be utterly pointless with respect to the goal of producing human happiness; but they may not be pointless with respect to producing a deeper knowledge of God.”
Does your response to pain, suffering, evil, and hardship move you away from the Lord, or move you closer to him? That choice is yours, and since God has granted us a choice, at least you have something to consider. Yes, God could remove all evil, but by doing so, he would remove our choice and we would just be compelled to choose good, choose God.
Yes, God is all powerful and could prevent evil. Yes, he is all knowing and would know when evil was going to take place. Yes, he is all loving and would want to prevent evil. Yes, evil exists, but only because God allows it, and allows us to make a choice as humans, as persons made in his image, not robots. God even gave the angels a choice. What value, what pleasure, what purpose, would millions of robots serve who are pre-programed to act and respond in a certain way?
James 1: 2-5 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
1.Powell, Doug. Guide to Christian Apologetics. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2006. Print
2.Craig, William, Lane. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print
3.Bavousett, Glen. World War II Aircraft in Combat. New York: Arco Publishing Company. 1976. Print
4.Craig, William, Lane. Hard Questions Real Answers. Wheaton: Crossway, 2003. Print