Why hasn’t God intervened on the tyrants throughout history to prevent far worse atrocities than in the Old Testament days in which he did intervene?
An atheist blogger posted this question from a book titled Divinity of Doubt. He added a few of his own and then said they were impossible for a Christian to answer and that every Christian would ignore them. I enjoy looking for those kinds of challenges, not because I have an answer to all the questions I come across, but because it only sharpens my own faith when I work on a response. Let’s face it, no one, not even the most brilliant apologists or theologians, can answer every question that may be raised by skeptics. But if you take the time to consider what’s asked, it can only add to the tools you have at your disposal. 1 Peter 3:15 I choose the first three he listed and have addressed them in this post.
When I am around skeptics or atheists and they make a bold claim or a question that is based on an assumption, I often ask questions. The first question I ask maybe to clarify part of their statement. The second question has more to do with how they came to believe what they stated.
So, for example, with this first statement, I might ask, “What do you mean by ‘far worse atrocities’?” Or What do you mean by ‘intervened’? I would want to know what far worse atrocities she was referring to. Would the Holocaust, the Cambodian genocide, or the Rwandan genocide be examples? And by ‘interveined’ do they mean a complete and absolute interruption of some evil, or would a partial intervention be in the running?
Once I have a clearer understanding I might ask another question to seek further insight and reasons for their belief. For example, I might ask, “How do you know that God has not intervened?”
This question assumes there is a God and implies He has not done any intervening. Consider for a moment the underlying assumption. How could anyone possibly know that God has not interceded? If a terrible atrocity was averted by God and did not take place, how would anyone know that? It would be impossible to see if He has intervened because the tragedy would never take place to question His lack of interceding. Just a moment of reflection makes this first claim comical.
Of course, this does not prove He has intervened, but don’t let someone get away with an assumption that cannot be supported.
2. If God were all-powerful, why wouldn’t he create humans who could appreciate good without having evil to compare it with?
There are several directions I could go with a question like this. What do they mean by all-powerful? I would want to flesh out exactly what they mean by that. For starters, all-powerful does not mean God can do the logically impossible. Can he put a round peg in a square hole? Can he create a married bachelor? Of course not.
C.S. Lewis touches on this in his book Mere Christianity. “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?” 1
We can appreciate the goodness of God without having experienced evil. God’s goodness is objectively beautiful. A child can enjoy a lovely garden without having experienced a garden full of withered and dry flowers void of color. A child can also appreciate loving and kind parents without having experienced cruel and abusive parents.
The above question pre-supposes that we can’t appreciate good without evil. God’s love, kindness, wisdom, and much more can be appreciated without experiencing corruption of some sort. The second question implies that we can’t enjoy good without evil, which is patently false.
Are there parts of God’s character we wouldn’t understand without evil? Oh yes! How could we experience his mercy, forgiveness, grace, and justice without evil? Yes, we can experience His goodness without evil, but we experience more of Him because of evil. 2
3. If God were all-perfect and all-powerful, why would he do such a poor job and create such an imperfect world with its deadly earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, etc.?
The brilliant Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias would often respond by asking a question, “Who is asking?” In other words, what steers your world view? He would address the questioner and point out the following:
- If you are a scientific naturalist, then natural disasters are part of the evolutionary process. For example, without plate tectonics, we would not have mountains. Without degrees of elevation, we would not have rivers, lakes, canyons, flood plains, etc. Those who lose their lives from natural disasters just become part of the natural selection equation. So why are you complaining?
- If you are a philosophical naturalist, then our chemistry rules the day. What could be wrong with natural disasters? It is just the way things are, and you have no basis to complain. Natural disasters are just normal, regular, and expected common occurrence of our world. How could that be wrong? There would be no such thing as a ‘poor job’ because that suggests something is wrong with our natural world.
- If you are a follower of an eastern religion such as Buddhism or Hinduism, then it is just ‘karma.’ You are getting what you deserve. What goes around, comes around. If you had done evil in your former life, then you are receiving what you earned.
- If you are a Muslim, then the term ‘inshallah’ or Allah’s will, applies to the question. Everything is the will of Allah and cannot be questioned.
Our world view is what we believe to be true about reality. We can ask questions all day long, but some answers (depending on your world view) are not allowed, not even an option to consider. I will quote Thomas Nagal to make this point clear. Nagel is an atheist philosopher who was refreshingly honest in his personal assessment of God. Nagel wrote, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.“3
If you talk to people outside the circle of your world view, opportunities are inevitable. Opportunities to do some gardening, maybe pull some weeds. If nothing else, seek to understand their view and the reasons behind it. If you have something to offer, great. If not, then let it go and consider what they had to say.
Not long ago, I went shooting with a friend from work who shoots regularly. I had mentioned my Smith & Wesson Shield .40 had jammed for the first time about a week prior. As we chatted about it, she brought up ‘limp wristing,’ a term I had never heard of before. After watching some Youtube experts, which she shared with me (got to love Youtube), I believe that could have been the problem. All that to say, if I had had the attitude that a woman could not teach me anything about firearms, I might still have an occasional jam in an excellent handgun, mistakenly thinking it is the weapon, not the operator.
Having a little humility is a good thing. If you are wrong, don’t you want to know? Understanding world views outside of Christianity is an asset. I have lost track of the number of atheists or skeptics I have chatted with whose goal is not to understand, let alone even consider what I might be sharing, but to smugly ask questions many Christians can’t answer. Their arrogance is sometimes palatable, but I keep reminding myself His desire is for all to be saved and I am not ahead of them in line for the pearly gates. 1 Timothy 2:4
Like a bulletproof vest, take your faith to the range and fire some rounds at it to see if it holds up. If it doesn’t, then maybe something your world view needs to change.
Why hasn’t God intervened by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
- Lewis, C.S. “The Rival Conception of God.” Mere Christianity, Harper One, 1952, p.38
- Hall, Amy. Would We Know God without Evil? Stand to Reason, str.org, Aug. 7, 2020, https://www.str.org/w/would-we-know-good-without-evil-
- Nagel, Thomas. “Logic,” The Last Word, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997, 130-131