By Andrew Keith
With the most recent act of evil at a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the idea that God would allow such despicable acts of evil in a place of His worship has been widely questioned. This is nothing new, of course, as almost everyone in their lifetime, religious or irreligious, struggles with this paramount question. Why do bad things happen to good people? Those people who died in the church, they were good people, you see, so how could a loving and just God condemn them to die while they were praising Him for His many blessings in their lives? This isn’t a new question in the realm of theology and it has been one that will always be hard to answer due to the colossal importance the answer holds to so many people across all cultures and all beliefs.
The first thing I think of when I hear this question is that whoever is asking it is missing half of the picture. To ask why bad things happen to good people one must also ask its supplementary question: why do good things happen to bad people? If it’s important to understand why bad things happen to good people then it should be of equal importance to know why good things happen to bad people. Neither one “deserved” their respected treatments. A good man must be treated good for he deserves it. A bad man must be treated bad because he deserves it. The truth is, no one is totally good or totally bad. We are all capable of committing evil albeit hopefully not to the extent that the Texas shooter and the Las Vegas shooter have exemplified. We all have evil hearts. We have and always will. We are like a shattered glass that has pieces sharp and dull scattered about. No matter how “good” or how “bad” we deem someone, our own capability of evil remains the same. Because of this inherent evil in all of us, bad things inevitably happen to everyone. This remains true in the opposite spectrum, as well. Good things happen to everyone at some point because we all have the capability of good in us. This is life. Life is about the struggles, the joy, the temptation, the romance, the frustration. Honestly, what would life be without its share of evil? If the world were fully good yet fully human, what would be the point of believing in God? When someone is discouraged by God’s seemingly contradictory nature, they believe that God’s allowing of evil to occur is reason for unbelief. I feel quite the opposite. If the world were full of pure, unrefined goodness, what would the point of God be? It is far more logical to believe in a God that saves us from our evil nature and the evil deeds of this world. If we had Heaven on Earth and we were all good people doing good things, there would be no role for God. But since our world isn’t full of good people doing good things, we have even more reason to believe there is a God who can mend our shattered glass.
The explanation many Christians give to explain evil is something along the lines of, “God has a plan for us all. All we need to do is believe in it and it’ll be alright in the end.” Although the statement may be true, it is not convincing to anyone outside of Christianity. That answer makes it out to be a matter of blind faith which will make them question whether or not Christianity itself is a matter of blind faith. A generalized answer must be appropriate for those who are searching for a reason to believe, as I think all people are at some point in their life. The typical Christian response is too much of a cop-out for others to truly believe it. Yes, Jeremiah 29:11 says it right there, but the picture this typical Christian response paints is not true to the character of God. God does have a plan for us and we must believe that if we are Christians, but there are far better explanations as I have mentioned previously that answer the question so that even those who do not believe can understand who God is.
I do not believe we will find the true answer as to why countless men decide to commit atrocious acts of pure evil. No one will know why men decide to take away the sanctity of human life in a single instant. No one will know how to stop or prevent acts of evil from occurring to good people. But we do know that God allows it because we put it upon ourselves. Adam used the gift of free-will to introduce evil into men’s hearts, where it lies awake in the night, preys upon every weakness and opportunity. God allows evil because there is no other way for God to be God if there is no evil.