The Tragedy: An Evangelical Christian Perspective
As tragedy once again strikes, Americans are asking the age-old question, “Why do innocent people suffer?” or rather, “Why is there evil in the world?”
The philosophical answers to this question fall into one of three categories: (1) God is good, but impotent to stop evil (2) God is not good or He does not even exist (3) God has a good purpose for allowing evil.
Although answers one and two have many followers, most people find comfort in the third answer–the genuine Biblical answer that God has a good purpose for allowing evil.
The Christians Scriptures declare “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God to those who are called according to His purpose.” Even though God is not the creator of evil, God shows His power by thwarting evil to fulfill His good purposes for mankind. Therefore, the Jewish Patriarch, Joseph, could say to evil men “You meant this for evil, but God meant it for good to preserve many people alive.” Yes, even Bin Laden cannot thwart the sovereign plan of God. Neither is Bin Laden exonerated because God will turn evil into a greater good. Jesus profoundly states, “It must need be that offenses come but woe to that man by whom they come.”
If we acknowledge that this national tragedy is for our good, this still leaves us searching for what that good actually is. Of course, we see families brought together, national unity, brotherhood, patriotism; but it is petty to ascribe only these purposes to this awful carnage. According to Christian theology, the ultimate purpose of God is far greater–the eternal salvation of the souls of mankind. God’s constant desire is that individuals would repent of evil and be saved from further sin, death and damnation. The Christian community hopes that this event will lead people to place their faith and hope in the Jesus–not just as a good teacher, but as the Son of God who was foretold from the beginning of time to be mankind’s deliverer from the condemnation and pollution of sin.
This message, that tragedy is to lead men to personal repentance, may sound strange to modern man; but it is a message that is consistent with reality. Evil always results in personal and national devastation which becomes the impetus for social change.
In ancient times God spoke to King Solomon about what a nation should do when disaster strikes
“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land”
The Christian tradition is clear that tragedy and devastation are commonly the result of national sin. It is not unlike God to remove His hedge of protection from a sinful people in order to reprimand a sinful people, and we are a sinful people! Americans are guilty of engorging themselves with everything that God detests–immorality, sorcery, violence and religious apostasy. But it is not just the Americans who bear guilt; the Islamic world must also repent of using other people groups as a scapegoat for their hatred and jealousy. In fact, all nations should view this tragedy as a call to repent. God does have a purpose in permitting evil to touch the world–not to destroy the world, but to hinder the world’s slide into self-destructive behavior.
One very important clarification, Reverend Jerry Falwell sorely misrepresented the Christian truth when he shocked the nation by laying the guilt for the destruction of the World Trade Center on the feminist, the homosexuals, the People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union. Unfortunately, He forgot to include himself, his church and the entire Christian community. We are all sinners who corporately bear the guilt of any national tragedy. When the godly prophet Nehemiah prayed to God in a time of national tragedy, he included himself by saying, “I confess the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my Father’s house have sinned.” The prophet Isaiah also includes himself in his prayer for the nation by pleading, “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.”
One may mistakenly ask, “What is this strange Christian theology that seems to turn the guilt from Bin Laden onto the American people?” No, the Christian community is not turning any guilt away from the terrorists, but Christians recognize that God may be permitting evil from without to heal our evil within.
God will certainly judge Bin Laden and his terrorist organizations, and God may use the United States to do it. The Words of the prophet Isaiah are as much the true Word of God today as they were 2500 years ago.
Woe to you, O destroyer, while you were not destroyed, and he who is treacherous, while others did not deal treacherously with him. As soon as you finish destroying, you will be destroyed; as soon as you cease to deal treacherously, others will deal treacherously with you.
And God will cause all things to work together for good so that His Kingdom will come and His will would be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Rev. Bradford E. Winship
Harbor Bible Church
Laurence Harbor, NJ