You are hereThe 65 Million Dollar Answer
The 65 Million Dollar Answer
…to the 64 million dollar question, which is….”Why do bad things happen to good people?” More significantly and specifically, “Why do bad things happen to GOD’S People?” This is a question that has been debated and discussed in theological circles for generations – centuries even. In this article, I hope to assess this question from various angles and evaluate several possible answers to it, concluding with what I believe is a clear resolution to the problem, sourced directly from the Scriptures.
Over twenty years ago, back in my Bible college days, my cousin (who is now a Wycliffe Bible translator in Mexico) and I were roommates and our room was adjacent to twin brothers I will call Jason and Jim. These brothers were very conservative and a little older than us, so we chuckled a bit at their staid ways, and enjoyed needling them from time to time. Both of them were very serious (almost inordinately so) about full-time Christian ministry and the older one, Jason, was headed for overseas missions. Jason ended up marrying one of the faculty and they had twin girls. He went for a training flight one day and they crashed. Jason died, leaving his widow wife to raise the twin girls alone. She died of cancer not long ago. The girls are in their early twenties now. Jim worked as a finish carpenter for a year or two in Calgary, AB where I met him on a construction site by chance one day. We chatted and he said he was going back to graduate school to get his Master’s degree and get involved in full-time ministry. A few months later he committed suicide at school.
An up-and-coming Christian artist/musician back in the 90s (a close personal friend of Charlie Peacock) by the name of Vince Ebo, came out with his debut album which included the rocker “I Will Not Be Shaken”. Not long after its release, he committed suicide. Needless to say, Charlie was shaken if not seriously rattled. I still own that tape and enjoy Vince’s voice and message, whether its value for him, personally, proved valid or not.
Another acquaintance of mine at college married a staff woman and they had a couple of children as they prepared for the mission field. Shortly before their departure for the mission field, he took a motorbike for a spin and as he slowly cruised around a corner (without a helmet), the bike tipped, he hit his head and died. She raised her children as a widow.
One of my wife’s good friends (bridesmaid at our wedding) married a Christian man with the same vision for overseas missions and they headed to Thailand to purse their calling. They ministered there for a number of years and had two or three children. One day he was hit by a drunk driver on his motorbike, and died. She remains a widow to this day and wrote a beautifully illustrated book of poetry enunciating the depths of her grief and faith trial.
Our grad class sponsors were a wonderful Christian couple who had been involved in ministry previous to joining the faculty of our college and when they left to pursue further ministry opportunities, he became a minister in the States. His son required certain medications to which he became addicted which led to other narcotic addictions. One day he went home and demanded money for drugs. They refused to give him any and he left to return later with a gun. The gun accidentally discharged through the door killing his dad. He died in a pool of blood in the arms of his wife.
I could go on and on. You get the idea. Bad things happen to God’s People all the time. These people are/were spiritually reborn, Kingdom citizens (to the best of my knowledge). They were serving the God of Israel to the best of their knowledge and abilities, and yet something seems to have gone amiss. Very seriously. One wonders if God concerns Himself with the bad PR and image these tragedies convey to non-Covenantal people and the bad taste it leaves in the mouths of those who claim to be His. I know the wife who held her husband in his arms as he died as a result of their son’s gunshot had many bitter months of grief, turmoil and disillusionment to deal with. This hardly seems to be the loving care the heavenly Father promised to his children (for such they believed themselves to be). What happened?
In my critique of The Shack many months ago, I hinted at an answer to this profound question which so many theologians, ministers and philosophy pundits (of varying degrees of ability and credibility) have wrestled with. Contrary to the popular belief and teachings within Christian circles concerning God’s supposed “omniscience”, I have indicated in various articles that I am convinced that the Bible actually presents God as limited in knowledge – particularly where the affairs of men are concerned.
Gen. 18:20,21 clearly identifies God’s knowledge as being progressive and the result of personal investigation on His part combined with reports received from His intel agents (angels), 20 And the Lord said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I WILL KNOW." (NKJV) He clearly had no conclusive, complete pre-existing knowledge of the details of human wickedness as it existed in those cities at that time, but on the basis of reports He had received, He was going to verify for Himself whether the information was accurate or not.
Abraham was tested through the requirement of the sacrifice of his only son Isaac as a means of God’s development of more intimate knowledge of the depth of his commitment to Him. This was an investigative process with, admittedly, a cruel twist. Here is how he was ultimately spared from making that horrible sacrifice, “1 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" So he said, "Here I am." 12 And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for NOW I KNOW that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (Gen. 22:11,12) Again, God clearly had no pre-existing, thorough knowledge of Abraham’s inner commitment and faithful willingness to obey Him in all things. As a result of this test, God was convinced and His knowledge was much more complete.
Likewise, in David’s case, we discover that God’s knowledge is a result of progressive discovery developed through intensive research and surveillance. “1 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. 3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. 5 You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.” (Psalm 139: 1-5)
“23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23,24) Why would God need to “search” anyone to determine whether there was “any wicked way” in them or not? Clearly, David understood that God’s knowledge was not an eternally pre-existent “omniscience” but rather was the result of careful surveillance and investigation.
God Himself states that He doesn’t know everything and/or everyone in Matt. 7:22,23, “Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' 23 And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
God does seem to have extensive knowledge of human affairs, however, and this would appear to be the result of his angelic surveillance system. “6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. 7 And the Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." 8 Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? (Job 1:6-8) Note both God’s limited knowledge of Satan’s doings (hence the need to ask him) and the nature and timing of this interaction. Apparently, angelic entities report to God concerning their whereabouts and doings, no doubt relaying information.
Daniel had God’s message to him relayed by an angel. “20 Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God, 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, "O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. 23 At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:” (Daniel 9:20-23) Likewise, we read in Daniel 10:4-7; 10-13 the following, “4 Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, 5 I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude. 7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves… 10 Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. 11 And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. 12 Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.”
Clearly, the angels act as God’s emissaries to His People on His behalf. They also engage in surveillance for Him, gathering and transferring intel to Him on a regular basis. In fact, we read the following in Psalms 91:9-16, “Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. 12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone. 13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot. 14 "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. 15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation." This same promise is repeated to Christ Jesus Himself by none other than Satan during His temptation (Matt. 4:6; Luke 4:10)
Evidently, God’s provision of care and protection of His People involves angelic intervention acting as “bodyguards” and guides. But as we consider this Biblical reality, we must bear in mind the original question posed in this article, and consider what may be the means of resolving the situation as it exists among the People of God vs. the promises and blessing promised in the Scriptures. Why do bad things happen to those who are under the administrative care of the God of Israel via His angels? I believe the reality lies, very simply, in the fact that angels are fallible, created beings like us. Humans, seemingly, are “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:7,9) – probably in substance and greater fallibility. We lack their powers, but by the same token – we are all created beings and, as such, prone to occasional error. Do angels make mistakes and fail in their charge from time to time? I believe they do. I don’t think it’s all that common necessarily, but I believe that they are not always capable of fully protecting God’s People due to their own limitations.
Those are just a few thoughts from my corner as the Easter weekend approaches. I trust they will be a blessing and provide some insight to those who struggle with this issue.