My good friend Winslow reminded me that I had left another article hanging. At the end of "What If'ing the Lord Almighty," which included rather disturbing incidents in the Bible where God's judgment didn't work out so well for children, I wrote:
So, how do I explain how a righteous God has children abandoned, swallowed up by the earth, "devoted to destruction," or drowned?
Although I may posit an answer in a future piece, the space limits of a bulletin article mean that I must leave it as an exercise for you. It is an answer an unbelieving world needs because vocal scoffers attempt to damn our God by bringing up every harsh incident that offends modern sensibilities…
Now, I will admit that I left myself enough wiggle room ("I may posit") that I didn't necessarily intend to do a follow-up. Was it a cop out? Maybe. However, after a game of phone tag with Winslow which included a voice mail message asking I finish what I started…well, here goes.
During the previous presidential administration, there was a lot of debate about torture. Although everyone agreed torture was wrong, what was and wasn't torture was a contentious question. However, let me ask you this. Let's say you know there is a nuclear bomb due to go off in one hour in the middle of New York City (and if you ever have tried to leave New York City in rush hour you know there is no way the city can be evacuated in time). Let's also say that you have someone in your custody who knows exactly where the bomb is, and if he tells you you can quickly have it diffused. Do you torture him? Or do you stand on principle and try to convince him to give you the information out of the goodness of his heart?
What if, also stuck in the city, is your spouse and children? Do you remain principled?
As Christians there are painful questions. Torture is wrong. I would argue always wrong.
But, we cannot ignore the fact that when you are responsible for the lives of 8,000,000 New Yorkers you might have to be less than considerate of the fate of one person, especially if that one person wants (and has the means) to kill you and everyone like you (including the ones you love).
Again, as a Christian I would argue torture is always wrong…even though I suspect that a part of the reason I can freely write this is because others in America's history had less difficulty crossing that line. Don't let modern "enlightened" propaganda fool you—torture works.
At this point I am hopeful that you are finding this whole conversation discomforting. I am.
Let's go into a few other situations. You believe everyone who hasn't done something to deserve incarceration has a right to freedom, right? However, if someone has a highly infectious disease, would you damn the government from forcing them into quarantine? For taking away their "right to freedom" for larger society's benefit?
If you have had cancer it is likely that you underwent chemotherapy. You don't lose your hair and feel nauseous because it is "good" for you, it's poison. It is wrong to poison people. Your doctor is poisoning you! Do you damn him?
When we imperfect humans have to make decisions we have limited options. Back in the Civil War doctors had to amputate limbs that now would be saved by less barbaric treatments. But we respect the fact that the battlefield surgeons did the best they could with the options they had.
As crazy as it might sound, our omnipotent God also has limited options. "Limited omnipotent God" probably seems like an oxymoron, but think about it. He created His angels and humans with free will. In heaven it meant a third of the angels went into open rebellion and there was war; on earth it meant our original parents trusted a serpent more than our Lord and then gave every one of us a propensity to sin.
And an all-powerful God couldn't do anything to stop the inception of sin in either location—otherwise it would not be free will. What a mess we've created since.
Our hypothetical interrogator had to consider eight million lives. Our Lord has to consider the population of the whole universe. Our CDC quarantine doctor had to handle one contagious person. Our God is dealing with outbreaks over every inch of the earth. Our oncologist had to treat a single type of cancer. Our Father has to deal with a planet that has every form of sin at once. Our nineteenth century surgeon had to deal with war-damaged limbs. Our creator has to deal with a war-damaged species.
Finally, when we provide difficult solutions they are for the short term. Our God has to fashion solutions that, together, solve sin for all eternity.
So, when He makes decisions it is not based on a myopic view of a single individual right at this moment, it's based on what's best for all creation for all time. Sure, the Flood may seem like overkill…but Genesis 6:5 tells us that "the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (English Standard Version). It may seem unfair that when the earth opened up in judgment of Korah's sin, that "little ones" died too (Numbers 16:27, 32)…but you don't have to spend a whole bunch of time in the early part of the Old Testament to know that the only thing that seemed to wake up the early Israelite nation was a good scare. (Nuance didn't work.) God had harsh solutions because harsh situations demanded it, and if you read with an open heart you'll see in every case God was absolutely right. Our Lord had a perfect solution for every imperfect situation, whether we can discern it or accept it.
Now, at this point I don't expect anyone to be entirely happy with my attempt at finishing what "What If'ing the Lord Almighty" started. But I do hope that you've at least realized our individual view of "fairness" is shortsighted when it comes to what our God has to manage.
What about the children? Ultimately, they suffer because of our sin, not because of God. We create the harsh situations that demand harsh solutions, and then we damn God for what we caused…