The murder of 20 little children and 6 women in Newtown, Connecticut has shaken every person who has a conscience. I’ve watched my close family weep, and I myself have not stopped the tears as they have come. Who would do such a thing? We are getting clarity (as much as possible), on that question. Someone completely consumed with a wicked, depraved heart has done this.
Where was God during the elementary school massacre? Here we have the big question. Many anti-theists (AKA atheists) will give the simplistic, cop-out answer that there is no god(s). No thank you, anti-theists, for that non-answer which you yourselves know is false.
Next try: He was surprised and grieved by it like we all were. Many well-meaning folks will give this answer in an attempt to “get God off the hook” for human evil. It sounds nice on the surface (who would want to live in a universe where God knows ahead of time that things like this are coming and yet does nothing to stop it?), but it falls flat.
All complex argumentation aside, it is simply no comfort to say God did not know because He doesn’t know the future: well then, who is in control? Would it be more comforting to know that no one is in control? How about Satan, or human beings, or maybe the impersonal stars in the sky? No thank you. I am grateful that God’s Word doesn’t teach any of these things.
Another thought that is probably the most popular: God knew it would happen, and it wasn’t His will for it to happen, but He couldn’t stop it. This is another attempt to get God off the hook for human evil, but it breaks down as soon as we look at it more deeply. It is the answer the well-meaning priest in Newtown has given to the media. It is the answer some blog writers are giving, including on the giant sites like Huffington Post and CNN Belief Blog…
Yet, it is another false comfort. God looked at Adam Lanza suiting up with body armor, packing magazines of bullets, knowing what he was going to do, and didn’t so much as have the power to thrown a falling tree onto the guy’s car as he drove there? Why not? The answer given is usually that “God cannot stop human free-will.” My dear friends and neighbors around the world, let me gently refute this lie. I understand why it is believed, but ultimately there is no truth or comfort in it for the victims in this tragedy. God could have stopped this man, but He did not.
The Greatest Injustice in All History
God was right there in the midst of the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. He was there, allowing Adam Lanza to do his evil, but He was also there with the teachers and children, graciously not allowing every single one of them to be hunted down. Yet even this monstrous act was not nearly the greatest injustice and tragedy to ever happen.
When the one, innocent, pure Man who ever lived was falsely accused, arrested, whipped, and crucified on a Roman torture device, evil was riding at its highest. Jesus was LOVE incarnate – He is God with flesh on, come to earth “not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17b). Jesus had always, eternally lived with God the Father, as God the Son – and the great love between them the Holy Spirit. Three divine, perfect Persons who are LOVE and sinlessness… and the Son chose to come to earth to bear the pain and penalty of human sin as a sacrifice for us; He did it in order to swallow death and sin just as death and sin were swallowing Him on the cross…
Have you ever stopped to think about this? When the crowds and the high priests demanded Jesus be hung from nails until He died, they were committing an atrocity beyond the scale of words. The evil in their hearts was breaking out at an all-time darkness and ugliness. Jesus had come to lead them to forgiveness and eternal life, they had spit on Him and called Him a liar. He had healed their sick, raised the dead, and promised fellowship with God for eternity, they were tearing His skin off with razor-sharp bone fragments embedded in leather whips.
What is human evil? It is best seen in the crucifixion of Jesus the Son of God.
Where was God during the murder of His precious, eternally worthy Son?
Right there. Right in the midst. Unsurprised. Unprovoked. In control.
Why is this comforting? Look at what Peter said a couple of months later as he spoke to the very people who had done it:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken[c] by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death. (Acts 2:22-23 NKJV)
You see that? They were responsible for their evil choices, and God had before determined it to happen. They’re both there. We can’t do that level of math, but there it is without apology.
What is our comfort in that, and in the elementary school massacre? Only that God is working out His gracious purposes among a rebellious, sinful, murderous human race. We are surely allowed to exercise our creaturely freedom, and we choose real, horrific evils, but God exercises His sovereign freedom to either restrain or allow us to act.
He is in control, just as He was at the cross. All of those people who crucified Jesus thought that they were rid of Him, and that they were in power. They had a moment of power, but it was allowed by God in order to then make Jesus the sacrifice for the sins of the world. Through the most evil act ever committed, God brought salvation for the world, and through the evil of Adam Lanza, there will be good and precious outcomes brought by the sovereign God, yet those ends we cannot yet see.
Shall we cry against Him for allowing it? Only if we are willing to call Him unjust for determining the murder of Jesus as the means of our salvation. We don’t want to go there, beloved people.
One last thing: I know my words may seem callous, or academic, or cold. I promise you that is not my intention. This tragedy goes way beyond my or anyone’s ability to simply fix with an explanation of God’s sovereignty. My hope, rather, is to plant the seeds of healing and restoration for those torn and broken by this act. There is hope, there is meaning in what God allows to happen. We cannot see it all, but we must trust Him in His rule of our society. He has promised to heal and completely forgive the sins of any person who comes to Him in faith – looking to that cross where Jesus paid for human sin. Do you see your sin being paid in His death? Do you believe that He rose from the grave to be your Savior and God? Then call to Him today and every day, never let Him go. He will destroy your sins, evil choices, and even your death someday… these will be defeated by His gracious power.
That is the power of Jesus the Christ – He has defeated the power of death, and draws all people to Him to share in His victory. I am praying for my neighbors in Newtown, Connecticut, that they would bring their broken, angry hearts to Christ. He is the only healer who can mend these kinds of wounds.
With so much more I could say, thanks for reading.