I noticed the great blogalogue between NT Wright and Bart Ehrman.
We live in a world in which a child dies every five seconds of starvation. Every five seconds. Every minute there are twenty-five people who die because they do not have clean water to drink. Every hour 700 people die of malaria. Where is God in all this? We live in a world in which earthquakes in the Himalayas kill 50,000 people and leave 3 million without shelter in the face of oncoming winter. We live in a world where a hurricane destroys New Orleans. Where a tsunami kills 300,000 people in one fell swoop. Where millions of children are born with horrible birth defects. And where is God? To say that he eventually will make right all that is wrong seems to me, now, to be pure wishful thinking.
I was in Uganda last month. While there I saw, if not hell, some of its suburbs. The stories are familiar to us all – dying children, slums beyond description, systemic brokenness that robs hope. So many of those questions popped into my head – How could God allow this sort of thing? What kind of god could allow children to live like this.
It isn’t a new question for me or for any of us. It is among the world’s oldest questions I suspect. But as I thought about it something clicked. God isn’t allowing this suffering. I am. You are. We are.
I will focus on Africa’s suffering. Africa finds itself where it does today because of a billion or more decisions that people made… individual decisions. A decision not to invest here. A decision to buy a slave there. A decision to drive an unfair trade deal here. A decision to pay diamond miners pennies. Billions and billions of decisions like this have been made over the centuries. The result? Africa today.
Is that God’s fault?
I think not. Because at every moment those decisions were made God was whispering for people to do the right thing, the just thing, the merciful thing. But we chose not to listen.
God has done his job. We haven’t done ours.
I used to think the suffering question was a serious head scratcher, a truly troubling thing – the best evidence against God. No more. I think it is largely an excuse to make ourselves comfortable in our complacency by blaming God for the suffering we aren’t spending our lives addressing.