Lately, I have seen more instances of the question, “Why does God allow terrible things to happen?” especially in the instances of the events in Paris and, as of today, San Bernardino. This is a fair question and one worthy of answer. It is one that men more learned than I have been wondering for a long time.
Why do bad things happen? Why does God allow such atrocities to be committed? Why do people suffer from natural and human disaster, and why does God not stop it? These questions have even been used to call into question the existence or even the goodness and love of God. So it is not something to take lightly. Below, I want to give three possible answers to the question, with the last being the most likely.
First, it is possible that greater evil would result if these were prevented. God is greater than we are and can see far more than we ever could, and he knows the hearts of man. He has given mankind the freedom to make choices, and he knows that humans are capable both of great evil and great good. He alone knows what people would do if given the chance to do it. It may be that by allowing this to happen, those who would commit evil are satisfied with this and do not try to do more, and also that their evil moves good men to stop them before their evil can continue to grow, and thus become more evil.
That said, I do not like that answer. It is a possibility, but it relies far too much on supposition and guessing what God would intend to do in other circumstances, and could be twisted to portray God as capricious and untrustworthy. It also gives no answer for natural disasters and is unsatisfying. So I will present another option.
Second, it is possible that God has instructed people to stop evil men before they commit atrocities, but for whatever reason, the people he commanded to act failed. This has some support in Scripture–when God commanded Jonah to preach to Ninevah, he refused and tried to run away. He was sent to Ninevah eventually anyway, but his spiteful message did not last long and Ninevah was later destroyed for its behavior. Likewise, Solomon was commanded to follow after God, and he did not, so his kingdom was split. Or even earlier, when because of their lack of faith, the Israelites were unable to defeat their foes in battle, and allowed themselves to be tricked.
This places the blame on those who have been instructed to carry out a command but did not because they did not put themselves to the task. It’s better than the first option because it correctly absolves God of responsibility, but then the question becomes who are these people who are called and why did they fail. It also cannot address the natural disaster aspect, and this explanation is also unsatisfying.
So, the last option, which I believe to be the most correct. Mankind is in rebellion against God and is reaping the consequences of sin. Humans have constructed for themselves a world of pain and suffering, and by and large they choose to maintain it rather than fix it by going with God’s plan for the world. When one creates a world of pain and suffering, there are consequences. Bad ones. Asking God to intervene is asking God to prevent mankind from dealing with the consequences of their behavior. This makes little sense. He has already given his instructions on what to do. What’s more, it would be unjust. It is like expecting a judge to acquit a known thief who has shown no signs of changing behavior. Consequences simply cannot be abandoned like that.
This solution accounts for both the evils of man and natural evil. It takes into account mankind’s sinfulness, and it maintains God’s justice and fairness. It also places the blame squarely on the shoulders of humans. The fact is that the world we live in is far from the ideal God intends for us, and it’s also a fact that humans are (and have been) doing whatever they can to ruin it from almost the beginning. But that can all change, if humans turn to God.