On Faith: The Big "Why?"The four “Little W” questions — Who? What? Where? When? — we can handle. Those deal in facts we can answer. It’s the “Big W,” the Why question, that baffles us.
By: Mark Hillmer, pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lake County News Chronicle
The four “Little W” questions — Who? What? Where? When? — we can handle. Those deal in facts we can answer. It’s the “Big W,” the Why question, that baffles us.
Why do bad things happen to good people?
Why did this terrible thing take place?
Why did an almighty and loving God allow this?
To these Why questions — really, only one question: philosophers and theologians call it the problem of theodicy — there are no easy answers. They have haunted and eluded the minds of all thinking people through the ages.
But this fact brings one to an important truth: The answers to the deepest questions cannot be answered by the intellect alone. The human mind, as brilliant as it is — far more complicated than any computer — cannot get to the bottom of the mystery of evil.
Beneath the rational tip of our iceberg lies the 9/10 called faith, specifically, faith and trust that there is a God who is Love personified and who is also omnipotent.
The theodicy problem is most vexing for the three great monotheistic faiths that hold there is only one true God who alone is worthy of our worship.
The old pagans had it easier. When evil happened to them they could attribute it to one of the mischievous gods and did not have to blame their personal (and therefore protecting) deity.
Ethical monotheists enjoy the spiritual peace that comes with believing that there is only one God, but the downside is, as Harry Truman observed about the presidency, “The buck stops here.” Ultimately, if there is anything wrong, the omnipotent and omni-benevolent God is somehow involved.
Atheists also have it easier. Since there is no God, there is no One to appeal to when things go south. Bad things just happen. Everything is random. Que sera, sera.
Or, as the strict determinist (usually also an atheist) would have it, all things are preordained in our genes and in the granite structure of the universe, so, again, do not ask the foolish question why. Just accept and carry on.
But what can those do who believe in a good and powerful God? There are several things:
Be patient — very patient — in waiting for the answer. Say, “We do not know now, but we will know someday.” This is a response worthy of faith. It says, “God knows. We trust God. We will continue to worship God, tragic events and appearances to the contrary.”
Permit the events to deepen our faith. Tragedies are make-or-break occurrences. They will either break our faith down and scatter it to the winds in a million pieces, or they will, if we (with God’s help) allow them to, deepen our faith, trust and awe of God. Evil clarifies the nature of good.
Use the occasions of trauma and grief to get a firmer grip on the good news of Christianity that puts the death and resurrection of Jesus continually before one. Because He rose, we too shall rise into that new life where all questions, even the whys, will be answered. If I understand 1 Corinthians 13 correctly, the knowledge of the answer to our “Why, dear Lord?” will fade away in the face of the blinding love of God.
Focus on the death of Christ. There is nothing that humans can suffer that can compare with the suffering of the loving sensitivity of the incarnate God in Jesus hanging from a cross. Learn anew that He so suffered for us in order that He may be intimate with us in our soul-numbing agony.