Summary: This is a sermon that focuses on that big question "Why?" Why do bad things happen to good people?
A young man, barely in his 20’s… lies dying of cancer with only a few months to live. He is a good man, never did anything bad in his life. He goes to church, and is even a member of the Deacons and … well… he WAS very dedicated about visiting the sick and shut-ins. Everybody loves him, and everyone is just shocked that he… of ALL people… has cancer. It just doesn’t make any sense… such a good person… such a shame. WHY?
She is walking home from the fourth grade the way little fourth grade girls often do. She is singing and staring up into the clouds… picking out shapes. She strays into the street and is struck by a motorist and killed on contact. WHY?
A young couple, barely married two years, sit in the hospital room holding each other. The baby they spent nine months preparing for… was stillborn. They look up from their tears, and you can read their eyes… WHY?
WHY? It is a question we have dealt with quite a lot lately here in this church. Friends and family members… fighting cancer. Friends and family members… passing away. Flooding. Recession. Family problems. Health issues of all kinds… some of them shared… some of them kept silent and hidden. And we stand there… wondering why? God is a good God right? God is a powerful God right? Then someone needs to explain this to me. Why do bad things happen to good people?
It is a problem for those of us who believe. It isn’t really a problem for non believers, they just know it is part of life. But us… we believe in a powerful and good God. How can things like this happen when we have a powerful and good God on our side. And in our faith… we struggle to understand. We seek to make sense of the disparity.
If God is powerful and good, why is there still evil in the world. Surely God could have prevented those cells from turning into cancer… surely God could have stopped that car… surely God could have kept that baby alive. Why didn’t he? If God is powerful and good… why wouldn’t he?
As our faith has sought understanding… it has produced several different answers to “The Theodicy Problem” i.e. the question “Why do bad things happen to good people.” Some of them are helpful… some… not so much. As we wrestle with these questions ourselves… I present the most popular answers to you now for your consideration, and will even share my own view… for what it’s worth.
A. Protest Theodicy:
Perhaps… the solution to our dilemma… is that we have misunderstood God. Perhaps… God is NOT good. This is the stance of a Theodicy known as Protest Theodicy. It takes it’s standpoint from the tradition of Jacob who wrestled all night with God… from the tradition of the Psalmist who asks “How long, O Lord?” and with one voice it protests against a God who by appearances seems to enjoy chaos… suffering… and pain. A God who is like a small boy… torturing ants with a magnifying glass… entertaining himself with our suffering. Protest theology looks at all the pain and suffering in the world and declares IF there indeed is a God… there is no way he can be a good God.
Yet… I think this view takes far too much for granted, and relies far too little on the biblical witness found in scripture. You look to scripture, and… while you can indeed find a vengeful God… you also find a God nurturing and loving his people… fulfilling the promises he made to them… blessing them. You see a God seeking goodness for his people, Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And time and time again he fulfilled his promises to his people Israel. In the light of scripture… I must declare… God is a good God.
B. Process Theodicy:
Now if we determine that God must indeed be good… then we are still left with the problem of evil in the world. Enter another Theodicy known as Process Theodicy that declares… “Well, if God is indeed good, then he must NOT be all powerful.” In some ways, he has handcuffed himself where he can no longer act in the world. He has set up rules against himself that have made it so he is powerless in this world. Indeed God always intends the good to happen, however he can not stop it from happening without breaking the laws of physics, or breaking free-will. God didn’t want puppets… he wanted free willed creatures… and that is what he has gotten himself into!