Posted by: serrels | June 3, 2010

The Burning Question!

I’ve just been flicking through the comments section, and I’ve noticed that there have been some really interesting debates going back and forth. The really awesome thing is that, for the most part, it’s been really civil and fun.

I’ve also found myself learning a lot from what you guys have to say, on both sides, and it got me thinking about an idea for a regular section.

So here it is: every Thursday I’m going to ask a question, something I feel a bit confused about, or don’t understand, and I want you guys to try and answer the question and explain it to me! This is totally open to both Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, whatever – I’d like to hear everyone’s input, but please keep it civil!

I’ll chuck a new one up every Thursday, and we’ll see how we go. If anyone has a cool idea for a question feel free to email me at mark_serrels@hotmail.com.

The question for this week is…

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

Let me know what you think!

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Responses

  1. lol this should be fun to see!

  2. the burning question? “the new atheists are the old atheists that the catholic church is NOT allowed to burn anymore “!
    great blog, keep it up, dont let too much flaming happening, (it only takes a spark )

  3. All I can figure is that…and I come from a Christ-based (like this better then ‘Christian’) perspective…is that God, Who is love…and therefore operates out of love…can’t do anything but allowing us our freewill. In my estimation, true, authentic love does not make anyone do anything. It is non-tyrannical. It doesn’t get in the way of someone making their own choices. I have wrestled with this alot myself…and have pictured in my mind a horizontal spectrum…with Hitler on one endand Mother Theresa at the other end. So, where exactly, on the spectrum should God intervine? How good or how bad should things get before He does something…and then, how much responsibility is also on our shoulders in dealing with how far we want to allow evil in our world?? If indeed we are not at all puppets, then why can’t we be the ones to destroy ourselves if we choose to?? Well, some of my thoughts anyway….

    • i tend to follow the same thought process as this.

      it all comes down to our ability to make our own choices. we have the ability to freely choose what we do. in some cases, our decisions will have negative effects on others (sometimes indirectly/unintentionally). id like to think most times our choices would benifit others but if we did not have the ability to have a choice we would be nothing but robots. Why would God bother creating a race of robots programmed to do his will? He wants us to have the choice to love him or not. He wants us to want to love him.

      but not all bad things occur because of choices e.g earthquakes/destructive weather events (im asssuming this is what you originally intended this question to tackle). this can also be drawn out to this question, ‘why is it that bad things happen to good people while good things happen to bad people?’. this is a tougher question to answer though and strangely enough, this is one of the themes of the book of Job and is a really good example of God specifically allowing bad things to happen. now i dont want to seem like a Job mongerer :P, (its probably one of the books ive read the least times) but for another perspective on it, id sugest u give it a try.


    • All I can figure is that…and I come from a Christ-based (like this better then ‘Christian’) perspective…is that God, Who is love…and therefore operates out of love…can’t do anything but allowing us our freewill.

      The free will defense. It has several problems. The most obvious being that it’s rather inapplicable to the vast swath of suffering that isn’t the result of human choice (natural disasters, famine, plagues, etc).

      But even in regard to human choice it’s not terribly reasonable. Take your comment:


      In my estimation, true, authentic love does not make anyone do anything. It is non-tyrannical. It doesn’t get in the way of someone making their own choices.

      Yes, it does. If you see a man attacking people with a machete in a crowded mall and you have the opportunity to bash him on the head with a chair while his back is to you then you do it—precisely because you love and care about others.

      If you want to claim it’s plausible for God to act in precisely the opposite way one would expect of any other caring person then the onus is on you to support that claim.

      • The first, I was talking about a persons will, not natural disasters…the 2nd I was speaking about God’s response….general response…not mans, which of course should be to intervine to one’s fellow wo(man).

  4. Why does God allow bad things to happen?

    As there is no god, this question is irrelevant.

    • Yeah, I sort of realised after posting that this might be kind of a moot point for Atheists… 🙂

  5. As much as I believe in ’cause and consequence’, I don’t believe in the assumption underlying your question: that everything necessarily happens for a reason. To extend that notion to say things happen by the act or omission of a higher being seems like the height of insecurity.

  6. this is one we all ask!
    but if God always intervened, then everyone would choose to follow God for the wrong reasons, just cos they would get helped out in an awful situation.

    Why should He intervene?

    Also we need to experience the good and bad in life, to appreciate anything. If we always got what we wanted, and if it was always good, we would have nothing to realise it actually was good, we would just expect it!
    You need the highs and lows of life. As much as the bad things hurt us, they are usually the times you are close to God, (if you believe in Him!)…it makes you wake up, and amid the pain and hurt, you find a strength.

    Unfortunately, the bad things we experience are the very things that give us our character, strength and courage etc.
    We would all just be spoilt brats if we always got what we wanted, (relief from any pain or suffering too). How do you learn anything about life?
    Bad things happen. So do good things!

  7. On this question, I defer to a fellow-Frisian, the philosopher Alvin Plantinga. His free will defense is widely considered to have refuted the logical problem of evil with respect to God. According to Wikipedia, in the post-Plantinga philosophical community “most discussion on the problem of evil presently revolves around the evidential problem of evil, namely that the existence of God is unlikely, rather than illogical.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plantinga%27s_free_will_defense

    • That fellow bloggers, is philosophical ‘Oh SNAP!’

  8. I liken God to Mr. Miyagi.

    He doesn’t just show you how to palm block; he makes your sorry arse clean all his cars.

    He doesn’t lend you a book entitled “How to block a ballshot: for dummies” – he makes you paint the godamned fence until you get wankers cramp wrist RSI.

    He doesn’t tell you how to bust out the crane stance kick. He rocks your noob self right out of the boat. And laughs as you inhale duck turds.

    Bad shit turns you into the karate kid. Embrace it.

    But even God’s best intentions can’t prevent your leg from getting swept faster than spilt Jaffas in a supermarket isle. That’s your own stupid fault.

    • Dude, I’m pissing myself here – that was just perfect.

  9. This is the biggest problem with the concept of God, or Zeus, or whoever it is humans are worshipping in any given century.
    He’s responsible for all the good stuff, and we bring the bad stuff upon ourselves. You sound like battered wives.
    I always find it disgustingly selfish when people thank God for saving their lives in a bad situation. What makes you better than the people who weren’t “saved”?
    With reportedly infinite power comes great responsibilty. If I had the power to stop a child dying from cancer I’d fucking wield it.
    God doesn’t.
    It’s overwhelmingly likely God doesn’t exist, but if he does, he’s a dick and I want nothing to do with him or his fan club.

  10. Yes, I’m saying the Bible builds God up as an all-loving, all-powerful Spider-Man, and there’s no evidence of any of that.

  11. Some things to ponder on why God allows bad things to happen.

    For those keen on the ‘free-will’ reasoning it might be worth perusing the following verses
    Deut 30:6 Jn 15:5 Jn 6:44
    Job 42:2 Rom 9:16 Jn 15:16
    Ps 65:2-4 Isa 26:12 Rom 8:20-21
    Pr 16:9 Isa 46:9-11 Rom 9:16
    Pr 19:21 Jer 10:23 1 Cor1:27-29
    Pr 20:24 Jer 24:7 Eph 1:11
    Pr 21:1 Jer 32:40 Ph 2:13
    Dan 4:35 Jn 1:12,13 Ph 3:21

    Might my free will/choice negate someone else’s free will?

    Is it possible that we would not recognise it if God did intervene in a given situation?
    I believe the idea that God has set everything ticking along and allows ‘natural consequences’ and only occasionally intervening is probably erroneous.

    Is it possible that in spite of the evil in the world that the world may still be the very best it can be given the sin situation?


  12. his is one we all ask!
    but if God always intervened, then everyone would choose to follow God for the wrong reasons, just cos they would get helped out in an awful situation.

    Loving God because he behaves in a way consistent with his caring about us is hardly a wrong reason for following him. It sounds like the best possible reason to me.


    Also we need to experience the good and bad in life, to appreciate anything.

    I’m pretty sure I can appreciate things without any children in the world getting molested or being born with birth defects.

    I suspect you could to.

    • Yes interesting point. I guess if you believe in God then you also believe in the evil side, and isn’t the devil responsible for the bad things? Result of sin? Whats the issue with following and loving God regardless? Why do we have to wait for good things…maybe good things are happening all the time, and you have not even had that awareness!
      Do you have kids? As a parent you sometimes allow your child to make a mistake to learn a lesson, we can’t intervene all the time. You just don’t want them to get hurt, and it is painful to see them hurt. I’m sure God hurts when we are hurt too.
      You see this with teenagers, even though their parents may only do good, a child will still rebel.
      so what is wrong with a birth defect? Why do we put such importance on looking or being perfect….you can still be a beautiful person?
      Some don’t want to believe in God, but as soon as something bad or wrong happens in the world they blame Him. There is another force in this world.
      Who is to blame if you are an atheist?

      • Julie! Very good points…and I hadn’t really thought that way before….that, a fish doesn’t know its wet….a person with a birth defect wouldn’t know any better unless we say something….so, why can’t we just let people be who they are…unless someone’s birth defect is causing pain or what is needed to sustain life…which then compassion should kick in…then why can’t we let them be and not hide them away….or alienate them….maybe this is the worse sin.

  13. So here’s my thoughts/question about god and free will – If god is truly benevolent, omnipotent and omniscient (e.g. assuming Christian god) – then he is obviously all powerful, all knowing, and knows everything that has, and will happen over the course of time. This also means he knows, in detail, the consequences of everything he does/creates. For example, when go creates ‘John Doe’, he knows what decisions he’s going to make, before John even makes them. With that said, can he truly be benevolent AND fully omniscient?

    I say no…however upon some more reading it seems that to solve this problem some declare god’s omniscience as ‘inherent omniscience’ which essentially is limiting his ability to know what will occur as a result of freewill…but then he’s limited, which seems to contradict his definition.

  14. There’s no evidence any gods exist.

  15. I fall into the “I know there is a God” category, and am searching. It seems to me that God set things in motion but doesn’t interfere. On a personal level, my family were victim of a mass murderer. There simply is no explanation as to why we weren’t killed. But, seven others were killed, and many wounded. It was very upsetting when people said to us “God must have been watching over you” because it implies God let those others die. This situation was bad, but God didn’t cause it. A man decided to go on a killing rampage. God didn’t put the gun in his hands.
    I enjoy your blog and am finding help myself from your writings.

  16. Well, I guess I’ll join the party on this question! This might be a bit long-winded, so I apologize, but I need to explain.

    The issue of free will is definitely an issue here, but I want to point to what the Bible describes as the catalyst to all of this in the first place. (note, if you don’t trust the Bible at all, you’re not going to like what I’m going to say . But, maybe just try and give it a fair shake for a moment or two?)

    The issue at hand is God’s character vs. Satan’s character. Yep, I know I’m introducing the character of Satan here (who, I’m assuming many reading this blog don’t believe in anyway, and who is a whole new element as far as I can tell in this blog, but just hang with me for a second.)

    Genesis chapter 3 describes a “serpent” who deceived Eve into disobeying a command from God. This serpent is none other than Satan, who is identified as such later in the Bible. In any case, the consequences of Eve’s disobedience (and Adam’s as well), is that humanity became “fallen”, “sinful”, whatever you want to call it. The reason Satan tried to deceive Adam and Eve in the first place was because he was once the top angel in heaven, only under God himself. But Satan became dissatisfied, he wanted to be equal with God. So jealousy grew in his heart, and he soon tried to convince the other angels in heaven to come to his side. Essentially, Satan became power-hungry and questioned God’s way of doing things. This is referenced in detail in the Bible in the book of Ezekiel 28:13-17.

    The consequences of Satan’s rebellion are recorded in the Bible in Revelation 12:7-12. Here Satan is labeled as the “serpent”, the “dragon”, and God cast him and the other rebellious angels out of heaven……to…………yep…….earth, where vs. 9 says he “leads the whole world astray.” Vs. 12 adds that “he is filled with fury.”

    Here’s the gist of it: God’s kingdom is founded on principles that Satan couldn’t live with. He rebelled and said to God, “I can’t live with your way, it’s not fair, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to show you it’s not fair by leading as many humans as possible astray from your will, your love, and your law.”

    So……God effectively said, “I’ll let this happen so people can judge for themselves.” We as humans get to decide whose way is better, God’s, (admittedly, we DO NOT fully understand his ways or means, including the how’s and why’s of who suffers pain and who doesn’t), but whose founding principles are love and justice and compassion; or Satan’s, whose principles are founded on deceit, pride, selfishness, and pain.

    In sum (you’re probably tired of reading, sorry ), we get free will because God doesn’t just want robots following him, he desires genuine love. And we suffer pain because once Satan sinned, and convinced the first humans to do so, God had to let us see for ourselves what a world would look like where pride, selfishness, and deceit ruled.

    The fundamental issue here is not free will, its God’s character. Pain is awful and wretched, but the Bible does promise in Revelation 21:4 that when God restores the world to his intended peace and prosperity for it, and us in it, “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

    Thanks for your patience, all. I look forward to your critiques, thoughts, and feelings about the post.

  17. Bad things happen for a lot of reasons. Hurricanes happen because of water temperatures and atmospheric conditions. Earthquakes happen because of tension in the Earth’s crust. Floods happen when it rains a lot. Murder happens because somebody got mad and picked up a gun.

    There is(are) no god(s). Stuff just happens. That’s the bad news.

    It’s also the good news. There is no deranged puppet master in the sky. We humans can design buildings that stand up to hurricanes and earthquakes. We can evacuate when we see the flood waters rising. We can learn how to defend ourselves against violence.

    Btw, there is no true free will in Christianity. If the threat of eternal torture is being held over your head then you are not free. That’s not love either.


  18. I guess if you believe in God then you also believe in the evil side, and isn’t the devil responsible for the bad things?

    A. God is supposedly omnipotent so any bad thing Satan does occurs because God allows him to.

    B. Do you really believe every birth defect and natural disaster is the result of demonic intervention in an otherwise perfect natural world?


    As a parent you sometimes allow your child to make a mistake to learn a lesson, we can’t intervene all the time.

    A good parent doesn’t intervene to prevent every skint knee and boo-boo—but one also doesn’t stand by and allow their children to get their arm cut off by a wood chipper nor be exposed to deadly contagions.

    And the sort of suffering that’s being talked about as problematic is of the latter sort.


    Who is to blame if you are an atheist?

    When the source of suffering is the deliberate knowing act of another human being then, obviously, that is the person to blame.

    When the source of suffering is just nature then, equally obviously, no one is to blame. Sometimes bad things just happen.


    that, a fish doesn’t know its wet….a person with a birth defect wouldn’t know any better unless we say something…

    What I have in mind, primarily, is not cosmetic birth defects but things that cause terrible physical pain and suffering (I read once, for example, of a congenital skin disease that makes life for those born with it, in severe cases, one of a few weeks of agony followed by death).


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