Answering a Deist: Why do bad things happen to good people?

    By Jeremy Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    I stumbled across a very vocal and seemingly respectable deist on the interwebs the other day, calling himself Tracks. He has created a WordPress blog for himself where he poses some good, honest questions to various religions, one of which of course is Christianity.

    Now I don't consider myself a Biblical scholar by any means whatsoever, but I enjoy comparative theology and Biblical debates as long as they are on honest and respectable grounds. This is mostly because it pushes me towards learning more about religion in general, especially my own.

    Tracks has posted several questions on his Discussion on Christianity page and, while there are certainly answers to all of his questions, I will attempt to discuss only those conducive to online discussion. Some of the questions posed, although popular amongst Christians and nonchristians alike are simply fire starters to heated debates that end up getting nobody anywhere. But we'll see how this first one goes and we'll proceed from there.

    I also don't plan on changing anyone's mind here, please understand that. I am simply looking for some healthy discussion. After all, I sincerely doubt my crude ramblings would sway anyone, never mind a self proclaimed "old fart and deist of 52 years."

    Please, if you notice any mistakes in my answers or if you have alternative answers (or questions) yourself, by all means post them in the comments below. I only ask that you stay honest and, most importantly, respectable. Thank you.

    Tracks says:
    June 16, 2009 at 8:20 pm
    I have a question for any Christian which cares to answer it. It concerns Mark 16: 15-18. You know the contract between Jesus and “his followers”. If his followers are who they claim to be then why do we still have hospitals? Why do they not heal the ill, the terminally ill, Why can they not perform the signs of his followers as promised by Jesus?

    This question stems from the age-old "Why do bad things happen to good people?" That is, of course, a very popular question among skeptics and believers alike. The answer, however, seems to be simple enough: the existence of pain, suffering and cruelty in this world is a direct side effect of our God-given free will.

    Of course, God has the power to prevent all evil from happening, but chooses not to so that our free will can exist. Man's will overrides God's will on Earth because God allows it to. If God were to decide what actions we take, whether we are to do good or bad deeds, then we are as remarkable as robots. Love suddenly loses its flavor and the meaning of life rendered irrelevant. It is the choice -- the free will -- given to us that breathes life and meaning into love and in turn, life. Unfortunately, because of this choice that we are accorded, you see the suffering around you. Why that suffering is so apparent and seems to eclipse the otherwise good that does indeed exist is the same reason why you only hear about bad news; it is what is most "interesting" and thus what garners more attention.

    This is also why you don't really hear about miracles. As you asked, "if his follows are who they claim to be ... " why don't we hear about miracles (healing the stick, etc). There are many reasons for this, one of which goes along the same lines as bad news is the only news that really gets reported. That doesn't mean miracles don't happen, for they certainly do, however, because of skepticism and political reasons many of these miracles aren't seen as miracles -- there will always be ways of explaining them scientifically, or even mathematically but does that necessarily mean that they aren't miracles? In that regard, it is up to each person individually whether to categorize the occurrence as a miracle or not. By that token, we delve into the discussion of what a miracle is and what defines a miracle; that is a whole separate post by itself. If you ask me, the mere fact that you and I are still living and breathing for this many years beyond birth despite all that is around us is a miracle in its own right.

    In addition, the Bible teaches us that miracles occur only when the proper amount of faith is present. As in Matthew 13:58 "He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith." And also in the very verse you cited, Mark 16:17 "And these signs will follow those who believe." How can you expect to see miracles in the name of Christ when you don't believe in Christ in the first place? Unfortunately, the worldly saying of "seeing is believing" is counterproductive in this sense.

    Fair enough, in the simplest terms this answers persecution, burglary, murder, etc, but what about illnesses and natural disasters? At first, I was a little perplexed by this myself, but with a little research a surprisingly simple answer presented itself. Remarkably, it is answered in a likewise manner. The physical world around us has its own sort of free will -- natural law. The natural law exists to establish physical properties; it allows animals, plants and even ourselves to live and thrive in this world. They exist in a constant, unchanging perpetual state without exception. The very fire that we use to kill bacteria in our food so that it is edible is the same fire that can destroy forests and houses. The same hot and cold air that heralds the changing of seasons around us also creates tornadoes and hurricanes. Rain water that allows plants and trees to grow and animals to drink is also responsible for flooding and destruction of villages (AP).

    But why doesn't God prevent the bad natural disasters from happening and permit the good natural occurrences? Suspending the natural law intermittently would actually end up destroying the world around us, making it impossible to live (not only ourselves but the life around us). If the natural laws were to only be occasionally observed, then they would essentially never be observable. We could not realistically expect anything to happen with any real level of certainty and the Lord's hand would be required to act ever increasingly: not only to save us from natural disasters, but to also save us from "unnatural" occurrences -- a manufactured salvation that was unnecessary in the first place. has some great articles about this exact topic (and others that you have questioned) here and here (pg. 7-20).

    The answers to your questions are out there, it simply requires an open mind and a true desire to learn more. Interestingly enough, as I was doing a bit of research on this and other topics I stumbled across a very intriguing book, The God I Don't Understand: Reflections on Tough Questions of Faith by Christopher J.H. Wright. It seems like it could be a great read, so I've queued it up for some summer reading. I'll try and post a reaction here when I can.

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