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When we look at the suffering and devastation that’s taking place in Ukraine, we can’t help but cry out, “If there’s a God, and if He’s good, then why is He letting this evil take place?”

The Scriptures themselves offer many explanations for why God sometimes waits before He acts, and those explanations can provide not just understanding and comfort, but hope.  In the other articles in this series, I’d like to offer some of those explanations, and I hope you’ll read my words with an open mind and heart.  But before we even ask ourselves, “If God is good, then why is He letting this happen?” we need to ask ourselves a different question.  “What do we even think about God?  Is He really good?  Does He even exist?  

The easiest answer to our questions is to conclude that, in fact, He doesn’t exist.  That’s the simplest answer to the question at hand.  In other words, God allows evil to occur, because there is no God to stop it from happening.  Simple enough.

But that raises a different question.  “If God doesn’t exist, then why should we care why evil events occur?”  Our outrage over the war that Putin has launched pours out of our sense that there is “a right” and “a wrong,” and that “right” has been violated because “wrong” has been committed.  Questions about right and wrong are moral questions.  But if there is no God, and if all life is just material substance without any spiritual or transcendent purpose or meaning, then questions about right and wrong are senseless, and we have no business asking them.  Why not?  Because there’s really no such thing as right and wrong to begin with.

When I was a younger man, I claimed to be a Jewish atheist.  I was furious with God because of the Holocaust.   If God existed, I argued, then how could He allow the horrors of the Holocaust to occur?  And then I realized that if God didn’t exist, then I had no business wanting an answer from Him, and I had no business holding Him accountable.  In fact, in an odd and ironic way, I realized that my moral outrage and anger at God proved that I wanted Him to exist, because I wanted Him to answer me.  Even more, my outrage and anger proved that I knew in my heart that He did exist – that He must exist.

So, if God exists, and if God is good, then our question remains – Why does a good God allow evil to occur?”

Here’s another possible answer to our question.  God is real, but God is not holy, righteous or good.  Just the opposite – God is a malevolent power who actually delights in evil.  He toys with us, the way a vicious predator toys with victims, deriving great delight from the victims’ misery before finally putting them to death.  Perhaps we can draw some comfort in the idea that morality does exist.  If that’s the case, then it’s better to jettison any sense of morality and become one of the oppressors rather than one of the oppressed.

Then there’s a third possible answer for why a good God allows evil to take place.  God allows evil, because there’s really nothing that He can do about it.  Yes, God is real; yes He’s good; yes He’s loving.  But at best, His power has limits; and at worst, He’s entirely impotent.  All He can really do is sympathize and commiserate with us.  Sure, He’d like to step in and help, but He can’t.  Essentially, this was the point of view expressed in a book that came out some decades ago by a rabbi who’d experienced a great personal tragedy.  He titled his book, Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People.  If my memory is correct, then the rabbi’s answer amounted to this: We should draw comfort in knowing that God suffers and aches alongside of us, but we shouldn’t expect any assistance or intervention on His part.  He shares our pain, but there’s nothing He can do about it.

At least one more possible answer exists to explain why a good God allows evil before He finally steps in and acts.  God is real; God is holy and righteous; God is just, true and loving; God is omnipotent – and God has His own reasons for why He allows evil events to occur.  For many, this last answer seems like the most insipid, the most outlandish, and even the most offensive answer of all.  But if we look at the reasons offered in the Scriptures for why a loving God waits before answering our cries and acting on our behalf, then we discover that those reasons not only make sense; those reasons provide comfort and confidence in a God who will act, and who will act in a just and righteous way.  In the book of Psalms, King David declared, “The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:17 – English).  And as for the wicked, “Evil shall slay the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be condemned” (Psalm 34;21 – English)

Fine.  Nice words.  But if they’re true, then why does God wait, and why does He allow evil to take place?  I believe He has His reasons.  Some of those reasons are what I’d like to consider in the brief articles that will follow.  Will you consider them with me?

Thank you for reading this much so far.  I hope you’ll read more.  And if you’d like to interact or even argue, please write.  I’d welcome hearing from you.

Avi Snyder

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