The unmitigated tragedy in Orlando two Sundays ago has prompted several questions. One popular one on the lips of even religious folk is ‘where was God when this tragedy was going down?’ Perfectly understandable question. A seemingly superficial and insensitive answer is ‘where He has always been when…’
I say seemingly superficial and insensitive because if you muster up the tolerance to probe both the question and the answer they veil deep philosophical and practical issues.
The question presumes that God owes people a rescue plan whenever (= every time) evil/suffering/tragedy threatens. But how could even God do this after creating us as free moral agents in a natural order world of cause and effect?
As philosopher Alvin Plantinga advises, ‘being significantly free’ means being able to decide among options that are morally good or morally evil and so we have a lot to do with what happens in our world. As the Roman Catholic scholar Peter Kreeft says, “If there is no free will all moral meaning disappears from language—and from life.” (Handbook of Christian Apologetics, 1994, p. 137)
We often forget the natural order nature of our world. In a world largely governed by natural law, it is understandable that natural evil would not only exist but appear pointless at times. Bad things happen to good people because we now live in a broken world governed largely by natural laws and cause and effect. It is the reality of a natural order that makes life predictable for science and for moral expectations. Understandably then, miracles, though possible are rare and not normative.
Short of ongoing not simply occasional divine intervention in our world and personal lives one cannot avert the reality of bad things happening to good people at times. So the question ‘where was God when…?’is a silent call for the end of all evil/suffering/tragedy which the Bible says will happen in God’s prophesied timing at the end of the age. So is the questioner ready for that future?
Now to link my answer with the question, God was where He has always been when he allowed the questioner or Chisholm to do anything that is not right because the end of time is not yet and He sovereignly chose not to intervene to block the questioner’s or Chisholm’s exercise of free will.
I can hear an unsatisfied critic asking ‘But why could not God eliminate the worst evils in the world?
Worst is a comparative (superlative) notion. As one writer urged (name forgotten now) let’s imagine the worst evil to be of magnitude 10, and God eliminates all of these, there would still be worst evils in the world of magnitude 9. So God takes care of all these now, there would still be worst evils of magnitude 8 and so on. Are you following the logic?
This is really a veiled call for God to remove all evil. He will in His timing at the end of time. Am I ready life-wise for that day?