June 16, 1998
U.S.A. SCHOOL SHOOTING -- WHY DOES GOD ALLOW SUFFERING?
If the question is not added after newspaper headlines, people do ask it after hearing tragic events such as young students bringing guns into their school to shoot classmates and teachers.
Without intending to diminish the horror of recent events, a cartoonist attempts to answer that huge question. His drawing shows a man shouting at God, “Why do you allow injustice?” A voice comes back, “I might ask you the same question.”
In another attempt to answer this question, an eighty-year old friend says we are foolish to confuse God with life. In life, we experience evil, helplessness and things that seem senseless. However, God is always good, powerful and wise. While we may not understand His reasons for staying out of certain human activities, we cannot blame Him when people do evil things.
Who do we blame? The psychologists debate back and forth; is it nurture or nature? Is the environment at fault or is this a genetic problem?
Those who blame nurture say something is wrong with a bad person’s environment. That could include parents, the school system, their neighborhood and society at large. Accordingly, if children were properly raised, rightly educated, and lived in the right part of the world, they would not do evil things.
Others think genetics determine character and intelligence. Certain people are simply prone to unacceptable behavior. In this theory, kids who shoot other kids are genetically predisposed to be anti-social (or however the current lingo describes them). We are simply “programmed” and our behavior is a natural outflow of that programming. We have no real choices in what we do because our decisions flow out of predetermined factors set at birth.
The Bible does put some responsibility in both areas. Because our environment does have influence, parents are told to raise their children to know and obey God. Social structures are encouraged to be just and moral, upholding righteousness and punishing those who do evil. Of course failure of families and other social systems to uphold godly values can result in children without those values, kids who shoot other kids.
As for genetics, Scripture does say that we are “born into sin.” This means that although human beings were created to reflect God’s image, sin has marred our ability to do it. Our propensity to go our own way, opposing and ignoring God, permeates the entire human race. A huge reason kids shoot kids is inherent in what the Bible calls our “sinful nature.”
However, the Bible makes it clear that God does not allow anyone to blame their nature or their environment for their behavior. Our sinful nature is neither an excuse nor a reason for despair. God will forgive us and give us a new nature. With this transformation, we can choose good and rely on Him to give us the power we need to overcome our sinful nature.
We are not stuck with externals that “program” us either. Despite the lawlessness around us, with God’s help it is possible for us to choose to obey Him. Jesus said, “In the world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” Through faith in Him, we can overcome the negatives that life throws at us.
God clearly says no one is a helpless victims of their genes or their environment; we are personally responsible for our choices. Nature and nurture can be negative or positive but God gives freedom from both by giving us the ability to choose — and that will influence how our life turns out.
God’s key to the nurture/nature debate is choice. He may permit evil but He also puts the ball back in our court. He says, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve. . . .”