Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bad Things, Good People

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Have you ever been asked this question? This is a common question that... Well, I was going to say that this is a common question that skeptics ask, but it's actually a common question that people ask.

I used to think that the best answer to this question--certainly the hardiest, most theologically courageous--was, "There are no good people! Accordingly, the better question is, why do good things happen to bad people?"

This answer draws on the biblically accurate teaching that "all have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God," "there is none righteous, no, not one," and each person comes into the world stained with sin and is hence a "child of [God's] wrath." It's biblical.


You see, there is a problem--a biblical problem--with answering the question this way. The problem is in the book of Job, at the very beginning, where it says:

"There was a man in the land of a Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil."

So this means that even if bad things do not happen to "good" people, bad things do happen to "blameless, upright, God-fearing people who turn away from evil." For as we know, Job suffered calamities that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

What are we to make of this?

The book of Job tackles the issue of suffering at a profound level. It addresses the severe, sustained suffering of a man who loved and obeyed God. Job is not presented as perfect, not even at the beginning of the book: he made sacrifices for sin, in accordance with God's Old Testament instruction. But if Job went to our church, I venture to say we might refer to him as "a good guy."

Yes, bad things happen to good people. Truly good men may be 1 in 1,000,000 but they are out there - and bad things happen to them, too.

If your answer to the question "why do bad things happen to good people" is anything like mine, maybe it's time to replace it with something more profound, more compassionate, and more Christian.


Jeff said...

Interesting Ken... I'm not sure that I agree with you here.

Ken said...

Jeff, please let me know what you are struggling to agree with. Maybe I'm being unclear on something?

Jeff said...

Ken - I disagree with your conclusion that the traditional answer is wrong.

With this one caveat - it might be that my version of the "traditional answer" is more nuanced than yours. In looking at the post again I see that you have given the "traditional answer" a pretty stark presentation, and have potentially strawmanned it.

My version of the traditional answer focuses less on the individual sinner, and more on the fact that we live in a fallen world, one in which the entire creation has been effected by sin. We sin, and we are sinned against. And we join with the creation in groaning, as we wait for the redemption of our bodies in the new heavens and new earth. Then all the bad things that result from sin and rebellion will be done away with.

I think this answer is profound, compassionate, and Christian. Do you not?