Why Does God Allow Evil?

by Frenchy 58 Replies latest jw friends

  • Frenchy

    I’m starting a new thread here in response to your comments about my post to Seven. I did not want to complicate Path’s thread. Although this is directed to you, AhHah, naturally I welcome comments by all who participate here.
    In reference to a portion of what I posted to Seven:

    I’m not saying that God punished you, no, never. But he allows terrible things to happen to us when he could prevent it. Why? Like I said before, I don’t really know but perhaps it’s because he has to, not as a lesson to angels as is suggested by the WTS, but as things needed for our personal development.

    You responded with:

    …I believe that it is a well-intentioned but very misguided attempt to explain how a loving God could possibly allow such atrocities to happen. Humans do these things, not God. Let's not add insult to injury. I had to speak up about that statement. My conscience would not allow me to remain silent.

    Since I said that I really don’t know and that this is a “ problem I wrestle with continuously” I would appreciate your input on the matter. You said that “Humans do these things, not God.” I quite agree but then I never said that God was the perpetrator. In this regard I don’t see the relevance of your statement. The fact remains that God is omnipotent and as such does indeed have the power and ability to prevent these (ALL) terrible things from happening. By virtue of His not interferring He allows these things to occur. Seven was not saying that God was the perpetrator but she was (and still is to some extent I would imagine) at a loss as to why this loving God did not step in and stop this terrible thing. He certainly is capable of doing so.
    I will give you an illustration. A man is standing on the side of the road and he sees a youngster playing in the road. The man sees a vehicle approaching very fast and he realizes that the driver will not see the child in time to stop. He stands there with his hands on his hips and watches the vehicle strike the child. What would you think of such a man…especially if it was your child? This is the feeling that people have to deal with.

    To even suggest that God might possibly allow something this horrible to happen because it is somehow needed for our personal development, I find a revolting and repulsive thought.

    Since God does (not possibly) allow ‘something this horrible to happen’ what would you consider ‘just cause’ in this case? What is your reason for God allowing these terrible things to happen? You failed to tell us this. Obviously you have given this some thought inasmuch as you tell us that you were compelled by reason of conscience to write a rebuttal and condemnation of one possible explanation.
    My account of the mother disciplining the child with my subsequent statement: “ ..perhaps it’s because he has to..,” was an attempt to demonstrate the principle that even we, as humans, not only permit but often inflict pain upon those whom we love for the resulting greater good. The discipline of a loving parent will never approach what has happened to these ladies but then we don’t know God’s objective nor are we aware of the issues involved in our development either.
    I have another illustration of which I am not the author. There was a man once who was a bridgemaster over a railroad bridge. It was his job to open the bridge when a boat came by and to make sure that the bridge was closed and locked into position when the train was scheduled to cross it. He did this from a control structure on the bank. Because of the train and boat traffic schedule, he (and his family) had to live on the premises.
    One day there was a snafu in communications with a certain dispatcher and the scheduled train was early. The bridgemaster quickly closed the bridge upon hearing of the oncoming passenger train but the bridge failed to lock in place. The speeding train was very close and could not be reached by radio. He immediately ran to the center of the bridge where a manual lock would hold the bridge in place until the train passed. The only thing he had to do was hold the lever and everything would be fine. He was feeling pretty good about his having made it in time as he pulled hard on the lever and waited for the speeding train. Just then he saw something that made his blood run cold. His little child was running toward him on the bridge and calling out to him. The child had followed his father out that afternoon and wanted to go to him, unaware of the terrible danger fast approaching. The father began screaming to his child to get back but the child was too young to understand and kept running toward his father. Just then the father saw the train approaching the bridge. He had enough time to go and get his son and bring him safely back to the bank but he would not have time to run back to the center of the bridge and lock it in place. He could save his son but in so doing would allow the death of dozens of innocent people, people who depended on his doing his job to keep them safe. So the man stood there and watched the train crush his son to death while he held fast onto the lever that saved the lives of the passengers.
    The point here is that the man was forced into a situation not of his own doing in which he had to make a terrible decision, a decision he did not want to make but which was forced upon him. The choices he had were both bad and he could be blamed for either depending on the perspective.
    The man could not rightly be accused of killing his son but he did allow his son to die. He could have saved him but chose not to do so. He felt justified in allowing his son to die and in this respect he was responsible for his son’s death. Was he right in doing so? It depends on your perspective. What would be your reaction if you were the boy’s mother? Suppose the bridgemaster had his wife and two other children on the train? Suppose your wife and children were on the train?
    Adults, especially parents, have to make difficult decisions every day. Those decisions are usually on a personal or family level. Government leaders have to make decisions that affect the lives of millions and even billions of people. God, on the other hand, has to make decisions that affect an untold number of lives. His decisions affects those living, those dead, and those yet to come not only for the present but for all eternity. Who is it that knows all the considerations which must be weighed by God so that he can say “No, it’s not like that, it’s like this!” God has not allowed this world to continue the way it is for his own personal amusement or edification so I (my opinion) have to assume that it is for us, personally, for our development that he allows this.
    You certainly have a right to your opinion as I think I have to mine. I make every effort to present my opinions as such and never in a dogmatic fashion. It’s regrettable that you found my opinion “a revolting and repulsive thought”. I also regret that you found my attempt to understand both Seven’s and Waiting’s ordeals insulting and injurious (“Let's not add insult to injury.”). As a matter of fact I found your entire response to that portion of my post somewhat hostile.
    Perhaps we could pursue this on this thread which I have started for that purpose.

    -Seen it all, done it all, can't remember most of it-

    Edited by - Frenchy on 7 October 2000 8:55:25

  • Pathofthorns

    Ahhh the classic railway bridge operator illustration. One from the WT archives to tug the heartstrings of the audience and illustrate the sacrifice Jehovah made in giving up his only son.

    Thanks for the memories of memorials past Frenchy.


  • Frenchy

    I don’t think this illustration particularly represents the sacrifice of Christ as its author intended (and as it is often used). For example, in the illustration the child is unaware of what is happening. Jesus was fully aware of what he was doing. To me it well represents situations which require us to make extremely difficult decisions where any one of all possible solutions is less than satisfactory. Few people would argue that the man made the wrong choice but we can all appreciate the sacrifice he made, the difficulty of doing the right thing.
    It’s similar the classic example of a woman being in a situation where she can save only one of her children. How do you do that? What process is involved in choosing one over the other? How do you get over the look in the eyes of the child you leave behind? How does God get over Seven’s comment about His abandoning her? As bad as these situations are, they are not total annihilation. People can and do move on and heal (to some extent in this world) as has been demonstrated by these courageous women here among us.
    Unlike the bridge operator and the woman that has to allow one child to drown to save the other, God can bring that person back later. I’m sure he would prefer that they never go through the experience but given that for whatever reason which He will not (cannot) disclose, He must make the choice that He has. If (and a big IF) that is indeed the situation then my heart goes out to God who has to sit there everyday and watch this occur not once but over and over again with his children.

    -Seen it all, done it all, can't remember most of it-

  • Seven


    I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. Forming light and creating darkness, making peace and creating calamity. I, Jehovah, am doing all these things.Isaiah 44:26

    As you stated, God does indeed have the power to prevent all terrible things from happening. What then is the origin of evil? It must come with divine permission. For what purpose but to live and learn
    and to survive. I do believe that moral evil he never creates(evil thoughts, actions) unlike natural evils-floods, earthquakes and whatever may
    disturb the perfection of natural things. God created the conditions which we preceive as evil.I
    don't understand why God chose not to interfere in my situation. I don't think I ever will. I still love him though.

  • Pathofthorns

    Good point frenchy.

    That Christ willingly offered himself up is something that strangely is missing from the illustration, and i thank you for pointing that out. I find it strange that we do acknowledge Christ's central role in Jehovah's purpose but tend to minimize it at the same time, because too much emphasis would take away from Jehovah.

    Our emphasis on Jehovah seems rather unique, and even seems rather out of place in the "greek" scriptures considering the emphasis they put on Christ instead of Jehovah.

    Seven, you make good points. Points that if i think too hard about, it leaves me with even bigger questions. Maybe one day i can face reality, but how much good will it do?

    As far as your faith in God, that you keep holding on, i find that strangely remarkable. Good for you.

    Path (sorry I don't want to take away from your thread frenchy. I'll go away now )

    ps again. sorry frenchy. I'd be interested in anything you have put on paper if you'd like to share. You have a reasonable way of looking at things. While it appears you, like most of us have tried to re-evaluate everything from scratch, you haven't tossed away the principles and ideals that caused many of us to be drawn to become "Witnesses" in the first place. Always enjoy your comments. Thanks

  • Frenchy

    Dearest Seven:

    What then is the origin of evil? It must come with divine permission.

    I believe that evil came into being long before creation began. It has existed as long as God has (if God has free will he must be able to choose). Good and evil were there alongside the first (and each subsequent) creature that was given free will. For there to be a choice, choices must exist. God created neither good nor evil but freedom of choice brings them into existence. So evil exists with divine permission because the removal of evil (not really possible but it could be put out of reach) would do away with free will in connection with moral choices.

    For what purpose but to live and learn and to survive.

    For what purpose indeed. I believe that the true purpose of the nature of our existence is kept from us because its revelation would somehow nullify or corrupt the entire process. I keep coming back to the account of Job and how he was totally unaware of who was doing what and for what purpose.

    I do believe that moral evil he never creates(evil thoughts, actions) unlike natural evils-floods, earthquakes and whatever may disturb the perfection of natural things. God created the conditions which we preceive as evil.

    I agree that God does not create evil nor does he practice it. You mention ‘natural evils’-floods, etc. I really don’t think of these things as ‘evil’. I think these things are completely necessary for the natural order of things to operate the way it is supposed to. Sometimes people are injured and killed during these natural phenomena but I don’t think it makes those things evil although the end result is certainly bad enough.

    I don't understand why God chose not to interfere in my situation. I don't think I ever will. I still love him though.

    I think that your situation illustrates very well God’s purposes being worked out among us. That you can love him without understanding what on the surface appears unjust is a testimony to the goodness of your heart, of the divine quality that exists in all of us. I think that we shall all understand eventually else I see no purpose in this whole thing. Job, like you, still loved God although he believed it was God that was doing this to him. Unconditional love. Very difficult to come by. I think that God is well pleased with your heart and attitude.

    -Seen it all, done it all, can't remember most of it-

  • AhHah


    I am glad that you decided to repsond to this important issue. Let me first reassure you that my response was not hostile, although it was most definitely emotional. You are certainly not alone in voicing that opinion and it is certainly not the first time that I have heard it expressed.

    You have focued your response on why God allows evil (such as rape) to occur and whether, in a general sense, God has a reason for choosing not to interfere with human actions (although presumably he could). As you acknowledged, it is not the same to say that God chooses not to interfere and saying that he causes that which he does not choose to prevent. My belief is that God never chooses to prevent humans from committing crimes and is therefore in no way responsible for individual crimes that are committed. One could argue that he allows ALL evil for some higher purpose. That, however, does not imply that God is making some individual judgment every time evil is committed.

    The statement that you have chosen to ignore in your response is the statement you made that I find repulsive and revolting.

    I’m not saying that God punished you, no, never. But he allows terrible things to happen to us when he could prevent it. Why? Like I said before, I don’t really know but perhaps it’s because he has to, not as a lesson to angels as is suggested by the WTS, but as things needed for our personal development.

    It is quite another matter to say that God chooses not to prevent a horrible crime that is about to happen to someone because that person is in need of some personal development that will be served by this crime. If God is actually making a conscious decision for that purpose, then one might argue that God is indeed at least partly responsible for the crime, insofar as he allows this crime whereas He might choose to prevent another one about to happen to someone else. I cannot reconcile such a concept with the concept of a loving God.

    What possible personal development would you have us believe that Seven and Waiting could have needed, so that a loving God might have decided that they needed to be raped to serve their necessary personal development? What about little children that are abused or even murdered? What personal development might they be in need of? I find the very question absurd.

    To make one of your illustrations relevant to what I find so repulsive, let's use the Father and Son and on the train tracks. This time let's not use any misdirection to cloud the issue since this post is a response to one individual act of rape, not two simultaneous ones. There is only the Son playing on the train tracks, unaware of the train coming. The Father sees the situation and has plenty of time to act. He chooses not to act because his son is need of some personal development that will be served by allowing him to be run over by the train, or perhaps raped by a stranger, to make it even more relevant. Now what do you think of the Father? What personal development deserved to be taught through his son's death or rape? Most societies would consider the Father criminally negligent in either case. Would you have us believe that a loving God is any less responsible for his actions or inactions?

    The only way that I personally can reconcile God's inaction is what I stated above. He does not choose to miraculously intervene to prevent any human actions of any kind. Humans, therefore, are completely and totally responsible for their actions and God is not responsible for allowing some individual actions and preventing others.

    My emotions were stirred because I cannot imagine burdening a rape victim, such as Waiting or Seven, with the notion that God allowed their rape for their own good.

    You have every right to completely disagree with me. The above is only my opinion and I could be completely wrong.

    As I said before, your viewpont is not an uncommon one. I believe that we tend to accept things that we have heard repeated for a long time. I also want to repeat that I know your comments were well-intentioned. You seem to be a very loving person, with only the very best of motives. I like you and I like your posts. I believe that everyone on this forum likes you and appreciates your posts, especially Seven and Waiting. To their credit, they did not take your comments personally or take offense.

    I hope that my being so outspoken does not hurt your feelings. For me, it is a matter of conscience, because I care very much about persons who suffer unjustly at the hands of other people, as I know you do also.

    Edited by - AhHah on 7 October 2000 15:11:23

  • waiting


    I've been twirling around in my mind the continuing coversation of Frenchy and AhHah while working. Yes, I was immediately on the defensive when Frenchy posted that God perhaps is teaching his creation some vital lesson in allowing these atrocities to befall them. Such as Lot. But the age-old question arises, "But what about Lot's 10 children which were killed?" What thought for these victims?

    That is age-old reasoning, not much different than the priest saying: "Your baby died because God had some greater purpose for her." or "Your baby died because you must have sinned." Neither paints a pretty picture of God. True, we are humans - we don't know his purpose, even if God has a purpose. Perhaps He grew tired of aggravating humans and is just letting them drive themselves into extinction? Farmers do that sometimes. Get a "bad strain," let it wear itself out. Then plant an improved strain.

    I digress again, using my life instead of a more poetic illustration. My life is true - illustrations, as Path pointed out, can pull at our heart strings. Since I had no memories of my father raping me and my brother for years - I had no reason to not trust him. My brother also had no memories (he still doesn't - been on drugs since 13). Therefore, when I went to work 2 weeks after my daughter was born, who better to babysit my beautiful baby than my mother? My brother was 12, my father still working nights - so he was home everyday that I brought my daughter into his house.

    After she was about 5 months, the strangest physical occurrence happened to her - approximately once a month. She would have one bowel movement which was like acid to her skin. The bowel movement was like black fluid bile - terrible smell, wherever it touched her skin - blisters. Then her bowel movements were back to her normal style. I was a good mother - my children very rarely suffered from diaper rash. However, once a month for approx. 4 days, until the scabs healed, my baby's rear look like I had scalded her with boiling water. One month I even took her to our family doctor, who could find no reason for the horrific blisters on her.

    Then, when she was about a year old, the once-a-month blisters disappeared. Coincidently, at the same time, my mother had to find a job outside her home - and I switched babysitters. Coincidently, my father and my brother did not have free access to my baby anymore.

    Now, the questions within the context of trying to fathom God's reasoning upon my child. Did she need to learn a life lesson on oral rape? Make her a wiser adult? Have more humility through pain? Or was she raped by my father because I brought her into his house? Was the lesson from God upon me - it did no good for I had no memories and no reason to suspect him. Nor did I realize the consequences of my innocent actions till decades later. Was I punished for being innocent? Was she punished for being innocent?

    Which leaves me, along with other rape victims/survivors, the questions which cannot be answered - about why these things happen or why God allows them. I think my theory about allowing humans to be because we aren't what He envisioned, holds the most logic at this point. Or God just doesn't care. I think a person can be good and just not care. Look around - happens all the time. Good people turn a deaf ear, blind eye, no compassion all day, all century, long.

    To try to put God's reasoning to atrocities is to try to put our thinking style upon God, which is an illusion brought upon by ourselves.


  • AhHah


    That was very painful to read. I can't even imagine how painful that was to experience. I am not surprised that those events have shaped your impressions of God the way that they have.

    Most humans seem to want to believe in a benevolent, loving God of some kind. I also would like to hold on to that belief. I sincerely hope that God still cares about every one of us, and that, in time, we will all understand this confusing world that we live in.

    In the meantime, we are enriched by sharing our lives with one another. Thank you for your openness and honesty. I hope that we are able to help you remain hopeful.

  • Simon

    I think the reason God allows evil things to happen is because he is unable to do anything about them. It's hard to intervene when you don't exist...
    If we believe he exists AND is omnipotent then the fact the he doesn't intervene makes him responsible (in my book anyway - and if he shows up, I'll tell him that to his face).
    These emotional stories about trains and bridges are just read herrings - surely God should be able to make the bridge work properly in the first place / stop the train etc... or does it imply that there are limits to what he does?

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