Why Didn’t God Prevent the Boston Bombings?

The problem of why a good God would allow evil and suffering is probably the biggest problem people have with Christianity. It certainly rises—or perhaps roars—to the surface after horrific events such as last week’s bombings in Boston.

Many people resonate with philosopher David Hume’s syllogism:

• If God is all good, he would defeat evil.
• If God is all powerful, he could defeat evil.
• But evil is not defeated.
• Therefore, there is no such God.
• God is either impotent or malevolent.

But when we read through the entire Bible and see the larger picture, there is a good response to Hume’s argument:

• If God is all good, he would defeat evil.
• If God is all powerful, he could defeat evil.
• But evil is not yet defeated.
• Therefore, God will defeat evil.
• God is all good, all powerful, and merciful.

Many people have pointed out that the reason people do horrible things is that we are free to do them, just as we are free to do good, loving and wonderful things. That freedom is a gift from God. He had to make us free to say “no” to Him in order that we would be free to say “yes” to Him. When my friend presses a button on her iPhone to ask the artificially intelligent agent a question, Siri responds with pre-programmed answers.

“I love you, Siri.”

“Oh. Stop.”

“No really! I love you, Siri!”

“I bet you say that to all your Apple products.”

“Will you marry me?”

“You should know that you’re not the only one who’s asked.”

There’s no love there. Just a robotic answer. Robots are not what God wanted; He wanted to lavish love on us and invite us into the circle of divine mutual love and delight and affection and grace that the Father, Son and Spirit have enjoyed for all eternity.

So why didn’t God prevent the Boston Bombings? Because He has given people the right to make significant choices, even hurtfully horrible choices. But He is still more powerful than the evil in our hearts. He is even now redeeming the pain and suffering of what happened in Boston in ways we cannot see. He is able to make all things work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28)

The fact that He didn’t prevent the bombings doesn’t mean He wasn’t actively preventing even more pain and suffering. For example, the bombing suspects were stopped before they could cause more death and pain. Millions of people in Boston (including my own son and his wife) were protected from the mayhem. And just like the 9/11 accounts, there are stories circulating of God’s protection in action. One man crossed the finished line of the Boston Marathon seconds before the bombs exploded. Joe Berti escaped the explosion, but his wife and friends were ten yards from the bomb; they were hit by shrapnel but were relatively unhurt, while a woman next to them had a leg torn off from the knee down. When they returned home, Joe was driving near West, Texas when he heard and felt the detonation from the nearby fertilizer plant explosion. (bit.ly/15qbDVp)

Frank Turek has a helpful video that explores some of these ideas:

This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/tapestry/sue_bohlin/why_didnt_god_prevent_the_boston_bombings on April 23, 2013.