Question: When God kills innocent children, how is that not evil? In the great flood God killed tens, maybe hundreds of thousands, of children under 5 years old. That is unjustified killing! As early as the ninth chapter of Genesis we have to get a covenant from him not to flood the entire earth again. If you claim those millions of children had original sin or were not innocent by proxy or generational sin—or whatever contrived logic you can muster—ask yourself this: If they have fallen short, how can the rest of humanity (in original sin also) receive any better at God's hand? So the children are either sinful, the killing by God just and our fate doomed (having more sin by just living longer), or the killing of the children unjust and God is acting outside his own commandments given to us. Furthermore, a third of heaven left with archangel Satan; what did they know that we don't? Who leaves a sanctuary like heaven? The fact that God's promised judgment on those who left is (again) an unlimited cruelty! How many more of heaven's residents would leave if there were no penalties? We need a savior all right...we need one to protect us from God!
Answer: You have broached many issues with this single question, so let me take them one at a time. I will need to do some doctrinal tweaking and/or underpinning as I go, however, and that process can change the nature of the questions themselves.
Concerning your comments “When God kills innocent children, how is that not evil?.…or the killing of the children unjust and God is acting outside his own commandments given to us.”
You are correct in stating that these actions are evil and that they should be addressed. In fact, I’d like to add some more weight onto this argument: Since God is the primary cause of all things (he is often called the Prime Mover), we can say that terrible phenomena like disease, famine and murders are all his doing, too—even though we can assign direct causes (other than God) to these occurrences. But, concerning his direct action, there is one incident that rivals the Flood for drama: When God punished Korah, Dathan, and Abiram for challenging Moses’ handling of the priesthood in Numbers 16:31-32, he caused the earth to swallow-up their entire households—including wives, children, livestock and goods! This event, the Flood and others place God squarely on-the-hook for the deaths of “innocents.” So I join you in asking, how is this not a moral problem for God?
The answer is that these events are indeed evil—but they are not sinful—and administering evil is a necessary activity for a holy God—so much so that he created evil itself!
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7, KJV, emphasis mine). (See also Ex. 4:11; Amos 3:6; Lam. 3:38)
Since one of God’s legitimate enterprises is to create evil, whatever evil means, it does not mean sin. God is no sinner nor does he create sin. The word evil in this verse is the Hebrew word [ra'], which merely means something "not good." For instance, when a child misbehaves, he might get a spanking. That spanking would be [ra'] (although the more mature among us know that correction is actually a good thing and not a wicked thing). In like manner, God's corrective forces are sometimes called evil in the Bible, and although they are unpleasant, we can see where they are (of necessity) good, coming from God—to which the following verse attests.
“Correction is grievous [evil] unto him that forsaketh the way: And he that hateth reproof shall die.” (Proverbs 15:10, emphasis mine).
The word grievous in Proverbs 15:10 is that same Hebrew word [ra']—the one often translated as evil. Here we begin to see the biblical meaning of the word. Although [ra'] never describes pleasantness, it usually describes a God-ordained activity, and although these activities of correction are the result of sin, they are not themselves sin. In the Flood and in Korah’s rebellion, God responded to overt sin in an overt way…but please note that he rarely does this. If we honestly survey humanity and compare its behaviors with the standards of the Bible the real questions become, why doesn’t he step-up the correction? And why is he so merciful to us?
Concerning your comment “In the great flood God killed tens, maybe hundreds of thousands, of children under 5 years old. That is unjustified killing!”
Too often, people forget about time—especially when considering that we have a “timeless” God as well as this “ancient history” document that we call the Bible. But it is important to remember two things concerning time: First, God’s revelation is progressive—that is, he “revealed” aspects of his will as time unfolded. Second, God deals with his people through time, so knowing when a biblical event occurred is often the key to knowing why it persists. After the fall in the Garden of Eden (at a point in time) an atmosphere of sin issued out from that place and permeated the entire world (in a continuing action). From that time on all the “bad things” (evil) that occurred in our world were due to that pall—and not due to any discrete actions on God’s part. Adam “made our beds” so to speak, and now we are lying in them—and our children, too. It is not that the children were singled-out for punishment when God taught those big lessons like with the Flood or in Korah’s rebellion. But big lessons come at a big price—and this sometimes includes the death of children! And why not? It’s certainly not a happy thought, but they coexist with us in a sinful world. Reason demands that they share our universal peril. But children have at least one advantage over us adults: Those “innocents”—the ones too immature to make an informed salvation decision—are all gathered up to God upon their deaths.
A child’s death is the worst thing that can happen to us…but it is an unmeasurable advantage to the child (Phil. 1:21). David said of his child who just died, “…Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Sam. 12:23, emphasis mine). Do not interpret a child’s death to be a punishment for that child; it is punishment for us who remain. We are the ones who must bear the curse of sin and death until Christ returns. The death of children? It’s horrible! But it’s just one of many sad parts in our journey.
Concerning your statement "If they have fallen short, how can the rest of humanity (in original sin also) receive any better at God's hand?" [Proposition 1:] "So the children are either sinful, the killing by God just and our fate doomed (having more sin by just living longer)..." [Proposition 2:] "...or the killing of the children unjust and God is acting outside his own commandments given to us."
In our previous discussions, we have eliminated proposition 2 (my nomenclature from your statement) from being true since it is a non-biblical construct. Now, I do not have a problem with proposition 1…but, I believe that you have a problem with it. Nevertheless, let me tweak it.
First, children, too, are sinful. The fact that they are also cute does not disqualify them from being sinners categorically…because they are humans categorically! Now, the Bible doesn’t “hammer” on children unmercifully, but it does teach that each individual in this segment of society is also a sinner—positionally and volitionally. (Ps. 51:5; Eph. 2:2-3; Gen. 8:21; Prov. 22:15; Ps. 14:2-3; Job 15:14; Jer. 17:9; Ecc. 9:3; Rom. 5:12)
Second, since murder is a sin, then none of God’s killings are murder. In fact, all of God’s killings are just—and justified. The fact that he lets any of us live is a function of his mercy, and his mercy is not bound to humanity’s ideals about fairness or parity. God’s mercy is the only thing that saves us from his wrath (Tit. 3:5). The dynamic is this: because sin is ubiquitous, God’s wrath is ubiquitous—it falls on everyone! However, God’s mercy shields some people from this wrath. His mercy, although available to everyone, is not applied to everyone; it is only applied to those who petition for it through Jesus Christ.
Third, we are doomed by our category (Rom. 3:23)—not by the accumulation of sin (…although…sin does indeed accumulate). Piles-of-sin notwithstanding, there are only two categories of humanity: the saved and the unsaved. One is not more unsaved as one accumulates more sinful experiences, nor is one anymore saved by avoiding them. All persons who have come to Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins are saved (Jn. 3:16). Those who have not done so are lost (1 Jn. 5:11-12)…but all who are lost may change their category by the simple act of coming to Christ for salvation.
The length of one’s life is nothing. The category of one’s person is everything.
Concerning your statement “...a third of heaven left with archangel Satan…”
The Bible tells us that Satan is the chief liar (Jn. 8:44), and that there are indeed fallen angels. However, although many commentators quantify the number of fallen angels as a third of their number (based on a combination of verses that some present as related: Isa. 14:12; Lk. 10:18; Rev. 9:1, 12:4 among others), this is highly interpretive. First, these verses must be put together; they do not fall together. Second the book of Revelation is written largely in apocalyptic language. As such, these verses do not necessarily represent a firm number or proportion. The values may be figurative. They may or may not be true literalistically. Either way, they make your point: a lot of angels chose the ungodly option.
Concerning your statement “what did they know that we don't? Who leaves a sanctuary like heaven? The fact that God's promised judgement on those who left is (again) an unlimited cruelty! How many more of heaven's residents would leave if there were no penalties?”
I think that I understand the first part of this question segment as rhetoric…because I cannot know that which I do not know! And I would take the “who leaves a sanctuary…” as a rhetorical question, too, except that I think you want answered…and I wish I could! This issue is on my mind quite a bit. I ask myself, what line did Satan use to convince a great number of his fellows—a number which beheld God with a certainty that we cannot know at this time—and convince them to rebel in the face of certain defeat and eternal punishment?
The angels are obviously volitional beings as are we—or else the glory they give to God would be worthless—but they work from a position of sight whereas we work from a position of faith. All I can come up with at this time is that Satan’s power as a liar was great enough to convince them of the impossible, or that, like us, they can be self-destructive. (Young rebels do not rebel because they have a cause; they rebel because they are rebels. Having a “cause” is more about justifying inferior behavior than about righting wrongs, and self-destruction is the ultimate complaint…and every human has a PhD in complaining.) How much of our volitional detritus do the angels share? Much, probably. So, some of them left heaven on the same grounds that some of us refuse it today: we just don’t want someone over us—not even a God that we are sure exists.
Concerning your statement “We need a savior all right...we need one to protect us from God!”
You bet we do!
I suspect that you were using irony with this statement, but if we just replace your exclamation mark with a period, it becomes a wonderful theological statement: God’s wrath was indeed falling upon us (as is appropriate for a holy God responding to our sinfulness), and we needed protection from his very hand—lest we perish! But not one of us is sinless (no not one [Rom. 3:10]), so none of us could stand in the gap. That’s why God sent his Son. Jesus Christ took on flesh; he became one of us, and he lived a life without sin. This is why he alone was able to absorb the wrath that was intended for us—he alone is holy. This is what the Bible means when it says that that Christ is the propitiation for our sins (Rom 3:25; Heb. 2:17; 1 Jn. 2:2; 4:10). He did indeed protect us from God!
I have always pictured this critical part of redemption as follows: The Holy and Sovereign God (who cannot abide sin and does not answer to anyone) dropped the hammer on me and my sin the day I was conceived. But, because God works in time, so does his swing. When I realized my sad spiritual state and then took Jesus Christ to be my Savior, God did not stop his swing—but rather, Jesus (and all the while nailed to the cross) inserted himself between that hammer and me. Since God’s holiness demands that he must not stop that blow to sin, Jesus ended up taking the full force of that blow for me; he satisfied God where I could not. So, when I say, "I am saved"—I mean saved! I was saved from destruction as from a great hammer! That’s why your statement tickled me. Jesus did indeed protect me from God! And there is no better way to say it.
In closing, let me say that many of the elements in God’s plan of redemption are disquieting—and they should be! Sin disquiets God and his holiness disquiets sin. But let me ask, how else could God run a universe populated with volitional beings? They must be able to choose freely between right and wrong—and wrong equals sin! Therefore, God would not be performing his fiduciary duties to the universe if he did not address sin—and he does this perfectly—not one sin gets by! Then why doesn’t he just let us all perish? He does not want that for us (2 Pet. 3:9), so he provided a way through (but not around) his wrath. Those of us who admit our sin and say, “I am sorry,” choose his mercy and receive his pardon. Those do not, continue under wrath. This is not God being horrible; this is God being wonderful!