Why would a good God allow horrible acts?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

Question: I would like to know how you can love and worship and have loyalty to a God that does not stop the Nazi's from murdering all the Jews, considering Jesus was a Jew. Also why God would allow the Catholic Church to keep Galileo locked up for years, saying that the Earth revolved around the sun when Galileo was right. Also why God would not tell our society in the 1700s and 1800s that slavery was wrong and immoral. If we are such a Christian country, why doesn't God talk to people in such a way they could not possibly ignore him. People have told me that God is talking to me, or why else would I keep writing to you people. I only have one obvious answer to that... if God is really talking to me, he is doing a lousy job of making his voice or message heard. And I would think that if a God wanted to talk to an atheist he would make his voice as obvious as a tornado.

Answer: Greetings friend. Since you have already used this and other Bible-answer sources a number of times, let me say that I shall gladly add my voice to the choir of my fellow responders. From me, you might hear the same song — albeit in a different voice… but mine won’t likely be as sweet as the others.

If your previous questions have been like this one (which is, basically, a list of complaints), and you keep writing back, then I agree with my fellows that God is talking to you. His speech, however, is not yet intelligible to you, but it is rather like a foreign language — one that you cannot quite understand, yet one to which you find yourself listening because you feel a strange comfort along with the unease. This is by design. God is drawing you.

“No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him…” (John 6:44, ESV).

Why else would a person who has so many objections to a sovereign God keep up with the assaults? You are like a boy from the neighborhood who keeps throwing rocks through the church windows, inwardly hoping to get the pastor’s attention, and by extension, God’s. You see, throwing rocks at God is better than ignoring him — but beware! You may be sneaking up on a conversion one stone at a time. So, I will pray for you and give you a link to a very thorough nuts-and-bolts teaching on what God is looking for. Please visit, become better informed... and feel free to throw rocks there, too, if so desired.


Now on to your specific problems. No person can make sense of life under God (and I feel that is what you are seeking more than anything — some sense to the world as it is playing out) until he grasps God’s holiness, God’s sovereignty and humanity’s volition, and your complaints reveal weaknesses in the understanding of each. We shall take them in order.

God is holy, this by definition. We are not, this by experience. Herein lies the problem. A great gap exists between God and us. It is unfathomable to us and uncrossable by us. This is why God sent his son Jesus into the world — to build a bridge across that gap. And they named the bridge Redemption through Jesus Christ. No one passes to God except by this bridge.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”
(John 14:6, ESV).

People have a choice in whether or not to cross the bridge — that is part of the deal with volition — but they do not have a say in how God addresses the particular insult that sin is to his holiness. All your objections lie in this part of God’s purview. When our first parents sinned in Eden, all of their progeny and all of their environment became tainted by sin, and we bask in its long-ripened stench. That is your complaint — that life stinks under God! And I agree. But the stench is not inappropriate, because we must endure this season of sin until the fullness of time, the time when Jesus returns to clean house (so to speak).

If God had retracted his plan for humankind based on the misbehavior of a few volitional humans, then sin, the worst stuff in the universe, would have stopped God’s plan for us, the best stuff in the universe. The only way out of the mess of sin is through the mess of sin, so here we are. Hitler, evil popes, human trafficking and worse are all the reasonable expectations of humankind under the curse of sin. Why, then, did God not just give humanity a do-over after Adam’s failure? Because, even if we humans would not have realized it, sin would have still occurred. This is Satan slapping God across the face with a pair of gloves. God cannot not respond and remain holy. So again, God is holy, this by definition, and his holiness means that all of creation must travel through the wilderness of sin before reaching the Promised Land. The Apostle Paul describes this as a birthing process.

“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:22–23, ESV)

Am I cavalier about all the world’s inequities because I have found God’s favor by time, by nation and by salvation? No, not at all. I pray (and sometimes in tears) over the horrors that I hear about on the news, and I am daily thankful for all my benefits. But this one thing I do not do. I do not let all the horrors of the world take away the joy and thanksgiving that I have in Jesus Christ. If you find salvation in Christ, you too will be able to rest amid the storm. You will fellowship with God and your complaints will turn into tears.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27, ESV)

Let us move on the God’s sovereignty, because just as God is holy, so is he sovereign — this (again) by definition. The god that you are postulating via your questions is not a sovereign god, and therefore, you have no basis for understanding the legitimate answers to your query. I find the following axiom helpful in understanding Gods’ sovereign nature:  A sovereign God can do whatever he wants, to whomever he wants and whenever he wants. This has a corollary: you get no vote. This has an outfall: you will stop complaining. The types of complaints that you voiced in your question are often driven by a sense that God has ignored you in the decision process, and that your sense of parity has not been satisfied in the universe. When these or similar thoughts enter your mind, refer back to the corollary. You get no vote.

I am obviously not "selling" anything here. This is tough stuff, but you must tackle the hardest truths first or else all your subsequent reasoning will be off. Once you come to grips with the necessity that any God worthy of the name must be sovereign, then you have begun the journey to understand God as he has revealed himself to be, instead of imagining him as a human with superpowers — which is the beginning of sorrows. Once we have come to grips with God’s holiness and his sovereignty, then we can explore God’s communication methods…and guess what? He prefers not to speak in the voice of a tornado… this by scriptural model.

“… [Elijah] came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”” (1 Kings 19:9–13, ESV)

So, what’s your deal? Do you feel that you deserve better than Elijah? God speaks in a whisper and do you want to know why? There is no need to yell. Consider the humble radio.

A radio broadcaster transmits information over an assigned frequency so that he will not interfere with other broadcasters who are broadcasting over the same area. What we have then is all kinds of information flying through the same airspace at the same time, and all a radio receiver does is allow us to select which stream of information we listen to. It does this by tuning in to the desired frequency while ignoring the others. What this means is that when you select a station, no matter how much power the other stations put into their broadcasts, you will not hear them. Therefore, the signal’s power is not important to anyone who is listening on a different frequency, and all the power in the world will not overcome a receiver that is not in tune to the broadcast. That’s you, friend. You are not tuned in to God. So, even if he changed his preferences and yelled via a tornado, you still would not hear him.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, ESV)

You are still a natural man... but God transmits on a spiritual frequency. As it stands, you will never hear God’s voice — not as you demand to hear it, anyway. Here we have Christianity’s Catch-22. Those of us who already belong to Jesus hear God very well. This is not because we are clever, but because the Holy Spirit indwells every believer, and he interprets among other things. I call it a Catch-22 because a non-believer is the one who desperately needs to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say, but the Spirit will never force his way in.

Now, you are not totally in the spiritual lurch. Just because the Holy Spirit does not dwell within you, does not mean that he can’t speak from without you. He can. He does, and I believe he is. He is whispering an invitation to you in that familiar voice. Come on…you know that there is something out there, or else you would not persist with these queries. You cannot not feel the pull of God. What you can do is ignore it… as did Hitler, as did the pope, as did the slave traders. The examples you used demonstrate the third and final concept to be grasped, the necessity of human volition.

The concept of a transcendent God is only congruent in a world where people may choose to follow him or not. Neither robots nor robot-like humans are of any use to a Supreme Creator. Therefore, people may choose to ignore God and behave horribly toward their fellow humans. If God were to just reach out and stop evil deeds on a continuing and overt basis, then we’d be back to the robot scenario, and those of us who make good choices would have no value in the universe.

However, we cannot say that God has not stopped significant amounts of evil. For example, we generally accept that Hitler killed 6 million Jews. If he killed 6 million, he could have killed 10 million. So, are you prepared to say that God did not intervene for the many surviving Jews? Or for the many unseen threads of mercy that keep the tapestry of life together? This is not a glass-half-empty, glass-half-full thing. This is a get-it-together-or-you’ll-go-to-hell thing.

Say yes to the Spirit of God today. Click here to learn more reasons why.

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