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Why Bad Things Happen

If God is omnipotent and merciful as the Bible claims, why do bad things happen to good people?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Dr. Gerald Schroeder, double-Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explains:

It is true, notwithstanding the bad we occasionally see around us, that the God of the Bible is described as merciful and long-suffering, filled with righteousness and truth (Exodus 34:6). Equally confounding, at the end of the Six Days of Creation, we are told that God saw all that was done and "behold it was very good" (Genesis 1:31). Not just good, but very good.

Still, young children get multiple sclerosis and earthquakes cause buildings to topple and crush the innocent. The same God that streaks the sky with a rainbow of red at sunrise and produces the beauty of a flower must also be connected to these horrors.

Although we may see it as unfortunate, bad things happening to good people is consistent with the biblical description of God's role in the world. By chapter four, Cain has murdered Abel. According to the Bible, Abel was the good guy. God had accepted his special offering while rejecting Cain's run-of-the-mill sacrifice. God had the power to prevent Abel's murder but chose not to.

Isaiah hints at why: "I am the Eternal, there is no other. I make light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil" (Isaiah 45:6, 7). God, the infinite source of light, creates darkness by withdrawing some of the light. Similarly God, the infinite source of peace, creates evil by shielding a portion of the peace. The biblical definition of creation is the partial withdrawal of God's presence. God pulls back, and in so doing creates the universe with its laws of nature. For the most part, nature takes its natural course.

Only when events get way off course does the Bible recount that God steps in and overrides nature. A natural-looking world is an essential part of the biblical game plan of life, namely the exercising of our free will. "I call to you witness today the heavens and the earth, I have placed life and death before you, the blessing and the curse. Therefore choose life so that you may live, you and your progeny" (Deut. 30:19).

If humans are to have the will to choose freely, the world must look natural. A natural world has radiation which produces crippling mutations and earthquakes which crush the innocent.

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