WAS IT GOD’S WILL THAT THE NEWTOWN (CT) MASS MURDERS TOOK PLACE?
The mass murders of the school children and administrators in Newtown, Connecticut, shocked and saddened our nation. How could this have happened if God is in control of things? Did it happen because of God’s will?
The Christian position is that God is not the author of evil. Yet, He allows tragic events to take place in human life. How do you explain this from a Christian point of view?
R.C. Sproul, the respected Reformed Protestant theologian, points out in one of his lecture series (“Dealing with Difficult Problems”) that the term “God’s will” has a number of distinctive aspects, such as:
1. God’s decretive will—His sovereign decree, which is unchangeable, such as “Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).
2. God’s preceptive will—The laws which God has ordained for men, but we are not compelled to follow, such as “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).
3. God’s passive will—This describes cases in which God allows some things, both good and evil, to take place, such as what happened at Newtown.
When our first parents disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, sin (and accompanying death) entered into human existence (Romans 5:12). Life was brought under a moral curse (Genesis 3:17-19; Romans 8:20-22). Tragedies such as that at Newtown are the fruits of that curse because men and women, acting out of their inbred sinful nature and acting out of the will of God, are capable of such horrendous acts.
God’s purpose is redemptive: to redeem men and women from the curse of sin. (That is why Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came to live, die, and be raised from the dead—Romans 5:18-19.) God is sovereign: He is in total, ultimate control of all things. His purpose is to weave all these events—good, bad, and horrific—into His purposes to restore His creation and to call out a redeemed people who one day will live in a new heaven and earth where righteousness dwells and the curse of death has been erased (II Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4). Our purpose in life as redeemed Christians is to live in accord with God’s will and promote God’s good plans and purposes so as to minimize as much as possible tragedies such as what took place at Newtown and to bring comfort to those who have to live with the consequences of such awful sorrow.
Look at the life of the Old Testament patriarch Joseph. As a young lad he was victimized by the hatred of his brothers; he was then victimized by Potiphar’s wife with her adulterous intentions; he was later victimized (in a sense) by the forgetfulness of Pharaoh’s chief butler. Yet God lifted him out of his confinement to be second in command of Egypt, a position in which he was able to bring deliverance to the people of Egypt and to his father’s family. Years later, he saw God’s purposes through all his trials. Addressing his brothers, he told them, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).
When tragedies or unexpected events do occur, what should be our response? We should recognize that God is in control; we should thank Him for that assurance; we should seek to find out how we can respond in such a way that honors God. (Hey, that is not easy to do!)
Sometime around 1813, at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), a prankster cut out the middle of the chapel Bible, leaving the margin intact. For the entertainment of the college president and the student body at chapel service, he filled the hole in the Bible with playing cards. The college students were horrified at this desecration. Reacting in a contrite way, they formed a Bible society to replace the chapel Bible. They wrote at once to the Rev. John Owen, secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society, to tell him of their action. (The American Bible Society had not yet been formed.) In mid-December 1813, Rev. Owen wrote back, and compared the College of New Jersey’s Bible Society to those in Cambridge and Oxford. He said that even in the existing state of unpleasantness (the United States and Great Britain were then at war with each other—the War of 1812) he did not believe that either government would object to the donation of £50 his organization was sending. [Charles I. Foster, An Errand of Mercy: The Evangelical United Front, 1790-1837 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1960), pages 105-106.]
God allowed the tragedy at Newtown to take place. Why? We may never know fully. However, we should be seeking His guidance, His comfort, His insight, at this time. We should be giving His comfort to those who now need it. Maybe He has something to teach us from this.