“Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” -- By: Andy Bannister

Journal: Christian Apologetics Journal
Volume: CAJ 09:2 (Fall 2011)
Article: “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?”
Author: Andy Bannister

“Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?”

Andy Bannister, Ph.D.

Evil is still a four– letter word. For all of our technological sophistication, evil and suffering remain, quite simply the biggest problem that faces us, as individuals and society. You only have to read the news to find daily examples. For example, on the day I wrote this sermon, a major Christian leader, David Wilkerson, died in a road traffic accident. Storms in the USA killed over 200. A bomb in Marrakesh killed fourteen. Bad things happen to good people, suffering effects innocent people, evil runs amok, and tragedy strikes without warning.

There are two traps that people sometimes fall into when thinking about questions of suffering and evil and pain. The first trap is “utopianism.” Many people assume the world is simply going to get better and better, until one day we have fed the last poor person, eradicated the last disease, stamped out the final injustice, and everything will be wonderful. The other trap is “dualism,” dividing the world into “good people” and “bad people.” Evil is carried out by “bad people,” but we are “good people,” so we are okay.

The twentieth century, it has to be said, shattered both of those assumptions. Science and technology and progress gave us two world wars, the Holocaust, the killing fields of Cambodia and a host of other evils. Hundreds of millions of people have been killed or displaced—so much for utopianism. But the twentieth century also showed us how evil is so often perpetrated not by monsters, but by ordinary individuals.

This subject by its very nature is a difficult one. But any response to the question “why do bad things happen to good people?” needs to begin with honesty and a willingness to face the question head on. A helpful way to do that and focus in on the core issues is with a story.

From the Global to the Personal

October 2, 2006, was a normal fall day in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The school day was just beginning at the West Nickel Mines Amish School when the doorway was darkened by the figure of Charlie Roberts, a milk truck driver who served the local community. Nine years earlier his wife had given birth to their first child, who had lived for just twenty minutes. Roberts had never forgiven God for his daughter’s death. Today he would get revenge. Drawing a gun, he forced the adults and boys to leave and had the remaining ten girls lie down on the floor of the classroom. Roberts told them he was sorry for what he was about to do, but he was angry at God and needed to punish some Christian girls to get back at him. One of the older girls bravely responded, “Shoot me first.” As State ...

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