This past Sunday in church the worship leader declared “God, you are blessed because … ” and then invited the congregation to call out various ways to fill in the blank.
“God, you are blessed because…”
“You created the world!”
“You provide for our needs!”
“You show us mercy!”
“You sent your Son!”
As I sat there I wondered what would happen if someone blurted out:
“You allowed the gunman in Aurora, Colorado to inflict mass carnage on an unsuspecting group of filmgoers!”
How would people respond to that? Would they think “sacrilege”? Or “sarcasm”? Or “sadism”? Or would they simply be stunned into silence?
However they might respond, we can be sure of one thing: they wouldn’t agree with the sentiment. God is not to be blessed for that.
And by refusing to agree they would seem to be committing themselves to the view that God is to be blessed for his relationship to some events and states of affairs in the world but not others. We can call God blessed for showing mercy and sending his Son, for saving our job and curing our spouse of cancer, for providing the roof over our head and a three year old Accord in our driveway.
But God is not to be blessed for other events and states of affairs in the world, like the carnage in Colorado.
So are we saying that God tried to stop it but simply failed? Think of a firefighter who tried to save a child from the flames and failed. While he did his best, that is still probably not one of the events you take the time to mention at his retirement party. The firefighter is to be honored for all sorts of things, but not his failures.
Still, most Christians would be uncomfortable with explaining this in terms of a failure of omnipotence.
So what then? Goodness perhaps? If we refuse to call God blessed for allowing the carnage in Colorado, perhaps we are suggesting that God ought not have allowed the carnage in Colorado. He could have stopped it and should have stopped it but he didn’t stop it.
However, that’s even worse. I suspect most Christians would sooner give up God’s unqualified power than his unqualified goodness.
What about those who also refuse to accept that resolution? They believe God is all-powerful and perfectly good. If this is true, doesn’t it follow that every action on God’s part is just the right action for that situation? And doesn’t it follow that everything God allows is just the kind of thing that should be allowed for that situation? And doesn’t it follow as well that God is rightly praised for every action he commits and every event and state of affairs he allows? And doesn’t it follow that God is to be blessed as surely for allowing the carnage in Colorado as for showing mercy and sending his Son and ensuring that you have a roof over your head and a three year old Accord in your driveway?