In “Should God be blessed for the carnage in Colorado?” I pointed out that if God is perfectly good, perfectly wise, all-knowing and all-powerful, then he is to be blessed not only for the “good” things in life but for every event or state of affairs. And that includes a moral horror like the shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
Mind you, and this is important, I was not arguing that we thank God for evil events simpliciter. Rather, we thank God that in his wisdom he allowed these particular events to occur because we believe that he must have a reason for doing so in light of his being perfectly good, perfectly wise, and all-knowing.
This argument was intended to illumine a tension within the doctrine of providence within classical theism. After all, it seems wrong (perhaps even plum crazy, maybe even sadistically perverse) to thank God for allowing moral horrors to occur.
So how does one deal with this tension, apart from beating a hasty retreat to a chastened form of theism (such as a minority report theistic model like process theism or open theism)?
I propose we do so by distinguishing theological accuracy from pastoral and practical appropriateness. We recognize the fact that if God is perfectly good, perfectly wise, and all-knowing that he must have a reason for allowing moral horrors. But we deny that this means God should be blessed for allowing moral horrors.
The reason? Simple: some truths are best left unspoken, at least in certain contexts.
Surely this is a principle with which we’re all familiar. Let’s say that eight year old Katie walked ten blocks home from school on her own every day through a not-so-safe neighborhood. Then one day she goes missing on the walk home. The police hold a press conference at which the mother appears to take questions. That is not the time for a reporter to stand and ask “Why would you let your daughter walk home alone through an unsafe neighborhood?”
But that is not to say that there is never a time to discuss the safety of children on their walks home from school.
And this brings us back to the church on Sunday morning. As I noted, the worship leader invited the church to finish the phrase “God, you are blessed because….”
Not surprisingly, people responded with appropriate statements like “You provide for our needs!” and “You show us mercy!”
In that context to say “You allowed the gunman in Aurora, Colorado to inflict mass carnage on an unsuspecting group of filmgoers!” would be as insensitive and inappropriate as asking “Why would you let your daughter walk home alone through an unsafe neighborhood?”
It may be appropriate to raise discussions of how meticulous providence relates to specific evils in a blog or a seminary classroom or an academic journal. But it isn’t appropriate to explore these borderlines in a church or a press conference or (God forbid) a bumper sticker.