During this evening’s sermon, somehow the preacher turned to the question, “How could God let 9/11 happen?” and I, always curious to hear this answer, tuned in. Being Baptists, believing that God is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-loving, and most importantly omnipotent, how was he going to answer this?
“Think of it this way. You’re in Tallahassee, and it’s crime-riddled. So you beef up the police force. Gradually crime starts to go down, down, down, until this year everyone goes, hey, crime’s the lowest it’s been in years! Let’s just fire the police force! We don’t need them anymore. Next day, you get robbed, and you’re wondering where the police are?!”
I wasn’t comfortable with the implications of this as a religious standpoint, but I let it slide because I could see it from a defense standpoint. Security gets lax, we get attacked. He continued. And for integrity, I’m only quoting exactly what I remember:
“But God knew about this before it happened, before there was even day and light! God did this to bring us to Him! And if even one was brought to Him in this disaster, it was worth it!”
Fuming, I didn’t listen to a word he said after that. Why… why? Why would God do that? If, as they say, there is a standing ovation in heaven each time a sinner is saved, what about the others who had the potential to be saved? Let’s say x were saved. Let’s say that a bunch were already going to heaven. What about all the rest who weren’t saved? who weren’t Christians? Why were their chances for salvation cut short at the expense of x? Why did three thousand innocent people have to die so that a handful could be saved? Not buying it.
Let’s go back to Sodom and Gomorrah. God said that He would spare the city if even ten were found worthy, and let the rest, sinners, live. Why would He then decide that several thousand be killed to save a few? several hundred be killed to save several hundred? a few be killed to save several thousand? Even the Old Testament God – known for His justice and righteousness – was more merciful than this. Not buying it.
But more than that, I find fault with even the basic premise of this argument. If God knows what is going to happen ahead of time, does that not negate the concept of free will? That which God gave us to differentiate from all His other creatures? And if we have no free will, and this is by definition God’s – not our – doing, where is God’s Mercy in this instance? If he loved us, His children, so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins, why would He kill three thousand to save a few? That doesn’t sound like Mercy to me. Unless those who were not saved were all Messiahs who willingly died for our sins, it sounds completely contradictory. Not buying it.
And what if God could have stopped it, but didn’t? What point that would serve, I don’t want to know. But from my perspective, it flies in the face of both omnipotence and Mercy.
And this is why I have a major issue with God as a personified being. Either he’s merciful or he’s not. Either we have free will or we don’t. Either we did it, or God did. Either Merciful God causes all things, or humans are left to their own devices. And as I refuse to believe that a Merciful God would kill 2,996 people – for any reason – I must believe that it was a result of free will. Not of God. Because if God were an omnipotent He, and not the all-encompassing but not separate “he” of creation, this wouldn’t have happened.