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Cultural Commentary

Where was God in Norway?

A sign of love for Oslo is seen inside of a sea of flowers and lit candles placed in memory of those killed in Friday's bomb and shooting attack in front of Oslo Cathedral July 25, 2011.  (Credit: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay)Where were the Norwegian police while Anders Breivik was shooting innocent civilians last Friday? They have only one police helicopter; its crew were on holiday at the time of the attacks. Today their chief of staff states, "You always try to be better but I don't see how we could have been faster."

God is not limited to a single helicopter. Where was he in Norway last Friday?

Innocent suffering asks the hardest questions Christians must answer. We believe that God is all-knowing, so he was aware of last Friday's shooting before it ever happened. He is all-powerful, so he could have stopped Breivik before he began his murderous rampage. He is all-loving, so he would want to prevent such horror. Yet he did not. Let's think together about the terrible tragedy in Norway and the problems you are facing today.

Like a physician, we'll begin with a diagnosis—what caused the shooting? One possibility is misused human freedom. Suppose that God created us for relationship with himself and others. He would then be required to give us free will so we could enter such relationships. It is the same principle as a teacher permitting his students to take a test unsupervised or a parent allowing her teenager to use the car. If they misuse this freedom, whose fault would the consequences be?

A second option is Satan. If we suppose that he exists, what do we know of his character? Jesus called him "a murderer from the beginning" (John 8:44) who "comes only to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10). Peter warned us that he "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). Could he have used Anders Breivik's misused freedom to commit such a murderous tragedy?

Now let's think about a response. If God is all-powerful, he could have prevented this event by removing the consequences of misused freedom. But is free will without consequence truly free? If you chose not to open this essay, but it appears every time you open an email, was your choice real?

How could God express his love without removing our freedom? If he is all-present, he could suffer with us. He promised us, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you" (Isaiah 43:2). If he is truly God, he could redeem what we endure for even greater good. The Psalmist was certain that he would: "Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me" (Psalm 138:7).

God's word promises that he is working through all things for good, in ways we can understand and ways we cannot (Romans 8:28). Do you believe that your Father keeps his promises?



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