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Answering the Why

The recent tragedy in Japan lifts up again a perennial question as to why.  This is especially a pointed question to Christians with our belief in an all-knowing and all-loving God.  Years ago Rabbi Kushner wrote a bestselling work entitled Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. Abingdon Press has just published a new book entitled Why? written by Rev. Adam Hamilton, Senior Pastor of Church of the Resurrection UMC in Kansas City.  It wrestles deeply and faithfully with this tough issue.  A variety of secular publications have picked up on Rev. Hamilton’s book.  Recently, Adam wrote an article entitled Japan’s Earthquake and the Will of God. Allow me to share a sampling:  “As a pastor, I've spent 25 years working through the problem of suffering with my congregation. While it is natural, in the midst of intense grief and loss, to blame both God and ourselves for terrible tragedies (God is punishing me for something I've done/God is punishing our nation for something we've done), these answers miss the mark. From a Christian theological perspective there are two challenges to this view: The first is that the Bible consistently teaches that God is loving, merciful and just. There is nothing loving, merciful and just about thousands of people being buried alive in mudslides or rubble or washed out to sea by a tsunami. There is nothing loving, merciful and just about a child being born with cancer, or a young person being raped and murdered. These acts of violence and widespread destruction are inconsistent with the character of God. Further, when considering whether these acts may be punishment for human sin, the central focus of the Christian gospel, which the present season of Lent is pointing us towards, is that Jesus Christ bore the punishment for human sin on the cross, there offering a prayer that would echo throughout history, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."  The answer to the question why is not to be found in a vengeful God who wreaks havoc on the human race. It is to be found in understanding that we live in a world of cause and effect. Our actions can have negative consequences for us or others. Others actions can have negative consequences for us. We also know that our bodies are not indestructible, and that there are genetic and external factors that affect our health. These can be exacerbated by our lifestyle and actions. And we know that there are forces of nature at work in our planet -- atmospheric, environmental and geological -- that are destructive. These very forces, which can be so destructive when human beings are in their path, are also essential to our planet being able to sustain life. Our actions as human beings can exacerbate these forces, but the forces themselves are a part of our planet's essential operating system.” For the full article you can follow this link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-hamilton/was-japans-earthquake-the_b_837324.html .  Even better, I invite you to read the book and lead a study group in your church through this thoughtful and helpful piece of writing.