Why does a Good God allow bad things to happen? This is a question that some, but particularly many atheists, find hard to stomach. The assumption is that, if God is in control, in charge, sovereign over all things, He wouldn’t allow bad things to happen. But this interpretation is naive because it doesn’t consider that humans have some measure of sovereignty or power in the world — a power given to them by God that they use to commit both good and evil acts.
Jon Steingard, former Hawk Nelson band member, no longer believes in God. Hawk Nelson is a Christian band, so Steingard’s past was in the church. He wrote Christian music and sang Christian music in Hawk Nelson for some years. But now, though Steingard will always love and respect his Christian band members, he does not believe in the same God that they do. He’s no longer a practicing Christian.
He’s given a recent update about his leaving Christianity, but it is one of his recent Instagram posts that serves as a catalyst for this one. In the most recent Instagram post, Steingard goes into the love of God and how a loving God doesn’t step in and protect His children from tragedy. In this case, sexual assault is the sin:
Steingard struggles as a father to understand how God “either can’t or won’t” protect His children (that is, humans He’s made, teenagers in particular) from sexual assault and rape. What he forgets, though, is that his statement shows a poor leap in logic.
Bypass man, point out god: the terrible leap in logic
Do you notice Steingard’s problem? Steingard wants to argue whether God “can’t or won’t” do something to prevent sexual assault or rape, but what he forgets is that God is not responsible for these things. What about the perpetrator? What about the rapist or the assaulter? Isn’t the person who committed the crime responsible for doing it? Why is it that Steingard skips past the perpetrator and automatically assumes God is responsible?
It’s like saying, “The mechanic didn’t fix my car because I’m still having problems,” yet I blame the body shop owner instead of the actual mechanic. The body shop owner may say that he ultimately bears blame for the mistake, but he’s not the one that touched my car. The mechanic in question did. When we look at rape and assault in this perspective, then, we can see that Steingard fails to consider the human perpetrator but instead turns to God. The problem here, though, is that, contra Steingard, God didn’t actually commit the rape or assault. God didn’t even put the human perpetrator up to his terrible deed. The perpetrator did this of his own accord. His own decision, made of his own free will, explains why the human committed the terrible act.
Scripture supports this logical argument when it says that when evil happens, we should not say that it is of God because God is 1) not evil and 2) God does not tempt anyone to do evil (see James 1:13). Man does what he does “when he is drawn away of his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14). Scripture clearly supports human responsibility, as does good logic. So for Steingard and atheists to continue blaming God for evil when man is responsible is logically absurd.
If parents give their 23-year-old son keys to a car, and he goes drunk driving and wrecks it, who’s at fault? The adult son, not his parents. Law enforcement will not lock up his parents because of his mistake. Law enforcement will not blame his parents for his mistake, but will blame him. Law enforcement will place blame where it belongs: squarely on the adult son’s shoulders. Atheists clearly understand this, yet when it comes to arguments against God, they act as though they fail to comprehend what human responsibility looks like. Steingard here, blaming God, is running an argument counter to the way law enforcement treats adults in everyday life. Even with teenagers, the law will at times treat the teenager as an adult because of the ingrained notion of human responsibility that we have.
No Power without responsibility
“With great power comes great responsibility,” it’s been said. This is a true saying. If mankind has been given free will by God to make choices, and James 1 says that man commits sin of his own desire, then man must also bear responsibility for sin. He cannot turn to God and blame God when he takes the power God has given and misuses and abuses it.
Atheists love to take credit for good deeds. Their free will choices are credited with their successes and the kindness of others in the world. Only when it comes to evil do they want to turn around and blame God, the one that atheists say “doesn’t exist,” for the bad that happens. But God either exists or He doesn’t. If He does exist, then He isn’t to blame for man’s evil free will choices. But, as Alister McGrath says, if God doesn’t exist, then atheists are blaming “an invisible character” because the only one that exists in such a case is humanity itself.
So, Jon Steingard, if God doesn’t exist, then the rapes and sexual assaults teenagers experience aren’t God’s fault, but humanity’s. We’re responsible for the tragedies that occur here because, in such a case, God doesn’t exist. But, contra atheism, God does exist. And God isn’t to blame for these things when He’s given us free will power to choose to do good and to refrain from doing evil.
If this is what made Steingard stop believing in God, he didn’t need much convincing.