Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Answering Prayer? Wrong Answer.

When The Saints Of First Baptist Church Were Murdered, God Was Answering Their Prayers

So writes Hans Fiene,  a Lutheran pastor from Illinois.


You can, from scripture, argue that

  • God is sovereign and so at the very least God could have prevented it.
  • That ultimately, in a way we're not likely to see or grasp on this side of the river, it will be used for the good of those who love God.
  • You can even argue that as we grieve we can try to find comfort in the realization that the dead are absent the body and in the presence of the Lord. (But do not criticize or dismiss anyone's grief on this basis. Don't forget why Jesus wept.)

But it is simply wrong to write that God was answering their prayers, apart from stretching it to a meaningless degree of "well they prayed God's will be done, and God's will, as always, was done."

Now I'm somewhat sympathetic. Pastor Fiene was trying to deal with the barrage of cruel snark from unbelievers asking "so, tell me, what good did their prayers do?" I understand. There is a lot of ways to go on this, none of them easy, none of them amenable to bite-sized rhetorical nuggets. No gotchas. None of the biblically sound ways to go are going to deflect the atheist snark--even the faithful will, as we always do, have emotional trouble with this sort of tragedy even as we intellectually assent to the theology of the sovereignty, love, and mercy of God.

We can nod our heads to the theology while at the same time asking the "why God?" question. I would view it is neither improper nor impertinent, but finite and human.

Having said that I would still plead with pastor Fiene: Please do not try to reduce it to a platitude, especially the one you chose.

There are no simple answers to give to atheists. There are no simple answers to give to believers that are totally satisfying.


  1. To paraphrase something I heard on a podcast - Calvinists can come across as callous to human suffering. They want to apply the sovereignty of God but, due to lack of precision in their words, make Him the author of evil.

    1. Calvinists? Callous? Next thing you'll tell me is that we can display intellectual arrogance (whether it's warranted or not!)

  2. How should the murders in Sutherland Springs be viewed in the light of Scripture? Consider Isaiah 57:1 - "The righteous perish, and no man layeth it to heart..."and Luke 13:1 - "...the Galileans, whose blood Pilate mingled with their sacrifices." In each case, "religious" people die, clearly unexpectedly, and in the Luke portion, they died by violence while engaging in worship, as also the Texas victims.