Why God?

Dr. John Stackhouse – Why, God?” Asked the American People, and Would Not Stay for an Answer

Has Prof. Alvin Plantinga of the University of Notre Dame, arguably the most important thinker about the problem of evil in our lifetime, been prominent in the news media, on all the talk shows, in all the bien-pensant columns? I haven’t seen a trace of him.

My cousin Kent Annan, who helps to run the worthy Haiti Partners organization (which my wife and I support), has spoken to sold-out rooms at the Urbana Missionary Conference on this question the last couple of days, so clearly people are interested in the issue in some respect or another. But, as Kent himself would be the first to say, he is not a theologian or a philosopher, and his wonderful book, After Shock, is much more a cri de coeur than anything approaching a theodicy. That’s what IVCF/IFES decided to put before their searching university students.

When a Christian church in Newtown did bring in a resource person to speak to the issue, they brought in…not an answer-giver, but another reassurer, popular author Philip Yancey–another good man who trades in fellow-feeling much more than he offers substantial constructive reflection.

And, yes, I’ve written a book on the question that has sold fairly well over a decade, and my phone has been completely silent. No one–no one locally, no one regionally, no one nationally–wanted to discuss the issue with one of the few Canadians who has written a reputable volume on the issue of God and evil.

I wonder if our lack of substantive engagement with the problem of evil is due to our tacit realization, which perhaps Brother O’Neil recognizes, that if we did ask God a serious question about why the shooting happened—or why, now, two separate innocents have been pushed in front of NYC subway trains—God might return to us a serious answer:

Don’t look at me.

About Bene Diction

Have courage for the great sorrows, And patience for the small ones. And when you have laboriously accomplished your tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
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18 Responses to Why God?

  1. jane says:

    “I had literally nothing to do with Newtown, or those poor victims in the New York subway. So why ask me?”

    Really? John Stackhouse is a theologian isn’t he? Does he read the Bible? Has he read Job? Does he read in those precious words that God is sovereign?

    The LORD has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Psalm 103:19

    Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:3

    The LORD does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. Psalm 135:6

    All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” Daniel 4:35

    The heart of man is wicked, deceitful…it is not to be trusted. Even those of us who do not perpetrate a horrendous crime against others still have wickedness in our hearts. In short form it’s called sin. God is dealing with sin. God will ultimately deal with sin in his chosen time.

    You better believe God knew what was going on in Newtown and everywhere else there is an human activity. He commands all me everywhere to hate their sin, to repent of their sin and turn and trust the only Saviour Jesus Christ who bore the wrath of God for sin 2000 years ago.

  2. Bene D says:


    Did you actually read his post?

  3. hopesome says:

    America knows well and good whats going on ………….. behind their veil of ‘sweet Jesus’

  4. highrpm says:


    “Saviour Jesus Christ who bore the wrath of God for sin 2000 years ago.”

    this is anti-truth stuff. our “bible” is full of outright lies and selfish agendas. start with understanding the titles and names: the eternal does not issue orders to kill and maim and demand blood sacrifice; nor does the creator–destroying what he created and loves. do some studying instead of just reading the bible.

    start perhaps with shmuel asher and go from there.

  5. sinned34 says:

    Why bother asking God, “Why”?

    Other than the tales written in a 2000+ year old book of legends, God has never done anything to fix any problems.

    Once again, we’re stuck trying to figure out a solution for ourselves. No magical savior is going to ride down from the sky on a white horse to eliminate gun violence.

  6. Bene D says:

    I believe in God – and I believe God has no problem with me asking Him anything.

  7. hopesome says:

    I WISH – I could believe ‘GOD’

    I have spent my whole life asking WHY

    To my mind LOVE does not, in the manner that we have been witnessing, DESTROY and the carnage out there is DESTROY

    ‘IF GOD LIKES TO DESTROY – then I don’t believe in GOD (he is supposed to chastise us, yes, but allow us to abominate each others life with rape, bullets and war NO)

    Love transcends – so why did he not lift the moment out of hell and into hope so that those lives taken could have been saved …….. (he is supposed to watch over us so does he then like SADISM as he watches us rip each other apart from his great position of power! I have to say yes, and please don’t tell me its part of the mystery of GOD or I’ll ‘scream’)

    Love asks WHY – HATE responds

    I BELIEVE – but the witness of my eyes is trying to destroy that belief as I walk among the destitute, the sick, the weeping and therefore the eyes are the vision of mans soul …………….. WE NEED A NEW VISION OF LIFE

    I BELIEVE that when I enter anothers hope I CAN TAKE THEIR HATE from within it and leave behind a vessel who’s capacity to love is greater than its capacity to hate!

    LOVE i s of a romantic nature and clouds our vision rather than cleans it! so the LOVE we need is unconditional not ‘romantic’ dictatorial, sleazy, slimey, cool, or mmmm…..
    or controlling or manipulative ……………… So as we see all of the above among us I have to say

    ‘GOD’ you have a problem

    its ME –

    for I am not going to let you off the hook untill you leave the part of you that is hell and ‘go get cleaned up’.

    As a child I knew there was a question over ‘santa’ – it stayed with me – as a mother with children I knew they were among believers who loved ‘santa’ and so acknowledged that belief with them and for them untill they were in a position and of an age when that belief was ‘weaned’ not the giving but the beleif: ………….

    I can’t believe in GOD but I do walk in belief

  8. hopesome says:

    The article answers its own question –

    therefore no one else needs to bother –

    We talk out issues – but rarely solve them – we just shift them to another place and keep chewing on them …………. as a result of which peace leaves and frustration takes its place

    (at the moment that is)

    JESUS where are you right now !

  9. jane says:

    Bene – yes – I did read the post and I read the whole post at john stackhouse’s blog…he puts words in God’s mouth and they are words that God has not said in His Word..the Bible.

    Why would John Stackhouse say in his blog that God had nothing to do with Newtown…?
    John Stackhouse doesn’t have the answers either. There were pastors of a nearby Bible believing church in the Newtown area who were interviewed and gave Biblical answers to the tragedy and then the interviews were edited because the world does not want to hear the truth of the Bible. They were also uninvited from an ecumenical “prayer” gathering because they pray in Jesus name and actually name the Name Jesus. But these pastors and their church members are there and they are offering succour and comfort to those who come their way and they are giving literature that will give those hurting souls Biblical answers to “why bad things happen to good people”. Isn’t that really what the question is? The real answer is there is only One Good Person and we crucified Him…the Lord of Glory.

  10. Bene D says:

    Hi Jane:

    To answer your question, John Stackkhouse teaches theology and culture.

    Thanks for outlining your reading of his post more clearly.

    I think Dr. Stackhouse takes it further.

    Did God create the US gun laws?
    Did God make US citizens buy 300 million guns?
    Did God kick mentally ill people to the curb?
    Did God gut the funding of US mental health system?
    Did God hobble emergency, law enforcement funding?

    As a professor he is using rhetoric and hyperbole – and obviously it works, because you responded.

    I hear him saying as a culture we don’t want to look for deeper answers, accept responsibility, work for change… (the collective we…)

    I hear him saying we don’t answers because of the personal sacrifices even a glimmer might require of us.
    I hear him saying we don’t want to do the hard work of seeking answers, of paying attention, of learning and doing and changing.

    1) “we refuse to think hard about what is actually happening, in an appropriately broad frame of reference, and what it all tells us—about ourselves, about how we have run things, about God, and about how God runs things.

    2) “We certainly don’t want to look any harder than easy, quick, simple solutions…”

    3) “We don’t want to look at our own stinginess, our systemic disregard for the mentally ill and their caregivers….”

    4) “We certainly don’t want to look at what it might mean theologically for God to allow us to do so much harm to ourselves and others…”

    Would you link me to the story of these pastors being edited. If they spoke as Mike Huckabee, Bryan Fisher and James Dobson did, using scripture as a weapon, I’d like to see what was edited and by whom. There are pastors and churches of all stripes responding, not just those who self label as bible believing.

    I don’t hear John Stackhouse criticising the boots on the ground.

    “I had literally nothing to do with Newtown, or those poor victims in the New York subway. So why ask me? That sentence is in italics for effect.

    I think that statement is the use of hyperbole in argument, teaching and discussion.
    It is interesting to me, that you perceived it as literal.

  11. jane says:

    Bene – here’s the website for the radio program that I heard where the pastor of the church near the Newtown shootings took place was interviewed. These radio shows don’t stay publicly available for long.


  12. jane says:

    Bene – you can skip ahead to the 9 minute mark …to get past the preamble..:)

  13. jane says:

    here is the web page for the church where Parker Reardon is pastor and the various links regarding the shooting as well as the interview with MSNBC that was scrubbed from the internet


  14. Bene D says:

    Hi jane:

    Thanks, I’ll have a listen.

    I believe it was Mike Huckabee who said God wasn’t at Newtown – and I think the statement in the Stackhouse piece is for lack of a proper term, sarcasm directed toward this type of thinking and speaking for God.

    “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools, Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? [W]e’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before, you know, a holy God in judgment, if we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that. Maybe we ought to let [God] in on the front end and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up when it’s all said and done at the back end.”


  15. sinned34 says:

    There were pastors of a nearby Bible believing church in the Newtown area who were interviewed and gave Biblical answers to the tragedy and then the interviews were edited because the world does not want to hear the truth of the Bible.

    And why on Earth would you expect a journalist to allow themselves to be used as a tool for evangelism? Of course the world doesn’t want to be badgered by evangelical Christians about how much better things would be if everybody converted to their version of Christianity. Just like most people don’t want to listen to a Muslim argue that mass murder wouldn’t happen if we all worshipped Allah, or an atheist claim that the world would be a nonviolent utopia if everyone would just stop believing in God(s).

    There are billions of non-Christians (and non-Muslims, non-atheists, etc) who manage to live their entire lives without murdering a school full of children. What people are looking for is a realistic way to lessen the possibility for these horrors to happen, not some bumper-sticker ridiculous stupidity like “get right with God” or “ban all guns.”

    Sadly, there are multiple reasons why tragedies like these strike, and even if real options are available, irrationality, self-interest, and a lack of willingness to tackle difficult issues will probably prevent any real steps to help prevent mass killings.

  16. highrpm says:

    lots make the journey away from christian fundamentalism learned in childhood. having lived most of my life against the backdrop of this nation killing somewhere in the world, i grew to where i could no longer read the old testament for its violence and portrayal of a nasty, judgmental god. as her caregiver, i did my elderly mother a real disservice by this, since she loved our daily bible reading from the One Year Bible. (i should have battled my own demon’s privately.) but the creator gives each of us a measure of faith, evidenced to an extent in our ability to ask “why?” now i opine that the culture of old testament violence we swim in as children hardens us to the suffering of the many innocent this nation and its several partners wreak on others. i used to think the new state of israel could do no wrong. not anymore. the nazis of ww2 have nothing on the current regime in jerusalem; for wreaking holocaust on palestine. did “taking god out of the schools” result in our trashing of vietnam? did removing god from the high schools reduce our divorce rates? tragedies upset our assumptive worlds. let’s keep asking why instead of spouting “judgement of the old testament god.” (and let’s start asking wwjd?)

  17. hopesome says:

    The world is made up of many fragments – and pulling all those fragments together into one cohesive element is what Jesus was all about: – The ‘enemy’ is trying to do the same ie; bring all of those fragments together into one cohesive element – but his main element is hate not hope, although he does now and again ‘pepper’ us with a little hope’ just to keep us happy! –

    His ‘religious’ hope has flaws in its compounds – his fnancial hope is very flawed and leads many into despair and grief while blessing others with his glories; hope in and of family is breaking down at a fast rate of knots and leaving debris that the next generation will be ‘clothed in’ and held captive by and with for years to come – Medically speaking we see a rise in virus forms, more viralent types of disease and not the knowledge when its needed to clean in one fell swoop the cell breakdown and re-generation that brings ‘a form of hades with its ‘hope’ HOPE IN HELL is the enemys ‘commission and remit: ie; With him living in and with his hope and the most of us taking the scraps he doesn’t want, which has us always bordering, and teetering on the hell side of life; which seems to please him in the fact that he allows it to linger and fester at his wills contentment:

    He brings us false prophets and witnesses to muddy the truth and sweet delights to wet out appetites – AND THE WORD – oh the word ! his magnificient creation that confuses, deceives, denies, calms, sullys and befits us with word action not ‘heart action’ – HOW I DESPISE HIM

    as he wraps his world around us and leads us home to his sickness.


    Do you use us like puppets to do your will –

    FREE WILL – is something we have to battle for – but battle with integrity, respect, honour, and a knowing that we are right. Therefore ‘get right’ ie: what are my motives, my agenda, my hopes –

    when you have got rid of greed, anger, fury, the sick side of life and anything that would cloud your judgement, then you can begin to walk in a place of ‘rightness’ not wrongness – only then can you be affective over the ‘wrongness’ of those judgements aganst you, those insults thrown at you, those threats that pervade, and that filth in the ‘mind of his hope’…

    I won’t give up untill I have smacked him out of my life – How about you

    Love – yes I do, even him – WHY – because he is my enemy – it just doesn’t mean that I have to ‘put up with him’ and neither do you –


  18. david says:

    This is funny, kinda…

    Frankly, I don’t see why the “feely” type authors, such as Stackhouse labels his cousin and Philip Yancey, are suggested to be not as worthy of stature as someone like Alvin Plantinga or perhaps even himself.

    Seriously, you need a Ph.d. to wade in on the problem of evil? Certainly Yancey can handle this, and handle it well. I don’t see what Plantinga or Stackhouse could offer the discussion that these other fellows could not. Heck, I would venture to guestimate that a good pastor who has done his due diligence could handle this subject.

    Or is this about Stackhouse not getting the limelight that he thinks he deserves?

    Be careful of what you wish for…you might just get it.

    We live in a sound bite world, and very often theologians and academic types are not the people to go to for quick answers. I don’t think it is anything more than that. And again…seems fine to me that they go to these folks.


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