Yesterday evening Leonora and I attended the weekly meeting of the Life group hosted by Roland and Sherry Loder. Nine of the group’s ten members attended, and we studied one of the two parts which we’d planned to study in the section “Doesn’t the Reality of Evil and Suffering Expose God’s Limitations?” of Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? booklet (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2010)–“Is God’s power limited?”. The study was preceded and followed by singing and prayer.
Alcorn opens his consideration of “Is God’s power limited?” by referring to Harold S. Kushner and his book When Bad Things Happen to Good People? (New York: Schoecken Books, 1981). After having Alcorn’s first paragraph read, I read the Reader’s Digest condensation of the book. Then I had read Alcorn’s second paragraph, which notes and comments on the success of Kushner’s book, and asked for the group’s thoughts about Kushner’s view of God. Finally I had read Alcorn’s fourth paragraph, which cites an Old Testament passage which shows God to be all powerful. I’d planned to also have read Alcorn’s fifth paragraph, which cites New Testament passages which show God to be all-powerful, and ask the group why it is important for us to recognize that God’s power has no limits. However, our discussion’s having reached a climatic point, I decided to leave those activities for our next meeting.
Kushner was a Jewish rabbi whose son, Aaron, had a condition called progeria or rapid aging. On learning of his son’s condition, Kushner felt a sense of unfairness at this happening to him, who was following God’s ways and doing His work, and his son, an innocent child. As a result he thought much about why bad things happen to good people. Finally, shortly after Aaron’s death at 14, he wrote When Bad Things Happen to Good People? to encourage others in similar situations.
Kushner’s basic message is that our suffering isn’t caused by God, either as punishment for our misbehaviour or as part of His grand plan. Some is caused by bad luck and bad people and some is a result of our living in a world of inflexible natural laws. God can’t do anything about it and is as upset about it as we are. However He can help us handle our feelings about it and inspires people to help others in similar situations.
Although we appreciated how Kushner felt and his message, we disagreed with his conclusion, our maintaining our trust in the Bible’s teaching that God is all-powerful. Some Bible passages which show that God is all-powerful are:
– “I am God, and there is none other; I am God, and there is none other like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’
calling a bird of pray from the east, and a man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it” (Isaiah 46:9-11, ESV; all Bible passages quoted are from the ESV).
– “Nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37; the angel Gabriel to Mary).
– “With God all things are impossible” (Matthew 19:26; Jesus to his disciples).