There is a standard argument, particularly from atheists, in the form of questions, e.g.:
# Why does God allow so much suffering?
# Why doesn’t God prevent bushfires?
And so on. It can be answered through faiths from Buddhism to Christianity and this is the Christian explanation.
1. The prime verse is John 3:16. The underlying notion is freedom of choice. It’s a critical notion. Societies which have embraced the notion have embraced other freedoms too – they are what we call the west.
2. Someone omnipotent could arrange for lipservice to be paid anytime, for people to profess belief, loyalty. It’s been the prime concern of the tyrant – that people love him as a Papa and when they don’t, he oppresses them.
Everywhere we turn, this motif is found. In OHMSS, Blofeld could have paid enormous sums for people to say he was of aristocratic lineage but he knew fullwell that it would always be under graft or duress.
He wanted the real thing, genuine acceptance on his own merits.
Satan, in the legend, has always wanted to buy souls. He could take them easily – a bit of the GBH and the human would say anything. But that doesn’t satisfy him – it has to be genuinely given.
A woman can say she loves you but how do you know it’s not for your money or for something else? You need to know it’s for you.
Freely given is a huge factor.
3. In John 3:16, it is no different. Man has vested in him freedom of choice, of belief and if he chooses to withhold it, that’s his funeral. What is Man? A project, an idea? A new species which can rule, which can aspire, which can learn and approach Godlike status?
What does “ye are gods” mean?
Let’s say you led a corps of fighters. Would you want a hundred mercenaries, yesmen or would you want twenty loyalists who’d fight to the death for you? What can you offer to inspire such devotion?
Obviously something pretty wonderful.
4. So the deity is faced with the problem of either giving His creation autonomy or else creating a robot. What’s the point of a robot? Anyone can do that.
It then backfires – Sodom and Gomorrah show that, as did the pre-Flood situation. But intervention is defeat. It says Man cannot rise above and keep himself in check.
What if Man could do all that if only he were not interfered with? In a natural, unmeddled with state, he can live together with others and survive?
And what if another entity with a vested interest in destroying these new mini-gods constantly interferes, tries to and succeeds in controlling this untrammelled world, does dirt on it?
Then it becomes like a mariner who can find his way by the stars and instruments if not interfered with. But some huge magnetic interference skews his instruments, he goes off course and founders on the rocks by night.
5. So, there is a new reality – constant interference. Therefore, just as with any parent with his child – the child must be given the weapons, the means to survive, he must be equipped with all he needs to confront the world.
To an extent, he can be mollycoddled and cocooned, never testing himself out, never failing but also never developing resilience. Then when the cocoon fails, if circumstances change, he’s easy meat. But if he’s been equipped with the means, even given a book which has some good ideas on how to live with others, he stands a chance.
6. Thus it’s not a case of the deity failing to prevent tragedy, it’s a case of there being danger and tragedy out there, plus enemies but He’s gone the autonomy route with Man, there’s a covenant that Man will make his own way. He can do it with a degree of divine protection and comfort or he can go it alone.
Some of these humans see that it’s well-nigh impossible without some form of protection – the dangers and enemy are too powerful. So these people freely sacrifice a certain amount of autonomy in exchange for wellbeing and succour in adverse times. Not deliverance per se but help.
And that’s enough. Tragedies will occur, disasters, attack by nasties – it’s the price of freedom to choose one’s own way. If He interfered to prevent tragedy, then Man is no more than a robot or a child.
7. Interestingly, it would be the rationalist with his Man-centred stance who would agree that any deity should back off and let Man get on with it by himself. So how can the rationalist then turn around and ask why the deity he doesn’t believe in should have interfered?
You can’t have it both ways.