While searching online for articles concerning the atheist standpoint, and I stumbled across a couple written by Heather Mac Donald. One specifically caught my attention, an August 23, 2006 article entitled Religiously Arguing: A response to Michael Novak. Mac Donald and Novak had written and addressed a couple of articles to each other recently, Mac Donald an atheist and Novak a Catholic theologian and philosopher.
In this particular article I found an argument which I would like to specifically address. Mac Donald addresses two important attributes of God which Christians tend to emphasize, namely God’s love and God’s justice. Speaking about God’s justice, she first defines justice. She says that justice will always judge similar cases in similar ways and dissimilar cases in dissimilar ways. She then asks why God would allow a car accident in which two people live and two people die. Going back to God’s attributed character of love, why, if God loves all four people equally, did he permit two different outcomes?
I have never seen this argument in quite the same way before, and it is a very good question. Allow me to address it with a biblical view of God’s justice.
It is very true that a just judge will judge fairly and without bias, and when the cases are similar they will have similar outcomes. An example of God’s justice throughout the Bible is how he deals with disobedience: whenever a command is disobeyed, there is always a consequence. God’s justice does not allow him to overlook sin, and it is punished accordingly. This leaves humanity with a fundamental problem, the problem of sin and the fact that no one who has sin in them can enter into God’s presence. Heaven is barred shut for the sinner. It would not be just of God to let everyone into heaven any more than it would be just for a judge to let a rapist or murderer walk free. Restitution must always be paid for a crime before freedom is granted.
So how can a Christian assert that they are going to heaven when they die? It is because the Bible tells us that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, died on the cross to take upon himself the punishment for our sins. He paid the price so that our sins can be covered and we can enter into God’s presence forgiven. God’s justice was satisfied because Christ was perfect, and only someone who is not guilty of any sin could take upon themself the sin of the world. If that person was not perfect, they would be guilty of sin and condemned just like everyone else. But Christ was completely pure and able to atone for our sins. All we must do is repent of our sins and believe in this sacrifice of Christ to be saved. Then we have received the gift of God’s mercy, that his justice was satisfied by the Savior, and we may enter into eternal life.
If every human being is born a sinner, the question of the above scenario is not one of God’s justice. Based of God’s justice, all four deserved to die. But two lived – and it is now a question of God’s mercy. Mercy can be defined as not getting what we justly deserve. As a Christian, I believe that before I knew Christ I was condemned to hell just like everyone else. But when I accepted Christ as my Savior, God gave me mercy. I deserved hell but instead received forgiveness and salvation. God showed mercy to the two people who lived by allowing them to live when in his justice he could have let them die.
I am a firm believer in God’s sovereign control over all things. I do not have all the answers to all the questions about why certain things happen and other things do not. But I do know that often times the question is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but rather, “Why do good things happen to sinners?” Only God in his mercy knows.