Why does God allow accidents, disasters and terrorist attacks?

Why does God allow horrible things to happen to us, when Christ “died for the ungodly,” Romans 5:6, to save us? The answer is in why Christ died for us (same verse); it’s because “we were still powerless.”

Humans are powerless? That’s not what we want to hear. It’s the last thing we want to hear, because we think we’re invincible. There’s no challenge we can’t meet with human initiative and human spirit. Horrible disasters, and terrible terrorist attacks? We’ll pull through. We’ll rebuild. We’ll survive.

But God made it plain to us, right from the time he created humans, that we are powerless. Adam and Eve, for instance, didn’t have it in them to avoid the fruit that would kill them. But when they died, just as God said they would, did their death shake the world to its senses that God really meant death, and maybe it ought to take God seriously? No, it didn’t. People just carried on as though death wouldn’t happen to them, much like people rush off to war thinking they’re somehow immune to being killed, or that death really isn’t all that bad if it’s for a right cause.

We’ve clearly got a problem, then. Not only are we blind to the horror of death and the choices we make that cause it, we have also conclusively proved after years of dismal human history that we have no idea how to avoid accidents, prevent natural disasters or stop people killing each other. We even believe we can do what we like to our bodies and minds and there won’t be consequences.

And why is that? Because we fall for the same lie over and over again that the serpent told to Adam and Eve, that we are gods (Genesis 3:5), that we’re above the laws of the universe, and way above having to listen to what God has to say, and so we carry on doing what humans have always done; we live, we die, sometimes horribly or wastefully, and we are utterly powerless in reversing the process that has ruled humanity since our history began.

So what does God do to wake us up to that reality? Well, to start with, he gets the point across that it took Christ’s death to stop us annihilating ourselves all together. He also subjects us to a world we cannot cure (Romans 8:20). Again and again, then, things happen to us that we cannot prevent, including automatic penalties God designed for those who resist him (Romans 1:24-32). And then he waits patiently for all this to sink in, so we see the folly of our ways and repent.

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