Did God kill my child?

In a recent conversation on a Calvinistic friend’s Facebook page1 I read a comment by a lady who claimed assurance and comfort in the midst of loosing her child2 through the notion that God causally directs all events that come to pass.

In other words, she holds the belief of many reformed folk that God killed her child.

Sadly, this belief is the logical outcome of an a priori commitment to the philosophical presupposition of causal determinism, the notion that God maintains meticulous causal control over His world so that all events that come to pass are not only indirectly attributable to God (He is, after all the creator and sustainer of all things) but directly attributable to God3.

Another variation of this line of reasoning can be seen whenever a reformed person contracts a disease especially a life-threatening disease like a tumor and/or cancer. Almost immediately they are “comforted” by the notion (usually reinforced by others who are desperately looking for a way to comfort their grieving friends) that God gave them4

But is the view that God causally controls everything that comes to pass really comforting (much less true)?

While God certainly is sovereign5 and while Satan may or may not have had a direct hand in the death of a child or the contraction of a disease6, one thing we do know is that God is not in league with the sin and death he came to defeat through resurrection.

If he did, God would quickly become a monster to be feared, for the wrong reasons, and loathed rather than worshiped and loved.

Blessed assurance does not come from the notion that God causes and directs the evil He purports to stand against in both character as well as action. No, blessed assurance comes from the truth that God is wholly opposed to sin, death, and destruction. Indeed, our hope in the resurrection is but a foretaste of the completed victory over all death we look forward to when Christ reigns supreme.

So the answer to the question we started with is; No. God did not kill your child. God didn’t give you cancer. God doesn’t tempt anyone with evil and God is not tempted by evil. Evil is not necessary for good. Death, is evil, an enemy of God.

God is good. God is love. God is genuinely opposed to evil and He really will make sin, death and hell end one day. Just not today.

Until that day we are to have faith that God really is good and opposed to evil and that He really will defeat it in the future, and what we are given until that day as evidence of the truth of these claims is the resurrection of Christ.

For a more in-depth treatment of the problem of evil, I highly recommend Bruce Little’s work along with Udo Middleman’s excellent work: Innocence of God.

  1. Who subsequently banned me for the conversation described here. In his mind, it is far better to call one of your brothers in Christ a devil for saying God didn’t kill someone’s child for no reason than it is to admit your pet theological system may have a flaw in it. Gotta love those ‘doctrines of grace’! []
  2. Not recently mind you. From what I gathered, this happened a few years ago giving her time enough to get the reflection stage of grief which allows for a more objective and rational analysis of events and circumstances. []
  3. Many who maintain a belief in the 5 points of Calvinism also humorously deny the existence of any other causal agents in God’s universe []
  4. Or permitted in some milder forms, though He causally controls everything else which serves to merely abstract the ugliness of the underlying assumption of causal determinism. []
  5. It’s also helpful to note here that sovereignty does not necessarily entail complete causal control over all events. Otherwise, where would we assign the guilt of sin and evil we see all around us? []
  6. Sometimes our suffering is the result of the pain we find in a broken world []
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3 responses to “Did God kill my child?

  1. Have you ever read "The Innocence of God" by Udo Middelmann? Great book against the determinism perspective.

    • lol, I actually didn't mean for this to post until Jan 4th… Oh well.

      Yes. I mentioned Udo's book at the end. It was actually recommended to me by a student of Bruce Little's and it is certainly an eye-opening, two-fisted beat-down of the causally deterministic position. I've also heard that shortly after the bridges collapsed in Minnesota and John Piper made his deplorable "God did it" comment (like he does EVERY time a disaster happens), Udo wrote to Bruce, citing Piper's words on the matter and made a comment to the effect of "this is what is wrong with Christianity in America."

  2. What about Job?

    It's been a while since I read Lewis' The Problem of Pain in which he deals with the various purposes and causes of pain and suffering and, indirectly, sin in the world.

    I tend to fall towards the Calvinist/Theo-Determinist side of things, which I consider interesting due to my personal views of responsibility and locus of control fall far to the internal side. Personal responsibility is a big thing in my life.

    But I would mitigate the full-throttle "God caused it" with the, I believe more accurate, "God allowed it" which is easily and irrefutably understood from the story of Job.

    I assuage the internal issues I feel over God-caused pain with the understanding that I don't and can't understand all God's reasons because His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways are not my ways.

    Taking an argument from nature and our own lives, we see how pain and suffering, resulting either from our own stupidity and sin or from the normal passage of life, serves to strengthen us and grow us more effectively at times than would ease and comfort. And if God is working together all things for the good of those called according to His purposes He could conceivably be a rather direct cause of what we can see as unpleasant and painful.

    The chief end of man is to glorify God and praise Him forever. This occurs willingly or unwillingly. It is non-optional. Each and every circumstance and action serves in it's small way, within the vast canvas of God's plan, to bring about God's greater glory.

    And the comfort in any pain I suffer either from God's direct action or His indirect allowing is that I know He has His hands upon the situation and is not leaving up to fate or chance or Satan the tempering of my spirit.

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