The Bulletproof God

In the present day, it seems that national or world-wide tragedies are a monthly occurrence. The media can barely recover reeling from one calamity before another one strikes.

And the same questions are parroted again and again in each instance: Where is your God, now? How could he allow this?

To investigate this question, a thought-experiment may be helpful.

Imagine that God intervenes to prevent a school shooting. Dozens of children are prevented from dying, and their parents never realize the horror of losing a child. Instead these children reach adulthood, have children of their own, and then die some other way; perhaps because of a car accident, a heart attack or old age. Is their death any less devastating when their children have to mourn them instead of their parents? Which is more devastating, a quick death by a gunman or a slow death by decay, senility, and  marginalization? Arguably all death is equally tragic. The only thing that makes the school shooting exceptional in the eyes of the media is the number of people affected and the suddenness and violence with which it occurs. If one of those children were to die at the exact same age due to, say, leukemia, the parents are still robbed of a child, but the media would hardly waste ink on the occurrence.

Clearly stopping the occasional tragedy does not fix the problem.

So go a step further. Say God were to eliminate all natural evil. There would be no more floods or tsunami, no more earthquakes or AIDS. All human beings would be granted eternal youth and vitality.

Of course, this doesn't fix the problem either. It wouldn't stop people from bombing one another, starting wars, or walking into schools and gunning down children.

So what if God were to eliminate death entirely, and all would be granted immortality?

This circumstance would not prevent children from being kidnapped and sold on the sex market in Asia.

It would not prevent hatred, rape, slander, or all the miseries that result from other human beings.

What, then, if people were granted the ability to live out their various obscene fantasies of murder and sexual deviancy in an artificial construct, like the Matrix, where their actions do not impact the lives of real people?

In the 1960 episode of Twilight Zone titled “A Nice Place to Visit,” a criminal named Rocky is killed in a shootout with the police. Awakening in a paradise where he may receive anything he ever wanted, he plays slots at a casino, but bores quickly of winning every single game. After all, if he can have anything he wants, what good is money? He commits a crime, but finds that knowing that he can get away with anything removes the thrill. He bullies police officers, instantly gains the affection of any woman he wants, and luxuriates in the fanciest mansion he can imagine.

The instant gratification of his every desire makes him desperate. He pleads to his celestial benefactor, Pip, "If I gotta stay here another day, I'm gonna go nuts! I don't belong in Heaven, see? I want to go to the other place."

Pip retorts, "Heaven? Whatever gave you the idea that you were in heaven, Mr. Valentine? This is the other place!!"

Pip begins to laugh as Rocky unsuccessfully tries to escape his "paradise".

While perhaps a bit heavy-handed, the point is well made. Human beings that receive everything they ever wanted, accomplish every goal they have sought, are some of the most miserable people on earth.

This can be seen in the lives of celebrities; attractive people who have the adoration of the masses, wealth, and access to all of the distractions that money and fame can afford. As any tabloid will reveal, these people are far from content.

What is called “The human condition” is not simply a problem of death, pain, or unfulfillment. Fixing these things does not remove the problem.

Christianity does offer a solution, whether or not it is appreciated. By rejecting one’s inherent corruption and trusting oneself to Christ, the Christian is promised not simply immortality and vitality; they are offered a purpose for existing – that is, a deep existential fulfillment beyond temporal gain. This certainty sustains them through the inconveniences and tragedies of mortal life. 

Not only this, but Christianity claims a solution to the problem of death itself in its promise of resurrection and eternal life. 

As seen by this thought experiment, in order to fix the human condition, the entire world would have to be reformed, indeed, people would need to be cleansed of a deep corruption. Then they would need to be made immortal. This is exactly the solution that Christianity offers.

To say that Christianity does not have an answer is a misplaced accusation. It would, perhaps, be more accurate for a person to say that they do not believe in the answer or that they do not like the answer.

But there is not a problem in this world that the answer does not address.

Sandy Hook Elementary was the site of a tragic shooting in December of 2012. Source: Voice of America  [Public Domain]

Sandy Hook Elementary was the site of a tragic shooting in December of 2012.

Source: Voice of America  [Public Domain]