This is some correspondence I have had recently (Nov. 2003) with Christians about evil.
I asked WhyBelieve why God killed the innocent child in 2 Samuel 12.
Here is the passage
2 Samuel 12 verses 13-16
Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD ." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die."
After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground.
His answer was as follows
This question that you have highlighted is a question that a lot of people have and it stems from a wrong understanding of 2 things...
1) What is meant by innocent
2) Where did the child go - and where would it have chosen to go?
In answer to 1. People often talk about innocent children and that is an interesting description. For example what makes someone innocent of a crime - is it the fact that they didn't understand what they do or is it that they don't do something wrong? When adults kill someone but they are mentally unable to understand what they have done - do we say they are innocent or guilty?
Children are capable of many sins from the very earliest of ages and it sin is always something that is unacceptable to God whoever does it!
Also how do we know that a child does not understand selfishness just because they cannot communicate there understanding to us?
Concerning David's son he was not innocent of sin and so his sin did deserve God's judgment even though he was so young and unable to communicate. Being ill was not undeserved - the sin the child committed deserved far worse than this.
In answer to 2. If we read on we hear that the child has gone to be in heaven v23 David (a man after God's own heart) will be able to go to him (in heaven) but the son shall not return to David. The son has gone to a far better place! Is it a punishment to a child to be taken somewhere wonderful where they are continually happy and content and having fun? Who suffered as a result of this? It was not the child at all - it was those that were left behind that suffered! God was merciful to the child and took him out of the horror of this world even though he didn't deserve it. If the child could have chosen which he would have preferred - what we find hard to grasp is that the child would have chosen to go to Heaven without hesitation.
You see if you understand both of these 2 points then you can see and understand much better what happened in that story and who was really punished for their sin (King David and not the son)
I hope that helps,
Please let me know if you would like to know anything else.
What can I say about this? The guy thinks the child was guilty and deserved to die, and also claims that God was doing the kid a favour by killing him.
Naturally, when Matt claims that verse 23 says the child went to Heaven, the reality is that there is no mention of Heaven in verse 23. Nobody in the Old Testament dies and goes to Heaven.
The more reasonable reading of verse 23 is that David can also go to the grave, but the child cannot return from the grave to David.
I then asked him "What sin did the child commit?"
He replied as follows
I do not know, I was not there, but experience shows me that all children think of themselves as more important than others and more important than God - which is a form of idolatory and hence a sin. But there may well have been others as well!
So there you have it. All children commit sins worthy of death, such as thinking of themselves as more important than others and more important than God.
I asked the Chaplain of St. Catherine's College , Cambridge, the Reverend Dr. Patrick Richmond, about his article on evil which can be found
His replies are in bold. Quotes from the original article are in italics.
To the extent that we have reason to believe that there is a God we have reason to believe that there are reasons for the evils we suffer, regardless of whether we are able to see those reasons.
Isn't this just an admission that faith is literally blind? Isn't this just what women in abusive relationships say? They suffer and suffer, but still say 'He loves me really.'
It isn't meant to be blind faith; it mentions reasons for belief, and reasons to think that God is unlike an abusive partner. The handout points out that we are in a better position to judge the actions of humans e.g. physical abuse than of God.
How could you tell the difference between God and Satan, when you admit that you cannot understand why God creates natural disasters?
Note the handout does offer some speculative reasons why a world with evil in it is worthwhile. God is different from Satan in that he only causes evil indirectly, as a logically inseparable side effect of realising good states.
Not knowing God's reasons for evil is therefore weak evidence that there are no such reasons; we might well not know God's reasons even if they exist, just as a young child does not understand its parents reasons for vaccinations, bed times, school and the like.
Many young children do not understand the reason's for their fathers molesting them. Should they conclude that there are no reasons? Or should we blame the child's lack of understanding?
Obviously we should not blame the child. The point is that we should be less quick to judge the actions of God than those of agents like ourselves that we understand more fully.
The handout states 'But couldn't God make things a bit better? Perhaps, but how do we draw the line between too much evil and an acceptable amount? How do we measure and compare goods and evils objectively? We now know how interlinked all natural processes are; the same laws that cause life also cause death. Cosmological fine tuning means that a tiny change in the natural laws would prevent us from existing at all.
Could God not have save some more Jews from the Holocaust? Was 6 million too much evil or an acceptable amount? Where do you draw the line? Was 7 million too much evil or an acceptable amount? Perhaps 1 million dead might have been an acceptable amount in God's eyes? Hard to draw the line, isn't it?
That is the point being made - there doesn't seem to be a line. Allowing the evils is logically necessary to certain goods. Reducing the evil reduces the goods. God can raise the dead and the goods for which evil was necessary are celebrated eternally in heaven.
And I take your point about fine-tuning. God has clearly fine-tuned the level of droughts, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic activity etc. If they were a bit higher, we would all be dead. But God has reduced the level of natural disasters, so that we do not all die. Could God reduce the level of death from earthquakes to zero, as he has reduced the death toll from neutrino bombardment to zero? How can God fine-tune the world so that neutrinos pass harmlessly through us, but not lightning? (Sorry, I know the level of lightning is in the very narrow fine-tuned-by-God range where we do not all die, but there are still some deaths each year for the unlucky ones.
It is the basic laws of nature that are fine-tuned for complexity and life like us. The point is that we exist because the laws are like they are, with all their bad side effects. Preventing the evils would undermine the lawful comprehensibility of the cosmos and our ability to make responsible decisions, learn from experience and the rest of the things the handout mentions.
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