The only answer to the question, "Why doesn't God stop bad things happening?" that I can accept is that God cannot. All the other answers I have come across in my life would mean that God is a monster.



  1. really? I don’t know. I posted on this the other day in relation to a conversation with a relative of mine. I believe He can intervene but doesn’t always – the best answer I can accept is to do with free will. He gave us free will and sometimes decisions made by us cannot be reversed. Now I’m not saying that anything bad that happens is the fault of the person it happens to (Which some people would say), that would make God seem like a monster. Just that we cannot have it both ways. God gives us choice, sometimes we f*** up and sometimes, therefore, stuff happens… Isn’t it a bit arrogant to assume that because God doesn’t always intervene that he can’t? maybe..?
    red 🙂

  2. Isn’t it a bit arrogant to assume that because God doesn’t always intervene that he can’t?

    Far from it. To claim complete omnipotence for the god you worship would be arrogant.

    I cannot see how your answers, Red, would get God off the monster hook.

  3. I’ve fought with this, too, from the point of view of a child in a relentlessly abusive environment. I went the “free will” way, and frankly, it leads me to, “God, in the end, is responsible, ultimately.”. The people I serve are never going to buy God’s self-limitation. Most people believe they need a God who will intervene, even when the evidence is to the contrary – that God appears to intervene sometimes, and sometimes not, which, again, leads to God is a Monster, or, like my late mother, “I’m just not getting my prayers right. If only I could get the wording of my prayers right, God would make it okay for me to smoke and not be dying because of it.”
    I take with gratitude those events, if you will, when heavenly intervention seems to have occurred. I berate God when no intervention seems to come. This is not satisfactory.

  4. Lois,

    Yeah, what you said.

    And I find myself agreeing with our host. Either God cannot stop all evil in the world, or God is a monster. Two ideas that’ve been rattling around in my head help me with this are…

    1) A priest at our parish explained to me that our idea of omnipotence was a concept that slipped into our theology from the Greeks.

    2) A lot of the problems with this topic are created, or exacerbated, by the concept of God as a “supernatural grandfather in the sky / magic genie / sky god” who is basically just like a more powerful human. Someone we can bribe, flatter, or cajole into doing stuff for us.

    My own model is much more along the lines of panentheism, which really changes the equation for me on this topic.

  5. IMO God cannot because we will not — abuse etc are human caused – we have free will and we abuse -we are all complicit as long as it continues.
    Wondering if you have read The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever series? He explores this question. Part of the story is that the demonic intervenes and thereby takes over our free will – but God trusts us to do the right thing – even tho we do not many times.

  6. David is absolutely correct to say that omnipotence as we understand it is not from Judaism (even the concept of there only being one God is not Judaic).

    But there is a way of having a god who is both omnipotent and limited.

    God can only do what it is possible for God to do because if God did something that is impossible for God to do then it would never have been impossible.

    Omnipotence is being able to do everything that is possible, not about being able to do the impossible, which is an impossibility, even for the omnipotent.

    It may be that the only possible way for higher lifeforms to exist on a planet is if the planet has an active geology. Therefore, God cannot stop earthquakes and views them as a utilitarian compromise.

  7. Exactly, MP. God cannot. Humans are capable of interfering with God’s plans because of free will, but you’re right that with respect to natural disasters, God cannot.

    That’s not to say that God does not intervene, or else why pray? God moves to bring about the best possible outcome in every situation, but God can only do what’s possible.

  8. Natural disasters are the earth behaving according to its physical laws, having been granted the “free will” of the natural order. If God does not override our “will” why would God override the earth’s? Life itself requires an amazing complex of circumstances, including earthquakes, floods, mutations, etc. Our imposition of morality on natural processes (and many human actions) seems, well, artificial and frequently absurd.

    At least that’s where I currently come down.

  9. “The only answer I can think of is that God cannot.” Yup and the only explanation I can offer is that God, standing outside time can see how doing so would be worse. I cannot conceive of why or how, but God can. Either that or none of it makes any sense at all.


  10. Just to be a pedant, doesnt it say in the bible ‘all things are possible with God..’ ?
    Though, in fact I agree about natural disasters. God created the world – with all its foibles. I am no geologist but I am sure there is a reason for plates moving/volcanoes erupting and without that the earth would not function. So I would probably put natural disasters in a different category anyway.

  11. Could someone nip round to Red’s place and slap her round the head until she promises to read all the previous comments before making one of her own.

  12. “Natural disasters are the earth behaving according to its physical laws, having been granted the “free will” of the natural order”

    But if the world is created, then the creater set the parameters of this natural order.

  13. Correct, Erika. But what if it was only possible for God to set the parameters within what was possible (see my previous comment) and the best that was possible was what we got?

  14. consider myself slapped…;) but I did read them, am I missing something stupidly obvious? I was agreeing with the previous comment about the natural disasters not trying to make my own point… perhaps commenting in the midst of cooking dinner was not advisable… will do better 🙂
    red x

  15. I agree with Paul that “Natural disasters are the earth behaving according to its physical laws, having been granted the ‘free will’ of the natural order.”

    That said, I also believe that man’s free will also figures into natural disasters. We do things that are detrimental to the natural order. We pollute and heat up our atmosphere to the point that ocean currents are altered, thus bringing floods or droughts. Even Katrina was not entirely natural. The southern part of Louisiana has been channelized and drained and parts of the swampy landmass have washed out to sea. When the winds hit, the wetlands were not there to absorb the brunt of it. The result was the tragedy that was New Orleans.

  16. And we choose to build houses and nuclear reactors on fault lines that we know damn well are going to shift any day soon and choose to live by coasts subject to tsunamis. Perhaps that’s due to the scarcity of land but then overpopulation is our fault as well.

  17. Yes – human arrogance will be our own undoing. We are constantly trying to control nature, and it is utterly outside of human control. Even the controls we do effect, have unforeseen consequences – so in that respect, yes, I do agree.

    We keep thinking, not us, not this time. And yet, it keeps happening – even when we have technological access to information that tells us differently.

    But, there is free will again.

    Perhaps God set this all in motion, and is the ultimate creator. Perhaps God is omnipotent, but not truly omniscient – otherwise, how could he delight in the courses of his creations? Maybe that is the purpose of free will or rather, “chaos” if you will.

    Then there is also the circular relationship between creation and destruction – nature truly seems to love a phoenix, far more then my tiny human sensibilities can accommodate.

    Ann – I’ve read the Covenant series, and loved those books. Haven’t looked at them from a theological perspective, as I read them as a teenager, but I can see where that line of thought was developed in those stories now that you mention it. Might have to put them on my list of to be re-read.

  18. He sent you two boats and a helicopter.

    I see the “cannot or monster” argument much like the literalists’ “either all true or a liar” argument.

    God’s answer to Job seems to answer the question.

    I do agree with saying “your” god is omnipotent is arrogant – however, saying God is omnipotent, isn’t. Frankly, I’m not interested in worshipping the big kahuna of some tribe of sheep-herders.

  19. I’m confused (though I have read the foregoing so don’t bother sending round a slapper – if you take my meaning!).
    If God can only do what is possible, then:
    a) who or what sets the limits of that field of possibility?
    b) what does omnipotence mean (if not ‘capable of all’)?
    c) if God can do only what is ‘possible’, how is s/he different to me (and I really wouldn’t want to worship me)?

  20. a) It’s a “what is beyond the edge of the universe” sort of thing.

    b) Omnipotence means “capable of all.” But all is what all is. See also answer to (a).

    c) Oh, come on!