Chapter 4 - Facing the paradox

As we saw in the previous chapter, it is hard to argue with a being who is all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, timeless, omnipresent and perfect. And yet, you still have to wonder...

When something big like September 11, 2001 comes along, you wonder. That is completely natural. If God can see everything that is happening, if he is omnipotent and omniscient, and if he is reaching down and answering billions of prayers on earth each day, then how does something huge and ugly like 9/11 happen?

Big paradoxes like this appear with some regularity. Any thoughtful person who takes a few moments to ponder our world can see them. For example there is the Holocaust, where more than 10 million people died [ref]. There is the December 2004 tsunami, where 200,000 people died in less than a day. There is the AIDS epidemic, which has killed more than 20 million people in the last 25 years. Why doesn't God help these people? There are many smaller things as well. For example, it is not uncommon to wake up, open the morning newspaper and find a story like this:

    Family, friends mourn girl left in day-care van
    Raleigh News and Observer
    By Anne Saker

    WAKE FOREST - They had driven together lots of times, the old man and the little girl. He picked her up every morning and took her to the brick church where she spent her days. In the afternoon, he came to the door of her classroom in the day-care center, and she slipped her hand into his. Then he took her home.

    It all happened just that way on Monday, for Tim Day and Ranika Clifton, and so it resumed on Tuesday, until about 7:30 a.m., when a tragic forgetfulness seized control.

    Day, 63, a quiet retiree from Maryland, left Ranika, 2, belted into her car seat in a Ford Econoline van at the Corinth United Church of Christ near Wake Forest. Seven hours passed before anyone realized she was missing. When they found her, still in her car seat, she was dead.

Facing the paradox

Think about this innocent little girl as she suffered and died in the church van which was sitting under God's sun in a church parking lot. She is strapped in her car seat unable to escape. The temperature in the van rises rapidly. She screams and cries but no one hears her.

Saving Ranika would have been easy. For example, God could have helped Mr. Day to be less forgetful. God could have caused anyone in the day care center to think about Ranika's absence. God could have brought clouds and rain to keep the van cool. God could have sent an angel to roll down a window in the van. God could have spoken to Ranika's mother and encouraged her to stop by the school for some reason.

God had a million options, but God did not do any of these things.

What is going on here? The whole thing with Neva Rogers getting shot in the head did not feel right. Watching Steve Homel's 39 neighbors lose everything they own didn't feel right either. And now this -- little two-year-olds baking to death in church parking lots. It is easy to say, "It must be God's will" or "It is all part of God's plan." But what does that mean? What if God plans to shoot you in the head tomorrow? What if he plans to bake your child to death? What if he plans to burn your home to the ground? What good is it to pray if that is what will be happening anyway?

As you can see, the paradox of God can be mystifying. When we look at the cases of Ranika, Steve Homel and Neva Rogers, what is actually going on?

This book contains the answer to that question.

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by Marshall Brain

New York Times Coverage
discussed in a
New York Times piece
by N. D. Kristof.
For a counter-point to Mr. Kristof, please see
Chapter 26.

Recommendation by Sam Harris
Sam Harris recommends WWGHA in his book Letter to a Christian Nation.

Endorsement by Richard Dawkins
In a New York Times Letter, Richard Dawkins calls WWGHA a "splendid Web site."

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Section 1 - prayer Section 2 - The Bible Section 3 - Jesus What it means


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