Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God Is Where He's Always Been: Acting in Love to Overcome Men's Evil

People who mindlessly ask: "Where is God when tragedies like that of Newtown, Connecticut happen?" need to re-examine the premises of their question.

First of all, they are assuming that God must not have been there (on the scene), or else He could have prevented its happening.

But of course He was there -- He is omnipresent God, and not the slightest blade of grass, or hair on your head, escapes His glance.

"But if God is omnipresent," you respond, "why does He allow such awful things to happen?"

Again, the question assumes, as we lawyers are accustomed to say, "facts not in evidence."

God is certainly omnipresent, so God was certainly at the scene of the Newtown shootings. And God is also certainly omnipotent, so that He could have intervened to strike the shooter dead, or to deflect the shots, before any bullets from the shooter's guns took innocent lives. That much, at least, is not open to question.

But when the question is asked: "Why did God allow this tragedy to happen?" -- well, then, we are on different ground. For God allows everything to happen, just as it has been "preordained" to happen. For it is a truism to observe that if God "allows" something to happen, then that something was "preordained" from God's omnipresent point of view.

"Allowing" something to happen implies that "not allowing" it was also an option. But that observation tells us nothing about the choices which God had. Perhaps "allowing" this tragedy to happen meant avoiding a still worse tragedy elsewhere, and at some other time -- and only God knows (and could know) that.

(Note: I use the scare quotes to emphasize God's gift to us of free will, to make what indeed are our own choices. That God "allows" us those choices does not mean He does not know what choices we will make, or that He has to wait for us to make them before He can deal with their consequences.)

We mere (and fallen) mortals, limited in both the time and the space that we occupy with our presence, are in no position to make celestial judgments from an omnipresent, omnipotent perspective.  Everything we do is centered around the "we / us" by which we define ourselves. And unlike God, we cannot on most occasions see clearly the future consequences of our present choices.

God, on the other hand, makes billions and trillions of "choices" every day -- among them being who shall die on any given day. Newtown is a human tragedy because so many of those who had to die had barely begun to live. But many more children of their same age also died on that day, as well -- their deaths just did not make the news. Yet (unlike us, again) God knew about each and every one of them.

Therefore, do not seek to question where "God was" in Newtown. The question is impertinent and tries to put man on the same level as God. God indeed was there (and everywhere), and was mediating the lives of the innocent and the guilty through His only Son, Jesus Christ.

Those who would use this tragedy to urge the passing of more gun laws are committing a similar sin of human pride: they conceive that more human control of the means of force will result in less deaths. Humans, as already noted, are fallen -- and that means any attempt by fallen humans to control their peers is a recipe for failure.

Here is a powerful argument, stated more than five years ago, which expresses this point better than any I have currently read (H/T: Ace of Spades):
Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that’s it. 
In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some. 
When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force. The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gangbanger, and a single gay guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender. 
There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we’d be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger’s potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat–it has no validity when most of a mugger’s potential marks are armed. People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that’s the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.
When I carry a gun, I don’t do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I’m looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don’t carry it because I’m afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn’t limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation…and that’s why carrying a gun is a civilized act.
The author speaks common sense. Civilization is based on reason, and on the controlled use of force as guided by reason. Civilization based solely on force is "might makes right." More gun laws will simply bring back the dark ages, when that was the rule.

God gave man his reason, but man abuses it badly. On the one side, he thinks he can use it to protect the weak, while in reality he only makes the criminals (the ones who do not use their God-given reason properly) stronger. And on the other side, man thinks his reason can compete with God on His own level.

With the psalmist, I ask: "What is man, that thou art mindful of him?"

Right now, after the tragedy of Newtown, quite a few of God's creatures are making fools of themselves.


  1. "...quite a few of God's creatures are making fools of themselves."

    And will continue to do so as they seek a solution (usually an enforced one) to come from the mind of man without involving God as part of the equation.

  2. AC-

    The main reason those little children and teachers were killed was the decision made by the young man to perpetrate the crime. He is to blame for what happened and, were he still alive, he alone (absent anyone else who might have acted with him in some way) would be prosecuted for it, in accordance with the law.

    I agree with you that it is wrong to try to use this tragedy as evidence of the absence or futility of God. The problem is human sin, not God's inactivity.

    However, two things you say make me uneasy:

    (1) "Those who would use this tragedy to urge the passing of more gun laws are committing a similar sin of human pride: they conceive that more human control of the means of force will result in less deaths. Humans, as already noted, are fallen -- and that means any attempt by fallen humans to control their peers is a recipe for failure."

    To which I respond that we do pass laws to try to control human behavior. We do it all the time. Isn't this what all laws are for? And isn't the design and passing of just laws part of the responsibility God has given us as stewards of this earth? It isn't necessarily an act of human pride to do so.

    I think I know what you mean, however. It is a sin of human pride to think we can legislate human morality, instead of humbly accepting that God has already ordained (and stated) what morality consists in, and recognizing our responsibility to act in accordance with God's laws, and to inculcate them in our children.

    (2) (which you quote) "When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force. "

    I am sure that you cannot be suggesting that the recent school tragedy would not have happened if the children had each been carrying a pistol in his or her belt, i.e., that that would have made the attacker think again!!

    This is the sort of conclusion to which argumentation of the sort you quote leads. It suggests that these problems will simply go away if we all return to the days of the wild west and walk along the streets toting six-guns on our hips.

    Like you, I am deeply suspicious of attempts to restrict the ownership of firearms, and I am sure the Left will try to use these recent events to do so. However, I think we have to come up with better arguments to oppose them.

  3. Topper, thank you for your comments. Yes, you did catch what I meant. Of course man must establish just laws to govern himself, but they must be laws that are under, and in order to advance and support, the ultimate standards of morality as revealed to us and "written on our hearts" by God. Gun control laws all too often are indiscriminate or foolish, rather than just, and many of them are contrary to the Second Amendment, but have never been challenged.

    I believe that the author of the argument I quoted would respond to your second point by saying that it was the school officials who might possibly have saved lives if they had kept guns in a locked closet, and had not had the school declared a "gun-free zone." Unless you are going to accept the cost of one or more armed security guards at each school, there would be no way to prevent their sudden invasion by an armed and determined person. But at least they could have had the means to respond before the police could get there.

  4. The idea that a gun carrier deals with people in terms of "persuasion" is surely unsound. The gun carrier deals in "threat of force" first, and only when there is a stand-off of forces will persuasion come in.

    But of course the fact that an elderly person, for example, carries a gun does not mean that she will have the nerve to use it. The threat of force is regarded as weak by the mugger, who mugs anyway. And does she have the experience and physical strength to use it properly and accurately, so as not to harm innocent bystanders?

    Add to this the possibility that people will die in a gun battle, simply because they reach for a gun instead of handing over a few dollars, and we're perhaps not looking at rational behaviour.

    Now compare the case in Europe, where gun controls are much stronger. True, violent crime does still happen, but at a lower rate and level of severity: homicide is so much rarer. There is not the presumption of violence on both side of a dispute. There is not the ready availability of weapons to escalate matters. There is a presumption that the police will sort things out far better than private citizens.

    It's a different culture. it is a more peaceful culture all around. I'd say it's a more desirable culture in that respect. I'd think any rational person would agree. Especially one who believes in the rule of the Prince of Peace, whose birth we will remember next week.

    Getting from A to B would be hard. It would be complex. It would probably involve changing the Constitution. It might make things worse for a while before it got better and guns gradually disappeared from the streets. But does that mean it's not worth trying if it stops people dying with such regularity?

    Isn't the American dream about pursuing "Life, liberty and happiness."?

    Look at what is first on that list.

  5. Fr Randall, thank you commenting here -- we are always pleased to have a perspective from outside the US. It is true that gun crimes in the UK are greatly fewer than they are in the US.

    But it is also true that violent crimes in general -- rape, assault, battery, burglary and robbery, etc. -- are higher in the UK than in any other country in the Western world.

    So, yes -- keeping guns available means that more people die from bullets.

    But by the same token, keeping guns available seems to reduce the number of violent crimes as a whole.

    And I think that was the point the author was making in his article.

  6. To all of which I say,"Switzerland and Israel". In those two places the population is heavily armed, frequently with advanced, military weaponry.

    But, unlike the FARC, the Mexican drug cartels, and the urban jungle monsters....most of the people in Switzerland and Israel have a significant life catechism and/or philosophy that incorporates some interpretation of the notion of the Golden Rule as we understand it.

    In recent years, it is my assumption, the use of behaviour modification approaches by the use of personality inhibiting drugs has produced one after another of Cauldron Monsters.
    Next, the effusion of broken marriages, fuzzy fatherhood, and public assistance fueled "baby mother" zombies has resulted in almost unimaginable depravity in terms of regard for human life.
    Next, the removal of any form of judgmentalism, notions of right and wrong, from the public square leaves young people adrift in a ship with no rudder, and a times with no sails to unfurl.
    Then, in Texas, when we legalised concealed carry and generally legal automobile carry, gross crime and overall crimes rates went down sharply. That change came after the Temple,
    Texas Luby's Cafeteria shooting where a totally, assuredly disarmed assembly of diners were gunned down mercilessly by a sane, but soulless piece of garbage who felt justified in punishing the world for his failures....I think it was in 1990. A lady who was there had a pistol in her glove compartment, illegally in those days, and had chance therefore to watch her parents be shot down in cold blood for no reason. She ran for the Texas Legislature largely on the campaign promise of making possible for Texans to defend themselves with something like equal force. She won and she was successful in her efforts.
    I shan't even delve into the intellectual dishonesty of terms like "semi-automatic assault weapons". Or, "Just call 911", so that the forensics people can come over and bring their toe tags and body bags. Or the "progressives" pushing to have all the basket people and "non-dangerous to self and others" taken out of institutions. To-day it is all but impossible to have a deranged person committed until after the cows have left the barn and come back and closed the opened door behind them....so to speak.
    Finally, I was on the campus for various reasons on 1 August 1966 when Charles Whitman killed and wounded about 30 people. He fired with deadly accuracy from the top of the legendary University Tower, some shots of up to 700 yards. He was stopped, oddly by the combination of an off-duty cop by the name of Martinez (now a Texas Ranger) and a famous, unassuming businessman, who went high up the Tower, engaged and killed Whitman. The businessman had his rifle and Martinez had his service revolver...Henry Fonda's foolish "Deadly Tower" made for TV show was a total fraud concerning this particular "massacre".

    My vote is for Counselor Haley's originally stated position. I believe in resident evil, provoke by the original disobedience caused by following the serpent en lieu of the standing orders.

    Thanks for your time and attention.
    El Gringo Viejo