Why Doesn’t God Intervene To Prevent Evil? Because We Matter

By Tom Gilson Published on February 24, 2018

I lost two first cousins to senseless, brutal violence. Years later the memory of their deaths still brings me anger and grief. God didn’t save them. He didn’t prevent the Parkland shootings. He didn’t stop the shooters in Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Sandy Hook … or any of the other millions of atrocities this world has suffered.

Why not? Why doesn’t God intervene? C.S. Lewis has an answer. This time it isn’t in one of his essays, but in his short science fiction novel Perelandra. It’s the second of his “space trilogy.” The trilogy begins with Out of the Silent Planet and ends with That Hideous Strength.

Perelandra is the “real” name for the planet Venus, which is quite habitable. (I have to reveal some spoilers here, but you’ll still want to read the book for its stunning imagery.)

Elwin Ransom, a British professor, lands there and meets a man and a woman who have just been created by God. They’re innocent and undefiled, as Adam and Eve once were in Eden. God has given them perfect freedom to do as they please, with just one restriction — just as Adam and Eve had freedom, too, with just one prohibition.

Ransom is a believer in Jesus Christ, unlike Edward Weston, another professor who lands there shortly after him. Weston dives straight into tempting the Perelandrans into disobedience. Day after day, interminably, annoyingly, frustratingly, he urges them to do the wrong thing. Day after day Ransom prays they’ll stand strong.

“Why Don’t You Send Help?!”

When God sends help, He doesn’t often do it by a miracle. Usually He sends a human being.

The Perelandran woman begins thinking about giving in. Ransom is frantic. He can’t stand the thought of Perelandra and its people spoiled through sin. His prayers turn to pleading: “Oh, God! Why don’t You send help?!” And then he realizes God has sent help. He himself is the help God has sent. So in a marvelous — and surprising — scene which I won’t spoil for you, he takes Weston out for keeps. The couple are rescued from repeating the horrific mistake Adam and Eve made.

Lewis knew that when God sends help, He doesn’t often do it by a miracle. Usually He sends a human being.

Christianity, though a religion of grace, is expressed in people doing the right thing. Just this morning, driving home from a breakfast appointment twenty minutes south of here, I passed three hospitals founded by churches. One of them is actually named “Christ Hospital.” This is typical of cities across America. So here we have part of the answer to our question: God does intervene — through us.

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Christians have been doing good, solving problems, meeting needs since the beginning. So do others. Christian or not, though, people are inconsistent. Too often we shirk their moral duties, or simply miss our chance to help. Evil happens as a tragic result. 

What About the Times When Help Doesn’t Come?

So we can’t be content with the answer we’ve arrived at so far, that God works through people. We also have to ask why that answer doesn’t always work. And once again, Perelandra provides the clue we need.

Suppose God had destroyed Weston with a bolt of lightning. What difference would Ransom have made? What good would he have accomplished? He’d have been nothing more than an observer.

The principle revealed on Perelandra applies on Earth. Suppose God let people do good when they chose to do good, but when they didn’t, He stepped in to stop them Himself? How long would it take for good people to ask themselves: What’s the point of doing good? I don’t have to step up. God’s going to handle it. He always does. It always works out just the same in the end.

Doing good wouldn’t make any difference, if God always took care of things for us. We wouldn’t matter. We wouldn’t make any difference.

Who would bother doing good, if God always did it for us? Who would be brave, if bravery had no effect? Who would give, if our gifts only substituted for what God was planning to do without us?

It’s Because We Matter

But who cares if our choices didn’t matter? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if God didn’t leave so much up to us? We fail. We sin. We don’t do what we should. Sometimes we do what we know we shouldn’t. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if God would just stop every Nikolas Cruz out there, and keep them from doing any evil they planned to do?

I don’t think so. Not at all. In a world like that, we wouldn’t make any difference. We wouldn’t matter.

God made us so our choices matter. He designed us to change the lives of others. He created us to make a difference in the world. That’s a crucial part of being human. God made us so we can choose to be Ransom on Perelandra. But that means we can also choose to be Weston. For if we couldn’t make the evil choice to be Weston — if God always stopped us from doing that — we couldn’t make a genuine choice to be Ransom either.

In His wisdom and love, God gave us the ability to choose to do right, which requires that we be able to choose not to do right. Or even to do wrong. If by God’s design we could only “choose” to do good, then doing good wouldn’t actually be our decision. A “choice” between just one option is nonsense; it isn’t a choice at all.

I’d rather live where it matters to be human.

Where there is choice there can be pain; it’s an unavoidable part of the package. I understand that. I don’t want to be insensitive to the Parkland victims, to their families, or to any of the rest of us who have suffered deeply. As I said, I’ve lost two people I loved to violence, too.

But would I want to live in a world where my cousins still lived, but their moral decisions weren’t decisions after all; where their “choices” had no substantial effect on anything, and neither did mine or anyone else’s? No, I’d rather live where our decisions, whether good or evil, make a real difference. I’d rather live where it matters to be human.

If the evil of Parkland can happen, so can the real good of preventing the next crime, the next broken marriage, the next aborted child, the next hungry or thirsty family. So let’s go make a difference. Because we matter.

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