A friend of mine stopped by my office to ask a question. It was not really a new question, but one he had asked before.
“Why would God have allowed the Holocaust?”
He is more of a spiritual seeker than a believer in any one particular religion… but I believe that his status as a seeker is legitimate.
I responded with the most scholarly answer I could muster, “I don’t know.”
His reply was, “You have a doctorate in theology. Of course you know the answer.”
That gave me pause for a moment. I suppose it would be correct to say that I have an answer that satisfies me. I am sure my answer would not satisfy everyone. Perhaps it would only satisfy me. After all, if God is Loving beyond we can understand and Powerful beyond we can understand, it could be seen as contradictory that He permits such acts of unspeakable evil as the Holocaust.
Of course, the Holocaust is just one of the more easily identifiable acts of indescribable, unspeakable evil. It is so evil that some groups still deny that it happened despite seemingly irrefutable testimonies, documents, and physical evidence. Such denial of this and similar atrocities is not generally to protect God, but to protect ourselves. After all, the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami may be an “Act of God” but the Holocaust was clearly an “Act of Man,” against Man.
For me, the answer is embedded in the Lord’s Prayer. “Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
Those lines say a lot, to me at least.
- While God may be everywhere, God is in Heaven in a way that is not (yet) true with regards to the Earth.
- God’s Kingdom (or His reign/rulership) does not exist (fully) on Earth.
- God’s will is fully done in Heaven, but not (yet) on Earth.
If God’s will is not fully done on earth, we should not necessarily argue that evil things that happen must be God’s will (except to the extent that He did not prevent it). But then “Whose will is now being done on Earth?” Satan? It does not seem to be… not fully at least. Man? Perhaps more so, but Man’s will is divided… driven by competing passions, and general selfishness. In other words, to a large extent, the world we live in like a giant automobile with 7 billion selfish people all trying to steer it their own way. Chaos… an insane asylum where the keys have been given over to the inmates.
This is not my total explanation of the Holocaust. I might also add:
- The present age as “under renovation” towards a point when God has reconciled everything to His will. Surgery may heal, but it often cuts deep and painfully before things are set right.
- God expresses His love presently less by leveraging His sovereignty towards control, but towards suffering with us.
Anyway, without going any further or deeper, this satisfies me… for now. But what is satisfying to me, is likely to be completely unsatisfying to another.
I often tell people that a degree in Theology does not make one know more answers, but rather it helps one to formulate better questions— and identify less worthy questions.
“Why would God have allowed the Holocaust?” is a very good question. I complimented my friend with this question. I wish more Christians were willing to ask the hard questions regarding God, rather than pumping out bumper sticker theology like “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.”
But there are even better questions out there.
A better question than “Why would God have allowed the Holocaust?” might be “What does the Holocaust (occurring in 20th century “civilized” culture) reveal about ourselves?”
While the first question may lead one to doubt that there is a loving and powerful God out there, the answer to the second question points, I believe, to the conclusion that we truly NEED such a God to exist.