Habakkuk’s Complaints

The issue of the presence of evil and the goodness of God is one of the most critical questions for those who believe in God.  In his book, The Reason for God, Timothy Keller tells of a conversation with two skeptics which expresses the problem of evil.  

Hillary, a young undergraduate with an English major, said, “I just don’t believe the God of Christianity exists.  God allows terrible suffering in the world.   So he might be either all-powerful but not good enough to end evil and suffering, or else he might be all-good but not all-powerful enough to end evil and suffering.  Either way the all-good, all-powerful God of the Bible couldn’t exist.”

Hillary’s boyfriend, Rob, chimed in, “This isn’t philosophical for me.  This is personal.  I won’t believe in a God who allows suffering, even if he, she, or it exists.  Maybe God exists.  Maybe not.  But if he does, he can’t be trusted.”

Keller then recalls the reporting after the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed at 250,000 people.  Newspaper headlines and news stories in the following weeks raised the basic question:  “Where was God on December 26th?”  One reporter wrote, “If God is God, he’s not good.  If God is good, he’s not God.  You can’t have it both ways, especially after the Indian Ocean catastrophe.”

Keller keenly observes that this sort of reasoning is built upon a faulty premise, that is, if evil appears pointless to me, it therefore must be pointless.  Just because we cannot see or imagine a good reason for why God might allow an Indian Ocean tsunami, doesn’t mean that there isn’t one.  There is an enormous step of faith in our own reasoning in this.  “If our minds can’t plumb the debts of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can’t be any!   This is blind faith of the highest order.”   However, “If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know.  Indeed, you can’t have it both ways.” [1]

The prophet Habakkuk wrestled with the fact that God actually employed evil to accomplish His good purpose.  The lessons in this short book are indispensable for a healthy theology concerning evil and suffering, the practical realities of living as fallen creatures in a fallen and hostile world.   

Pray:  As you begin your meditation, read II Timothy 2:7.  There is an important principle here that ought to guide your prayer and meditation. 

Read:  All of “The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw” (1:1).

Meditate:  Micah raises some important questions to the Lord.  In what ways are they relevant today?  The questions listed below are designed to help you meditate on these questions the prophet puts to the Lord and how they might be relevant for us today.

[1] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York:  Dutton, 2008) p. 23.