The Eternal Question of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

One cannot give a human answer to a Divine question. Free will is man’s greatest gift from God – to choose between good and life or evil and death. Free will does not remove Divine Providence from the world, although it may be concealed. Free will exists, but the march of history is not determined by the unpredictability of man’s free will.

The healthy soul has faith in God and His guidance of the world. The rationale for the existence of evil with respect to man’s history is beyond human understanding, other than God wanted to give man free will. When man pursues the enticement of the Serpent . . . and you will be like God . . . Genesis 3:5, man replaces God by becoming a god.

When bad things happen, the question should not be where was God, but where was man? The question raised by the evil of the Holocaust is not the issue of Divine justice but the issue of the meaning and significance of the Holocaust for man, who has rejected God. Where was man during the Holocaust? He was tasting the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that leads to death.

. . of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, you must not eat thereof, for on the day you eat of it, you shall surely die. Genesis 2:17. 

Eighteen century Enlightenment philosophy gave birth to Liberalism and Humanism, while hastening the rejection of God. Man argues that the god of pure Science will eventually bring about mutual understanding among previously evil nations and men. As in man’s beginning sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, today’s man continues to dream the primal dream of . . and you will be like God, knowing good and bad. Genesis 3:5 and “Thou shall not kill” is obscured as God’s Word is rejected as obsolete.

And you may say in your heart, “My strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth!” Deuteronomy 8:17 . . lest . . . your heart will become haughty and you will forget the Lord, your God. Deuteronomy 8:12-14. 

The god of Darwinism deprived man of his uniqueness in the order of God’s creation. According to today’s man, man was not a direct creation of God. Man did not emerge from the womb of nature, a final and completed product with a soul that elevates him above other creatures.1

Let not the wise man glorify himself with his wisdom, and let not the strong man glorify himself with his strength, let not the rich man glorify himself with his wealth. For only with this may one glorify himself – contemplating and knowing Me, for I am the Lord Who does kindness, justice and righteousness in the land, for in these is My desire – the word of the Lord. Jeremiah 9:22-23.

God’s ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Just as man cannot know His essence, so it is impossible to comprehend His ways. His ways are concealed from us. Ultimate knowledge for man is to know that one simply cannot know.

The individual freely chooses whether to act for good or evil. Divine Providence knows the actions of nations and its people, but the individual is still free to choose. Free will applied to the Egyptians during the Jewish captivity and to the Germans during the Holocaust on an individual basis, but Divine providence did not control the individual’s free will. For the Germans were not pawns of Divine Providence and had the choice to exceed their charge. The individual is free to augment . . . the evil. Zechariah 1:15. The Holocaust is a Divine question that we cannot answer, but the Jewish people continue to survive and yet the world cannot explain why in human rationale.

We live on, 

In a world in flames, 

We have nothing, 

Yet in the face of enemies 

Who seek to slander and destroy us, 

We live on, 

We are here! 

We live on, 

Through the worst of times, 

Through the darkest hours, 

We survive, we endure, 

We are here! 

We Live On, written in the Vilna Ghetto during the Holocaust. 

Today in Israel and in Jerusalem [o]ld men and old women . . . once again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with his staff in his hand because of advanced age; and the streets of the city . . . [are] . . . filled with boys and girls playing in its streets . . . Just as it . . . [is] . . . wondrous in the eyes of the remnant of his people in . . . [these] . . . days, so . . . [is] . . . it . . . wondrous in My eyes . . . Behold, I am saving My people from the land of the east and from the land where the sun sets; and I will bring them and they will dwell within Jerusalem. They will be a people unto Me, and I will be a God unto them, in truth and in righteousness. Zechariah 8:4-8.

1 Yoel Schwartz and Yitzchak Goldstein, Shoah: A Jewish perspective on tragedy in the context of the Holocaust, Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. (1st ed. 1st Impression 1990), p. 168.

Copyright © 2012 by Martin M. van Brauman

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