I do volunteer work with a college apologetics ministry, Ratio Christi (www.ratiochristi.org). We mentor college students to defend their faith against attacks and questions from atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and critics. The most rewarding part of the job is working with great students who will go on to do great things. We get the pleasure to work with some of the brightest young thinking Christians.
This last weekend, one of our best students committed suicide. Our sense of frustration and sense of loss is obviously great, but I am sure not nearly as much as that of his family.
I know what have been my thoughts this week, but I can only guess what might be the thoughts of his family and close friends. This student was very bright, worked hard, had a good grasp of the issues, and was set to go on and do great things for God’s kingdom. We saw no signs of depression or mental illness. I am sure you can guess the questions: Why would God allow such a thing? Could not an all-powerful God stop this person? Could not God change him? Could not God have caused the gun to fail? Why would God allow such a tragedy, then allow the family and friends to suffer? The questions could go on, but you get the idea. These are not trivial questions, and many counselors see these types of questions all the time.
No doubt many atheists and skeptics use such situations to scream to the world that God does not exist, or He would have done something. Possibly God is limited or uncaring and is therefore unworthy of worship. This is the classic problem of evil.
I have considered this problem from a cool intellectual stance many times (just search for morals or evil in my search bar). Right now, however, I am looking at the problem with fresh pain and loss, for the senseless suicide has hit close to home. Added to the obvious pain is that my work is to pass along something to the next generation, and this suicide has added to the loss.
Either God is still worthy of worship in times like these, or He is not worthy any time. So what is my response?
I fully recognize the intellectual arguments, for I have blogged them here many times. But now the question is more personal, more feeling, so close that it is under my skin and in my heart. How do I respond?
My first reflection on this suicide was indeed “God, where are you? Where were you?” Following this is a recognition that there will likely be no simple answer that will satisfy the pain of those who knew this person. I admit that we all have the questions I listed above, but likely will never get answers this side of heaven.
My next reflection was on the hollowness of atheism in a time like this. No, not hollowness, but downright wrongness. I thought of Richard Dawkins’ quote “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” I am sure that if Dawkins were at the funeral he would be polite and cordial and not say such things to the family, but there is also no doubt that the day he said these words, somewhere there was a grieving mother who had a child that had just killed themselves. He cannot separate himself from a universe that has “blind pitiless indifference,” one with no evil or good, yet then turn around and say that we do not admit to such ideas in polite company, that the suicide this week was evil, we should have pity, and such evil acts are proof that God is absent or irrelevant.
Something inside me calls out to God for answers. But over that, something inside me screams out to the atheists that suicide of a loved one is indeed proof that evil exists, that we want good, and we are incapable of believing that blindness and indifference is the way of the world. No doubt the atheists at the funeral would agree, and are likely angry at me right now for suggesting that they are indifferent to such evil acts. But that’s just the point. If we admit that evil and good are real, that we cannot be pitiless and indifferent in situations such as this, we have pulled the foundation from under the atheists’ position and the whole show collapses on stage in front of everyone. If evil exists, and surely this suicide that has put fresh pain in my gut is evil, then now there is more to the world than chemistry and physics.
I may never know why my friend shot himself this week, for God does not respond to my demands. But I know that atheism presents no answers, and God promises to eventually wipe away every tear. I may not like the fact that God may never tell me the answers to my questions, but I rest knowing that a world without God is a more monstrous idea than the evil of one person’s suicide.
For you, Chase.