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Friday, 4 June 2010

The Cumbrian Massacre

The other major news story of the week has been what may well become known as the Cumbrian Massacre, when Whitehaven taxi-driver Derrick Bird murdered twelve people, and injured many more, before committing suicide.

No-one seems to know, and it is unlikely that, in spite of the media speculation that seems to be required in our modern culture, anyone will ever find out, the whole story behind this man - apparently well-thought of within his local community - who set out on what appears to have been a pre-mediated rampage.

Of course, the inevitable questions will be asked with reference to Almighty God - especially by those who claim that He doesn't exist in the first place! "Where was God when this man was causing such carnage?" "If He is a God of love, how could He allow such a terrible thing to happen?"

The best answer to the first of those questions is that given by Ann Graham-Lotz - the daughter of well-known Christian evangelist, Dr Billy Graham - after the tragic incident that is referred to simply as "9/11". Her message was that He was there - in the midst of the suffering; sharing that suffering; and bringing - even in the midst of that suffering - a peace that passes all human understanding, to those who will accept it from His hand.

With regard to the second question, we must recognise the difference between what we might refer to as the prescriptive will of God, and the permissive will of God. The former covers the concept of God "deciding" what will happen (although it isn't as simple as that! I am certainly not referring to the Islamic idea of an incident being inevitable because "it is the will of God [Allah]"). The latter refers to the fact that Almighty God created mankind with an amazing but, one might argue, dangerous facility - freedom of will. He could, of course, remove that free will - but that would mean that we would all be no more than pre-programmed robots, unable to do anything other than that for which we had been programmed!

This would be no more satisfactory to God that it would be to most of us! I mentioned, a few posts ago, the love of my wife and children that is part of the inestimable riches that I have. But if I knew that they could do none other than love me, then that love would immediately lose all of its value! It's the fact that they have chosen to love me, as an act of their individual free wills, that makes that love so infinitely precious. Almighty God could easily have programmed you and me to love Him - but of what value would that kind of love be?

The only problem with free will is that it allows us to do that which is displeasing in the sight of the Holy and Sinless Creator of all that is; that which actually (in anthropomorphic terms) breaks His heart. The Biblical name that covers all of our wrongdoing, and failure to do right, is sin. And there, I would suggest, is the answer to Derrick Bird's killing spree. Like each one of us, he was a sinner. Sadly, it would seem that he never made a positive response to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ Who, as God in human flesh (God Incarnate) has already paid the penalty for your sin, and for mine. However, my free will allows me to reject the offer of salvation that He makes - and He will not force me to accept it.

So, you see, when I think of Derrick Bird, I can say with John Bradford, the 16th century prebendary of St. Paul's Cathedral when, while imprisoned in the Tower of London (for his faith), he saw some men being led out to have the death penalty executed upon them: "There, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford". For, in my sinful state, I am just as capable of committing any of the horrific crimes that are reported on a daily basis, as anyone else - including the actual perpetrators. It is the grace of God, shown in the Lord Jesus, that makes all of the difference. I commend it to one and all.

1 comment:

CannuckCol said...

As well as Ann Graham-Lotz' response, you could also go to the author Philip Yancey in his book "Where is God when It Hurts?" where of course you'll receive the same answer - He's right there.