As the May 6 coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla approaches, we now know that Prince Harry will attend the event, though Meghan Markle will stay in California for their son’s birthday. Dozens of world leaders, including First Lady Jill Biden, will attend the event as well.
However, President Joe Biden will not. This decision has angered some British politicians and commentators, but it is not a personal snub: since America’s independence from British rule in 1776, no sitting US president has ever attended a British coronation. Nor do British monarchs attend presidential inaugurations, so far as I can determine.
Only if we were robots
According to the British people, their top problems include the economy, health, immigration, the environment, defense, housing, and education. What if their new king were all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving? How many of these problems could and would he solve?
Fewer than we might think, assuming he honors the free will of his subjects. They would still be free to spend more than they make, live in unhealthy ways, mistreat the environment, and so on. Only if Great Britain were populated entirely by robots programmable by the king could he solve such problems.
The king of the universe is in the same position.
The Bible is clear on his omnipotence: “The Lᴏʀᴅ reigns, let the peoples tremble!” (Psalm 99:1). His omniscience is equally clear: “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything” (1 John 3:20). As is his omnibenevolence: “God is love” (1 John 4:8).
However, he made us to love him and each other (Matthew 22:37–39) and honors the freedom such love requires. As Jesus stated so picturesquely: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20–21).
Consequently, none of the evil and suffering attributable to misused free will is God’s fault. If I refuse to study for the test and fail the exam, the fault is not with the professor.
Why unbelievers don’t believe
I make this point in light of a new Barna study asking nonbelievers to list reasons for their doubts. Number 1 on the list: the hypocrisy of religious people. Number 2: science. Number 3: human suffering.
Each of them is the result in part of blaming God for what is not God’s fault.
When religious people act hypocritically, God grieves (cf. Matthew 7:5; 1 John 4:20; Matthew 6:1). When people misunderstand the relationship between science (which focuses on creation) and religion (which focuses on the Creator), the Creator is not to blame. When humans cause human suffering, their Father mourns (cf. Lamentations 3:22–23; John 11:35).
However, you’re probably asking: What about suffering that is not caused by misused freedom? What about tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and so on?
It is true that we live in a world broken by the Fall and sin (Romans 8:22). There were no tornadoes in the Garden of Eden. But another principle is worth considering as well: “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:2).
All through Scripture, God intervenes in nature at the request of his people. Jesus healed so many people that “great crowds followed him” as a result (Matthew 4:25). Because “I the Lᴏʀᴅ do not change” (Malachi 3:6), his omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence are no different today than in the biblical era.
Here’s what has changed: many modern, scientific people no longer truly believe that our miracle-working God still works miracles. Even if we say that we do, our prayers (or lack thereof) often disagree.
When last did you ask God to intervene in a natural disaster? When last did you ask him to heal someone with a terminal illness (and truly believe that he could)? When last did you ask him to do what only God can do?
A modern miracle
New Testament scholar Craig Keener’s new book, Miracles Today: The Supernatural Work of God in the Modern World, is outstanding. Dr. Keener is meticulous in his scholarship, documenting the contemporary miracles he describes with objective precision.
Here is an example: Dr. Sean George, a thirty-nine-year-old physician in Australia, had a heart attack on October 24, 2008. His coworkers tried for fifty-five minutes to revive him, administering some four thousand chest compressions and shocking him thirteen times before giving up.
They notified his wife, who is also a medical professional. By the time she reached him, Sean’s body was cold since he had been dead for an hour and twenty-five minutes. Instead of saying goodbye to her husband, however, she took his hand and prayed: “Sean is just thirty-nine, I’m just thirty-eight, and we have a ten-year-old boy. I need a miracle!”
Immediately, Sean’s heart started beating. Because the human brain is completely dead after twenty minutes without blood, doctors were certain he would suffer irreversible brain damage. To their shock, he awoke three days later with full brain function. He was discharged from the hospital two weeks later and was back to working full-time in three months.
Aware of the significance of his experience, Dr. George kept all his medical records and has made them available on his website for the world to see.
To be sure, God does not always answer our prayers in the way we wish. I would never suggest that all suffering is due to a lack of faith. (Jesus, his martyred followers, and Job would obviously contradict such a claim.) But I do believe that some is the consequence of a post-Christian worldview that views miracles as myths and discourages faith in a miraculous God.
“You do not have, because you do not ask.” Don’t let this be true of you today.