Steve Coogan said something interesting on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show this morning. I missed most of the interview unfortunately, as I find Coogan very funny.
I tuned in to find them talking about cars, unsurprisingly, and Steve was reminiscing about how his mum (grandma?) told him that the fact he has an Aston Martin is evidence for God’s existence, as when he was a child, he prayed that one day God would give him one.
Steve, an atheist, as Chris reminded him, commented on his mother’s statement by saying that God seems to be very unfair in that he causes tsunamis to happen but would get him an Aston Martin.
It’s an old argument, and on the face of it, a good one. God can’t exist, because if he did, he wouldn’t send tsunamis, or at least he would stop them from happening. Tsunamis could be replaced by any other natural disaster or illness. Earthquakes. Cancer. Terrorism.
But what a hopeless world we would live in if us humans were left to our own devices. Stumbling our way through life-changing and life-destroying catastrophes, with no hope. With no source of comfort. What do you do when your whole family apart from you has been wiped out in an earthquake? What do you do when you are given months to live?
Do you say, God can’t exist, because if he did, my family would still be alive? Or, God can’t exist, because if he did, then I wouldn’t be dying?
The problem to this comes when we ask ourselves where the line is. When should God “reach down” and stop whatever “bad” thing is happening from happening? What event is so serious that its occurrence can be deemed proof enough that God doesn’t exist? God can’t be real because I have eczema. God can’t be real because I am unemployed. God can’t be real because my cat got run over. When do bad things get so bad that God should actually step in and stop them from happening? Where’s the line?
Many people have always been tragically killed, throughout history. One time, a tower in a place called Siloam fell and crushed eighteen people. Jesus talked about this disaster in a different context to the argument of God’s existence, but in the context of sin. Did these people deserve to die because they were worse “sinners” that anybody else? Jesus says that is missing the point, as well as incorrect. And to say that the existence of tsunamis rules out the existence of God is equally missing the point.
[Luke 13:1] About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple.  “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered?  Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God.  And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem?  No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”
Thank God that he isn’t just existing – he is actively loving and comforting and helping and saving through all of the terrible things that happen on the earth. It’s a tragedy that people assume he is far away when catastrophe strikes, because he is very near, and wanting to rescue us from something far more deathly than a falling tower, or a tsunami, or a hijacked plane. Jesus came to save us from sin. “I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.”