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'Why?' is not the right response to tragedy, Mohler tells Boyce students
May 07, 2007
By Garrett E. Wishall

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R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, challenges students to pursue glorifying God in all circumstances, particularly in those we can't explain, April 25 at the final Boyce chapel of the spring semester. Photo by John Gill

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, the natural question "why did this happen?" should be replaced by "how can I respond?" and "how can God be glorified in this situation?" R. Albert Mohler Jr. said April 25 at Boyce College's final chapel service of the semester.

Preaching from John 9, where Jesus heals a man who was blind from birth, Mohler said Christians must follow Jesus' teaching and point people to God's sovereignty in situations that are difficult to understand or explain. While the disciples' questioned who was to blame for the man's blindness, he or his parents, Jesus urged them to instead question how God could be glorified in the situation, Mohler said.

"Jesus said it was neither this man's sin nor his parents that caused the man to be blind," he said. "Jesus said it was so, so that the works of God might be displayed in Him. Your worldview options are pretty stark here. Either this was some sort of cosmic accident or you are going to take Jesus at His Word when he says this man was born blind because God is going to do something in him, even in his blindness, to display His glory.

"Jesus is making the incredible claim that this man was born blind so that on this day I might give him sight and glory would be directed to the Father because of this miracle. You either believe in this God or you don't."

Mohler noted that while some situations have clear causes that are easily explainable, many life events bring questions not so easily answered. In these situations, Jesus' teaching comes to the forefront, he said.

"We can go from the alcoholic taking a drink to the accident in which the girl is maimed and know that it is because he sinned that this happened," he said. "We can go into many hospitals where babies are already addicted to crack cocaine and trace that back to the mother. You can look at any number of cause and effect relationships and trace things back to their source.

"However, this does not go very far for us. There are more questions that can't be answered that way than that can be. Frankly, there are more questions that trouble us, because we can't go back to their source. The question that comes up repeatedly is 'why.' Why cancer? Why disaster? Why earthquake? Why this? The amazing affirmation of this text is that what happens is ordained by God in order that in the end He will receive the greatest glory."

The reality of God's sovereignty over all events does not make evil any less evil than it appears, Mohler said. He noted that the man who pulled the trigger of the gun at Virginia Tech gave himself to sin and evil and is to blame for the deaths of all the students he killed. However, Mohler said this does not negate God's control over the situation.

"We can't say that somehow this slipped by God," he said. "If we really are Christians, then we must realize that we are confronted with the question not of 'why did this happen?' But 'what should we be doing now?' 'How should God be glorified now?'"

Employing full Christian love and gentleness, believers must point people to God's Word and the Gospel as the only source of hope in trying times, Mohler said.

"In the aftermath in Blacksburg, Va., one of the amazing things is that there are openings for the Gospel that did not exist before," he said. "It would be theologically sick to make the one-to-one correlation as if we were God and knew exactly why this happened. It would be a slander against those who were the victims, including not only the dead but also their loved ones, to say we know why this happened.

"But it would be less than Christian if we did not respond to these things by understanding that Jesus said don't ask the question that others think is natural, but instead work the works of Him who sent me as long as it is day."

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