I simply can't reason about it.
When let's say 1 month old child gets killed and dies in horrible pain, there was nothing for him to learn from this "lesson". He also had no possibility to commit any sin to be punished with pain for his sins. This is plain not right. If there's an omnipotent, all knowing , good being, then that being should intervene.
In the end most of us - sinful humans - would try to help as much as we can in such situation.
I simply can't reason about it.
While God does not do miraculous divine intervention in most sufferings it does NOT mean He should do so. What you ask is a theodicy, which many Christians have attempted. In the next section I provide a common Christian theodicy by Eleonore Stump who also attacks this infant suffering case head on. If this does not work for you, let's remember that even the righteous Job could not obtain the explanation of his own unjust suffering. I can only add a major section on how God DID and DOES intervene to deal with suffering in the world He chose to create with some specific applications below:
Infant salvation (application of point #5 below)
Most Christian denominations will entrust them to the mercy of God. This is what the Catholic Church say for infants who die without baptism:
The Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,” allows us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism. (CCC 1261)
How God comforts the infant and is present in his/her suffering (application of point #6 below)
As Eleonore Stump shows, infants are fully human and are capable of personal contact of love and therefore can find consolation from us. Why not from Jesus as well if we as adults can also feel God's comfort in our hearts? Jesus can legitimately comforts and "said" to the 1 month old child (in a soul to soul non-verbal "I-Thou" communication): "I know what you are going through. I have been there. I am with you in your suffering. Today you will be with me in paradise." The justification of this soul to soul "I-Thou" communication is shown extensively in Resources Section #2 where she argues that there is philosophic as well as scientific support of there being traces of personhood throughout the entire gradations of being in this world including animals. Therefore it's very conceivable that infants are capable of listening to and being comforted by God.
What can we do?
- As Eleonore pointed out (8:13) infant suffering is heartbreaking and we need to bend ourselves to try our best to prevent a future killing, if it was a crime, continue medical research if this is genetic related, etc.
- As Eleonore reminds us how suffering can have medicinal value, we should also try to redeem their suffering and make them winners by trying to bring something good out of their suffering such as using it as opportunity to love those who grieve (their parents, grandparents, etc.), do acts of charity, start a foundation / non-profit, etc.
- As horrified spectators who see innocent suffering around us, we can also use this to humanize ourselves by recognizing the sins lurking within us and open ourselves to the grace of God (application of points #4 & #5 below) so the Holy Spirit can start the process of salvation that bring us everlasting life, making both ourselves and God the winners too.
An attempt of theodicy by Eleonore Stump
A common Christian theodicy is given in an interview video with Eleonore Stump who attacks this infant suffering head on, which I summarized / paraphrase / transcribe below:
- She agrees with you that the suffering of children is most heartbreaking and demands a reason if we to retain our humanity (1:11). She rejects out of hand as inhuman to say that children are being punished (2:17-2:40)
- Then she talks about how from very little infants are capable of personal interaction even before language and cognitive connection because they are already full human beings and thus can make personal contact of love and therefore can find consolation (3:00-5:07).
- Therefore theodicy that applies to adults can apply to them also (5:07-5:28).
- Then she offers a way to think that there can be instances where their suffering is redeemed by producing some good for us. Then they become prize winners, not losers, giving some meaning (5:28-6:00)
- The interviewer asks whether our world maybe the only possible world where an infant needs to suffer. Eleonore emphatically answered NO, because she believes that God does not want to create a world with suffering in it. But although He is powerful He wants to make something with people in it that He cannot control. Because if He can control it, it wouldn't be what He want it to be. He wants people who can decide whether or not to love the way He loves, people who wants a share of His nature. Because of this He needs to create a world that allows the condition for suffering (6:00-7:28).
- In that kind of world there is a beginning of a story of people made in the image of God, even babies. Something about suffering is a means to glory, to greatness, to shining in love. Suffering is a medicine that can ail us as humans but does it job by making us live everlastingly in a condition that non suffering people can envy (7:28-8:13)
- So although the suffering of infants is heartbreaking and we have to do everything in our power to stop it, to prevent it. Nonetheless those who have it are NOT the losers, some suffering are worth having. That's the message of this theodicy, which applies to infants also, not in the way that takes our sorrow and grief over their suffering, but this theodicy doesn't consign them to the scrap heap of human history because they are the winners. (8:13-8:52)
How God intervenes with suffering in the world He created
What Christianity teaches and demonstrates through Biblically based theology and Christian philosophy are:
- God is stronger than evil (which He also showed Job)
- God can identify with us in our suffering, by adding on a human nature in Jesus 2000 years ago
- God shows forgiveness through Jesus forgiving his enemies from the cross
- God shows how very precious we are and offers us his love in the humblest of ways (from the cross) so all we need is to surrender and to accept the love offer. All we need to do is to stop resisting to begin the process of salvation by accepting grace for faith.
- God provides hope beyond suffering in the life to come (resurrection of the body) for those who will surrender and be united with Christ's death and resurrection for healing.
- God is present with us now in the midst of joy and suffering, which we can understand in four ways:
- God is outside time so He is eternally present at every moment of our lives
- His Holy Spirit is active in the world today drawing us to God
- Metaphysically God gives a human person an immaterial configuration (which we call soul) that animates our body (which the Bible describes as "dust"), although different than either Plato's understanding or Descartes's "brain in a vat". God (who is spirit) can then communicate with us in this way.
- God continuously offers himself in an I-Thou relationship, where God addresses us as "You" and we can address God as "You". But God respects our free will; he offers love unilaterally but cannot give it unless we receive.
Supporting resources for the above
To support the above Christian teachings, I recommend a few of Closer to Truth interviews with Eleonore Stump, a Christian philosopher specializing in Thomism (especially about love) and philosophy of religion (especially about human nature as "second person"):
- For the metaphysics of a human person as "second person" who is addressed by God as "You" and who addresses God back as "You" (as in St. Augustine's Confessions), enabling an "I-Thou" person to person relationship (#6.4)
- For the metaphysics of a human person as "immaterial configuration" that survives death which then preserves something for the resurrection of the body. How the "You" is always preserved and can operate without the brain (although in an unnatural state). How this metaphysics support "when you die the dust from where you are will return to the ground from which it came and the spirit will return to God who made it" (cf. Ecc 12:7). (#5, #6.3)
- For understanding how God is outside time so every moment of our lives is "now" to Him, yet preserves free will and still able to retain coherence for the concept of prayer and prophecy (#6.1)
- For a philosophic way of understanding the incarnation as God "adding on" a human nature so as to leave Jesus His full divinity which Jesus can use or NOT use at his discretion (#2)
- For a philosophic way of understanding sin, salvation and atonement (in a non-Anselmian / non-PSA) way (#4)
- For a philosophic way of understanding hell as a self-wrought consequence (we as "hell producer") of our exercising our free will to NOT wanting to unite our self-absorbed will with the good and loving God even though heaven is always offered
I could start by asking you to read carefully God's words to Job at the end of the book (Job 38-41). And you will see that you will not have another answer to God's question "Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him? he that reproveth God, let him answer it.", than Job's answer.
Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further. (Job 40:4-5)
The fact that we cannot see God's intervention does not indicate that it does not exist. Throughout the entire bible, from creation, we can see the way in which God intervenes.
1. God see the evil in the world multiplying
We can see it after the fall
And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
In Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the Canaanites to name a few. These nations were very evil in the eyes of God. They practiced idolatry, human sacrifices (even newborns), sexual perversions, among other things. Yet they lived their normal lives, not knowing what would happen to them.
They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage,... , they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded (Luke 17:27a, 28)
In all this God was patient with them, and not only patient but merciful. As we will see in the second point.
2. God sends a way of salvation
God was merciful to these nations, waiting for centuries for them to correct their ways. It was through Noah's preaching that people could be saved and enter the ark. It was through the preaching of the angels and Lot that they could escape the fire and brimstone that would fall on the city. It was through the works of Power that God did to free Israel from the slavery of Egypt, that the Canaanites could be saved (Joshua 2: 8-13).
3. God punishes
When the time is right, God punishes everyone who has not repented. HE brings judgment and destruction for all evil doers.
until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. ... But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:27, 29)
Speak not thou in thine heart, after that the Lord thy God hath cast them out from before thee, saying, For my righteousness the Lord hath brought me in to possess this land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord doth drive them out from before thee. Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Deuteronomy 9:4-5)
This is repeated in our times
Now God has sent someone superior to Noah, Abraham, Moses combined, someone greater than the angels and anything created. He has sent His Son, so that we can be saved through Him. Jesus Christ is the only way we can be saved.
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:8-11)
And likewise, the day will come in which Christ will return in the clouds with power and great glory, to judge the world, the living and the dead. But God is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but we can all proceed to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9). But whoever rejects this call, will suffer a punishment even greater than those of the flood, or those of Sodom or those of Cannaan. For they are storing up wrath for the day of wrath, and for the revelation of God's righteous judgment (Romans 2:5). When God will punish.
I am a Christian who will not presume to justify God regarding anything that sinful humans accuse him of. You are accusing God of lack of intervention, and of being unjust. Yet while you expect Christians to justify God regarding your perspective on the matter, you imply pagan religious ideas about reincarnation. That aside, the question can be answered by Christians. First, let's clear the ground.
A neonate is a baby born alive, for up until 28 days. Thus, a still-born baby is not included. Nor are the millions who are aborted every year. You could ask a question on why God does not intervene to ensure those babies are actually born, so as to at least enter the neonatal time-period. It's worth pondering that God does not usually intervene prior to birth, nor stop deliberate abortions being carried out. That might give you a clue about any non-intervention with live births. It seems that once humans have used his gift of procreation to succeed in starting a pregnancy, God does not micro-manage every stage. After all, why should he?
Second point: neonatal deaths have many physical causes. My second baby might have been at risk of dying with neonatal jaundice. I was Rhesus-negative and at the first birth, I should have been offered inoculation against a second one, where hyperbilirubinemia would have happened had the second baby been Rhesus-positive. Nobody told me I was Rhesus-negative, let alone offer me that inoculation at the first birth (the only time it can be given). If baby No.2 had died, could I have raged against God for not intervening? Of course not! Other people had failed at an earlier stage.
If I'd lived in a place where baby's blood group was not in supply, so as to give a transfusion after birth, could I have raged against God for not supplying that need? Of course not! It would have been "an accident of birth", not God's fault! And why should we feel more rage just because the age of a living creature is days instead of years? Why are you picking on neonates, and not a six-year-old child dying of cancer, or a seven-year-old due to a parent battering it to death? Is it because people feel more emotional about helpless babies? I had a five-year-old brother get knocked down by a reversing bus. His spleen was burst and one leg horribly mangled, and a few days later he died. Mother was in the same hospital with a broken ankle when her first-born son was rushed in. She'd had a miscarriage earlier. But what - I ask you - was God supposed to be responsible for with all of that? Only letting adults get cancer? Preventing parents abusing and battering their children? Stopping fatal road traffic accidents? Miraculously repairing ruptured organs that doctors can do nothing about? Not allowing miscarriages (or abortions)?
God does not micro-manage the planet. Why should he? It came to us free gratis, fabulously provisioned, full of beauty and wonders, but what have we done with all he's given us? We're on the brink of causing irreversible climate tipping; we've been responsible for the extinction of millions of species of plants and animal species, we've horribly killed and tortured millions of fellow human-being with wars... Do I need to go on?
How can anybody point their finger at God when it is humanity that is wrecking everything? And here's the rub - so often people who accuse God of not intervening and not miraculously rescuing us from the pits we've dug for ourselves, don't even believe any God exists. Does the cap fit?
This question incorrectly assumes that God is currently micromanaging the world.
But the Bible calls Satan "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), and "the prince of this world" (John 12:31).
God will respond to individual prayer, and does intervene to ensure that the general flow of history follows his plan, but during this current age he is deliberately not running the world. Bad things happen and good things happen and, as long as the world stays on course, God does not get involved with it.
It's not until Jesus returns that the world will be turned over to him:
… The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
— Revelation 11:15
Christ's elect, who are then resurrected and born again as immortal spirit beings, will rule along with him:
Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
— Revelation 20:6
It's at the end of the Millennium that all those who died without a chance at salvation (the 1 month old child in the question for instance) will be physically resurrected:
But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. …
— Revelation 20:5
- Is life fair? No, of course it isn't.
- Could God intervene in daily events? Yes, but unless it would affect his plan or it is in response to a specific prayer request, it isn't going to happen. This is currently Satan's world, not God's.
- Are some people ignored and never given a chance at salvation? No, if they don't get it in this age (and very few will), they will get it when they are resurrected at the end of the Millennium.
Note that this answer is based on what the Bible says, not on what is taught in many mainstream Christian churches.
P.S. Also note that knowing this also helps one to understand how God could order the destruction of entire cities, including innocent infants. The people will be killed and an eye-blink later find themselves in the Kingdom of God, living in a perfect society and surrounded by spirit beings who will teach and guide them to salvation. To us it might seem a vicious brutal act, whether vindictive or simply to set an example, but in reality it means that these people were saved from years of pointless ordeal in this current age.
This is a variation of the problem of evil. More specifically, its a variation of the problem of suffering. The key distinction here is that evil is the result of an action and that suffering is the result of a natural cause.
This has been answered countless times by philosophers and apologists. But it is still a very good question. Allow me to provide my own unique answer to this question (I'm sure people have similar answers but it's in my own words).
1. What is suffering?First, we must ask ourselves, what is suffering? This may seem like an obvious answer, something along the lines of pain or anguish brought about by nature or non-personal cause, though it is an important question to ask. As mentioned above, we need to make the distinction between evil and suffering. Evil, as an example, would be what occurs when a murderer stabs someone. Suffering, on the other hand, would be something like a child getting cancer. I just wanted to make that clear before we began.
2. Emotion VS ReasonThere are two versions of this objection. Firstly, your objection. This objection is an emotional one. There is a lack of premises, it's just merely a "why would God allow this?" Fair enough. However, allow me to present a reasoned and premised argument.
- God is all-powerful and all-good.
- God, being all-good, would will for there to be no evil.
- Thus God would want to remove all evil (by 2, and has the ability to do so (by 1).
- But God does not stop the evil.
- Thus, God is not all-good or not all-powerful.
This is another valuable distinction to make. Both objections are powerful, however we can see that one is better and easier to get across, while the other is a broad, open-ended question.
3. The WhySo why does God allow suffering? There have been many defenses. First, let's go back to our premised argument. Christian Theists have to accept premise 1, 2, and 4, in order to accord to the Bible and reason. The objection should come at 3. Should God want to remove all evil? From the human standard, this seems obvious. We see something wrong, we move to fix it. Say we see a man sawing someones are off. We would move to stop that from happening. But what if what we don't know is that a doctor is sawing that mans arm off to keep him from getting an infection that will kill him? If we knew this, would we want to stop the doctor? Of course not! This is how we should approach suffering. God may have morally sufficient reasons to allow suffering in order to allow for greater goods. Going back to the cancer example, what if a child dying of cancer leads a parent to found a charity that saves hundreds of children from cancer in the future? So we have our answer. God allows for some suffering in order for there to be greater goods in the world.
How do Christians justify lack of God's intervention during events where neonates get killed?
First, this is not a justification but what we learn from the Bible as to why these things happen. This question is just a fraction of the bigger question "Why does God allow evil and suffering?"
We know that evil entered the world when Satan the devil tempted Adam and Eve into disobeying Jehovah God. (Genesis 3:1-6, 17-19) Jesus called Satan "the ruler of the world" (John 14:30) and Satan has been "misleading the entire inhabited earth" (Revelation 12:9)
So, Jehovah God is not the one responsible for evil things happening in our world. (James 1:13-15)
But why does God allow all this suffering?
Since the Garden of Eden, Satan has put a challenge to Jehovah God. If we recall the story of Job, there we see that Satan was saying that Job worshipped God only because God protected Job. (Job 1:8-11) Later, Satan subtly extended that statement to all of mankind in his words at Job 2:4:
But Satan answered Jehovah: “Skin for skin. A man will give everything that he has for his life. [bold mine]
Jehovah has let mankind rule itself in order to show that "It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." (Jeremiah 10:23) So we patiently and obediently wait for Jehovah to establish his Kingdom here on earth as promised. (Daniel 2:44)
For more in-depth information, please see the following articles:
- "Why Does God Allow Suffering?" - Bible Videos—Essential Teachings web series
- "Why Does God Allow Evil and Suffering?" - The Watchtower, May 2011
- "Why So Much Suffering?" - What Can the Bible Teach Us?
- "Why Does God Allow Suffering?" - Awake!, February 22, 1986
[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]