Why does God allow religious wars and persecutions?

Q. I firmly believe that God created Heaven and Earth, and is still in control! It troubles me, however, when you look back through history and see all of the people unjustly killed and persecuted in the name of religion. Not only do these wars and persecutions seem unbiblical, they have done harm in promoting the kingdom and bringing people to Christ. Why has God allowed these events when in fact they seem counterproductive, in our eyes anyway, to His plans? Thank you.

This question is another specific case of a general issue that I address in an earlier post on this blog entitled, “Why do some people seem to suffer more than others?” In that post I suggest that “without freedom there can be no love. But freedom creates the possibility, perhaps even the likelihood, of suffering, as freedom can be, and is, misused. I believe that God knows, in a way that we cannot know, that a world with both love and suffering is infinitely better than a world with neither love nor suffering, and that those are the only two possibilities.”

Religious wars and persecutions are a very disturbing example of the misuse of freedom, since, as you note, in the name of Christ they actually undermine the cause and reputation of Christ (when they are carried out by Christian people). When we see the devastation that they bring, it can be a real challenge for us to continue to affirm the things I say just above. Those things can seem abstract, while the pain of the world is very real. But I think that if we respond to that pain through persistent faith in God and love for others, then we fill find that this response is just as real. If there is to be love in the world at the price of suffering, then let us do all that we can to overcome that suffering through love.

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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