Apologetics Thursday – McAfee on School Shootings

Camden McAfee (affiliated with John Piper) writes of the most recent school shooting tragedy:

Many of us know the power of Romans 8:28, but less of us are familiar with Genesis 50:20. In Romans, we read, that for those who love God, and are called according to his purposes, “all things work together for good.” But in Genesis, it gets even more pointed. “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20).

It doesn’t say, “God used it for good.” It says, “God meant it for good.”

From the example of Genesis 50:20, McAfee draws the conclusion that every evil happens by God’s will and for God’s purposes. Generalizing based on one example is particularly poor thinking. This would be like using 1Sa 15:11 to claim that God always regrets all His actions:

1Sa 15:11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following me and has not performed my commandments.” And Samuel was angry, and he cried to the LORD all night.

Occasionally, God does regret His actions. We see this throughout the Bible, but this does not mean this this God’s normal state or that God regrets all His actions. Specific examples can only go so far.

In the case of Joseph, Joseph was a patriarch from a special people with God’s particular attention. It would be odd if God didn’t repurpose evil acts against him into providential good. Examples are much more suspect when the example is of an extraordinary figure. This would be like trying to generalize a day in the life of the president of America onto all people. The comparison just does not hold on its own.

Also note that God does not kill Joseph. In the school shootings, Christians were asked to self-identify as Christians and then executed. These Christians were not being preserved for some plan, as was Joseph who was saved for death. These Christians died. Where is the parallel?

McAfee’s last point that it says “God meant it for good” instead of “God used it for good” is a red herring. First, languages generally are fluid in the how words are used. There is no practical difference even in the English language between “meant” and “used”. In the Hebrew, the word being used is “weaved” or “plotted” or “contrived”. The Hebrew language is clearer than the English that God is repurposing the plans of evil men. There is every indication that God did this in real time, as the brothers of Joseph were fashioning their plan to harm Joseph, God was fashioning His plan of salvation.

Notice how the text reads:

Gen 50:20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

How is it in Calvinism, where God decrees all that is to happen, that God has to bring about events in order to bring about results? Cannot God just bring about those results without in intermediating event? Instead, this reads like God is being a tactician. God is maneuvering in order to bring about things that would not otherwise happen. God is using His resources to make sure the things that He wants actually happens.

As to McAfee’s overall point, there is no indication that God is using a school shooting to bring about some other plan. Much like the Tower of Siloam that Jesus references, this is a purposeless evil.

3 comments

  1. We see this throughout the Bible, but this does not mean this this God’s normal state or that God regrets all His actions.—this this…. These Christians were not being preserved for some plan, as was Joseph who was saved for death.—from death? :)

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