Where Was God When This Happened? Part 2

The scandal of divine negligence

[Where Was God When This Happened? Part 1 is here.]

Please note carefully this Jesus-script, Matthew 12:36-37: “I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” 

God is watching carefully. He doesn’t miss a thing. Moreover, prayer works because God can even read our minds. Christians believe in, love, worship, and sing songs to this God who pays such close attention to every human being.


If God is so attentive—actually, so intrusive—then he cannot evade responsibility for our wellbeing. How can he just watch so many of the really horrible things that happen? Wouldn’t he want to do something? Tim Sledge has called it correctly:


“Decent parents protect their kids from danger. If your toddler grabs the liquid Drano container, you don’t watch in silence. But that is exactly what God the Heavenly Father has done through the ages. He just watches, invisible and silent.” ·


Here are the opening paragraphs of Nikolaus Wachsmann’s KL: A History of the Nazi Concentration Camps. Where was God—his All-Powerful Self—when these unspeakable brutalities took place? Clich├ęs about free will and “God’s mysterious ways” do not apply.



“Dachau, April 29, 1945. It is early afternoon when U.S. troops, part of the Allied force sweeping across Germany to crush the last remains of the Third Reich, approach an abandoned train on a rail siding at the grounds of a sprawling SS complex near Munich. As the soldiers come closer, they make a dreadful discovery: the boxcars are filled with the corpses of well over two thousand men and women, and also some children. Gaunt, contorted limbs are entangled amid a mess of straw and rags, covered in filth, blood, and excrement. Several ashen-faced GIs turn away to cry or vomit. 'It made us sick at our stomach and so mad we could do nothing but clinch our fists,' an officer wrote the next day.


“As the shaken soldiers move deeper into the SS complex and reach the prisoner compound, later that afternoon, they come upon thirty-two thousand survivors from many ethnic, religious, and political backgrounds, representing about thirty European nations. Some seem more dead than alive as they stumble toward their liberators. Many more lie in overcrowded barracks, infested with dirt and disease. Wherever the soldiers turn, they see dead bodies, sprawled between barracks, dumped in ditches, stacked like logs by the camp’s crematorium. 


“As for those behind the carnage, almost all career SS men are long gone, with only a ragtag gang of perhaps two hundred guards left behind. Images of this nightmare soon flashed around the world and burned themselves into collective memories. To this day, concentration camps like Dachau are often seen through the lens of the liberators, with the all-too-familiar pictures of trenches filled with bodies, mountains of corpses, and bone-thin survivors staring into cameras. 


“Powerful as these pictures are, however, they do not reveal the full story of Dachau. For the camp had a much longer history and had only recently reached its last circle of hell, during the final throes of the Second World War.”



Posted by David Madison, PhD Biblical Studies