Where Was God When This Happened? Part 15

The scandal of divine incompetence

In the face of massive human and animal suffering, Christian apologists offer tired clichés:

·      God works in mysterious ways

·      God has a larger plan that we cannot see or know about

·      To preserve our free will, God chooses not to interfere

Yet no hard evidence is offered to back up these speculations to exonerate God. They are mediocre theological responses to crises in the real world.


In fact, Christian theology itself undermines any credible concept of a good, competent God. God is watching carefully, i.e., Christianity is totalitarian monotheism. 

Nothing we do escapes his notice: “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.” Matthew 12:36-37

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 excerpts from the Melissa Snell’s 2019 article, Surviving Infancy in the Middle Ages.


Death came in many guises for the littlest members of medieval society. With the invention of the microscope centuries in the future, there was no understanding of germs as the cause of diseaseThere were also no antibiotics or vaccines. Diseases that a shot or a tablet can eradicate today claimed all too many young lives in the Middle Ages. If for whatever reason a baby could not be nursed, his chances of contracting illness increased; this was due to the unsanitary methods devised for getting food into him and the lack of beneficial breast milk to help him fight disease.


Children succumbed to other dangers. In cultures that practiced swaddling infants or tying them into a cradle to keep them out of trouble, babies were known to die in fires when they were so confined. Parents were warned not to sleep with their infant children for fear of overlaying and smothering them.


Once a child attained mobility, danger from accidents increased. Adventurous toddlers fell down wells and into ponds and streams, tumbled down stairs or into fires, and even crawled out into the street to be crushed by a passing cart. Unexpected accidents could befall even the most carefully watched toddler if the mother or nurse was distracted for only a few minutes; it was impossible, after all, to baby-proof the medieval household.


Peasant mothers who had their hands full with myriad daily chores were sometimes unable to keep a constant watch on their offspring, and it was not unknown for them to leave their infants or toddlers unattended. Court records illustrate that this practice was not very common and met with disapproval in the community at large, but negligence was not a crime with which distraught parents were charged when they had lost a child.


Faced with a lack of accurate statistics, any figures representing mortality rates can only be estimates. It is true that for some medieval villages, surviving court records provide data concerning the number of children who died in accidents or under suspicious circumstances in a given time. However, since birth records were private, the number of children who survived is unavailable, and without a total, an accurate percentage cannot be determined.


The highest estimated percentage I have encountered is a 50% death rate, although 30% is the more common figure. These figures include the high number of infants who died within days after birth from little-understood and wholly unpreventable illnesses that modern science has thankfully overcome.



Here are the links to Where Was God When This Happened?, Part 10   Part 11   Part 12  Part 13   Part 14


Posted by David Madison, PhD Biblical Studies
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