the problem of evil

Is God good when he takes your child from you on Thanksgiving?!

By: Branden Murphy (Originally posted as Branden's Facebook Status)

Is God good when he takes your child from you on Thanksgiving?!

I've believed in God all my life. I didn't live for Him all my life, but I certainly believed in him. During my freshman year of college, Jesus snatched up the affections of my heart and I began to truly live for him. I gave up music, sex, all that stuff. My roommates couldn't believe it.

The beginning of this journey was full of highs while discovering more about God, learning how to read the Bible and apply it to my life. I found joy in admitting my flaws and no longer feeling the need to be this "certain"'person in front of multiple groups. I was free to be me, who God made me. I even changed my facebook name to Branden "WalksbyFaith" Murphy so people knew it was legit 😉. There was something about finally feeling like I found "my thing." Also, the idea of discipleship and helping other people follow Christ, I was ALL IN.

Ironically, I may have set myself up because the years following were flooded with moments where I had to choose faith or worry. Whether it was money being low, to trying to go to a missions trip, to trying to get in-state tuition at FAMU. It was hard and a lot of times, it didn't get easier.

I didn't graduate from FAMU. My prayers to get in-state tuition kept being rejected. Instead, I went to do what I thought I was called to do all my life, full time campus ministry as a missionary. I figured, well since I'm choosing the path God chose, surely it will work out.


My wife and I got married the Summer of 2011 and we were pregnant with our son by spring of 2012. I knew we were growing a family but I was still trying to pursue what God had for us. We went to the school of ministry in 2013, but we just did not make it throughout the raising support journey. It was hard on a lot of fronts and it ultimately was hurting our family health and spiritual health. Why would following God's path end up leaving us worse off?! Even relationships with the leaders I respected were truly hurt during that time. I could not wrap my head around what was happening. I left school to work for the Lord and then that ended up doing more harm than good. I was borderline depressed and confused trying to figure out what to do next.

Fast forward to 2014, we move to Texas pregnant with our little girl on the way and I get a job making the most money I've ever made! But somehow, in that year we faced more financial hardship than one would like to deal with. Again, Lord, if you provided this job, WHY IS LIFE SO HARD! I've done financial peace twice, read books and all but I've struggled to apply every principle.

Now Reeeeewiiiiinnd!

I remember when I was little and there were times our hot water got turned off in the winter, electricity got turned off, 4 of us sleeping in a one room apartment, car getting repossessed, not being able to go to things because of "money." I HATED MONEY. However, my parents NEVER stopped trusting in God, NEVER stopped praising him. I would get SO MAD. 
"Mom, our lights just got shut off, why are you praising God?! Why is he doing this to us? You guys do everything in the church and this is what you get?!"
Something wasn't connecting for me. Also, the fact that they displayed joy amidst terrible moments, actually made me more mad.

Fast forward to 2016, easily the hardest year for us as a family. Constantly praying for a "break" or some type of relief as it just felt like everything was crashing in on us (and I'm not even talking about the pregnancy). We were struggling getting Court's business flowing and finding ways to pay for the kids to go to school, not communicating with each other well, it was just HARD. Oh yeah and from Feb til June we were living with a family from the church we had recently started going to. (Thankful for them but still not ideal)

Thennn Courtnee gets pregnant. At week 7, Court called me to the bathroom screaming and scared. We thought we just lost our baby. Turned out to be a blood clot. That clot turned out to be a subcnrionic hemorrhage. That hemorrhage turned out to be a huge blood clot on her uterus. Courtnee was JUST about to get a job annnd she had booked 4 weddings for the fall!! We were finally seeing light at the end of this dark dark tunnel.

Then, the doctors told her she cannot get a job and has to cancel the weddings (meaning we have to give people their money back or pay for replacements) for the safety of the baby. "LORD WHAT THE HECK!!! We ARE TRYING!!" I think we both said this many times during this season. It felt like no matter how hard we tried to "get it together," the more things fell apart.

Constantly trying to figure out how to keep Court on bedrest and afford life, I talked about getting another job OR maybe working overtime A LOT. Both would be sacrifices, but something had to give. We want family to be a top priority, but this seemed like it would crush that dynamic.

My birthday was approaching in September and my wife just wanted to give me a BREAK. I had been working overtime and it just felt like it was going nowhere. Actually, our lights got shut off, we ended up asking the church for help and it was not looking to get easier. She coordinated an expense free trip to Austin so I could hang with some of my best friends at least. The first night there her water broke at 26wks. "What the hell, Lord, seriously?!"

FIVE WEEKS my wife was stuck in Austin and I tried to be there and bring the kids there as much as possible. This 5 weeks felt sooo long but we finally were able to get Courtnee to Dallas on week 31, Yes! Let's get to 34weeks and have our precious Eden. Sure, we knew her heart looked a little bigger and they thought she might need stomach surgery but nothing too big.....

On the 4th day back in Dallas, October 27, my wife texts me and calls me from the hospital saying she's having an emergency c-section. I get there and everyone is shook. I didn't know what was going on but it didn't look good. Eden was born not breathing and had to be brought back to life. We fought we fought and had some ups and we looked negativity in the face and said "NOT TODAY SATAN, NOT TODAY!"

Then, Thanksgiving.....bittersweet because our baby girl wasn't having the best day, but sweet because we were going to hang with our kiddos and get some greens, beans, potatoes, tomatoes, ham and yams.

We got to the house and before we ate, Courtnee called the hospital to check on our sweet girl. Turns out her heart rate dropped and they didn't have the decency to call us!!! Our daughter died minutes after we were near her bedside. On freaking thanks freaking giving.

In the beginning, I questioned the goodness of God. I believe in God but this year during a leadership course at my church (Stonegate Church), my eyes were opened to a crucial flaw in my view of God. I realized that while I believe in God, I struggle to believe in his GOODNESS. I struggle to believe that God is for me like the scriptures say. Because a lot of times in my life when I've looked to him to be good to my family, it feels like I receive the opposite. And it hurts. Every. Time. Every time I muster faith to believe in the impossible and it doesn't happen, it hurts. All these years it's made me calloused towards the idea of his goodness.

But one thing the leadership at Stonegate helped me realize was that God's goodness isn't based on what he does or doesn't do for me. It's who he is. It's his character and nature. It's him knowing sin would be in this world and sending his son, Jesus. It's him allowing trials that force us to run harder to him and be made more like him. It's him having a plan for all lives of believers that's bigger than what we can see and serving of his Glory.

I can't say that this area of my life is fixed. But I can say, I will not allow myself to believe that God is not good simply because life is hard. If you wrestle with this idea, you're not alone. In trials, God is a GOOD FATHER. And as I will allow my son to endure things that help chisel him into a man, I will believe that God is molding my family into people that will run this race well.

“The only love that won’t disappoint you is one that can’t change, that can’t be lost, that is not based on the ups and downs of life or of how well you live. It is something that not even death can take away from you. God’s love is the only thing like that.”  -Tim Keller

Branden and Courtnee Murphy currently live in Midlothian, TX. The Murphys have been married 5 years and they have 2 children and recently lost one. They attend Stonegate Church where they serve the college students. 

Good God?

The socio-political climate of our time has pushed the subject of morality to the forefront. Differing worldviews in our vastly changing society have people asking not just where is God, but why does he allow certain things to happen? Many people are wondering how to define moral right and wrong in an age where relativism and subjectivity areencouraged. In this interview, The Jude 3 Project aims to shed light on the various issues facing morality in our world today.

The interviewee is Dr. David Baggett, the founder and Executive Editor of He teaches philosophy and apologetics in the Divinity School at Liberty University. He’s the author of several books, including, with Jerry Walls, Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality(2011) and God and Cosmos: Moral Truth and Human Meaning (2016), both with Oxford University Press. Good God won Christianity Today’s 2012 Best Book in Apologetics/Evangelism.

Welcome Dr. David Baggett, it is an honor to have you with us!

Cameron Hodge:Today it seems that all moral barriers are being torn down in the social sphere. In fact, it seems that political correctness, tolerance, and the desire to “love everyone” have directly ostracized, and in many ways, attacked Biblical morality. In the book that you coauthored Good God: The Theistic Foundations of Morality, you begin by explaining C.S Lewis’s fundamental argument that there is an objective moral law binding our actions. Many argue this is direct evidence of God because you cannot have a moral law without a giver of moral law. What is your answer to those in society that believe morality can be found without use of the Bible and the “Christian way” of doing things, or without God?

Dr. Baggett:I try to push the discussion to the question of moral foundations, and tend to use an abductive moral argument, which is another name for an “inference to the best explanation,” a simple idea really. It’s the notion that the best explanation of various moral facts is God himself. I don’t usually begin with language like “this is the only way it can be,” which tends to be needlessly off-putting. Those resistant to the argument naturally attempt to ground morality in something else, assuming they haven’t given up on the idea altogether, which is still a rarity, fortunately. They have various resources to appeal to in their efforts to ground a secular ethics, from the need for social harmony to the satisfactions of morality to an evolutionary account to a social contract, and the list goes on. We don’t try to reject all such efforts with one argument; usually it’s more productive to have a conversation in which we look carefully at their proposal to assess its strengths and weaknesses.

As part of that discussion, I encourage folks to look seriously into the features of morality—inalienable human rights, authoritative moral obligations, intrinsic human dignity, objective values, moral guilt, meaningful free will, moral knowledge, and prospects for forgiveness, real moral transformation, and happiness and virtue going hand in hand. Then I ask what can really best explain these realities. I think theism and Christianity can explain them considerably better than, say, secular approaches to ethics. Several secular answers have insight, but a theistic account has all that insight and considerably more. Usually what I point out about the features of morality in need of explanation are its features that anyone—believer and unbeliever alike—can intuitively recognize, since I don’t want to presuppose their commitment to scripture at the beginning of the conversation. The discussion can be helpful in pointing out the way moral truth is a radical and fascinating thing that really does need a robust explanation.

Cameron Hodge: Thank you for your response. You brought up an interesting point that I would like to explore. You mentioned one of the features of morality is “inalienable human rights.” In light of the recent controversies regarding the rights of others i.e.the LGBT community, released convicts, racial discrimination, police brutality, etc., how should society define inalienable human rights, and where does this definition come from? If your view is based on a Biblical worldview, should those who do not hold a Biblical worldview be obligated to follow that definition of inalienable human rights?

Dr. Baggett: I rather doubt it’s the definition of such rights that’s controversial. Basic human rights are things which most can agree how to define. Whether there are such things as basic human rights, and corresponding duties to uphold such rights, is the more controversial and vexed question. The Kantian notion that people shouldn’t be treated merely as means to ends, but are infinitely valuable ends in themselves, is a beautiful, powerful idea; and the simple fact is that not every worldview is equally good at accounting for such an idea of human beings as inherent possessors of dignity and bearers of basic human rights. Mark Linville has done terrific work on this subject, arguing that various secular normative ethical theories don’t have the resources to make sense of such ideas as well as classical theism can. Paul Copan has added an historical and societal element to moral apologetics by documenting ways in which the Judeo-Christian tradition has, in society after society, contributed to moral progress—women’s suffrage, abolition of slavery, battles against injustice, fair treatment of the marginalized. Jürgen Habermas, an atheist, has come around to admitting the powerful role that Christianity has historically played in upholding human rights around the world.

Again, the issue isn’t what the definition of an inalienable right is; that’s easy. The question is where they come from, how they’re best analyzed, what their ultimate foundations are. We have excellent reason to think our Founders were right: we were conferred them by our Creator. The issue of concern to me as a philosopher and moral apologist is what best explains the existence of such rights, and as a Christian what their existence normatively entails about our treatment of others. My focus here is on inalienable basic human rights, not alleged rights far less obvious and universal. Some such rights may well exist, or should, morally or legally, but they’re not in the category most of concern to my argument here. We live in a time when lots of claims to special rights are asserted; the atmosphere remains of rights talk grounded in something transcendent; but the foundations of our rights claims nowadays have often become irremediably degraded in light of the rejection of their ontological foundations. The result is that rights discourse today too often smacks of conflicts between adversarial political power structures, rather than being grounded in our common humanity and natural law.

Cameron Hodge: Many argue that morality is a natural instinct, not laws that someone made, or something that has to be taught. In fact, many argue that moral laws are just a way to express the natural instincts we already have in order to make certain decisions. For example, mothers do not have to be taught to love their children and to protect them. They automatically love their children because that is their nature. You do not have to instruct people not to kill. Most people do not go around killing others for fun because that is considered wrong. What is your response to the idea that morality is a natural instinct, not God-given laws or inclinations?

Dr. Baggett: Lewis anticipated this objection, but replied that instincts are rather like keys on a piano, whereas morality is more like the music, directing us which instincts to follow and which to suppress. What’s occasionally instinctive are moral behaviors, and this makes perfect sense in light of creation theology on which wisdom literature’s based; even there, though, without God at the foundation, we’re liable to all sorts of spurious inferences based on the data of life and what seems rational at the time. It’s the love of God that’s the beginning of wisdom. Beyond that, the question can be pressed: what makes it true that mothers should love their children? Most mothers love their children for reasons other than that they’re supposed to, but sadly some mothers don’t love their children. When that happens, there’s something seriously wrong, because mothers ought to love their children. What accounts for the force of this “ought”? Instinct doesn’t liberate us from questions about the ultimate foundation of moral truth.

It’s true that some moral laws are such that we naturally recognize them; this is part of what makes a moral argument for God so powerful. Its starting point can be seen by most everyone. “Of course killing children is wrong,” folks will often say, “and I don’t need God to tell me so.” This is good, because at that point we can have a discussion about what best explains such wrongness, and not just one’s belief that it’s wrong. To stop the effort of explanation too soon leaves too many questions unanswered, and also tends to overlook features of morality that are, though obvious, also puzzling. In an atheistic world, for example, what explains why morality would be binding? Why would we not just feel guilty, but be guilty for violating it? In a theistic world the answer to these questions is clear. Moral truths are rooted in ultimate reality, a personal loving and holy God, and we are responsible for our moral choices in a very deep sense.

 Cameron Hodge: Some argue that morality based in religion is also subjective. This means that just because you think Biblical morals are right does not mean they are. How can Christians criticize others as following what’s subjective/relative, when those of secular world views believe as strongly in their point of reference for their beliefsas Christians do? What makes the morals of a Buddhist, Atheist, or anyone else inferior to that of Biblical morals?

Dr. Baggett: I’m something of what you might call a “particularist” when it comes to morality. I don’t begin with a general theory and then infer to basic moral truths. Rather, I start with particular moral judgments I think we can know—like the wrongness of torturing children for fun. This is something on which most everyone will agree. I don’t jump straight to distinctive Christian teachings and insist they’re superior, which would be, as a dialogical method, ineffectual and dogmatic. Moral apologetics, at least the way Jerry Walls and I aim to do it, tries to build a bridge with other people, either from other faiths or atheism or agnosticism. Child torture for fun is not merely subjectively wrong, most will agree, but really wrong, objectively wrong, for everyone. This is one of those moral facts in need of explanation. If someone isn’t willing to grant such a point, moral apologetics has a hard time getting started, but most who deny it are likely not being entirely honest. Do they really think a child being mercilessly tortured, just so we can watch the child suffer and die horribly, wouldn’t be objectively wrong? Of course they think it’s wrong, most people anyway.

The notion that morality is merely relative is very hard to defend, and such an idea violates most people’s deeply felt convictions. There’s no good argument for moral relativism I know of, and plenty of good arguments against it. I taught ethics for years, and tried showing the insights and strengths of various moral theories. Relativism always had the least going for it. Most people think it helps safeguard moral tolerance, but whether it does or not depends on your context. If morality is merely subjective, as the relativists suggest, then whether something is right or wrong for you is relative to your context. If you think moral tolerance in general is a good thing (and indeed it is), you have ample motive to find more principled reasons to believe in it than anything relativism can offer.

Cameron Hodge: The debate on moral tolerance in the United States is heating up. People cry out for tolerance, free speech, and freedom of expression. However, I am troubled by what I see as society’s hypocrisy when it comes to tolerance. It seems that tolerance really means condone, and not only condone, but celebrate. In my eyes, I see society becoming very bigoted, prejudiced, hateful, and intolerant of the Biblical worldview, and of those who hold it. It seems that people are willing to hear what you have to say and consider your points as long as you are not coming from a Christian perspective. As soon as you reveal your Biblical views, people reject the validity of your opinion. Secular society promotes free speech as long as it’s the speech that it wants to hear. I find this hypocritical and unfair. I see society becoming more intolerant the more “tolerant” it becomes.  What is your view on how society deals with the Biblical worldview, and the issue of tolerance today?

Dr. Baggett: Well, I think a Judeo-Christian ethic provides a powerful impetus to take tolerance seriously in a principled way. Tolerance, you’re right, is not the same as condoning, or celebrating, and that distinction needs to be carefully maintained. But tolerance is a significant moral attitude and a thick moral concept that has big implications. It means allowing people to think for themselves and come up with their own conclusions. It calls on us to respect the mental freedom of others, and even fight for their right to be wrong, and to be heard even if we think they’re wrong. It ought to mean, on many occasions, agreeing to disagree, and not demonizing everyone who might see things differently. I myself don’t do a lot of work in the area of religious liberties, but it’s certainly an issue that’s been coming to the fore of late more frequently. I don’t think our main job as Christians is to lament sad states of affairs in our culture or express perpetual grievances about how our feelings are being hurt or contributions are undervalued or voices are marginalized in the public square. But religious liberty, if it’s going to continue being taken seriously, needs to be seen as grounded in solid foundations. Copan thinks religious liberty is another fruit of the Judeo-Christian ethic, and I’m inclined to agree. So this means some vigilance may be called for.

There are plenty of open-minded secularists who are basically decent moral people who personally don’t want to see religious liberties significantly curtailed—but, and this is important to notice, there are also plenty of secular folks who’d love to use their newfound political power and momentum, now that various societal tides have turned, to fight for a significant reduction of religious freedoms. Again, I don’t want to overplay this concern, project paranoia, or foist slippery slopes, but personally I sometimes wonder if we’ve even begun to see what intolerance can look like if the commitment to tolerance is primarily to be safeguarded by the good intentions of an increasingly secular culture. Let me reiterate that as a moral apologist, I don’t, for the most part, think of my secular friends and interlocutors as my foes. I’m trying to win them, not just win arguments, and to build bridges and relationships with them. Despite our differences, in a very deep sense we’re on their side; we’re rooting for them; we have gloriously Good News to share with them, about a God who loves them with love beyond imagination and wants them to live the most abundant life possible. Yes they’re sinners in need of forgiveness, as we all are, but the great news is that such forgiveness—not to mention transformation and joy unspeakable, vocation and glory—are being offered to them as God’s gracious gifts.

Cameron Hodge: Furthermore, your book explains that God is the “exemplar” of good. He is the perfect standard for what good is. If he is the perfect example of good, and according to the Bible he is holy and cannot sin nor be in the presence of sin, from where did evil come? Many wonder where evil itself came from before it entered into the world and before it entered into man. If God is eternal, and is the ultimate standard of good, and he cannot be in the presence of sin, where did sin and evil itself come from? Were sin and the state of evil created outside of God’s control?

Dr. Baggett: Evil is a deeply mysterious thing. What Christians can’t say is that something like dualism is true. If God himself is the ultimate good, as many Christians have believed through the centuries, Christianity doesn’t proceed by suggesting that Satan is his equal and evil opposite. Satan is a creature; God is the Creator. Evil is not good’s equal and opposite; it’s more like a perversion or distortion of the good. What we learn from scripture is that God created the world good, but that the serpent was already able to show up on the scene, and this was before the fall of man. So some sort of dark diabolical force was already there. Some chalk it up to the fall of angels sometime before. Maybe that’s right. And surely the fall of mankind because of their freedom to disobey God introduced all manner of darkness into the world. And stable natural laws in a fallen world introduce the possibility of various natural evils.

But rather than neatly explaining evil’s origins, the Bible is preoccupied with all that God has done, is doing, and will do to effect complete victory over evil. What the existence of a good and altogether loving God does is fill us with rational trust and soaring hope that evil will be defeated, in fact, that in a real sense it’s been defeated already, with the death and resurrection of Jesus. That justice and peace will embrace, that evils both individual and systemic will be blotted out. 

The existence of evil is actually far more puzzling to explain on atheism than on theism and Christianity. Christianity takes evil very seriously. Its solution called for nothing less than the incarnate Son of God to suffer and die and be raised again in order to put the world to rights. Evil, according to an atheistic conception of the world, is not really a category that makes sense in their inventory of reality. It usually gets reduced by them to what Kant called badness: the opposite of pleasure. But “evil” is a distinctively moral category that only makes sense in a robustly moral context. In fact, perhaps because of this, our atheist friends typically borrow from a religious worldview they’ve rejected to point to the horrors of evil. The world is as it is, however; on their perspective, why would they expect anything different in a determined world? We’d all just be following the script nature wrote for us. Evil in fact ceases being a problem for naturalists, but when evil isn’t a problem for your worldview, your worldview is shown to be seriously deficient. Evil is supposed to be a problem, and for Christianity it is. But it’s not intractable. This is another one of those cases where Christianity can explain what needs explaining better than other worldviews.

If we’re meaningful moral agents, invested by God with real free will, then the choice to hurt a child is deeply culpable. “Evil” is a good word for it. The world really does feature evil. The question is, can one’s worldview make good enough sense of it? Can it explain how bad evil really is, and that it really does need a deep and permanent solution? Christianity can, and offers excellent reason to believe that God is at work addressing the evil in this world, and that ultimately the good will win, life will turn out to be a comedy and not a tragedy, and the sufferings of this world will finally be redeemed.

Cameron Hodge: In light of recent tragedies with police brutality, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks, why does God allow this evil to occur? This is a traditional criticism of Christianity that never grows old. In the shooting of Philando Castile, there was a four-year old girl in the backseat, who witnessed him being shot and killed.  This will be an event that will be with this child for the rest of her life, possibly ruining her innocence and damaging her view of people from other racial backgrounds. Most of us realize that no one is innocent, we all have done wrong, thus we understand why we may bear the consequences of sin. We are not innocent. Yet, this four-year old girl was innocent. She is an innocent child.  She witnessed evil and experienced evil, it was a traumatic experience. How does one wrestle with the fact that God allows an innocent child to experience this kind of evil? How does one wrestle with the idea that God allows this kind of evil to occur?

Dr. Baggett: The problem of evil is locked in a zero sum game with moral apologetics, and I’m inclined to agree with Kant, in an article he wrote on the book of Job. Kant didn’t think we could always answer the questions about why various evils are allowed. Often that’s a bit beyond our ken and pay grade, but if we’re justified to believe in a good God, we’re justified to believe there’s an answer to evil, and that evil won’t have the last word. In fact, this is one of the real strengths of a Christian worldview, it seems to me. We don’t have to hide our heads in the sand, nor do we have to water down how bad evils really are; nor do we have to abandon hope that there are ultimate answers to the problem of evil. What scripture teaches is that God is in the process of setting things right. It’s we as believers who can have hope, and I think we have great reasons to think it’s a hope that won’t disappoint. God has the resources to redeem the worst of tragedies and balance the scales of justice.

What does, say, naturalism have to offer by contrast? Hope for a world redeemed? Hope that children who suffered and died unjustly didn’t die in vain? No, the world on their view is just tragic, and hope for anything else is ultimately futile. Funny you asked this question, because just today I ran across this passage from Richard Creel:

As long as it is logically possible that evil be defeated, that innocent suffering is not meaningless and final, it seems to me that we have a moral obligation to hope that that possibility is actual. Therefore we have a moral obligation to hope that there is a God because, if there is a God, then innocent suffering is not meaningless or final…. But couldn’t we just hope for the redemption of innocent sufferers without hoping for the existence of God? No, because without God evil could not be defeated; it could only be counterbalanced or outweighed. Why? Because, if there is not God, i.e., no intelligent being responsible for the existence, structure, and parameters of our world, then at least some innocent suffering is absolutely meaningless, purposeless, senseless, and consequently unredeemable—just a tragic fact about reality. The seeming meaninglessness, absurdity, and waste of innocent suffering and tragic loss are overcome only in the existence of God. To be sure, the Holocaust was enormously tragic—but without God it is even more tragic. Indeed, a far greater evil than the evils of history would be that the evils of history will not be defeated because there is no God. This seems to me a terribly important point that Dostoyevsky’s Ivan failed to consider.

Thank you Dr. Baggett for your time, wisdom, and expertise on the issue of morality.


Cameron Hodge graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) in June 2010. At UNCG she received her Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree, majoring in Global Affairs and International Development with a double minor in French and Spanish. She holds a Master’s of Public Administration, and a Graduate Certificate of Accounting. In response to the call of God, Cameron is currently pursuing a Master’s of Divinity in Christian Apologetics from Liberty University.

Jerry Falwell and the Notion of "Good People"

By: Melody Monroe

Recently, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. fell under heavy criticism for his remarks regarding the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. On Friday, December 4, 2015, at the close of Convocation (a weekly gathering undergraduate students are mandated to attend), Falwell urged every student in the audience to get their carrying license and take the free concealed weapon license course offered by the university under the premise, "if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in..."

Many people felt that Falwell's statements reeked of traditional, conservative presumptions and Islamophobia. Falwell is quoted in The Washington Times as saying he was only referring to Islamic terrorists, specifically those behind the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino and “That’s the only thing I would clarify.” But after the smoke from each side of the conversation has cleared, there is a question that remains: just what makes a good person? 

Tales of heroes and villains have always been entertained and loved in our culture - bad guys vs. good guys, Spiderman vs.The Green Goblin, Batman vs. Joker, but when it comes to the gun law debate, is it really that cut and dry?

4 Questions To Consider In Response To Jerry Falwell Jr.

1) What does it mean to be good?

Fundamentally, Christians believe that no one is purely good except God. This fact makes Falwell's statements all the more crass. Romans 3:23 says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (HCSB) This would include, well, everyone. However, doesn’t “good” mean to be devoid of flaws? From a non-Christian, moral standpoint, it could be said that "good" refers to anyone that doesn't have violent intentions, but intentions alone are not enough to keep us from doing what we wish we wouldn't sometimes. Everyone can attest to that.

2) Who is considered good? 

As Falwell was met with raving applause during his closing remarks, it was easy to notice that nearly everyone in the stadium was White. Falwell's tone seemed to suggest that "if more good people [like us] had concealed-carry permits...” America would be a better place.  The question has to be asked: for who?  Because, recent trends indicate not everyone is welcomed into the Good Person Society, on account of certain biological “hindrances”.  Historically, when people of color carry guns, violence is imposed on them. It puts them more at risk of being stereotyped, profiled, and victims of unwarranted criminalization. We can simply look to the examples of John Crawford III and Tamir Rice who were both shot and killed while handling only toy guns. For Middle Easterners it typically takes much less, like simply existing. So who are the “good people”, exactly?

3) Are good people allowed to make mistakes?

The truth is, "good" people are still people and are prone to make mistakes by default. There's liability coverage for drivers who make mistakes. There's even coverage for boats, but none of such exist for firearm owners. That isn't to say gun accidents occur any less. Studies show a disproportionately high number of 5-14 year olds died from suicide, homicide, and unintentional firearm deaths in states and regions where guns were more prevalent, most of which involved family and friends. Gun accidents leave riveting, irreplaceable effects on the lives involved.

Beyond that, Falwell seems to think that being a good person is all that is required for self-defense. During his remarks, he quoted Mike Madden, a first responder on the scene of the San Bernardino shooting, saying "...when you see the carnage and smell the gun powder, it's just something you could never be prepared for..." What makes Falwell think an ordinary, untrained citizen would know how to control a mass shooting in the moment? And if they didn't, does that make them a bad person?

4) Will more guns = more good?

Ultimately, in the interest of goodness, the real question to ask is will supplying more Americans with guns result in more overall good? A recent meta-analysis revealed that easy access to firearms doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk for suicide among all household members. Studies also show that mass shootings only continue to rise in number, with this year totaling to 355 to date.

While gun law reform is not an easy issue to tackle, it's worth confronting the complexities that lie within it, despite how bad or good they may be for goodness sake.  


Melody Monroe is a musician and entrepreneur. She earned her B.A. in Business Management from East Carolina University and M.A. in Theological Studies from Liberty Theological Seminary. Monroe has been featured in various national and international publications as a music artist and is currently working toward her first EP. Her work as an artist and businesswoman is fueled by a desire to make an eternal impact on the lives of others. She enjoys traveling, live concerts, chai tea, and dogs. Find out more at