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A Bad Week in Hell

"How could Satan possibly allow it?"
1997This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

When Princess Diana died, I got a phone call from a television producer. "Can you appear on our show?" he asked. "We want you to explain how God could possibly allow such a terrible accident."

I could not make the television appearance, but his question prompted me to dig out a file folder in which I have stashed notes of things for which God gets blamed:

At the 1994 Winter Olympics, when speed skater Dan Jansen's hand scraped the ice, causing him to lose the 500-meter race, his wife, Robin, cried out, "Why, God, again? God can't be that cruel!"
A young woman wrote James Dobson this letter: "Four years ago, I was dating a man and became pregnant. I was devastated! I asked God, 'Why have You allowed this to happen to me?' "
In a professional bout, boxer Ray "Boom-Boom" Mancini slammed his Korean opponent with a hard right, causing a massive cerebral hemorrhage. At a press conference after the Korean's death, Mancini said, "Sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does."
Susan Smith, who pushed her two sons into a lake to drown, then blamed a black car-jacker for the deed, wrote in her official confession: "I dropped to the lowest point when I allowed my children to go down that ramp into the water without me. I took off running and screaming 'Oh God! Oh God, no! What have I done? Why did you let this happen?'"

Exactly what role did God play in a speed skater losing control on a turn or a teenage couple losing control in a back seat, not to mention the lethal effect of a boxer's punch or a mother's premeditated act of violence? And as for Princess Di's accident, could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going 85 mph in a narrow tunnel?

I once watched a television interview with a famous ...

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Philip Yancey
Philip Yancey is editor at large of Christianity Today and cochair of the editorial board for Books and Culture. Yancey's most recent book is What Good Is God?: In Search of a Faith That Matters. His other books include Prayer (2006), Rumors of Another World (2003), Reaching for the Invisible God (2000), The Bible Jesus Read (1999), What's So Amazing About Grace? (1998), The Jesus I Never Knew (1995), Where is God When It Hurts (1990), and many others. His Christianity Today column ran from 1985 to 2009.
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