It’s one of the most sobering anniversaries that Americans (especially those over the age of 18) will ever commemorate—recalling the horrible terrorist acts that struck America 10 years ago today. 9/11 is one of the few events in our lifetime that will easily bring back a rush of painful, vivid memories.
I clearly remember the call I received from Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham just after 9:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001. A staff meeting had just concluded, and I was standing near the just-vacated chairs. Ken told me to find a television set as quickly as I could. His son Jeremy had just watched a TV news bulletin which reported that a plane had crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Jeremy shared the terrible news with his father, who turned it on and then called me.
At first, it sounded like some freak airplane accident. After I got a hold of a TV set, I turned it on to watch reports of a second plane hitting the South Tower. The Towers were quite familiar for our family, for we had visited them during the week of Christmas in 2000.
After the second stunning plane crash, I called Ken and told him we needed to post something on our website to offer some biblical commentary on these horrible tragedies. It appeared that the lives of perhaps tens of thousands of workers were in peril as the Twin Towers were aflame. Thankfully, we learned later that thousands of people were able to exit the towers before the collapse, but still over 2,700 people (including hundreds of heroic firefighters and police officers) perished. We then began to hear of two other hijacked planes—one that flew into the side of the Pentagon and another that crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside after passengers heroically battled the hijackers. Nearly 3,000 people died as the result of this coordinated suicide attack by 19 hijackers from the Muslim terrorist group Al-Qaeda.
When such tragedies occur, including those deliberately planned by man, people often ask questions like, “Where is God in all of this? Why does He allow so much suffering and death in this world?” Answers in Genesis posted a preliminary comment on our website September 11, 2001, presenting answers from the book of Genesis (chapter three in particular) and offering some degree of comfort. We also linked to one of our articles regarding the question of why God allows suffering and death.
Hours later, we posted a longer web article on the terrorist attacks. The following is an excerpt from that article:
Answers in Genesis expresses its sympathy to all the families who have lost loved ones as a result of the devastating terrorist attacks on the US on September 11, 2001. These were cowardly acts of suicide/mass murder by terrorists who lack the slightest respect for human life.
As the shock of these horrible events subsides, many people are probably asking why such horrible things occur. Others may be asking questions such as, “How can there be a loving God controlling the universe in the light of such death and suffering?”
We adapted the longer article and printed it as a witnessing booklet. As the nation (and especially the residents of New York City) shuddered for the many weeks following, we wanted to help people cope with this tragedy and understand it from a worldview perspective. As we wrote the booklet and sent it to the printer, Answers in Genesis had already donated tens of thousands of copies of our already-produced booklet Is there Really a God? to ministries working in New York City who were involved in cleaning up the city and consoling families affected by the terrorist actions.
More than anything with these donated Is there Really a God? booklets and then the one that followed, Answers in Genesis wanted to tell people that we live in a groaning world (Romans 8:19–23) because of the Curse (Genesis 3:15), but that we have hope in Christ.
When the new booklet, Why Does God Allow Suffering and Death? was printed, we shipped copies to New York City churches and ministries. It has been modified at least one time since 2001. We think it appropriate, then, to share with you a PDF of the booklet that arose from the tragedy of 9/11 (also available in print from our online store).
There were other lessons for Christians that came out of the tragedy of 9/11. At that time, Christian leaders on TV and other outlets generally floundered when they tried to give answers to why horrible events happen in this world. They clearly had not been good students of the book of Genesis, which provides the answer to why bad things happen. Frankly, these Christian leaders did not fully understand Genesis chapter 3 and the Fall, and they did not connect it to the real world. By and large they simply didn’t have answers to the “why?” questions. Indeed, it seems that few Christians can answer the question of death and suffering.
Feel free to share this booklet to others who may be wrestling with the question of God in a world of suffering, disease, tragedies, and widespread death—especially today, 9/11.