Deconstructing the Fat Man

Pearl Harbor is memorialized as a great American tragedy. The surprise bombing resulted in the deaths of thousands of soldiers. And while Japan was shrewdly anticipating the United States' involvement in World War II, this event is remembered primarily as an unprovoked attack.

Some say it was a false start on Japan's part and a serious tactical mistake. Regardless, world history will never defend such a blatant disregard for the rules of combat. On the other hand, the final stroke that ended the war, well, the ends justify the means.

The phrase itself is replete with paradox. It's not unlike saying, "two wrongs make a right." In this case, the two wrongs were Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And there couldn't be a much nobler right than ending a war, but in this context it makes me feel sick even suggesting it. I suppose that's what happens when we begin counting the cost in human lives.

photo credit: euthman via photopin cc
Still, history has declared Pearl Harbor heinous and Fat Man necessary. Even though the cost in lives differed 100 to 1. Upon closer inspection, it's hard not to come to the same conclusion: both events amounted to pure evil.

But didn't Joseph teach us that God can use evil for good (Genesis 50:20)? And isn't this refrain echoed by Paul centuries later (Romans 8:28)? Then the conundrum is solved! God sanctions evil for the sake of good. And oh how the church has run with this one.

Because if we're called to be good stewards and obey God rather than men, then why not fudge on those form 990's? God has declared it good. Have you ever mislead someone in order to bring them to church so they can hear the gospel? Fret not, God has declared it good. The prophet Isaiah must be rolling in his grave. In fact, I think I can hear him screaming: "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil" (5:20).

But what about the fruit! Jesus said that we are known by our fruit (Matthew 7:15ff), so if our ministry is fruitful, doesn't this mean that God approves? And so we come full circle. If God calls evil evil, yet can use evil for good, this does nothing beyond proving that God is just and all men are liars (Romans 3:4).

For the fruit only demonstrates that God is gracious despite our efforts. Even Assyria and Babylon were instruments of God, and few would argue against the evil they inflicted on the ancient world. Make no mistake; there is no good apart from God. And just because God can redeem all situations, that is not by any means a license to smile at the annihilation of an entire city.

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