It’s the classic atheist objection to individual miracles, and to them it never gets old:
If God is a loving and just God, why would He save this boy while letting others die and letting their parents suffer grief?
If you haven’t heard of the miracle of Trenton McKinley, here are the basics:
A 13-year-old Alabama boy isno one thought he’d survive. In fact, doctors declared him dead and were getting ready to donate his organs when he regain consciousness.
“He was dead a total of 15 minutes,” said Jennifer Reindl, Trenton McKinley’s mom. “All I saw was a stretcher with his feet. They actually stapled that side shut so they could get him back breathing. When he came back they said he would never be normal again.”
The 13-year-old was at a friend’s house two months ago, playing in a small utility trailer while being pulled by a dune buggy.
“It flipped and I hit the concrete, and the trailer landed on top of my head,” said Trenton. “After that, I don’t remember anything.”
Trenton suffered severe brain trauma and was rushed to an Alabama hospital with seven skull fractures. He was declared brain dead and his parents signed paperwork to donate his organs to save five other children.
“It was unfair to keep bringing him back, because it was just damaging his organs even more,” Jennifer said.
But then, the day before doctors were set to take him off life support, Trenton woke up. Now he’s in rehab, and although he has a long road ahead, he’s getting stronger every day.
“There’s no other explanation but God,” Trenton said. “There’s no other way that I could have came back.”
Trenton’s revival is so inexplicable, you’re not even getting the usual science-not-God theories, since no one can find a way to make what happened fit into what’s understood about science.
But that doesn’t mean you won’t get “justice”-based arguments against God’s hand at work here.
It’s a basic and seemingly powerful question: Why him? Why not other children? Why not all other children who slip away as the result of an injury, an illness or a sudden health event that no one could see coming? There are parents all over the world who will never get over the grief of having lost a child. Why would a loving God save Trenton McKinley, and only Trenton McKinley, while taking the others?
Surely many of those parents prayed in Jesus’s name for a miracle to save their children, but didn’t get one. How can you really laud a God who would subject them to such misery while only giving miraculous healing to certain children, such as Trenton McKinley?
I’ll give you three answers to that objection:
- God is sovereign. He is not obligated to follow man’s concepts of fairness. Every person’s life belongs to God, and He can claim it whenever He chooses. As much as we would like to see Him do things our way, there isn’t one of us who can make a claim on a miracle. We should be exceedingly grateful if we receive one, but we don’t have a right to one just because someone else received one. The destiny of man in a world fallen because of sin is death, and when God spares anyone for a little more time, that’s an extraordinary act of grace. It doesn’t obligate Him to grant a similar one to anyone else.
- If God saved every child in this situation, no one would consider it extraordinary. What’s more, if it was common, mankind would quickly come to the presumption that there is nothing miraculous about it. We might not claim we knew how science was bringing these children back, but we’d assume there was a natural cause and that we would identify it eventually. There are a lot of things whose causes we can’t precisely explain, but we don’t think they’re miracles because they’re too familiar to us. If every child who seemed about to die was suddenly revived, we’d figure it was normal and we’d stop seeing God’s hand in it. But wait, you say, why not at least grant the miracle to all believers who pray for it? Remember the part about God being sovereign? If every believer who prays not to die, or prays for someone else not to die, was granted that request without exception, then we would start to see ourselves as entitled to immortality, and we would no longer accept that God holds the keys to life and death. We can ask, but sovereignty over the answer is His and His alone.
- You don’t know how many other interventions God has staged on people’s behalf. You don’t know how many wagons he held up an extra second so they didn’t fall on a child. You don’t know how many lights turned red a second early so a collision wouldn’t happen seven blocks up. You don’t know how many angels you’ve encountered who kept you from a calamity through some action that could never have been obvious to you. Before you conclude that God helped this person but not you, consider that God doesn’t have to report to you about everything He does on your behalf. Are you breathing today? Can you keep your food down? Is your head still attached to you? How do you know a miracle isn’t responsible for that? You don’t.
Humans get into dangerous territory when they start thinking they can assess the fairness or the justice associated with God’s actions. He makes the rules. We don’t. He sees layers and dimensions and impacts that we simply cannot. He knows the future because He set it in motion, and He knows exactly what will happen if this person lives and that person dies, and He has a bigger picture in mind than we can even contemplate.
One final thought: James 1:6 says that when we ask God for something, we should believe and not doubt, because one who doubts is double-minded and unstable in all he does. Now that doesn’t mean no thought will ever enter your mind that God may not grant your request. You know that’s a possibility. But the person who asks but doubts is the person sending up the prayer but really, in their hearts, feeling, “I don’t think this is going to happen.”
In Luke 18, the poor widow is relentless and keeps coming to the unjust judge seeking justice. Even though the judge is a jerk, he eventually gives her justice so she’ll leave him alone.
If you want something from God, are you that relentless in coming to Him? Or do you send up one obligatory prayer, and then when nothing happens, say: “I really didn’t think He would say yes” and give up?
He does hear our requests, and He does react to them. The response is up to Him, but if you want Him to say yes, follow the Bible’s instructions on how to ask, and how to set your heart for an answer that reflects God’s true power.
No one understands that today better than Trenton McKinley, and kudos to him for giving God the glory.
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Powers and Principalities (2009): Twenty years ago, Clay Bender saw the face of spiritual evil with the naked eye while attending a party. Now, Clay’s terrifying spiritual gift returns, showing him that a supernatural threat is looming – one that could threaten everyone in Royal Oak. As the community grapples with bizarre electrical disturbances and a horrible train derailment, only Clay can recognize the true nature of the strange events, and he and his two closest friends have little time to battle the city’s demons – even as all three are forced to face their own. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)
Pharmakeia (2010): Kyla Spears is being warned – in terrifying dreams – of grisly and violent tragedies looming for young people in Royal Oak. But her spiritually gifted friend Clay Bender is reluctant to help, and her feelings for one charming young man threaten her newfound spiritual integrity and her ability to face the truth about what’s really behind the threat. (Buy Now button for signed hard copy: $15.99. Amazon button for digital download: $2.99)