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Answering The Atheist
February 27, 2005 / Volume 5, Issue 9

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Do bad things happen to good people? Some verses say yes (Habakkuk 1:4; Hebrews 12:6), but others say no (Proverbs 12:21; 19:23; 1 Peter 3:13). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Sure, "bad things" can and do happen to good people. The Habakkuk text referred to above mentions an overthrow of justice by the wicked, and thus evil happenings. The Hebrews text speaks of God's chastening for His children. When a child does not do as he should, a father will discipline him, to bring him back to obedience. God, in like manner will chasten His children.

From the KJV rendering of Proverbs 12:21 reads, "There shall no evil happen to the just..." The LXXe (Septuagint, translated to English) reads, "No injustice will please a just man..." Young's Literal Translation (YLT) renders this text, "No iniquity is desired by the righteous..." Though the KJV seems to indicate that nothing bad will come to the just, these others tend to emphasize that the righteous man does not enjoy evil ways, as the wicked man (with whom he is contrasted) does. The wicked, conversely "...shall be filled with evil."

The KJV rendering of Proverbs 19:23 reads, "The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil." Certainly, one could take this to mean that bad things will not happen to him, but consider again how some other translations render this text. The LXXe reads, "...he shall lodge without fear in places where knowledge is not seen." And YLT renders the text, "...satisfied he remaineth he is not charged with evil." It is as likely that the text means that the righteous need not live in fear of those who are wicked (ie. where knowledge is not seen), or that the righteous keep themselves pure from wickedness.

In 1 Peter 3:13, the writer asks, "...who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" Is this a promise that no wickedness will come? Certainly not, for the next verse begins, "But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake, happy are ye..." We need not fear those who would harm us, for God is for us. Whatever evil may come here pales in comparison to the good God has for us.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible