We must press on, however, because Job’s question remains a valid one: why do evil things happen to good people? One answer is free will. God does not want to reign over an empire of automatons. Freedom of choice means that we are free to do good and we are also free to do evil. Man can be a saint only in a world where he can also be a devil. Thus the existence of evil in the world is entirely consistent with a God who despises evil but values freedom.

God didn’t kill all those people at Virginia Tech, the shooter did. Why, however, didn’t God intervene and stop it? This is a deep question about God’s role in the world. Why doesn’t God make Himself manifest, especially when there are tragedies to be averted? Here’s one possible reason. Imagine if God had intervened to prevent the homicidal maniac fromdoing what he did. Leave aside the violation of free will. Just focus on the consequences. The shooter would be—by miraculous intrusion—disarmed, the shootings would have been prevented, and life would go on.

In other words, life would proceed as if God had not intervened in the first place. So God in this view becomes a kind of cosmic errand boy, who is supposed to do our chores and clean up our messes and we then wish Him a very good day and return to our everyday lives. But perhaps God’s purpose in the world is to draw His creatures to Him, and the empirical evidence is that tragedies like the one at Virginia Tech help to do that.