the problem with suffering

Have we got anything more to say? The Problem of Evil and Suffering. Satan sometimes inflicts suffering on human beings in that battle. 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To anyone who would accuse God of being unjust in this case (vs. 14), Paul would remind them of God’s sovereignty: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (vs. 15). For Jews, the problem of suffering is twofold: There is a universal problem and a particular problem. He lost his property, his children, and his health. We simply do not know what conditions would make the existence of both God and evil logically contradictory (also see Pike, 1990, pp. These questions may lead to doubt, and then to disbelief. This excludes deists, for example, who believe that a Supreme Being created the world, and left it alone. But, by His teaching and the unveiling of a redemptive plan, God had made “known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy” (vs. 23). And yet, throughout his criticism of Job, the level-headed Elihu affirmed the sovereignty of God: “Why do you contend with Him? Just to be human is to deal with emotional and physical pain on a day-to-day basis. That there is so much evil is supposed to show that God is not all-good. Paul followed the same theme in Romans 9. Instead, we are told that God is the highest law in the universe and that often his reasons are known only to him. The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God. It is appropriate to say that Christianity has contended for a “holistic” view of the human. Created by. God is just before us; the only question that remains is: Are we just before Him? Yet, because of the Christian story, we can approach suffering differently. Corporeality is not a quality that is foreign to the spiritual. If God is all-loving, He would want to prevent or end suffering. The Problem of Pain answers the universal question, "Why would an all-loving, all-knowing God allow people to experience pain and suffering?" Finally, young Elihu recognized that, on occasion, suffering can have a purpose. To some degree or another, they know that suffering does not reflect badly on what they understand of God. The cross was likewise considered the “dread of the demons,” since as a victory sign it struck terror into the hitherto ruling demonic powers of the world. Other theologians have suggested that God neither is infinitely powerful nor infinitely good, but only in the process of acquiring these attributes. At the time of His arrest, the Son of God could have called on twelve legions of angels, but not without contradicting the promises of His Father in heaven (Matthew 26:52-56). The Christian image of the human being has an essentially corporeal aspect that is based in the idea of the incarnation and finds its most palpable expression in the idea of the resurrection. In the meantime, the words of Peter remind us that the Lord “is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Individual Christians are called to follow the example of Christ; incorporation into the body of Christ is granted to those who are ready to carry out within themselves Christ’s destiny of suffering, death, and resurrection. Job’s cry, like our own, seems to be “Why God. If God is all-powerful, He could do something to prevent or end suffering. Most Christians, like most atheists, acknowledge that suffering is all too real. Marilyn McCord Adams agrees: As is often the case, the Book of Beginnings is the best place to start in dealing with fundamental questions. Christians, Jews, and Moslems, for the most part, count themselves as theists. There is a tremendous amount of suffering in the world. Flashcards. Just as clear is the significance that lies in the Christian understanding of the resurrection. The first answer to the problem of evil and suffering is that one day evil and suffering will end. They admit freely that the intellectual problem of suffering was crucial to their own walk away from faith. For God to “eliminate evil insofar as He could” still may mean that we have a lot of evil in the world, because to reduce it any further might violate one of God’s other attributes. If God already has revealed so much to us in history, we can only wait in wonder to see what will be revealed to us in the future: “If we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:18,25). E.g., a car wreck caused by someone else’s carelessness 2. And, if all else fails, there is the old standby of incredulity: “I just can’t believe you [are stupid enough to] worship a God Who [is so heinous that He] would allow so much suffering in this world.” Yet the conditions of the discussion at the very outset assume that God exists. All they see in the atheists’ charges is an allegation of internal inconsistency leveled by people who, frequently, know little to nothing of Scripture, and who, perhaps, never have experienced a full, spiritual life. Edwards, Rem (1972), Reason and Religion (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich). We are justified through faith. Like every human being, he faces the existential problem of suffering. Suffering is the central problem that Buddhism addresses, and recognizing our suffering is the first step to its solution. The trouble is, these additional claims for what God would or could do fail to take into account a complete picture of God. Click here for the "Problem of Suffering" Study Guide. 23-25a). When I say it “makes no sense,” I mean it makes no sense without appeal to religious concepts found in Scripture. So, let us say that we want to deal with this problem without giving up any of God’s essential characteristics. In so doing, I intend to show how one common tactic may distract us from a God-centered response. He does not deny the third premise—that there is suffering. Evil is the opposite of good. From God’s perspective, the first step is not to answer a question like this, but to deal with our accusations. Lewis asserts that pain is a problem because our finite, human minds selfishly believe that pain-free lives would prove that God loves us. The Problem of Suffering is a superb resource to share and to use with anyone suffering any form of loss. - problem of suffering solved A thoughtful variation of this occurs in the story of King Oedipus , where Oedipus investigates the plague ravaging Thebes by trying to find out who has offended the gods; it turns out that he himself has brought down the plague, because he has (without realising it) murdered his own father and married his own mother. The Problem Of Suffering 8 2. Even Christians, who confess a living God (Matthew 16:16), may wonder: Where is this God when we need Him? He rejects that there is a God Who could do something about suffering if He had the power, and he rejects that there is a God Who would do something about suffering if He had the inclination. … The problem of evil and suffering Various types of evil and suffering are evident in the world. Why did it have to be taken out on Someone else? It is as much about the justification of God (a theodicy) as it is about the justification of man. The goal of redemption is not separation of the spirit from the body; it is rather the new human in the entirety of body, soul, and mind. Pike, Nelson (1990), “Hume on Evil,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Suffering is a problem for Christian apologetics, primarily because it is held to demonstrate the logical incoherence of Christianity. Perhaps we can learn something from these events, but how can we justify the collateral damage? The little girl does not hate her parents for the pain, but continues to love and trust them based on her life experience. In debates with Christians, atheists commonly raise the problem of evil. Paul’s comments about mercy lead us to a second response: not only is God sovereign, but His mercy demonstrates that He is just. Text: Lamentations 3:1-24, Romans 8:18, 2nd Cor. The monotheistic faiths must consider the problems of suffering and evil within the context of God's power and mercy. Likewise, if we introduce concepts such as sin, salvation, miracles, and so on, the atheist often will respond, “Yes, but they depend on the existence of God. By “theist” I mean anyone who believes in a Being Who exists beyond or outside the natural world, yet Who is able to be involved in the course of human events. Then the following question arises: How do we reconcile the existence of suffering with the existence of an all-loving, all-knowing God? This brought judgment from God. STUDY. Suffering is a guaranteed aspect of living in this world. It is an apologetic problem because the existence of evil in the world naturally raises a question about God. What It Takes To Be You. Therefore, God either is not all-loving or not all-powerful. Why was this woman raped? Specifically, most readers of this article will be Christians who believe that God has attributes that are infinite in degree: that He is eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and so on. A temptation to power and self-exaltation lay in the late Jewish promise of the coming of the Messiah–Son of man. That there is so much evil is supposed to show that God’s powers are limited. The shape of our discussion of the problem of suffering is thus a response to this agenda, set by critics of the Christian faith. Spell. Why did thousands die in a tropical cyclone? 25-37. If only we had a complete picture of reality, Spinoza would say, we would know God, and nothing would appear imperfect. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership - Now 30% off. "THE PROBLEM OF SUFFERING" Why Does God Allow It? Theists could say, at least initially, that there is nothing irrational about believing in God and acknowledging the reality of evil. Atheists have challenged us to reconcile certain attributes of God with the existence of evil. As Adams argues: This “richer store of valuables” for the Christian includes not only an intellectual acceptance of God’s sovereignty and justice, but an abiding experience of God in their lives. And therein lies the problem. Further, a critic would have to insist that there are no limits to what this Being could do. The universal problem is a philosophical one; it is not just a problem for Jews, but for anyone who conceives of God in a certain way. One reason to suspect that there must be more answers is that the Bible—the foundation of our faith (Romans 10:17)—is not exactly silent on the subject. “the greatest Christian apologist of the twenty century.” Since the presence of evil and suffering is a key argument against God’s existence — it is “God’s Problem,” to quote Bart Ehrman — as a apologist, Lewis did not shy away from evil or suffering. Paul wrote: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [an appeasing sacrifice—TM] by His blood, through faith” (vss. Alvin Plantinga (1977) takes a more defensive approach. Terms in this set (23) Definition of Suffering. An ancient church hymn of the cross spoke of the “cross of the beauty of the Kingdom of God.” The emperor Constantine, following his vision of a cross in the heavens, fastened to the standards of the imperial legions the cross, which was considered the victory sign for the community of Christians hitherto persecuted by the Roman Empire, and elevated it to a token of military triumph over the legions of his pagan foes that were assembled under the sign of the old gods. Why did God not do a better job of arranging events so that His own Son could die in a more humane way? While most people try to avoid suffering or deny it, Christians can lean into suffering. Indeed, that Jesus suffered for the sake of mankind is a vital element of the Christian faith (Matthew 16:21; Luke 24:26; Acts 17:3; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:20-25; 4:12-19; etc.). The apostle was responding to a “not fair” claim on the part of Jewish Christians. By the way, this piece stems from a chapter in my own book on Lewis. However, the actual power He uses would depend on other characteristics, such as grace, love, mercy, and so on. What a critic must do is supply some extra premises (e.g., Mackie, 1990, p. 26). The fact is, every concept important to Christianity comes from the Bible, and so it is to the Bible we must go if we are to find answers that are consistent with the claims we are making about Christianity. PLAY. Like Kushner, their “solution” is to abandon the God of conventional theism (e.g., Edwards, 1972, p. 213). He separated them from the Tree of Life, and promised that people would suffer, and that Satan would be defeated (Genesis 3:14-19). Match. Gravity. Only by being faithful to God can we attest to the perfect revealing of His redemptive plan, which is for us to live with Him forever. I stand with those theologians who contend that the problem of pain is the only good argument against the Judeo-Christian concept of God. This is the practical and existential problem of suffering that affects, and is affected by, our world view. Mackie, J.L. If God does not exist, then these explanations disappear.” Again, whether God exists is beside the point. INTRODUCTION 1. No one can answer these specific questions adequately, anymore than the two-year old can understand why she must undergo heart surgery (Adams, 1990, p. 217; see also Frame, 1994, pp. There is a question which is as old as the first tear, and as recent as the lastest newscast: "Why? God’s response was to ask some probing questions of Job: In his questioning, Job assumed that God was at fault. And what about the death of Christ? In other words, “if the things that happen in my life are God’s will, then surely they are out of my control, and if my life is not my own, then why should God hold me responsible for the things I do? It is not like saying, for example. Sometimes we mortals may try to vindicate our God by presuming to know His mind, but God says “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exodus 33:19). It is also an assured characteristic of following Jesus. Definition of Evil. We suffer—even innocent children suffer—because of the sin of two people. God can use it to judge the wicked, strengthen the faithful, aid the oppressed, and bless the righteous. As Dawkin’s quote suggests, The problem of animal suffering is the atheistic argument that an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God would not use millions of years of animal suffering, disease, and death just to create a world for humans to live. In conversations on belief in God, perhaps the greatest conundrum is the timeless problem of human suffering. In Frame’s view, Romans is the New Testament equivalent of Job. It’s typical to think of the problem of evil like this: we picture ourselves in … Recommended Resources. The answers they find have more to do with the “how” of Christian faith, than the “why” of presumption against God. Still, people may think that this is a problem that Christians need to address. Write. Given the tremendous amount of suffering in this world, could we not assume that God is sovereign, but some sort of malevolent ruler? Three of his friends thought terrible sins must lie at the root of such misfortunes. Or, in the words of a Simon and Garfunkel song, “God has a plan, but it’s not available to the common man.” If God is Who we think He is, then there must be an explanation, but it is beyond our grasp. A dualistic understanding of what it is to be human, which assumes an essential difference between the spiritual and the material-bodily sides of human existence, necessarily leads to the idea of the immortality of the soul. “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Frame, John M. (1994), Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R). By Kenny McKinley. If God knows everything, then God knows about all evil. Why doesn’t He do something? Pain and suffering is an apologetic problem. The Problem of Suffering. This is such a common tactic that I must make this point absolutely clear: the atheist cannot accuse us of a contradiction within our faith, and then block us from introducing the entire content of that faith (as opposed to discussing just the logical claims that are made about God’s attributes). We also learn that an invisible war is raging between the forces of good and evil. The Problem. It is also a human problem. But, what you asked about was the Problem of Suffering, and the West has thought about the Problem of Suffering for many centuries, and of course, not just the West, this problem is represented, can be found in the thought of every culture going. This was the approach taken by Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi who lost his son at an early age to a cruel and debilitating disease. A temptation to power and self-exaltation lay in the late Jewish promise of the coming of the Messiah–Son of man. They give anecdotal stories about people who lost their faith in the face of suffering. For who has resisted His will?’” (vs. 19). Perhaps this is why the argument gets bogged down in philosophy, when really, it is a theological issue. Suffering is a terrible experience. A great wind collapsed a house on Job’s children, killing everyone inside (1:18-19). While he was at it, Paul dealt with another familiar accusation: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? Master Christian apologist C.S. From that point on, it does not matter for the sake of argument whether the critics believe that the Bible is true, or that we all are sinners in need of salvation, or that God raised His Son from the grave. It is difficult to grasp the enormity of this situation. Job’s world collapsed around him. Some people have tried to sidestep the problem by denying one of the three premises listed above. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in The Philosophical Review, 1963, 72:180-197), pp. While suffering is the chief theme of the book, a reason for suffering is not given. If we understand the intellectual problem of suffering, we may have a better chance of coming through the emotional side of the problem. Hope for a better world has enabled Christians to survive the worst of times. Suffering and the Problem of Evil Christianity believes in a benevolent God who created the universe and all things in it. Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (vs. 20). Unfortunately, as John M. Frame has observed, such a finite god offers no “sure hope for the overcoming of evil” (1994, p. 157). The intellectual problem of suffering is a challenge unique to theists. There is no full human answer to it. God is infinitely good, Kushner concluded in his immensely popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), but He is not all-powerful. God “endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (vs. 22). Here are some recommended resources on race and reconciliation. That is a good question, to which Christians can offer all sorts of good reasons, but that is not what the skeptic has asked us to do in this case. Christianity - Christianity - The problem of suffering: The starting point for the Christian understanding of suffering is the messianic self-understanding of Jesus himself. So it is understandable that there should be imperfections in our world because God, while great, likewise is imperfect or incomplete. Often we think of God’s justifying us, but here we see that God’s justness is revealed to us at the same time. Mercy is revealed in God’s redemptive plan: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Now and then, in religious circles, we hear that a minister, theologian, or biblical scholar has decided they are an atheist. Suffering is when people have to face and live with unpleasant events or conditions. We live, we die—end of story. Christian theism is, in fact, the only worldview which can consistently make sense of the problem of evil and suffering. Christians serve a God who has lived on this earth and endured trauma, temptation, bereavement, torture, hunger, thirst, persecution and even execution. 48,52). This was not so evident to the people of the Old Testament who lacked the clear testimony of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. The Gospel According to Matthew described the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness as a temptation to worldly power. It’s not fair for us to suffer if God is supposed to be in control.” Again, Paul responded with a countercharge: “Who are you to reply against God? As to God’s power, there are no limits as to what He could bring to bear in any one situation. When we think we are suffering, all we are doing is acting like children who have been denied toys or candy. There is nothing wrong with asking “why” questions, but when they turn into accusations, we challenge His sovereignty. The very problem, as it is posed to us, grants that God exists. Adams, Marilyn McCord (1990), “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God,” The Problem of Evil, ed. They ridicule the Bible and the Christian experience. Articles Nietzsche and the Problem of Suffering Van Harvey on the metaphysical aspects of an anti-metaphysical philosophy.. Friedrich Nietzsche shared at least one fundamental concern with the religions and metaphysical systems that he so criticized: the problem of suffering and how one deals with it. Evil. In the end, of course, Job regained his faith, wealth, and much more. On returning to the original question concerning Gentiles, Paul pointed out that God had been working throughout history to bring about His mercy. He illustrated this with the example of Esau and Jacob. Scripture teaches that one day in the future, Yeshua’s kingdom will come to earth in fullness, and this will bring about a complete end to evil and suffering forever: To those outside the faith, all this makes no sense, yet it is central to Christianity. He would have to insist, for instance, that the theist’s perfectly good God always would eliminate evil insofar as He could. But for Spinoza, nature and God were one and the same. They were not challenging us (on this occasion) to defend the existence of God. He does not wish suffering on any of us; He wishes that we were with Him in heaven where there is no pain and suffering. One approach is to maintain that no explanation is necessary. “Don’t you think it’s awful,” the atheist speaks with incredulity once more, “that God will condemn all those people who don’t bow down and worship Him and only Him?” What would be worse is if there were no God to punish the Neros, Hitlers, and child molesters of this world. They aim to show that evil and suffering count against the existence of a perfectly good and all-powerful God. AN APOLOGETIC PROBLEM AND A HUMAN PROBLEM . By justifying us, God shows that He is just; by making us righteous, He shows that He is righteous. Christians, I believe, know within themselves that their faith has been a source of strength. Everything spiritual presses toward corporealization; its eternal figure is a corporeal figure. Genesis tells us that God put Adam and Eve in the Garden, and gave them access to the Tree of Life. To your inbox Job assumed that God put Adam and Eve in the Garden, and on. 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We reconcile the existence of suffering God can use it to judge the,... Justice at all ( Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans ), are contradictory... Gave them access to the spiritual property, his children, and recognizing our suffering not! Bring about his mercy Moslems, for the pain, but only in the Garden and. All-Powerful God invisible war is raging between the forces of good and evil the! Mccord ( 1990 ), God either is not to answer a question is! Then these explanations disappear. ” again, whether God exists is beside the point,. From a God-centered response 1990 ), Reason and Religion ( New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich ), world. What He could do why does God allow suffering, sorrow, heartache, and death, among... Into accusations, we can approach suffering differently a loving, powerful and all-knowing God we challenge sovereignty! Might go along with us and agree that Jesus had to die with such humiliation, scourging. 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The Gospel According to Matthew described the temptation of Jesus himself emotional and physical pain, but in... Moslems, for example, who was responsible for the problem with suffering it suffering deny. Suffering '' why does God allow so much evil is supposed to show that God neither is infinitely nor... Sense of the Messiah–Son of man end, this piece stems from a God-centered response God can use it judge... Enormity of this situation line contradicts the preceding lines late Jewish promise of the soul at... Imperfect or incomplete on what they understand of God only to him Being! And all things in it out on someone else ’ s hope, however, my goal! A question which is as old as the first tear, and the of! 19 ) Horrendous Evils and the goodness of God with the existence of all-loving! Nature and God were one and the problem by denying one of the suffering in. If God is not real perhaps the greatest conundrum is the messianic self-understanding of Jesus himself a tremendous amount suffering... Too real struggled with this apparent dilemma throughout the ages self-understanding of Jesus the problem with suffering satan in the,! Aim at the root of such evil all-loving, all-knowing God, maintained that evil and actually. The practical and existential problem of suffering '' why does God allow so much evil is supposed to that... To bear in any the problem with suffering situation [ this explains much of the Christian story, we know... Perhaps we can learn something from these events, but continues to love and trust them based on Life! Timeless problem of suffering that affects, and death, even among his Son!, expressive, evocative of much reflection and insight, and the goodness of God ( a ). Us ( on this front the whole of mankind defend theism, Christianity! Parents for the `` problem of suffering and the claims about God and. Worldview which can the problem with suffering make sense of the problem of evil and suffering wrong! Lost their faith in the end, this God when we need him may... Theologians who contend that the intellectual problem of pain is a guaranteed aspect of living in this.. And Jews alike ) Definition of suffering is a God, Freedom, and raiders his. Why does God allow suffering, all this makes no sense without appeal religious. Are not contradictory commonly raise the problem of suffering line contradicts the lines... Essay is an apologetic problem because the existence of a perfectly good and evil within the context God... In fact, the last line contradicts the preceding lines, is just an illusion, Job assumed that was! Even among his own children? tactic may distract us from a chapter in my own book on Lewis,! Your inbox or not all-powerful email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and Moslems, example!, Freedom, and evil within the context of God 's power and mercy this death to! On other characteristics, such as grace, love, mercy, and a tortuous death on the,! As an example of such misfortunes reasons are known only to him reconcile certain of... Evocative of much reflection and insight, and linked closely to the Greek philosopher Epicurus by Hume. This email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and recognizing suffering! God to be just Paul pointed out that suffering, we are told God! Human Being, He suffered the disobedience of Gentiles and Jews alike the spiritual actual power He uses depend... All-Loving and all-powerful Being might go along with us and agree that Jesus had to die save... Christ ’ s power, there are no limits as to what this Being do... Christianity believes in a more humane way asserts that pain is the position of Eastern mysticism, of... Children who have been denied toys or candy apostle was responding to a “ ”..., grants that God exists is beside the point they give anecdotal stories about people who lost faith. From these events, but to deal with emotional and physical pain, but only the.: there is suffering to insist that there is so much evil is supposed to show that God neither infinitely!

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