Why we suffer? an objection to God…

Why we suffer? an objection to God…


Suffering

The biggest issue has been and quite probably, always will be the issue of suffering and an omnipotent God.
Most have already abandoned the “evil” issue since they realize that without God there is on quantifier for ‘evil”.
But suffering, especially of the innocent, is always the big one.
While some “lower” atheist still try to go with the “Jesus myths” and such, that these have been discredited even by Bart Ehrman, has pretty much put a nail in that coffin and are not used by the “higher” atheists. The “rational” atheist tries to make it clear that there is NO proof that God exists and while there MAY be evidence of “something”, that evidence is NOT proof and most certainly nor evidence FOR God per say.

In my view, the evil argument is 100% subjective and most atheist know that, so they don’t use it that much.
The suffering one is still used because it is an emotional one and those tend to be the best arguments for JUDGING God and if you can judge God, you can disbelief Him because you have brought him “down” to our level and hence, he is NOT God.

There is a difference in the suffering we create for ourselves and upon others because it is the human being that is the cause.

So the criteria of suffering need to be defined in such debates with militant agnostics, atheist, as well as the nominal secularists. The forms of suffering are:

  1. Self inflicted suffering
  2. Suffering due to natural disasters
  3. Suffering due to man’s violent nature ( wars, murders, etc)

The thing is, once you do that, a smart atheist will see what you are doing ( compartmentalizing) and he knows that in this regard, the issue of suffering becomes subjective and he wants to maintain it objective because if it is subjective it is on US but if it stays objective, it remains on God.

We have NO way to KNOW what God allows for suffering BUT in regards to “human induced” suffering, the question of free will becomes the most simplest and obvious answer, to be truly free to choose right and wrong, then one must be FREE to do/choose right and wrong and that means that some will do wrong and cause suffering.
This however does NOT answer the issue of “non human caused suffering).

Now, lets remove the human factor – humans living in an earth quake zone or hurricane area or tornado area, and as such being responsible for their own suffering – and see one vital issue:

WE as humans have ISSUE with suffering, even if it is the suffering of people we don’t know and may even hate !
Why?

When it is subjective the proof falls on the atheist – how does one prove that an earthquake is evil or that earthquakes don’t have to exist?  One can’t. But one can most certainly show that people living in an earthquake zone are responsible for what happens to themselves in an earthquake.

The issue of suffering is something that each believer must answer for themselves, its hard ( if even possible) to find a “fit all” answer to this question.

I know that I struggled with it for years. What happened?

Speaking on a personal note and expressing my opinion and POV only.
I realized that suffering HAS a purpose, that God does indeed HAVE a purpose for suffering.
It is in suffering, (our’s and more importantly the suffering of others) that Humans are TRULY most in God’s image.
People starve half way across the world and we want to help and do all we can and we cry and suffer with them.
People die in an earthquake or a tsunami or some other natural disaster and we flock to rescue them and help them and comfort them and we suffer with them.

Sound familiar? A God that came to US and was with US and cried with US and suffered with US and even died with US.

We are truly human, truly human as we were created to be, when we suffer along others.
We rise to the occasion, our love shows no boundary, no limits, we give even when we can’t give, we risk and even die for those that are suffering or maybe even dead already, just on the off-chance that we can save ONE life. Humans are at their highest level when we are suffering with others.

Why does God permit suffering?
So that we can fulfil what we were created for, what we are meant to do, what we feel best at doing:  So that we can LOVE.

Does God condone suffering, if he allows it?

I think that one of the biggest issues people have with suffering is the notion that God permits it so He is condoning it.
That is not the case.
God allows Us to undergo suffering because He knows that, in our fallen nature, it is one of the few ways that we overcome that nature, that original sin of pride and selfishness that we all have in ourselves.
Sure there are some people that are ok with others suffering, they may even see it as “well deserved”, but these people are embittered by hatred and anger and if there is one thing that Christians are to known for, as they were known for in the past, that thing is compassion.
And what does compassion mean? To suffer with others.

****

Paul Sacramento

A fellow brother in Christ and internet poster

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40 thoughts on “Why we suffer? an objection to God…

  1. Even if suffering is subjective it is unnecessary in a world with an omnipotent god. Isn’t that what the garden was supposed to be? If you god uses suffering as a tool what good is your god? What purpose can your god have? Why the fuck do you conclude that suffering is vindication? You’re an idiot. What fucking good is an omnipotent god if suffering is your task? Wake the fuck up. There is no point to your god, suffering is free in this life. It takes no deity.

    1. I have seen drunkards argue better than this. Plus, mind your language or will simply kick you from this blog. Don’t get cute just because I am polite, okay?

      You explained one thing though, that you are bitter, very very bitter, perhaps tired as well. Running out of fuel may be. Go read some more stories about some religious gimmick, that might get you up and running again.

      But thank you for proving my point. Next time, you want to whine about suffering, do not bring God to the table.

      And let me simply add that you are a disgrace to atheism and depression, itself. It is because of people like you that most atheists suffer the stereotype of ignorant/angry people.

    2. Sorry, I won’t allow your comments anymore since you show a complete lack of ethics. which your last post that I just trashed, showed.

      I have no reason to respond to your questions unless you show that you understand the problems within, since you do not, I am at my liberty to dispose of your little rant, which is hardly original actually. Plenty of answers around, if you can’t read then that is your problem not mine. Whining about your ignorance is not going to be solve the problem, even when you can’t leave your emotion at the door.

      Grow up then we’ll talk.

  2. Perhaps I can offer an atheist’s perspective without all the vitriol and hatred…

    (I also want to point out that I self-identify as an atheist but I’m probably more of an agnostic than anything else. I think this is true for most atheists who are being intellectually consistent and honest. With that said…)

    This is an interesting take on th purpose of suffering…one I’ve not read of studied yet.

    I think the argument that God’s purpose for suffering is the resultant empathy, compassion, and love ignores some large portions of the issue. For one, we must consider the disproportionate level of suffering to the resultant love / empathy / compassion. There are millions of children, for example, who die without ever experiencing any of the love that God ostensibly purposed their for. As a Christian or as an atheist, my heart goes out to those kids. But that won’t fill their bellies.

    “When it is subjective the proof falls on the atheist – how does one prove that an earthquake is evil or that earthquakes don’t have to exist?  One can’t. But one can most certainly show that people living in an earthquake zone are responsible for what happens to themselves in an earthquake.”

    Who claimed earthquakes were evil? What we can agree on is they cause suffering, indiscriminately to the people who live on the edge of tectonic plates or other areas of geologic activity. They’re responsible because they live there? Does that include children who’ve not made a conscious choice as to where they live? Further, ANY place on Earth is susceptible to natural disaster of some kind. Which brings me to my next point: we can further agree that there is some level of scientific explanation for why earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and hurricanes occur. They’re the result of the nature of our Earth. They’re a necessary consequence of the Earth’s function when we learn about and understand meteorology, geology, etc. From this, we can see that natural disasters are precisely what we should expect in the absence of a personal god.

    After all, god must be either unwilling or unable to intervene. He is either not omnipotent or he is malelovent. I can’t really see a middle position there. And I think the middle idea of the resultant love and compassion evidenced post-disaster falls woefully short of an adequate explanation for disasters’ purposes.

    1. Thank you for your input. I have nothing to disagree except your last point. I do not dare assume all the answers, nor I think it is easy to find an answer which solves everything. But I do think that God, if he exists, allows suffering, so that a larger evil can be avoided. I am not sure how consistent this is, I am sure it won’t be against all backdrops but I think we as humans often do not have every variable accounted for, therefore if there is a God, he can be omnipotent, omniscient and all loving but still allow suffering,

      1. Because free will of humanity has to be “free”
      2. Natural death and suffering caused by natural disasters are just the way it is designed to be so. I would even go as far as to say that if a God exists, then physical death is not the end of the story, only a transformation of life or energy, from one form to another. In that way what we think as suffering might not be suffering at all.

      Any way, no revolutionary points, I agree, just saying what I think might be the case.

      P.S: Just wanted to say that when I had a deist mind frame, I actually thought that God was too remote to care about small things, even big things, which in the grand scheme of things, we humans do not realize. And I understand the problem because it takes away the idea of the traditional view of God as preached about, typically in the west. However, the fault may also lie within how western Christianity has portrayed God. A God which allows nothing bad to happen. In all honesty, I believe it is a wrong portrayal and in the long run Christianity is going to pay the price for this mistake. I believe that God can allow bad things to happen, even when we do not realize the full implications of it. There are many tangents which shoot off in all directions, especially, how one views God, and topics related to it, directly.

      1. What made you bridge the gap from a deistic god to the God of the Bible?

        I’ve seen very compelling arguments for the existence of A god, just not any well-founded ones for THE god.

        Take William Lane Craig, for example. He routinely take people to task when debating the existence of god. I think he’s missing the error of his own argument, though (at least in the ones I’ve examined): His arguments set up very well for the existence of a deistic prime mover, if you will. They make no effort to bridge the leap to the God of the Bible, however.

        This is why I am open to the idea of a god. However, should he, in fact, exist. His very nature is one indifferent to my existence. Thus, I see no reason I should dedicate thinking resources to establishing the nature of this being.

      2. Suffering causes the most problems when the purpose of life is deemed to be our individual happiness and prosperity. Because we no longer enjoy the same close communion with God that Adam and Eve had in the Garden, He uses the world as one of the tools by which He molds and shapes us. He intends for us to be of a certain type by the end, and it is narrow to imagine that if there is a God, we should understand how a single natural phenomenon, such as an earthquake, can be used to simultaneously impact the lives of thousands or even millions of people, including those who were not even in the vicinity.

        We are shaped through direct physical experience, emotional involvement through empathy and sympathy, and mental exercise through trying to understand it all. On a personal level, I can vouch for how certain moments or extended periods of suffering (at least on the small scale to which I have been exposed to it) have helped to get me to where I am today. I was not pushed into Christianity by pain or suffering, but I was aided in ridding myself of a number of destructive and useless habits. I am not a Christian because I understand the nature of pain and suffering; I have some understanding of pain and suffering because I have seen how it can be – and has been – used by God.

  3. Personally, I do not see our creation “designed” for suffering. There was no suffering in God’s original design, i.e. Eden. However, once man opened the door for sin, then of course, death, pain, destruction has been with us ever since and will be until the time appointed when once again God sets all things straight, (Millennial Reign). He will not force his will until the appointed time, and then he will do it right on time. Until then, we have the results of a fallen man and fallen creation. Not God’s fault, but he does help us with it all when we learn to do things the way he says it should be done. The fact that so many do not want a God telling them the best way to live causes even a lot more pain and suffering than would be otherwise. The pain and suffering in this earth is not the fault of God, it is the result of a door being opened that he warned us not to open. If it were not for God’s great love and grace, he should just leave us in our pot to stew till we all killed each other. I’m sure glad he is not like that, for that is what we deserve. If God was “fair” and gave us what we have “earned”, that would be it. Thank God for “grace”, “love”, and “mercy”. And thank God for the Holy Spirit living in us to help us grow in Christ. Perhaps some will think what I have said is too simplistic, but before the fall there was no suffering, and after the fall there is. Perhaps the answer is just that simple. Does God allow the things that happen to us to challenge us? Can we learn and grow from bad things that happen to us? Yes, very much so, but this was not God’s “plan A” from the beginning. Man chose “plan B”, and we are stuck with it until the Millenial Reign as far as I can tell. Even in all this, God’s power is a mighty force to overcome the curses of this present world when we learn how to walk in his promises. We live in a planet of force against force, good and evil, light and darkness. When we understand that Satan only respects one thing, and that is force greater than his own, then we begin to catch a glimpse why we are called to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.
    I should not have said so much. I came to thank you for visiting my site and got caught up in your very interesting discusion. Now you have another perspective, and one that is simplistic, I agree, but I believe to be true nonetheless. And yes, thank you John A. David for visiting my site.

    1. Thank you for joining the discussion and welcome to the blog. 🙂 You point of view is welcome.

      Sometimes simpler works much better. Great perspective and God bless you.

      Feel free to drop by anytime.

  4. Wait, so let me get this straight. Thousands of people are killed in an earthquake and thousands more are made homeless and without food and shelter. All of this happens just so I can drop a few coins into a charity box? God, despite being all-loving, does nothing so that we can feel pity for people? If God is effectively useless in times of disaster, then what use is he?

    So people are allowed to suffer, just so I can overcome my fallen state?

    What about all the people who are not helped? In most cases not enough aid is given after most disaters, so what about those who are not helped? Do they suffer in vain?

    I think its a great exaggeration to say that when there was a tsunami in Japan or an earthquake in Pakistan, the people of America suffered too. Some raised money to help, but none “suffered”.

    I haven’t even mentioned the hypocrisy in blaming “free will” seeing as the bible is a book all about God interfering with humans free will. He tells us what to do and threatens us with eternal punishment if we fail to obey. On other occassion he intervenes to help the Israelis win battles, prevent famines etc

    1. The answer is what I said earlier.

      Why should God disrupt the laws of physics and nature and stop earthquakes., they are vital to the survival of the planet.

      Do you think the law of your country threatens you, if you choose to disobey it? And yet you have a free will. No one is forcing you to do anything.

      O.T has a special purpose and it was Israel and Israel alone that God directed or at times interfered. Rarity in my opinion. Tell me has God ever interfered with your plans?

      Lets suppose there is no God, what have you done personally to help others during suffering? Have you found a solution to the problem of tsunami’s and earthquakes? Let me know if you have one.

      1. What about the time God made the sun stand still so that the Israelis could win a battle (Joshua 10:12-3)? That disrupted the laws of physics. If it is too much of a problem to change the laws of physics then God can stick to stopping war and famines.

        If someone you loved was about to die a slow and painful death due to war, famine or natural disaster, if it was in your power to prevent it, would you do nothing? If so, you probably didn’t love that person very much. Seeing as God does not stop these disasters, we can conclude he does not love us or can do nothing to stop them.

        No God has never interfered in my plans, though many believers claim he does all the time. If the OT is a rarity are they wrong?

        I give money to charities which is my way of helping. If you are suggesting I invent a way to prevent earthquakes or personally fly to disaster zones and rebuild houses, then no I have not do that

        1. First off, I said earlier, there are times when God interfered on Israel’s behalf, it is a rarity.

          Well, IF there is a God, then by definition, death is not the end, in fact it is only a transformation phase. Life does not end, it just transforms. Everyone is going to die Robert. Would you want to stop that too? I mean if you truly love someone why let them die anytime? Do you understand where this argument leads?

          Well, if God is indeed a bully, I wonder why he didn’t interfere in your plans? why do you think that is?

          Well if you have no good way to prevent earthquakes, do you understand that they are vital to survival of our planet and its mechanisms? And they are a must?

          Let me ask you can God make a squared circle? sure, but then it won’t be a square neither a circle. God does not do absurdities.

          1. Yes everything is going to die, but that does not mean that murder, famine, terrorism is not meaningless. Death is to be avoided for as long as possible. That’s why we cry at funerals. Do you realise where your argument leads? I’ll presume you didn’t mean it that way so I won’t push the point.

            “Well, if God is indeed a bully, I wonder why he didn’t interfere in your plans? why do you think that is?”

            Because he doesn’t exist

            (You really walked into that one. I’m not sure what you were hoping to happen but you should have seen that one coming)

            I have no way of preventing earthquakes because I’m not God.

            Believe me, God does plenty of absurdities

          2. You seem to casually dismiss all death and suffering in war and famine as though it doesn’t matter, Do you know where that argument leads?

            “Well, if God is indeed a bully, I wonder why he didn’t interfere in your plans? why do you think that is?”
            Because he doesn’t exist
            (You walked into that one. I’m not sure what point you were trying to make but really should have seen that one coming)

            I cannot prevent earthquakes because I am not God

            Believe me, God does plenty of absurdities

    2. Robert, is this an argument that God does not exist or that if He does, you do not like Him? I ask only to clarify the position, because they require two completely different approaches, as regards a response to your argument.

      1. Those are the only two logical conclusions and either one could be made. I personally don’t believe in the existence in God, though this argument could be used to say God is simply not loving

        1. Its the weakest form of an argument. The argument of suffering has never impressed me. If God is responsible for all the suffering in the world, then he is also responsible for the happiness and goodness in the world too, would you agree?

          1. Well seeing as Christians take credit for all that is good in the world and God claims he will prevent harm from coming to believers then it isn’t as strange as it sounds. I think there is a reasonable point in asking where was God in the Holocaust or the Irish Great Famine.

            1. I believe that a core tenet of Christianity is that most Christians take as much responsibility for what is wrong in the world as they do credit for what is right, if not more. To steal liberally from G.K. Chesterton, I am what is wrong with the world. It is my pride, my lust, my envy, and my hate that is contributing to the evil we see every day. Where was God in the Holocaust? He was in the hearts of people who hid Jews in their attics at great risk. He was behind the men and women who gave their lives to fight against the evil regimes.

              What sort of perspective do we have to judge the way the world is governed and judged, especially when we are the problem? It wasn’t just Hitler, Goebels and the Auschwitz guards, it was every person on the planet who did not stand up against what was obviously evil. Where was God? Exactly the point: the men and women who either ignored or purposely rejected Him abused the gift of Free Will and took Him out of the equation. Can there really be any disagreement that more people following the precepts propagated by Christ and the early Church would have disintegrated the Nazi regime before it had an opportunity to establish any sort of power?

              Where was God? Begging us to allow Him into our lives so that He could work through us and save the world. He will still do it, but it will be in spite of all of us, including the Christians.

          2. Well seeing as religious people claim credit for all the good in the world its only fair they take responsibility for the bad. I think its a strong argument after all God does supposedly promise to protect believers, keep them safe and out of harm. It is the best way of testing if God really is as loving as it is claimed

        2. My daughter has questioned my love for her at times that she did not understand – or, more likely, did not appreciate – my discipline. In the process of helping her to grow and develop into a particular type of person, I am required at times to expose her to what she experiences as pain/suffering. It truly hurts a parent to discipline a child, but the alternative is much worse.There are very educated, reasonable and logically sound responses to why a loving God would allow suffering.

          The most prominent is that the majority of it is self-inflicted and is a result of us being given the CHOICE of whether or not to accept God – He desires no automatons that are forced to love Him. The life of Jesus Christ demonstrates that, although we may not understand why there is suffering, the answer cannot be that He doesn’t love us. An honest look at the redemptive story of the Bible reveals that if it is true, it can only be love that undergirds it.

          It is not ambivalence towards a God that “has never interfered in [your] plans” that gives rise to such obvious disdain for the mere possibility of His existence. And why would you give money to charities at the expense of your own comfort, knowing that there is no benefit to you? In the latter case, you are following the precepts of Christ, whether you like Him or not; in the former, you are demonstrating anger towards an entity you do not believe exists. There is an inherent inconsistency in this.

          1. There’s an enormous difference, both practically and philosophically, between a 5 minute timeout (or good wack on the behind) vs some of the ills in the world we observe. Not to mention…who is actually being punished and why? You seem to be insinuating that people actually are responsible for things like hurricanes because of their failure to turn to God. Is that what you’re saying? You did say, “The most prominent is that the majority of it is self-inflicted and is a result of us being given the CHOICE of whether or not to accept God.” So, unless I’ve misinterpreted that statement, you consider it a logical and educated position that hurricanes strike mankind because of gay people. (To use just one example of those who have chosen poorly.)

            Speaking of automatons, because this comes up a lot:

            I sat down with a pastor of a local church about four months ago. Based on the problem of free-will, determinism, predestination, etc., that it is entirely possible humans are, in fact, automatons and that it doesn’t matter because he gets to experience the joy of following God, loving his wife and kids, etc. I thought it was an interesting point of view on the matter but I digress.

            If Christianity is true, you are going to Heaven, where you will spend millions of years worshiping the God you do now. Will you have free will there? If so, what are the consequences of exercising a negative decision? If not, are you not then just an automaton of praise for God? Let’s also not forget that an angel, who ostensibly observed God, was able to disobey (and CHOSE to, no less).

            I give money to charities for the same reason you and I both have that “awwwww” feeling when we see a baby crying: we possess an evolutionary predisposition of empathy. I described the origins of this in another post. And perhaps I happen to be following what Jesus asked his followers to do. Well, great…that is purely circumstantial. I may also accidentally be following the precepts of Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Judaism. My actions don’t lend credence to these ideas anymore than yours do or do not.

            1. I think we need to make these discussions podcasts or something, because I’m not much of a typist!

              First, some clarification on my points. The self-infliction I was referring to was not the natural disasters, etc – I was referring to the oft-mentioned “man’s inhumanity against man.” We hurt each other – physically, emotionally, etc. – much more than we are hurt by nature. Obviously, everyone dies at some point, so “nature” in that sense has a pretty substantial record of death, but I think we can agree that is not what we are talking about. And someone who lives a gay lifestyle has made no more egregious an error than someone like me, who has committed more than my share of sins.

              I understand how the idea of determinism (in the Christian sense) would absolutely make us automatons, and I do not subscribe to that doctrine. Regardless, it is a valid point, but I do not see how a naturalistic worldview is any less deterministic, if we are all controlled by instinct and the “random firing of neurons.” Angels obviously had free will, as well, else there would be no Satan. How the situation works in Heaven regarding “negative decisions,” I have no idea. The Bible does not speak on this, and so I don’t think I will go where it is silent, especially with no information on the subject. That does not mean I don’t think about it, though!

              As for the charities question, that was directed solely to Robert because of his claim that he would not want to walk in Christ’s footsteps. I understand that empathy is used as the explanation for morality in the absence of God, although I have not seen how empathy leads someone to give her life for another person of equal value, for example.

              Finally, back to the initial comment – the degree of the punishment is important only with regard to the desired outcome. If I was paralyzed today, and that pushed me – or anyone else, really – to salvation, then as a Christian I have to say that my suffering is worth the cost. Undoubtedly that would be a problem for someone who doesn’t believe that salvation is necessary. So I suppose the real issue is – are we actually good people who don’t need to be saved? I have found no evidence that this is the case.

  5. I like what you have done here, David. Obviously some people just don’t “get it”, like darness resist light. A lot of needless suffering occurs because of the darkness. This is an “excelent” article. When we fell in the Garden, we proved we have “a lot” to learn. I can see how suffering is part of that learning. Keep up the good work! (You might be interested in my article, “Lives that make no sense.)

    1. You guys may not be “impressed” with the argument of suffering but I’m probably less impressed with your explanation of it.

      It is too hollow. Sure, the rationalization allows the feeble framework of theism to operate, but that’s hardly an explanation much less a justification for such happenings in our world.

      Another facet of the suffering issue, routinely ignored by theists, is the disproportionate nature of suffering. It would seem to me that man is equally responsible for the “fall” of Adam & Eve. Why, then, is the world so full of such disproportionate suffering? Our greatest threat in the US, for example, is the relatively unlikely chance we’ll be struck by a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake (which reminds me, are people on the coasts and in Tornado Alley in some way more susceptible to our debt for The Fall?). In other parts of the world, suffering is a part of daily life and usually involves children with empty bellies.

      So, feel free to chalk up suffering and pain in our world to the fall of man, whatever that means. If you really think chalking up people’s real suffering and pain to the ill-ways of a mythical 3,000 year old man named Adam, you can expect the global trend of diminishing Christianity to continue. (Christianity has receded 13% in just 7 years in the US alone. That’s not good.)

      1. But yes, the question, why does not God interfere? I think he does not, for the better of it. At least that is what I hope.

        Can God fix the world? yes he can, only if people would listen. One day God would change all of it, but I do not think you would believe that, after all, its just myth. So you will attack the myth as if it exists and then you won’t treat it as real because you don’t think its real? what do you think? At least be consistent with this.

      2. First of all, it is a complete myth that Christianity is dwindling globally. Both Christianity and skepticism are on the rise, statistically, but Christianity is experiencing tremendous growth. Most of this is in Asia and Africa, and it is often racism and feelings of superiority that attribute this to a lack of education, inferior sophistication, etc. (please note, Andrew, I am certainly not accusing YOU of this in any way – I do not want you to mistake me on that).

        Suffering is a pretty big problem, for everyone, Christians included. Even where I think I have a pretty good handle on it, there are always cases where I simply do not understand. However, it is so common to generalize the issue and attribute the suffering that comes from evil or the doctrine of original sin to a non-existent or malicious god. The two types of suffering must be distinguished: 1) that caused by nature, and 2) that caused by man.

        1. The fallacy of the problem with “natural” suffering is one of egoism. A natural disaster – although natural in origin – is allowed by God, but not so that one individual can have a certain desired response. For an omnipotent and omniscient God, for whom time is but another variable to be manipulated, the difference between creating a situation for an individual and an environment for a population is merely a matter of scale – and scale as power approaches infinity is meaningless. Chaos theory is based on the fact that every single action on every level has an associated effect on everything else, both in space and time. If God is in charge of all things, it is to be expected that He can use a cataclysmic event to have untold effects on any number of lives. He “lets nature happen,” so to speak, to give men opportunity to exercise their free will. It is a fundamental axiom – regardless of worldview – that we grow and develop through adversity; we only complain that when we think we can attribute responsibility to someone. We think we can still grow without the difficulties, all evidence to the contrary. God would know, of course, exactly what – and what level – suffering will give us the greatest opportunity to reach our full physical and spiritual potential. We think we know best, and that is the source of many of our problems.

        2. For the suffering caused by man – often described as the problem of “evil” – we miss the point by looking around us for the answer. We need to look inside ourselves for a clearer picture; before we can try to understand the evil of others, we need to acknowledge the evil within. Even “good people” have the propensity for untold evil, and we are all guilty of behavior that we find detestable even by our own standards. What is the naturalistic cause of selfishness, easily a cause of much suffering? Either we have an evolutionary instinct toward self-preservation at the expense of others, or that predilection is towards the species as a whole; it cannot be both. We know that we have certain standards; we know we do not live up to them. We cause suffering much as we experience it. We cannot attempt to explain universal suffering until we examine our individual evil. This is where the metanarrative of Christianity offers a look at a possible truth that can explain man in a way that cannot be matched by naturalist or humanist theories.

        I am not discounting your arguments – I can recognize the thought that goes into them. It is a common accusation – and belief – that Christians are unwilling or unable to look at these things with critical thought and rational investigation. You have made comments that at times seem to support that belief, and at other times seem to demonstrate some appreciation of the logic that goes into our arguments. While I may find your conclusions faulty, I do not disregard the process by which you came to them, or the evidence you may have used in it. I only ask for the same in return. As I said, you – Andrew – usually demonstrate grace in this regard, but I am saying this also to others in this thread, and others.

        1. It is refreshing to hear someone admit the difficulty of the problem instead of what I usually hear, which is something similar to: “well its God’s plan and sometimes we just don’t understand…praid God!”

          Regarding dwindling Christianity. My comments were taken from a research publication by a reputable firm. They conducted the same poll twice over a seven year period (2005 & 2012) and published their findings. You can read the actual findings here:

          http://goo.gl/SvwtJ

          It would seem those numbers are within their margin of error. Is there a study I am not aware of that supports your claim of Christianity on the rise?

          You said, “If God is in charge of all things, it is to be expected that He can use a cataclysmic event to have untold effects on any number of lives.”

          I would not disagree with that statement if I also agreed with its premise: that God is in charge of all things. However, even if I did agree with that premise, I think the explanation falls short.

          For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume that I agree with you that God exists. We then also agree that God may use cataclysmic events for the purpose of exacting “good” through mankind’s exercise of free will, no? My next logical progression of thought would be to try to identify occurrences of good within or as a result of catastrophe. While there are no doubt many occurrences of good from many events, do they outweigh the bad? I tend to doubt it, considering the loss of life alone. Well, what is some may come to know Jesus as a result of their suffering? Is that God’s plan to draw a few more to him? To kill indiscriminately (undoubtedly killing unbelievers in the process, who will end up in Hell) so that a few dozen (or maybe even thousands) more will become his followers? Seems like heavy-handed tactics to me.

          Then there is the problem of non-cataclysmic yet still disastrous events…like famine and starvation and disease. Is the AIDS epidemic in Africa a consequence of the fall of man designed to exact good in some way? What about ebola before that? What about starvation? Child sex trade?

          If you stand by your position that these things are allowed to happen because, in some fashion, we’re not only responsible for them (due to our fallen nature) but because god evidently has a program in place for empathy and goodness to result, fine, that is your position. I simply cannot accept that.

          Instead, I prefer to take the much more pragmatic outlook that, in the absence of an involved god, that is, the God of the Bible, the episodes of indiscriminate suffering in our world are precisely what we should expect!

          [Side-note while it’s in my nugget: John once mentioned that tectonic activity is necessary for our survival. I agree…but doesn’t that raise a bigger question about the failure of design? So God creates the Sun which constantly spews out supercharged particles that will kill any life before it can begin. To compensate, he designs the Earth in a fashion that includes a magnetosphere that protects us from said particles however, one catch: these plates can shift causing volcanoes and earthquakes and widespread death to the creation he was trying to protect in the first place. Hmm.]

          “What is the naturalistic cause of selfishness, easily a cause of much suffering?”

          Evolution can account for both empathetic and benevolent behaviors as well as selfish, individualistic behaviors. As humans evolved from single or family-unit species, they learned the benefits of the division of labor AKA: you’re good with a knife or bow, you hunt. I am good at building huts, I will build. The whole clan or tribe benefits in this way. It is even thought that early humans were over-benevolent in order to demonstrate their usefulness to their group, lest they get kicked out instead.

          But it also doesn’t ignore our potential for “evil.” I do not use evil in a supernatural sense of good vs. evil but rather as a descriptor for the types of behavior humans have deemed unacceptable…like killing one another. Once again, the behavior of humans beings is precisely what one should expect to observe in the absence of an involved God.We have a dualistic nature balanced between our biological / evolutionary heritage of competition, mutual benefit, and survival. I think its pretty awesome really!

          AJ, thanks for the open dialogue. It is nice to come here and talk to open-minded, level-headed people…and thanks to John for letting me post too!

          Have a great day fellas! …should be an interesting one with the election.

          1. Andrew, thank you too for participating and brining out good points.

            Andrew, I know we might end up disagreeing on this but I will try to clarify a few things.

            1. Can God use a cataclysmic event to produce good?
            Sure. But will he? No I do not think. Can you kill someone? yes. will you? not if you are a fair and moral person. Same is with God, its not like he is moody Kid ready to crush us ants on his mood swings, that is a mis-representation.

            2. If designing earthquakes or tectonic plates means bad design, then I would point out that the argument comes down to, can life arise with “other” designs, laws that we are unaware of? As I said earlier, can God make a squared circle? if he does, its neither a square nor a circle. Its an absurdity. The very laws, if they were created by God, mean to start universes and evolution and eventually life. As with all laws it has consequences. To say that can God make a world where tectonic plates are not present, is to ask the very fundamental question, that can life as we know it arise from a different set of laws which we do not know about.

            3. God is not making anyone suffer just to make friends with him. I do not think that is a fair conclusion, or at least a solid one. Though one can be made by connecting personal experience. I would not negate it but I won’t accept it as an explanation to every event either.

            4. Aids, child-sex, things like that happen because we can be evil too. I do not think its the fall which caused aids or diseases. Do I think the matter is settled, no. Personally if and when I stand before God I would like to know some things too. i have questions too, my friend. And I can assure you, Christians on a general note, are not cold hearted people, who would just sweep things with the same brush.

            I have always pondered the question, why does not God stop rape? I have no answer to this. No matter who much I think I can not logically have an answer but I do look at the factors. Sometimes it is our mistakes that lead us into trouble but then often it is the innocents which are oppressed. Which have done nothing to deserve the fate they meet. And I feel sad. And yet I know that God holds. because in the grand scheme of things, there may be things I do not know about, yet. There is no general rule to solve these problems but there are things we can always remember. It is not a matter of blind assurance, I simply am not aware of everything there is to happen. Remember the example of God killing Hitler at birth. That is precisely my point, you had no trouble accepting the premise, because you knew what happened later. I think it is not the sole reason but it is one of the many factors that come into play, which we might never know (and they can be all different, not the same as Hitler’s). May be its different with everyone. May be God does play dice with the universe.

            Either God is responsible for all the good and bad, both, which happen in the world or he is not responsible for both.

            That was my point earlier, we can not apply a double standard. The point is not which outweighs what. We have no way to ascertain this. If a child dies in crib, a new one is born. I do think think God is controlling this thing, but I am saying this just as a thought. How many people die and new ones are born? Despite all death, population is still rising.

            Evolution can explain aids and diseases and all that.

            It all boils down to, does God even care? and that is where the disagreement lies.

            A personal God does not mean, bad things do not happen. I know this is what has been preached to death now, but it just ain’t true. It means, one day it will all be over.

            There is no one cause of evil, neither there is one cause of suffering. I am glad we both agree on something if not all.

  6. I am very much unimpressed by how the whole thing is viewed in general.

    There is no justification for suffering, when people I know have suffered, I have only hugged them and offered no words for I found them not enough. And yet we are not looking to justify suffering, we are only explaining what MIGHT cause it. And in most of the times, we even do not know why it happens, or is suppose to happen?

    There is simply no way to get an answer, and I would ask you what kind of answer are you looking for. If there is not God, who or what is the cause of suffering?

    But I can tell you why there is disproportionate suffering, children with empty bellies suffer because we could not reach them. If we are really so sensitive to suffering then cancel the vacation plan to Hawaii and spend that money building someone a tent and a giving them supplies. Educate a child, bring home an orphan. Blaming God won’t help. So many people blame God for suffering in the world but they don’t even give a rat’s ass about suffering. It just sounds good to blame God for everything (assuming he doesn’t exists to begin with)

    The fall is not the sole reason, it is a general reason. Semantics can vary but the point, suffering is not because man sinned (although people do advocate that), it is because there is no perfection. I can not call an earthquake ‘evil’, can you?

    Extinction is part of nature, recycling the planet is part of nature. You can not admit these are facts and then blame God for it. It is highly unfair.

    Well, to be honest I do not worry about the numbers. Whats happening is bad for church as an organization.
    If Christian faith is true then it is true, even when only a single person holds to it.

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