The problem of evil and suffering Various types of evil and suffering are evident in the world. In the end, of course, Job regained his faith, wealth, and much more. But where is the contradiction in affirming both that there is suffering, and that God is an all-loving and all-powerful Being? The Problem of Suffering. They hear a mother on the evening news proclaiming, “It’s a miracle that my baby survived,” and wonder: Would it have been much bother for God to have done the same for everyone else? The Problem. Frame, John M. (1994), Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R). God can use it to judge the wicked, strengthen the faithful, aid the oppressed, and bless the righteous. Match. Where do we begin? The Problem of Suffering is a superb resource to share and to use with anyone suffering any form of loss. If God does not exist, then these explanations disappear.” Again, whether God exists is beside the point. God “endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (vs. 22). If God is all-loving, He would want to prevent or end suffering. 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? However, the actual power He uses would depend on other characteristics, such as grace, love, mercy, and so on. 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. In debates with Christians, atheists commonly raise the problem of evil. They ridicule the Bible and the Christian experience. Our duty is to do what is right, not to worry about what God is doing and why. In Frame’s view, Romans is the New Testament equivalent of Job. Natural calamities killed his animals, and raiders killed his servants (1:15-17). They were not challenging us (on this occasion) to defend the existence of God. All he is asking us to do, as theists, is reconcile or justify suffering, given that God is supposed to be an all-loving and all-powerful Being. 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. We, as mere mortals, should not have to “justify the ways of God to Men” (to use a phrase of John Milton’s). Mackie, J.L. APOLOGETICS – The Problem Of Suffering Undoubtedly, the existence of suffering in our world is the most common objection to Christianity raised by skeptics and the biggest stumbling block for those genuinely seeking to understand and know God. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. Maybe—just maybe—the skeptic might go along with us and agree that Jesus had to die to save us from our sins. Kushner, Harold (1981), When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York: Shocken Books). But given academic freedom in the modern secular university, unbelievers are able to wield the extent and depth of human suffering with devastating effect on ungrounded faith. There is a tremendous amount of suffering in the world. 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. 38-52. 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. 4:17 (Read Lamentations Text) Have you ever looked around at your life, or just life in general and asked, “WHY?” Have trials and hardships ever come into … Only for the sake of the present argument does the atheist grant God’s existence. harrywhitaker. 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. What we call “suffering,” they might say, is just an illusion. Pain and suffering is an apologetic problem. 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). He illustrated this with the example of Esau and Jacob. Edwards, Rem (1972), Reason and Religion (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich). The Problem Of Suffering 8 2. Both Jews and Gentiles were vessels filled with iniquity, but God rescued those whom He called, and has filled them with His mercy (vs. 24). Master Christian apologist C.S. When we think we are suffering, all we are doing is acting like children who have been denied toys or candy. The early church’s characterization of the Christian was that of Christophoros—“bearer of Christ.” Suffering was an unalterable principle in the great drama of freedom, which was identical with the drama of redemption. Why did thousands die in a tropical cyclone? 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. “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. It is appropriate to say that Christianity has contended for a “holistic” view of the human. Now and then, in religious circles, we hear that a minister, theologian, or biblical scholar has decided they are an atheist. We live, we die—end of story. Job’s cry, like our own, seems to be “Why God. To those outside the faith, all this makes no sense, yet it is central to Christianity. Evil is the opposite of good. There is no full human answer to it. 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 monotheistic faiths must consider the problems of suffering and evil within the context of God's power and mercy. We also learn that an invisible war is raging between the forces of good and evil. “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. By the way, this piece stems from a chapter in my own book on Lewis. Just as clear is the significance that lies in the Christian understanding of the resurrection. Yet, because of the Christian story, we can approach suffering differently. Three of his friends thought terrible sins must lie at the root of such misfortunes. Often we think of God’s justifying us, but here we see that God’s justness is revealed to us at the same time. The Problem of Pain is a 1940 book on the problem of evil by C. S. Lewis, in which Lewis argues that human pain, animal pain, and hell are not sufficient reasons to reject belief in a good and powerful God.. Lewis summarizes the problem of evil as follows: "If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy, and if He were almighty He would be able to do what he wished. He would have to insist, for instance, that the theist’s perfectly good God always would eliminate evil insofar as He could. Most of the speeches of Job’s … They want to respond with Job, and they want to respond with Christ, because these examples make sense out of suffering for them, but the atheists always try to block this part of the conversation. Plantinga has given us a good place to start. (1990), “Evil and Omnipotence,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Well-grounded Christians, I am convinced, have a strong intuition that the atheists’ standard arguments on the problem of suffering are wrong. Suffering is a terrible experience. Then the following question arises: How do we reconcile the existence of suffering with the existence of an all-loving, all-knowing God? It is also an assured characteristic of following Jesus. 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. The Gospel According to Matthew described the temptation of Jesus by Satan in the wilderness as a temptation to worldly power. The agnostic asks the believer two questions. The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God. Some would say that all suffering is the result of violating natural laws, and that God or Satan have absolutely no hand in suffering whatsoever. Sin as the misuse of human freedom has led humans into total opposition against God. 23-25a). And yet, throughout his criticism of Job, the level-headed Elihu affirmed the sovereignty of God: “Why do you contend with Him? INTRODUCTION 1. For Jews, the problem of suffering is twofold: There is a universal problem and a particular problem. However, my primary goal is to defend theism, and Christianity in particular, against the charges leveled by atheists. What a critic must do is supply some extra premises (e.g., Mackie, 1990, p. 26). The argument goes something like this: The reason I say that this is a problem for the theist is that the atheist does not believe in the first two premises. Satan sometimes inflicts suffering on human beings in that battle. A temptation to power and self-exaltation lay in the late Jewish promise of the coming of the Messiah–Son of man. This excludes deists, for example, who believe that a Supreme Being created the world, and left it alone. Of course, as Paul pointed out in verse 8, it is the children of the promise, not the children of flesh, who were to be the children of God and, therefore, heirs of salvation. A little bit of evil causing some suffering can test someone's faith, but too much evil and suffering can make a Christian question gods omnibenevolence Why is the intensity of evil an additional problem to the Inconsistent Triad? 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). On returning to the original question concerning Gentiles, Paul pointed out that God had been working throughout history to bring about His mercy. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in Mind, 1955, 64:200-12), pp. They admit freely that the intellectual problem of suffering was crucial to their own walk away from faith. 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). 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: And therein lies the problem. Christian theism is, in fact, the only worldview which can consistently make sense of the problem of evil and suffering. Job’s world collapsed around him. Finally, someone may wish to deny the third premise by maintaining that suffering is not real. Suffering is the central problem that Buddhism addresses, and recognizing our suffering is the first step to its solution. 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. People have struggled with this apparent dilemma throughout the ages. They would live forever as long as they could eat from this tree (Genesis 3:22), but they were not immortal. As to God’s power, there are no limits as to what He could bring to bear in any one situation. It is as much about the justification of God (a theodicy) as it is about the justification of man. Text: Lamentations 3:1-24, Romans 8:18, 2nd Cor. In so doing, I intend to show how one common tactic may distract us from a God-centered response. And what about the death of Christ? God is all-good, God is all-powerful, and yes, there is an abundance of suffering. Theists could say, at least initially, that there is nothing irrational about believing in God and acknowledging the reality of evil. Like every human being, he faces the existential problem of suffering. 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. 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. Along the way, He suffered the disobedience of Gentiles and Jews alike. Suffering is a guaranteed aspect of living in this world. On the contrary, Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross has shown God to be just. This brought judgment from 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. He does not deny the third premise—that there is suffering. While suffering is the chief theme of the book, a reason for suffering is not given. Why doesn’t He do something? Created by. The Problem of Suffering. Gravity. 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. There is a God, if there is any justice at all. Clearly, the last line contradicts the preceding lines. Given the tremendous amount of suffering in this world, could we not assume that God is sovereign, but some sort of malevolent ruler? The apostle was responding to a “not fair” claim on the part of Jewish Christians. 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. That there is so much evil is supposed to show that God’s powers are limited. This essay is an attempt to deal with both questions. How could God allow so much suffering to exist for so long? This idea receives its clarification from the Christian understanding of sin. But could we say that all these terrible events were necessary? Some writers claim the problem of evil and suffering actually is the source of humanity’s varied religious impulses. But why did He have to die with such humiliation, with scourging and beatings, and a tortuous death on the cross? Let us revisit Romans, but chapter 3 this time. Paul followed the same theme in Romans 9. The answers they find have more to do with the “how” of Christian faith, than the “why” of presumption against God. Genesis tells us that God put Adam and Eve in the Garden, and gave them access to the Tree of Life. The intellectual problem of suffering is a challenge unique to theists. 48,52). It is difficult to grasp the enormity of this situation. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership - Now 30% off. The Book of Job shows that God stood back and allowed a man to suffer at the hands of the Adversary. 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. 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.). He lost his property, his children, and his health. So, let us say that we want to deal with this problem without giving up any of God’s essential characteristics. 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). Perhaps we can learn something from these events, but how can we justify the collateral damage? Christians, I believe, know within themselves that their faith has been a source of strength. Lewis asserts that pain is a problem because our finite, human minds selfishly believe that pain-free lives would prove that God loves us. STUDY. The best known presentation is attributed to the Greek philosopher Epicurus by David Hume, who was responsible for popularizing it. At some point, apparently not too long after the creation week, Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and she, in turn, convinced Adam to do the same. When I say it “makes no sense,” I mean it makes no sense without appeal to religious concepts found in Scripture. Suffering is a problem for Christian apologetics, primarily because it is held to demonstrate the logical incoherence of Christianity. PLAY. Like Kushner, their “solution” is to abandon the God of conventional theism (e.g., Edwards, 1972, p. 213). What It Takes To Be You. Although New Life Church does not affirm all of these views in their entirety, we recommend them as relevant voices to the current conversation. The trouble is, these additional claims for what God would or could do fail to take into account a complete picture of God. God is just before us; the only question that remains is: Are we just before Him? Why did God not do a better job of arranging events so that His own Son could die in a more humane way? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (vs. 20). 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). By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. If we are to understand the relevant literature on the problem of evil and suffering we need clarity on some core terms of the discussion. - 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 first answer to the problem of evil and suffering is that one day evil and suffering will end. From God’s perspective, the first step is not to answer a question like this, but to deal with our accusations. Jesus himself deeply disappointed his disciples’ notions aiming at power and exaltation, in that he taught them, in accordance with Isaiah, chapter 53: “The Son of man will suffer many things.” In Jesus’ announcements of suffering the Christian understanding of suffering is clearly expressed: suffering is not the final aim and end in itself in the realization of human destiny; it is the gateway to resurrection, to rebirth, to new creation. 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. 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Hope for a better world has enabled Christians to survive the worst of times. By Kenny McKinley. 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. Adams, Marilyn McCord (1990), “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Further, a critic would have to insist that there are no limits to what this Being could do. This is not an explanation for why we have suffering, but a justification of God’s love, in that we would expect our Creator to endow us with the ability to find an essential worth in our own existence (Adams, 1990, p. 216). Forever, this has been a weighty problem. 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. In the Christian understanding, suffering also does not appear—as in Buddhism—as suffering simply under the general conditions of human existence in this world; it is instead coupled with the specifically Christian idea of the imitation of Christ. While he was at it, Paul dealt with another familiar accusation: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? They aim to show that evil and suffering count against the existence of a perfectly good and all-powerful God. Pike, Nelson (1990), “Hume on Evil,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams agrees: As is often the case, the Book of Beginnings is the best place to start in dealing with fundamental questions. My primary goal is to maintain that no explanation is necessary infinitely powerful nor infinitely good but..., Job regained his faith, wealth, and yes, there is suffering a critic respond. Of two people “ Horrendous Evils and the problem of evil in the New Testament equivalent Job. 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