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why does god allow suffering

Why Does God allow suffering? This question is probably as old as religion itself. It is a stumbling block for some of us, and for many more at given moments of tragedy. There are as many answers to this question as there are people who care to engage in theological dialogue. One understanding is that yes, God allows “bad” things to happen; God does not cause them to happen. Most “bad” things which happen do so because God gives a radical freedom to God’s people; we are free people, not puppets on a string. But God does not cause “bad” things to happen. God loves us and grieves with us in our pain when “bad things” happen.

Therefore, we might best respond by saying that God does not Will “bad” things to happen in life. Rather, “bad” things happen in the freedom that comes with the gift of life. When “bad” things happen to any of God’s children, God is grieved and suffers with us, experienced most vividly in the hurt and suffering of Jesus the Christ for all humanity. Any “bad” thing which happens is never the last word. Rather, God is the deepest and last word, and that word is love and eternal life with God. –The Rev. Dr. Douglass M. Bailey Like so many people, I have struggled with this question as it pertains to my own life and the lives of others.

Only by coming to terms over time with something terribly sad in my life have I come to understand the role God plays when human tragedies occur. I now feel that my God does not send bad things to punish us or test us. In fact, God does not send them at all. Rather I sense that there are powerful forces loose in the world, forces like evil, disease and death. What is God’s role in all this turmoil? If God is not sending the disease, the accidents, the tragedies, then why not, Zeus-like, step in and prevent them? For me, this is a harder question.

The experience of the individual cries so clearly for divine intervention, for healing, for salvation from emotional or physical pain. Although sometimes miraculous healings do occur which suggest the presence of the Divine, in my experience there generally is not much physical intervention. However, the “intervention” I have experienced has been as powerful as anything physical. I have grown certain that God actually mourns these horrible events with us, that God is as sad, even more so, about what is happening to me as I am. God’s role, I have felt, is to be “by my side,” to understand me, to comfort me, to “lead me beside still waters… and] restore my soul” (from Psalm 23) in the metaphorical “Valley of Death” which I face, as does every other person in the world. Finally, and most importantly, God’s role is to help me heal on a daily basis- help me collect the pieces broken by experience- help me become Whole again, Whole as I was intended and created to be from the beginning by this loving God. –Elizabeth In a class I was attending recently, my rector said (and I paraphrase) that faith is not an insurance policy, but a blanket of assurance that God will be with us no matter what we encounter.

He also said-in response to someone’s claim that the death of a baby must have been the Will of God-that when our hearts break, God’s heart breaks also. God would never wish harm on any one of His beloved children. He is always there with us, holding us in our deepest sorrows as well as our wildest joys. I believe that, but I have not always believed this way. I have drawn much comfort, reassurance and a growing sense of peace from these two thoughts. Until recently, I believed, on some level, that when something bad happened to me (or to anyone) somehow I had done something wrong, and I was being punished.

Call it karma, bad luck or “making my bed. ” Now as a result of my growing understanding of the grace of God, I am recreating my beliefs out of the idea that God is always beside me, and loves me, and wishes me to know love without limits and community without end. No matter what. He never wishes any harm to visit me. Or, to borrow the essence of another of Doug’s teachings, God loves me as though I am the only child in the world for God to love. The “me” is really “we” here, but first I have to know the unlimited and unconditional nature of God for myself. Only then can I be a witness to it in others.

I now know, without a doubt, that my God never wishes bad in the world. Not for me. Not for anyone. –Robbin I have heard some people say that all the bad things that happen in the world prove that God does not exist. How could there be a God, they wonder, who allows so much evil to take place? I would answer these people by assuring them that God does exist and He deeply cares about His children. He cares so much, in fact, that He suffered crucifixion and death so that we might truly live. I believe suffering results from our separation from God. He is holy, all-powerful, all-loving, all that is good.

Each day I find myself doing things that move me away from Him. Every time I sin, the world becomes a little bit worse. I can do no good thing apart from God. The more I separate myself from Him, the more likely I am to cause someone else harm or pain. To me Christianity is about God seeking us out, calling us back to him. In this life, we are separated from Him, so there will be suffering. However, if we use this precious gift of life to answer His call, He will deliver us into an eternity of peace. He has given us a choice, but most of us choose to reject Him. –Nick

The presence of evil, pain and suffering in our world is the most persistent argument raised against theism. The following are several of the main responses to the presence of evil in the world and its impact on the existence of the God of the Bible. I. The Problem of evil stated Traditional Statement –Atheists and others usually state the problem of evil in the form of a dilemma: If God is perfectly loving, He must wish to abolish evil If He is all powerful, He must be able to abolish evil But evil exists — The problem is, if you affirm two of these facts, you cannot affirm the third. Therefore, an all powerful, loving God does not exist.

Second Formulation God is the author of everything. Evil is something. Therefore God is the author of evil. Third Formulation God made everything perfect. Imperfection cannot come from perfection. Therefore perfectly created beings cannot be the origin of evil. Therefore God must be the origin. Attack Based on the Persistence of Evil If God is all good, He would destroy evil. If God is all-powerful, He could destroy evil. But evil is not destroyed. Hence, there is no such God. II. Christian Responses Christians should learn to state the free-will defense against the problem of evil quickly and clearly.

Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense (Alvin Plantinga, God and Other Minds- A Study of Rational Justification of Belief in God. (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967) Free will is of moral value. That is, a world with free will is better than one without it. It is a contradiction to say that God brings it about that humans freely will only the good { vs J. S. Findlay who claims that this is possilbe} God must bring about the best possible world in his capacity. Therefore, God must create a world with free will. [We believe the word “must” is objectionable here, but the point still stands. Instead read “God is correct to create… ] But then God is not responsible for evil (choices), since it is not in his power to bring it about that men freely choose only the good. [note: this assumes that God cannot, and need not, do the logically contradictory. If logic does not apply to God, then there is nothing wrong with asserting the apparent contradiction that God is good and He permits evil to exist. Where there is no logic, there are not any contradictions . . . and anything could be the case! ] Other Statements of the Biblical Position: God created the fact of freedom–man performs the acts of freedom. God made evil possible; but free will creatures make evil actual.

The ability to do something does not necessitate doing it. God is able to control everything, yet he allows free will. The Atheistic position reduces to a moral judgment that absence of all evil is more desirable than freedom. *Note: Atheistic thinkers are usually contradictory at this point. Secular Humanists prefer freedom in society even if it sometimes results in evil. Most Atheists resist the idea of governmental attempts to eliminate evil by the use of control. Eschatological Formulation (focuses on how the future, or end state of the world will ultimately be the true standard by which the present will be judged. If God is all powerful, He can defeat evil If God is all loving and good, He will defeat evil Therefore, evil will be defeated. *Note: The question of why God allows the persistence of evil is distinct from the question of why He permitted it in the first place. The biblical answer to the issue of persistence of evil probably has to do with God’s strategy for insuring the on-going and safe existence of freedom in the universe. III. Communication Guidelines A. In his arguments against God’s existence, the atheist presupposes an ultimate standard of justice and good when he refers to evil.

Ask, “What basis does the atheist have for saying there is evil in the world? ” ” Is this not an appeal to his own relative moral feelings and opinions? ” “Why should his feelings be authoritative? ” Ask, “What’s your explanation? ” Never accept the burden of being the only one who has to hold to a cohesive and consistent world view. There may be several reasons for suffering. A major factor is our fallen, sinful world. Because of sin, throughout the ages, the perfection and goodness of the world is tainted. We experience illness, disease, natural disasters, hunger, and all types of suffering.

As mortals, we cannot know all of God’s reasons. But, God loves us enough to give us free will. We are not robots. As a result, people make mistakes. People turn away from God’s perfect goodness through sin. Thus, our own choices sometimes produce evil over good. It is impossible for God to have created man with free will and evil not be a consequence. Also, the choices of others (including previous generations) can produce suffering. The consequences of bad choices sometimes affect not only the person who makes the wrong choice but also their family, friends, and sometimes even society.

The Old and New Testaments make it clear that suffering can be a result of God’s discipline in our lives—similar to the discipline a loving parent has for his child. A loving parent stops a child from putting his hand on a hot stove. The child “suffers” at the moment by being denied access and by the temporary pain of a spanking. But the parent sees the “big picture” and disciplines the child. So, too, can God discipline us. Hebrews 12:10-11 illustrates this point: “… but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.

Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. ” Suffering is God’s megaphone to a deaf world. Suffering can produce benefits greater than the suffering itself. It can strengthen people, lead people to faith, help us to appreciate the good, and be a tool to influence others. Indeed, suffering can mold us. “Suffering produces perseverance… character… hope…. ” (Romans 5:3-5). The actual trials of faith are worthwhile and precious as is faith itself! Our faith is strengthened as we rely on Christ to see us through troubling times.

In Acts 8:1-13 we see the story of Stephen, the first martyr recorded in the Bible. He died a horrible death by stoning. Why would God let that happen? We are told that the persecution of the church led to Christians being scattered. Wherever they went they and preached the word. This scattering resulted in the good news being preached throughout the world (Acts 2:5, 19:10; Romans 1:8, 10:18, 16:25-27; Colossians 1:6, 1:23). This interview with Tony Snow about his cancer gives a wonderful testimony of faith through suffering. Tony passed away in the summer of 2008.

The title of the interview is: “Cancer’s Unexpected Blessings” and the subtitle is: “When you enter the valley of the shadow of death, things change. ” We may not know the reason for suffering in any individual situation. But we can affirm, with relief and joy, that in “all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). The Psalms are full of cries for deliverance from trouble as well as the assurance that God is with us and will deliver us from suffering. Our observation is that this issue is used as an excuse by some to try to blame God or to deny God’s existence.

But on reflection, most will acknowledge that we really cannot blame God for our troubles. Actually, the reality of evil, suffering, and injustice—when considered fully—is an argument for the existence of a good God. Certainly, abandoning God does not make the problem of suffering any easier. Philosopher Alvin Plantinga, as quoted by Tim Keller in his book Reason for God, put it thus: “Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness [if there were no God and we just evolved]? I don’t see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live….

A [secular] way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort… and thus no way to say there is such a thing as genuine and appalling wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness (… and not just an illusion of some sort), then you have a powerful… argument [for the reality of God]. ” It is the knowledge that God sent His only son to suffer and die for us that our sins are forgiven and that our ultimate suffering will be relieved. As Paul Little proclaims, God is “not only aware of suffering—he feels it.

No pain or suffering has ever come to us that has not first passed through the heart and hand of God… Comforting are the words of Isaiah the prophet, foretelling the agony of Christ: ‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering’ (Isaiah 53:3). ” And as Tim Keller comforts the believer, “The Biblical view of things is resurrection—not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater. Why do bad things happen to good people? The Christian answer is that there are no good people! None of us deserves the life that we have, which is a gratuitous gift from God. (See Innocent People. ) The skeptic can use evil and suffering as a stone against Christianity, but he has no consolation in his own worldview. Christianity is the only religion or worldview that has an answer to evil and suffering. Eastern religions ignore evil; Darwinism and Communism rely on it; atheism is clueless about it; and Islam has a superficial view of it. Only Christianity provides an answer—that we are living in an abnormal world which God will restore.

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