”If God is all-powerful and good then why so much suffering?”
One might wonder what a Christian Theodicy has to do with the twirly-moustached ‘Italian’ opera singer bellowing ‘Go compare’ and selling car insurance.
Good question. Two things.
- Just as all drivers have to buy car insurance, all thinking people have to have some kind of ‘policy’ on the problem of suffering.
- We choose what seems the most attractive offer from the most trustworthy source.
The Bible may not answer every question on the problem of evil and suffering, but it is better than the alternatives. Why?
Consider a recent case of the most horrific and apparently needless suffering; the newly wed who saw her husband eaten by a shark on their honeymoon in the Seychelles.
(While we don’t want to demean Gemma by making her very real tragedy an illustration, nor do we want to dishonor a perceptive audience by avoiding specific examples.)
What might one say to Gemma? What would the evolutionary atheist say? The buddhist? The Christian? All could sit in silence, put an arm around her, show solidarity, but who could speak?
The atheist? But if nature is all there is, and if nature is red and tooth and claw, then suffering is natural. Your letter to your husband is nothing but sentimentality, blind to the cruel reality of the world. The universe, like the shark, doesn’t know, much less care about our suffering.
The buddhist? Suffering comes when we deludedly crave things or people we believe will bring us happiness. We’re released from suffering when we follow the eight-fold path and achieve bodhi, eliminating the deluded craving. Gemma, seek to achieve ‘not self’, and one day you may find losing your husband helped you along this path.
The Christian? We don’t ultimately know why God allows so much suffering, but we do know one reason it isn’t. It can’t be that He doesn’t care or isn’t involved. Look at Jesus weeping at Lazarus’ tomb. See him on the cross and know that he has ‘borne our griefs and carried our sorrows’ (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus comforts with the integrity of one who suffered for us.
We also know that suffering doesn’t have to be the last chapter in life. See the empty tomb, see Jesus newly alive, holding out his scarred hands, and see him wipe away every tear and declare ‘behold I am making everything new’! Jesus transforms with the power of one who defeated death for us.
Will you draw near to him?
CP SPEAKERS WARNING!
I’ve seen many speakers get stuck Genesis 3. In an admirable attempt to explain suffering as all our fault, they stumble over the inevitable follow up ‘so why did God let us?’, to which you can fall in three directions…
- ‘Because of the freedom to love!’ But a rather abstract (and frankly dubious) concept quickly withers under the heat of examples of real suffering; Auschwitz, cancer etc and many will walk away shaking their heads.
- ‘Who are you Oh man to question God!’ Unless you have real spiritual authority, you’ll be seen as avoiding the question, and many will walk away shaking their heads.
- ‘We don’t know’. Many walk away shaking their heads.
I suggest you avoid the problem in Genesis 3 and focus on the solution in the Gospels.
ANOTHER CP SPEAKERS WARNING!
I’ve also heard a number of speakers focus on how God can use suffering for good. Clearly this is Biblical (Romans 8:28, Hebrews 12), but it is not Lunchbarical. Why not? Because those are pastoral arguments applied ONLY to Christians. And Lunchbars need apologetic arguments that persuade non-Christians. Romans 8:28 does not apply to those who do not love God.