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Why does God allowing suffering?

July 4, 2011
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A difficult subject well handled! God doesn’t give us easy answers but does promise to be with us through the difficult times!

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2011 8:22 pm

    This issue has been discussed and debated for as long as humans could talk so its not v surprising that a short youtube video doesnt offer a good answer or even half of one really. Doesnt even try to give an answer. Best I can see is that his argument is completely circular – god allows suffering so that we can be closer to god? That isnt an answer – and what about those that dont believe in god? Is their suffering meant to turn them somehow, or is it punishment for not following him? and then if suffering is acceptable because the next life is so much better then tell that to the billions of people that dont believe in your particular interpreatition of god cos im sure theyd be happy to hear that – itd be a great comfort to them whilst theyre languishing in hell for all eternity. Plus if god is ominiscient and allknowing then doesnt that also make him responsible for all suffering in the world?

    Hes only talking about suffering in a personal sense, but there’s much greater suffering and inequality in the world that isnt even touched on in this video. Your personal suffering might be very important to you and you might be able to reconcile it with the idea of a caring god each time something bad happens but explain that to the kids dying needlessly every day in third world countries or the hundreds of thousands of women being raped in DR Congo or any number of other largescale humanitarian crises.

    The take home message seems to be that god will be with you through your suffering but when you think about it thats not as comforting as it sounds if hes the one causing the suffering in the first place.

    We look for meaning to try and rationalise our experiences in life but in this case there is no meaning to be found. A universe governed by physical laws without any higher power or purpose doesnt have a need for the ideas of good or evil, or right and wrong. They are human ideas and trying to explain evil and suffering and attribute them to a being that is supposed to be the embodiment of their complete opposite is just not possible.

    When you consider every disease there has ever been, every murder, every rape, every war, every natural disaster, every miscarriage, every injury that there has ever been in the history of the world is it really satisfying to say that every single one of them was worthwhile if it brought us closer to a god that caused them in the first place?

    Great for you if you can make this stuff stick and feel happy with it – Thanks but i’ll stick to accepting this life for what it is and making the most of it, taking the good with the bad, the rough with the smooth without trying to perform feats of mental controtion to try and make it all fit with my idea of a loving god

    —TMA

    • July 4, 2011 8:59 pm

      TMA, thanks for your comment and for taking the time to watch the video.

      Firstly, I wonder why you’re masked? Surely if you believe in atheism you would be happy for everyone to know wouldn’t you?

      Secondly, I think a number of you premises about the Christian God are wrong and I’ll just quickly respond to a number of your points:

      1) You’re right that this is a complex subject and one short video can’t give the whole answer.
      2) Yes God uses suffering to bring people closer to Him this is for both believers and non-believers. As CS Lewis said ‘Pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world.’
      3) God allows suffering and even uses suffering but He doesn’t cause suffering. People cause suffering because they ignore God’s commands. The first two examples you give of kids dying in the third world and women being raped in the Congo are great examples of people disobeying God’s rules. Could humanity feed every person in the world? Yes! Could people control themselves and not rape women? – Yes! God gives us free will so we can choose and we choose bad things, that’s not God’s fault, that’s ours!
      4) God being with us in suffering is comforting as it gives people hope and once again God doesn’t cause suffering!
      5) You say that there is no meaning in the world, that its just a physical world which we’re trying to give meaning too, but I find it hard to believe that you actually practice what you preach here. If someone steals from you would you not say ‘that’s not fair’? Are some acts not good and others bad or are they all just open to peoples interpretations? Hitler was a bad man or is that just my interpretation?
      6) Finally its not about making it stick in my mind. If there is a God its vitally important that everyone know and understand Him, if their isn’t a God then believers need to realise that. Subjectivism is a load of rubbish – truth is all important!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Mike

  2. July 4, 2011 11:18 pm

    Hi mike, thanks for your comments i’ll try to explain my thinking as best i can

    First, ‘Pain is God’s megaphone to a deaf world’ is a great quote but not really any different to ‘Pain is the stick God beats us with when we’re not listening’. Same message but kinda paints a different picture, right?

    As I understand things the christian god is portrayed as allknowing and allpowerful – nothing is outside of his power and i recall some bible passages that suggest that he knows “all of our days” or something like that which would suggest that the future is known to him too and whilst we can make decisions he already knows the outcome. Its then a bit difficult to see how it can be argued that humans cause their own suffering. Is god actually able to change things or is the future set in stone and hes just along for the ride with the rest of us?

    How does this account too for natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes, fires? Rape and murder and other harmful actions like that are obviously due to human choices that could be avoided but are you suggesting that a world without sin would also be a world without natural things like earthquakes? What about disease? Thats not a product of human sin its a natural process.

    And where do animals fit in? They dont have the same awareness that we do but they can still suffer but have no possible redemption waiting for them or ability to seek forgiveness as theyre not capable of it.

    Also I dont mean to say that actions are without meaning or intent because our actions have meaning – if someone steals from me then that is unjust (from my perspective), im just saying that i dont have a need to assign it a meaning in the grand scheme of things or put it on one side or the other on some cosmic justice scales. What i am saying is that there is not a morality built into the mechanics of the universe, just that we as humans have evolved to a point that we can create ideas of good and evil, right and wrong, and apply them to actions that we see. You can see early precursors to this in animal societies too where disruptive members are banished or killed in order to promote overall harmony in the group – if we as humans are as unique as the bible teaches then shouldnt this sort of thing be exclusive to us as we supposedly have to rely on gods commandments and jesus’s teachings for a moral code? Maybe its just that in order for an organism to survive and multiply it cant be self destructive and the species we see on the planet today are a result of that?

    Why does Hitler always get trotted out so quickly anyway? He was raised a catholic and he wrote in mein kampf that he believed he was doing gods work. If you also believe that deathbed repentance can earn you a ticket to heaven then theres also a possibility that you could meet him when you get there so saying that he is evil isnt even that simple because theres not even a guarantee that hes in hell right now. Of course we judge his actions harshly and rightly so but youve gotta realise that it is also subjective opinion. The bombs in WW2 killed a huge number of people but probably saved an even greater number by ending the war, so where do they sit on the scales?

    Just cos most of the world agree with you doesnt mean youre right or wont later change your mind. Only decades ago women couldnt vote and the majority opinion was that this was ok but now that situation is completely reversed yet the bible contains massive amounts of misogyny and promotes massive inequality between men and women, so does that means weve gone wrong somewhere or that weve recognised the shortcomings of a 2000 year old book and are moving past it now? The church oppressed thousands of people over the centuries for all kinds of things that are common place and accepted now. Does that mean that society is a lost cause and weve descended into sin even further? Or that perhaps maybe it was wrong for people to be killed for wanting to read the bible in their native language? See, all truth is subjective there is no absolute truth! You cant paint things in such black and white terms – the whole world is shades of grey. If someone steals from me in order to feed his starving family then is he still a sinner? Your examples break down very quickly.

    Subjectivism is everywhere. But as you believe in a god that is an absolute judge then you have to believe in an absolute truth too and you cant really help that. But it is a very limiting viewpoint to take and its why many of us atheists feel we cant hold a debate with believers because they will always adpot the “i’m right youre wrong” position and you cant argue against that because it is not rational or open to debate. Like I said, i’m happy that youve found a way to explain most of your questions and leave the rest to faith but too many believers just dont question enough. You should be watching videos like this one and saying “thats not enough” (because it really isnt) and go looking for better answers, if theyre within religion or outside of it.

    The christian viewpoint is a strange one in that it simultaneously preaches a happy message that we are loved nomatter what but that also we are all totally unworthy, worthless and can never hope to be good enough. Its a race with a moving finish line that we’re encouraged to keep chasing but eventually the referee takes pity on us and lets us win at the end which seems kinda unsatisfying to me. We should be trying to better ourselves for our own sakes and for the good of mankind rather than because were being told about a juicy prize that we might get if we’re really really good.

    —-TMA
    PS the internet is one big big mask anyway, lol!

  3. July 5, 2011 6:56 pm

    My theory is to not overthink it. Suffering on this earth is here to stay until the world ends. It’s just that simple. Great video!

  4. July 5, 2011 7:16 pm

    Mike, this is an excellent video. I have a post that I will link to here, that gets at least 200 views a week on hard times. I am going to add this to that post. That being said, we forget that God is more concerned about developing His character and nature in us that He is about our outward circumstances. Many times He uses trials and tribulations to develop that nature in us. Let’s face it, Jesus was not spared the cross was He?

  5. July 5, 2011 8:45 pm

    Mike, This is an awesome video. Greg is right on. I feel that God is more concerned with developing in us His character and nature and many times uses hard time to do that. Remember, Jesus wasn’t spared going to the cross.

    Blessings!

    Duke

    Ps. I put this on a post of mine that has over 200 hits a week after viewing it here.

  6. July 5, 2011 8:58 pm

    Great work, Mike.

    I always stifle a chuckle at the Atheist who takes issue with the Christian’s definition of suffering, then says ‘so what do you say to the dying child?’ My question to the Atheist is – what do YOU say to the dying child? What possible comfort can an Atheist give to someone suffering? “Sorry pal, sh*t happens?” Discussing morality and suffering with the post-modern like TMA here is like arguing over flavours of ice cream. Some like chocolate, some vanilla, some like rape, some like charity. It’s all subjective.

    But they’re happy to take shots at people they believe are ‘wrong’ in their attempts to make sense of reality. That’s like me walking into Tescos and arguing with someone in the freezer aisle who is SO arrogant to believe Chocolate is the best flavour.

    The true Atheist should either ditch post-modernism (as far more intelligent Atheists are begining to do, thankfully) and engage in thoughtful discussion, or keep quiet and stop trying to convince us their raspberry ripple is better than our mint-choc-chip!

  7. July 6, 2011 2:05 am

    I don’t know why that atheist thinks his explanation is any better. You can believe the trials are for self-improvement, to bring you closer to god, or that nothing has any meaning. All three statements require faith, hope and belief. I think this video stated one viewpoint very well.

  8. July 6, 2011 4:42 pm

    great video mike i have written a post on this and it is a comment to this post of yours so if you have time drop by i would like to hear your thoughts on it. thank you and god bless

  9. July 7, 2011 12:18 am

    God never said we’d avoid trials and troubles:

    “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
    John 16:32-33

    During these times, we need to set our eyes on the eternal!

    Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

  10. July 7, 2011 4:05 pm

    No matter who you are, or where you are, you can find beauty in the world around you. Something that will make you smile or just feel good. These moments of life you feel the love of the creator. On a dark and gloomy day the wind howling, the rain pouring down, the beauty is still there. On a hot dry day the heat burns so deep the beauty is still there. This is the love of a mother and father for their children; it weathers all and remains with you for all times.
    If you read a story you can feel the love, the passion, the hate, the sorrow and the beauty of the creator. If you look at a painting or photo or the work of a sculptor of this you can feel the love, the pain, the joy of the creator.
    Have you ever watch children at play see the fun they are having. This is a joyful site till one decides they want all the toys or gets mad because he/she wants their way. The beauty and love is still there. But the will of one makes a cloudy day for all but the beauty and love is still there. God is our father the creator, suffering is not of his will. Suffering is man will. God will is love.

  11. July 8, 2011 5:00 pm

    @themaskedathiest – Faith is a God given gift. Everyone has a small measure of faith and God displays His presence in the world (really, you think nature could do all of this randomly?) People will use that measure of faith for something other than God (like having faith in themselves to get the job done, having faith that your going to be alive tomorrow to eat breakfast with your friends, etc). If the universe was created, who is the creator? Even with the big bang theory, someone had to “set the fuse” for the bang 😉

    @Mike – awesome response to the atheist’s post and the video was an enjoyment to watch. I have a physical disability, so the video talking about Paul really hit home. I know in my weakness, I am strong.

  12. July 9, 2011 2:24 pm

    I think he answered his question at the last part of the video :P…

    Kidding aside, I think the better question is why do we allow suffering to prevail? Most of the sufferings we have are mostly our own doing. And the worse part is we also make other people suffer. And we blame God for all of these?

    God is love. I’d read the Psalms and the Book of Job in the OT and see God’s answers. The wisdom comes after.

    In the NT, Jesus took the cup and again God provided a way for us to see what suffering is all about and how to conquer it.

    I have read the comments here and they are more lengthy than the video…geez… because the answer will come afterwards…

    I have read Roy Durham’s post and I think that what he said is wise 😉

  13. August 1, 2011 9:44 pm

    God allows suffering because without bad, how could we know what is good? Thanks for the thought inspiring post.

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