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Religion Library: Methodist

Suffering and the Problem of Evil

Written by: Ted Vial

At this point, a Christian might ask, Why did God not create Lucifer and human beings with free will, but with the good sense (or will or humility) to make better choices?Again, the tradition offers a couple of options.One is to say that without the fall, Jesus would not have been necessary, and that God's power and glory and love are more greatly manifested through the fall and salvation than through creation without a fall.Wesley agreed with this, as did John Calvin.But in the end there is an important difference between Wesley and Calvin on this matter.

Wesley stressed the human will's freedom to sin.And this will dovetail with the freedom of will we have later to accept justifying grace, and the freedom of will once justified not to sin again (sanctification).Calvin, in contrast, while assigning responsibility for sin to humans through Adam and Eve, was also clear that God did not simply allow this to happen, but that it was part of God's eternal plan.Calvin was unwilling to even appear to detract from divine omnipotence by placing any part of the story in human control.And this supported his argument that we are not free to accept or reject justifying grace; if it is offered by God we take it.It also supported his belief that humans, after justification, are not free to stop sinning entirely.

Study Questions:
     1.    Do Methodists believe that God created suffering? Explain.
     2.    How did Wesley distinguish suffering? Why does each category exist?
     3.    Contrast Wesley's understand of suffering to Calvin's.


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