Our Reasonable Faith 3

This series is by RJS as Scot and Kris enjoy South Africa
Chapter 2 of Tim Keller’s book The Reason for Godbroaches the problem of pain. Given the pain and suffering in the world – either God is not good or God does not exist. This argument has many variations but there is an underlying thread of continuity. Certainly there is a great deal of pain and suffering in our world, not to mention out right evil – from a tsunami that wipes out a quarter of a million people in a day, a disease that takes the life of a child or young parent, or a drunk driver who kills a family in an instant, to intentional and premeditated exploitation, abuse, and murder.
We cry out – If God is great and transcendent – why hasn’t he stopped evil and suffering?

Or is there a reason for evil?
Keller offers the usual platitude – who are we to think we know God’s ways and perhaps we don’t see the good reasons for what appears as evil in the world. After all God used suffering in the life of Joseph to save the Israelites from famine. … Of course this doesn’t address the issue of why there is famine (an evil) in the first place, or why a salvation that results in captivity and then the killing of first born sons of the Egyptians is in fact a “good” outcome. Come on – the real question here is – if there is a God why do we live in this story that includes, integrally, pain and suffering?
But Keller moves beyond this – to point out that we don’t worship a God aloof from the evil in the world – but a God who came himself incarnate in Jesus to experience and ultimately to conquer pain and suffering in the world. Resurrection, initiated by the resurrection of Jesus, is “not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted.” (p. 32) and “Jesus insisted that his return will be with such power that the very material world and universe will be purged of all decay and brokenness.” (p.33)
So…Far from disproving the existence of the Christian God – the existence of pain and suffering, however it came about, is the reason for the story we find ourselves in. The Christian story is the story of evil conquered.
Which leads to my questions:
How would you respond to the proposition that pain and suffering demonstrates that an all-good and all-powerful God does not, cannot, exist? Why did God – does God – allow pain and suffering?
And… What has helped you most in struggling with evil and injustice in this world?

  • http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    to the question: the fact that God in Jesus becomes human and takes on himself the sins and pain of the world, I take it. Also the thought that God is good and just, and a good judge, and that while we must be faithful to God’s word as written (and of course we don’t all agree as to what every line means precisely), we know that God hasn’t revealed everything, much I take it is not revealed.
    So I see this as testing grounds for our faith in this troubled world. That we’re to work and grow at doing our part in Jesus, and that we can expect and hope for great surprises from God, and that in the end all will be made right. We must enter into the pain and suffering of our world, in Jesus, so as to see grace come in those hard places.
    This has helped me.

  • http://communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    I see this time as testing grounds for our faith, is what I meant.

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison helped me the most.
    I stopped thinking in terms of God as the puppet master or the script writer and instead thought of God as the one expressing solidarity with the oppressed. Liberation theology in all of its forms does a better job of addressing suffering than any other of the theologies I’ve studied, too, and it had a profound influence on me.
    I think it’s a mistake to treat evil and suffering as part of a master plan.

  • ron

    Last month Bart Ehrman and N.T.Wright discussed this very issue on Beliefnet: http://blog.beliefnet.com/blogalogue/
    I sympathize with Julie, and would go a but further to suggest that the traditional efforts of orthodox Christianity to harmonize “goodness” and “omnipotence” may do real harm in that, to the extent such folly is taken seriously, we can be deceived into thinking we understand God and can prescribe his/her will to others.

  • Jerry M

    Pain and suffering in the Bible appear as part of the creation’s groaning as it longs to be redeemed in Christ [Rom. 8]. The NT continually points us to the resolution in Christ.
    Rom. 8:18 – ‘I do not consider the sufferings of this life worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed.’
    As tragic as many things can appear in this world, for the believer in Christ, all such things will fade away in the context of eternity.
    A believer who dies in a car accident appears to us a tragedy – but to one who is the author of life and who promises to resurrect the body, it is merely a change of location of the soul for a time.
    In another direction – I think C.S. Lewis was correct when he said that ‘pain is God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’ Many are willing to think about God when laid out on a hospital bed who would not think about him in the context of health and prosperity.
    Pain and suffering provide the beneficial reminder that there is something wrong with our world – there is something wrong with us. It points us to Christ.

  • http://rhymeswithplague.blogspot.com Bob Brague

    When God seems silent, far away, too busy to care, or even evil, I remember C. S. Lewis’s Out of the Silent Planet. We humans are the bent ones. We humans are the ones who caused the break in communication by our disobedience (in Adam, all die). Who do you suppose is whispering that it’s all God’s fault? Who do you suppose wants to take us all to the lake of fire with him, the lake that is reserved for him and his rebellious angels?
    See bad all around? See suffering? See tragedy? See pain? Of course. It must be God’s fault. If only you were God, you wouldn’t do things that way, would you? Of course not. You are good. He is the evil one.
    Rot. Absolute rot. And the whisperer is trying to establish a foothold at JesusCreed.

  • http://blog.planetpreterist.com/mick?itemid=1819 Mickey

    I believe the answer to your question lies in the story which John records in John 9: Jesus encounter with the man who was blind from birth.
    The contemporary culture of Jesus had the problem of suffering and pain all figured out. These bad things were caused by sin. The only thing which needed to be figured out was who sinned. Jesus turned the question upside down by pointing out that it was not sin, but God’s glory which was the answer to the question.
    Today the question is how a loving God can allow pain and suffering. The answer is the same; God’s glory. When we experience or witness pain and suffering we are given the opportunity to join in God’s work and glory. We may minister to those injured or testify to God’s goodness as we live through the personal experience and then minister to others who experience the same or similar tragedy.
    More can be said but I believe this is a place to start.

  • http://livingthebiblios.blogspot.com Ted

    What has helped me deal with pain, evil, and suffering?
    1) Deuteronomy 29:29– “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things he has revealed belong to us and our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” Some WHYs are not for us to know, but God has given us the hopes and promises of his Word.
    2) Revelation– God promises that He gets the last word.

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    I sympathize with Julie, and would go a but further to suggest that the traditional efforts of orthodox Christianity to harmonize “goodness” and “omnipotence” may do real harm in that, to the extent such folly is taken seriously, we can be deceived into thinking we understand God and can prescribe his/her will to others.
    Ron, this is my chief concern about discussions of evil too. There is a tendency toward complacency or even superior insight when someone believes they understand “why evil” and can assign it to God’s omnipotence, master plan or even God’s willingness to allow us to sin (which has its own set of theological tangles that must be addressed, not just ignored).
    The idea of a personal God is often what is at stake. If we want to say that God is personally involved in our lives to bless us, then we want to have a theology for why God allows suffering and genuine evil in the world too (not just dying in a hospital of cancer, but torture, rape, murder, genocide, starvation due to political oppression and so on).
    God from below, rather than God from above, works better for me. Finding God (the insight, experience or companionship and hope) through solidarity with the suffering is something I’m only just now exploring (personal story attached that I’ll leave out for now). It is too easy in our comfortable, mostly white, mostly middle class churched to classify suffering in a theoretical construct when we don’t have the existential experience of widespread oppression to contend with.

  • paul

    as some have said above the question should not be “why does God allow pain and suffering and evil?”
    instead the question should be: “where is God in the midst of pain and suffering and evil?”

  • Brian

    My issue with pain and suffering is a little different. Through medical technology we have learned to reduce many forms of pain and suffering. But this knowhow does not come through special revelation. So why would God allow generations past to have suffered in ways that could have been mercifully reduced if he had only told us how to do it?

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    I think all of the religions suffer from the problem of evil, but Christianity has, in my opinion, a satisfying solution.
    I think Keller’s response is the most appropriate–we have to emphasize that God is not dispassionate about our suffering–that He is willing to suffer with us. Most people who wrestle with the problem of evil don’t wrestle with the deductive problem of evil (evil is logically incompatible with an all-powerful, all-good, all-knowing God), but the more relevant inductive problem of evil (maybe it’s not logically inconsistent for there to be evil, but the amount of evil in the world is so great that it makes it improbable that there is a God). People are usually more interested in the question, “Why would God make ME suffer ________?”
    I do struggle with the answers that use “greater good” as the answer to the deductive problem of evil. I can’t imagine a scenario in which God is bringing about a “greater good” in which He can’t do so through means other than pain and suffering. The only thing that I can resort to is the rather unpleasant idea that God’s glory is qualitatively greater than human suffering.
    Finally, we can’t ignore “the problem of good” for the atheist. For evil to be a problem, there has to be a good God. If there is no God, there is no evil, there is just the cold, cruel indifference of nature. Why then, are certain things universally considered evil or tragic?

  • http://hopeful-daniel.blogspot.com Daniel

    Mickey, you should know that in the passage you reference, the Greek actually reads something like “but let God’s glory shine” or “let God’s will be done”. The point is that Jesus does turn the situation around, but ALSO that he doesn’t answer the question. Rather every instance of suffering is an opportunity for God’s will, God’s glory to be brought to bear. It is NOT the case the suffering happens SO THAT God can be glorified.
    The point is: God’s will is for healing, given the fact of suffering.
    That says loads about God’s stance on the question.
    Peace,
    -Daniel-

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com MatthewS

    I read through Job during one very trying time. Late in the book, it really started coming alive. Job’s questions of God felt like they were coming from my own soul. I started saying, “Yeah, God – how are you gonna answer that?” God appears to Job and talks to him. In chapter 39 (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?book_id=22&chapter=39&version=31&context=chapter) God refers to the whole lifecycle of the mountain goats, querying Job if he is aware of when they mate, give birth, grow up and live their life. For some reason, that always grabs me. All around the planet, creatures are living out their whole life cycles without my knowledge. God is there and knows all about it. I can’t put it into words.
    Anyway, reading God’s response to Job and realizing that God interacted with Job, and Job encountered God, but God did not answer Job’s questions, but yet Job had a new relationship with God and a new lease on life – something about that really touches me.

  • Ranger

    Volumes have been written on this topic, because it is one of the oldest issues that monotheism has had to deal with, and I personally find some of the explanations have been more than adequate. Two fairly recent volumes that come immediately to mind are N.T. Wright’s “Evil and the Justice of God” and Greg Boyd’s, “Satan and the Problem of Evil: Creating a Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy.” These guys come from two completely different perspectives and angles, but both do a very fine job of honestly dealing with the issue and providing a more than adequate answer in my opinion. I’d also suggest the work of Miroslav Volf at Princeton who grew up in a war ravaged society where he daily dealt with tragedy that most of us can’t even imagine.
    paul asked, “where is God in the midst of pain and suffering and evil?”
    Paul, I think you’ve phrased the question rightly. It’s not because of evil that people leave their faith, or question the reality of faith, but because they see pain and suffering and don’t see God doing anything about it. Therefore, they believe if there is a God that he is brutal.
    Some dear friends of mine living in Yangon, Myanmar were recently able to tell me of the tragedy. They are still without power, running water and food has run out. They said that the city will completely run out of food and rice within two days and that the ports and airports are still too damaged for the outside world to get adequate help into the country. The American embassy and many of the other foreigners who had more than most are doing everything they can do distribute all of their goods to those in need instead of hording them up for themselves. The churches (many going back to Adoniram Judson) are doing the same. They are giving away any clothes that were salvaged, any food that hasn’t gone bad, any water from hand pumped wells that can be found. They are housing multitudes in their homes and buildings.
    So my answer to the question is that God is in the midst of these tragedies with the rest of us. While countless people are finding ways to escape to Thailand, India or elsewhere, God is in the midst of his people providing opportunities to share with and provide for the needy in ways that have never been possible in this country. No, God didn’t save the family members who died, but he is providing crying shoulders and unexpected aid from new friends.
    I know that doesn’t answer the origins of pain and suffering (that type of philosophical and theological work can be found all over the place online or in any decent theological/philosophical library), but it does answer my questions of where is God in the difficult situations. He’s right there helping those in pain and hurting with them. He’s longing for the day when he will bring about total redemption of the entirety of creation.
    Another situation that comes to my mind personally comes from when I was only eleven years old. My dad was an oilman and we lived in Yemen. I saw poverty that even makes many of the nations in Africa seem rich. My mom, who isn’t Catholic, somehow got involved in volunteering at the Mother Theresa home in Sana’a. Yemen did not allow Catholic organizations at all, but allowed this place because they took all of the outcasts that their faith believed God had cursed, yet they couldn’t theologically justify killing. She would bring me along once a week (some of our friends said this would be too psychologically traumatic for an eleven year old, but I’m so glad she did this for me). I saw children on the verge of death with diseases that Americans can’t even imagine. Many of these children died, but between the time when they were left in the trash can by their mother or dropped on the doorstep of a government building or mosque (which took them to the Mother Theresa home)…in the time before they died, they were loved. They were loved very deeply and passionately by people who didn’t have to be there. They were given food by people who didn’t have to give it to them. They were given a bed, which they wouldn’t have received at home since they were outcasts. They were treated like humans, even though by the world’s standards they had little to offer (most being severely handicapped mentally or physically). Those nuns and volunteers looked at those children like they were their own. So where was God in the midst of these tragic situations? He was right there working through his people to bring the words and works of healing and grace.

  • Karl

    Experiencing the love of God and of the people of God in the midst of suffering, has meant more to me than all my intellectual wrestling through the philosophical and theological issues.

  • http://awaitingredemption.blogspot.com/ Matt Edwards

    Daniel #13
    The Greek of John 9:3 literally reads, “in order that the work of God might be revealed in him” (hina phanerwhei ta erga tou theou en autwi).
    More significant is Eph 1. Count how many times the phrase “to the praise of His glory” occurs. Paul seems to believe that the purpose of the Gospel is the glory of God. If you read that from an Arminian perspective, you could say that the part of the Gospel that glorifies God is the solution, not the whole problem/solution. That is harder to do as a Calvanist.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blogspot.com phil_style

    Job, Paul, the Genesis Story, Amos . . thye all seem to have different ideas about why/how God would allow this. I’ve never come accross a satisfying theodicy, and natural tragedy/ suffering (i.e. disease/ disaster) remains the greatest stumbling block to faith in an all powerful/ all loving God. As stated by others above, Bart Erhmann is the most recent public exponent of this issue.
    Is some ways I’m tempted to suggest that maybe God’s love or power is limited in some way. But I really don’t know. . . And honestly, it bothers me.

  • luke

    for me it all comes down free will, or as Neo might say, “The problem is choice.”
    “There is no reason to suppose that self-consciousness, that recognition of a create by itself as a ‘self’, can exist except in contrast with an ‘other’, a something which is not the self. … the freedom of a creature must mean freedom to choose: and choice implies the existence of things to choose between. A creature with no environment would have no choices to make … The minimum condition of self-consciousness and freedom, then, would be that the creature should apprehend God and, therefore, itself as distinct from God. …
    “We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound-waves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void … fixed laws, consequences unfolding by causal necessity, the whole natural order, are at once limits within which their common life is confined and also the sole condition under which any such life is possible. Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”
    - C.S. Lewis, Problem of Pain
    those words help me come to grips with the “why” bad things happen, and the following passage helps me with “what” to do about it …
    “[Christians] think God invented and made the universe – like a man making a picture or composing a tune. A painter is not a picture, and he does not die if his picture is destroyed. … If you do not take the distinction between good and bad very seriously, then it is easy to say that anything you find in this world is a part of God. But, of course, if you think some things really bad, and God really good, then you cannot think like that. You must believe that God is separate from the world and that some of the things we see in it are contrary to His will. … For Christianity is a fighting religion. It thinks God made the world – that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colours and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God ‘made up out of His head’ as a man makes up a story. But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.”
    - C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

  • Ranger

    Hey phil_style,
    I think your honesty can really benefit this discussion, and hopefully these comments and ideas will benefit you as well. Thanks so much for sharing! I’m just wondering what are your criteria for a “satisfying theodicy?”
    What would it take for you to believe in an all-powerful/all-loving God, or does your understanding of those terms combined with the reality of suffering make it virtually impossible for you to reconcile them? Obviously our understanding of these terms affects any theodicy. For a comparison, just look at the two examples I mentioned above (Wright and Boyd) who offer completely different definitions of the terms (yet both seem reconcilable with Scripture). Where do you think your understanding of those terms (omnipotence and omnibenevolence) comes from? I’ve often struggled with this in the past as I’ve realized that the God of my mind was more the God of Greek philosophy and American culture than he was the God of Christianity. Do you think revising the terms would make Amos, Genesis, Job, et. al. more reconcilable?
    I don’t have the answers at all, but would love to hear more input from you. I think your situation is very common, and has been common for many people throughout the ages, so it would really be a blessing to all of us who are trying to either personally work through this or work through it with others if you would share more of your perspective.
    As for Ehrman, I’ve read much of what he’s written and I really admire him as a scholar. He’s someone that I really look up to in regards to NT criticism, but I’ve found his anti-theodicy rather unappealing as well since he is somewhat ignorant in terms of theology (and why shouldn’t he be, he’s dedicated most of his life to textual research…we can’t be superstars at everything, haha).

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    Funny, I just put up the first part of a series on the book of Job over at my blog, which is of course, all about the problem of pain. To a certain extent there is no good answer, never has been and never will be this side of the grave. From what I can figure out, the best we can do is be like Job at the end of his story is change our perspective from our own narrow understanding to one which better reflects God’s.
    It is my personal belief that pain and suffering are like spiritual weightlifting. As much as we’d all like to get fit and buff but laying by the pool side sipping pina coladas, the reality is that unless we are willing to strain and struggle under heavy weights, we will never get to where we want to be. Likewise, we all like to think that we can know God deeply and become more and more like Him by living happy lives of peace and prosperity. However, the reality is that we usually only really move into those deep places because of pain. I’m not ready or willing to say that all pain and evil is intended for our spiritual benefit. I don’t know that.
    However, one of the most important things Jesus does for us is demonstrate a willingness to suffer and offer us a vision of suffering as redemptive. So, whatever the causes, it seems to me that as Christians we do best by being willing to deal with suffering without loosing faith or becoming bitter and to always seek the redemptive side of suffering. Actually, having just written that, I can see how God asking us to seek the redemptive side of suffering fits so well with His plans for us. He is continually asking us to move beyond ourselves. We resent the idea that our suffering could be redemptive because to do so requires us to make ourselves less and Him more. Of course, whatever we willingly give up for Him will be greatly rewarded. But in the flesh, we want to hold onto what is ours – and there is little which is more authentically ours than our suffering.
    Anyways, just my thoughts.

  • Jerry M

    John Feinberg lists four possible deductions from the existence of evil [The Many Faces of Evil, p. 365]:
    1) There is no God – [view of the atheist]
    2) There exists an evil God [Yet - where does good come from? Why do we admire it?]
    3) There exists a good but impotent God [He tries!][Problem: How do we know He wins in the end?]
    4) There exists an omnipotent, benevolent deity with a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil
    I believe view 4 is the view of the Bible. While we may wrestle with the details of how this can possibly work itself out in every instance – we recognize that we now live in the land of faith and that we can strive for understanding but we cannot demand it. In the end, shall not the judge of the earth deal justly? [Gen. 18:25]
    For me personally I find great insight in looking at something like the account of the flood of Noah when dealing with the ‘great’ acts of moral evil in our world such as the holocaust, rape, murder, etc.
    When I look at Genesis 6 – I see a sovereign God who is angry at the wickedness of man [the earth is filled with violence - v. 13]. He is even described as being grieved at such actions and so chooses to destroy most of humanity off the face of the earth in a flood. That says something about His nature. When God looks at moral evil – He is not pleased. God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all. He is no malevolent deity nor is He impotent to act. He could stop the murderer by striking him with a heart attack or brain aneurism before he pulls the trigger, etc. But – to allow man to commit these acts does not make God complicit in them.
    I’ve rambled enough
    grace

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    5) God is not a being, in the sense we are used to thinking of God. God has more in common with the depths of experience in life, the lived experience of spirit as shared in community, as lived by Jesus who suffered and identified with the least (the oppressed). In other words, this need to make God into a “Super Human” with powers that transcend ours creates problems of character and morality.
    I think the Bible’s relating to God as Father etc. is the attempt of ancient writers to give us handles for prayer and emotional connections.
    If we see God as from below (from the depths) we can see God in the midst of evil rather than as the one in control or in charge of it or eradicating it.

  • http://redemptionjunkie.blogspot.com Heidi Renee

    As a young girl of six I was raped. I was told forever in church that everything that happened was ordained by God. What has helped me most is ditching the theology that says “God ordained all of this to teach you a lesson.”
    That is a God I can no longer serve.

  • http://www.tgdarkly.com/blog dopderbeck

    I think all this intellectual discussion is just fine until you actually have to suffer. I have a child with a serious medical problem. My wife and I suffer because of it; my child will suffer his whole life because of it. Sure, God is glorified and we are blessed as we learn how to love my child in this circumstance. Sure, if sin had never entered the world maybe somehow things would be different.
    But really the best we can do sometimes is “groan inwardly,” wait for the fullness of redemption, and allow the Spirit to “intercede for us with groans we cannot express”. (Rom. 8:23-26) I think what Paul is saying here is, in the face of suffering, it’s ok sometimes to just lay on the floor and groan.

  • http://www.virtuphill.blogspot.com phil_style

    Ranger,
    Thanks for your reply. I am at work at the moment and not really in a position to type a long reply. Suffice to say that at the moment I am a theist, and I consider myself a Christian – even one who accepts the ‘orthodox’ God of the Christian faith. But I have some grave concerns for the god that I have fashioned, and am acutely aware that this god might not be the God that was so close to the likes of David, Paul, Christ or others. My main issues with my own faith are the two classic gags – God’s hiddenness, and apparent evil in the world (not person-person evil, but ‘natural evil’). I suppose my main problems are that I have been exposed (growing up in evangelicalism) to many people that have tried to gloss over these VERY SERIOUS issues with quick answers such as ‘don’t rely on your own understanding’ or ‘it’s all part of a greater plan’. A theodicy that would be satisfying would, I suppose, show how allowing a system of decay (i.e. damage or loss of anything – human or natural) is somehow the “best option” as a system for God to chose for the universe to operate under.
    One easy way out would be to state that man is entirely responsible for ALL decay by virtue of the fall, but I simply cannot ignore the evidence of pre-human history. So for me, decay/loss existed before humanity.
    I do have the bones of a theodicy brewing in my mind which is based on the idea that freedom (and therefore responsibility) is only possible in-so-far as the actor can accurately foresee the possible outcomes of their actions. But I don’t really have enough time to properly think it through. Anyways, I feel I have digressed somewhat. Better get back to work!
    Peace.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.wordpress.com Rebeccat

    Heidi, I am sorry to hear about your ordeal. I cannot even imagine a church telling someone that the most heinous events of their lives are “ordained” by God, although I do know that it does happen. Even if that is true (which is extremely hard for us to know), it displays a very callous disregard for the suffering of another. I think the real message of the church should not be, “suffering is good for you, so get over it”, but “suffering is redeemable in God’s hands.”

  • http://microclesia.com John

    (I very much appreciate Phil’s honesty.)
    Personally, I don’t equate “God” as complicit in human suffering and injustice. And (to be consistent) I don’t equate God with “Cadillacs and green lights” either. There’s a still small voice, a middle Way, that seems to sit at the heart of creation, but cannot be contained, defined, or parsed effectively by even our wisest minds.
    Maybe I’m naive, or just intellectually lazy. Or maybe it’s a kind of spiritual protection mechanism? Dunno. I simply accept things as they are without “blaming” God for the garbage, and without praising God for the transient goodies many call “blessings.”
    That said, via the unparalleled cross, I try to be the “hands and feet” of charity, compassion, and comfort in my spheres of influence. I fail mostly, but keep running the race.
    RJS – what’s your understanding on the connection with God and suffering?
    I wanted to add – Julie’s comment (#71) on the last RJS post was brilliant, both in content and style. Someday I want to write like Julie.

  • http://redemptionjunkie.blogspot.com Heidi Renee

    Thank you Rebeccat, I too believe that whole-heartedly and am finding much redemption in telling my story. And John, I too long to write like Julie!!

  • VanSkaamper

    For good and evil as such to exist as such, as independent moral properties, there has to be an objective, transcendent standard for right and wrong. If there is no God and no transcendent ontological grounding for morality, then good and evil become subjective judgments, simply synonyms for my own subjective and ultimately arbitrary feelings or preferences about what I like and dislike.
    So, the problem of evil only exists as a problem if we propose the existence of a good and omnipotent supreme being (or lawgiver) of some kind. If there is no such being, then there is no problem…because good and evil don’t objectively exist.
    The degree to which we believe evil is real is the degree to which it becomes problematic to use it as a basis to argue against the existence of a moral and just creator and lawgiver. Evil exists only on the supposition that such a transcendent, absolute good exists. On the other hand, if evil does not exist, then it cannot form the basis for a denial of God’s existence…because if you argue in this way you’re assuming the existence of something in your premise that you’re denying exists in your conclusion.
    The problem of evil is still very much a question that needs to be addressed within a theistic worldview, but it doesn’t really function well as an argument against the existence of God…despite it’s popularity.

  • VanSkaamper

    #24: I’ve always had the same difficulty with that view of God’s sovereignty.
    #25: I think you’re spot on…the situation you describe is one of the most painful I can imagine, and you guys have my prayers.
    One can achieve intellectual peace by contemplating the nuances of the free-will and teleological explanations for why evil exists…but the weight on our hearts may not be lifted until we see this life from the perspective of eternity.

  • Brian

    dopderbeck,
    I’m right there with you. I’ve called 911 a dozen times in the past 3 years for my younger son. Drugs and therapy make him far better off than he would have been even 50 years ago, but he sure seems like the kind of child that Jesus would have simply healed.

  • Steve

    It seems to me that much (but not all, as far as I can tell) evil flows from people’s actions and choices–our free will. God seems to have decided that letting us make choices–even when sometimes they are bad choices that hurt us or others. It also seems that love, good deeds, etc. flow from our actions and choices–keeping us from being mere autonomatons. So, I land at option 4 (from post 22) with the assumption that God has chosen to create creatures with freedom to act–for better and for worse, and has further chosen to enter into and participate in our suffering (groaning–like 24 and 25 and more) to ultimately somehow redeem those evil outcomes.
    It is not a perfect, clean, or easy answer, but it is the best I can do and most sensible response. But what about evil that we can’t relate to our actions? Sigh. I don’t know. Fallen angels?
    Thanks for this discussion.
    Steve

  • Ranger

    Julie,
    Thanks for the very good insights. I would warn against completely forsaking viewing God from “above” though. We have all experienced great tragedies, which is why this question is so very important to us.
    Many of my friends where I live are in great poverty, facing daily tragedies due to health, inadequate food, water, etc. They are comforted both by the God from below who suffers with them, as well as the God from above who assures them of future justice.
    If the promise of eternal justice is not real and the God from above will not bring all things to ultimate reconciliation and redemption (as Jesus, Paul, etc. clearly taught and thought that it was and that he would), then evil ultimately wins no matter how we view things right now.

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Ranger, good thoughts!
    The assurance of hope, reward and future justice is a plank of liberation theology as well. So I can concur with that idea. :)

  • Nancy

    This has been such an interesting thread. I think I resonate most with John #28. In addition, I am left wondering if God would necessarily categorize things as “good” and “evil”? Or do humans construct such ideas in order to try and make sense of their earthly experience? Is suffering always evil or the result of evil? The discussion also brings to mind some of what Thomas Moore has had to say about suffering and I have found much of it to be true.
    Apart from the experience of suffering though (since if you have lived even a few minutes, you may have experienced some form of suffering and the longer you have lived the more familiar with it you will be), I’m wondering something…have any of you ever had an up close and personal experience where you “knew” you were being confronted by or observing something truly evil? And if so, what was it like? How did you “know”? I’m not asking because I am doubting evil’s existence but I am curious.

  • Diane

    I’ve wondered if we misunderstand suffering because of living in a fallen world. What first sparked that thought was Thomas Kelly’s Testament of Devotion, in which he says the fruits of the spirits are love, joy and … entrance into suffering. How could entrance into suffering be a fruit, I wondered? Then I spent in evening in New York in the Ronald McDonald House and was much lifted by the joy and love there. And I got an inkling …
    I also tend to agree with the idea that God gave us free will and then offered us revelation through Scripture and the life of Jesus to show how we should behave in order to become fully human (rather than inhuman or inhumane). We persist in doing what we know we should not … and the result is suffering. Of course, not everything fits this model. I love too the idea of God with us in the midst of suffering and wonder if that has something to do with Kelly’s idea of entrance into suffering.
    I think the secular or worldly in us does recoil and run from overt suffering. At the same time, I’d rather overt suffering go away than feel grace from it.

  • Brad Cooper

    W

  • mariam

    Nancy, yes I have confronted evil and the most frightening thing about it was how ordinary it was – how like looking in a mirror, except perhaps a little darker and more distorted. How boringly conservative, middle-class and affluent. How easy to parcel off a portion of your mind and actions and still think of yourself as a good person. When I think about it, a lump of fear still comes to my throat and I run like a terrified child to my Father and pray, “Lord, help me to never become that and forgive me for the times I came close.”
    When we think about evil we usually think of a psychopath or sociopath. But this is real evil – to be able to repeatedly desperately harm someone and be able to justify it to yourself, to commit offenses that you would abhor in others and rationalize it as not that bad, or even OK. It means knowing the difference between right and wrong and selfishly and knowingly choosing wrong. Evil means being able to commit insanely harmful acts when you are sane and be able to live comfortably with it, fearing only disclosure.
    Two movies about evil I recommend: “The Wannsee Conference” (German with English subtitles) and
    “Deliver Us From Evil” about the Irish pedophile priest, Oliver O’Grady. You will understand Hannah Arendt’s expression “the banality of evil”.

  • Brad Cooper

    Wow! Some great posts here!
    I think this area of the so-called problem of evil is one of the main places that we face ambiguity.
    Because of the difficulty and deep emotions that accompany experiences of evil coupled with our very finite perspective, we find ourselves at a crisis of faith. We often simply do not have the answers. We can only trust.
    This is what we see with Job. After all that Job goes through, the only answer that God gives him for why he is suffering is this: Job, I created the world and I control it. Neither you nor anyone else can even fathom all that’s involved. You’re just going to have to trust me.
    As others have noted above, there’s no place for pat answers here–especially when relating to someone going through extreme difficulty. The only thing we can say is: I’m sorry. I don’t understand. But I’m here for you and I’ll be praying for you that God will comfort you and help you through it.
    Though God has not given us the whole picture, there are some things that God has revealed that are helpful to us….but again, accepting them is a matter of trust.
    We have to trust God when he says that sin is the root cause. We have to trust his words when he says that the pain and suffering of this life (as intense as they can be) will appear as a superficial scratch quickly healing as we enter a sinless eternity. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18, NIV)
    And I think that it may well be that we can infer from both of these (and the fact that the Scriptures say that the angels are learning from watching what is going on here on earth) that God intends to limit the consequences of sin to this tiny little planet that is just a speck in the universe and to this very short span of time…….so that when it’s all over with, everyone will find themselves saying “What a mess sin made of things on planet earth. We don’t ever want to see sin in the universe again.”
    But I think the most helpful thought of all, for me, is to contemplate the incarnation and the cross. When I consider all that Christ went through, I am assured that God is not aloof or detached from my pain. He understands. He’s not like the parent who dispassionately says “Do as I say. Not as I do.” He was willing to go through the very same kind of pain that he asks me to endure and more. And that helps me to trust him.

  • Brad Cooper

    Mariam (#39),
    Well said. Thanks for your honesty. You have said in a powerful and vulnerable way what most of us are hesitant to say it all. When you put it that way, it makes me contemplate whether any of us have any right to complain about evil at all…..
    Still praying for your daughter. Peace.

  • Brad Cooper

    Julie (#23),
    You said: “God is not a being, in the sense we are used to thinking of God. God has more in common with the depths of experience in life, the lived experience of spirit as shared in community,….”
    I’m not quite sure what you mean by that. Could you explain? Thanks.

  • Scott M

    I’ve tried to think of what I might say on this topic. The intellectual issue is not unimportant, but can sound dry and meaningless, especially when you do not have time to develop it. I also don’t think I approach it from the same angle that many of the voices tend to use.
    At the end of the day, if I were going to say anything simple and brief, it would be that when I cried out, this is the God who answered, “I am here.” This is the God we see in Jesus, the God who comes near, the God who confronts and defeats all powers and authorities by submitting to the worst they can do, ultimately defeating even death. It’s the God who ‘pitches his tents’ (tabernacles) with us and sends us to where creation is groaning, and as we groan in pain with creation, God is right there groaning with us.
    And it’s the God who is in the business of bringing good out of evil, out of the worst that can happen. It’s a God who never got out of the creation and recreation business — new every morning.

  • Nancy

    “But this is real evil – to be able to repeatedly desperately harm someone and be able to justify it to yourself, to commit offenses that you would abhor in others and rationalize it as not that bad, or even OK. It means knowing the difference between right and wrong and selfishly and knowingly choosing wrong. Evil means being able to commit insanely harmful acts when you are sane and be able to live comfortably with it, fearing only disclosure. ”
    Mariam, that was powerfully stated. As was your description of your response to such a display. Obviously without some sense of right/good and wrong/bad, it would be difficult to see or commit evil of this sort.
    Thanks for taking the time to answer. I find this fascinating. While I hear tales of evil such as you describe above nearly every day and know doubt participate in it every time I choose self over the best interest of others, I think I go through life actually wanting to deny its presence. And to consider there is an entity out there that may be pure evil (eg, the devil, Lucifer, Satan) is a consideration that I avoid putting any energy into. Not because I’ve made some intellectual decision not to believe in such a being but because it is horrifying to me to do so.

  • Nancy

    Whoops! “No doubt” not “know doubt”!!! (although I’m enjoying the unintentional play on words)

  • RJS

    I hope soon to have a chance to read all that’s been written on this post (and the last). This has been a busy week for me.
    John (#28)
    The only thing I am sure of is that answers about all being part of God’s plan don’t cut it. I firmly believe that God can work through all circumstance in our lives – but as part of a master plan… I don’t see that. Freedom must play a role – especially when the pain and suffering arises from human failings.
    But of course all pain and suffering may have a “natural” cause, not directly tied to human failing. I sometimes think we misunderstand the nature of this world and the kingdom of God when we ask questions on the connection between God and suffering.
    Much to think about – and not enough time today.

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Brad, part of what I am driving at in my original post is the idea that the definitions we have for God often create theological conundrums that are unnecessary if we simply rethink how we imagine or understand God. Bonhoeffer, in his Letters and Papers, explores some of this in a fairly satisfying way. He talks about our need to take responsible action in the present through our willingness to shape history for future generations, and that this commitment is rooted in Jesus Christ and his identification with the lost, oppressed, outcast (he is rejecting the idea of deus ex machina which puts the responsibility on God four the outcomes of history and the future justice that will come against evil). He challenges the notion that the totality of our collective good and evil resides in “trusting God” and instead puts the responsibility on Christians to “grow up” and take action. A view of God from above (he would argue) creates a result that sees Christians inactive, and often on the sidelines of history (and also indifferent to real evil and suffering).
    So when I talk about God from below, I’m deliberately featuring that solidarity with the suffering found in Jesus because he is our model and who we aspire to imitate. God is manifest in Jesus… we are not instructed to see God differently than Jesus. (You are free to challenge me on that – that’s where I choose to put my emphasis because it transformed how I understood my faith and saved it.)
    Julie

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    “four” should be “for” – Scot, we need a spellcheck and preview function! :)

  • Diane

    As for meeting evil, I worked at one point with a woman who had clearly been unwanted and abused as a child and learned to survive by doing what I would call evils acts. I think God loves her and bleeds over her. However, I often recoiled from her or felt angry around her. She posed as an everyday, all American middle-aged woman. She would speak about things she’d done to her daughter that would make one’s jaw drop, then wonder why the daughter committed suicide by shooting herself in the head at age 13. I wondered, can she live in such a totally disconnected way? (Mariam, your story reminded me of her.) On a less toxic level, she would spread rumors that her boss was a drunk. I knew the guy personally, and he was not an alcoholic, but the backstabbing did him damage. He never knew it was going on. A tinier thing I remember was that shouldn’t wouldn’t refill her cat’s water bowl (so she said) until he’d finished all the water in it and would close her toilet lids so the cat couldn’t get water that way. What is astonishing to me is that she would talk quite blithely about these things at work. She saw humans in general as filthy and underhanded. And in some ways, she was right; people are fallen, but perhaps because of her own childhood, she could never seem to see the other side of humanity, the kindness, the sincerity, the love. I would also be astonished that she had friends, because they would see her darkness, at least at some level, but seemed to be able to overlook it because on the surface she was so normal and very well socialized. And she did needlepoint a beautiful wall hanging for my twins when they were born … she could do kind things too. She would lie to her friends at work or do things to make them furious but they would forgive her, and I always felt she didn’t want to do the bad things she did to them, because she was so needy of their friendship. It seemed she couldn’t help herself, as if there were this inner demon inside her that had to lash out. And I imagine there forgiveness of her was a grace.

  • Diane

    I write these things too rapidly … what I meant was, THEIR forgiveness of her was a grace.

  • http://abisomeone.blogspot.com/ Peggy

    Wow…what a thread. Too much to read and process properly, but I have a few coins to toss into the well here.
    First of all, Peck’s “People of the Lie” is an interesting look into human evil, consistent with what mariam and Diane have shared.
    Secondly, I have been wondering what you meant, Bob #6, when you said: “And the whisperer is trying to establish a foothold at JesusCreed.” I’m hoping that you are not saying that we cannot have a conversation with lots of random thoughts about this most disturbing phenenomon. I hope you have continued reading the comments … this is a very thoughtful thread.
    There has been a tremendous amount of transparency in what has been shared, and I know that many of us have lain on the floor and groaned, like doperdeck, over why our precious children and loved ones must suffer so intensely. Sigh…. It is, indeed a mystery.
    Finally, Phil #18, you said this: “In some ways I’m tempted to suggest that maybe God’s love or power is limited in some way. But I really don’t know. . . And honestly, it bothers me.”
    The story of Job is an important one for this discussion. It contains many mysteries about “why” that we should try to learn from. If God wanted to answer these very questions, would not this have been the place? Yet we see that Job was righteous, that God was confident of his loyalty, that Job was able to voice his grief to God in a very rigorous manner … and God honors his relationship with Job by actually showed up. After helping Job realize that he doesn’t really understand what is involved in being God … Job realizes that he asked a question that cannot be answered. Not because God is unwilling to explain, but because we are unable to understand. And so we are called to trust God.
    This is part of how God is limited — not in his ability to be and do, but in our ability to receive and understand. God has to restrain himself (a term I prefer to limited, actually) in order to enter into relationship with us. His greatest example of this kind of self-restraint in in the Incarnation.
    Others have spoken of a God who does not interfere in our circumstances to change outcomes unless it particularly serves a purpose of his that is beyond our scrutiny. Many times in many places around the world, we see the power of God released for healing and wholeness … and many times we are left to endure the agony and groaning.
    But the bottom line must be one of faith in the steadfast love of God for his Eikons — and trust that he walks with us, whether it be in the valley of the shadow of death or on the mountain tops with amazing vistas, or the plains where things just are, well, normal. Because he is actively at work in us and in his world bring about renewal and reconciliation and restoration according to his loving will and our readiness to receive and participate in his Mission.
    …and so I have learned to be content, regardless of my circumstance. And sometimes the face of contentment is awash in tears and questions of how and when, but no longer why.

  • mariam

    I think it is important to keep in mind when we consider suffering that for most of us, even those living in poorer countries that suffering in NOT the whole story. Much of life is beautiful, God gives us so many gifts, beginning with the beauty of nature. Every day most people survive, if not thrive. People are loved and love, beautiful things are created, flowers bloom, animals graze, new life comes into being, good deeds are done and in times of suffering God stands with us.
    God does not cause suffering. Often we cause our own suffering with our thoughts. We suffer when we do not get what we want. LIke the two year old having a tantrum at the grocery checkout, we think it is UNFAIR! when life does not turn out the way we have hoped and we focus on the things we can’t have rather than that which we have. I have been guilty of this and with God’s grace I have learned to not allow my disappointment and anger to consume me.
    Some suffering is obviously caused by sin and we can argue that God does not intervene because to protect us as individuals and as a race from the consequences of mistakes would be to prevent our growth and sanctification. God is like a good parent. If we always protect our children from the consequences of their selfishness and mistakes they will never grow up, never be happy, never feel pride in their accomplishments. They will grow up soft, weak and miserable.
    Some suffering is obviously caused by laws of nature – by the seemingly random consequences of bodies, animate and inanimate, bumping into each other, eating, taking, fighting in their quest for self-preservation. With due respect to those who believe there actually was a literal time when there was no death or pain on this planet, I think when we consider this sort of suffering – the pain and death caused by weather, disease, accident, genetic abnormalities – that we can hope that God chooses not to interfere because creation itself is being strengthened and sanctified by this process. If God interfered and protected all his creatures from every bit of pain they would also grow up weak and fragile and we would live in a machine. Can you imagine living in a world where there was nothing to strive for because there was no consequences of not striving. Where then would we find meaning? We find much of the meaning in our lives from avoiding and preventing suffering. What if there was no pain to prevent? We imagine that would be wonderful but what would it truly look like? Isn’t it a dose of suffering which allows us to appreciate comfort, joy, love and beauty? When we view the suffering of others doesn’t it make us want to do something? Don’t we then feel gratitude for our own comfortable lives, and just a little guilt? Would these finer sentiments – altruism, generosity, compassion arise if there were no suffering?
    I like to think that God invites us to join in helping Him eliminate or ameliorate the effects of suffering. He could do it all Himself but His plan is that we take responsibility, learn from our mistakes and grow in our image of Him. In the meantime, until creation is perfected, He is with us in our pain, points us to the wonder of creation when we are discouraged, and gives us strength and wisdom when we ask for it and are willing to receive it.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com/ ChrisB

    How would you respond to the proposition …
    When I hear, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people,” I’m forced to think that most people have no idea what bad is and that there are no good people, no innocents in divine terms.
    As for the other common formulation (“a truly good God…”), Lewis demonstrated well in his The Problem of Pain that we have no idea what it means for God to be good.
    Could there be redemptive value in things we see as “evil?” The Bible clearly says yes.
    Why does God allow pain?
    I’ve tried to imagine a fallen world without pain. I think it would be a truly horrible place.
    My two cents on the whole pain question: We need to consider the problem of pain when we’re not neck deep in it. We can study the question and consider the answers and learn to trust God at that time.
    When we’re in the midst of these trials, no one wants to hear that pain can be useful or that good may come from this. They want to know “why me” which is an answer none of us has.
    If we prepare ourselves for the pain, hopefully we’ll come through these trials a little easier.
    For those around us in pain, they don’t need clever or thoughtful answers; they need an arm around their shoulder and whatever else we can do to help them make it through.

  • Brad Cooper

    Julie (#47),
    Thanks for responding. I love Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship…an incredibly powerful book….but I have not taken the time to read any of his other writings…. too many books too little time! ;)
    While I value a lot of what you are saying, I can’t reconcile what you seem to be describing as some impersonal force (forgive me if I’m wrong) with the God who reveals himself in the Bible.
    If in fact the Bible is not really a revelation directly from God (and I’m confident that it is), then we really have no way of knowing what he is like. Apart from a supernatural revelation in which God reveals himself to us, there’s really no point in even discussing it. We would just be making stuff up to soothe our intellects. It would be vain and meaningless.
    As for me, I’m confident that any God who can devise a language as complicated as DNA can surely communicate to the people he has created in any language they speak. And there are numerous reasons that I am assured that that is exactly what he does in Scripture.
    Peace.

  • RJS

    Ok – its been a long week. What I meant to say in #46 was But of course some (much) pain and suffering may have a “natural” cause, not directly tied to human failing.
    Probably an unnecessary correction at this late date…

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Hi Brad!
    I accept that you see Scripture as the revelation of God and that the interpretations you’ve learned from your tradition and through your own study satisfy you and match your experience of life.
    That hasn’t been the case for me. I have had to re-evaluate pretty much every single belief I’ve ever held about God, the Bible, Jesus, the resurrection, salvation, heaven and hell, faith, discipleship, justice, love and even things like history and science (which is so not my strong suit!).
    What I’ve attempted to do in the process of that lengthy reevaluation (which included four years in graduate school studying theology) is to retain the benefits of faith and my tradition without jettisoning the whole lot of it (which I sure wanted to do on many occasions, believe you me!).
    So when I talk about God now, it’s not in order to persuade you or anyone else that my view is “more righter” than yours. It is simply as much of God as my psyche and heart can see, hold, accept, honor without creating that crazy-making kind of rigidity I lived with for too long (which did do damage to me).
    I honor what you’ve found… I feel a closeness and kinship to anyone who struggles to know God… it is a process of the deepest soul-searching kind and quite often leads to painful conversations with people we actually would enjoy or love over a beer. :)
    Julie

  • Brad Cooper

    Julie (#56),
    Thank you.
    I understand the kinds of struggles and crises that you are talking about. I have had plenty of them myself. They have been at times excruciating and difficult….but in the end they have made me stronger.
    May the grace, peace and wisdom of Jesus guide you on your journey.

  • http://microclesia.com John L

    (#56) “I feel a closeness and kinship to anyone who struggles to know God.”
    Right with you there.
    And I feel a similar kinship with devout atheists and anyone actively seeking to discredit spirituality, for I see the work of the Spirit in them – they just don’t know it yet.
    But the in-between stuff, the comfort zones – that’s not interesting to me. Spirit is fluid and disruptive.
    In his Letters from Prison, Bonhoeffer shared something of great importance,
    “I often ask myself why a ‘Christian instinct’ often draws me more to the religionless people than to the religious, but which I don’t in the least mean with any evangelizing intention, but, I might almost say, “in brotherhood.” While I’m often reluctant to mention God by name to religious people – because that name somehow seems to me here not to ring true, and I feel myself to be slightly dishonest (it’s particularly bad when others start to talk in religious jargon; I then dry up almost completely and feel awkward and uncomfortable) – to people with no religion I can on occasion mention him by name quite calmly and as a matter of course…”
    Another personal hero, A.W. Tozer, said something that seems equally appropriate to this conversation,
    “if someone can talk you into being a Christian, someone better can talk you out of it.”

  • http://julieunplugged.blogspot.com/ Julie

    John L, that’s one of my favorite passages in LPP by DB. I, too, feel tremendous kinship with atheists, agnostics and those who “seek to discredit” spirituality. I used to say that every spiritual community needs an atheist to keep it honest.
    I enjoy reading you and thanks (farther up) for your comments about my writing. Really appreciate the validation. You do all right, yourself, you know.
    Julie

  • Nancy

    Julie: That was an amazing description of your journey and I can relate to almost all of it (except 4 years of theology). I have come over the past year or so to just accept the mystery and uncertainty and try to avoid absolutisms. Not because there are no absolutes or truth but because I’ll never have any sort of certain grasp of it. And may not be meant to. It does not mean I don’t believe or have a sense of what I must do to live it out. Since I am indeed no expert on scripture, it was kind of a relief to know others that are had some similar thoughts. And JC and EW has supplied me with just that…knowledgable folks who don’t shame me for asking and wrestling around with questions such as the one that started this thread.
    I read this two days ago. It was written by Evelyn Underhill: “Perfect clearness in religion often really means just shallowness, for, being what we are, we cannot expect to get eternal life into sharp focus.” And in the next paragraph: “It is also true there are moments in life of communion when the soul DOESN’T wish to see, to fully comprehend….It is not in our comprehension, but in God’s will, that our peace abides.”
    I think I am rediscovering the peace she is talking about. Only this time, it feels as though it has dug in so much deeper, like a dandelion root, penetrating further into my soul.
    Julie, thank you and thank you to all of you for such genuine sharing of thought and experience.

  • http://JesusCreedOurreasonablecreed Ellamae

    I find on this thread some of the most profound thinking about our God I have found on similar places. I continually go through this probing of what God is like. My conclusion is that He is perfect love and righteousness or He cannot exist. My desire is to find major answers in the Bible (why else has it lasted so long except by the Spirit?), so I try to stay close to that while not egnoring the insights of contempraries. CS Lewis is one of them along with my own study and learning from others.
    I find in Job some answers in thatGod didn’t give Job an answer–but the answer is there for us. The origin of evil is given us in the Bible–a being who became proud and self-centered and so every sin has its roots here. Next Job apparently witnessed his faith yet was honest with God about his feelings.
    By nature we all begin “bent” and self-centered so there has to be a way out. I think that Way was planned long before Calvary; the Bible says he was slain “before the foundation of the world.” His death was for all human beings from the very beginning of the world. However, many will reject it. And one doesn’t have to know about Jesus for salvation, but have the Spirit of love and righteousness. That’s why rejecting love and righteousness is rejecting God.
    Many of you have given profound reasons for evil in the world and they are all partially right as long as evil events aren’t called “acts of God.” (My reasons are partially right as well–we find what fits where we are.) But most of us do like answers and are not as Job who didn’t need them.
    Death is the result of sin (there is a second death in Revelation that is the final one). The first death is logistical since the earth couldn’t hold everyone who ever lived. It is temporary and short in the scheme of things. I believe God will save every child who dies in suffering and they won’t remember it. The same goes for all the poor and suffering in the world. God has to be more wonderful, more loving, more saving than any of us can imagine or He is not God. He must take into consideration every background, hereditary dysfunction, illness–all of it (there is a Bible text that infers this). At some point the Bible says Jesus will come back. Perhaps He will have a special group who will reflect his character and be His witness and show the world what He is like–I don’t know this, but there is some biblical indication of a remnant. Actually I don’t know a lot of things other than God has to be good or there is no reason for His existence or the trial period we have all been in. And most of you have explained these “trial” periods better than I.
    These ideas I share with you have helped me understand the obvious battle between good and evil (Christ and Satan) in the history of the world. It also leaves us free to choose either one.


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