Balancing God’s Power and Love when life hurts – Introducing the Suffering Theological Spectrum co-authored with ChatGPT

Balancing God’s Power and Love when life hurts – Introducing the Suffering Theological Spectrum co-authored with ChatGPT April 24, 2023

Are you struggling to make sense of suffering in the world and wondering about God’s role in it? In this new series of articles, written with help from  ChatGPT 4.0, I introduce a new way of outlining the very different ways Christians address questions about God’s power, responsibility, and love.

By delving into bible verses, theological quotes, and personal stories, we aim to provide insight and clarity about this complex issue. Whether you are questioning your faith or seeking to deepen your understanding, this series of articles offers a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the intricacies of suffering and God’s involvement in our lives.

As I said in my last post,

“There’s so much pain and suffering in this world. That happy person you are envious of might be carrying a pain you are not aware of. And many lose their faith as a result of unbearable pain in their lives. . . In your pain God desires to draw near to you. His presence can be a real comfort.”

The age-old question of why we experience suffering in a world created by an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God has puzzled pastors, theologians, philosophers, and laypeople alike. This question becomes even more pressing when we face personal suffering or witness the pain of others. Our beliefs about God’s power, responsibility, and love can significantly shape our emotional and psychological responses to suffering.

Image: Tamasin Warnock

In this article series, we will explore a fluid theological spectrum that encompasses various perspectives on the role of God in human suffering.

 At one end of the spectrum, we find a God who is all-powerful (which theologians call omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and is in control of everything that happens (sovereign), making Him, according to some, to be the author of suffering. At the other end, we see a God who is described as not having any control or power, with an emphasis on His compassion and love.

As we journey along this seeies of articles, we will critically discuss the implications of each perspective, recognizing that our beliefs can shift and evolve as we grapple with life’s challenges and search for a deeper understanding of God’s nature.

This series is the latest instalment in my longstanding tradition of taking contentious issues and showing that Christians actually hold a range of viewpoints that form more of a spectrum than a series of exclusive labels.

The Theological Spectrum approach was not something I had previously seen, but it has become a key foundation of my understanding of our shared faith.  I am very interested to connect with others who have come to a similar way of looking for overlaps and a continuum, rather maintaining a more traditional simplistic division of our thinking under a few labelled “camps” on a given subject.

My approach has previously been described:

“During the early years of Christian blogging there was a lot of interaction between Christians of different backgrounds. We would discuss and sometimes find we had a lot more in common than our disagreements. But sometimes we also found we used words differently. Like the pastor who believed gifts of the Holy Spirit had stopped, and prophecy meant writing Scripture, but was quite happy to talk about God giving impressions directly to him . . .  Over time Adrian developed a reputation for trying to bridge gaps of understanding. He created “Theological Spectrum” posts which outlined the broad range of views that Christians have on some subjects and showed how they often overlapped . . .  “

As we wrestle with our faith, if we are willing to engage with others from different backgrounds, we may find that our understanding is deepened. Our views may even begin to drift away from an extreme form of a position, towards a more moderate form of the same position.  There is often some truth on both sides of the diametrically opposed theological camps.  However, it is still valuable to use traditional labels, and we will do that throughout to help us understand and summarise the thinking.

When we position theological labels under a spectrum, we may find it easier to move towards a common middle ground. Those at the middle of the spectrum may well find that they have more in common with believers from other camps, than with members of their own camp who hold more extreme views. You can find a list of previous subjects that I have tackled from this “theological spectrum” approach here:

Debates and Theological Spectrum Posts

Since my early blogging, I have found this approach helpful  time and time again. I have been writing since 2003, and have been so blessed to learn from others as I have tackled various topics.  I hope that this exploration of the spectrum of beliefs on suffering and our relationship with God, will be further developed by your feedback, whatever your perspective.

These days, due to poor health, I am not able to write as extensively as I used to.  I have been frustrated by a lack of sustained  cognitive ability and endurance as I try to write. My fatigue means I lack the ability to read masses of information and process it as I used to be able to. You can read more of my health story here:

Safe Haven – when God leads you to a new peaceful place. Colchester here I come.


I can still write the questions, I can think about the issues, but I cannot always write as fluidly as I want.  Nor can I pour over books, real or electronic, to source quotes, categorise them and then critique them, creating a structure that summarises what I have learnt.


In an attempt to restart the work that I feel called to, I experimented with ChatGPT to see if it could act as a form of assistive technology.   I am thrilled to report that, with some carefully worded prompts and feedback regarding its approach and style, I have found an effective co-author in version 4 of ChatGPT.

In the future, I may divulge some more detail about this writing process, for now I felt it was important to explain that hundreds of hours of work has been saved through using the tool, and I cannot take full credit for the results. Please also be aware that a few of the quotes might be made up by the so-called “hallucinations” of this technology. I have not checked the citations provided here by the AI bots, but having written about suffering before, I did recognise a number of the quotes as being genuine.  I think my prompts have mitigated this problem but anyone leaning on this article for academic writing will need to look up quotes to ensure they are accurately referenced themselves!

I have to say I have been amazed at the way the AI tool, with a lot of guidance from me, has been able to form the vast majority of this  content.  Think of this as something I have had written for me by a ghost writer, and you will have at least some idea of the process I have used.  I am increasingly thinking of ChatGPT as though they were a human assistant, and have to be careful not to become too fondly attached to it, or to anthropomorphise it completely.  It has its own foibles that are different to working with a human, but all I can say is that I am thankful for this tool and really hope the work we have done together on this project will serve many. Writers would be surprised how few hours I have actually had to devote to this, compared to if I had worked alone.

Next time I will ‌begin to describe the Suffering Theological Spectrum.



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