The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God's acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God in the dock. ~ C.S. Lewis

 

The problem of pain has been referred to as the Achilles' heel of Christianity. Philip Yancey has countered this with the question "Why is there pleasure?" There has been very little hand wringing about why chocolate tastes good, but if we are truly concerned about the nature of our existence, objectivity demands that we question pleasure as earnestly as we question pain. 

 

The problem of evil can be stated simply:  
1) If God is an all powerful God He could destroy evil. 
2) If God is a loving God He would want evil to be destroyed. 
3) Evil exists. therefore God (if He does exist) is either unable to destroy evil or He is uncaring about the human condition.

 

An assumption that lies underneath the problem of pain, is that humans are entitled to question God. The book Of Job tells the story of a man who has endured great suffering. Throughout most of the book Job and his contemporaries wrestle with the proper response when faced with very real pain. Near the end (Chapter 38) we have God's response: "Who is it that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? (38.2) Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? (38.4) Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself? (40.8) " In these chapters God reminds Job that when a man questions God that man has seriously misjudged the relationship between God and man. God the creator owes man the creature absolutely no consideration. It is man who owes God every consideration.

 

In that context we can proceed to answer the objections mentioned earlier. God has demonstrated His concern for human suffering. John 11 records the story of Lazarus who grows sick and dies. The familiar conclusion has Jesus (God) restoring life to Lazarus. Jesus was well aware of the outcome of this event, however in the middle of everything we have something very curious: "Jesus wept (35)" and he was "deeply moved (38)". It was just established that God owes man nothing, and yet He has voluntarily humbled Himself to walk among us and identify with our pain. Indeed His mission on earth was to suffer the greatest injustice in history: when evil men would reject their loving God and torture His innocent son to death.

 

Most would agree that God does not want man to suffer. So why does He permit suffering to continue? A definitive answer is beyond the scope of human understanding, however we have been furnished with some clues.

 

The seventeenth century German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz suggested that of all the possible worlds God might have created he chose to create this one -- the best of all possible worlds. One of the reasons this is the best possible world is that it includes human free will. This is a world in which humans can choose God. On the other hand, this is also a world where humans can choose to reject God. This is to their detriment for God is the origin of everything that is good (James 1:17). To reject God and everything that is good leaves a void which is filled with pain.

 

Another clue is that God is able to make bad circumstances yield good results (Genesis 50:20, Romans 8:28). It is better for us to experience the pain of a hot stove if the alternative is to unwittingly burn our hand off. Likewise "It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man; the living should take this to heart." (Ecclesiastes 7:2) It is only through pain that many of us realize our need for God. Pain and suffering strengthen our character (I Peter 1:6-7) and enable us to more fully appreciate the mercy of God. 

 

Finally, we have a promise that God will destroy evil (Revelation 20:14). "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4).  In the end pain is finite, but the peace of God is infinite.

 

Our life is one long conversation with God. We will suffer in this life. We need to determine how we will respond.

 

Sometimes I would like to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it.
Well, why donít you ask Him?
Because Iím afraid He would ask me the same question. ~ Anonymous 

 

see also: Keller 

see also: Whiting 

see also: Craig 

see also: Oakes 

see also: Snow 

see also: Plantinga

 

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