On numerous occasions I have listened to atheists present their list of arguments against God and, among these arguments, mention the problem of suffering as one of the more compelling and, as of yet unaddressed, arguments in their arsenal.
What I find juvenile in all this is that, although this is definitely a legitimate issue for theists, there are few questions that have received more attention throughout human history. Virtually every major world religion offers some type of explanation to this problem, so atheists are by no means the first ones to think of it. Atheists would do well to instead actually mention the various explanations to this problem proposed by the different world-views and explain why they find them insufficient rather than ignoring them altogether.
In this article, I will give a very brief description of the Christian answer to the problem of suffering. I must acknowledge that atheists are not entirely to blame for their flawed view of the Christian perspective since the Calvinist movement has stirred up an awful lot of confusion within protestant circles on this topic.
Christianity explains the problem of suffering as follows:
1) It starts with Free Will. (I understand that many atheists reject that concept but I will address that elsewhere if needed). By free will we mean that God was able to create beings that had their own individuality separate from his own and were capable of making their own decisions and choosing their own destiny.
2) God’s desire was to populate the universe with such beings and that these beings would coexist in harmony. However, free will meant that there would be a risk that they would instead choose a different course and some did.
3) God now had a choice of either putting a stop to this rebellion, then and there, and risk having it pop up again sometime later or, he could let it play out such that, when he does put a stop to it, no one will WANT to do that again ever after.
4) To us there might at times seem that certain types of evil or suffering are completely pointless and unnecessary but they are simply the results of this rebellion and, unless God actually lets it’s full effects play out, no one will ever fully understand how truly bad sin is which defeats the purpose of allowing it to exist to begin with.
In essence, our experience now is God’s way of inoculating His universe for eternity against the potential of evil rising up again. He did not CAUSE it to happen, but, when it happened, He allowed it to unfold so that when He finally deals with it, it will be for the last time.
That is obviously a highly summarized version of the Christian explanation but it is sufficient to give the bird’s eye view of the Christian perspective on why evil and suffering exist in a universe created by a loving God.Share