In the case of a shooting, or flooding, or cancer,
The question arises, “why me?”
We tend to get four different species of answer;
Our wishes distort what we’ll see.
Since you won’t get an answer directly from God
You might think of asking a pastor—
For the problem of evil, it strikes me as odd
That his answer is such a disaster.
Over on CNN’s Belief Blog, a senior pastor and best-selling author shows how badly you can answer a question and still be a senior pastor and best-selling author.
As a minister, I’ve spent countless hours with suffering people crying: “Why did God let this happen?” In general I hear four answers to this question. Each is wrong, or at least inadequate.
So we can’t say he hasn’t pondered the problem before. He’s no rookie.
The first answer is “I guess this proves there is no God.” The problem with this thinking is that the problem of senseless suffering does not go away if you abandon belief in God.
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said that if there was no higher divine law, there would be no way to tell if any particular human law was unjust. Likewise, if there is no God, then why do we have a sense of outrage and horror when suffering and tragedy occur? The strong eat the weak, there is no meaning, so why not?
Well, no. Of course it doesn’t disprove god, but not for his reasons. Rather, because god is a squirmy little bastard, with legions of people making excuses. The problem of senseless suffering is only a problem for an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god. Since atheists don’t posit one, the problem of senseless suffering goes away. Mind you, that does not in any manner mean that suffering goes away. Death happens. Illness and injury happen. Earthquakes, floods, fires, famines, all happen. These things are problems, but they are not “the problem of senseless suffering” because our worldview does not include a god with the power and motivation to prevent it, sitting idly by.
And yes, I’ll say it, Martin Luther King was wrong. Even if there was a “higher divine law” (which we have no evidence of), we would need to rely on the human interpretations of that law, and (for instance) the bible would be used both to justify and to condemn slavery.
The second response to suffering is: “While there is a God, he’s not completely in control of everything. He couldn’t stop this.”
But that kind of God doesn’t really fit our definition of “God.” So that thinking hardly helps us with reconciling God and suffering.
So re-defining god is a no-no, which frankly is a point in the atheists’ favor. All those excuses you see being made? Cheating.
The third answer to the worst kind of suffering – seemingly senseless death – is: “God saves some people and lets others die because he favors and rewards good people.”
But the Bible forcefully rejects the idea that people who suffer more are worse people than those who are spared suffering.
So the people (Falwell, Robertson, et al.) who claim a hurricane is god’s punishment for the ghey? Wrong. Prosperity gospel? Wrong.
The fourth answer to suffering in the face of an all-powerful God is that God knows what he’s doing, so be quiet and trust him.
This is partly right, but inadequate. It is inadequate because it is cold and because the Bible gives us more with which to face the terrors of life.
So his most satisfying answer is to deny the problem? To say it’s not really suffering, because shut up, that’s why?
Do you see what this means? We don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why it is so random, but now at least we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be.
It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself.
So, yeah, he does care enough to do something. He just doesn’t do anything. Don’t ask. Seriously.
Someone might say, “But that’s only half an answer to the question ‘Why?’” Yes, but it is the half that we need. If God actually explained all the reasons why he allows things to happen as they do, it would be too much for our finite brains.
That’s right, he went there.
The easy answer is, there is no god–at least, no god that fits the job description. But we can reject that answer.
If I told you, your brain would explode.
So just trust me on this, ok?