A5. Suffering


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The fifth session of a six-week series on apologetics at Above Bar Church, Southampton. May 2010.

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  • Ron Rosenbaum, ‘Disaster Ignites Debate: Was God in the Tsunami?’ New York Observer, 10 January 2005
  • David Bain is a philosophy lecturer at the University of Glasgow. He wrote an article for the BBC in response to the earthquake that claimed hundreds of thousands of Haitian lives. He asks, ‘how can God allow such terrible things to happen?’ 19 January 2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8467755.stm
  • This is now very widely recognised by philosophers.
    But why not?
  • We make many assumptions about what God is or isn’t like, and about what he should or shouldn’t do. Human beings cannot tell what will be good in the long term; only God can do so.
  • 1st reason why suffering is not evidence against God
    >> humans cannot know what will be good in the long term
  • only God can know.
    >>Some things may prove to be more important/valuable

  • If you were God, you'd do exactly what God has done.
  • Ultimate glory overwhelms present suffering (2 Cor 4; 1 Peter 1:7f)
    coming back to this later
  • 2nd reason why suffering is not evidence against God

  • God has created human beings with free will, so that we can choose to do evil or to do good.

  • Freedom is essential for a genuine relationship, which is what human beings were created for.
  • Human beings have chosen evil, resulting, whether directly or indirectly, in suffering.

  • Only 2 ways possible
    >> override
  • God cannot give us freedom and withhold it (‘nonsense is nonsense, even when you speak it about God’ – C.S. Lewis).
    >>destroy evil
  • The only option then is for God to judge evil and those who perpetrate it.
  • 3rd reason why suffering is not evidence against God

  • ch 3 para 19

  • 4th reason why suffering is not evidence against God

  • you deserve it

  • Faith Hopler, ‘Why Does God Let Bad Happen?’ Relevant Magazine, 19 August 2009 - http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/features/177-the-problem-of-pain-why-bad-happens

  • God has experienced our suffering in the incarnation and crucifixion
  • The crucifixion is the ultimate demonstration that there are higher things than suffering.

  • God will deal decisively with suffering and evil, as promised in the resurrection
  • The new heavens and new earth will be free of suffering and evil, and will more than compensate for anything we have endured in this life.

  • A5. Suffering

    1. 1. Suffering 1
    2. 2. tsunami wreckage © United Nations, used under a Creative Commons licence
    3. 3. © Marco Dormino: The United Nations, used under a Creative Commons licence
    4. 4. The problem 5
    5. 5. • A good, all-powerful God would not want people to suffer and would be able to prevent them from suffering.
    6. 6. • A good, all-powerful God would not want people to suffer and would be able to prevent them from suffering. • Suffering exists.
    7. 7. • A good, all-powerful God would not want people to suffer and would be able to prevent them from suffering. • Suffering exists. • Therefore, God lacks either goodness or power, or both – the good, all-powerful God of the Bible does not exist.
    8. 8. As for those who believe in an all-good, all-powerful agent-God, we've seen that they face a question that remains pressing after all these centuries, and which is now horribly underscored by the horrors in Haiti. If a deity exists, why didn't he prevent this? David Bain, BBC News Magazine
    9. 9. Suffering / evil are not evidence against God 8
    10. 10. assumptions about God
    11. 11. 1 God may have good reasons to allow suffering
    12. 12. who knows what will be good in the long run?
    13. 13. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55.9
    14. 14. suffering = context for the highest human values
    15. 15. 2 Suffering is a consequence of human freedom
    16. 16. free will do good or evil
    17. 17. relationships require freedom
    18. 18. wrong choice
    19. 19. some actions directly cause suffering
    20. 20. some actions compound suffering
    21. 21. all suffering results from the Fall
    22. 22. How can God prevent suffering?
    23. 23. over-riding free will
    24. 24. destroying evil
    25. 25. 3 God works through suffering
    26. 26. ultimate purpose of life
    27. 27. not to be happy
    28. 28. to know God
    29. 29. What do people mean when they say, ‘I am not afraid of God because I know that he is good?’ Have they never been to a dentist? C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
    30. 30. God whispers in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pain. It is his megaphone in a deaf world. C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
    31. 31. 4 God will eventually end suffering
    32. 32. Suffering and evil may be evidence for God 31
    33. 33. There will be no major solution to the suffering of mankind until we reach some understanding of who we are, what the purpose of creation was, what happens after death . . . Until these questions are resolved we are caught. Woody Allen
    34. 34. Atheism
    35. 35. suffering / evil = meaningless
    36. 36. Eastern worldviews
    37. 37. bad karma
    38. 38. illusion
    39. 39. Judeo-Christian
    40. 40. Suffering / evil = result of rebellion
    41. 41. Only the Christian worldview offers an answer to suffering
    42. 42. The God of the Bible is not compelled to answer questions. He loves us, yes, but with a white hot intensity, with the hot breath of a lion. Like Aslan of Narnia, He is not a tame lion. His love may be the most dangerous thing about Him, because He swears to love us literally to the death of ourselves. Faith Hopler
    43. 43. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. Lamentations 3.31–33
    44. 44. God suffers too
    45. 45. crucifixion there are bigger things than suffering
    46. 46. 'There cannot be a God of love,' men say, 'because if there was, and he looked down upon the world his heart would break.' The church points to the cross and says, 'It did break'. 'It is God who made the world;' men say, 'it is he who should bear the load.' The church points to the cross and says, 'He did bear it'. William Temple
    47. 47. I have nothing to say that makes sense of this horror – all I know is that the message of the death and resurrection of Jesus is that he is with us. John Sentamu, Today Programme
    48. 48. resurrection God will deal with suffering evil
    49. 49. new heavens & new earth
    50. 50. Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD. Lamentations 3.40
    51. 51. www.tonywatkins.org twitter.com/tonywatkins_ facebook.com/tonywatkinspage