Friday, August 21, 2015

The Problem of a God Who Allows Suffering

Someone asked me, if God were real, why would He allow kids to be born with birth defects (and finished with saying, "thanks imaginary god.") It bothered me, not just because he was challenging my beliefs. After all, our beliefs should be challenged and tested by the force of reason and experience, otherwise they're probably not worth anything.

But what bothered me was that he had a valid point. Why would a good God allow kids to suffer, like in the article below? Why do so many human beings seem to live a loveless, harsh, and suffering existence only to die at the end of it?

I've been thinking about it a lot. I think the only acceptable solution is one that fully recognizes the reality of suffering in the world and doesn't try to mitigate or minimize it. Suffering in the human condition is real, it is deep, and it is often relentless.

So, this is what I'm thinking currently: Our conception of God rests on our understanding of "the Ideal." The ideal varies from culture to culture, and over periods of time, but almost universally includes the concepts, "the Good, the Transcendent, and the Imminent." A concept of God worth engaging by human beings (whether in prayer, worship, or just simple awe and joy), must include these three (and yet is infinitely more than these) concepts. But how could an imminent (involved deeply in the details of the cosmos) and good God allow such undeserved suffering?

Well, if God is real, good, imminent, and transcendent and has created us for relationship with Him, then relationship requires free will. And if free will is not an illusion, it must be probabilistic and not deterministic in nature. By it's very definition, the existence of probability introduces an element of chaos into the cosmos. This chaotic element, would then introduce harsh realities into all of life's experience (and not just human), which would be experienced as suffering.  And free will opens the possibility for us to choose disharmony over harmony, and betrayal over trust.  If trust, in turn, is the foundation for all human relationships (including those with each other, with God, and with creation), then it leaves us in a completely broken state.  Brokenness leads to confusion, and in that confusion, it is no wonder we are unable to perceive God clearly on our own.

This does not compromise God's goodness, as God's goodness is manifest in everything created. Evil (and its cousin, suffering) are not created things, but are a warping or corruption of what is created, as a consequence both of the abuse of free will and the role of chaos in allowing both free will and a lack of total determinism in the cosmos. But the beauty and mystery of God's goodness, is that in His desire to preserve the will, and enable relationship, He suffers with us. He feels the pain of every dying child, of every victim of abuse. He feels our hurt, confusion, and rage.

Christ's Incarnation (God taking humanity onto Himself in Christ) ensures that He takes part in our suffering., His death on the cross is the ultimate expression of this as He takes all the pain, suffering, and brokenness in the world into Himself. His resurrection is the ultimate triumph over suffering and the hope of our triumph, as well. Finally, the Holy Spirit's continued presence in a broken and hurting world feeds the hope and propels its fulfillment forward, even in the face of inexpressible sorrow.  And it is through the Incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ that we experience the hope of reparation and restoration.

I understand if people don't see it the same way I do, and I don't blame them. But these are just my thoughts as I grapple with the realities of our existence.

P.S. Some further thoughts on the attributes of God expressed in, "the Good, the Transendant, and the Imminent." We can envision these attributes, and we all have different ideas about them, but we also all agree that outside of concepts concerning God, there are no perfect expressions of the Good, or the Transcendent, or the Imminent in human experience.

This tells me that the argument that our concept of God is simply anthropomorphic projection and nothing more, is not valid. If God simply reflected anthropocentric tendencies in our species, as necessary for our survival, then our concept of Him would not rest on attributes which are utterly unattainable by any created being. ‪#‎GodProblems‬ ‪#‎Suffering‬

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