Well, how can a good God allow suffering? Present all the arguments you like. If a good and all-powerful God created everything then he created the world we live in. If he created people with free will then he knew we’d stuff it up. He may give us hope of resurrection and a perfect world one day but why put us through this one now?
Basically the buck has to stop somewhere. And if God is God then it has to stop with him.
But is God God in the way we think he is? Are the classical attributes of omniscience, omnipotence and benevolence just a philosopher’s trick? And are these the only characteristics of God?
Human brains can’t conceive of the what, the why and the how of the way God is God. If we could, God wouldn’t be God. So is the question fundamentally flawed because its opening clause delimits the character of God in human terms? And is the question fundamentally brilliant because it inherently carries a reminder that God is not God the way we think he is God. There is more to God than we can ever dream or imagine. How can a God we cannot even imagine allow suffering?
Yet we can imagine how God is, because of Jesus, or so the theory goes. We see this God bringing healing in the midst of suffering, firing faith in those who suffer the most.
Yet it still doesn’t explain why the world is the way it is. Does there have to be a reason for the way the world is? I don’t know – but the way the world is, is ultimately because God created it that way, or if he did not create it that way he planted the seed of corruption in Eden, or if he did not plant the seed he allowed it to grow. Which brings us back to our opening question.
Jesus may be the best picture of God we have, but is not the only one. We have the Old Testament weighing in with the fiery image of the warLORD, avenging and punishing, as well as consoling and loving. This God seems quite willing to induce suffering…
And if it is us who are to blame, if the greatest acts of human generosity are only possible out of freedom, as are the greatest acts of human terror; if it is somehow meant to be like this, that “you can’t have one without the other”, no pleasure without pain… Well, aren’t we all looking forward to a world where it is all one without the other? All love without hate? All peace without violence? All joy without suffering? So why does this world have to be such a mixed blessing now? And why for some is there no balance between life and death, suffering and peace?
So round and round we go, and as Dean [Christian Studies course tutor] said, If there were an answer, would it make any material difference?
Well, I’m not sure. Must there be a reason for the way the world is?