Essay: Why Does God Permit Suffering and Evil?


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E-mail Bellgamin

This essay deals with the question which Christians and non-Christians alike ask more frequently than any other I know. I have done my best to offer an answer, or at least clues to an answer. But I know my best is far from adequate. I URGENTLY request your comments and suggestions so that it may be improved. For the glory of God!


Introduction

We begin our quest by coining a term...

Nay-sayers

There are people who don't believe the Bible, and who don't believe in the God whose nature and purposes are described by the Bible. I will henceforth refer to this group of folks as "nay-sayers." I do not mean anything unkind by this term. I use it only to save words.

Suffering and Evil

A: By "suffering" we generally mean the pain and sorrow caused by sickness, physical handicap, mental handicap, death, poverty, and so forth.
B: The word "
evil" denotes two things: (1) The baser human emotions such as hatred, prejudice, greed, jealousy, rage, and so forth. (2) The fact that evil angels are now free to roam the earth and influence the actions of people.
C: To save words I will often use the word "suffering" as meaning BOTH evil and suffering.

Three Facts

Nay-sayers consider the following three facts to be central to the issue of God's relationship to suffering:

A Four-point Argument

Based on the above facts, nay-sayers put forth the following four-point argument:

Three Hidden Assumptions

The nay-sayers' four-point argument appears quite logical until you dig into it and discover that they have made three unstated assumptions as follows:

The Fallacy of Assuming that God Can Do Anything

Even some Christians fall prey to the misconception that God can do anything. In fact, there is a Christian song which carries that misleading title.
God is all-powerful, yes.
But omnipotence is only one aspect of that complex and wonderful person known as God. The following are but three examples of God's multifaceted nature and character:

(God said:) "For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy." (Lev 11.44a, NKJV)

And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God,
merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth..." (Ex 34.6, NKJV)

Accordingly, there are many things that God CANNOT do. He cannot lie. He cannot break His promises. He cannot act to achieve an immediate good result if such an action would cause a greater harm in the future.
In summary,
God cannot violate His own holy character. He is (you might say) FORCED to always do that which is perfect, rather than that which is merely good and expedient.

The Fallacy of Assuming that God Places No Limitations on Suffering and Evil

Limitations on suffering
There are two types of suffering -- physical and emotional.

Physical suffering

Emotional suffering

Limitations on evil
The fact that God places limitations on the evil workings of Satan and his demons is attested to by Job 1.12, 2.6; Lk 22.31-32; Jude 1.6.

The Fallacy of Assuming that the Immediate Elimination of Suffering and Evil Would Produce ONLY Good Consequences

There are at least three "cures" which would do away with evil in the human race:

Cure 1 would yield a world devoid of humankind for ALL people are sinners by nature (Rom 3.10, 3.23). As a voting member of the human race, I feel that its elimination would be a bad consequence. What's your vote?
Cure 2 would yield a race of puppets, because it would mean the elimination of our ability to make moral choices. This is perhaps an even worse consequence than that which would accrue to cure 1.

Cure 3 is the course of action that God has chosen to use at the present time.
(God said:) "Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, reprove the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow..." (Isa 1.16-17a,NKJV)

In the meantime, we shall go in search of a world where a cure for suffering is not needed, for the simple reason that suffering does not exist in that world.

In Search of a Perfect World

Heaven

Heaven is the perfect world we all long for.

Heaven is the kind of world we would expect from an all-loving, all-powerful God. Earth ISN'T!

Perhaps the answer to these questions can be found by examining the requirements a person must meet in order to qualify for citizenship in God's Heavenly Kingdom.

Two Qualifications for Residing in God's Kingdom of Heaven

Earth folks are far from perfect. In fact they are born sinners (Ps 51.5; Rom 3.10-12, 3.23, 5.12).
To reside in the Kingdom of Heaven, a sinner must meet two qualifications:

The Meaning of "Perfect"

In the Bible the word "perfect" means spiritually complete.

The Holy Sculpter

How does God's Spirit go about the work of conforming us to Jesus's character?
Rom 8.28 says, "...all
things work together for good to those who love God ..." That is, God's Spirit uses the "things" in a Christian's life in order to accomplish the "good."
Here's a four-part analogy to help us better understand the Holy Spirit's methods:

The Chisels of God

We have said that the things in a Christian's life are the chisels of God. What are those things -- those chisels?

Two Caveats

The big question we set out to answer is "Why does God permit suffering and evil?" Having laid some groundwork, we are just about ready to give it a try. Before we begin, however, I MUST make two caveats as follows:
Caveat 1: God was asked to answer the big question, in one form or another, on several occasions such as Jer 12.1, Ps 37, and much of the book of Job. God never chose to answer that question.

Caveat 2: Since God didn't answer the big question, what you are about to read constitutes nothing more than my carefully considered opinion. REMEMBER: opinions are like noses. Everybody has one and they all smell!

The Beginning of an Answer to the Big Question

We begin our answer with six hypothetical events played out on the stage of this world of sin and suffering:

Tragedy and Triumph

Six events on Planet Earth. Isn't it stange that each of them is both tragedy and triumph at one and the same time?

Never in Heaven

The six events described above could never have taken place in Heaven. Absolutely not!

Perfect? Yes, but...

Heaven is the perfect world. There is no scarcity, no sickness, no war, no hatred, no death, no suffering. No bad things whatsoever. But would ice cream taste as good if you ate it three times a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year? (Stay with me, please.)

Our Citizenship IS in Heaven

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ...

(Philip 3.20, NKJV)

How wonderful Heaven will be when we get there!

Only You Can Answer

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.''
Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new.'' And He said to me, "Write, for these words are true and faithful.'' (Rev 21.4-5, NKJV)

I haven't really answered the big question after all, have I? That's because I think each person must answer that question on his or her own.
When you get to Heaven, and God Himself wipes away the tears of your earthly sorrows, what will you say to Him? Will you tell Him, "It was worth it all?" Or not?



For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

(Rom 8.18, KJV)

A final verse

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