Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Problem of Pain- Chapter 6

Why is there pain and suffering in our world? How can our loving, just God allow awful things to happen to his people? It is a tough question. Not just tough, but also one of the leading arguments that atheists or others may use against Christianity. In fact, as mentioned by Peter Kreeft, Thomas Aquinas cites this problem of pain as the best argument against Christianity. 

First, we must define our terms. Suffering is, in my mind at least, the absence or loss of good. This may sound familiar. Isn't this the same definition as that I used for evil? Yes it is. It is of the same exact character. Someone mentioned in class that the distortion of the greatest good will cause the greatest pain. Pain is the offspring of suffering. Pain is the feeling, whether physical or emotional, that develops during suffering. 

But back to the problem. How does our God allow us to experience pain? Surely, he is powerful enough to stop it. Why doesn't he? Sometimes, God uses pain to help us "surrender" to him. Our lives must be changed so He allows pain and suffering into our lives. 

This issue also brings up a side argument about the nature of God. We know that we cannot fully grasp all of the wonders of God. We don't know exactly why He does certain things. But can He feel pain? Does He know what it means to suffer? When we pray for deliverance from suffering and pain, does He know what we are even talking about? I would argue that he does. Maybe this is not an important argument to some. If any such people are reading this, you might as well stop now. But for those interested people, I will continue.

Let's begin with saying that God can't feel any suffering. With this kind of God, He is "above" suffering. He doesn't feel it because He is too good, too perfect to feel pain. Let us return also to the point made earlier that we suffer because we must be changed. Does our all powerful God really need changing? Absolutely not! The next point involves Jesus' suffering. He obviously suffered greatly while on the cross. Has God felt this pain too? If God was feeling the same pain, the what do the words, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" mean? It is a difficult discussion.

Now let's examine the other side of the issue. If God is "above" suffering, then how does He know what we are talking about when we say something hurts? In my mind, Jesus and God are in some way- though it's incomprehensible- one being. Therefore, when Jesus suffered on the cross, God also knew that pain. He probably didn't feel it in the same way as we do. I doubt God feels any emotion or state of being in the same way we do. But He was still part of Christ while He suffered. 

But if we say that God doesn't suffer in the same way as us, then how and why does He suffer? It surely isn't over trivial things. Is it? The beauty of this idea is that God can take on our suffering. He chooses to suffer with us. He sees our pain and makes it his. Therefore, if I am crying over the death of my dog, then maybe God is, in some way, sad with me. This is comforting, to me at least. 

Maybe I am wrong. That would be okay with me. I am not even sure that I made a great case for what I think. But I am sure that whatever God feels or doesn't feel, the point is that He loves us. He sent His Son to take upon Him the ultimate suffering, the punishment for all of our sins. Thank God that we do not need to feel that pain!

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