God and suffering – how can the two co-exist?

Recently I have been considering this question much. For obvious reasons, firstly, in that I am studying the ‘impossible triad’s logical problem of evil in relation to a loving, powerful God and Rowe’s ‘evidential problem of evil’ in my 2nd year of religious studies at college.

Yet, for me, this question is also very personally relevant at the moment.

 

And so, I decided to consider all the ideas put forward, from every angle.

I read Dostoyevsky’s ‘Brothers Karamazov’ and resonated with the feeling of dissolution and disconnect that he feels when he considers why God would even bother creating a world where the possibilities of evil are so great.

I read, in response to this I suppose, Swinburne’s ideas on ‘Free Will’ – suggestions that call us to recognise the importance of free will for true love to be shown – one can cite Kierkegaard’s ‘King and the peasant girl’ analogy to illustrate this. And these ideas played parts in my reaching of a final conclusion.

But I’ve found others along the way – the idea of a punishing God, and a Karmic God who is petty, hateful, vengeful – I am, being wholly honest, quite put off from the idea of following a God who is like this – hearing these ‘justifications’ for that God come from the mouths of religious believers who claim to also follow an ‘all-merciful God makes one wonder how they can ever reconcile the two seeming opposites.

After pursuing the theory, the intellectual suppositions, I went to a Church, an ornate one, and there I saw a crucifix. This image of the God of the bible, and of classical theism, who is all powerful, loving, mighty, who becomes human and suffers – he doesn’t preside over suffering, or use it to punish or correct but actually takes it onto himself. And here I found, once again, the wonder of the cross; and the reason why I believe. I don’t ‘get’ any of the ‘theories’ or theodicies suggested to account for suffering, I cannot. But I have concluded along the lines of Phillip Clayton, that God must have “pushed the ‘creation button’ knowing we will suffer, but also planning something that was so much better than that”.

I was reminded of the Psalm which says “Your love is better than life” – and the song by Jesus Culture ‘Your love never fails’.

 

We do suffer, and it hurts. One need only read the Bible to find a huge record of human suffering, lament and pursuit of its meaning. Yet in that same book, we find a God that responds in such a loving way. We don’t have, and cannot have, all the answers, but, I believe, we have been given a resolution.

 

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