"Problem" of evil/suffering.


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I find this to be at the forefront of "Arguments" against God's existence in nearly every discussion I've had with atheists or agnostics alike. Generally they start out with some rhetorical question, usually along the lines of "Why would God allow evil in the world if he is an all loving God? Why wouldn't he make it so we can have this life without evil?" and often our fellow Christians stumble on this seemingly gargantuan point, and many sadly lose their faith over it. Its really a sad thing to see people lose their faith over it, especially when they really don't think on it logically.

I was like that at one point, and really questioned my faith tremendously, despite knowing God in my heart, despite everything he had blessed me with, it was like "How could you?". However he gave me the answers I needed. I soon came to the realization that evils are a necessary by-product if you are to have a world of free creatures. It also makes sense that you would have a reward system in place for those who are honest, good people. There would also be a punishment in place for those like Hitler, Stalin, and the like.

I really feel that all to often, God is the one to be accused for anything negative in the world. A similar way to think of it is how, despite if the government has the capability to prevent it or not, the President is always blamed for this problem or that. Whats really sad, is often people are stirred by emotions and find the easiest target for finger pointing, then send blame at the target just as blindly as shooting in the dark.

Why are some so willing to blame God and yet will put trust in human constructs, governments, science etc.? All the world's problems are either directly caused by people (or caused by original sin) and can be prevented or at least alleviated by people, yet people don't. For example I've heard why would "God allow the brutal murder of a child" blaming God while ignoring that it was a choice of a person. If children were invulnerable to murder people would use them as bulletproof vests :p . Everything allowed or not allowed by God will be contorted by sin.

In short existence exists as a contrast (Genesis 1-3). Ask yourself what the alternatives to a world with evil is?

1. A world Adam and Eve are forever innocent and never eat the apple to learn wrong from right. This means there are no consequences to anything you do and subsequently nothing you do can ever matter. It is because we can choose bad that we know good is good. Everyone longs for childhood innocence at some point but it's only because we see the responsibilities and temptations of adulthood that we do.

2. We are all made perfect from the start. This would make us all Christ. God is perfect to be separated from him you would have to be imperfect. This like the above is a pointless existence. When I say pointless I mean literately pointless as in the story would go nowhere. Unlike us, being God, God would know He is good but nothing would ever happen. If one blames God for your ability to do evil you are blaming Him for being able to blame Him.

I believe that it is the very pain of existence, our trials, and ultimately our choice to choose God over ourselves that will make Heaven be Heaven. To appreciate coming home one has to leave home to begin with. What loving Father locks his child in the basement for life to keep him safe? A Father wants his child to choose what is right because the child chose it rather than because he has no other choice.

It's possible people would also claim that specific instances of evil are too much. With this you are tempting God saying you could do a better job than God. I don't know why God allows some things but I do know as bad as we see the world it could always be worse (and when none would be saved is exactly when Christ will come back Matthew 24:22-31). In fact this can all be likened to what Hell is. Any imperfection plus eternity equals Hell. Imperfect man separated from God will be left to "build" his perfect existence but will find he never can. Hell is the choice atheists have been wanting an existence left to their own devices.

The bottom line is people blame God because they deny their own sin. That doesn't mean they will necessarily say "I never make mistakes" they just believe they can evolve beyond sin by their own power. The polar opposite of what it takes to be saved.

It also makes sense that you would have a reward system in place for those who are honest, good people. There would also be a punishment in place for those like Hitler, Stalin, and the like.

I tend to think of it like a machine. God says the world works a certain way and warns us to operate it properly or don't be surprised you lose a hand. When common sense instructions are ignored and the machine explodes it is the user's fault not the manufacturer. The thing to remember about sin is it's unpleasant consequences aren't limited to the sinner alone. If it was no one would sin because it would never feel good, at least in the short term, to sin. We are in this world together and consequences good and bad get shifted by the corruption of sin between sinners and saints alike. In short don't expect good choices to always have good consequences when sin is gumming up the works. Sinners will steal your coat leaving you cold and them warm. That the world has not destroyed itself yet is by God's grace not our good works. One should do right because it is right not because you are guaranteed fat loot :p , at least in this life.
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The single best treatise on the subject is C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain. A great read. One of my top ten must read books.
Abba I have to agree with you. Clive Staples Lewis had the ability and intellect to approach the problem of sin and mankind in a way that was as insightful as anyone I have ever read, matched only by Paul the Apostle. Free will is the factor that makes the question of sin in the world answerable, and C. S. Lewis is able to clarify that issue well.
What I would tell your friends is:

The better question is, why would a perfect God allow us wretched sinful beings continue to exist? Why would He provide a means of grace and forgiveness when we all deserve destruction and eternal damnation. Why is there any good in this sinful, fallen world?

The answer is because he is a loving God. He sacrificed his only Son on the cross so that we might have eternal life. Jesus laid down his life and died in our place to appease God's judgement and wrath. He took the penalty for us so that we might be saved.
LOL...I agree, Pelagrin.

But Bruce Almighty is a fun movie with an interesting look at the repercussions of, "Why me? If only I were God for a day...I could make all things right...I could do a better job."