Friday, July 24, 2015
"Why Does God Allow Suffering and Pain?"
Tell me what you think of this one. It shows mainstream evangelicals in the church system struggling with one of life's biggest questions. Some of them are definitely Emergent types.
I wonder about the inverse side of the coin of "Have the Best Life Now" teachings and worry that it is one will always find meaning in suffering or suffering will always make one more godly. Suffering is supposed to bring great insight and change. This isn't always true. There are some false messages out there that I worry muddy the waters.
Not every illness or disaster or suffering will bring great spiritual lessons. We are in a natural world open to disease, sin and accidents. In fact I dare say this teaching can actually influence people away from God especially if they have suffered deeply in their lives or lost several people to death. Yes there is suffering that comes from sin and even demonic attacks, but much suffering in this world is from it's natural and fallen state.
I know this is a complex issue, but just thinking aloud for this article. God does use evil for good but I worry about these false messages in Christianity. Many atheists go running for the hills when cultural Christians provide weak answers to some of these life questions or teach people meaning will always be found in suffering. In fact these are some things that lead many to turn away from God, and if god "allows" the suffering, doesn't that mean god is cruel? I can count dozens who have told me this refusing the gospel.
I had the weird experience the other week, being at a coffeeshop with a few acquaintances in town and one has stage IV colon cancer. She was being "brave" and then told me and a few others, "I know God sent me this cancer to change me and teach me some spiritual lessons". I was horrified. Cancer from God? Maybe it would be better stated to say that God would use her horrific illness for some good, but this one spiritually troubled me. She is in a mainstream church. I told her, I do not believe God sends anyone illness and that illness is part of a fallen world and that God is not the author of evil. She knows I have suffered severe illness and from a young age, so I hope I woke her up.
So few understand the core basic, that death and disease came to this world via sin. Jesus came to bring us more abundant life and eternal life, not suffering and death. Salvation in Jesus Christ is the lifeline out of the muck and sufferings of this world.
I can't even count how many atheists have said to me, "How could there be a God when thousands die in disasters?" I think there is this trend in American society where everything that happens in this world must have meaning or some kind of positive outcome actually adds more confusion to these questions.
Bad things happen in this world. Sin [both our own and others and even that of Adam and Eve] brought death and suffering into this world. Satan is the prince of this earth. The bible makes clear this world is a vale of tears for us all:
Ecclesiastes 7King James Version (KJV) 7 A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's birth. 2 It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.
One thing I thought about watching this video is that suffering is for special people. It will only happen to a select group. All of us will see people die and then die ourselves. Maybe the upper middle class academic vibe to this video gave me that feeling.
Michael Frost, a professor of theology explores the free-will issue and there is some truth there, that people do make choices [well sins] that will bring good or bad. Of course even there that is limited. Bad things happen to people who make good decisions too. American culture is awash in the concept that "good choices" determine one's destiny.
The Bible says it rains on the just and unjust. Sadly in our culture, we know that there is that undercurrent that those who have made good decisions supposedly benefit from having a good life and those who have made poor ones supposedly have bad lives. Things don't work that way. The poor are often oppressed with that one.
Alan Hirsch a philosopher talks about earthquakes and hurricanes that kill thousands. He is correct that there are extreme limitations in the Eastern philosophies of why suffering occurs, since they say this life isn't real, or promote the idea of karma. Karma is when one is suffering in this life for the misdeeds of the supposed last life. He seems to see Christianity as the "best religion" which I don't agree with. It is the only one that is true.
Angie Smith who lost her baby has a poignant experience to share and seems to have grown closer to God through her deep loss and grief. Jo Saxton is right in saying Christians should be allowed to cry. Sadly there are false teachers out there that condemn all emotions. She sticks to the verse, "I know my Redeemer Lives".
Hugh Halter is a man who had a son with severe disability and talks about his son's life and impact. Gideon Tsang, says earlier in a kind of fuzzy-way that lack of love causes suffering but then are plenty who love who suffer too. In fact sometimes I think suffering can be deeper when it comes to grief for those who love deeper. Of course he has the view that God will heal THIS world which I do not agree with.
Mike Breen sees God as a "hero". That one has too much overlap with Superheroes for me. Explore God is a multi-denominational evangelical group so obviously I won't agree with everything on the video. I worry about Catholic view of suffering where suffering for suffering's sake is seen as redeemable. They don't come out so direct with that one but see a few glimmers of it. I do worry sometimes that the denial of suffering in American culture has led our culture to a strange place where suffering is seen as the exception and not for everyone. This idea that God "allows" suffering bothers me too. It is one I have thought on for many years.
There will be suffering for the gospel, martyrship and the like. There is chastisement and God will even use suffering for the greater good but there are some subtle teachings with suffering that should worry us. Jesus Christ came to save us from death and to offer us eternal life and God offers us a future free of suffering with salvation in Him.
Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.