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March 21, 2012

Comments

The post is called “Why Does God Let Us Suffer,” and I’m assuming the “us” refers to we human individuals. Amy has pointed out a few things that may go into God’s purposes for our suffering, although we are left a bit in the dark about why an omnipotent being would not be able to achieve these purposes without permitting so much suffering, and it is not argued that all of the goods pointed out are worth the hoards of horrendous evils allegedly required for these goods. Could God have not made us aware of his sustaining power without permitting the Thirty Years War? And even if he could not, is it clear that human awareness of God’s sustaining power is worth the suffering brought about by the Thirty Years War? Or consider the lives and sufferings of those rational animals now extinct, the Neanderthals. How much awareness of God’s sustaining power or of the importance of Christlikeness were these rational animals taught by wandering through a frigid Europe, hunting for food in a world that would learn the term “Christlikeness” only 28,000 years after that world had reduced the Neanderthals to skeletons that children and the inquisitive would one day marvel at in 21st century museums of natural history? Or consider those that suffer from mentally debilitating conditions. Is it the case that the victims of these conditions are being taught about Jesus by the very conditions that undermine their ability to be taught? Or should we rather say that they get to suffer from debilitating mental conditions in order that we, the more fortunate, can reflect on these victims and learn something about God?

Importantly, there is the fact that much of the suffering in the world is not our suffering, but the suffering of non-human animals. It doesn’t seem that this topic is Amy’s target, so in all fairness that should be pointed out. However, I think it is fair to bring it up in order to remind us of what has and what has not been addressed. Surely God’s reason for overseeing a history littered with the suffering and mass extinction of non-human animals is not in order to teach them about Jesus or to instill in them godly character. Is it perhaps to teach us humans about Jesus? If so, then it is a train wreck of a lesson, because hardly any of us, despite our best efforts, can tell what God wants us to learn from the fact that the world contains an abundance of animal suffering that is more to be expected if ultimately the world is indifferent to the welfare of creatures than if it is run by a perfectly benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent God who takes note when even a single sparrow falls to the ground.

Finally, there is the abundance of misery and torment that, according to Amy, is in store for all of those normal adults who have died never having believed in Jesus. In light of the doctrine of soteriological exclusivism, moreover, it would appear that this is going to be the fate of most of our brothers and sisters. Clearly they are not suffering in order to develop virtue or be brought closer to God. We are sometimes told that the punishment that God eternally inflicts on them is in order to satisfy the demands of justice, but even apart from the highly controversial notion of justice that this presupposes, it is not clear how this is supposed to work. After all, the suffering of the damned is eternal, and that seems to suggest that at no particular time has the punishment sufficed to satisfy the demands of justice. That is presumably why it continues. So, are we to think that God’s purpose for them is that they experience a system of unbelievably terrible suffering in order to satisfy a justice that God knew beforehand would at no point in time be satisfied by such suffering? And even if we can somehow meet this objection, we are still left with the fact that God was free to forgive these people and show them mercy while also satisfying the demands of justice via Christ’s atonement. Clearly, therefore, God was not required by the demands of justice to subject most of humanity to such horrific suffering in response to their wickedness. Why, then, has he chosen to? It is here that we are sometimes encouraged to think of God as a cosmic sadist who is in some mysterious way glorified by the fate of the damned. The attribute of God’s wrath, for instance, is on full display, and that is apparently a good thing over all. If those are the depths to which we must descend in order to explain post-mortem suffering, then it’s safe to say that such suffering has gone entirely unexplained.

RonH,
See what I mean?

SteveK,
What do you mean?

Mal,

Very interesting. Do you have a "reason God has made a world such as this" worked out to the Nth degree? I do not. I have parts. "I don't know" is left intact. Yet, the more I know Him, or taste Him, the less concerned I grow with the inability to connect the dots. So, Mal, why is there a world full of Sin, and Pain? Do you feel God could have made a world of Love via a different Path? If so, why didn't he? My answer is in part that of Amy, and, in part, "I don't know". I cannot see over the horizon which lies behind us, before our Creation, and, I cannot see over the horizon which lies in front of us, after the New World is finally birthed. I know parts of The-Now; but even in the Now I cannot connect all the dots. But I have Him. Or He has me. And, in there, I know He's got it well in hand. The Why of it perplexes me. Troubles me. And, the Magnitude of Love Himself towers over that trouble and makes it seem a faint little echo in comparison to Him, to His love. I don't know if that is "enough" for others. It is becomming enough for me. But, do you have your own Connect-Every-Dot to the Nth Degree with Zero-Gaps and Full Internal Consistancy fully worked out and ready to present here? (I do not)

Malebranche,you made some excellent and profound points,especially with the reference to the orthodox view on eternal damnation,there aren't many of us as Christians who have ventured far and deeply into that spiritual area of thinking concerning that topic of the eternal damnation of the wicked. Personally,and on a spiritual level,although Christian,I do not hold to that orthodox view,but that may not be of any relevance here. While you made good points,there seemed to be one huge problem in the midst of making your last points:

Whether your intent was to use your last points to justify a non-existence of God or to actually make people believe that God is a "cosmic sadist" by using the mistakes and misunderstandings of people as with reference to God's character,nature,and His way of doing things cold and calculatively to your advantage,I saw through it and many others will see it. Let me show you:

First,you commenced your last points concerning the eternal damnation justice with the presupposition questions: "So are we to think that God's purpose for them is that they experience a system of unbelievably terrible suffering in order to satisfy a justice that God knew beforehand would at no point in time be satisfied by such suffering? And even if we meet this objection,we are still left with the fact that God was free to forgive these people and show them mercy while also satisfying the demands of justice via Christ's atonement. Clearly,therefore,God was not required by the demands of justice to subject most of humanity to such horrific suffering in response of their wickedness". You see right there,you made profound points and those points were made in the form of presupposition and we can further debate whether it was also made in the context of presumption,speculation or mere assumption. But,here's where you were very sneaky,cold and callous and I caught it where you brought in,

"WHY THEN HAS [GOD]CHOSEN TO?" You see that right there? That was swift,wreckless and irresponsible of you to sneak that accusation directly to God. You actually attempt to have people believe that God actually CHOSE TO DO what you initially presupposed.

You thought noboby would see how you inserted that in there,and because you made the points in a hypothetical manner,many people will see through you and that attempt to make people see a "cosmic sadist" of a God,and will actually be drawn to know a loving,merciful God intimately for themselves by His Spirit. How you could make such insightful points and use it cunningly to your advantage reminds me of...You know what,I won't say,but that brand of deception doesn't fall to far from the tree. Nice try Malbranche.

Amy Hall,

Those three answers aren't actually answers to the question of why God lets us suffer. Remember that God is omnipotent---his wishes always come true. So suffering is no prerequisite to becoming aware of X. If God wants us to be aware of X, he can wish for it and it will be so. Instead he wishes for us to be aware of X, *and* he wishes for us to suffer. The question is, why does he also wish for the latter?

This is not to say God has no good reason to let us suffer. Perhaps he does---he is omniscient after all. But whatever reasons he has, these are not them.

--Ben

These are the purposes God has explicitly stated for the suffering of Christians. God uses means in the world to accomplish His purposes because He's unfolding an entire story in the material world. He doesn't just put information into our brains, He uses the means of teaching and learning. He doesn't just put all knowledge about Himself in our minds, He uses the means of revelation in the Bible. He doesn't just give us everything we need, He uses the means of prayer.

In the same way, He doesn't just skip to the end of the story by "wishing" us to be immediately like Christ, He uses the means of history to shape people and reveal Himself to them.

I find myself in substantial agreement with this version of LHRM.

I also remind the board that Malebranche considers God a cosmic sadist even if one person, even if it is a totally unrepentant Stalin, ends up in eternal damnation.

BTW,
Very good post, Amy, and especially the ending.
Bible-readers will instantly recognize this thinking.
When Israel was humbled by the failure of its arms, numbers, fortifications and allies it was left with repentance. Such is the same for the individual.
When the wave sweeps over us and everything is washed away but the Rock we then know to Whom we have to cling.

Ben,

Since you persistently hold and propose as an absolute truth that Amy's posted reasons for suffering are not sufficient nor valid reasons,why don't you share and elaborate on what you perceive as reasons for why we suffer and expound on God's role in our suffering?

"But whatever reasons he[God] has,these are not them" will not suffice. I'm interested to hear your feedback. I think it's fair that if Amy elaborated on her profound points,that perhaps you can enlighten us as well and open us up to things that we may have missed,misunderstood or perhaps misinterpreted.

Mal,
There is no morality without God, and yet you say God's morality is immoral when it comes to suffering. Explain how that works.

SteveK, I like how you put Malbranche on the spot with that one.

Well I'll be a monkey's uncle.
Thanks, Amy.

Nope, I retracted my statement because you were right. I thought you were referring to a different commenter. Sorry for the confusion.

For what it's worth, the Greek concept of cultivating Arete in one's life seems a much more apt summation of God's purpose for us. Suffering is neither exluded nor required of that sort of personal development--it's simply a feature of life, as transient as any other sensation.

In making us imperfect but thirsty for perfection, God allows us to do something which is, for him, logically impossible--we may become greater.

Richard,
I've asked the same question in different ways. Mal has never answered so I don't expect to get an answer now. Still, I want everyone to know he is making the same mistake that Euthyphro did.

Amy,

Thanks for the response. I hope you don't mind if I give my thoughts.

First, I don't think the Bible says quite all you attribute to it. For instance Rom 5:3-4 reads thusly: "3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." So it says that suffering produces these good things, but it doesn't say that these good things are the *reason* God lets us suffer. (After all, how could they be, since God can bring them about without suffering?) So even according to the Bible, it could be that they're just along for the ride, so to speak. And when we look at the other passages you cite, we find the same sort of thing going on.

But you also have a second concern, which is that you think God doesn't want to skip ahead and just implant knowledge or awareness into us. Rather, he wants us to go through a more natural process whereby we learn through experience. On this view, God really loves to see certain events occur before certain other events. In particular, it's more important to God that those events occur than that we should be spared from suffering.

Let me be clear: I don't think you're committed to that view. You have a perfectly acceptable way of reconciling God's goodness with our earthly suffering, which is to appeal to our ignorance. But suggesting that God loves to see certain events happen before other events at the expense of our well-being only *compromises* God's goodness, and doesn't reconcile it with our suffering.

Thanks,
--Ben

Richard Wedderburn,

I don't know any reasons that a perfectly good God could have to let us suffer. Of course, that doesn't mean he doesn't actually have his reasons. It just means that I am unaware of them.

I don't think anyone else is aware of them, either.

--Ben

Ben,
Not aware? Did you see the link Amy provided to the 36 reasons?

SteveK,

Well I distinguish between *purported* reasons and *actual* reasons. I've reviewed the three mentioned in this blog, and none of them seem to hold up to scrutiny. If you think one of the other 33 are immune to criticism, you are welcome to suggest it.

--Ben

The only thing that seems clear in all the above comments is the little understanding of the utter sinful of sin.

I figured, but who am I too push? :)

Hi Ben,
Do you acknowledge that God causes and allows suffering as admonishment and discipline, as He did many times to Israel, even raising up armies and nations to bring against them?

*to*

Daron,

Sure, God might USE suffering as a tool to perform any number of actions, including disciplining his chosen people the Israelites. But this can never be an EXPLANATION for why God lets us suffer, since he can discipline people without allowing them to suffer.

--Ben

Now that does seem an odd thing to say, Ben. God does cause or allow suffering to accomplish an end some other way. Now why doesn't He, do you think?

Let me try that again ...

Now that seems like an odd thing to say, Ben; God does cause or allow suffering to accomplish an end but that end is not the cause of the suffering.

And it is an end which He could achieve some other way. So why doesn't He, do you think?

Daron,

Remember, I don't think that God causes/allows suffering in order to accomplish an end---that would be incoherent. Rather, it might simply be a fact that as a result of causing/allowing suffering certain consequences occur which God wants to occur. That's all I mean by God using suffering as a tool. Of course, since God doesn't have much need of tools to accomplish his ends, it's an odd sort of tool use. The best human analogy I can imagine is a Rube Goldberg---it's a tool, but an almost completely superfluous one. Only with God, we can dispense with the "almost" bit.

But as for your question about why God doesn't achieve those ends some other way, I don't know. By hypothesis, he is perfectly good, which means that, all else being equal, he doesn't want us to suffer. Since he could bring about the end of discipline just by wishing for it (i.e. without ALSO wishing for us to suffer), he must have some other reason. But what that is I haven't the faintest idea.

--Ben

Hi Ben,
Your premise seems to me to be begging the question and I don't see that you've established the incoherence that you claim..

Rather, it might simply be a fact that as a result of causing/allowing suffering certain consequences occur which God wants to occur.
If this doesn't say that the consequences are the reason then I don't know what you are meaning here. If God wants the consequences to occur, cause/allows suffering to bring about those consequences, then the reason for that suffering was the the intended consequence. How is it not? Where is the incoherence?
Since he could bring about the end of discipline just by wishing for it (i.e. without ALSO wishing for us to suffer), he must have some other reason. But what that is I haven't the faintest idea.
How do you know that He could discipline us without our suffering? How is that a consequence of His omnipotence or His omni benevolence?

He seems to have been pretty clear about some of His reasons. Here's a short set of examples:

Psalm 106:41 He handed them over to the nations, and their foes ruled over them.

2 Kings 24
3 Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done,


2 Kings 13:3 So the LORD's anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.

Judges 3:12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel.

Judges 2:14
In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

2 Kings 19:25
‘Have you not heard? 
   Long ago I ordained it. 
In days of old I planned it; 
   now I have brought it to pass, 
that you [Assyria] have turned fortified cities 
   into piles of stone. 
26 Their people, drained of power, 
   are dismayed and put to shame.

Habakkuk 1:
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,[a]
   that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
   to seize dwellings not their own.


Lamentations 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?


Oh no, I've released the italics monster again.

check

All of Malebranche's objections have been addressed by other persons in the Christian community. On other occasions that I've seen him post he appears familiar enough with the work of Christian philosophers that I would be surprised if he isn't already aware of this (e.g. Animal suffering, fittingness and the demands of justice, etc.).

So why does Malebranche bring up objections that Christians have tried to answer elsewhere? Does he think every time someone speaks on the topic of evil that they have to go through every single angle again? In that case, why doesn't Malebranche interact with persons who have addressed the issues he raises?

In addition, asking how the Christ-likeness explanation fits with Neanderthal is either pedantic or simple-minded. Clearly, (most) Christians don't think the Christ-likeness explanation is intended to work on non-Christians or, rather, non-believers. Thus, attacking it for not addressing something it wasn't meant to address is pedantic or simple-minded.

Malebranche's behavior seems... odd, to say the least.

Daron,

Ben isn't a Christian. Not sure that will matter since he is willing to interact with your questions hypothetically, but I wasn't sure if you were aware of that.

Ben,

Let's say I'd like to make my nephew happy today. I can do this by either taking him McDonalds for a happy meal or buying him a toy at Walmart. I decide to take him to buy him a happy meal. Does it follow that, since buying him a happy meal was not necessary in order to make him happy, making him happy is not the reason I bought him a happy meal?

It looks like we could expand your argument to say that, since God could probably accomplish his goals or goal through almost any means, then God probably doesn't have a reason for almost anything. As an atheist, you might be fine with that conclusion, but likewise it seems we would have to say that *we* don't have reasons for most of what we do either. (I'm wondering whether you have a reason for posting here?)

You may want to make this turn on an odd definition of "explanation" where something can only serve as an explanation if it is the only necessary and sufficient cause of the effect. That looks controversial to me. So why should I buy it?

Daron,

First, let me distinguish between the ordinary process of becoming disciplined and the final state of being disciplined. So when I say that God can bring about our being disciplined, I mean that God can bring about the state of us being a certain way, namely the state of having discipline.

That said, the incoherence lies in the fact that God can bring about our being in a state of discipline without also bringing about the ordinary process of becoming disciplined. Instead, he can just make a wish, and---viola!---we shall be in a state of having discipline. For God to ALSO wish that we endure a long and unpleasant process of becoming disciplined is quite unnecessary in order for his OTHER wish to come true.

The question is, why does God also wish that we endure that long process of suffering which we understand as "becoming disciplined"? That God wants us to be in a state of having discipline cannot be the answer, because he can bring about that state simply by wishing for it. For God, the two wishes are not connected in the way they are for us. Since God is omnipotent, he can wish for one without the other, and it will be so. To suggest that God has wished for one because he needs to do so in order to obtain the other is therefore incoherent, since he does not in fact need to do so.

--Ben

Ben,

As I think I pinpointed above, this is the heart of your claim: "That God wants us to be in a state of having discipline cannot be the answer, because he can bring about that state simply by wishing for it... To suggest that God has wished for one because he needs to do so in order to obtain the other is therefore incoherent, since he does not in fact need to do so."

But this also looks like the weakest claim. I don't see how it follows that if God could obtain x through 'z' rather than 'y,' but chooses 'y' over 'z' then 'y' cannot be the explanation for 'x' obtaining. In that case, 'z' couldn't be the explanation either, since it could have been obtained through 'y'. Doesn't this mean that wherever alternative possibilities exist to obtaining 'x', there can be no coherency in how 'x' is obtained?

Jonathan,

I am not suggesting that God has no reason to do anything he does. I don't think that view is coherent either. Nor am I suggesting that an explanation need to be necessary and sufficient for its explanandum.

In response to your other question, sure, there is a certain sense (in particular, an "ordinary language" sense) in which the reason that God brings about suffering is to bring about certain consequences we associate with suffering. But that sort of misses out on the relevant idea behind the question of why God allows suffering. Try thinking of it this way: We're asking why God prefers a world with suffering to a world without suffering. Can this be reconciled with God's goodness? If you acknowledge that God can just wish for X to make it so, then why does God ALSO wish for a process of suffering leading up to X? To say simply that the process causes X doesn't explain what we really want to have explained---which is why God prefers a world where suffering exists and causes X to a world where X simply happens without the extra suffering. Since God is perfectly good, then all else being equal he would just wish for X, and not ALSO wish for the process of suffering leading up to X. Why, then, does he make that extra wish?

I don't think any human being has an answer to that question. Now, that doesn't mean no answer exists. Maybe God knows something we don't know---he is, of course, omniscient. But whatever the reason, it isn't causal.

--Ben

Hi Jonathan,

So why does Malebranche bring up objections that Christians have tried to answer elsewhere?
...

Malebranche's behavior seems... odd, to say the least.


Odd indeed.
I think it is a war of attrition as he has raised these points countless times and has wearied people of answering him.
At least he has quit calling Koukl et al heretics and blasphemers.

Ben isn't a Christian. Not sure that will matter since he is willing to interact with your questions hypothetically, but I wasn't sure if you were aware of that.
Thanks. I presumed that to be the case but wasn't sure if he had made the admission.

Your response to him is good. Especially, this, as I figured the next step in our dialogue would have to be the posing of a definition of "explanation":

You may want to make this turn on an odd definition of "explanation" where something can only serve as an explanation if it is the only necessary and sufficient cause of the effect. That looks controversial to me. So why should I buy it?

Just to reiterate, I definitely do not suggest that an explanation need be necessary and sufficient cause of its explanandum. Heck, an explanation needn't even be causal at all, broadly speaking.

--Ben

Ben,

So let me see if I understand.

Now you say (or have always meant to say) that, for instance, soul-making (or character-making) is a reason God has for allowing Christians to suffer but it is not a reason for why God chooses to use that means? I'm tempted to respond "Thank you, Cpt. Obvious." :)

Ben,

BTW, I have seen the folks at Triablogue address the question you pose (the reasons God might have for using this means rather than simply willing it so). I think they had some good observations, but I'll let you pursue that yourself. I was only concerned with your claim the blog author's suggested reasons aren't reasons (and can't be reasons) because there is some other alternative. I think we've showed that isn't true, yes?

Ben,

You say: "Just to reiterate, I definitely do not suggest that an explanation need be necessary and sufficient cause of its explanandum. Heck, an explanation needn't even be causal at all, broadly speaking."

I acknowledge that you're not saying that now. But I'm wondering though how to make sense of you saying that Amy Hall's (or whoever it was) suggestion is incoherent if you were always addressing a back question (what's the reason for God choosing to use the means he does) and not the question Amy Hall appears to have been addressing: what purposes does God want to achieve in suffering.

Jonathan,

Well I think context is pretty important here. The point in explaining why God allows us to suffer is so that we understand why God chooses a world where suffering exists to a world where it does not. To say that the reason God allows suffering is to make souls or to build character, or something like that, although it may be true in some weaker sense, does not help us answer the relevant question.

Consider the Rube Goldberg analogy: Suppose you ask me, "why did you build the Rube Goldberg?" and I answer, "because I want to put a peanut in a plastic cup." In some weak sense my answer is true, but it's not actually an answer to the question you were asking. You are well aware that I can just pick up a peanut and put it in the plastic cup if I so desire. Rather, you're curious why I would bother to build an elaborate machine to accomplish that comparatively simple task.

Similarly, it may well be true in some sense that God allows suffering in order to cause X to occur. However the sense in which it is true is irrelevant to the present context, which is reconciling God's goodness with our suffering.

--Ben

Jonathan,

You write:

I was only concerned with your claim the blog author's suggested reasons aren't reasons (and can't be reasons) because there is some other alternative. I think we've showed that isn't true, yes?

I'm not sure you understand my claim. Remember, I'm working within the context of reconciling God's goodness with our suffering. In other words, when I say that Amy's purported reasons are not actual reasons, I mean that they are not actual reasons in the relevant sense. They may well be reasons in some weaker, irrelevant sense.

If you see that point, then yes, we can agree that Amy's reasons might be actual reasons in some irrelevant sense. But in the context of reconciling God's goodness with our suffering, they cannot be actual reasons in the relevant sense.

--Ben

Wow, I missed a lot while I was posting.

For God to ALSO wish that we endure a long and unpleasant process of becoming disciplined is quite unnecessary in order for his OTHER wish to come true.

It sounds like we need more definitions because this is yet another unsupported assertion as I read it - who says God's means are not the necessary means? When God says He is doing something for the reason of bringing out a given end the incoherence seems to lie in the claim that He did not have that reason for those means.

That God wants us to be in a state of having discipline cannot be the answer, because he can bring about that state simply by wishing for it.
Sure it is the answer. He said it is the answer and you are presuming that there is some other way to do this than the way He has chosen. Even if this were the case, though you give no foundation, Jonathan has demonstrated the fallacy in your claim that the end can't be the reason if there were some other means. There is no justification for this claim and it is completely illogical.
To suggest that God has wished for one because he needs to do so in order to obtain the other is therefore incoherent, since he does not in fact need to do so.
Nobody says He needs to do it this way, although it is mere question-begging for you to say that there are other means for Him to accomplish His ends.

Also, bear in mind that punishment and discipline is only one reason for suffering - though one case in which God has clearly stated the reason - and that "suffering" has many positive ends. As the omniscient Creator God would know if the sum of all of these, and more we may not know about, are appropriately reason enough for suffering.

Jonathan's 7:40 address of your illogical conclusion encompasses my thoughts as well.

Ben,

I don't see you saying anything new here. You don't think the soul-making answer answers why God wants to use the soul-making method. And you don't think the soul-making answer is important in light of the other question, even though it may be a true reason for why God lets some suffer (nevermind that you didn't seem willing to grant this earlier). Just as Malebrache pointed out that Amy Hall's (or whoever) post didn't address issue 'x', you're pointing out that it didn't address issue 'y'. Okay. Others have tried to do that. I was just interested in the claim that this blog's answers weren't answers at all (or I thought that was being claimed).

Thanks for clarifying your concern.

Ben,
Please deal with the Scripture now and tell me how God's words are not relevant:
Psalm 106:41 He handed them over to the nations, and their foes ruled over them.

2 Kings 24
3 Surely these things happened to Judah according to the LORD’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done,


2 Kings 13:3 So the LORD's anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.

Judges 3:12 Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel.

Judges 2:14
In his anger against Israel the LORD handed them over to raiders who plundered them. He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.

2 Kings 19:25
‘Have you not heard? 
 Long ago I ordained it. 
In days of old I planned it; 
 now I have brought it to pass, 
that you [Assyria] have turned fortified cities 
 into piles of stone. 
26 Their people, drained of power, 
 are dismayed and put to shame.

Habakkuk 1:
6 I am raising up the Babylonians,[a]
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.


Lamentations 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?

Daron,

I'm sort of taking for granted that you agree God is omnipotent. However you are welcome to deny God's omnipotence. That's certainly one easy path to building a theodicy.

If you don't want to deny omnipotence, though, then your criticisms don't pan out. You're suggesting that maybe God has no other means but through suffering to cause X to occur. However if God is omnipotent, he can wish for X to occur and it will---regardless of whether any other events occur prior to X. That is, after all, part of what it means for God to be omnipotent.

As for Jonathan's criticism, I'm not quite sure what else to say that I haven't already said. It simply does not matter in the current context whether or not God has "reasons" for suffering in some ordinary language sense of the term, because such reasons do not help us construct a theodicy. So to the extent that we are interested in explaining why God prefers a world with suffering to a world without, his observations are completely irrelevant.

--Ben

Ben,

While I agree that God having a purpose in suffering doesn't explain why he chose suffering as the means to accomplish that purpose, let me be clear that I don't agree with your claim that knowing that he has a purpose in suffering is "completely irrelevant" to a Christian theodicy, either theoretically or pastorally.

Most people would probably think the PoE is an even stronger challenge if it can be shown *nothing* is accomplished in suffering. So I think these "weak" reasons weaken the theodicy (which I've never found to be a very strong objection anyway, if I'm being honest).

It seems to me like some are confusing "God is good" with "God is kind" anyone who says that "God is kind" has clearly never been to the dentist. (roughly C.S. Lewis)

Ben,

Rather, you're curious why I would bother to build an elaborate machine to accomplish that comparatively simple task.

Of course I am curious. I'm also curious why you'd want the peanut in the cup to begin with, and why you'd use your own hand rather than have someone else do it for you, and why today instead of tomorrow, etc. The answer to these questions, and a host of other questions, is equally referred to as a relevant reason.

Similarly, it may well be true in some sense that God allows suffering in order to cause X to occur. However the sense in which it is true is irrelevant to the present context, which is reconciling God's goodness with our suffering.

You cannot NOT reconcile it. You can question it and puzzle over the mystery of it, but you cannot get away from the fact that God's nature is Holy and therefore God cannot act in opposition to that nature. You have no idea what goodness is apart from the grounding source, which is God. If you deny that there is a grounding source then your reconciliation problem goes away because there is nothing that needs to be reconciled.

Hi Ben,

I'm sort of taking for granted that you agree God is omnipotent. However you are welcome to deny God's omnipotence.
Thanks, but I don't need such a treat.
If you don't want to deny omnipotence, though, then your criticisms don't pan out.
Yes they do.
You're suggesting that maybe God has no other means but through suffering to cause X to occur. However if God is omnipotent, he can wish for X to occur and it will---regardless of whether any other events occur prior to X. That is, after all, part of what it means for God to be omnipotent.
Not so. I have not suggested this. I suggest these are the best means, all things considered. Alternatively, given all God wants to accomplish, they might be the only means, but, like I said, you have to look at the whole picture.

That is, after all, part of what it means for God to be omnipotent.
Actually, no. Omnipotence means that God's power is sufficient to do everything power can do. You have not shown that God can accomplish His ends, via His omnipotence, through other means. You've merely asserted it.
As for Jonathan's criticism, I'm not quite sure what else to say that I haven't already said. It simply does not matter in the current context whether or not God has "reasons" for suffering in some ordinary language sense of the term, because such reasons do not help us construct a theodicy.
Yeah, actually it does, because that is what the post is about. If you want a full-fledge theodicy then you are free to go read some.

Why haven't you dealt with the Scripture?

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