Why does God allow suffering?

(James Allen Negretti) #1

Hi everyone, my name is Jim. I am not an educated man just someone who loves Jesus. In hearing many debates and conversations it seems that the question, “Why does GOD allow suffering?” comes up a lot. Would it not be a reasonable response to explain that the world and mankind are in a fallen state and that GOD does not revoke freewill? It seems to me that if GOD were to intervene in the evil of man then HE would be obligated to intervene in all sins and thereby remove free will. In the converse, if GOD were to punish one for their evil, then we would all be doomed as HE then would need to put all of us to death, by virtue of HIS justice, before our freewill allowed us to accept CHRIST.
GOD’S will is that all come to repentance and be saved which would be impossible without freewill choosing it. I apologize if I am not clear on my meaning but would like to know the errors of this line of defense. Thank you, Jim Negretti

(Warner Joseph Miller) #2

Hey @jimnegretti! Welcome to CONNECT, my brother! Thx so much joining the community and for coming in with great insight. “Educated” or not…what you submitted was a great response. That topic of “why God allows suffering” is one that many of us – as well as many a spiritual seeker…Christian or not…-- has either been asked and/or asked ourselves. So yeah…really good question and great response.

If I were to add another piece to the pot, I’d submit this:

because God IS love and from His love, He’s given humanity the gift of free will, ie the choice to choose to love Him or not; follow Him or not, etc…humanity then has the free will – the CHOICE to sin or not. That choice to choose AGAINST God has far reaching affects…more than just the one that chooses to sin. Sin affects people who we don’t even know or would ever be aware of. But it all comes from the gift of choice that springs from God’s love of us. Does that make sense?

(James Allen Negretti) #3

Warner Miller, thank you so much for your response. Not only does what you say make sense, but has the most significant aspect that I had left out. That being GOD’S love.

Thank you so much for being a blessing.

(Warner Joseph Miller) #4

Right back at’cha, brotha!:wink:

(Jennifer Judson) #5

That’s always one of the hardest questions to grapple with, whether one’s a believer or not. And it’s often a big stumbling block for non-believers. There are so many facets to consider. Your answer covers one of the facets very well, don’t sell yourself short.

First, when we ask the question “why does God allow suffering?” I think we need to recognize the difference between our point of view and God’s. Is the questioner wanting answers from their own perspective only? Or, are they willing to try to wrap their mind around a God with an eternal, cosmic view…literally THE big picture.

I think we blame God for evil, because if we blame the perpetrator of evil, then the fault for our own evil-doing lands squarely at our feet? So is the motivation behind the question partly to avoid our own guilt? Do we want a reason for the inconstancy of our own hearts and our inability to overcome the desires that plague us that puts responsibility elsewhere?

I think also the questioner is often sickened/overwhelmed by seeing so much cruelty and injustice in the world. How can God’s creation be good and be so corrupt? As believers we know the fall did not just corrupt the hearts of man, but of the physical world also. Paul says in Romans 8:19-10, “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

What if we turn the discussion about suffering to one that reveals the character of God? That if you look at the totality of the message of the Bible it is one of restoration. (And God himself doing all the heavy lifting in the process of restoration). 1) We were created to live in eternal communion with God. 2) We chose to break communion–knowing the outcome would be death. 3) From the foundation of the world God also created the means, through Christ, of bringing us back into communion eternally. God created us for a life with no suffering…and through him we can be restored to a life with no suffering (in an eternal–not a temporal sense).

God doesn’t just see our suffering and snap his fingers to end it, He entered into our suffering to bring about our restoration. What experience of evil did He not suffer in the incarnation? Betrayal, physical abuse, injustice, death, and he took upon himself all the sins of the world. (It’s so challenging to write about past-present-future aspects and get tenses correct…please forgive any errors).

It is because of evil…because of suffering…that God created a means for our salvation. It is because of evil…because of suffering…that we need a savior. I think any discussion on suffering can point to that need and the answer.

Another facet which believers must keep in mind is sovereignty. I do think that’s a very challenging discussion with non-believers, but it certainly contrasts our perspective with God’s. In Romans 9:15, "For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (All of Romans 9 is a good content on God’s justice.) This does not mean that God is capricious, but it does tell us that He does not dance to our tune. If God is our creator, then does He not have the right to create according to his own will? When Job demanded that God give an answer for his suffering, God gave Job quite a look at “the big picture” (begins at Job 38). Finally Job responded in Job 42:3, “‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” God never answers Job’s “why” question. But Job ultimately recognizes that God’s ways are beyond his knowledge and understanding.

I took the RZIM Academy course on Suffering. It really stretched my mind to it’s limits, but it’s really worthwhile. I found it very interesting that theologians have grappled with the question of evil/suffering since the early church, but always within a believing context with a desire to understand God’s ways. It wasn’t until the Age of Enlightenment that it began to have the context of being a stumbling block to belief. Since the Age of Enlightenment was partially about the rights of the individual I guess it’s natural that we would seek to find our own salvation. More recently it’s become a means of proving that God does not exist. When I look at this progression I wonder at God’s desire to still love us. Yet He does. Praise God.

(James Allen Negretti) #6

Thank you my dear Sister in CHRIST! Wow, there are so many important points of Truth in this response. I appreciate your response and look forward to taking more time in breaking down each area for my study and meditation so that I will be better equipped to answer those in need. What a delight it is to share GOD’S WORD and Love with you and others.

Thank you again. Praise GOD indeed!

(Lakshmi Mehta) #7

@Jennifer_Judson and @WarnerMiller have made some great points already. What I have also found very helpful and comprehensive was DA Carson’s talk on suffering that SeanO had referred me to in one of our conversations on Connect. Here’s the link:

(Les) #8

Warner; you sound like a man that has listened to the likes of Ravi and gleaned some of his wisdom. Bless you.

(James Allen Negretti) #9

Thank you my sister for the link.

(Brian Weeks) #10

Hi Jim, you’ve presented what is known as the free will defense. You specifically asked for problems with the free will defense, so I thought I’d offer one to wrestle with.

The free will defense rests on a premise that states that in order for choices to be genuine and, in turn, love to be genuine, the beings in view must be able to choose between good or evil. The problem with this premise arises when when we consider either God or us in our glorified state. Neither can choose evil, yet both make genuine choices and both express genuine love. Indeed, God is the freest being of all whose love is the purest of all, yet he cannot choose evil.

How might this affect this premise of the free will defense?

(James Allen Negretti) #11

Thank you Brian for your response. I apologize for not quite understanding. I understand GOD not choosing evil, but even we who are born again continue to strive with sin (evil) as we are being sanctified continually battling the flesh against the Spirit. While there is therefore no condemnation in CHRIST for believers, we are not yet glorified fully and in our imperfection still sin. (hopefully not to bring such as suffering to others). Prior to being saved, I lived most wickedly. I know that when evil happens in this fallen world many ask why GOD does not intervene. My position is that; because we have freewill, (and all have and are sinning and fall short of the glory of GOD), for GOD to intervene in the evil of others would HE not then in HIS justice be obligated to intervene in all evil (sin). If GOD were to bring justice upon me prior to being born again, that would have meant that HIS justice would require my death before I was saved. So GOD in HIS justice, love and mercy did not intervene so that I as a sinner could have come to repentance.

Thank you brother for your response. Please clarify so that I can get a better understanding. I appreciate your patience with me.


(Brian Weeks) #12

Thanks for your reply, Jim. I’m glad to expound this further.

Your position correctly assumes the ability of human beings to be able to choose between good and evil - what you’re calling here “free will.” One objection to this could be, Why didn’t God create human beings without the ability to choose evil, thus avoiding all evil and suffering?

One response to this objection is that the ability to choose between good and evil is necessary for choices, and therefore love, to be genuine. However, neither God, nor us in heaven, can choose evil. Yet his and our choices, and therefore love, there are genuine. So, this response suggests that the ability to choose between good and evil is not necessary in order for choices or love to be genuine.

And so we return to the original objection that could be posed against the position you originally stated: Why didn’t God create human beings without the ability to choose evil, thus avoiding all evil and suffering?

Does this help clarify this argument a bit better? I admire your desire to learn about and your willingness to consider the potential problems with particular arguments we might have. I think this is essential if we are to find ourselves truly in pursuit of the truth and willing to follow it wherever it may lead. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts, Jim.

(James Allen Negretti) #13

Thank you brother for your clarification. I believe that GOD is perfect in all ways. His way of creating us to have the ability to choose evil is not something I can explain. HIS ways are not our ways nor our ways HIS and HIS wisdom is beyond human comprehension. In my mortal state I could endlessly ponder questions that will never be explained through the human lenses. By faith I will joyfully wait and trust HIM.

Thank you again for your patience with me and your clarification.

Stay Blessed!