I've been reading some different posts, in terms of reconciling the amount of suffering in the world with an all-loving, just, good, omnipotent God. You know, the usual problem of evil.
I'm going to pull from what one blog posted. Marie, at http://www.unbelieveanot.blogspot.com/
said the following:
I am reading a book about the war in Bosnia. Here is a passage...
"For a moment I could see nothing in the smoky gloom. My torch began to flicker, dimmed and died. I beat it back to life on my thigh and looked again. Three women looked back at me. They were kneeling in a small box-shaped pit sunk into the stone floor, huddled together in fear, their arms and hands entwined in support. Normally the hole would have been used to store grain and covered with the wooden trapdoor that now lay upright on its hinges behind their backs. It would have been the ideal place to hide. Close the lid and the pit would be nearly invisible. There would have been just enough room for three people to lie beneath it. What gave them away? I wondered. A cough? A sob?
Two of the women were in their twenties, the third was an old lady. Someone had shot her in the mouth and her shattered dentures cascaded with her own teeth down her front like mashed melon pips. One girl had been shot repeatedly in the chest. It was difficult to tell whether the other had her throat cut or been shot; a great gash of blood cresented her neck. The expression on their faces had survived the damage. It was so clear. A time-valve that opened directly on to those last moments. So you saw what they saw. I hope beyond hope that I never see it again."
He also describes a man whose youngest daughter was raped beside him when he was on his death-bed. -- end quote from Marie's blog.
Those experiences are suffering, and they are evil. Plain and simple. It would be hideous of anyone to approach those people and say that it is all part of God's plan, and God's plan is good, and that God loves them so much.
The standard response to this is free will. That the above is a consequence of God giving man free will. Unless, of course, one is a Calvinist, and if that is the case, there's no issue. The problem with the free will argument is that it comes across as God valuing free will above all else. If someone decides to kill me and succeeds, my free will wasn't respected. The murderer's was. My free will was overridden by somebody else's.
Everyone has the freedom to make a choice, yes. But the freedom to make a choice does not coincide into the freedom to act on that choice. If our child is about to make a poor decision, we stop the child from using his/her free will. If an adult is about to commit a crime and we know about it, we are to report that adult, and thus stop the adult from acting on his/her free will. If we do not, we are held accountable for that crime, in the sense that we did nothing to stop it.
So wondering about evil in comparison to the Christian God is valid. Take the current situation in Darfur. It is very, very hard to hold onto any concept of justice in the world when atrocities like that occur. If you think about it enough, it can lead to questioning one's faith.
What's the most interesting part about those questions is the response it generally creates. Marie isn't the only one questioning, Slapdash is going so as well. Here's what I've seen so far.
Common response one: God isn't a genie, and only gives us what's best for us. Simply because you personally have had some bad things happen in your life is no excuse.
Problem with that response: The focus of the question is on situations such as Darfur. It has nothing to do with the individual, so that the response does is change the focus of the question and then attack the questioner as prideful and sinful. But this is attacking the person, rather than addressing the topic.
Common response two: God gave you free will, so you might choose something that's bad, but God also wants to make sure that you choose to love him, if you decide to do so.
Problem: Again, the focus shifts to the individual, and any bad things that might happen to the individual. It completely removes Darfur from the equation, and how the free will of those victims is violated over and over again. This has nothing to do with my free will, and again is attacking me, rather than addressing the topic.
Common response three: Who are we to question God, who is so far above us?
Problem: If you don't question God, how do you know you're actually following God? More to the point, how do you know you're following a good and just God, unless you ask questions? Otherwise, you run into the whole 'I was just following orders' mindset, and we've seen where that can lead. Plus, would you say this to a Holocaust survivor?
Common response four: God's ways are mysterious, and we're just a blip on eternity.
Problem: If God's ways are that mysterious, then again, how can you know anything about God? And if the whole point of this life is to get us to the right location in the afterlife ... what do you use for proof? If God is in fact not saving people from situations such as Darfur when people are praying, what guarantee is there that God would answer prayers in terms of getting to heaven? Or that the concept of salvation is correct? And again -- would you say this to a Holocaust survivor?
Common response five: Man is sinful, and this is the cost of his rebellion. We deserve nothing less.
Problem: This is a horrific viewpoint, holding all of humanity accountable for the actions of two people, and it's pretty much what a man who hits his wife or children would say. Also, would you say that someone who survived the Holocaust deserved that? Would you say that to the survivor's face?
Ultimately, none of the common responses deal with the matter on hand: why is there so much unrestricted evil in the face of claims about God. All of the responses turn the focus back to who is asking the original question, and lets God almost slide off the hook, letting the original problem dangle. And by accountable, I don't mean yelling at God about how everything is his fault. I mean accountable in holding God accountable to claims that God utters, as we would do for anyone. If God says that his character is all-loving, and all-just, what support is there for that, and can we see support of that in the world today?
Basically, the situation in terms of Darfur, or any other atrocity on that scale is essentially holding God accountable to what is said about him/her. If we are told that God is all-powerful, can we then be pointed to a demonstration of that power? Can we see prayers be answered by an all-loving, or just God, in order to back up the claim of God's characteristics? If we can't see a full-scale demonstration of that here, what validity do we have for holding onto a blissful paradise in the next life?
This post has nothing to do with anger, and nothing to do with pride. It has nothing to do with demanding that God answer my every fulfillment. It has to do with a sense of frustration in watching people asking honest, heart-felt questions, and watching the answers attempt to rip them apart without ever addressing the actual problem. I have a great deal more respect for someone who does hold to this view of God and says to me that they don't know why so much evil is allowed, but that they've experienced what the Bible has promised, compared to someone who smugly informs me that I'm a spoiled sinful person who simply wants my own way and God is all-good and such. Because I'm not asking on my behalf: I'm asking on those who have no voice, on those who seem to be put here only to suffer. It also has to do with the fact that if someone wants me to honestly evaluate their answer, they need to honestly answer my question, and not shift the topic to something self-focused. My life is incredibly blessed compared to about ... well, most of the world. Almost all of the world, actually. I am very aware of this, and grateful for this.