Apologetics Pt 3
Objection Two – How Can A Good God Allow Pain and Suffering?
This objection, also known as The Problem of Evil is probably the most common objection people hold towards belief in God today. It goes like this:
If God is supposed to be an all powerful, good God of love, how can he allow such great pain and suffering to happen to so many innocent people? What about the Haitian earthquake? What about the Japanese Tsunami? What about HIV and cancer? If God really was ‘good’, he would prevent these things from happening.
So, let’s firstly look at some of the problems with this way of thinking and then address how you might respond to someone who has this objection.
1. God may have morally sufficient reasons for allowing pain and suffering to occur. We all know of reasons where we would allow pain and suffering to occur in order for ultimate good to come about. It’s a very simple example, but imagine being so protective of your children that you never allowed them to learn how to ride a bike because they might fall off and hurt themselves. Obviously, we all realise that a few bumps and scrapes are worth it in light of eventually being able to ride a bike. Now, scale this up to a cosmic level and we can see that the same principle may apply to God. Just because we don’t like it does nothing to show that it can’t be true. Ultimately, we are unable to see the plan of God at work behind the scenes and have no idea what may come about in the future.
2. Humanity is often to blame. Quite frankly, natural disasters are responsible for a tiny minority of suffering in the world compared to preventable diseases and evil. In the case of preventable diseases, it is often humanity’s lack of action (for example, lack of financial contribution) that allows these diseases to continue killing millions. Along other lines, if we look at the Haitian earthquake, it is easy to see how, if the Haitian government and nation had been free from corruption and had appropriately invested finances into infrastructure and safer buildings, far fewer people would have lost their lives. This kind of human evil magnifies the impact of natural disasters.
3. Evil, pain and suffering is actually evidence for God. C.S. Lewis once said, “Pain is God’s megaphone to the world”. Imagine there was no God; where would we get our sense of justice from? What would be the foundation for our sense of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’? These concepts would simply be cultural constructs, whatever works for the most amount of people. But we do know that things really are right and wrong. There really are such things as good and evil. C.S. Lewis sums it up in this way:
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust? … What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? … Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies…. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.”
So how might we respond to someone who poses this objection? Above are three intellectual responses. However, in my experience, people with this objection – in fact most people who have a problem with God – are approaching the argument on an emotional level. Here are a couple of appropriate strategies.
Firstly, you could agree. Agree with the person that there is so much evil in the world, that much of it could be prevented and that much of it seems to be pointless. It is true that life can be full of difficulties, sickness, pain and evil. You could even share about some experiences in your own life that have been painful and ask them “What helps you get through those things?” By opening up to the person, you may be able to share about what gets you through the hard times in life – knowing that your Heavenly Father is caring for you and carrying you through. For Atheists, the only way to cope is to accept the pointlessness of the pain and try to find some reason for carrying on through it.
Secondly, share the Gospel. Share the fact that God experienced pain and suffering and tremendous evil when Jesus died on the cross, in our place, for our sins so that we could be forgiven by God and enter into eternal life, knowing and experiencing the infinite love of God forever. Jesus was no stranger to pain, and He knows exactly what it’s like to go through the worst pain and injustice you or I could ever imagine. Why not put your trust in a God who can empathise with you in your pain?