Saturday, 13 May 2017
Quick Answers to Problems of Evil and Suffering
If God is good, why is there Hell? Infinite punishment for a finite crime.
I imagine you have a particular something in mind when you say 'Hell'. The movies tend to use the medieval imagery of fire and brimstone with goat legged devils with pitchforks tormenting sinners day and night.
That's just not what the Bible teaches.
I personally am an annihilationist, which means I believe that when the time comes, God will bring the saved to the new Heaven and Earth, and the unsaved will cease to exist - much like how atheists think they will end up anyway.
But I think the most common belief among Christians is that Hell is a prison locked from the inside. God gives everyone a choice of whether or not to be with him and follow him. It's not a case of follow and love me or be punished, it's follow me or do what you want without me.
But the outcome of that is by your own free choice, you will have to live somewhere that God has closed off to himself. And that place will naturally be really awful, seeing as God is the source of goodness. He doesn't want you to go there, but if you choose to go there, he won't stop you.
If God is good, why does he let people die and suffer? And all these disasters happen?
There are a number of reasons.
Firstly and probably most importantly is human free will. Free will is a necessary part of human nature for the ability to love. God wanted to create creatures he could share a loving relationship with. He could have created mindless servant drones, but that would be empty and pointless. He wanted real love, and that means free choice to love or to reject him.
But being as freedom of will requires a choice to reject, some people will reject. Some people will choose to do the things they want to do instead of what God wants them to do. And some of those things can cause harm to other people.
Unfortunately, God has to allow the consequences of free will, otherwise the actual freedom part of that will be taken away. Say if someone chooses to shoot someone else, but God throws up a magic forcefield every time he does so, there will be no consequences to show the wrongness, no lessons learned, no reason to think that murder is actually wrong.
Suffering and pain can lead us to learn various life lessons that are impossible without them.
There can be no courage without fear. No charity without the needy. And so on.
Even if our own suffering personally teaches us nothing, it might be an inspiration to somebody else.
Then there is also the nature of the fall. In the beginning God created Eden and put Adam and Eve in it. In Eden there was no illness or death for man. But once they rebelled, God allowed them to go their own way and see what life would be like without him.
To show what life is like without him, he would have to take a step back. But as God is the source of goodness and life, that step away inevitably causes cracks in the creation where he has loosened his grip.
Where he is not holding on as fully as he can, this allows decay and disease to be part of the world.If he were to let go completely, that would truly be hell.
Meanwhile God shows us that he can repair this damage, if we follow him.
If God is good, why would he kill everyone on the planet, save a man and his family?
This kind of ties in to why I am an annihilationist.
God created a perfect Eden in the beginning because he wanted a perfect world. However, part of that plan involved allowing the fall, so humans could use free will, and learn through suffering etc, and come back to perfection with a real relationship rather than anything forced.
But as God allows the fall, in the end, he will want to get rid of any imperfection. So he will wash it all away and make it all cease to exist.
The story of Noah, historical or not, is a foreshadowing to the end times. Noah and his family were the only people left in the world who were good. The rest of the world had become filled with evil people who were beyond saving. They were too depraved. The mention of Nephilim in the story could even suggest that people were actually mating with demons and falling angels.
Quick point. It's generally taken in public that 'the world' in Noah refers to the entire globe. The Bible however is probably using a more colloquial meaning. From Noah's perspective, the world was a lot smaller. America and Australia hadn't been discovered yet for example. In all likelihood, the flood may well have just been local to the part of the world Noah knew existed.
So anyway. With it being the case that all of humanity apart from Noah's family had given themselves over to the joys of rape, murder, pillaging and so on, with no sign of ever wanting to change their ways, God decided to rescue what little good was left in mankind and get rid of the rest.
No one ever complained when Luke destroyed the Death Star, or Aragorn sliced through hordes of orcs. Same deal.
If God is good, why would he let the world get to the state it's in?
I think I've covered this in part.
God's plan is to reach perfection. But to get to perfection, he has to allow some bad stuff to happen for a greater good to be realised.
If God is good, why wouldn't he reveal himself to everyone? so that no one goes the hell?
The hiddeness of God, I think is a much better argument that the Problem of Evil.
In many faiths it would be a big deal, but in Christianity, once you get a grasp of the theology, some amount of hiddeness should be expected.
God wants a loving relationship. He doesn't want to force himself on anyone. If he made his existence abundantly clear to all men at all times, people would feel they would have no choice but to worship. Their free will would be compromised.
Arranging the stars to read "I am God. I am real" would be very impressive, but it's not likely to inspire a loving relationship. Instead, God tries to work on individual levels, and to some that means respecting them enough to leave them alone.
So he has provided enough evidence so that true seekers will find him, but not so much that those who want to ignore him will be overwhelmed. It's actually an incredible balance, albeit frustrating for those of us seeking to convince non-believers.