I have started a short thread on why suffering is such a problem for many people when trying to understand the Christian faith – or many of the other faiths. If God is one who is active in the world, helping people, answering prayer, doing what is best for them – how can we explain the heart-wrenching pain and agony so many people experience, even those who believe deeply in God? We are not talking about pain being experienced by, say, a hundred people in the world. We’re talking in terms of millions. Billions. How do we explain that?
People do have explanations, and I do not want to discount any of them. All of us have to come to a resolution of the “Big Questions” in our own minds. And when it comes to matters of faith, it is very much a personal decision – and even inclination – of what seems right and natural to you.
In my next couple of posts I try to address the issue head on in what is for me one of its truly glaring and direct forms, by discussing one of the most powerful presentations of the problem in a truly great work of fiction, a passage that I have always found incredibly moving, thought provoking, and for me, at least, almost unanswerable. This is how I discuss it in God’s Problem.
From the email I get, I realize that a lot of people think that the suffering experienced in this world is a mystery – that is, that it cannot be understood. As I’ve said before, this is a view that I resonate with. But many think, at the same time, that we will one day be able to understand it all and that it will all make sense. In other words, God ultimately has a plan that we cannot, at present, discern. But in the end we will see that what happened, even the most horrendous suffering experienced by the most innocent of people, was in the best interests of God, the world, the human race, and even of ourselves.
This is a comforting thought for many people, a kind of affirmation that God really is in control and really does know what he’s doing. And if it’s true, I suppose we’ll never know, until the end of all things. But I’m not sure that it’s a convincing point of view. It is a view that reminds me very much of an episode in one of the greatest novels ever written, The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky. The most famous chapter of this very long novel is entitled “The Grand Inquisitor.” This is a kind of parable, told by one of the main characters of the book, Ivan Karamazov, to his brother Alyosha, in which he imagines what would happen if Jesus were to return as a human to earth. In his parable Ivan argues that the leaders of the Christian church would have to arrange to have Jesus killed again, since …
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