A Privileged View of Suffering

I haven’t posted on this topic for a while, and looking through old posts from five years ago, I came across this one.  I’ve edited it a bit from the first time, but my sentiments are pretty much the same now that I’m older and not much wiser…..

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Sometimes people get upset because I deal with the problem of suffering even though I don’t seem to be experiencing any severe pain and misery myself. Here is an example of ...

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The Origins of Apocalypticism

In my previous post I began to explain how, in 1985, while teaching a class at Rutgers on the Problem of Suffering, I came to realize that I simply didn’t accept any longer most of the views of the Bible on why there was suffering in the world.  But one view did continue to appeal to me, the apocalyptic view that emerged toward the end of the New Testament period, and became the view of Jesus, John the Baptist before ...

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Explaining a Columbian Mudslide

During the term when I was teaching my class on the problem of suffering at Rutgers in 1985, one of those unthinkable natural disasters occurred that made headline news and disturbed all caring people around the world.   The night before there had been a volcanic incident in Columbia that caused a mudslide that wiped out several villages, killing thousands of people in their sleep.  The death toll in the end was 23,000, men women and children.

Some people blamed the Columbian ...

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The Variety of Views of Suffering in the Bible

Some thirty years ago now, when I taught my class at Rutgers on “The Problem of Suffering in the Biblical Traditions,” I came to realize – or at least came to realize more clearly – that a number of the views set forth in the Bible simply did not resonate with me.  Which, I suppose, is a more tactful way of saying that I simply didn’t agree with them.

By far the most prominent explanation for suffering in the Bible is ...

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Teaching about How The Bible Explains Suffering

I’m not sure exactly when the suffering of others came to pose a problem for my own faith; but I do remember clearly when the issues first crystalized for me.  I started my teaching career at Rutgers University while I was a PhD student working on my dissertation in 1984.   It was a fantastic job for me (teaching at a very good research university, without yet even having my degree), but it was not tenure-track.  I was a poorly-paid adjunct ...

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Is Suffering Our Fault?

Some people have responded to my comments on suffering with the interesting observation that most suffering, in their view, is caused by humans against humans, so that there is no reason to “blame God” for it.   That is obviously true of some of the most horrific things that happen in our world:  murder, genocide, torture, war, refugee crises, and on and on and on.   And one could argue that it is true of even “natural” disasters, such as starvation: there ...

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Do I Need to Suffer Myself to Question Whether God Exists?

When I talk about how the problem of suffering has made me question the existence of a loving God in control of the world, I sometimes get asked “What *happened* to you?”  The assumption seems to be that the only reason a person would question the existence of God is if something terrible had occurred that didn’t make sense in light of their beliefs.

I’ve always thought this was a very curious way to think about it, as if the only ...

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The Classic “Problem” of Suffering

I have indicated a bit in previous posts on why the Problem of Suffering is a “problem.”  Here I want to explain just a bit further, before going on, in later posts, with the question about how and why it became a problem for me personally, in my movement away from Christianity to agnosticism.   Here is what I say about “the problem” as it is classically understood, by philosophers who wrestle with the issue of “theodicy,” in my book God’s ...

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Two Unsatisfactory Solutions to the Problem of Suffering

In this thread I have started to grapple with the question of how there can be a good, loving, and powerful God in charge of the world in the face of the massive suffering experienced by the human race – not just in general terms (“there sure is a lot of suffering out there!”) but in very specific concrete terms, as what individuals experience.   What we experience.  What you have experienced.  How does one make sense of personal suffering (especially ...

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The Kind of Suffering that is a Problem

I’m not completely sure when I first started realizing that the enormous amount of suffering in the world, so much of it completely gratuitous, is a problem for anyone who believes that there is a loving and powerful God who is in control of what happens.   Before reflecting on the evolution of my own thinking on the problem from years ago, let me stress a couple of points.

First I am talking about enormous suffering.   I am not talking about the ...

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