Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Problem of Pain

I visited a lawyer friend last friday and we talked a good deal about our jobs. Soon, our conversation turned to God. My friend explained that he is not quite sure what to believe about God anymore although he is quick to say that He still believe there's God. He is not sure whether he could embrace the God of the bible considering the situation of the world today

"What about the situation of the world today?" I asked.
"Well there's a lot of killing, disaster, famine, etc., I mean how can someone like 'God' exist amidst all these?" he replied.

"That's a fair and legitimate observation. But that's not a new critique against Christianity or any religion for that matter. This has been asked many centuries ago. In fact, this question has been ably answered by noted Christian thinkers such as C.S. Lewis" I explained.

In essence this question is saying that the idea of a loving and powerful God cannot co-exist with a world full of suffering and pain. If God is the God of love, he would not allow his creatures to suffer. And if He is all powerful, He can eradicate all suffering. Since suffering still exist today, then God is neither loving nor all powerful. In other words, he does not exist.

"What would happen, if God would act on every whims of prayer every person makes on earth?" I asked him. 

We all make foolish prayer - "God please let me win this lotto game", "God please make him love me", "God please make him suffer", or "May you go to hell".

"If you want God to act on every prayer, why not ask God to make us all good persons and just simply obey all his commands. But in such case, that would make us all robotic". I explained.

"You see, freewill is a precious gift from God. He made us with a rational mind and a freewill to choose and act between good and evil. With a rational mind, we know the distinction between right and wrong. With a freewill, we have the power to choose and to do that which is right or wrong. In other words, we get to decide what to will. This is one of the reasons why there exist pain, suffering or evil in this world" I said.

I could see his face brightened. He seemed to see things in a different light now. But then, he seemed hesitant to rationally commit to anything. My watch says 3:30 p.m. and I still have a client to see. We exchanged cards and invited him to our little group discussion every saturday. He said he's not available this coming saturday. I told him I'll just visit him sometime. He said he'll be in his office most of the time.


  1. nice one bro, just read an interesting piece that takes the question from a different angle, although in the end the same answer remains, the writer argues that God is a "helpless victim" in the present state of things, not that He can't do anything (He will still clean up the mess in the end) but that to do what is absolutely right and fair in the light of His own standard and holiness, at the moment God can't intervene. But when the time is ripe God then will wrap things up. (I admit i have not read the article in detail so i can't claim i'm presenting it fully, will share with you later if you're interested).

  2. Ok bro. I know the problem of pain has been dealt with thoroughly in all sides of the spectrum. This usually one of the many basic hurdles for those who are struggling intellectually to follow God. The problem of pain seems to be the first one to get in the way of faith. Yes, there are enough reasons in this world to believe or not to believe in God. In the end, we just have to choose.

  3. Atty, Charlie Campbell provided 8 ways God uses evil and suffering for good. I would like to summarize these points,
    1. God uses suffering to help advance the gospel. Philippians 1:12-13
    2. God uses suffering to draw people back to Himself.
    2 Corinthians 7:10
    Psalm 34:19
    3. God allows suffering to train you to live a righteous (and therefore more joyful) life.
    Psalm 119:67, 71, 75
    4. God uses suffering to keep you humble and to humble the proud.
    (2 Corinthians 12:7).
    5. God allows suffering to help build perseverance, character, and hope.
    Romans 5:3-4
    6. God allows suffering to help you develop compassion, kindness, and sympathy for others.
    2 Corinthians 1:3-4
    7. Suffering can help bring praise and glory to God.
    John 9:1-3
    (John 9:3).
    8. Your suffering can help keep others from suffering.
    Genesis 45:5, 50:20
    (Gen. 50:20).


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