PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
Navigating manifestations
 
Comments: 65
Article views: 785
 
 
Latest Badges:


 
View all Navigating manifestations's badges.
 

Why does God allow suffering?

27 March 2013, 07:09
Evil has always been a thorn in the side of those - of whatever faith - who believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good God. As the philosopher David Hume (echoing Epicurus) put it in 1776: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"

Faced with this question, Archbishop of York John Sentamu said he had "nothing to say to make sense of this horror", while another clergyman, Canon Giles Fraser, preferred to respond "not with clever argument but with prayer".

Perhaps their stance is understandable. The Old Testament is also not clear to the layman on such matters. When Job complains about the injuries God has allowed him to suffer, and claims "they are tricked that trusted", God says nothing to rebut the charges. Less reticent is the American evangelist Pat Robertson. He has suggested Haiti has been cursed ever since the population swore a pact with the Devil to gain their freedom from the French at the beginning of the 19th Century. Robertson's claim will strike many as ludicrous, if not offensive. And even were it true, it wouldn't obviously meet the challenge.

Why would a loving deity allow such a pact to seem necessary? Why wouldn't he have freed the Haitians from slavery himself, or prevented them from being enslaved in the first place? And why, in particular, would he punish today's Haitians for something their forbears putatively did more than two centuries before? So what should believers say? To make progress, we might distinguish two kinds of evil:

•the awful things people do, such as murder, and

•the awful things that just happen, such as earthquakes.

Would those hailed as brave still exist in a Magical World?

St Augustine, author CS Lewis and others have argued God allows our bad actions since preventing them would undermine our free will, the value of which outweighs its ill effects. But there's a counter-argument. Thoroughly good people aren't robots, so why couldn't God have created only people like them, people who quite freely live good lives? However that debate turns out, it's quite unclear how free will is supposed to explain the other kind of evil - the death and suffering of the victims of natural disasters. Perhaps it would if all the victims - even the newborn - were so bad that they deserved their agonising deaths, but it's impossible to believe that is the case. Or perhaps free will would be relevant if human negligence always played a role. There will be some who say the scale of the tragedy in natural disasters is partly attributable to humans. The world has the choice to help its poorer parts build earthquake-resistant structures and tsunami warning systems.

 But the technology has not always existed. Was prehistoric man, with his sticks and stones, somehow negligent in failing to build early warning systems for the tsunamis that were as deadly back then as they are today? The second century saint, Irenaeus, and the 20th Century philosopher, John Hick, appeal instead to what is sometimes called soul-making. God created a universe in which disasters occur, they think, because goodness only develops in response to people's suffering. To appreciate this idea, try to imagine a world containing people, but literally no suffering. Call it the Magical World. In that world, there are no earthquakes or tsunamis, or none that cause suffering. If people are hit by falling masonry, it somehow bounces off harmlessly. If I steal your money, God replaces it. If I try to hurt you, I fail. So why didn't God create the Magical World instead of ours? Because, the soul-making view says, its denizens wouldn't be - couldn't be - truly good people. It's not that they would all be bad. It's that they couldn't be properly good. For goodness develops only where it's needed, the idea goes, and it's not needed in the Magical World.

In that world, after all, there is no danger that requires people to be brave, so there would be no bravery. That world contains no one who needs comfort or kindness or sympathy, so none would be given. It's a world without moral goodness, which is why God created ours instead. But there is wiggle room. Even in a world where nothing bad happens, couldn't there be brave people - albeit without the opportunity to show it? So moral goodness could exist even if it were never actually needed. And, anyway, suppose we agree moral goodness could indeed develop only in a world of suffering. Doesn't our world contain a surplus of suffering? People do truly awful things to each other. Isn't the suffering they create enough for soul-making? Did God really need to throw in earthquakes and tsunamis as well?

Suffering's distribution, not just its amount, can also cause problems. A central point of philosopher Immanuel Kant's was that we mustn't exploit people - we mustn't use them as mere means to our ends. But it can seem that on the soul-making view God does precisely this. He inflicts horrible deaths on innocent earthquake victims so that the rest of us can be morally benefitted. That hardly seems fair. It's OK, some will insist, because God works in mysterious ways. But mightn't someone defend a belief in fairies by telling us they do too? Others say their talk of God is supposed to acknowledge not the existence of some all-powerful and all-good agent, who created and intervenes in the universe, but rather something more difficult to articulate - a thread of meaning or value running through the world, or perhaps something ineffable. But, as for those who believe in an all-good, all-powerful agent-God, we've seen that they face a question that remains pressing after all these centuries, and which is now horribly underscored by the horrors in Haiti. If a deity exists, why didn't he prevent this?

God made man as his greatest creation. In order for humans to be all they can be we must live in a world like this one. Moral courage can't just be a potentiality, it must be an actuality in all it's complexity for it to mean anything. Also, in order for the world to be able to create and sustain the complexity of life that it has, the crust of the earth must move, must regenerate itself. Thus, earthquakes, tsunamis. All religious people can do in the face of a catastrophe is to do what we can to alleviate the suffering and possibly create a world where these sorts of things have much less impact. Isn't the real tragedy of Haiti the poverty that has blighted the island, that lead to substandard buildings and poor infrastructure? This is as much a man-made disaster as divine.

Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.
 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
65 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Maruping Phepheng
How is your life?

So, I ask again: what has been your active, transformative role in the past twenty years and what are the results thereof? How is your life? Indeed are you happy? Is your neighbour better off as a result of your vote? Read more...

9 comments 63 views
Submitted by
Charlene Van der Merwe
"Born free generation"?

We all want to be equal and free don't we? Read more...

5 comments 78 views
Submitted by
forest gump
Not Crazy, Just Damaged

Having been formally diagnosed with anxiety disorder/ depression I feel that while what I say won’t matter to most, I certainly have more of a right to have an opinion on the issue of suicide. Read more...

2 comments 83 views
Submitted by
bilo21
Muslim condemnation of ISIS

I as a Muslim condemn the actions of ISIS.  Read more...

30 comments 499 views
Submitted by
Blaque_Maipatile
Open plan offices

I should point out that I love my colleagues! They are genuinely fun and likeable people who lead interesting lives. Ironically, if I did not care about them at all, I could be much more productive. Read more...

4 comments 217 views
Submitted by
KevinKing
The Rape Capital of the World

More likely to be raped than receive an education. Read more...

3 comments 553 views

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

20% off all TV Series!

Want to have a chilled day at home? Get 20% off TV series, the perfect excuse to "veg out". Shop now!

Save R700 on the Hisense LED TV Now R2499

Get the Hisense 32” HD ready LED TV for only R2499. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on your iPhone Get News24 headlines on your iPhone.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

Calais Website keywords automated by OpenCalais.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2014 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.