Discuss in ILovePhilosophy.com: RFG: TWO: How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?
Tim Keller’s The Reason for God Book Discussion – Part 1: The Leap of Doubt
TWO: How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?
From now on, along with my own observations and questions, I will be including discussion questions written by Penguin and found here, if you’d like to look ahead:
Here is the sermon series at Redeemer NY:
As always, feel free to comment on any part of the chapter not mentioned here.
“In chapter 2, Keller responds to the contention that a loving God could not allow suffering. He states: ‘Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one’ (p. 23). Do you buy the argument that the absence of a clear answer doesn’t rule out the possibility that a plausible — but hidden — explanation exists? Why or why not? Do you feel that claiming that God has reasons for his actions that are beyond human reasoning is a cop-out? Or is this a valid argument when the topic is God and his transcendent ways of doing things?” — Penguin
“As he continues to examine the problem of pain, Keller writes: ‘… though Christianity does not provide the reason for each experience of pain, it provides deep resources for actually facing suffering with hope and courage rather than bitterness and despair’ (pp. 27-28). Have you ever experienced the hope and/or courage that he refers to? If so, describe your experience to others in the group.” — Penguin
“Paraphrasing C.S. Lewis, the author states: ‘… modern objections to God are based on a sense of fair-play and justice. People, we believe, ought not to suffer, be excluded, die of hunger or oppression. But the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection depends on death, destruction, and violence of the strong against the weak — these things are all perfectly natural. On what basis, then, does the atheist judge the natural world to be horribly wrong, unfair, and unjust’ (p. 26). How would you respond to Keller’s question? Does an allegiance to the laws of natural selection and survival of the fittest contradict human values that oppose suffering, discrimination, and the victimization of the poor and powerless? Why or why not?” – Penguin
And my own contribution to the discussion: It wasn’t mentioned in the chapter, but I think a lot of (but certainly not all) suffering is the natural, direct consequences of sin. It is not evidence against God, but against our being God, and in favor of the fact that God, like a good father, allows us to learn from our mistakes, rather than dysfunctionaly protecting us from them by a) preventing us from making them, or b) preventing us from experiencing the consequences. Agree, disagree? Pick one: prevent suffering and prevent free will (love), or allow free will (love) and allow suffering.
Notes on Keller’s sermon for this chapter:
Suffering 1 Peter 1:3-12
“The Problem of Evil and Suffering”
Doubt: If God allows evil and suffering to continue because He can’t stop it, He might be good, but He’s not all powerful. If God allows it because He can stop it, but He won’t stop it-then He might be all-powerful, but He’s not good.
One way “not” to face evil/suffering-three ways “to face” it.
1 not. One way “not” to face evil/suffering: abandon faith.
Peter says the pain you are going through can “strengthen” faith-not weaken it.
Abandoning faith doesn’t help you understand or deal w/ pain/suffering.
MLKJr: Only way to know if a human law is unjust, is according to the divine law.
If no God-no divine law-can’t say ‘any’ historical event is unjust.
In nature, there’s nothing more natural than violence.
Sartre and Dostoevsky-no God, all permitted-no “evil”-suffering is not a “problem”.
If there is evil/suffering-if they are problems-a lack of God’s existence is a problem.
Look: 1. Back 2. Ahead 3. In
1. Look back (to cross)
Peter likens pain/suffering to a fire/furnace/crucible. Daniel 3.
Isaiah: fear not, I have redeemed you-when you pass through the waters, I will be there-when you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you
“thy dross to consume, thy gold to refine” – hymn
Promise is NOT “smooth sailing” – the promise is WHEN you go through trials-I will so love you, and you will so sense my presence, you will be refined and not be broken
God became vulnerable to suffering/pain/death (calling out Why?) on the cross for us.
–connection to hell sermon
Ask Jesus on the cross why He allows pain/evil-the answer cannot be that He doesn’t love us-when there He is loving us…in the furnace with us.
2. Look ahead (to resurrection)
Peter says we have a living hope that will get us through the furnace-our inheritance in heaven, the foretaste of which was Jesus’ physical resurrection-the first-fruits of the new heavens, new earth, our own resurrection. Rev 21-22. 1 Corinthians 15. Restoration of “this” world. Pure, unfading, imperishable, unspoiled. Everything sad and horrible is going to be brought up into the victory.
Dostoevsky: “I believe like a child that suffering…will be made up for.” (get whole quote from RFG book)
3. Look in (YOU are His living hope)
V.12 angels long to look into this-“long” means “lust”-they obsessively, passionately look into the Gospel…never get tired of it.
How did Jesus get through His furnace? Heb 12-for the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross.
What was His living hope? What drew Him away from heaven, brought Him down here-“the results of His suffering He will see and be satisfied”–
Isaiah: my righteous servant will justify many”
YOU are His living hope.
That will make Him your living hope, and your suffering in the furnace will burn away the dross and you will be refined and turned to gold.