Quotable Quotes-The Reason for God

27 Mar

The Reason for God-Tim Keller
Chapter 2: How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?

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For many people it is not the exclusivity of Christianity that poses the biggest problem, it is the presence of evil and suffering in the world. Some find unjust suffering to be a philosophical problem, calling into question the very existence of God. For others it is an intensely personal issue.p22

In December 2004, a massive tsunami killed more than 250,000 people around the rim of the Indian Ocean…One reporter wrote: “If God is God, he’s not good. If God is good, he’s not God. You can’t have it both ways, especially after the Indian Ocean catastrophe.”

Many other philosophers have identified a major flaw in this reasoning. Tucked away within the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely, that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless.p23

Joseph was an arrogant young man who was hated by his brothers. In their anger at him, they imprisoned him in a pit and then sold him into slaver and misery in Egypt…Though he experienced years of bondage and misery, Joseph’s character was refined and strengthened by his trials…If God had not allowed Joseph’s yeas of suffering, he never would have been such a powerful agent for social justice and spiritual healing.p24

I knew a man in my first parish who had lost most of his eyesight after he was shot in the face during a drug deal gone bad. He told me that he had been an extremely selfish and cruel person, but he had always blamed his constant legal and relational problems on others. “As my physical eyes were closed, my spiritual eyes were opened, as it were. I finally saw how I’d been treating people. I changed, and now for the first time in my life I have friends, real friends. It was a terrible price to pay, and yet I must say it was worth it. I finally have what makes life worthwhile.”p24-5

Though none of these people are grateful for the tragedies themselves, they would not trade the insight, character, and strength they had gotten from them for anything…Why couldn’t it be possible that, from God’s vantage point, there are good reasons for all of them?

Evil and Suffering May Be (If Anything) Evidence for God

C.S. Lewis described how he had originally rejected the idea of God because of the cruelty of life. Then he came to realize that evil was even more problematic for his new atheism. In the end, he realized that suffering provided a better argument for God’s existence than one against it.
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of “just” and “unjust”?…What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?…Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies…Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.”p26

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?p26

In short, the problem of tragedy, suffering, and injustice is a problem for everyone.

But what about the person who says for every “one story in which evil turns out for good there are one hundred in which there is no conceivable silver lining?”

In response the philosopher Peter Kreeft points out that the Christian God came to earth to deliberately put himself on the hook of human suffering. In Jesus Christ, God experienced the greatest depths of pain.p27

On the cross, Jesus suffered a three-hour-long death by slow suffocation and blood loss…
-We cannot fathom, however, what it would be like to lose not just spousal love or parental love that has lasted several years, but the infinite love of the Father that Jesus had from all eternity. Jesus’ sufferings would have been eternally unbearable.
-In the Garden of Gethsemane, even the beginning and foretaste of this experience began to put Jesus into a state of shock. New Testament scholar Bill Lane writes: “Jesus came to be with the Father for an interlude before his betrayal, but found hell rather than heaven opened before him, and he staggered.”pp29-30
-The death of Jesus was qualitatively different from any other death. The physical pain was nothing compared to the spiritual experience of cosmic abandonment…On the cross he went beyond even the worst human suffering and experienced cosmic rejection and pain that exceeds ours as infinitely as his knowledge and power exceeds ours. In his death, God suffers in love, identifying with the abandoned and godforsaken.

If we again ask the questions: “WHY DOES GOD ALLOW EVIL AND SUFFERING TO CONTINUE?” and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is. however, we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that the is indifferent or detached from our condition.

“Christ the god-man suffers too, with patience, Evil and death can no longer be entirely imputed to him since he suffers and dies. The night on Golgotha is so important in the history of man only because, in its shadows, the divinity ostensibly abandoned its traditional privilege, and lived through to the end, despair included, the agony of death.”-Albert Camus

Resurrection and Suffering

The Biblical view of things is resurrection – not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had a but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater.p32

In Greek (specifically Stoic) philosophy there was a belief that history was an endless cycle. Every so often the universe would wind down and burn up in a great conflagration called a palengenesia, after which history, having been purified, started over. But in Matthew 19:28 Jesus spoke of his return to earth as the palingenesis. “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things (Greek palingenesis), the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne. This was a radically new concept. Jesus insisted that his return will be with such power that the very material world and universe will be purged of all decay and brokenness. All will be healed and all might-have-beens will be.p23-33

“I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like a despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; that will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.”-Dostoevsky

“They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”-C.S. Lewis

This is the ultimate defeat of evil and suffering. It will not only be ended but so radically vanquished that what has happened will only serve to make our future life and joy infinitely greater.p34

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