God and Pain

God and Pain

The presence of pain and suffering in this world poses a problem for Christians. In the “Batman v Superman” film, ultra goon Lex Luthor says that evil’s persistence eliminates the possibility of an (Abrahamic) God, making valid points. So, how does a Christian recognize the world’s horrors and still claim God exists?

Consider our definition of suffering. Generally speaking, there are two forms “” human inflicted, and natural. The first can be rationalized with the admittance of free will. Christians believe God offered mankind the opportunity to have perfect community with Him. Man opted to pursue his own desires. Consequently, man was separated from God, living freely but contrary to God’s will.

It is also helpful to recognize Christians believe God came to earth, in human form, with the purpose of enduring ultimate suffering at the hands of His people, so that the suffering we endure is not in vain (if God never experienced pain, taking Him seriously is difficult “” but He has, to a very real extent). Thirdly, consider the judgments one makes on another’s morality. One’s judgments typically eliminate the modern idea of cultural relativism as a plausible alternative to a universal moral law (which logically points to a higher power.) For example, an American anthropologist who is a cultural relativist faces a dilemma when studying the inhumane treatment of women in some Middle Eastern cultures. She cannot say these cultures are inherently wrong because cultural relativism claims cultures can decide right and wrong for themselves; however, she has an undeniable sense it is wrong. Additionally, for most of history slavery was not immoral. Most, if not all, notable civilizations practiced slavery in some regard. Nowadays, Americans portray Abraham Lincoln as one of the greatest presidents ever solely because he ended this abhorrent system. We do not consider history’s slave owners to have made a morally acceptable choice in owning slaves; that is, time and place do not excuse one’s actions. They were wrong, just as cultures that do not deem women as equal to men are wrong. A Christian would argue, then, that without a God, there is no universal moral law; if one does not believe in God, there is no basis other then one’s privately held, subjective system of likes and dislikes when it comes to determining the rightness of another time period or culture. Martin Luther King Jr. puts it this way: “Because there is a higher law, we believe eating the weak is wrong; how can an atheist justify their moral outrage?” In other words, how can an atheist condemn these actions without acknowledging a universal moral law (which must have, logic says, a universal moral lawgiver)?

What about natural suffering? Earthquakes, tsunamis, cancer, Alzheimer’s “” all induce pain and suffering that is, in a moral person’s opinion, unjust. If there is no God, however, and one considers the nature of the world outside humanity, these events are not unjust. Rather, they are merely examples of natural selection taking place. A female philosopher chose to live alone in nature for a year, in order discover its intrinsic peacefulness and harmony. She found it to be neither peaceful nor harmonious.  To summarize her comments, nature is amoral “” right and wrong do not exist, there is only the strong eating the weak, with survival as the lone motivator. This bothers people, especially when it occurs in our species. But a world without God is a world without meaning other then survival, so there is nothing to be done about natural atrocities that provide balance, evolutionarily speaking. In fact, they are necessary. Why then is one’s spirit so dismayed upon hearing of nature doing what nature does? Because humans have an undeniable sense that the event is not right.

These arguments are not complete, but they are fair. If anything, they balance the issue, relieving mainstream thought’s pressure on Christians to explain evil, and asking atheists to explain their sense of universal moral law, and craving for justice in a world where justice is not natural. Christians believe man’s evil nature was overcome when Jesus rose from the dead. He confronted death so that we can rest assured that evil and injustice are not the end of the story.