Anthropological Assumptions

I read this on a person’s blog from last year – how would you counter it?

people think god is both all loving and all powerful. are these
so-called people insane? how can an all loving god let you get cancer?
i know, i know, there’s a plan, we can’t see it, we’re part of some
great “thing” or something where he gets to know what’s going on and we
have to pretend it’s perfectly all right to get cancer. in fact, it’s
fantastic because we get to go back to him and hang out and chill and
see our buds. but… seriously…. i’m not that nice…. and i would
never let you get cancer. or a kid get cancer. or a plane crash. or the
whole darfur thing. i would never let that happen, and i think for god
to be called, “loving” he should be at least as nice as i am. another
explanation is that god is nice, but not that effective. like, keeping
the clouds up or “sound” working is really really hard and he doesn’t
have time to make cancer go away for everyone. he’s busy, okay?! what
do you think? god is loving and you have to come up with some kind of
bull**** rationalization for all the terrible things he lets happen…
(i.e.: the devil. god made the devil and can control the devil but
doesn’t because this whole life business is this awful test but instead
of failing you burn in hell forever. nice). or… god’s a basically
good guy who can’t get much done. like my dad.

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Anthropological Assumptions

  1. hand_carved says:

    Gratuitous pain comes in many shades of color. Among those, there is pain that is potent, and there is pain that is innocuous. I stub my toe, and it hurts for a few seconds, but is forgotten even ten minutes later. That pain is innocuous. The potency of pain really seems to come, if you think about it, from duration. Even if you experienced the most severe pain you could possibly swallow for a nanosecond, it would be more or less innocuous because it didn’t last. Two of the many ways I can think of that God can handle pain: (1) manipulate our present reality in such a way that no pain happens(2) render such pain ultimately innocuous in the grand scheme of thingsThe problem with (1) is that for God to do that, it would also entail Him either negating human freedom, or negating the responsibility that comes with that freedom. We were created in the image of God as beings whose actions actually have consequences for the world. We have all likely heard of the consequences that have impacted us due to the “original sin” of Adam and Eve. We do not often consider that there seemes to be the same kind of consequences for the earth. When the man (i.e. the “adam”) was cursed for his sin, so was the earth (i.e. the “adamah”). They share a destiny. The “adam” is responsible for the wellbeing of his garden, the world, and since he has not taken care of it, it has suffered. I think the suffering we experience from sickness, for example, is a part of the consequences of the fall. I think one reason why God may not choose to, in a sweeping move, manipulate reality in such a way that it eliminates all suffering in the world may be because to do that would nullify any real responsibility we have as humans in this age, and would thus, in a sense, negate what it means to be created in the Image of God (I think exegesis points to the two being intertwined: “responsibility” and “image of God,” but that’s another story). One way I can see for God to remain both “good” and “sovereign”, while at the same time allowing for the existence of other responsible, sub-creative agents of free will is by not manipulating present negative circumstances, but adding so much “good” that it renders the negative ultimately (though not presently) innocuous. This is the gift we receive in Christ: eternal life. As in the first Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive–so Paul. Even a lifetime of suffering, when weighed against eternal life would amount to less than a hiccup.I don’t know… just some thoughts in a sort of “off the cuff” fashion.

  2. hand_carved says:

    :: So, you are saying that the good makes the pain innocuous – or the suffering.With qualification, yes…I think. I’m really more or less throwing this idea out there in order to test it more than I am stating it as a fact. My sense is that it is a mistake to gloss over pain in this life, that even after the resurrection Jesus’ hands were scarred. I don’t think that we will ever forget what it was like to suffer when we are eternally alive.Lewis, I don’t think, would say that it is necessarily the case *all the time* that suffering occurs for a purpose. I could be mistaken. There is pain that I think is gratuitous. For example, the suffering and death of a newborn child whose mother committed suicide just after she dumped the baby into a dumpster. There is no “soul-making,” no spiritual temperance that is developed in that situation. There is simply pain. Likewise for the pain and suffering of animals. Nor do I think that even in cases where we can grow from our suffering is it always, unequivocally suffering that has been initiated by God. Rather, I see God as one who takes the negative of what is happening and then adjusting the grand picture of things in such a way that makes that negative thing something beautiful ultimately…if that makes sense. Kind of like a judo master who turns the blows of the enemy against himself. But that stems,of course, from my belief in free will. And that’s another post altogether. Back to Lewis though, one thing I love that he has MacDonald say in the Great Divorce is something like: “That’s what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not realizing that heaven, once attained, works backwards, and transforms that agony into glory.” Again, it may not be the case that there was “purpose” in the pain of this very moment, but it is certainly possible that God can retrospectively give it purpose and beauty.

Leave a Reply to hand_carved Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s