You’ve been there: you’re at work or school or somewhere and that one guy who fancies himself a philosopher says something like, “If there is a God, then why does suffering exist?”
Wow. How profound. You’re really breaking new ground there, Euripides. What’s next, a rousing lecture on the health benefits of marijuana? How about you list all the positive qualities of the current DNC platform with a straight face. Or even better, talk about how much you’re looking forward to the next Indiana Jones. Clearly you are a learned contemplative with a firm grasp on reality.
This subject popped into my head recently for two reasons. One, the apologetics of suffering came across my feed in some fashion; two, it’s Lent, and suffering is celebrated by the church. So allow me to disabuse not only the straw hippie who thinks he just proved God’s nonexistence, but also bring some spiritual meaning to your suffering in a way that attempts to draw you closer to Christ this Lententide.
The idea that suffering ≠ God is self-defeating to a creature who obviously has the capacity for suffering, and that suffering precludes a full understanding of the God he wants to deny. Put another way: denying the existence of the thing you wish didn’t exist is presuming that the thing you wish didn’t exist exists for the sake of the denial, for that’s the only way for you to make sense of suffering; however, by denying the thing you believe is incompatible with suffering you are denying suffering itself, which is logically absurd. Put another way: you are a suffering thing; without God, suffering does not make sense. But here’s the shocker: without suffering, God doesn’t make sense.
If God did not exist, then there would be no humanity. If there were no humanity, there would be no original sin. If there were no original sin, there would be no purpose to suffering, and humanity would be (at worst) a neutral creature. But if there were no purpose to suffering, if suffering could even theoretically be eradicated, then there would be no purpose for even the concept of God. Death itself could eventually be solved, and should have been solved by now. Since it is self-evident to anyone who has half a brain and has read a book in their life that humanity is not, in fact, a neutral creature, then our suffering must mean that God exists. Because we cannot eradicate suffering and death, and we are most often the cause of it. Therefore, we are rebellious and counterproductive to the creation as a creature.
The whole argument that my rhetorical spaghetti-monster friend wishes to purport is an alternative universe in which suffering does not exist. That is the saddest part of atheism (and people who liked the last Indiana Jones): they pretend suffering does not actually exist, and deny the only way to make sense of it.
But God suffered. Oh boy, did he suffer. He suffered in order to invite you into his death and by your drowning and dying rise again along with him. Saying, “If there is a God, then why does suffering exist?” is exactly the same as saying, “If there is a God, then why did he suffer like that for me?”
Actually, that last question is more perplexing than the first one ever will be. I can take on the moronic atheist all day … but supplying a reason for God’s love shown to me in the suffering of Christ?
That leaves me at a loss for words. I can only lift high the cross and celebrate his suffering for my sake.