You do not need a degree in philosophy to recognize that our world is plagued with suffering. Most people experience intellectual tension when they couple the reality of suffering with the proposition of a morally perfect God. Really, how could a good God allow this much suffering in the world? Here are some helpful responses:
- Some suffering is necessary. Children suffer when their parents discipline them for bad behavior. Doctors cause their patients to suffer when they draw blood or administer shots. People even cause themselves to suffer by exercising or dieting. In each case, the suffering is necessary to produce a better outcome.
- .Second,Some suffering is a consequence of free-will. Choices have consequences, and sometimes that involves suffering. Sometimes, the decision maker suffers – the criminal is sentenced to prison for his own decision. Sometimes, others suffer – millions died because of Joseph Stalin’s decisions. To eliminate this kind of suffering, one would have to prefer a world of robots. But this would also eliminate all the good that is produced by free will.
- What about suffering for which we can see no justification? For this, a third response is helpful: We are not in a position to know that God cannot have morally sufficient reasons for allowing suffering. To say that God could not plausibly have morally sufficient reasons to allow certain suffering is the height of presumption and arrogance. How could we, as finite and limited observers, ever substantiate such a claim? Perhaps what appears to be a senseless tragedy in our eyes will produce a tremendous good centuries later, completely unbeknownst to us. Conversely, perhaps the prevention of one tragedy would actually produce a much worse tragedy. Our limited perspective makes it impossible to assert that God cannot plausibly have good reasons for allowing certain cases of suffering.
There are other factors that increase the plausibility of God’s existence in the face of suffering, but these responses help to show that God’s existence is not seriously threatened by the existence of suffering in our world.