The Problem of Pain: Did God Create Evil?

INTRODUCTION

  We live in a world of ideologies and intellectualisms of atheisms wherein the intellectuals and philosophers of our time tend to discredit God due to the existence of evils. This is because, the finite mind without God operates outside of God’s dimension of knowledge, understanding, wisdom, revelation, and insights that have spiritual boundaries of concession and perception. It takes God’s Spirit to make mankind understands what is divine sovereignty. What God allows or decides to happen, no philosophers, intellectuals, or academia have control over it in regards to why it happens, how it happens, and to what extend it happens. Men’s attempt to search beyond what can not be fathomed, leads their finite minds to say what is contrary against God’s natures and attributes. The Bible declares in Deuteronomy chapter 29 on quote: “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”(Deuteronomy 29:29 ([NIV])/[1] Hidden things are mysteries that can not be understood by the finite mind. Any attempt to fathom them leads the human mind into foolish thinking that has no base logical and spiritual understanding. When men reject divine sovereignty, their rationalities become futile. What they think, talk, and act becomes dangerous to the human societies especially those who pay audience to them. This is the reason the doctrines of proponents of those humanistic ideologies become impediments to the teaching of absolute truths; as the result, truths that are absolute become relative based on how the human mind views and conceives them. C.S Lewis recalls that as an atheist when he disbelieved the existence of God leading him to state a misleading proposition as quoted on the preceding page of this paper.  “If God were almighty he would be able to do as he wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore, God lacks either goodness, or power, or both. These creature cause pain being born, live by inflicting pain, and in pain they mostly die. Why?”[2]

            In an attempt to discuss the above proposition quotation as C.S Lewis asserts, this document clearly delineates insightful understandings of divine goodness, divine omnipotence, divine love, undeserved human pain, and humans experience in conjunction with the existence of evils while outlining the categories of sufferings and how God uses sufferings to relate to the believers and the evildoers in the universe. As we take a trip to understand C.S Lewis understanding of suffering and my opinion, the above quotation serves as the thesis statement and bedrock to enable us comprehend what C.S Lewis understands when it comes to attributing evils to the Al-mighty God. To draw a clear conclusion to C.S Lewis’ assertion giving some resolutions to this question that requires a solution, this paper primarily discusses the four positions of evils since it is the most serious problem in the world leading to the objection as it regards to the existence of God as stated below.

            “When Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote his great Summa Theologica, he could find only two objections to the existence of God, even though, he tried to list at least three objections to every one of the thousand of theses he tried to prove in that great work. One of the two objections is the apparent ability of natural science to explain everything in our experience without God, and the other is the problem of evil.”[3]  Before going to the statement of C.S Lewis, let’s discuss the four components as it relates to the existence of the problem of evils.

THE NATURE OF EVIL

            Evil is not a thing, an entity, or a being. All beings are either the Creator or creatures created by the Creator. But everything God created is good according to Genesis. We naturally tend to picture evil as a thing, a black cloud, or a dangerous storm; unfortunately, these pictures mislead us. If God is the Creator of all things and evil is a thing, then God is not the Creator of evil and he is not to be blamed for its existence. Evil is not a thing, but a wrong choice made by the creatures God had made as the result of the free will given to them to make decision as they please. Not every choice made is beneficiary according to scriptures. Paul declares in 1 Corinthians chapter 10:23 about the free will. “Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.”(I Cor. 10:23([NIV]).[4] The choice men made determines what they become. Men have the alternatives in their hands to make choices that both positively and negatively affect their lives.

THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

            It is necessary to get an understanding regarding the origin of evil. The origin of evil is not the Creator, but the creatures freely choosing sin and selfishness. Take all sin and selfishness out of the earth and you would have heaven on earth. This statement is a supposition of my opinion that does not have a clear cut conclusive reality because it is impossible to take sin away and selfishness until the Finisher of our faith comes to create a new order.

THE SOLUTION TO EVIL

            The part of the solution to the problem of evil is the most important part, how the problem is in practice, not just in theory, in life, not just in thought. Although evil is a serious problem for the thought, it is even more of a problem in life. But even if you think the solution in thought is obscured and uncertain, the solution in practice is strong and clear as the sun. It is the Son. God’s solution to the problem of evil is his Son Jesus Christ. The Father’s love sent his Son to die for us to defeat the power of evil in human nature. According to Hebrews 2:14-15, on quote, “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared n their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.”[5]

THE PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM OF EVIL

            It is not logically contradictory to say an all-powerful and all-loving God tolerates so much evil when he could eradicate it? Why do bad things happen to good people? We see this in the book of Job where the servant of God suffered in the hands of the evil one; however, God allowed it to happen. Can we question God’s sovereignty? By no means. We can not question him.

            No one can question God why bad things happen to good people? If someone is assumed to be good, who has the right standard to evaluate someone to be good? Only God, who has the right measuring scale, can declare a person good. The Bible declares in Romans that there is no righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does well, not even one.[6]

            Having discussed the existence and problem of evil and its four components of explanations, let’s get to the root of the discussion concerning the problem of pain as discussed in C.S Lewis’ book. When there is an existence of pain in the human body or animal body, there is always root or source where the pain is emanating from. The existence of pain in human or animal is due to some underlying disease or illness. This disease or illness can be physical, intellectual, emotional, mental, and spiritual. This leads to suffering as indicated in the book of Job. Categories of suffering in the book of Job will be discussed in the later page of this paper as we critically look into the book of Job.

THE DIVINE GOODNESS

            According to C.S Lewis, “if God were good, he would wish to make his creatures perfectly happy. C.S Lewis statement about the questioning of God’s attribute with respect to the goodness of God is atheistic in nature. The Bible declares that God is good. Goodness is God’s moral attribute. According to Exodus 33:19 as stated in the quotation and I quote:  “Ah the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Exodus 18:20[NIV]).[7]

            Men’s thinking about God’s goodness is quite difference from what God’s goodness implies. He said he will have mercy on whom he desires to have mercy on. This means that not all people that God pardons or heals from suffering or sickness. Does it mean that God lacks goodness? No, God does not lack goodness because he chooses to punish others as the result of their sins in order to establish or lay precedence for his moral government in heaven while he pardons others who recognizes his sovereignty Men’s understanding about God’s goodness is limited in scope because of their finite minds.

            According to Robert A. Larmer, the article entitled, “Goodness and God’s Will,” on quote: “The view that we can identify the moral goodness of an action with God’s will is generally held to be opened to insurable objections. It is thought that these objections established not simply that the goodness of an action and God’s will are not in fact identical, but that is conceptual error to suppose they could be.”[8]

            The goodness of God can be understood in the context of his wrath. Because God is good and loving, he punishes evil doers and vindicates the righteous. When God sent King Saul to kill everyone in the city including all livestock, he did not delude his goodness neither discredit his moral attribute of being good. In the context of suffering, he remains good to teach men some aspects of his moral attributes and judgment. God does not heal everyone who is ill or suffering. He heals others by virtue of his will and pleasure and no one can question or discredit his omnipotent goodness. He remains God and he is unchangeable, omnipotent, omniscient, and infinite.

            God does not do goodness to the creatures because he wants to please them, but he does goodness to his creatures in context of his sovereign will and power. Let’s examine this quote: ‘”Second, the claim that the moral goodness of an action is identical with God’s will is theory-bound. It depends on the plausibility upon the overall plausibility of theism as a worldview.”[9]

            What men consider good is no good in the eyes of God. It is God along that qualifies and an individual or thing to be good. According to C.S Lewis, “The Problem of Pain” on quote, “On the other hand, if God’s moral judgment differs form ours so that our “black” may be his “white,” we can mean nothing by calling him good; for to say God is good, while asserting that his goodness is wholly other than ours, is really only to say God is we know not what. And an utterly known quality in God can not give us moral grounds for loving or obeying him.”[10]

THE DIVINE OMNIPOTENCE

            “If God were All-mighty, he would be able to do as he wished.” It is true that God is all-mighty; however, God does not use his power as a tyrant does. Had it been so, he would have prevented sin in the Garden of Eden. This is the reason; he does not save the whole world at once. He has given men free will to choose what they desire. God does not force any man to be saved; or else, he would b called an unjust God since he is the God of justice or fair place. However, there are situations where God’s divine omnipotence is indicated in term of judgment as the result of rebellions. According to the Genesis account, I quote, “So God said to Noah, I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth (Genesis 6:13 [NIV].’[11]

            God will punish sin when it is committed. His omnipotence is expressed in punishing sin and delivering the righteous from the hands of the wicked. Nonsense can not be attributed to God or intrinsically impossible, but miracles can be. Some of the sufferings that come to men come as the use of the free will. According to C.S Lewis, “The Problem of Pain” on quote as stated, “The Bible asserts that with God all things are possible. This must tacitly exclude, of course, the intrinsically impossible – you may attribute miracles to God, but not nonsense. In God’s universe, there are physical and moral laws, which may operate beneficially for some, but not for others: Water which is beautifully hot to a Japanese adult in a Sento bath will burn a small child. Morally, because wrong actions result where free will operates, the possibility of suffering is inevitable. God does not violate the aggressive persons will to strike the innocent.”[12]

            Most of the diseases or sicknesses surfaced as the result of human activities on earth. Men have polluted the environment as the result of biological and nuclear wastes. These wastes are detrimental to human health when they are inhaled. The existence of cancer, neurological disorders, mental illness etc. is the result of chemical waste that men inhale on the daily basis. The use of artificial fertilizers on plants to produce genetically modified foods and the use of artificial feeds to grow animals at a rate faster than the natural means negatively impact human health well-being. Everything that humans consume that is not organic food contains certain percents of chemicals within it that causes diseases or illness. Should humans demand that God heals them when they have broken natural law? If you were told not to enter into the latrine without having shoes on because there were presence of bacteria that would penetrate your feet to cause illness to you, but ignore the instruction, do not anticipate for God to heal you when you are sick because you have violated natural law, the law of hazardous territory.

            Omnipotence can not be defined generally to satisfy a complete definition in the context of the deity. Let examine the following quotation. According to Philip E. Devenisn and it is on quote, “Kenny Points out that a satisfactory definition of omnipotence has eluded both the great Medieval scholastics, who sought to determine in precisely what sense God is to be omnipotent and contemporary analytical philosopher of religion, who have attempted to define not only divine omnipotence in particular, but also omnipotence in general.”[13]

            Omnipotence should be defined in the context of God’s moral and non-moral attributes. Though, God is all-powerful, but his omnipotence comes alive within the context of his attributes. God can not do all things. He does things that are in conformity with his will and purpose. This is the reason, God does not commit sin neither heals every sick persons.

THE DIVINE LOVE

            Because God is love, he does not do evil to anyone. He loves unconditionally. Love seeks the object loved. We can not reconcile evil with the existence of God to deny and discredit God’s omnipotent goodness. According to Marilyn McCord Adam and it is on quote, “The problem of reconciling the evils of the world with the existence of the omnipotent goodness is not, despite recent critiques to the contrary, a sheer modern enlightens problem. Thomas Aquinas was well aware that evil constitutes a prima facie objection to the existence of God, and the reply to this objection at the beginning of the Summa Theologica is in structure.”[14]

            God loves his creations; therefore, it is not his desire that his people suffer form the hands of afflictions. As previously stated, evil is not a thing, but a choice people make based on their desires as the result of the free will. God allows suffering to come on individuals and group of people based on the choice they had made contrary to God’s purpose and will. During the period of suffering, God teaches, corrects, and reveals his good and perfect will in the process. The sufferer learns the will of God as God delivers him or her. God’s love is demonstrated in the process. Sometimes, the sufferer dies from the disease or sickness. God’s will and love are still demonstrated in the process. According to Marilyn McCord Adam and it is quoted,  “The problem of evil is not whether or not an all-good God can have reasons for allowing the existence of evil, but whether from the victim’s perspective sufficient sense can be made of their suffering to defeat the evil they experience.”[15]

THE UNDESERVED HUMAN PAIN

            According to C.S Lewis, four-fifths of all human suffering derives from our misusing nature or hurting other people. We, not God, have produced racks, whips, prisons, guns and bombs. It is by human avarice and stupidity that we suffer all of our “social evils.”

            If humans are producing weapons of mass destruction, why philosophers and atheists of our time continue to blame God for human sufferings? Men are suffering due to the choices they made.

            Not all sufferings are the creations of human kinds. Some are messenger of Satan. Let’s look at Paul’s situation as stated, “Because of these surpassingly great revelations. therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.”[16] God’s divine purpose and will are seen in situations where the devil is also busy. Let’s examine the servant Job’s situation in the book of Job. God is teaching Job and his audience why he allows his faithful servant to suffer at the hand of Satan. According to Larry J. Waters in the article entitled “Elihu’s Categories of Suffering from Job 32-37” and it is on quote, “Elihu showed compassion for Job by insisting that God was actively involved in his life and that God’s control of creation is purposeful. Unlike, the three friends, Elihu avoided completely the futile search for mysterious sin that Job supposedly had committed as the cause of his suffering.”[17]

THE CATEGORIES OF SUFFERING

            God uses suffering to reveal himself to men in various ways based on his sovereign will and purpose. Does God allow suffering to come on humanity? Does he allow illness to come to his servant? Let’s examine scriptures in Job. Indeed Job was a servant of God and God fearing man. He was a man of character and integrity. As we take a trip through this book, we will examine the kinds of sufferings in the book of Job.

            [18]The attitude of Elihu in chapter 33 is one of gentleness and sympathy toward Job. Unlike the three counselors, Elihu identified with Job as a fellow sufferer, and not just as an observer. To Elihu, suffering is among other things, a preventive measure to keep Job from perpetuating a sinful, false theology. This kind of suffering is called preventive suffering. The next suffering is called disciplinary suffering wherein Elihu said that this category of suffering may have been used in Job’s life to help correct some of Job’s false concepts that had surfaced during the debates. They include Job’s misunderstanding of God’s justice (34:12, 21). Elihu offered a third category for Job’s suffering as pedagogical or educational. Statements that God is the teacher and that he uses suffering educationally abound in Elihu’s speeches (33:16, 30; 34:32; 35:11; 36:8-10, 15b-16, 22). Suffering can also be s glorification process whereby the sufferer brings glory to God by remaining faithful during the suffering. The testimony of the repentant person glorifies God because of his powdering restoration after suffering (Job 33:26-27). According to Elihu, suffering can be revelational, that is, it can help the sufferer gains a deeper understanding of God and his relational attributes – love, grace, and mercy. As Creator God, he speaks in many and various ways (33:4; cf 34:14-15).

            [19]Suffering can be organizational in the sense of helping to prioritize what is important in one’s life and relationship to God (Job 37:7; 14; 23-24). Suffering can also help believers relate to God in prayer. Elihu said the sufferer will pray to God, and he will accept him (34:28). Suffering can be used in a judgmental or providential sense in which God uses suffering as a means of punishing evildoers, both nations and individuals. Job’s three protagonists had argued that the punishment of evil is the only reason for suffering. Elihu agreed that God often uses suffering to punish wrongdoers, but this, he argued, is only one of many reasons (34:21-30). Finally, suffering can also be proclamation or declaration in that the sufferer has the opportunity to magnify God in several areas. First the sufferer may reveal the just and non-arbitrary nature of God’s actions by recognizing that God will not do wickedness (34:10-12). God heals diseases, sicknesses or illnesses; however, if God allows sicknesses to come on his servants without healing them, he knows the reason and we can not question his sovereignty.

            The philosophers of our time tend to attribute the existence of evil to God not realizing that evil is not an entity, but a choice creatures made as the result of the free will God had given them. The nature of evil, its origin, solution, and its philosophical problem can not be divorced in the discussion of the problem of evil as the manifestation of suffering deliberated in this document; meanwhile, the discussion on divine goodness, divine omnipotence, divine love, and undeserved human pain, can not be underemphasized taking into consideration the suffering imposed as the result of choices made by human beings; however, in human sufferings, God is in the process of revealing himself in various ways to fulfill his ultimate purpose and desire.

Bibliography

Adams, Mariyn McCord .Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God: Theological Studies (Web: ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Series, 1984)

Devenisn, Philip E. Omnipotence, Creation, Perfection: Kenny and Aquinas on the Power and Action of God (Web: ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Series, 1984)

Larmer, Robert A. Goodness and God’s Will:  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (Web: ATLA Religious Database with ATLA Series, 1984)

Lewis, C.S. The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1944)

Waters, Larry J. Elihu’s Categories of Suffering from Job 32-37 (Web: ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Series, 1986)

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/evil.htm  Retrieved 7/20/11


[1]Deuteronomy 29:29

[2]C.S Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1944), 17.

[3]http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/evil.htm

[4]I Corinthians 10:23

[5]Hebrews 2:14-14

[6]Romans 3:9a-12

[7]Exodus 18:20

[8]Robert A. Larmer, Goodness and God’s Will:  Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (Web: ATLA Religious Database with ATLA Series, 1984), 1.

[9]ibid

[10]ibid

[11]Genesis 6:13

[12]ibid

[13]Philip E. Devenisn, Omnipotence, Creation, Perfection: Kenny and Aquinas on the Power and Action of God (Web: ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Series, 1984), 16.

[14]Mariyn McCord Adams, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God: Theological Studies (Web: ATLA Religion Database with ATLA Series, 1984), 14.

[15]ibid

[16]II Corinthians 12:6-8

[17]Larry J. Waters, Elihu’s Categories of Suffering from Job 32-37 (Web: ATLA Religion Datebase with ATLA Series, 1986), 23.

[18]Job 33:12-30

[19]Job 37:14-24; 34:10-30