Tuesday 12 May 2009

An Apologetic for God

Sometimes when I take a book with me for coffee I hope to find something inspirational and thought provoking, but end up coming away disappointed. At other times I take a book or a magazine with no real expectations and come away with new insights or ideas. The espresso must have been good because the latter is what happened to me this evening. Reading a few remarks about suffering caused my mind to wander and think, ending in me formulating an apologetic for God (as if God needed someone like me to defend him - which is what an apologetic is, rather than apologising for God).

It went something like this.

When people experience suffering (in whatever circumstances it may be) there will always be some who blame God. Fair enough.

However, many people would cite suffering as proof that God does not exist:

"How can there possibly be a god when I see this child suffering from cancer?" Also understandable.

So I started thinking to myself, what if that same person imagined that God did exist? Would they resort to the same response as the first person above - namely to blame God for suffering? Quite possibly.

However, by their own admission God could not exist because of suffering, therefore who do you blame for the misery that envelopes so many people? Clearly not God because he doesn't exist. Yet suffering continues. It would just seem that bad things happen to some people (while others experience good).

So I began to wonder, would it be possible to bring God back into the equation despite the suffering in the world. Now God exists, but this time does not become the target of blame because stuff just happens. Suffering in the world can't be proof of a world without God.

Ah, but if there is suffering in the world and God exists, then why doesn't he do something about it? Why doesn't he cure that sick child? I suppose my honest answer is that I don't know, but that is wholly unsatisfactory. So perhaps I should answer that maybe God will do something about it.

St Paul wrote some famous words suggesting that despite what happens in life three things should remain: faith, hope and love. I like the idea of faith and hope. It has a particular optimism that says things could be different.

There was once a man in an ancient land who, for whatever reason, was sentenced to death. His pleas to the king for mercy where to no avail until he came up with an idea. "Your majesty," groveled the man, "if you spare my life for one year I will teach your horse to fly". Intrigued, the king granted a 365 day extension to the man's life. When questioned later by one of the servants as to why the man made such a ridiculous promise, the man replied, "In one year I may die anyway. Or the king may die! Or, who knows, I may even be able to teach that horse to fly."

To me this simple illustration speaks in someway about faith and hope in times of adversity. But what do we do in the meantime for those who suffer as we wait in faith and hope for a change of circumstances? What can we do? We love.

But is loving through suffering something God can relate to?


Phiasmir said...

Good post, I was just wondering stuff like that myself, it's a debate as old as us, really.

I personally believe that because our world is in such seperation from God, we are vulnerable to all this bad stuff. We had the choice of Eden or the fall, and we chose the fall, and that's why we suffer. But then again, he does still save some people miraculously (Phsically, at least), but not everyone, which is the tricky part.

Not to be an adbot, but you should check out this song by Regina Spektor, called "Lauging with", it's on her myspace and it deals with exactly what this post is about, and she only just released it! One of those whacky co-incidinces, I suppose! :D


^The above will instantly bring you to said song :P

Snot Head said...

I remember after my mom died, I separated myself from church and God altogether for an entire year. The only times I ever spoke to God were to yell at Him. I was so angry at Him because I was still a child in desperate need of my mother.

I think it is human nature to put the blame on someone because that is easier than dealing with the fact that we in fact do make mistakes. Do you ever have days when you are just in a sour mood? Maybe not because you are a man, but I know, as a woman, I have days when I am just mad or upset and want someone to blame for it. My fiance takes the hit most of the time. I always appologize for behaving irrationally, but that doesn't make it acceptable.

Also, through witnessing my own pain as well as many others' pains, I am realizing that when God chooses not to heal someone, it is not because He can't, as you already know, but because he has a bigger plan. I have been following a blog of a woman who has a 6 month old son struggling with SVT (supra-ventricular tachycardia). She is an avid believer in God, and because of her son, millions of people have banded together across the world to pray. His sickness may be a pain, but at 6 months old, that sweet little boy is bringing glory to God.

Most times, we are not going to understand, but the situation is going to be bigger than us.

Cosmo said...

Phiasmir, thanks for your compliment. The thing about asking questions of God is that always seems to lead to more questions. For me it's one of the things that makes theology so interensting to study.

Snot Head, I hope you didn't think I was being too glib in my assement of suffering (I don't think you did). I too know what it means to lose someone far too soon. I don't know why it happens and if I am honest I find it hard to reconcile to some bigger plan - but that doesn't mean that suffering cannot be viewed within a bigger framework.

What I do think, however, is that faith, hope and love is a worthy response to suffering which may just ease the pain a little.