Apologetics And The Problem of Horrendous Suffering

One of the slam dunks scholars as diverse as Bart Ehrman and John Loftus name against the existence of the Christian God is the problem of horrendous suffering, for surely the world is not reflective of a powerful, loving God. If there is such a God, why are 3 year-olds dying of cancer?

In reality though, this is not the trump card many think it is. Apologist Michael Coren suggests that Christians are perfectly aware of this issue and that the real trump card is that Justice is promised in the next life, not this one. We see this, for instance, with the parable of the non repentant (while he was alive) rich man and his family and Lazarus in Luke’s gospel. We read, for instance,

The Rich Man and Lazarus

  • 19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things and Lazarus in like manner evil things, but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.’ 27 He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.’ 29 Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.’ 30 He said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (Luke 16:19-31)

I personally think if there was a powerful, loving God, there wouldn’t be children dying of cancer. That’s not love. But, I can see how the theist might attempt to explain this example away: it’s a fallen world of death and disease controlled by the prince of the air Satan, so obviously bad things will befall innocent people.

Sometimes we have to note that people will disagree even when they think their rationale is self-evident. As Derrida said, “obviousness” is a psychological feeling, not a guarantee of truth, regardless of how powerful it feels.