Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?

I seem to be talking to unbelievers/agnostics on matters of faith on FB quite a bit as of late, and I had a conversation with someone about his/her (name and gender removed for privacy reasons) belief that a loving god wouldn’t allow so much suffering to take place in the world.  This is indeed a difficult issue and one that can easily be faith-jarring; that is until we fully understand the situation.

So, here is her/his post, and my response.  I hope you benefit from this read, and chime in with your comments.

Objection to faith in God:  Too many bad things happen to children and good people every minute: murder, rape, cancer etc. A loving all seeing God would not let this suffering happen.

My response:  Ah yes, one of the biggest hurdles of faith. I must admit, it’s a challenge to intellectually and emotionally cope with, as the suffering in this world is truly epidemic. However, here’s my response (from a Christian perspective, anyway).

We live in a fallen world. The world started its fallen nature from its perfect state in the beginning. It started with the original sin of Adam and Eve. Since then, our world has been falling apart. So, why doesn’t God step in and fix all the bad in the world? Well, because we (mankind) chose, our way. We said, “we like your perfect world God, but we want choice; we want free will”. So, He gave it to us and continues to give it to us. The first choice we made outside of God’s desire for our lives was sin, and that sin changed the world from a perfect one to a fallen one of which we are now discussing. That’s the abbreviated Christian theological explanation. Now, let’s get down to the details “on the ground”, and see if we can break that objection apart.

Let’s put the “bad” of the world into a few buckets. Let’s bucket them as disease, hunger/famine, and violent crime. There are more, to be sure (corporate and government abuse comes to mind), but I think these larger categories catch most of what is brought up in this objection to faith. How many of these buckets are within man’s control to positively affect or eliminate? Let’s see:

  • Disease: In the last 100 years, we have made astounding advancements in medicine. Really, it’s been amazing. However, disease continues to be a major factor in our collective mortality. Why? We’ll come back to this in a bit.
  • Hunger/famine: A HUGE problem in some 2nd and most 3rd world countries, and affects a very large percentage of the world’s population. There are all kinds of organizations that are doing great work here, but even with their valiant efforts, almost 16,000 children die of hunger every day. How can this be? We’ll also come back to this in a second.
  • Violent crime: An epidemic in the civilized world. As a martial artist and self-defense instructor, I am all too familiar with the dismal stats here (albeit a bit slanted to women as those are generally the students of my SD classes). We all watch the news, and they are all too good and showing us how bad the world is, so we really don’t need to dive in here. I’m sure we all agree it’s BAD. Lastly, we’ll come back to this too.

Which one of these buckets have WE done everything we can do as humankind to positively affect? Disease? Not even close. Hunger/famine, nowhere near what could be done. Do you know that the US spends between $10-14 billion a year on porn? How about the $10-30 billion spent annually on illegal drugs? How about gambling? Americans spend over $27 billion just in Native American casinos alone… This list of legal and illegal excess can go on for miles, and these are just US stats. How much farther would we be down the medical advancement road if we took just 30% of the international spend in these discretionary categories and put it towards medical research? How about another 30% towards world hunger?… I think you get the picture. WE are making the decisions in these areas, not God. He has given the prosperous nations plenty to do good with, but He allows us to continue to have our free will. So, are disease and hunger/famine problems? You bet your bippy they are! Could they be radically changed for the better by us, the world’s wealthy (wealthy compared to the international standard)? Absolutely, and we as a people have the ability to make that change, but we have made other choices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an advocate for socialism, or bigger government; quite the opposite. I said WE have the ability to make change. That is, me, you and every other individual like us in our economic strata that should be affecting change, without anyone telling us to do so.

On to the last category; violent crime. Well, that one is a bit more involved, but the patterns are the same. Remember the national spend on porn I mentioned above? How about the national spend on gambling? Do you think excesses in these areas result in crime? You betcha they do. How about our national epidemic of fatherless children? A huge driver of crime. But do we as a people have choices to make dramatic positive change in these (and may other) areas? Of course. We just choose not too.

So you see, most of the world’s suffering is within our control to dramatically change for the better, but alas, we choose not to. And God, being the gentleman that He is, allows us to have our choice, albeit with great sadness on His part. So, I encourage you to rethink this fairly common, but uninformed objection to faith.

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2 Responses to Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?

  1. Pastor Eric says:

    It is always an honor to be able to speak openly with people with differing opinions. The fact that someone may not agree with us on any given point should never be the end all to conversation.

    This is a well stated response and it is my hope that your conversation will continue.

  2. Jim Smoak says:

    Hi Dinah – Thanks for noticing us. This theme is called SmartOne and it is one of the free themes that is in the WordPress gallery. I liked it because of how it was nicely designed to work with menus.

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