Philosophy of Religion
November 5, 2004
Pain and Suffering: A Biblical Perspective
There are fundamental flaws with regards to pain and suffering and how religion attempts to defines its inception. The Quran states that "True, there is Pain and suffering at the terminal end of an illness, but we believe there is reward from God for those who patiently persevere in suffering" (39:10 and 31:17, par. 2). On two occasions, according to the Gospels, Jesus had the opportunity to explain why tragedy strikes (John 9:1-3; Luke 13:1-5 REB). Why do some people suffer, while others go free? Both times He turned the discussion in another direction. The important thing, He tells us, is not the reason for suffering, but our response to suffering. It's not why we suffer but what we do when suffering comes.
The experience of suffering presents us with a number of perplexing problems. For most of humankind's history, disease and death was a part of everyday experience. People faced the pain life brought, did their best to cope with it and moved on. Ironically the more effective our attempts have become to resist disease and death, the more complex they seem to become. Now people suffer much less in life than they have in the past, yet we are more upset by it now than people were before. The less we suffer the more it bothers us. It's as though suffering takes us by surprise.
This brings us to a paradox that exposes the different effects that suffering has on religion. On one hand, suffering poses a tremendous challenge to faith. J.L. Mackie explained the problem quite succinctly when he wrote" In its simplest form the problem is this: God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists" (Kessler 226). Philosophers and theologians regard it as the greatest challenge to religious belief that if two of these statements were true then the third could certainly not be true. William Rowe says there's, "A rational support for atheism", since theists cannot... [continues]
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