December 16, 2010

Evil & Suffering V: Pain & Suffering

Evil and Its Residual Effects

The other side to this is pain and suffering. Sure God has appointed man to die once and after that to face judgment (MacArthur ESV, Hebrews 9:27). We in the process of reaching that point are at varying levels subjected to pain and suffering both physical and mental. This is not always the case but usually people will need to experience pain in their path to glorification or damnation. In the case of glorification, evil, pain and suffering are removed from one’s eternal existence. In the course to damnation the Bible informs us that suffering and torment will not end upon our earthly expiration but will transcend death into our eternal destination in Hell. Pain was not in the original plan which is observable by reading Genesis 1-3 (Creation to the Fall). Man was created holy and chose to fall through committing sin thereby becoming unholy and falling away from God. It is after this that we see death enter mankind. It is after the sin of Adam and Eve that we see Biblcial narrative and illustrations of man suffering.

Suffering enters the creation through the curse. A curse put on man because of disobedience to God. In a word it can be summed up as sin, the sin or disobedience of not following God’s command(s) / mandates. Anything short of obedience and holiness leaves the opening for sin and sin deserves punishment. Punishment speaks of negative connotations with the prospect of pain and suffering hinted at or obliquely referenced. God’s commands when they are obeyed are capable of leading mankind to holiness or recovery of the state lost before the Fall. Unfortunately, man is not capable of maintaining or achieving this righteousness or holiness through these laws mandated by God on his own nor was he ever capable after the Fall because of the inherent sinful nature or mankind (hence the need for Christ).

So as a first principle of pain and suffering and theodicy in general, it is mankind themselves that caused his own pain and suffering, or as the old say goes, “We have no one to blame but ourselves”. What is painfully ironic is the fact that suffering is sometimes directly proportional to the level of sin or evil. There are exceptions such as Job since he was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil but there was a lot more going on theologically in Jobs narrative. Even if this doesn’t always hold true there is still the issue that those who sin or commit evil tend to suffer in direct proportion to the committed sin or evil since God is just and returns on humanity the recompense for their depravity or in equal measure an individual’s sin is returned to them in punishment.

The overall holistic picture it is an interesting paradox. Our suffering was caused by our own actions. We also see that sometimes, the greater the evil, the greater the pain and suffering involved. It is as if it is punishment for wandering farther afield from God. Conversely, we cannot assume that all suffering is down to the very last ounce of it is the immediate consequence of sin. If this was true it would mean that those who suffer most in this life were the ones who sinned the most and that is a repugnant thought and frankly, unbiblical. Sufferings such as illness could be the direct result of sin such as the invalid in John 5 who was incapacitated for thirty-eight years but there also need to be no specific illnesses and specific sins. We see this hideous fallacy raise its head in cases like AIDS. We are being punished for the sin of homosexuality through AIDS. For example: Can some please explain to me how that could absolutely be true for a heterosexual 12 year old virgin that needed a blood transfusion? In these situations we view suffering and evil in its proper context and not try to match up sin with suffering on a one-to-one basis. Instead we need to see the suffering and evil as a result of The Fall and Curse in Genesis and it would make more sense. It may not make us feel any better about our suffering but it a more rational and reasonable explanation than those like the Westboro Baptist Church and acolytes of Fred Phelps. They are parading around with “God Hates Fags” sandwich signs making claims that individual soldiers are specifically being killed (and families are suffering) due to homosexuals being allowed rights in the United States. Frankly, this is inflicting more suffering. This behavior can hardly be considered Biblical.

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