Category Archives: Theodicy

Why? – When Life Disappoints

The problem of pain and loss and disappointment has hindered many people in their faith journeys. One writer referred to the problem of pain as “a question mark turned like a fishhook in the human heart (Strobel, Case Faith).”

Why? Three little letters and one fishhook shaped question mark.

These life fishhooks come to us in many forms. They come to distance skaters who are told to change lanes by a coach thus having him disqualified from a gold medal. They come to moms who give birth to a lifeless child, while a woman in the next room over gave birth to a perfectly healthy child that she did not want. They come to parents who prayed for the protection of their son who is killed in a car crash while those who never pray avoid crashes their entire life. They come to students who have to listen to an announcement that two of their classmates have died in car accidents on the same day in separate accidents.

You and I just keep asking the question “Why?” It’s not a bad question to ask in some cases. We need to ask it in order to rectify a situation. Someone needs to ask it so that the coach doesn’t give bad advice to his skater again and knock him out of the gold medal. We need to ask “Why?” But there are some “Why?” questions that we will never be able to answer fully, and yet we keep asking it. If only she had worn a seat-belt; if only we had prayed more; if only we had made them wait just a second or two; if only… And the “Why?” question asked repeatedly of things mysterious, gradually evolves into a “Why me?” question.

I think we ask this kind of “Why me?” question, because we like to think that we live in an orderly universe that should be fair and that has logical explanations for things that happen. If the car won’t start, we have a dead battery. If the lights go out, someone didn’t pay the bill. If someone was killed in an accident, there had to be a reason. We have to have logical explanations for things, every board nailed down. And if we don’t, an unanswered “why?” question jeopardizes all of the security we feel in the world.

Someone has suggested that one of the reasons we want to know why is because it arises from the fear that the same thing can happen to us. Fear prompts the why question. And it doesn’t help if you’ve got a society that creates a culture of fear simply to boost their circulation or increase their viewing audience. You know how this works. “The little freckle on your arm could be a time bomb – story at 10.” We are hooked in a second. We have something new to worry about. And then we fear being the one case in a thousand that has a freckle turn into something and we ask “Why?”

What if we are asking the wrong question. What if there is no answer to this kind of “Why?” question. “Why me?” is a natural question to ask, but if we live it constantly, it makes it impossible to see anything but the “unfairness” of what has happened in my life. It imprisons us. What if we are being asked to live with mystery? What should we be asking then?

Jesus seems to imply that the question we all should ask is “What now?” I’ve got trouble. I have experienced loss. I worry about the uncertainty of the world I live in. “What should I do now?” But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness…

We often want to seek pleasure or some other form of escape first. The easiest route of relief is through our bodies. We seek to gratify the senses and get relief when we stop at “Why me?” But the question “What now?” allows us to step out of the prison, not as hapless victims in an unpredictable world, but as citizens of a kingdom. When we ask “What now?” we shift our focus from ourselves to God’s Kingdom. How can God be honored in all this trouble? God may not answer our “Whys?” but He will be our “Who?” and part of our “What now?” We can trust Him with our “Whys?”

And what I have found is that the people God uses the most in the kingdom are those who have an unanswered “Why?” in his/her life.

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Suffering, Theodicy

Every Joy on Earth is an Inkling, a Whisper of a Greater Joy

We think that our greatest problem is pain and suffering. Indeed, it can be gut-wrenching, but it’s not our biggest problem. Our problem is that we have achieved what we thought would make us happy, and yet we remain unsatisfied. G. K. Chesterton observed that weariness does not come from being weary of pain but from being weary of pleasure. We’ve tried everything we can try in life, and still we are restless.

Deep within the human heart throbs an undying hope that somebody or something will bring a way to retain the wonder of living a fully alive, multisensory life experience, even in the pain and who will not disappoint. The presence of wealth is no protection against the ravages of the soul. Emptiness still stalks the rich, loneliness still haunts the icon, and disappointment still casts its shadow amidst the cheers under the spotlight (Zacharias), and the “liberated new atheist” is no more satisfied than the least informed Christian Theist.

Oscar Wilde was a literary genius – a poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. I have a book of quotations taken from his works. He was one sharp guy. Born in 1854, he won scholarships and was educated in Britain’s best schools. He had earned lots of money and traveled around the world. Yet, at life’s end at the age of forty-six, he died bankrupt and broken with no self-respect due to poor homosexual moral choices he made.

He says “I ruined myself…” He talked about the notoriety and natural gifts that had been given him. “…But I let myself be lured into long spells of senseless and sensual ease… Tired of being on the heights, I deliberately went to the depths in the search of a new sensation… I grew careless of the lives of others. I took pleasure where it pleased me… I forgot that every little action of the common day makes or unmakes character, and that therefore what one has done in the secret chamber one has some day to cry aloud on the housetop… I allowed pleasure to dominate me. I ended in horrible disgrace.”

I think we have learned to deal with pain and suffering. What has mastered us though, are these long periods of “senseless and sensual ease” and yet we are not satisfied. Questions of pain and suffering will always plague mankind until the New Creation. But an even greater question is “Why do we remain unsatisfied among blessing and plenty?”

The reason we remain unsatisfied is because we have made a mistake in what we thought would satisfy. Every joy on earth is an inkling, a whisper of a greater joy, but they are not ends in themselves. All of our pleasures point to a Pleasure-Giver. Our life-long nostalgia is a longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we feel cut off. And that something is actually a Someone. Until He becomes our greatest pleasure, pain and suffering will still perplex and long periods of sensual ease will be our psuedo-joy. We are far too easily pleased when infinite joy is offered.

C.S. Lewis said, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not mean the universe is a fraud…earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing (The Quotable Lewis).”

The Hedonistic Paradox states that true pleasure is a by-product of a greater pleasure. Until God is our greatest pleasure, unsatisfied senseless and sensual ease will be the lines along which our story moves. All those who refuse or deny God His existence relegate themselves to only the whispers or echoes of a Voice of the One who eventually provides the ultimate fulfillment of all sensory delight.

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Filed under Atheism, Christian Worldview, Hedonistic Paradox, Pleasure, Suffering, Theism, Theodicy, Uncategorized

Suffering – God Played By His Own Rules

When it comes to human suffering, some have noted that it’s like God is playing this cosmic game and they don’t want to play. But whatever game God is playing, if you want to phrase it that way, He Himself has played by His own rules. Because when Jesus, God’s Son, came into the world, he knew loneliness, pain, and suffering. He is not above the quandary of unanswered questions and life’s deepest hurts. God played by His own rules.

John Stott says that one of the reasons he’s a Christian is the cross of Christ… “In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? (Why I Am a Christian).” The Cross represents our broken and pain-filled world and a God who has chosen to meet us there.

The problem of pain has hindered many people in their faith journeys. One writer referred to the problem of pain as “a question mark turned like a fishhook in the human heart (Strobel, The Case for Faith).”

But whatever else you may say about suffering and evil, one has to admit that “God played by his own rules.”

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Filed under Agnosticism, Atheism, Evil, God, Suffering, Theodicy