On Sundays at the moment we are focusing on and exploring ‘The Questions of Faith that People Ask.’ Here is the first part of the answer to the third question.
Our outrage at suffering points to a just God
‘How can anyone believe in God when there’s so much suffering in the world?’ exclaimed my friend Alan. ‘Life’s just a matter of the survival of the fittest.’ A few minutes later he was decrying dictators who exploit their people. ‘But Alan,’ I said, ‘you can’t have it both ways. If life is a struggle for then cruel dictators are its heroes.’
Why does suffering bring God into question? Why does it appal us? Ask these questions and people will talk about love, cruelty, justice, wrong, fairness. But these ideas all presuppose a moral standard by which we can evaluate the world. Our outrage at suffering implies things ought to be different. But why is there an ‘ought’ unless right and wrong have been written into the universe by its Creator. Suffering appears to make theism meaningless. But the alternative, atheism, makes suffering meaningless for everything is permissible.
Suffering causes us to protest against God. But the only protest that can be sustained is one that appeals to God’s justice. Our protest against suffering only makes sense if there is a God against whom we can protest. Our cry of ‘Why?’ only makes sense if there is a God who knows the answer.