f The Wittenberg Door: Where is God in Evil and Suffering?

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Where is God in Evil and Suffering?

There was a little girl of five who was hated by her mother and father. . . . This poor child of five was subjected to every possible torture by those cultivated parents. They beat her, thrashed her, kicked her for no reason till her body was one bruise. Then, they went to greater refinements of cruelty—shut her up all night in the cold and frost in a privy [outhouse], and because she didn’t ask to be taken up at night (as though a child of five sleeping its angelic, sound sleep could be trained to wake and ask), they smeared her face and filled her mouth with excrement, and it was her mother, her mother did this. And that mother could sleep, hearing the poor child’s groans!

Can you understand why a little creature, who can’t even understand what’s done to her, should beat her little aching heart with her tiny fist in the dark in the cold and weep her meek, unresentful tears to dear, kind God to protect her? Do you understand that, friend and brother, you pious and humble novice? Do you understand why this infamy must be and is permitted?

Dostoevsky’s horrifying tale makes the question of evil and God’s sovereignty very personal, very human. Before I was Reformed I would have simply said that it’s man’s fault, not God’s. The retort was always the same, “Couldn’t God have stopped it?” My answer that God doesn’t interfere with the free-will decisions of men seemed trite and ad-hoc even to me—and I wasn’t able to escape the conclusion that all such suffering was ultimately purposeless.

After becoming Reformed my answer changed. I understood that God was sovereign and decrees all things that come to pass. That there is a purpose in such suffering, although we might not understand what it is. In other words, God has a morally sufficient reason for the suffering that occurs in this life.

In an interview with Justin Taylor, John Piper provides a more artful and in-depth explanation to this troubling issue. After referencing the above passages from The Brothers Karamazov, Justin Taylor asks, “Where was God?”

The question where is metaphorical and hardly has an answer. “On the throne of the universe preparing a place for the little girl in heaven that will recompense her ten-thousand-fold for everything she is experiencing.” “Preparing hell for her parents so that justice will be done perfectly.” And those who look upon both the heaven recompense and the hell recompense will bow in sovereign wonder at the justice of God. Those are possible answers to where he is.

You can read more here.

--The Catechizer

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