Some people struggle to find a satisfactory, much less definitive, answer to The Big Why Question of why God allows a world of suffering and pain, a question that Job raised about his own heartbreak and misery.
C.S. Lewis points out in his De Futilitate address at his Oxford college “how no one (like him) will be content to leave the matter (of the Big Why) just where the Book of Job leaves it.” We might add that the Book of Job is not meant to answer the question of suffering, but is more of an appetizer for more thought, reflection, and faith.
Lewis compares his (and our) search for a more satisfactory or definitive answer to a scientific quest: “The pell-mell of phenomena, as we first observe them, seems to be full of anomalies and irregularities; but being assured that reality is logical we go on framing and trying out hypotheses to show that the apparent irregularities are not really irregular at all … having admitted that reality in the last resort must be moral, we attempt to explain evil …” We raise four follow-up questions that at the very least may lead us toward a more comprehensive and comforting understanding.
While discussing this question with those deeply disturbed or even outraged by a world of suffering and evil, we must ask them: Why do you ask “Why”? Why are people so disturbed and troubled by suffering and evil? After all, if as many say, this is just the way things are, then we should simply take it all in stride. But we are disturbed and troubled by what strikes us as not meant to be like it is.
Where do we get our inner sense of right and wrong? As we say in England, this is a sticky wicket for those inclined to doubt/disbelieve God’s goodness or even His existence. They often respond to this counter question with definite discomfiture and simple silence. If it is nonsense to believe in a loving and just God in a world of suffering and evil, as atheists claim, then where do they get their “sense” of love and justice?
We as Christians refer to Genesis 1:26-27, where we read: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness …
So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.”
Ancient writings and legends contain nothing to compare with the God described here in Genesis using the grammatical Plural of Majesty, a God beyond singular boundaries and human imagination. Here we have in this revelation a God who created us in His own image, the image of a just and loving Supernatural Being who instills in us a sense of right and wrong together with the ability to love or not to love.
The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 2:15 about how “the moral law” is written on our hearts by God, and our “consciences confirm this” and “competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse” us! We might also mention that these are not only “moral” but “rational” thoughts grounded in the ability to think logically which doesn’t fit within atheists’ non-created and non-rational universe where things just happen without any rational direction. Phillip E. Johnson notes how this moral law “can be obscured but never erased.” I would add it can be and often is suppressed “so we can do as we please.”
J. Budziszewski, in his book Written on the Heart, explains how today’s secularists try to deny and dismiss this deep-seated sense of right and wrong: “With a head filled with false sophistication that tells him that right and wrong are invented by culture and different everywhere, the new sort of pagan mistrusts his own conscience and views guilt as a sign of maladjustment that therapy will remove.” In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis offers an incisive analysis: “… human beings all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it … they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in.”
We have a deep-seated yearning for a world that is free from suffering and evil; therefore, we are not just bewildered but troubled by tragic and evil events. Atheists and secularists love to talk about how unjust suffering and evil disprove the existence of a loving and all-powerful Creator; but they hate to explain where they get their concept of justice, their inner sense of right and wrong.
Confronted with suffering and evil, it is ever so natural, rational, and moral for people to ask the question we will examine next time: “What is wrong with our world?”