Saturday, April 09, 2016

Inbox: The Worst Possible Answer

Bernie continues to muse about suffering from a biblical perspective:

“Some other things to consider:
  • Of the four identified types of suffering [see previous post], Christians get all four (yay!), non-Christians only get the first two.
  • Suffering of types two and three is not the mark of a failing Christian, it is the mark of a succeeding one. The more we do for God and the more we get serious about bringing Christ-likeness out fully, the more we will feel the knife — or, a better image — feel the weight of the cross. Opposition grows as we mature and become productive. This is (I think) why the people closest to God seem to suffer the most and endure the greatest hardships.
  • The happy thing is that all suffering (all of it) has meaning for the Christian and ultimately produces beauty. The unhappy thing is that suffering for the non-Christian who remains unsaved never has meaning or beauty or purpose. The unbeliever suffers for a lifetime and finds that it has produced nothing worthwhile.
  • The Christian — while not having a completely satisfying answer to the mystery of suffering — has an answer that is a billion times better than the non-Christian. The Buddhist “hopes” only to stop hoping and thus to eliminate suffering (no desire = no suffering); his idea of nirvana is not heaven, it is (literally) an extinguishing. The common answer to suffering outside Christendom? Get numb or deny it. Every other belief system deals with suffering as a variant of that Buddhist “numbness” approach. The materialist, if he is honest, cannot be better summarized than is put forth in this Dawkins quote:

    “The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

The materialist answer to suffering is basically to say there is zero difference between the six year-old with terminal brain cancer or the child born with FAS and the content, fat, 95 year-old ex-Nazi living on a pile of Jewish gold in Brazil. You cannot say one is good or evil, better or worse off. Suffering is meaningless. The materialist answer is totally to beg the question and deny meaning, hope, beauty or even plausibility.

As weak as some people suggest the Christian answer to suffering is (in essence, “Wait and all this pain will be justified and make sense one day”), the materialist answer is brutal and empty.

To paraphrase, the Christian answer to suffering is the worst possible answer except for all the other answers.”

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