I’ve been reading, as is my want, Alistair McGrath’s Introduction to Christian Theology. While reading up on History, I’ve found a small idea from Origen that peaked my interest. Origen sets up the idea of a dialog between two ideas of God, that which could have been, and that which is now. It is this idea that I wanted to spend a bit of time exploring.
Suffering is often ignored, or at least, glossed over. Mostly because it’s very difficult to reconcile the idea of an all-powerful, and all-knowing God, and the suffering that we see in the world. Origen puts forward the idea that there are two options, two paths in History. I don’t know wether or not he ever expanded it to Suffering, but I wanted to take a crack at it.
This idea is not very usefull when looking at personal suffering, but it seems to work fairly well for big events(ish). The idea is that what happened is not as bad as what could have happened given the same set of circumstances. The idea is, of course, not completely satisfactory as it doesn’t answer the question of how things became the way they were directly before the incident, and why things weren’t different to avoid the incident all together.
Lets take, as an example, WWII. It contains some of the most horrific events that have ever happened to this planet on such a scale. The persecution of the Jews, and the concentration camps were terrible, horrific places. It is diffcult to imagine a worse thing that could have happened. The idea is to try to take a long-term view of the suffering. Without the horrors of World War II, the re-evaluation of the hatred of Jews, and by extension of anyone, based on their race, or religion. It also brought the true meaning of the word Genocide to our minds, and gave the world a new impeteus to fight injustice wherever we found it to avoid such things ever happening again.
Also, during WWII, as has been pointed out on this blog, several people risked their lives to save as many Jews as they could. The whole war made people painfully aware of the evil that can be done by one human being to another, simply because they were told to do it.
Of course, this means nothing unless we learn. It is also questionable wether a loving God would really want us to learn this way, but it does raise questions as to why we failed to lean the lessons that have come before us. Why also did so many people have to die for us to learn this lesson?
I could also make the point that we learned a lot from the research did on both sides of the War, both scientifically, and psychologically. Science is always advanced greatly in times of War. However, was it really worth it?
Perhaps, with a long-term view, it may seem to make some kind of sense, but it still seems to be at odd to the nature of God. Some see WWII as a true battle between Good and Evil, or perhaps, between Evil, and Almost Good. Few people deny that the regime of the Third Reich was anything but evil, and those that do often show through their actions that they are not Good People.
On a smaller scale, suffering can, in some cases, be a tool through which people are touched by God. Some come to faith through the strength and courage of someone in adversity. This, however, does not always seem to justify the means. It is also not enough to say that all the suffering is caused by the Devil, this I think overlooks the cruelty that people are capable of, and it also ignores suffering caused by birth defects which happen before Birth, to a blameless baby.
So, not really an expose on Suffering. I, like most people, don’t really have an answer, but I belive we should be trying to find an answer, not in the least because it brings us to question where we see God, and of course, the very Nature of God. Some people find that this is the bit that walks along the line for them between prooving and disprooving the existence of God. That’s where Faith comes in, and the fact that you never, ever, stop questioning.