OBJECTIONS TO A BIBLICAL THEOLOGY OF SUFFERING
In this sixth and final part on The Problem of Evil and the Bible, I will address two possible objections to this biblical theology of suffering as presented in the previous parts. The first objection could be that there is no guarantee or evidence of this future evil-less world. To this I would reply first that not many things in life are guaranteed, especially with 100% certainty. In many ways, it requires faith, but not a faith that is uninformed or illogical. Secondly, there is very little evidence that any future event will occur, let alone that God will destroy evil forever. So, the Christian witness about the future in that sense would be just as good as any other. Nevertheless, one can look to its past and see the historicity and reliability of the Christian Scripture and from there decide whether or not its declaration concerning the future is plausible.
The second possible objection is that there are still many unanswered questions as to why this present world must have evil and suffering, especially when it appears to be meaningless (i.e. gratuitous evil). To this I would reply with three more questions. First, what if suffering and evil in the world is meant to leave within humans a longing for freedom from evil, pain, and suffering – a longing for resurrection, and the new heavens and earth; the new creation – so that they would then turn from evil toward God who will provide that freedom? Secondly, what if evil and suffering are to prepare us to inherit the glories of eternity in a sinless, evil-less, suffer-less world? And lastly, what if suffering and evil are a way for God to test who will really be true to him in good times and ill, for better or worse? I think that pondering these questions will help us better understand God’s ultimate purposes for allowing evil to reign for so long in this present world.
To conclude, the Christian Scriptures present a robust theology of suffering that in many ways I believe rebuttals the problem of evil. Though evil entered the world by human choice and spread vastly throughout the earth shortly thereafter, God made an attempt through Noah to destroy evil then. What is more, evil is mysteriously part of God’s deep purposes in that it is necessary for his people to endure it in order to inherit the future glory of resurrection which is void of it. Ultimately, the Bible proclaims that evil will end on the last day and in that day God only goodness will reign in the new heavens and new earth from that time on and forevermore. The upshot I suggest to holding this biblical perspective concerning the problem of evil and this theology of suffering is that it is reasonable, plausible, comprehensive, and carried out by a God who hates and wants to destroy evil in the world more than the nontheist philosophers do.
Baker, David W. “r‘a‘a.” Pages 1154-1158 in vol. 3 of New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis. Edited by Willem A. VanGemeren. 5 vols. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997.
Elliger, Karl and Willhelm Rudolph. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia. Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelstiftung, 1976-1977.
Nestle, E. and K. Aland et al., eds. Novum Testamentum Graece. 27th ed. 1993. Repr., Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006.
Peterson, Michael, ed. Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings. 4th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Peterson, Michael, ed. Reason and Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion. 4th Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.