Original Post: Tuesday, 4 June 2013
As I think I showed quite well in my post on evil and suffering, we perhaps don’t have good enough reason to think that there is a logical problem with the simultaneous existence of God, evil and suffering. Nonetheless, I think that if we’re all totally honest, there’s more here than straight logic.
The Fight between Emotion and Reason
Even the most logical of us surely battle our emotions from time to time. For all intents and purposes, your reason tells you one thing but your emotions say something else completely. And so it often is for evil and suffering. Even if we can see logically no incompatibility between the existence of God with the existence of terrible moral evils or seemingly pointless but awful suffering, we still feel like all these wrongs mean there can’t be a right. We’ll even go as far as to say that life is meaningless, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” as Shakespeare wrote. We go this far, perhaps, because we hope that our emotional pain (whether our own or lived vicariously) will be numbed or eased. Behind this might be a hope that if we can convince ourselves that it’s all just part of life, part of our “meaningless” existence, then we can just move on and not have to worry about it. We want peace – and when life’s evils seem to keep us from this peace, we try to convince ourselves that there is no evil at all. Just existence.
Taking the Honest Step Back
If we take a step back, however, we can see where we go wrong. We are telling ourselves these things. We are the ones trying to redefine what we understand as evil, and for our own convenience no less. The evils and endless sufferings of life impact us emotionally – and we respond based on our emotions. Thus, our emotions govern our actions and control what we believe or how we live.
Emotions: Important but Not Authoritative
I think we would all agree that our emotions are important. Clearly, they can be very helpful as we make big decisions, as we relate to others, and as we undergo self-discovery. Our emotions can tell us much. But they can also mislead and interfere. We have all had times where our emotions have gotten the better of us, made us say or do something we ended up regretting or even changed so suddenly that we wished we had never listened to them in the first place. Indeed, as helpful as emotions can be, they are not the be-all, end-all, and must be cautiously watched, and constructively questioned and criticized.
When it comes to our worldview, (that is, how we see and understand the world) we must be incredibly careful that our emotions do not govern us. Why? Because how you see and understand the world will determine how you live and how you relate to those around you, and will in a very real way lead you (and others) either to success or to destruction. And even more importantly, if how you live and thus what you believe have consequences not only in this life but any life that may follow this one, then your worldview (led by your emotions, if you let them) will have great and lasting (even, possibly, eternal) consequences.
Our emotions can only tell us so much. Ultimately, they cannot be what we base our worldview on – and so when it comes to the existence of God, indeed perhaps the most important question of anyone’s life, we cannot let our contempt for evil and suffering guide us to say, simply, “there is no God”… That, I think, is foolishness.
And so our emotions, though helpful, must not be the real decision maker in our lives.
What Emotions Can Really Tell Us
Though I think the above case is sound, I know still the depth and power of emotions and don’t pretend to make light of them nor their ability to guide and determine our minds. I think a future post should deal with the superiority of the Christian God in these matters, as I think that there is still a lot to deal with when it comes to evil and suffering, and I also think that the God of the Bible answers and satisfies these problems better than any (largely through the person of Jesus Christ, God in a human body, who himself suffers and endures evil unlike anyone else).
For now though, I would plead with you that you do not let your emotions decide such an important question as the existence of a loving God. Please, keep thinking. And my hope is that instead of a resentfulness towards the thought of a “so-called” loving God who allows evil, you would see such a being as the good comforter in the midst of a world filled with evil, and that you would see pain and suffering as the “megaphone” (as C.S. Lewis puts it) to a sleeping and broken world that He uses to awaken and heal it.
Keep thinking, and consider how Jesus handles the problem of evil.