The minister's response to an atheist's question on the blog
of the local newspaper

Thank you for your question. In polite response, you wrote earlier on, “There has not been a shred of evidence anywhere that any god exists”. 

If God does not exist, He cannot be blamed for things that go wrong in the world. The atheist cannot have it both ways. If someone is accusing God of allowing suffering, then God must exist.

If you are assuming that God can control whether or not there is suffering, then you must be admitting that He is all powerful, but you cannot on the one hand say that God is not real, and then in the next breath accuse Him of allowing people to suffer.

We live in a fallen world which is in rebellion against God and has been since the first man, Adam, rebelled. Yes, there is suffering in the world. Everyone dies at some point. Why is it that human beings do not live for ever? Why do they always succumb at some point to a disease of the body?

The Bible tells us right back in the early chapters of Genesis and again in the New Testament (e.g. Romans 5:12) that death came into the world because of sin. That is the reason that both you and I will one day die. I myself could die tomorrow. Does that make God ‘unloving’ for not allowing me to live to a much older age?

In a fallen world all kinds of people suffer. Your premise that the existence of suffering proves that God must be unjust is, respectfully, a false one. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself suffered at the hands of men and was murdered at the age of 33.

Christians, like the rest of men, experience suffering. For example, a Christian might die of disease or in a fatal accident at the age of 25; a Christian couple might lose a young child aged 3 or 4, but that does not mean that God is unjust, as you are assuming, and that everyone has an immediate right to justify their unbelief and accuse God of being cruel and immoral.

If you look at suffering around the world, including that of children, so often it can be obviously linked to human sin. Of course children will suffer in countries which have been racked for decades by civil war or where there is corruption in high places. A country where corruption is endemic and where there is continual social unrest obviously cannot get on with the task of growing crops. And why is there war and corruption? Because men do not fear God.

The question which the unbeliever needs to ask before trying to sort out the problem of suffering all around the world is to ask, How is God dealing with me?

Think of the millions upon millions who ignore God and despise His commandments, but who are nevertheless well fed and enjoy a material sufficiency. It is strange how the atheists who blame God for suffering never also attribute to God the good material things which millions do enjoy, including themselves. If God is responsible for suffering, then He must also be responsible for the myriad instances of there being an absence of suffering in people’s circumstances.

An awareness of such an absence in their personal situation should lead people to a position of repentance and faith.

We read in the Bible : “(God) left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17), and “Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).

What, incidentally, is the atheist’s explanation for suffering? Evolution, which most non-Christians believe to be true, actually demands that there be suffering, so that the less genetically fit can be eliminated and that only those with a better ability to adapt to their environment can survive. What an immoral credal system this evolutionary philosophy is seen to be.

Yours in friendly discussion, Pastor Peter Simpson