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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Where is God when things hurt us badly, pt. 3

In previous posts, here and here, I considered the problem posed by the post title. One comment on the first post was as follows:

David B. Ellis said...

[quoting me here:] They both present answers. In Eifelheim, it is God's love, expressed through the unselfish love of fellow creatures, hope of heaven, and hope of ultimate redemption.

Hope? That sounds more like a coping mechanism than an actual answer to the problem of evil (or problem of unnecessary suffering, as I think its better called).

The "answer" in DOOMSDAY BOOK is even worse:

The question: why does a loving God allow terrible suffering he could easily prevent?

nonanswer: God loves us.

questioner: That doesn't address my question. If he loves us, WHY does he allow terrible suffering?

nonanswer: God loves us. 'Nuff said.

There's no answer in that. Just an unwillingness to actually face the challenge extreme suffering presents to the reasonableness of belief in a caring God.

Of course, in the passage you quoted from the book the actual question that was raised was whether one should go on struggling in the face of terrible odds.

The reasonable answer, of course, is yes. A 1% chance is better than the odds for just giving up, which is, of course, ) 0%.

One doesn't need belief in God for that. Just common sense.

I responded by agreeing that the responses I had suggested were, indeed, coping mechanisms, not answers. A relative, who is a psychiatrist, read my first post, and offered this response:

I think [Ellis] said something like "That's just a coping mechanism, not an answer." I think this is an appropriate analogy: In Psychiatry, we often admit people who have just suffered some huge crisis. Probably one of the biggest is learning that their spouse/significant other was going to leave them. In response, they impulsively overdose, slash their wrists, etc. Well, if someone's spouse is truly going to leave them, and managed care is going to pay for only 3 days (more or less) of hospitalization, we don't try to focus on solutions. We often first focus on coping mechanisms. We also focus on coping mechanisms for patients with Borderline Personality Disorder, a diagnosis characterized by impulsive behavior and labile mood. We use the term "self-soothing" sometimes. I think that in order to get to a place where you can actually work on ANSWERS, you first need to be able to cope with your current circumstances, and obviously, you need to be able to avoid killing yourself. Again, I don't know that we're necessarily providing hope, but often they do get more hopeful with time (and again, if they can keep from focusing on suicide)

In my second post, I attempted to explain (as many others have) how suffering, and a loving God, can both exist. At the moment, that's the best answer I have for that question. Coping, through hope and God's love, are the best responses.

Thanks to Ellis and my relative, and thanks for reading.

* * * * *

Added Jan 21, 2008: I have come to see that there is a serious omission in my musing on this subject, which I have attempted to repair with a fourth post on the subject.


C. Marie Byars said...

Thank you for responding. when I referred to "evolution" is short-hand, I meant I had issues with the idea of MACRO-evolution, which is usually given that title. When you try to jibe this with known laws of genetics, you run into some serious problems, and that's why I threw the theory of MACRO-evolution out back when I was still an agnostic. Later on, I enjoyed the book _Shattering the Myths of Darwinism_ by Richard Milton. He states he's not a creationist, either, but he does pose problems with the theory of macro-evolution. (But then he got accused of being an rabid creationist. As did the author of _Darwin's Little Black Box_, even though that author is Catholic & is not required to subscribe to a six-day creation.) Anyway, I've read some other older-earth creationists & they make sense to me. Also, there's the idea of sin coming with death, but theistic evolution requires death from the beginning for improvement of the earth. Thanks.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, C. Marie. This is a very complicated subject, and believers are all over the map on it. Some, for example, believe that death before the Fall is compatible with scripture, and, of course, others do not. I'm pretty sure that the book you are referring to is _Darwin's Black Box_, by Michael Behe.

For more on the different views of origins, you may want to see this web page, which gives strengths and weaknesses of some of the views.

David B. Ellis said...

It is certainly true that believing God and an afterlife exists, and that God loves and cares about us, helps many people to cope with life's trouble.

If an individual is sincerely unable to cope with life without this conviction I'm more than content to leave them to their belief.

I am a man of no special strength of spirit but found I was able to face life with none of the comforting aspects of the religious beliefs I grew up with without great difficulty. I suspect most people could do the same. I think many people who claim they couldnt face a world with no God strongly underestimate themselves.

Either way though, stating that God loves us really does do nothing to address the serious question of why a God would allow such terrible suffering as is present in our world. I think calling it a nonanswer is entirely accurate and I think the fact that the best and most popular answer believers come up with when faced with this issue is so nonresponsive to the substance of the philosophical problem says much about the credibility of belief in God's existence.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks again, David B. Ellis.

Perhaps we are nonresponsive. Perhaps, on the other hand, our response is trust in a God that we believe in, rather than an attempt to deal with the matter rationally. (I recognize that there is a possibility that this trust is misplaced.)