How Can a Good God Allow Suffering?

Abstract

The problem of evil is a problem as old as time itself. Since almost the beginning of time there has been suffering and sickness, death and disease in the world. For just as long – or longer! – mankind has been keenly aware that God is sovereignly providential over all of creation. But these two facts create a seeming tension: how can God be fully in control and allow evil and suffering to happen? Is he to blame? Is he not good enough to desire it to end? This is the question that this essay will seek to answer by suggesting that there is another option: that a divinely sovereign and good God could have good reasons for the suffering that occurs. This answer is revolutionary, and brings great comfort to those experiencing the pain of suffering and sickness, driving them to the arms of a loving and providential God who has their best interests at heart…

Scroll down to the end for a link to the rest of the essay on the topic

The full question:

Critically examine the apparent tension between God’s providence and the presence of evil in the world. The student should critically analyse the relevant Scriptures and historical interpretations on the subject of providence and evil and consider the pastoral implications of these views, particularly with respect to sufferers of illness or disability and their carers as they seek answers to the question: ‘How can a good God allow evil?’.

Bibliography

These books are ordered from the most useful to the least used resource in my research. There are a few journal articles and websites at times as well. (scroll down to the end for my essay on the topic)

If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain – Dickson, John

If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain provides a moving and engaging exploration of the idea of God and pain, providing not just an intellectual answer, but an emotional one as well. Of particular note is the way that Dickson engages with the alternative world views, demonstrating how they fail to produce satisfactory answers to the problem of evil in the world. Dickson helpfully brings his own personal experience into the book, demonstrating that he is someone who speaks not just from theoretical knowledge, but from a practical understanding of the issues at hand. Dickson’s winsome engagement with Scripture is also helpful, as it demonstrates that he speaks with not just his own knowledge, insight and experience, but with the weight of Scripture. The note that Dickson ends on – that there is room for humble questioning and wrestling with the problem of evil – is a helpful pastoral note, ensuring that the book does not speak merely to the head, but to the heart as well. One possible weakness of If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain is its length: it is a very brief book, and the reader is often left wanting more exploration of certain comments and ideas expressed within it. However, this is part of the aim of If I Were God, I’d End All the Pain: to be a short and digestible book, that is accessible to all levels of thinkers. Thus, all things considered this is a helpful, if short, exploration of the topic of evil and suffering.

 

Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense – Tripp, Paul David

Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense is a raw and moving book, that aptly explores the topic of evil and suffering. Tripp writes from personal experience, and brings the reader along in his journey through suffering and sickness. Rather than address the issue in a head-focused way, Tripp endeavours to see where the heart of his readers is, or could be, and work from there. This is seen in the chapter titles that Tripp uses (for example, ‘The Fear Trap,’ ‘The Envy Trap,’ ‘The Comfort of God’s Grace’ and ‘The Comfort of God’s Sovereignty’). These emotive chapter titles demonstrate aptly the heart target that Tripp is writing at. Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense is not so much a theoretical manual as it is a guide along the journey of suffering. This is particularly relevant as the topic – suffering and evil – is one that often affects the heart much more than the head. While this format means that some concepts and ideas may not be explored in the theological detail some may desire, it nevertheless works to ensure that this is an engaging and helpful book.

 

If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil – Alcorn, Randy C.

Walking with God through Pain and Suffering – Keller, Timothy

How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil – Carson, D. A.

The Problem of Pleasure: Why Good Things Happen to Bad People – Gerstner, John H.

Where Is God in All of This? Finding God’s Purpose in Our Suffering – Howard, Deborah

What Shall We Say? Evil, Suffering, and the Crisis of Faith – Long, Thomas G.

God, Freedom, and Evil – Plantinga, Alvin


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