Can C S Lewis help me to answer; If God, why suffering?

Discussion in 'Personal Advice, Care & Prayers' started by BML, Nov 29, 2018.

  1. BML

    BML New Member

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    I have a son in law of 51 years of age who is dying of Motor Neuron Disease. He is an active and committed Christian. With all the pain and worry he is experiencing he is helping me in an introduction to Christianity. During my studies I felt obliged to look for assistance in answering the question, “How can God allow the pain and suffering of illness and death in a young person?” The thought crossed my mind that I might find help in understanding that question through the work of C S Lewis but when I keyed that name into the search facility of this forum it came up with a blank. Would someone care to answer my primary and secondary question?
     
  2. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    CS Lewis
    • Surprised by Joy
    • The Problem of Pain
    • A Grief observed
    The technical term for the question you are asking is Theodicy. The basic construct of this is if there is suffering in the world then either God is not loving, God is not just, or God is not all powerful. At a purely intellectual level this may make perfect sense, and yet the reality as we know it is that there is suffering in the world, and the understanding of the Gospel is that God is intimately involved in the suffering of this world, and indeed suffering with this world. Life cannot simply be reduced to simple statements, and it is certainly not neat, and in the end there is the mystery of life which includes suffering. Ultimately I have no answer, and indeed there may be now simple answer in this world, save that we continue to probe this mystery for I now the presence of the Love of God enhances my capacity to deal with the suffering. God in Christ Jesus two moments of clear power are understood in moments of great vulnerability, as the child in the manger, and as the condemned man on the cross.

    I wish you and you son strength as you walk through this together. I know how hard it is a parent to see our children suffer when we can't fix it. I have a son who has suffered a work injury and three years of injustice, indifference, and inhumanity between employers, medicos and insurance companies has made everything worse. In a sense I have the advantage in that I can direct some blame to these organisations, but in the end I still have a suffering son and no meaningful way to fix it, save to be with him every step of the way.
     
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  3. AnglicanAgnostic

    AnglicanAgnostic Active Member

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    I think this is one of the major "failings"of Christianity. It's easy and correct to say thing like "God loves you" but to explain suffering to an inquiring mind seems to involve high level philosophical concepts often beyond the ability of the inquirer to understand (me included). I think more effort should be put into this subject.
     
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  4. BML

    BML New Member

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    I was been born with an interest in philosophy although I obviously never used that term considering that all I was doing was to rely upon common sense. Although its many years ago I remember my father remarking upon my use of what he referred to as, "Socratic dialogue" in my arguments/discussions with friends. All I remember of those arguments/discussions now is that it appeared to make sense to me when someone made a challenging statement to reply, "What do you mean by X Y or Z? as I looked for a way to understand what the person was attempting to argue. Many years later having left school with nothing other than the good wishes of my teachers Harold Wilson introduced what was in my view his most important innovation, the Open University. I became an OU student and took a number of Philosophy elements. Having been well and truly infected with the need to know more I moved from the OU to Oxford where I took Philosophy again.
    At the OU I took a Module in Theology and about the only thing that I remember from that is that Christians reject what I would consider to be formal justifications of their religion such as the Ontological or Cosmological justifications relying instead by saying that to believe one needs to believe.
     
  5. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    I think you are correct. I really liked the movie Forest Gump, and the story it told of the struggle, and dealing with 'it happens'. We cannot control everything (sometimes anything) and we don't have the reasons for many things. In the end some things are the matter of walking by faith, a conscious decision to walk one step ahead of the evidence. I used to try and explain all thing in terms of the corporate responsibility of all of humankind expressed in the fall, but even that comes up short. Some people get birth breeding brains and beauty, and some get a squalid ugly existential existence with nowhere to call home. The extreme disproportionate distribution of good and ill is never going to sit well with an understanding of justice. The Australian Billionaire James Packer has just launched a book called 'The Cost of Fortune' addressing some of the mental health issues he has had to deal with. I don't imagine it will sell well in the refugee camps of this world.

    I kind of figure that God gives us strength to deal with much that life dishes out, however he also empowers some to bring a significant difference. It is not a specifically Christian problem to account for the problem of suffering and evil. There is ultimately some sense of fatalism that seems to seep in around the edges of our tradition.

    In Matthew 5:44-45 we read:

    I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;
    for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous​

    And in a sense I think Jesus touched on this matter as well.
     
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  6. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    I agree. It’s not that we don’t have the answer, we do, indeed the best answer, but the difficulty in transition is to make it popularly accessible.

    I don’t know who would teach you that at Oxford, unless your professors were purposefully trying to obfuscate the real Christianity from you. Just read CS Lewis, Chesterton, Mcgrath. Ontological justifications indeed exist ONLY in a Christian cosmology; atheism breaks down into incoherence within the Ontological and Teleological frameworks, and only theocentrism can make it through.
    Btw, saying that “one needs only to believe” wouldn’t be something any Christian would affirm. For that is fideism, a heresy.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2018

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