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Quotes: Faith and the Problem of Evil and Suffering

Posted by Tony Listi on November 19, 2007

“[I]f God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how comes evil in the world?”
-Epicurus, philosopher

“The fact of suffering undoubtedly constitutes the single greatest challenge to the Christian faith, and has been in every generation. Its distribution and degree appear to be entirely random and therefore unfair. Sensitive spirits ask if it can possibly be reconciled with God’s justice and love.”
-John Stott, theologian

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too-for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist-in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless-I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality-namely my idea of justice-was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”
-C.S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

“Precisely because [God] is all powerful, he can’t do some things. He can’t make mistakes. Only weak and stupid beings make mistakes. One such mistake would be to try to create a self-contradiction, like two plus two equals five or a round square. Now, the classic defense of God against the problem of evil is that it’s not logically possible to have free will and no possibility of moral evil…. Built into the situation of God deciding to create human beings is the chance of evil and, consequently, the suffering that results…. The source of evil is not God’s power but mankind’s freedom…. The overwhelming majority of pain in the world is caused by our choices to kill, to slander to be selfish, to stray sexually, to break our promises, to be reckless.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

Suffering may be God’s way of defeating the devil.
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
paraphrased from The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[T]he fact that God deliberately allows certain things, which if we allowed them would turn us into monsters, doesn’t necessarily count against God…. If I said to my brother, who’s about my age, ‘I could bail you out of a problem but I won’t.’ I would probably be irresponsible and perhaps wicked. But we do that with our children all the time. We don’t do their homework for them. We don’t put a bubble around them and protect them from every hurt. [daughter threading needle story/analogy]… So it’s at least possible that God is wise enough to foresee that we need some pain for reasons which we may not understand but which he foresees as being necessary to some eventual good. Therefore, he’s not being evil by allowing that pain to exist. Dentists, athletic trainers, teachers, parents-they all know that sometimes to be good is not to be kind. Certainly there are times when God allows suffering and deprives us of the lesser good of pleasure in order to help us toward the greater good of moral and spiritual education. Even the Greeks believed the gods taught wisdom through suffering…. Courage, for example, would be impossible in a world without pain…. Let’s face it: we learn from the mistakes we make and the suffering they bring. The universe is a soul-making machine, and part of that process is learning, maturing, and growing through difficult and challenging and painful experiences. The point of our lives in this world isn’t comfort, but training and preparation for eternity…. [Twilight Zone story]… The point is that a world without suffering appears more like hell than heaven…. [P]retend you’re God and try to crate a better world in your imagination…. Every time you use force to prevent evil, you take away freedom. To prevent all evil, you must remove all freedom and reduce people to puppets, which means they would then lack the ability to freely choose love. You may end up creating a world of precision that an engineer might like-maybe. But one thing’s for sure: you’ll lose the kind of world that a Father would want.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“One philosopher formulated an argument against God this way: First, there is no reason that would justify God in permitting so much evil rather than a lot less; second, if God exists, then there must be such a reason; so, three, God does not exist….
That’s like saying it’s reasonable to believe in God if six Jews die in a Holocaust, but not seven. Or sixty thousand but not sixty thousand and one, or 5,999,999, but not six million. When you translate the general statement ‘so much’ into particular examples like that, it shows how absurd it is. There can’t be a dividing line…. At what point does suffering disprove the existence of God? No such point can be shown. Besides, because we’re not God, we can’t say how much suffering is needed. Maybe every single element of pain in the universe is necessary.”
-Lee Strobel and then Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“One purpose of suffering in history has been that it leads to repentance. Only after suffering, only after disaster, did Old Testament Israel, do nations, do individual people turn back to God. Again, let’s face it: we learn the hard way. To quote C.S. Lewis: ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’ And, of course, repentance leads to something wonderful-to blessedness, since God is the source of all joy and all life…. [S]uffering is compatible with God’s love if it is medicinal, remedial, and necessary; that is, if we are sick and desperately need a cure…. [T]here are no good people…. Yes, we’re ontologically good-we still bear God’s image-but morally we’re not. His image in us has been tarnished. The prophet Jeremiah said that ‘from the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain,’ and the prophet Isaiah said, ‘all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.’ Our good deeds are stained with self-interest and our demands for justice are mixed with lust for vengeance. Ironically, it’s the best people who most readily recognize and admit their own shortcomings and sin. We are good stuff gone bad, a defaced masterpiece, a rebellious child. Lewis pointed out that we’re not just imperfect people who need growth, but we’re rebels who need to lay down our arms. Pain and suffering are frequently the means by which we become motivated to finally surrender to God and seek the cure of Christ.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[A]ll suffering contains at least the opportunity for good, but not everyone actualizes that potential. Not all of us learn and benefit from suffering; that’s where free will comes in…. But just about every human being can reflect on his or her past and say, ‘I learned from that hardship. I didn’t think I would at the time, but I’m a bigger and better person for having endured it and persevered.’ Even people without religious faith are aware of that dimension of suffering. And if we can bring good out of evil even without bringing God into the picture, you can imagine how much more, with God’s help, evil can work out for the greater good.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“God is intimately involved in the act of creating a world of suffering, He didn’t do it-we did it-yet he did say, ‘Let this world be….’ The fact that he went beyond justice and quite incredibly took all the suffering upon himself, makes him so winsome that the answer to suffering is…how could you not love this being who went the extra mile, who practiced more than he preached, who entered into our world, who suffered our pains, who offers himself to us in the midst of our sorrows…? God’s answer to the problem of suffering is that he came right down into it. Many Christians try to get God off the hook for suffering; God put himself on the hook, so to speak-the cross. And therefore the practical conclusion is that if we want to be with God, we have to be with suffering, we have to not avoid the cross, either in thought or in fact. We must go where he is and the cross is one of the places where he is. And when he sends us the sunrises, we thank him for the sunrises; when he sends us sunsets and deaths and sufferings and crosses, we thank him for that…. The closeness to God, the similarity to God, the conformity to God, not just the feeling of being close to God but the ontological real closeness to God, the God-likeness of the soul, emerges from suffering with remarkable efficiency.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures on earth, will be seen to be no more serious than one night in an inconvenient hotel.”
-St. Teresa

“The answer, then, to suffering is not an answer at all. It’s Jesus himself. It’s not a bunch of words, it’s the Word. It’s not a tightly woven philosophical argument; it’s a person. The person. The answer to suffering cannot be just an abstract idea, because this isn’t an abstract issue; it’s a personal issue. It requires a personal response. The answer must be someone, not just something, because the issue involves someone-God, where are you?”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?”
-John R. W. Stott, British pastor
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[I]t’s significant that most objections to the existence of God from the problem of suffering come from outside observers who are quite comfortable, whereas those who actually suffer are, as often as not, made into stronger believers by their suffering. That’s a phenomenon many writers have noted. After wide-ranging research into the topic of suffering, Philip Yancey wrote, ‘As I visited people whose pain far exceeded my own…I was surprised by its effects. Suffering seemed as likely to reinforce faith as to sow agnosticism.’ Scottish theologian James S. Stewart said: “It is spectators, the people who are outside, looking at the tragedy, from whose ranks the skeptics come; it is not those who are actually in the arena and who know suffering from the inside. Indeed, the fact is that it is the world’s greatest sufferers who have produced the most shining examples of unconquerable faith.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“Untold numbers of professing Christians waste their lives trying to escape the cost of love. They do not see that it is always worth it. There is more of God’s glory to be seen and savored through suffering than through self-serving escape.”
– John Piper

“Wisdom comes alone through suffering.”
-Aeschylus

“People aren’t getting away with [hurting others all the time]. Justice delayed is not necessarily justice denied. There will come a day when God will settle accounts and people will be held responsible for the evil they’ve perpetrated and the suffering they’ve caused.”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“How can a mere finite human be sure that infinite wisdom would not tolerate certain short-range evils in order for more long-range goods that we couldn’t foresee?”
-Dr. Peter John Kreeft
qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

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Quotes: Faith–Intellectual Doubt?

Posted by Tony Listi on November 19, 2007

“If you scream for insight and call loudly for understanding, if you pursue it like you would money, and search it out as you would hidden treasure, then the Lord will be awesome to you, and you will come into possession of the knowledge of God.”                                                                                                                                -Proverbs 2:3-5

“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!””
-Mark 9:24

“If God does not exist, then life is futile. If the God of the Bible does exist, then life is meaningful. Only the second of these two alternatives enables us to live happily and consistently. Therefore, it seems to me that even if the evidence for these two options were absolutely equal, a rational person ought to choose biblical Christianity. It seems to me positively irrational to prefer death, futility, and destruction to life, meaningfulness, and happiness. As [Blaise] Pascal said, we have nothing to lose and infinity to gain.”                                       
-Dr. William Lane Craig, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel 

“Those who believe they believe in God but without passion in their heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.”                                                                                                                              -Madeleine L’Engle, Christian and writer, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“For many Christians, merely having doubts of any kind can be scary. They wonder whether their questions disqualify them being a follower of Christ. They feel insecure because they’re not sure whether it’s permissible to express uncertainty about God, Jesus, or the Bible. So they keep their questions to themselves−and inside, unanswered, they grow and fester and loom until they eventually succeed in choking out their faith…. At the same time, many Christians have a completely different perspective. They believe that having doubts isn’t evidence of the absence of faith; on the contrary, they consider them to be the very essence of faith itself.”       
-Lee Strobel in The Case for Faith

“The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.”                                               
-Os Guiness, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“The struggle with God is not lack of faith. It is faith!”                                                                                     
-André Resner

“[A]re you trying to poke holes in Christianity because you really think it’s an illusion−or are you raising objections because you don’t want it to be true?…I had a lot of motivation to find faults with Christianity when I was an atheist. I knew that my hard drinking, immoral, and self-obsessed lifestyle would have to change if I ever became a follower of Jesus, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to let go of that. After all, it was all I knew. Consequently, instead of trying to find the truth, I found myself attempting to fend off the truth with fabricated doubts and contrived objections. I don’t think I’m alone in doing this. Many spiritual seekers have legitimate questions concerning Christianity and need to pursue answers that will satisfy their heart and soul. Yet I think some seekers get to the point where they are subconsciously raising smoke screens to mask their deep-seated motivations for rejecting the faith. The same is true for Christians who fall prey to doubts about their beliefs. Often, they’re having a bout of sincere misgivings about some aspect of their faith; other times, however, their professed doubts may actually be a subtle defense mechanism. They may think they’re hung up over an objection to some part of Christianity, when the reality is that they’re actually just casting around for some excuse−any excuse−not to take Jesus more seriously.”                                                                                   
-Lee Strobel in The Case for Faith

“Men, he says, are greatly inclined to ‘wait quietly’ to see whether proofs of the actuality of revelation will drop into their laps, as though they were in the position of arbitrators and not in that of the needy. ‘They have decided to test the Almighty in a passionless judicial fashion, with total lack of bias, with sober minds.’ It is an error as common as it is fatal, says Newman, to think that ‘truth may be approached without homage.'”         
-Flannery O’Connor: Voice of the Peacock, Kathleen Feeley on the comments of John Henry Newman

“In fact, I personally think all unbelief ultimately has some other underlying reason. Sometimes a person may honestly believe their problem is intellectual, but actually they haven’t sufficiently gotten in touch with themselves to explore other possibilities…. When you scratch below the surface, there’s either will to believe or there’s a will not to believe. That’s the core of it. [Faith is] a choice…. [Faith is also a gift from God] and that raises a big mystery about choice and free will…. [O]ur wills make the decision to put our trust in Christ, and God empowers us…. [I]f we have the will to believe, God then confirms that Jesus is from God. [F]aith is a decision of the will that we keep on making, but we’re given that option by God’s grace. We’re empowered to keep making it by his Spirit. [It’s a choice we must make without having all the complete information we’d like to have] Otherwise, what we would have is knowledge, not faith.”                                                                      
-Lynn Anderson qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“A man rejects God neither because of intellectual demands nor because of the scarcity of evidence. A man rejects God because of a moral resistance that refuses to admit his need for God.”                                          
-Dr. Ravi Zacharias, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[Y]es, people have a psychological need to believe−just as some people have a psychological need not to believe…. [P]eople really have to decide why they want to believe…. If they have intellectual doubts, that’s fine, but don’t stop there. They need to go deeper into what really may be driving them to back away from God….”                                                                                                                               -Lynn Anderson qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“People mix up faith and feelings. For example, some people equate faith with a perpetual religious high. When that high wears off, as it inevitably does, they start to doubt whether they have any faith at all. Feelings are connected with some dimensions of faith, but a lot of that has to do with people’s temperaments. Some folks are just not wired to feel very much, even though they may have strong values and convictions…. [A fluctuation of feelings should not be a fluctuation of faith.] That’s why we have to be careful about our feelings−they can be fickle…. Faith is not always about having positive feelings toward God or life.”                                               
-Lynn Anderson, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[Y]ou can have doubts even when you believe…. Now, I don’t know where you cross the line into corrosive, eroding, negative doubt, but I do know that where there’s absolutely no doubt, there’s probably no healthy faith…. Doubt [can help] develop a more substantial and realistic faith−to trust God in the face of [death and suffering] and not just in the face of [happiness, pleasure, and miracles]. You see, a faith that’s challenged by adversity or tough questions or contemplation is often a stronger faith in the end.”                                            
-Lynn Anderson, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“[If a person wants to believe,] I suggest they go where faith is…. Get around people who you respect for their life, their mind, their character, and their faith, and learn from them. Watch their life. And I encourage people to put faith-building materials into their mind. By that, I mean books, tapes, and music that build strong motivation for faith, that clarify the nature of God, that examine the evidence pro and con, that deal intelligently with the critic of the faith, that give hope that you can connect with God, that give you tools to develop your spirituality…. So people need to clarify their reasons for believing…. [T]he only object of faith that is solidly supported by the evidence of history and archaeology and literature and experience is Jesus…. To experience the truth and be set free, you have to be a following learner. In other words, do what Jesus says and you’ll experience the validity of it. It’s kind of like riding a bicycle. You can’t watch a video or read a book about it; you’ve got to get on one and get the feel of it…. [Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.] Faith is action; it’s never just mental assent. It’s a direction of life. So when we begin to do faith, God begins to validate it. And the further we follow the journey, the more we know it’s true…. [I]f you pursue the whole Jesus journey, you find that his teachings work consistently because they’re true. Christianity isn’t true because it works; it works because it’s true.”                                                                                                                                 -Lynn Anderson, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“If faith never encounters doubt, if truth never struggles with error, if good never battles with evil, how can faith know its own power? In my own pilgrimage, if I have to choose between a faith that has stared doubt in the eye and made it blink, or a naïve faith that has never known the firing line of doubt, I will choose the former every time.”                                                                                                                                 -Gary Parker in his book The Gift of Doubt, qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel 

“If doubt and faith can co-exist, then people don’t have to fully resolve each and every obstacle to between them and God in order to have an authentic faith. In other words, when the preponderance of all the evidence tilts decisively in God’s favor, and a person then makes the rational choice to put their trust in him, they can hold some of their more peripheral objections in tension until the day comes when they’re resolved. In the meantime, they can still make the choice to believe−and ask God to help them with their unbelief.”                  
-Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith

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