Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Existnce of Good God Part (3 of 3) Suffering

Part 3(3)  Suffering(The Existence of Good God)

            What does it all have to do with evil and suffering in human life? Actually all people consider suffering, pain , torture , war as evil and all this evil is done by man. To a great extent this creates the misery of living together in the society of sinners and it takes away the certainty and stability of life. The suffering coming from the natural causes like diseases, old age, sickness and death are also part of the evil confronting man after his fall and rebellion against God. It all has to be accepted as part of growing in this life towards complete absolute trust in God no matter what happens. Only this strong faith in God in spite of misery and tragedy will make man strong enough and acceptable to God who is love Itself. 
             Leo Tolstoy one of the most talented Russian writer in his fifties experienced a deep doubt about the meaning of life and felt a growing desire to commit suicide . He was hiding any guns and knifes visible around afraid that he will kill himself . He says that the desire for ending his life became more powerful than his joy of living. He learnt from the simple peasants who lived in poverty but were happy to exist and live. Tolstoy concluded that life no matter how difficult must be meaningful.
         Man according to Christianity has an immortal principle (soul) and therefore death is not really such a great tragedy and horror as it may appear in the eyes of an atheist. For a Christian death is a transition from this life in space-time, into eternity.        

          The Judgment implies  not only eternal salvation in heaven but also the possibility of hell. One cannot say much about the judgment of God.   All knowledge about it comes  from the teaching of Christ who very often  mentioned the reality of judgment and  man’s eternal   destiny.           For many there appears the difficulty to  reconcile the loving and forgiving God   with existence of hell . Hell is    existence  in complete isolation  from God and others  in eternity without possibility of any change. This seems to many  absolutely unacceptable  and too cruel, it  seems ridicules and absurd part of Christian teaching.  How can God who is love and who wants salvation of all men  throw someone into hell  knowing  human limitations  and  mistakes  even when  the sinfulness is  clear  like deliberate murder, torture , exploitation of others and even  intended extermination of millions of innocent people. After all  when Christ was  dying on the   cross did He not pray to the Father:  “… forgive them for they don’t know what they do?.. All this  is true. However  one should not  approach the problem of hell on emotional level  only but try to see facts as they are. Suffering is the very center of the human condition in a world of fractures, conflicts, dichotomies and tragedies. Suffering is therefore inscribed into the very core of human existence. This fact is recognized by most religions of the world and also stressed by the ancient writers like Sophocles in the story of The Blinding of Oedipus. In Buddhism, which some consider a religion, life is suffering and the human soul is gradually liberating itself from it through a number of reincarnations until it attains the state of complete bliss in Nirvana.

           In Christianity man’s condition is infected with evil mainly of man’s own doing. Man is a person and therefore responsible before God for his acts. The objection against existence of hell is based on the unimaginable decision : I want to go to hell and be eternally miserable ! Nobody consciously would make such a decision because he would have to be his own enemy and in love with misery rather than happiness . However every day hundreds of small decisions are made. Those decisions accumulate through a lifetime and they form the character of the person and the direction of life. If therefore man is completely dedicated to the values hostile to the commandments of God and lives in this way for longer time he becomes completely alienated from God. When a person dies in a state of hostility towards God there is a possibility of eternal loneliness and that is hell.

         Christ, the Son God became man to show human beings how to live in such a way as not to end in this final rejection. People do not willingly choose to go to hell but man cannot escape from decision making for to decide not to make a decision is a decision also. God respects human freedom even when it becomes evil. The following Christ’s parables illustrate possibility of hell

 1.The parable of the dragnet, 2. The parable of the great feast and 3. The parable of the last judgment ( which is not only a parable but a description of fact). 

        The dragnet catches all kinds of fish, and the fishermen make a selection. The bad fish are thrown away . 

         In the story about the great banquet a rich man sends his servants to his friends with an invitation to come. But all of them find excuses not to come. One says that he bought a piece of land and he has to inspect it. The other says he bought a pair of oxen and must try them and the third one says he just got married and therefore he cannot come. The Lord of the banquet gets angry and tells his servants to invite anyone and everyone so that his place will be filled with guests. However when the Lord of the banquet observes one who is not dressed properly for the feast he orders his servants to throw him out. There is nothing wrong in buying a piece of land, a pair of oxen or to get married. The excuses however show that the invited friends do not value much the invitation nor do they show respect for the Lord of the banquet. The usual activities of the day are more important for them.

In the story of the last judgment ( Mt. 25) the judge , Christ himself ,divides all people into two groups. The group of “ sheep” on the right. Christ turning  to those on the right says : come you blessed of my Father and inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from all eternity – for I was hungry and you fed me , I was naked and you clothed me , I was in prison and you came to me.  And the people ask:  “ Lord when  did  we feed you, or clothed you  or visited you in prison? Christ answers : ? “...Whatever you did to the  least of my brothers you did it to me....”

           Those on the left  are  rejected. They did not show any love or concern for others and when they asked  the same question :  When did they not do service to Him?  They receive the same answer:  “Whatever you did not do  to my brethren you did not do to me.”
      The services mentioned by Christ are not  necessarily very spiritual in nature : food and clothing are very material services and  it does not matter  to whom one serves them. One simply helps the person in need without any gain for oneself.  It does not matter  who the person is or what  position he has in the society. 
      In the parable of the compassioned  Samaritan   the same truth is stressed. The merchant did not know the wounded man lying in the ditch . It was not his relative, but on the contrary  as a Samaritan he was an enemy. He not only took care of him but  he took him on his  beast and brought him to the innkeeper , paid  money for the care of him and promised that additional expenses he will pay on his return. .
     God is always ready to accept  anyone  if he  honestly and sincerely tries to turn away from evil.  The father of the prodigal son was waiting day by day  and  searching with his eyes the horizon until one day he saw  still far away  the  son coming slowly   back to him. He did not say anything  but full of joy embraced his son and  told  servants to give him the new robe, sandals and a ring on his finger. There was feasting and singing. The older son  who was in the fields heard  the music  and asked what  is going on. He was told that his brother returned    and father was extremely happy to have him back. The father  knew only one thing : This son was lost and he is found again, he was dead but is alive. It is proper to celebrate such a joyous event.       To the proud Pharisees thinking themselves to be very good people and  having God’s favor already, Christ said that  publicans,  tax collector and prostitutes will be first in heaven. Why ?  Because they repented of their sins and therefore  the first will be last and the last will be the first. God’s judgment  is not   very much like human judgment. 
          Man therefore is  his own quasi-creator of his own future and  destiny . Imprisoned in his sinful attitudes man needs help  and liberation  from his condition.  This is  salvation brought by the incarnation of the Word  becoming Man. Christ calls Himself often The Son of Man, because  He suffered  as the Son of Man and  was  identified with humans.  He  became the Savior and Liberator from human  bandage and slavery. Every action of God  towards man  is always  a gift of freedom in some form or another
           Evil is  always  parasitic on good . Every being  is  good because it is being  and evil is always some reduction of being. Evil does not  have any meaning by itself. It is always a limitation of   good required by the nature of the being involved. That is why  Thomas Aquinas calls evil: privation of good . Human life  from the Christian view point is  a great opportunity to  learn to  know God  and  strife  towards Him within a  difficult human situation  infected with evil. The personal  God in Christ  became   identical with human beings  in all except sin  and    lifted  sinful   man to the level  of  childhood in relation to God.  That is why  the most important prayer  in Christianity begins    with    the sentence : Our Father who art in heaven…  A Christian  does not  pray  for himself only  but always for his brethren. Suffering and evil are part of  the human fallen condition but they also  can be  meritorious, conciliatory and saving  as long as they are accepted in faith and loving obedience to God. Humans live  in an unpredictable and dangerous universe . There are many tragic accidents, sudden reversals, diseases aging  and  dying. This is not a static and quiet universe. 
      Christ never promised an easy life         for those who will decide to follow Him, neither did He promise that  all people  will accept  His offer of salvation. That is why Christ stressed that anyone who decides to be His disciple would have to carry his own cross in life. 
       The parable of the sower makes it  clear  that    the word of God  is  very often  falling on an  unfruitful  ground : on a shallow ground  where  there are no   conditions for  strong roots  and  the word is wasted. In many  situations  the word is  neglected or simply forgotten.
(a) There is mental laziness some people are so lazy  that they refuse to think. Socrates found this out. He wanted  to make man think , and he went  about the streets of Athens with his questions until man  thought of him as an nasty gad-fly and because they did not want to think  they sentenced him to death. Tennyson in  the poem the Lotus Eaters tells the story of the sailor’s Ulysses who came to the island  where the Lotus  flower grew , Who ever ate  that flower never wished anymore to make any effort but desired only to lay and sleep. In that land  there was always  afternoon. 
   But we are thinking creatures  and not to think is to shut the mind  to God’s truth.
(b)  There is mental arrogance: the man who thinks he knows everything already and he has nothing to learn it’s attitude of the Pharisees  who believed they knew already all  and they did not listen to the message of Christ 
(c) There is mental fear. It is the attitude  of those who deny the existence of God  not because  they are convinced that God does not exist but they don’t want him to exist . In Christianity  it is always necessary to think things out.  It is not easy to be a Christian but unless we go  on to think things out, whenever some storm comes  our faith will collapse.
      Jesus was telling man  to count the cost of following Him.  Mathew Chapter 10 describes  what does it mean to be a disciple . The good ground on which  the word falls  is the person who (a) understand the word  that is  he not only hears what is said  but tries to comprehend it’s meaning . (b) the good ground is the person who accepts the word and keeps it . It becomes  a part of his thoughts and life and (c) the good listener holds to the word.
       Nevertheless when the word falls on a good ground it produces fruit  thirty, sixty,  or hundred percent. The good ground is  the  person who develops strong belief  and  incorporates the meaning of the word into everyday life.  Such person  becomes the light of the world   and the  salt of the earth. The basic vocation  of  the new man in Christ is to be a witness  ready to pay any price  in any situation in life no matter how hard it may be. Physical  death loses it’s sting  because  for the Christian death is  a transition  from the life  in space and time , suffering and frustration  into eternal  presence of God. 
            Christianity is a religion of  resurrection which is the central promise of Christ for all those who decide to follow His teaching . The destiny of man is eternal life  as participation in the life of the  Holly Trinity.
When Christ was teaching,  his  brothers and  mother  wanted to talk to Him.   Christ refused  and  said  those who listen to the word of God are His brothers , sisters and mother. The Son of Man   completely  identified himself with  humans 
                  The answer to the problem of  existence of evil and the good God  can be  summarized    as  follows: God is the Creator  of the universe  which is    precisely constructed, and in the process of which  life , consciousness , personality and humans as  moral agents  appeared. All this was good,  there was no evil at the beginning (compare  the first   chapter of Genesis.)  Human beings  were  given God’s directions  for their  lives. However  they were free  to choose  obedience and loving relationship to God  or to  choose their own way   and  their own destiny . 
 Humans  rebelled against the plan of God.  Evil , deception, lies and murder entered the history of humanity. This evil  gradually became part of the  nature of man  who became  literally a slave of evil and hostile  to God  and His fellow humans. 
 God   did not change the plan for man and  gradually  in  different times  and circumstances liberated man from  physical slavery ( the Egyptian slavery of the Jews) and  spiritual degradation and emptiness. 
 In proper time  God became human in the person of Christ of Nazareth,  who  as Son of God,  and also Son of Man  through His complete  loving obedience to God, the Father  reconciled the fallen humanity  with God and offered through His suffering and death  a new possibility of  eternal life for man as  a glorified image of His Maker . Christ’s sacrifice proved  that God is Love.
Man  is free  and can  reject  the offer of eternal happiness given freely to him by God.  God respects human freedom even  when man  rejects Him definitely for eternity. Man after Christ’s coming  has  the power and the ability to conquer  evil  thoughts , intentions and actions.  However he does not have to . The evil  which man produces  by his hostility to God and other humans  is  existentially final. The above  is addressed  to  people who are passionately  interested in truth and  have the courage to face reality no matter what  and are also ready to pay the cost of being witnesses  to God’s love. 




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