Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Evil and Suffering

One the great unanswered questions is why evil and suffering exists.
It is commonly assumed that the two words are related and sometimes, they are used synonymously.
However, evil is often the name we use to describe a cause and suffering is used to describe the consequence.

Hence, while not all evil results in suffering, and not all suffering a result of evil, their relationship may be stated as follows:
1. Evil which does not result in suffering (Wicked actions which misses causing suffering such as a failed attempt to murder)
2. Evil which results in suffering (Wicked actions by people which cause suffering such as murder. Animals are exempt because we do not expect them to be morally cognitive)
3. Suffering not caused by evil (Such as that caused by natural disasters)
4. Suffering caused by self-infliction (This may be simply the result of making poor judgments)

Are there any other categories that I have missed?

Check out comment #4 for my response to the issue of evildoers who escape punishment


jacksons said...

How about when evil people don't suffer what they should? Grace, is a concept, that all of us have tasted of, in some measure...

jacksons said...


could you (if you have the time) contribute an article on the seeming contradiction between the Easter accounts in the Gospels for our group blog:

Thanks, Leon

Jack The LOT{B}R said...

errr..are you ThE Ron Choong? hmmm.....just wondering

R Choong said...

That evil people do not suffer was a problem to King David when he penned the famous Psalm 73. God seemed unfair. Then he "entered the sanctuary of God" and saw that their final destiny was insecure.
We tend to believe, like Jonah, that we ought to know what punishment evil people should receive. This reflects our ever present desire to "be like God, knowing good and evil" in the sense of wanting to be the person to determine what is right and what is wrong. This was Eve's downfall when she gave in to temptation (Adam happily followed suit and was equally complicit).
That evil people do not appear to suffer in this life bothers us because we cannot believe God let them get away with evil.
Yet, today, most of us 'let evil get away' if the cost to us is too high.
For example, do we get outraged that much of our freedom and prosperity comes at a high personal cost to many other people in poorer or disadvantged places? I bet not - unless it hits home, like the NIMBY syndrome (Not in my backyard).
If we demand to be outraged that evil people escape suffering, perhaps we ought to be equally outraged that otehrs do not share our good fortune. Ah ha! In a zero-sum economy, few of us would prefer to pay more for food, clothing, shelter, plasma TV, etc., if it means that producer-nations can get the same deal. The very notion of a market economy is based on NOT being the LAST sucker to get caught with worthless shares. This exposes the inconsistency of our ethical concerns and distorted sense of justice. Dare we claim a right to judge God's will when we easily fail our own test? Read Jeremiah 12 and sense his relief that God did not after all hasten to wipe out the sinful in as jeremiah demanded of God. Unbeknownst to him, his own family were among those who turned against him and God would have destroyed them as well.

The Hedonese said...

Yes, bro... he is THE Ron Choong haha...

jacksons said...

Great answer - we have no idea how deeply entangled in sin we are, and we cry in our self righteousness for justice not knowing the implications true justice will have on us.

jacksons said...

Ron, what is your take on the Calvinism vs Arminianism debate?

R Choong said...

The issue of Arminism and Calvinism is too complex to blog BUT let me just say that the scriptures (OT and NT) offer evidence which support both views. That God is sovereign and therefore has control over creation is inescapable and references pointing to our pre-birth timeline is evident in the OT and yet our limited freedom of will is not illusory. The immense gift from God to us and the heavy cost to Jesus is the freedom to will against God. It is like a parent permitting a child the freedom to hurt the parents. This of course in fact happens. The child-parent relationship is an shadow of the freedom God gave us. It is a necessary risk for God in order to create to possibility of real love.
For most people, the default position is Arminian-like (Methodism is a good example) and Calvinistic-Reformed positions tend to arise only after struggling with the statements issued from The Synod of Dort (1618-1619) which met in Dordrecht to answer and denounce the teachings of one Jakob Arminius who challenged the belief in predestination.
The five canons of Dort became known as the five points of ‘Calvinism’ - TULIP.
Total depravity- every part of man is sinful
Unconditional Election-God chose us first
Limited atonement-Jesus Christ died to save the elect
Irresistible grace-Grace guarantees response
Perseverance of the saints-Always saved
Note that this synod met over 50 years AFTER Calvin died. Thus Calvinism may not be what Calvin himself would have supported. On a practical level, the debates in the 16th century refelcted the political climate in which experiments with theonomy meant that extreme positions became the norm. While it is probably too presumptious to adopt Aquinas' view that we need to cooperate with God for grace to operate, it is also taking license with God to suggest that our freedom of will is impotent. Today, with the Church engaged with but not officially supported by political governments in most countries, the stakes are different. It is now possible to acknowledge the mystery of human freedom alongside divine sovereignty.