Weblog of a Christian philosophy student

Weblog of a Christian philosophy student. Please feel free to comment. All of my posts are public domain. Subscribe to posts [Atom]. Email me at countaltair [at] yahoo.com.au. I also run a Chinese to English translation business at www.willfanyi.com.

Location: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Friday, May 01, 2009

The problem of evil

Can the difference between our mind and our brain help explain why we suffer?

If you have a cup of coffee with a friend, and sit across from them, will you ever see your friend's mind? Of course not. You can see their body but not their mind. Can you see your own mind? You can feel your mind: emotions, happiness, thoughts and so on, but you can never see it. That means that we cannot really see ourselves and others because we ARE our minds. We can see our own and other people's bodies, but never minds.

If I cannot see my mind then where is it? My mind isn't hiding under a rock, and although it is based off the neurons in my brain it cannot literally be hiding inside my brain. So where is my mind?

In a sense, humans are like a person standing with one foot in the sea and one foot on land. My brain could be viewed as the foot in the sea. My mind could be viewed as the foot on land. They both make up the whole person because I need some kind of brain to think with. So my mind must be somewhere else, somewhere not in the sea, somewhere on land...

But where, and what, is this 'land'?

I think the 'land' must be the World of God. If we're made in God's image then something about us must be like God, and anything like God could be thought to live in His reality. So our mind is in the World of God. It has always been in the World of God and it can never leave there. Our foot in the sea is our physical body and brain; our foot on land is our mind in the World of God.

When suffering happens, we usually think it happens like this:

Bad physical event
Bad mental event (pain, suffering)

We usually think bad physical event => leads to bad mental event. But what if it sometimes operates differently? What if a bad mental event can cause another bad mental event, purely in the World of God (the mental world)?

If our mind is in the World of God, then presumably it's natural for it to be connected to God in a very deep way. And we know that God is perfect. So if we do evil with no excuse for our actions, then surely that could weaken, or destroy, our mind's connection to God in the World of God, because God is a holy and good God. It's easy to think that any sin could cut-off our mind's relationship with God in the World of God. It's also easy to imagine how this would make us suffer, because anything in the World of God can only feel truly happy when it's connected to God (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 5:12-14).

That would mean a bad mental event can cause another bad mental event purely in the World of God (the mental world).

So how about this:

Bad mental event involving our mind getting disconnected from God in the World of God due to sin
Bad mental event (pain, suffering)
Bad physical events going along with the bad mental events like parallel train tracks, which mirror but do not cause bad mental events.

Like parallel train tracks, God makes bad physical stuff go along with bad mental stuff. But this doesn't add to anyone's suffering - suffering MUST happen if there's a disconnect between our mind and God in the World of God.

In other words, God chooses to make bad physical stuff go along with bad mental stuff for His mysterious plan. Bad physical stuff doesn't add at all to suffering; suffering must happen, because our sin separates us from God in the World of God, regardless of what happens physically.

This doesn't explain why people suffer different amounts, although it does account for generalised pain and suffering. It also doesn't explain the suffering of those before the age of accountability, and animal suffering. But it is an interesting view of it...

(Check out the comments as well)

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Blogger Shannon Christman said...

I think your explanation accounts for suffering before the age of accountability if it takes original sin into account. But does it allow for suffering after we have been reconciled with God through Christ? It seems that if suffering is caused by mental separation from God, we would stop suffering once we became Christians and were (at least positionally) restored to God.

Blogger Will G said...

Hi Shannon, thanks for your comment.

I think we actually need to experience the day of redemption (Eph 4:30) before we can return to the joy of God (the natural thing for a mind is to be a lot happier than humans are, but we have never experienced that because our sin has cut us off from God in the mental world). On the day of redemption people won't have to experience any temptations to sin and will be perfect, and I suppose you need that level of goodness to experience the happiness of God... e.g. we can grieve the Spirit of Grace now (Eph 4:30). So for some reason the standard required is perfect goodness to be connected to God as we should be... although it is sure to happen, it is more than we currently have in this present life.

Having said that, I think it's right that God can 'speed things up' and could bring that day of redemption to fruition now. But I suppose that would 'root up the wheat' in some way Matt 13:24-29.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Will,

I'm currently studying philosophy and theology, and just found your blog. I'm really enjoying reading it. Thanks for your thoughts!

Blogger Will G said...

Thanks Emily!


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