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

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Answers to tough questions: suffering

When we see suffering going on in the world, often not connected to wrongdoing, it is hard to see how a loving God exists. Suffering is also pretty random. The traditional Christian answer is that because we live in a fallen world, therefore terrible suffering must happen.

I think there are some gaps in this explanation. Here is my attempt to fill them:

We are mental and physical beings. Mentally, we have a mind which is not the same as our brain. Physically, we have a brain and a body. The mind is based off the brain, but it is not the same thing as the brain.

I think that the mind lives in a mental world that follows different rules to the physical world around us.

I think that one of these 'mental' rules works kind of like gravity. Say you throw a rock up into the air. It will fall down due to gravity. In an analogous way, in the Christian view, a mind is naturally connected to its creator, God, in the mental world. God is the 'super-mind' from which all other minds come, creating this connection.

But in the Christian/Judaic view, if a mind sins then it gets pushed away from its creator, God (in the mental world). Sin pushes a mind away from God sort of like a rock suddenly flying out into space instead of falling to the ground (for some reason).

When a mind is connected to God it feels infinite happiness. It is enjoying what God feels all the time. But when a mind is 'pushed away' from God due to sin, the mind suffers, and loses ultimate happiness.

The stuff I just described only goes on in the mental world. It does not happen physically. So physically, everything can be fine. Someone can be in good health, be having a good time etc., but if our minds are cut off from God due to sin then we must suffer no matter what is going on physically.

God makes our mind getting cut off from God go along with physical suffering, like e.g. a disease. It doesn't have to go along with physical suffering like disease. But whether it does or not, the suffering we must all feel is roughly the same. So God should not be blamed for making this process go along with physical suffering, because the same suffering must happen regardless.

I think this is how saying 'We live in a fallen world' can make sense of suffering, and yet 'God is love' and all-powerful.

Two questions remain:

1) Why does our mind get cut off from God due to sin?
Answer: Because the mind is connected to God, and God simply cannot be connected to a soul that does wrong. It's impossible for such a connection to be maintained, because God is holy. Even though God is all-powerful, God cannot allow sin in His presence (for a reason we may not fully know).

2) Why do some people suffer much more than others?
Answer: I'm not sure, but this argument does explain why there must be horrible suffering... even if we can't explain why some people suffer more than others. This must simply be left unexplained, and so the argument is not complete. But this argument is at least something...

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