Influenced by Neo-Platonist philosophy, Augustine stated that
evil is not something which exists in its own right, but is rather
the absence or lack of good. For example, lust is misdirected
love. Blindness is the absence of perfect eye-sight. In this
sense, God is not responsible for evil i.e. God creates good things
but evil is out of the absence of good.
Our nerves can sense both pleasure and pain; our emotion can feel
both happiness and frustration; water can clean and drown us;
fire can warm and burn us. We either accept both the good
and bad features of everything, or abandon everything! If you
don't want to take the risk of relationship breakup, don't date
and marry. If you want to avoid the frustration of receiving
a poor grade, don't go to school. Some branches of Buddhism, which emphasize "emptiness" and "nothingness," appear
to be a cure to pain. Actually, the so-called solution is simply not to pursue anything!
Lebniz stated that there are many possible ways of things happened.
We humans, as finite beings, can only experience one possible
outcome. The almighty God, however, foresees all possibilities
and gives us the best of all possible worlds. For example, if
I were hit by a car in Mill Ave., I might regret not to go somewhere
else. But if I had gone to University Ave., I might have been
run over by a truck.
God has created a world governed by natural laws. If we violate
these laws, we suffer the consequences. If two cars crash into
each other at 70 m.p.h., the passengers, according to the laws
of physic and biology, will be seriously injured. Can God change
His laws at that moment of collison? He can, of course. If so,
then we would have lived in a much worse world--a chaotic and
unexpected, rather an orderly and certain world.
i. We humans have the free will to choose to do good or evil for
ourselves and others. Can God stop me when I exercise my free
will to rob, rape and murder? Again, He can. But if so, this is
a world of human robots! More importantly, without free will,
good is no longer good and evil is no longer evil i.e. hunting
a rabbit by a lion is not considered "a murder"
because this act is out of instinct.
ii. Because of our free will, we humans should take full responsibility of our actions. Dr. Roberta Hestenes, Chair of
ii. It does not imply that evil resulted from our free will is
not under the control of God. God can turn evil into good. For
example, imperial British took over Hong Kong out of their profit-mind.
Later God let Hong Kong becomes a safe Haven for refugees from
Communist China. Driven by self-serving purposes, Europeans conquered
the North American continent and brought tremendous suffering
to native Americans . But God makes America to contribute to
the whole world.
i. Why does God allow Satan to test us? Because
God is able to make good out of evil. e.g., An American
asked a Chinese: 'Why, if God loves us, does he let the church
in China suffer so much?' The Chinese Christian's response: 'Why,
if God loves us, does he let the church in the West suffer so
little?' Lev Timofeyev, imprisoned by the Soviet KGB, wrote, 'The
most vivid prayers of my life were in my prison cell, which is
the closest place to God.' One of the saints said, 'The cross
is the gift God gives to his friends.'
ii. The bottom line is that God does not let
Satan test us beyond our limit . As promised in Paul's letter
to the Corinthians: but God [is] faithful, who will not suffer
you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation
also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear [it]. (1
i. Pains may be inflicted by God as a chastisement
(Deu. 8:5; Pro 3:11-12; Re 3:19; Hebrews 12:5-9; 1 Co. 11:31)
when we commit sins and do not correct ourselves. Recently I suffer
from allegery. A friend warned me that some anti-allegery drugs
counter the symptom by desensitizing your nose. It may be dangerous
because your nose may not be able to sense warning signals even
if the air is harmful to your health. Pain is 'good' when it alerts
us to problems that need to be fixed.
ii. Bad things happen to good people. We are not in a position
to judge others' suffering as a consequence of sin. In contrast,
suffering may be a blessing from God--God intends to train us
to be mature and robust.. There is a common saying states"
"No pain, no gain."
When pain happens, there is a moral calling. God makes us suffer
in order to let us be sympathetic to other people's pain (2 Cor.
1:3-4; Romans 12:15). It is our moral responsibility to help
others out. Thus, encountering pain we ask the question of "how"
(What to do to relief suffering?) instead of "why" (Is
it caused by natural laws, humans, God or Satan? Is suffering
an authentic existence? Is the consequence the best of all possible
worlds?). First, it is unlikely for us to find the answers to
the preceding questions. Second, even if we find the answers,
we have no control over them. However, in regard to the factors
that are controllable, we should still ask why (e.g. Is the cancer
caused by air pollution? Should we tighten the law of vehicle
In 1994 when I attended the conference of the Judgment and Decision
Making Society in St. Louis, a psychologist presented a paper regarding the serial
nature of tragic decision making. i.e. a severe consequence results
from many decisions and some of them seems to be "no
big deal." For example, before Titianic hit the iceberg and
sank, the captain had received at least seven
iceberg warnings but chose to ignore them. Ten miles away from
the coordinate of Titianic, there was another ship. When Titian
was sinking, it sent out both the SOS telegraph and rockets many
times, but that ship did not respond! Watch out signals from
God and don't be a spiritual Titianic.
Suffering is the ultimate test of character. Tolstoy in his Confessions
says people respond to tragedy four ways. Some are scared and
mentally fly from it, perhaps soaking in drink to forget. Some
despair and commit suicide (or want to). Some are grimly stoical:
their heads are 'bloody but unbowed'. Finally, there are those
who meet it bravely, believing there is sense in it somewhere.
Christianity goes a step further, and asserts that suffering can
be used: many works of social justice have followed a tragic event
or experience (Rowland Croucher, 1995). In this sense, we still
hope for the best during suffering.
In the book of Job, at last God gave back everything that Job lost. Some theologians argued that the beginning and the end were inserted later to the book. Here I will not go into the debate of Biblical textual comparison. But, what if Job did not get back those God took away? When we suffer, we somehow hope that eventually God will alleviate our pain and even return us something better than before. If God still keeps silent, shall we still love God and do good? Sir Henry Moore said, "If we are being rewarded for every good deed, then every body will choose to do good. But that is not the case, and therefore, we need the courage to do good."