We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God. Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.
First, we must be clear that goodness means more than “kindness.” Kindness is the will to free the loved one from pain. Sometimes, to be good is not to be kind. Dentists, surgeons, athletic trainers, teachers and parents all know that. If goodness meant only kindness, a God who tolerated pain in his creatures when he could abolish it would not be an all-good God. A Christ who healed only a few thousand people in a world where millions were hurt would not be all-good either.
But the more deeply we love, the more we go beyond mere kindness. We are merely kind to a stranger’s children, but are more demanding to our own. We are merely kind to animals; we kill them to prevent pain. (Hence most advocates of euthanasia believe humans to be merely clever, evolved animals.) But we have higher hopes for humans: we hope not just for freedom from pain but also freedom from vice and ignorance and sin.
God allows suffering and deprives us of the lesser good of pleasure in order to help us toward the greater good of moral and spiritual education. Even the pagans knew that: the gods teach wisdom through suffering. Aeschylus wrote:
Day by day, hour by hour,
Pain drips upon the heart
As, against our will, and even in our own despite
Comes Wisdom from the awful grace of God.
God let Job suffer not because he lacked love but precisely out of his love, to bring Job to the point of the Beatific Vision of God face to face (Job 42:5), which is humanity’s supreme happiness. Job’s suffering hollowed out a big space in him so that a big piece of God and joy could fill it. Job’s experience is paradigmatic for all saintly suffering.
A further question is whether any suffering would have been necessary for us if we had not fallen. Would we still have to have suffered to be trained in wisdom? Is the explanation of suffering as “soul-making” limited to a fallen world, where sinners have to learn “the hard way”? If Adam had not fallen, would it still have been painful for him to sacrifice his will to God’s will? We do not claim to know the answer (though we suspect it is no). In either case God is “off the hook.” He allows only the evil that can work for a greater good for us. Not all that we do is good, but all that God does is good, including not miraculously interfering to deliver us from all evil. That would be like parents doing all their children’s homework problems for them.