Monday, December 15, 2008

Question 2: Why are there so many starving people in our world?

This response is part of a series of responses back to the challenge: 10 Questions that all Intelligent Christians must answer.

This is a great question if it comes from an honest and open heart. The tone of the question is important here. Is it a ‘childlike why' that will listen to the response or is it a ‘cynical, angry, bitter why' that represents predisposed experience that will not listen to possible explanations?

Why starving people?

Sometimes it is a ‘religious’ or ‘political’ issue. Some of the starvation in the world comes from people turning their back on the true God to follow faiths that are founded on falsehood.

There is enough resources to feed everyone. The fact that we do not, is our fault and another great indicator of human sin and shortcoming.

A Shocking Statement:
Matthew 26:11 (Jesus speaking) For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.

Free to Not Feed: God allows injustice for a time. He will bring to judgment all who have corrupted mankind by greed and selfishness. Unless Christ covers us, I think we all fail the test. I admit that I have done very little to alleviate hunger. A problem is not world hunger, the problem is me.

KUDOS TO THIS BROTHER: Another Christian responds:

"Brain begins by creating the same straw man in this question that he made (and which I refuted) in his first question. He wrongly assumes that the Bible claims that God promises to grant all your wishes (to be charitable, many professing Christians do make this claim, but I believe that like Brain, they are in error). Then because God seems to be granting a lot of your wishes and not the wishes of starving children, Brain concludes that there must be something wrong with your view of God. If you do believe that God grants all our wishes, then Brain is right and something is wrong with your view of God. Brain's question should make you feel uncomfortable and make you wonder why starving children aren't getting their wishes answered. But as demonstrated in my rebuttal to his first argument, the Bible does not teach that God promises to grant all your wishes.

In this question, Brain tries to trap the believer even more by treating the phrases "a loving, caring God" and "a God that grants all your wishes" as interchangeable. He says, "Then you push it out of your mind because it absolutely does not fit with your view of a loving, caring God." What he really means is that it absolutely does not fit with your view of a God that grants every wish that every Christian makes (or even most wishes that most Christians make). It does not fit with a "vending-machine" God. By making the equivocation, he traps Christians who do think God is loving and caring into his alleged contradiction, but this is really just a bait-and-switch maneuver. He baits with "loving, caring God" and switches to "God that promises to grant most of our wishes." He actually has a good argument against Christians who already agree with his equivocation and who consider "a loving God" and "a vending-machine God" to be synonymous. I agree with Brain that such Christians have a contradiction in their belief system and need to work it out. I'm not one of them.

And notice also that this is not an argument against the existence of God and in no way disproves God's existence or even makes God's non-existence a more likely alternative to His existence. The difficulty he raises is real, but it doesn't prove God doesn't exist. It just proves that a God, Who grants all or most of our wishes doesn't exist. It is perfectly consistent to believe that God exists, is loving and caring, and does not grant us all our wishes.

But if He's loving and caring, how could He let those children suffer?

That's a great question. I'm glad you asked. I'm afraid you just can't pin this one on God. How can you let those children suffer? We have enough food and wealth in the world to feed everybody. The world is verdant and abundant in resources, so there's absolutely no reason why anyone should starve. So why does it happen? Surely you and I aren't doing enough. But even if we did the best we could, it probably wouldn't be enough to solve the problem because of the political situation in countries where people starve. Starvation in the 21st century is mostly a political weapon. Even if you tried to get food to some of these places, warlords and governments would just seize it and feed their army with it.

But shouldn't God be able to do something about it?

God created humans as free moral agents, that means that we have the freedom to choose how to live and interact with each other. Only free agents are capable of Love, which is the highest of all goods, so without our existence as creatures of free will, none of the created world would be capable of the highest of all possible goods, Love. Yet our free agency necessitates that we are able to choose evil and to hurt each other instead of loving each other. That's built into the definition of free will. If all we can do is love, and we have no say in the matter, then we can't love after all- we'd be mere automata. We have to be able to choose not to love, or else we cannot love in the first place. This is why all sorts of evils and suffering exist in the world, because we have used our free agency to choose evil and suffering for ourselves and each other rather than love.

But can't God create free agents that always love? All things are possible with God, or are you admitting that all things aren't possible with Him after all, that He is not Omnipotent?

Oh no. Nothing of the sort. To elaborate, allow me to quote C. S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain:

"[God's] Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. If you choose to say 'God can give a creature free will and at the same time withhold free will from it', you have not succeeded in saying anything about God: meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words 'God can'. It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God."

If you haven't read the book and have earnest questions about the problem of evil, pain, and suffering in the world, I highly recommend that you get a copy. It's a very short read and an inexpensive book packed full of excellent critical thinking about God and the existence of pain and suffering in our world:

You're just making rationalizations.

Come on, be fair. My answer isn't some strange excuse for God like the one Brain offered that, "God wants these children to suffer and die for some divine, mysterious reason." This is a pretty strange excuse. I agree that it's not consistent to say that God is loving and that God wants children to suffer and die. That's a contradiction. I believe God wants no such thing. It is not a contradiction however, to believe that God doesn't want children to die because He is a loving God, but that children do suffer and die anyways because humans are free moral agents, and it is consistent for a loving God to create free moral agents who are capable of love, and that in order for them to be capable of love, by definition they must be capable of evil. That answer may not satisfy you if you don't believe in God, and I don't consider it to be an argument for God's existence, but you must concede that it answers Brain's challenge. You must concede that it is internally consistent, does not resolve into contradiction, is not an evasion, and actually makes a lot of sense.

Posted by W. E. Messamore"


No comments: