Where Do Evil and Suffering Come From?

Yesterday evening Leonora and I attended the weekly meeting of the Life group hosted by Roland and Sherry Loder. Eight attended, and we worked through the following discussion sheet on the section of Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? booklet called “Where Do Evil and Suffering Come From?”. The discussion was preceded and followed by singing and prayer.

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Life Group — If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? (pages 13-22) — November 28, 2013

This week we’ll continue our study of the problem of evil and suffering guided by a booklet by Randy Alcorn called If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? and based on his longer work If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Multnomah Books, 2009). I asked you to prepare for this week’s meeting by reading the section of If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? called “Where Do Evil and Suffering Come From?” (pages 13-22) and thinking about the questions on it that appear below. In the meeting we’ll read from If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? and discuss the questions using the following outline:

Opening (pages 13-15)

If you, instead of God, were the author of the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, how would you have written it?

God’s Story (pages 14-17)

Which story is more satisfying—God’s or yours?
Which story would you like to have taken place, and still be a beneficiary of, ten thousand years from now as you live on the New Earth?
What is most satisfying about God’s story?

[I’ll read parts of chapter 20 of If God Is Good Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, most of which Alcorn devotes to showing that God’s story is more satisfying.]

Adam and Eve’s Sin (pages 17-19)

To what extent are human beings responsible for the sin in the world?

God’s Plan for Humanity (pages 19-22)

How is God’s story the ultimate story?

Closing

What questions do you have about where evil and suffering came from?

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Opening (pages 13-15)

Alcorn summarizes the story that God tells in the Bible of His creating Adam and Eve and letting them be tempted by Satan; of their rebelling against Him and evil’s entering the world; of His promising a Redeemer and His people’s looking forward to the Redeemer to come, overthrow their enemies, and set up his kingdom; of Jesus’ being born, being put to death, and rising from the dead; and of Jesus’ promising to return someday, to make things all right, and to live with His people forever.

“If you, instead of God, were the author of the story of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, how would you have written it?” – I explained the question as asking what changes we’d make in the story that God told. Members of the group suggested omitting God’s forbidding Adam and Eve to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Satan’s presence in the world or in the Garden of Eden, Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve, and Adam and Eve’s sin.

God’s Story (pages 15-17)

Alcorn suggests that if the reader were to rewrite the story, he or she would likely omit Satan’s temptation, Adam and Eve’s sin, and all the ensuing human wickedness. He goes on to point out that by preventing the problem in this way, the reader would also prevent the solution to it brought about by Jesus and would thus take away God’s grace, the grace demonstrated by Him in dealing with sin.

“Which story is more satisfying—God’s or yours?” – We agreed that God’s story would be more satisfying, one of us even saying that our story would be boring.

“What is most satisfying about God’s story?” – We agreed that our meeting Jesus is the most satisfying part of God’s story.

We also discussed whether we’ll know each other and whether we’ll remember our life here when we’re living on the New Earth.

Adam and Eve’s Sin (pages 17-19)

Alcorn recommends our going back to God’s story to try to get a better understanding of evil. In it, after seeing that everything that He had made was very good, God told Adam and Eve, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Despite this clear warning, when tempted by Satan Adam and Eve rebelled against God and ate what was forbidden. As a result God punished each of them and suffering entered the world. After recounting the preceding, Alcorn emphasizes that all sin, from Adam and Eve’s in the Garden of Eden to the last one in history, is against God as well as against those hurt by it.

To what extent are human beings responsible for the sin in the world? – Although recognizing that roles played by God and Satan, we agreed that human beings were fully responsible for the sin in world. We also discussed whether Adam or Eve was more responsible.

God’s Plan for Humanity (pages 19-22)

Alcorn claims that although God was disappointed by Adam and Eve’s sin, it didn’t take Him by surprise. In eternity past He knew that it would happen and, as indicated in Ephesians 1:4-5 (“he [God] chose us in him [Jesus] before the foundation of the earth” and “predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ”), decided how to redeem us.

Next Alcorn observes that God didn’t force Adam and Eve to sin but created them with freedom of choice and allowed Satan to tempt them knowing that they would choose evil. Arguing that all human evil results from people’s exercising meaningful choice and thus that the problem of evil is the problem of freedom, he suggests that God’s reason for giving us this freedom is that God wants us to love Him not because we have to but because we want to.

Alcorn concludes by asserting that although God is the author of a story that includes sin, He isn’t the originator of evil. He intended from the beginning to permit evil but, instead of immediately punishing it fully, also to provide redemption in Jesus Christ so that we would be able to live in His presence on His New Earth with evil and suffering behind us forever. Alcorn observes that when that takes place none of will think that we could have written a better story.

How is God’s story the ultimate story? — We agreed that Alcorn had shown in what we’d just read that it is.

Closing

What questions do you have about where evil and suffering came from? – We didn’t have any questions.

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