Common Explanations Given for Evil and Suffering

Yesterday evening Leonora and I attended the weekly meeting of the Life group hosted by Roland and Sherry Loder. Eight attended, and we studied the section “What Common Explanations are Given for Evil and Suffering?” of Randy Alcorn’s If God Is Good Why Do We Hurt? booklet (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2010). The study was preceded by singing and prayer and was followed by a time of fellowship that included a snack besides singing and prayer.

We began the study by reading Alcorn’s comments on what he says are the five most common explanations given for evil and suffering other than the Biblical one:
1. There is no evil and suffering.
2. There is no God.
3. God has limited goodness.
4. God has limited power.
5. God has limited knowledge.

For each explanation one of the other members of the group read Alcorn’s comment and I explained any terms in it which I thought might be unfamiliar to someone in the group and I read any part of Alcorn’s longer comment on the explanation in his book If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Colorado Springs, Colorado: Multnomah Books, 2009) which I thought would be interesting and/or illuminating to the group. We also had some discussion of the explanation.

After we’d done the above, I asked the members of the group which of the five explanations they considered most credible. Three of them suggested the explanation that God has limited power. Personally I think that the explanation that God has limited knowledge is the most credible (after all, I started this blog to explain open theism, which Alcorn claims believes that “God has limited knowledge”), but I didn’t indicate my preference to the group.

One of the group then read Alcorn’s summary of the explanation which the Bible gives for evil and suffering: “God is all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing; he hates evil and will ultimately punish evildoers and remove evil and suffering after accomplishing a greater, eternal good” (booklet, page 27). I’d planned to read Alcorn’s lengthy argument for the explanation if time permitted. However we’d already reached the time at which we’d hoped to start our time of fellowship, and so I didn’t read it.

I closed the study by explaining that the next section in the booklet considers explanations 3, 4, and 5 in more detail and the claim that the evil and suffering in the world indicate that God is limited in love. I asked the group to read what Alcorn says about “Is God’s power limited?” (the group’s having considered “God has limited power” to be the most credible of the five explanations) and “Is God’s love limited?” for our next meeting (on January 2, 2014).

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