Berwick Thought for the Week: An Interesting Question

A few nights ago, I was having a drink with some friends when the question arose: “How can a loving God allow all the suffering in the world – for example, the current conflict in the Ukraine?”
David Harper.David Harper.
David Harper.

Not surprisingly, opinions varied from “there is no God, because if there were all of this wouldn’t happen” to “whilst God loves us all, it’s all part of His plan to which we are not privy.” As you may imagine, the issue became quite heated.

Since then, I have thought about the discussion quite a bit and for me the answer goes something like this:

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Despite God’s warning to the contrary, Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge and became sentient beings in their own right. As a consequence, mankind was banished from the safety and protection of the Garden of Eden and we now live in a fallen world.

This is a world where we are prone to the health consequences of our own genetic inadequacies and the consequences of our own free will decisions – in other words, the root causes of much of the pain and suffering we see around us.

For example, God didn’t cause the war in the Ukraine, the decisions and actions of a man did.

As to why God doesn’t intervene and put things right, well as Francis Collins (one of the most influential scientists alive today) says in his fascinating book ‘The Language of God’, there is no “cosmic pause button” which God can press to stop or reset a situation. We make the decisions and we live with the consequences.

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Similarly, as Eugene Peterson puts it: “We can’t use God – God is not a tool, or appliance, or credit card. God is above and apart from our attempts to enlist Him in our collective wish fulfilment aspirations.”

All of that said, as Max Ehrman says in his wonderful prayer: “With all its shams, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

David Harper is a Berwick resident who runs his own planning, property and environmental consultancy. When he’s not working or spending time with his wife, Colette, and their two boys and their families, he can be found restoring old cars and motorbikes.