Eschatological Solution to the Problem of Pain and Suffering

Pain Pauls blog

The problem of pain and suffering is without doubt the most troubling paradox for Christians. How could a loving, maximally powerful and caring God allow his children to go through extreme and seemly meaningless pain and suffering? In times of suffering many Christians do, and correctly so I may add, find it difficult to imagine that God cares about their struggles. God appears to be as cold as ice itself and far from them as east is to the west. At those moments they rightly identify with Ivan Karamazov’s cry: “It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand, it’s the world created by Him I don’t and cannot accept”, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s fictional novel, The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky 2007, 257)

Early Christians underwent various trials and persecutions. Many paid their faithfulness with their own blood. What was it that made them stand tall and proud through such hard times? What was it that made them triumphantly walk into the valley of death without doubting the sovereignty of their loving God? As I explored their writings, I discovered one of their reasons. Their eschatological hope was what keep them going. It was their hope for the future glory at the second advent of their Lord and God. Their understanding of this future glory brought them hope. They considered all their present suffering not worthy compared to the joy and glory prepared for them (Rom. 8:18). Continue reading

Argumentum ad Malum


“It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand,” said Ivan Karamazov, one of Fyodor Dostoevsky novel’s characters in The Brothers Karamazov, to his younger brother, Alyosha,  “it’s the world created by Him I don’t and cannot accept.”(Dostoevsky 2007, 257) The world created by God is overflowing with horrifying and repugnant evils. Ivan vividly captured some of the moral evil committed by the Turks and Circassians in Bulgaria:

They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to the fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them — all sorts of things you can’t imagine. People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel. The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do. He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it. These Turks took a pleasure in torturing children, too; cutting the unborn child from the mothers womb, and tossing babies up in the air and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mothers’ eyes. Doing it before the mothers’ eyes was what gave zest to the amusement. (2007, 260)

Evils such as these are morally abhorrent. It is painful to imagine that humans are capable of inflicting such inhumane deeds that are far worse than those of  mindless beasts. Arising in any morally sane person is  intuitive repulsive attitude towards such evils.

From such revulsion, atheists have argued that the existence of such evils is the problem for theists. Atheists have looked into the problem of evil’s abyss for far too long. Our intuitive revulsion toward such evils is the abyss looking back at them.  The queerness of our intuitive revulsion of such  evils from a naturalistic perspective is a problem for atheists.

In a naturalistic worldview, our intuitive revulsion toward such evils is nothing but social instincts acquired to aid the survivability of our species. The deeds Ivan mentioned, for example, are neither good nor evil because our species could have acquired different instincts to which such deeds were not intuitively repulsive (Darwin 1877, 99-100).

Repulsive Ivan’s Turks artistically deeds may sound, Richard Dawkins rightly argued from a naturalistic perspective that,

“nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.”(Dawkins 1995: 112)

Nature just is. “[Y]ou won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice” Dawkins correctly explained, since there is “at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”(149) We are intuitively revolted by such acts because it is of biological worth. Our intuitive revulsion to such evils, in naturalistic worldview, is illusory.

Darwin, Charles (1877) The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Part One (Second edition 1989, revised and augmented ed) New York: New York University Press.

Dawkins, Richard (1995). River Out of Eden: A Darwin View of Life. Weidenfeld & Nicolson
The Orion Publishing Group

Dostoevsky, Fyodor (2007) The Karamazov Brothers. Wordsworth Editions Ltd. (First published in 1880)

Shootings, Obama And Breakdown of New Atheism In Times Of Need

“[O]ur hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.,” heart movingly said Barak Obama, not as a president of United State, but as a fellow parent to those who are affected by second worst U.S’s school shooting. He went further,

Our hearts are broken for the parents of the survivors, as well, for as blessed as they are to have their children home tonight, they know that their children’s innocence has been torn away from them too early and there are no words that will ease their pain.

I could not help but wept with Obama when he said,

The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own. Among the fallen were also teachers, men and women who devoted their lives to helping our children fulfill their dreams.(Obama 2012: n.p)

Appropriately, Obama ended with “[m]ay God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture, heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”

What If Obama Was New Atheist? What Would He Have Said?

Obama’s closing remark made me ponder, what if Obama was new atheist and not a Christians who believes as Fyodor Dostoevsky that “suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage”? What if Obama worldview was not as Dostoevsky put it,

In the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened with men( Dostoevsky 1922: 247-8 )

What if Obama did not believe that we are living in a fallen world that is groaning, as in the pains of childbirth, until Christ returns to restore all things? What if he did not believe in final day where God will give an ultimate judgment?

What if Obama speech was like what Richard Dawkins believe, namely we live in a  “universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.”? Would he have told his fellow parents whom are affected by second worst U.S school shooting,

The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E Housman put it:

For nature, heartless, witless nature

Will neither care nor know

DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.(Dawkins 1995: 132-3)

Would Obama told them that Adam Lanza was simply dancing to his DNA’s music? What if Obama echoed Francis Crick words, namely,

You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. Who you are is nothing but a pack of neurons.(Crick 1994: 3)

I am not saying that Obama’s Christian faith is true because it gives hope and assurance in times of need, but that new atheism and atheism in general breaks down when it comes to things that we dearly care.

Our joy, love, sorrows, hopes and delights. Things that makes us humans.

My wife and I weep together with families  fallen into this tragedies. I do not know why God permitted Adam Lanza to do so, but I know that everything “work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” and we grieve with hope, for we know that life does not end at the grave. Christ’s resurrection demonstrated that we will see them again.

We have hope because  “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”(ESV Re. 21:3-4) That is how it ends. That is how it begins.

 Behold, God will make all things new.


Crick, Francis (1994) The Astonishing Hypothesis – The Scientific Search for the Soul, London, Simon and Schuster.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor (1922). The Brothers Karamazou. New York: Macmillan

Obama, Barak (2012). Obama’s speech on December 14th 2012. Transcript: President Obama’s Remarks On Conn. School Shootings. White House

Dawkins, Richard (1995) River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life.  Weidenfeld & Nicolson. London

Photocredit: Obama Ian D. Wade Portrait Genesis & Cover: The Courier Mail