Luke 5.18-26 – God and the existence of suffering.
Posted: 15 June 2011 in Luke

And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day.

It there is an idea which even Christians who profess themselves conservatives have bought into, it is the idea that God’s primary concern is to make our lives as comfortable as possible – even though that idea is really a product of liberal theology. In the above passage the suggestion seems to be that Jesus was originally unconcerned to physically heal the man sick of the palsy, or at least that physical healing was not his primary concern. When he did heal him, it was in response to the words of the Pharisees, and it was not for the man’s own sake that he was healed, but for the glory of God.

Of course it is true that God does not inflict suffering for no reason at all, but he is prepared to inflict it if a higher purpose can be served thereby. Were it the case that God’s primary concern was our comfort, that would make it very difficult to account for the existence of suffering. As it is, that kind of naive theology makes it very easy for atheists to take pot shots at Christianity, because they can see as well as anybody that an omnipotent God, whose purpose is to take away all suffering in this life, doesn’t quite accord with what we can easily observe in the world around us.

A spot of theological realism is what is needed.

2 Comments

2 Responses to  Luke 5.18-26 – God and the existence of suffering.
    • Leslie says:

      It might not serve your purpose if you are looking for comfort in a time of suffering, but that does not make it untrue. If God wanted to magic away suffering from this world he could do so, but clearly he chooses not to, and that is the hard truth.

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