Monday, January 18, 2010

Is Suffering Good?

One of the problems of the old earth is that of suffering.

An old earther must believe that animals lived and died (often horrible deaths, eaten alive) for hundreds of millions of years before man and sin.

Yet, the Bible tells us on day five (before man and sin) everything was good.

The Catholic church accepts the old earth, there is also an odd view of suffering which comes out in this interview with the current Pope (then Cardinal).
"Anyone who really wanted to get rid of suffering would have to get rid of love before anything else, because there can be no love without suffering, because it always demands an element of self-sacrifice"
That looks really bad on the face of it, but I think I understand the deeper context (love in the context of the current, fallen world). There is an "element" of self-sacrifice, but love is an eternal attribute of God. There was love expressed in the Trinity before creation, and there will be love in eternity future. I assume Catholics believe we will be free of suffering in eternity future...
"Seewald: What would actually have happened if Christ had not appeared and if he had not died on the tree of the Cross? Would the world long since have come to ruin without him?

Cardinal Ratzinger: That we cannot say. Yet we can say that man would have no access to God. He would then only be able to relate to God in occasional fragmentary attempts. And, in the end, he would not know who or what God actually is.

Something of the light of God shines through in the great religions of the world, of course, and yet they remain a matter of fragments and questions. But if the question about God finds no answer, if the road to him is blocked, if there is no forgiveness, which can only come with the authority of God himself, then human life is nothing but a meaningless experiment."
I actually like most of Ratzinger's answer here. The answer to any "what if" should be "we cannot say". We can only say what is - if we know, or what was - if it has been revealed to us.

The "Something of the light of God shines through in the great religions of the world" sounds like something a politician would say. The light of God shines in creation (and in the proclamation of the Gospel), the false religions seek to obscure and distort that light - we should be clear on that.

I want to focus on "if there is no forgiveness, which can only come with the authority of God himself". This is an odd expression, something I would expect from a Muslim. Forgiveness comes from the substitutionary death of Jesus - the righteous in place of the unrighteous - our sin is attributed to Him, and His righteousness attributed to us. For God to simply forgive sin on "His authority" (as Muslims believe) would be unjust - there must be a payment for sin.

Perhaps that is implied, but I would expect it to be more explicit.

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