WHY DOES SUFFERING EXIST IN HE WORLD???

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George Australia
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Re: FWIW

Postby George Australia » Sat 1 January 2005 9:11 am

Getting back to the original question, we Orthodox believe that suffering exists because sin exists.
Our First Parents, in disobeying God's commandment to fast from one type of fruit, managed to bring disease, toil, inclination to sin, old age, death etc into the world.
"As long as it depends on Monothelitism, then Miaphysitism is nothing but a variant of Monophysitism."

gphadraig
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Postby gphadraig » Sat 1 January 2005 4:30 pm

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami on 26 December last has raised in many perhaps the question, why does God allow such suffering in the world?

I found today the following article in a leading British newspaper, The Times. It is written by a prominent conservative rabbi. In posting this I will no doubt raise the ire of some, but that is neither my purpose nor my intent. His article does contain a thought which I feel might merit some though.

_____________________

WHY DOES GOD ALLOW TERRIBLE THINGS TO HAPPEN TO HIS PEOPLE?

Jonathan Sacks, The Times, London, January 1, 20005

It is the question of questions for religious belief. How does God permit a tragedy such as the Indian Ocean tidal wave? How does he allow the innocent to suffer and the guiltless to die? It was just such a disaster -- the Lisbon tragedy of All Souls Day 1755, in which 60,000 people died as a result of tsunamis produced by an earthquake -- that led Voltaire to write 'Candide', satirising religious faith. The butt of his irony, Dr Pangloss, is generally thought to be modelled on Leibniz, the German philosopher, who held that 'all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds'.

What incensed Voltaire was that there were religious believers at the time who thought that the earthquake represented God's anger at Libon's "sinful" ways. After all, didn't the Old Testament speak of divine anger? Were catastrophes not interpreted as punishment against sinful nations? Os there not justice in history? Yet in the end the interpretation was unsustainable. Why Lisbon and not other cities? Why were the young, the frail, the saintly among the caualties? Even mody dogmatic found it hard to answer these questions. It blames the victims for their fate. After the Holocaust, such thoughts ought to be unthinkable.

Jews read the Bible differently. One of its most challenging questions about fate come not from unbelievers, but from the heroes of faith themselves. Abraham asked: "Why have You done evil to this people?" The entire book of Job is dedicated to this question, and in the end it is not Job's comforters, who blamed his misfortunes on his sins, who were vindicated by heaven, but Job himself, who consistently challenged God. In Judaism, faith lies in the question, not the answer.

Earthquakes and tidal waves were known to the ancients. They spoke of them in awe. Job himself said: "The pillars of the heavens quake, aghast at his rebuke, by His power he churned up the sea." David used them as a metaphor for fear itself: "The waves of death swirled about me.... The Earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the heavens shook,... The valleys of the sea were exposed, and the foundations of the Earth laid bare." In the midst of a storm at sea, Jonah prayed: "Your wrath lie heavily upon me; You have overwhelmed me with all Your waves." Yet God taught Elijah that He was not in the earthquake or the wirlwind that destroys, but in the still, small voice that heals.

What distinguished the biblical phrophets from their pagan predecessors was their refusal to see natural catastrophe as an independent force of evil, proof that at least some of the gods are hostile to mankind. In the ancient Babylonian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, for example, the goddess of the oceans Tiamat declares war on the rest of creation and is only defeated after prolonged struggle by the younger God, Marduk. Essential to monotheism is that conflict is not written into the fabric of the Universe. That is what redeems tragedy and creates hope.

The simplest explanation is that of the 12th-century sage, Moses Maimonides. Natural disasters, he said, have no explanation other than that God, by placing us in a physical world, set life within the parameters of the physical. Planets are formed, tectonic plates shift, earthquakes occur, and sometimes innocent people die. To wish it were otherwise is in essence to wish that we were not physical beings at all. then we would not know pleasure, desire, achievement freedom, virtue, creativity, vunerability, and love. We would be angels -- God's computers, programmed to sing His praise.

The religious question is, therefore, no: "Why did this happen?" But "What shall we do?" That is why, is synagogues, churches, mosques and temples throughout the world this weekend, along with our prayers for the injured and the bereaved, we will be asking people to donate money to assist the work of relief. The religious response is not to seek to understand, thereby to accept. We are not God. Instead we are the people He has called on to be his 'partners in the work of creation'. The only adequate religious response is to say: "God, I do not know why this terrifying disaster has happened, but I do know what You want of us; to help the afflicted, comfort the bereaved, send healing to the injured, and aid those who have lost their livelihoods and homes." We cannot understand God, but we can strive to imitate His love and care.

That, and perhaps one more thing. For it was after an earlier flood, in the days of Noah, that God made His first covenant with mankind. The Bible says that God had seen "a world filled with violence" and asked Noah to institute a social order that would honour human life as the image of God. Not as as an explanation of suffering, but as a response to it. I for one will pray that in our collective grief we renew the convenant of human solidarity. Having seen how small and vunerable humanity is in the face of nature, might we not also see how small are the things that divide us, and how tragic to grief to grief.

Jonathan Sacks is the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth of Nations

________________________________

For me the article was very interesting and the explanation of suffering and why God 'allows' it struck a deep cord. I perhaps depart when we might consider any social engineering or any attempt in a world which largely either does not know Christ, and/or rejects Him to build heaven here upon the earth.

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George Australia
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Postby George Australia » Sat 1 January 2005 5:51 pm

a prominent conservative rabbi whose article does contain a thought which gphadraig feels might merit some wrote: The simplest explanation is that of the 12th-century sage, Moses Maimonides. Natural disasters, he said, have no explanation other than that God, by placing us in a physical world, set life within the parameters of the physical. Planets are formed, tectonic plates shift, earthquakes occur, and sometimes innocent people die. To wish it were otherwise is in essence to wish that we were not physical beings at all. then we would not know pleasure, desire, achievement freedom, virtue, creativity, vunerability, and love. We would be angels -- God's computers, programmed to sing His praise.

Doesn't this make God the "Watchmaker" of the Deists? According to the Deists, God is the "First Cause" of creation, but His influence stops there- like a Watchmakaer who creates a watch then sets it in motion and has nothing further to do with it. The mistake is clear when the rabbi refers to angels as "God's computers, programmed to sing His praise...." because the Angels are far from robotic computers- they too have the gift of free will, and have exercised this, as we see from the fallen angels.
I'd say this was a cowardly attempt to explain the tsunami- in effect saying "God had nothing to do with it".
The Christian understanding is a little scarier- the tsunami was not a message for them, but for us.
There were present at that season some who told Him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, "Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, nay; but unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all other men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, nay; but unless ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish."Luke 13:1-5


Edited (rather toungue-in-cheekly) by George Australia at the request of gphadraig. :lol:
Last edited by George Australia on Sun 2 January 2005 2:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
"As long as it depends on Monothelitism, then Miaphysitism is nothing but a variant of Monophysitism."

gphadraig
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Postby gphadraig » Sat 1 January 2005 9:36 pm

No, George Australia, I must protest. Your post infers I wrote something you wished to dispute immediately followed by a lengthy quote from the article Jonathan Sacks, I had posted; but attributed a lengthy quote from the Sacks article to me? That you might take issue with any number of points in the article I have no problem with, but please do not attribute to me the writings of another. (I am no fan whatsoever of Maimonides, let it be said).

I do believe God has created and put us in this physical world. And our living in that physical world carries with it consequences; as does our fallen nature. A fallen nature, since the expulsion from Paradise. I too believe in miracles enacted by a personal God, far removed from that imagined by the Deists. Likewise that some saintly men and women draw close to Him in the manner ably described by Saint Gregory Palamas, and illustrated by Saint Seraphim of Sarov.

Nevertheless I found Jonathan Sacks article both interesting but here and there a reservation or point of departure occured to me.

Now a couple of choices await. To ignore the post and the article. To debate one or both here or, if anyone is so minded, to write a letter to The Times challenging this or that aspect of 'his' article. I cannot answer for Dr Sacks, of course............

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George Australia
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Postby George Australia » Sun 2 January 2005 8:47 am

gphadraig wrote: I cannot answer for Dr Sacks, of course............

Dear in Christ, gphadraig
I'm sorry if I came across as expecting you to answer for Dr. Sacks...not my intention. I have edited my post as per your request. Tell me what you think of this- do you think the Editor will understand the reference to St. Siluan and Righteous Job? :) :

The Editor,
The Times, London,
I refer to the article in The Times, dated January 1, 2005
"WHY DOES GOD ALLOW TERRIBLE THINGS TO HAPPEN TO HIS PEOPLE? " by Jonathan Sacks.
I was reading today some quotes in another newspaper from survivors of the tsunamis. One woman in Aceh with her arms outstreched and looking up cried: "Why have you done this to us God? What have we done to You?". I found this an honest, human cry to God- similar to St. Siluan the Athonite's cry of anguish when he was beset by demons and in despair: "God is implacable!".
What it seems that Rabbi Sacks would have us believe is that it is better to hold that suffering is meaningless, random, that God somehow plays dice with the universe, and doesn't care what numbers come up. He paraphrases Maiomedes, saying:
the simplest explanation is that natural disasters, have no explanation other than that God, by placing us in a physical world, set life within the parameters of the physical. Planets are formed, tectonic plates shift, earthquakes occur, and sometimes innocent people die.
Why is it that we in our comfortable, middle-class valued western society always look to Nihilism to answer life's big questions?
This is very different from the description of God's concern for the creation of His Hands given to us by Christ that even the hairs of our head are counted and a starling does not get trapped without God knowing about it.
In this time of anguish, I think it is better that people be permitted to cry out to God like the woman in Aceh, and St. Siluan, and Righteous Job, so that God (and not Maiomedes or a 'prominent conservative rabbi') can answer them.
"As long as it depends on Monothelitism, then Miaphysitism is nothing but a variant of Monophysitism."

gphadraig
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Postby gphadraig » Sun 2 January 2005 2:12 pm

I hazard a guess not, but my success rate at getting 'letters to the Editor' published in The Times is so poor that my opinion is probably useless.

Nevertheless the question of why does God allow such tradegies will be on the minds of many following the events of St Stephen's Day in the Indian Ocean.

I picked that even the Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the event caused him to doubt the existence of God. Only having heard this via a friend, I suspect Dr Williams simply made a remark about a momentary doubt which some newspaper has picked up and run a 'sensational' headline.

Other issues touched on by Jonathan Sacks do hold some merit. That the disaster has been an occasion for others to reach out to their neighbour has been demonstrated again and again. When I checked yesterday Ireland's people had donated €1.8m, and Britain's £60m (which oustripped their government's offering). Tales too of individuals helping and risking their lives assisting others; truly the parable of the good samaritan being enacted in the most trying of circumstances.

(Edited to correct the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury from Atkinson to Williams. Guess I thinking of Rowan Atkinson - Mr Bean - instead of Dr Rowan Atkinson. Quite how I could muddle the two I don't know? Too many tinnies over New Year I guess).

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Postby Tony » Tue 4 January 2005 8:42 pm

I know I don't know much. Since this recent tragedy, I find I know even less than I thought I did. The question: "Why does God allow so much suffering in the world?" is one I don't even pretend to know. How can I, a worthless sinner even begin to understand why such suffering happens in the world? It is God's providence, not ours. It reminds me of a parent who brings their child to a doctor's office to get a vaccination. The shot causes sorrow. It causes pain, brings tears and screams, and creates fear of the doctor. The child doesn't understand the importance. But the parent allows this traumatic experience because in the end, it is for the benefit of their child. I believe it is the same for such tragedies. If you have faith that true life begins when we leave this corruptible world, then it is easier to see how the All-loving, All-powerful God allows such things to happen. He is the Parent and the Doctor. He is the Reason and the Cause.
As for us who remain in this world, God now asks us the question: "How do my childern react to such suffering in the world?". It is now God who is watching and waiting for the answers.

In Christ, Tony


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