The Selfish Turn in the Problem of Pain
I have noticed that people are arguing the problem of pain differently these days. Most folk today ignore the disease, war, famine, and general third world suffering that happens across the globe. Their thumbs and their eyes are fixated on a smart phone or a tablet. Their getting their pleasure centers in their brains overstimulated like lab rats who push the blue button and buzz their brains and ignore the red button that feeds them so they starve to death.
That much input in the pleasure parts of the brain means it in time loses its pleasure, but people continue merely from rote habit and mental addiction. And when their device can’t get enough bars or they can’t find the Wi-Fi hotspot, they cry and pretend they are suffering. And then they run into a real problem and run overboard into an excess of ever more selfishness of emotions.
Something truly tragic happens, and they cry Why did God let my granny die? it seems the problem of pain has taken a selfish turn from “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” to “Why does God allow bad things to happen to me?” No one worries about the suffering of those in impoverished countries except for the occasion humanitarian worker or the narely read philosopher, and I hope I can add to the list, God’s people.
The Problem of Pleasure
Biological evolution says all upgrades are due to cell mutations and natural selection, but in particular, adaptation that enhances survival. And yet there are things in life that are part of the human experience that have nothing to do with survival. What I have in mind is pleasure. Evolution cannot explain why we as humans enjoy anything, why we find pleasure in experiencing beauty. So for my tastes, let the atheists whine all day about the problem of pain. They can’t explain what for them is the problem of pleasure.
Why do we taste food and enjoy it? The skeptic says taste buds evolved as a survival technique so we’ll know what berries are poison or when meat is rancid. But usually once you’ve tasted these things it’s too late. Also, other senses are better for determining these things. We see and recognize berries that look as such are to be avoided. Meat that smells spoiled is spoiled.
But pleasant flavors cannot be accounted for as a means of survival. Atheists cannot explain why a Crème Brule tastes so good and why we gain so much pleasure from eating it. Skeptics can’t tell us why everyone thinks a sunset is beautiful, and why we enjoy watching them. And consider the fine arts. Evolution cannot explain why we get such exhilaration from hearing Beethoven, Chopin, or Rachmaninoff played on a piano. Shear materialism cannot answer for why we are so stirred by the poetry of Browning, Byron, or Whitman. Atheism cannot reason a response as to why the novels of Tolstoy and Hugo rouse us with stunning displays of what it’s like to live as a human in this world. Skeptics have nothing to say about why the paintings of Van Gogh or Rembrandt allow us to see our world within ourselves brushed on canvas.
Atheists are a miserable lot in the first place. The Bible says they cannot find peace (Isaiah 48:22, 57:20, 59:8). No wonder they can’t answer the problem of pleasure because they are often oblivious to it. The Christian acknowledges that there is suffering in the world, but we thank God for all of the blessings He gives us, for the wonderful things that come from living this life, and for the exalted gift of gaining pleasure from experiencing beauty.
Man Cannot Blame God
The thing about the whole argument of the problem of pain that galls me the most is the presumption people have in sassing back at God. They sound like petulant children. You know they got it coming and you don’t mind at all when they get it. Man is not in the position to dare talk back to God. Job learned this lesson the hard way, but he learned it. God spoke from the whirlwind and said to him, “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer that.” … “Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?” (Job 40:2,8).
God does not answer to us. We are not in the place to know all things as God. We simply do not know enough to blame God of anything wrong. Any such accusations come from human wisdom, which is in truth, foolishness.
- “The heartis deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
- “‘For My thoughtsare not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
- “O Lord, I know the way of manis not in himself. It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
- “There is a waythat seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12).
The worldly man will engage the faithful on matters where he does not know as much as he thinks he does. He will blame God for human suffering, not knowing that the Bible has the answers, and yet he will refuse to hear a Biblical answer. And the things we tell him are Scriptural and reasonable, yet he shrugs and says I don’t get it. Their response is like the parable of the sower. Some seed lands on the rock-hard road and the seed cannot penetrate at all. This describes the worldly person so far removed from any spiritually and love for the truth that anything they hear is like a foreign language (Luke 8:12).
The failure is not ours, but completely on their part. And even if God did step down and stop all human suffering, that would not make anyone believe who doesn’t already. They are like the kinsmen of the rich man in torment, who have the Scriptures, and if they don’t believe them, they still wouldn’t believe even if God left His throne and came down here just to ease all suffering (Luke 16:31).