Facebook has become for me a theological ‘battle-ground.’ Unlike the pictures which are meticulously filtered, the ideas are never filtered. The biggest debate this week has been that of the sovereignty of God. It may seem pretty obvious to you that God is in control, “of course He is,” you might say, but it may not be that obvious.
Someone came out and asserted that God is not fully in control—in other words—He is partially sovereign over the cosmos He created. Their reason: God cannot allow suffering, pain, disease, car wrecks, wars, etc. He argued that all this bad stuff we see around is evidence that God is not sovereign. “God is really good, He can’t do that.”
But, what if God allows suffering?
In his book, The Reason for God, author, and pastor Timothy Keller attempts to respond to those who use evil and suffering as evidence against the existence of God. This does not tackle the question at hand head on but, none the less offers some helpful insight into what we are dealing with. Keller, first of all, traces a fallacy in this kind of reasoning. To him, this kind of reasoning is blind faith. “Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean that there can’t be one,” he writes.
He then draws on the bible account of Joseph (Jacob’s son) who was sold into slavery by his brothers who could not stand his arrogance any longer. Through bondage and misery, his character was refined, and he went on to save thousands of lives, his family inclusive.
What caught my attention was the account Keller gives of a parishioner who lost most of his sight in a shooting:
“I knew a man in my first parish who had lost most of his eyesight after he was shot in the face during a drug deal gone bad. He told me that he had been an extremely selfish and cruel person, but he had always blamed his constant legal and relational problems on others. The loss of his sight had devastated him, but it had also profoundly humbled him. “As my physical eyes were closed, my spiritual eyes were opened, as it were. I finally saw how I’d been treating people. I changed, and now for the first time in my life I have friends, real friends. It was a terrible price to pay, and yet I must say it was worth it. I finally have what makes life worthwhile.”
It’s interesting that this man sees God’s hand in what happened to him. If this man could find something good in his suffering, so can many of us. I can also add that if we cannot see any good reason why God can allow suffering, it does not mean that God, from his divine perspective, does not see one.