Friday, October 01, 2010

The Problem of Pain

I have bad pain on a daily basis, and it makes me unhappy and weak. It makes me "can't" do things and it hurts to even look at a rake, a vacuum, or even my knitting. Pain is a bore! Pain hurts and that is a problem.

If you google the problem of pain things get very abstract very quickly because unfortunately suffering is a big part of existence. C.S. Lewis wrote a book "The Problem of Pain" and tried to fit pain into God's scheme: consequence of sin, which is consequence of free will blah blah. More recently, Bart Ehrmann has written that the problem of pain led him to atheism. (Unlike the most contemporary author atheists, Ehrmann actually knows something about Scripture and faith; he did theological reflection on the way to atheism.)

The theologian Dorothy Soelle settles the question for me. She says we just cannot reconcile the existence of so much suffering with the idea of a loving God. If we try, we get a "theology of sadism" or a "theology of masochism." We don't understand "why," and the comforters talk crap, and all our piety--I don't know. I have theories, but I don't know!

One thing I know about God: if you have pain and see all the suffering, He wants you to tell Him all about it. The Psalms never accept pain as something you must put up with. Your sin can cause pain and confessing sin brings relief, but it doesn't follow that pain was a punishment or even a good thing! Sin causes suffering and death (you can look around and see sin bringing death into the world); but not all suffering is the result of sin (except for mysterious original sin, I guess, that is part of mortal humanity). Healing does exist. If you learn something from it? As St. Paul says, God can bring good out of evil, but he doesn't say pain is good. At best, Paul's "thorn in the flesh" kept him humble.

Most definitively, you never see Jesus telling someone to accept their blind, crippled, deaf, hungry, or discriminated-against lot. He heals the sick and feeds the hungry. In fact, pain relief is a sign of the messianic age!

In the world we shall have tribulation. God damn it and hopefully soon!


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