Monday, December 26, 2005

The Problem Of Suffering And The Loving God (Pt 1?)

I've never been much of a holiday person, but I guess Christmas went well. I quite enjoyed the party CDPC put on. They had a pretty good spread plus a message from Peter Rowan and a lot of presentations from various groups within the church. My favorite had to be the kid's ministry skit. The kids were surprisingly adept onstage, and recovered from goof and gaffs with more grace than most adults could muster. The carolling I did with SIB was a less graceful affair (I kept getting the rhythm and timing wrong), but it turned out alright nonetheless. I would've liked a few more practice sessions, but something tells me the whole exercise wasn't about getting the performance technically right 100%.

I had been involved in a little discussion at the SNK-Capcom forums about the plausibility of the theory of Intelligent Design, which asserts that the marks of an "unidentified intelligent cause" are observable in nature. Obviously a fighting game forum is not the best place to have such a discussion, but the topic came up and I pounced on it in ernest. The central concern is the origin of life: is the inherent complexity of life compelling evidence of an intelligent cause (i.e. God, or space aliens, depending on who you talk to), or can life be explained as the result of sheer chance, borne of a primordial broth with the right ingredients and the right conditions?

Well, after that discussion, I was browsing through the stuff at Summit's Salvation bookstore, and I saw Lee Strobel's "The Case For Faith". I'd read his earlier book "The Case For Christ" before, and actually didn't like it much (if he was trying to present a purely objective view, he mostly failed. His choice of interviewees, for starters, would seem highly suspect to most objective readers. If he was writing for a Christian audience, the back cover is misleading.), but after thumbing through his chapter entitled "Objection#3: Evolution Explains Away God", I decided I'd give him another chance. It helped the book only cost RM17.

That chapter was good enough, based solely on the strength of the answers of the guy he interviewed. It also pointed me in other directions to look for answers on the topic, which is always helpful. I then started reading the introduction to the book, in which he narrates the interview he had with Charles Templeton, the once-preacher turned agnostic, and close friend of Billy Graham (at least at one time). Templeton was once tapped to be the greatest evangelist of his time, not Billy. Then he had a change of heart, found he could no longer believe the things he preached, and left his ministry.

In Lee's account, Charles' crisis of faith came about because he could not accept that a loving, all-powerful God would allow the sort of suffering we see in the world. He recounts how a photo of an african woman with a dying child in her arms struck him profoundly. She was looking at the sky, wishing for rain. Templeton's simple objection was this: if we don't control the rain, and God does, why would a loving God allow that woman to watch her child die for lack of rain?

Reading that, I couldn't help but think about my own objections to faith that I have made periodically in my own spiritual walk (and even on this blog itself, as some of you may remember). Up til now, I think I've only let the question rest for the most part. I do have certain beliefs on the matter... but does my system of beliefs hold up? I think I'll explore that here for a couple of entries and see what happens. I haven't read the chapter that deals with suffering in Strobel's book, by the way, but I'll be sure to include what he writes in my musings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'll be interested to find out what you think of Strobel's other book. Like you, I read The Case for Christ first (well, part of it - it fell flat of my expectations early on) and I had the same problem with it you did. It seemed to be reaching to people who either already wanted to be convinced of what they believed (and weren't particular about the objectivity of the evidence) or wanted quotes for convincing other people. I've heard good things about Strobel, though, so I'd like to find out whether I just started on the wrong end with his books.