Rick Harrington, pastor of First Baptist Church of Haverhill, moderates this discussion on the Problem of Suffering with panelists Brian Bethke, pastor of Middleton Congregational Church, Dave Hammer, pastor of Danville Baptist Church and Michael John, pastor of Market Street Baptist Church.
The Problem of Evil / Suffering
PART 1: The Biblical Perspective
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” – James 1:2-3
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5
- What overall are these verses saying about suffering? How is this shocking and counter-intuitive (what is our natural reaction to facing hard times)?
- How is God using suffering in the lives of Christians in particular, according to Scripture? What does suffering produce in us?
- “The gift of desperation” – How might suffering actually be used to bring someone to faith?
PART 2: The Philosophical/theological Problem of Evil
“Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent.” – Epicurus (quoted by David Hume in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion)
- Is there a logical contradiction between a good and sovereign God and the existence of so much evil and suffering in the world? How do we resolve this?
- In what ways has the Christian faith been a source of relief for suffering around the world?
- How is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ instrumental and resolving the problem of evil?
PART 3: Pastoral Problem of Evil
Oftentimes when people are suffering, it is not so much a philosophical or logical problem they are dealing with. It is more a personal, or really relational problem they are facing with God. Our answers as pastors are often far more subjective.
- Some lost their faith because of tragedy or just seeing suffering the world? What would you say to them?
- What would you say to a church member who is suffering, and struggling with their faith in God?
- How can the church help someone who is suffering? What would it mean for us to be incarnational in our ministry?
All of us are pastors. These aren’t just theoretical ideals for us. Each of us spend our days ministering to people in all different circumstances. We’ve watched people suffer, visited hospitals and hospice houses, and done multiple funerals. What we’ve found is not that our faith in Christ is challenged by suffering and evil, but strengthened. God is the source of comfort, grace and strength in the midst of it.