If God Is Good: Question 1

12 Jun

Simple question:

If God is Good, then why do cancer wards exist in children’s hospitals?

 

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14 Responses to “If God Is Good: Question 1”

  1. Ruth June 12, 2015 at 10:58 am #

    I don’t know if you read John Zande or not but he just published a book about this. In his thesis he makes the case for an omnimalevolent creator. It’s very interesting.

    My answer would be that if God exists, no he is not good. At best he’s neutral.

    • christianagnostic June 12, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

      I agree….I don’t think a god exists, but if he does-he does not care very much for most of his creations.

      I haven’t read John Zande-thanks for the heads up on his book.

  2. Seth Scott June 30, 2015 at 5:21 pm #

    Hello 🙂 I’m new to this blog, and I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

    As for your questions, I have two responses. The first is: Because children get cancer, and it is good to care for them. As an aside, if we were in ancient Rome or Greece, we would probably just cast such children out and leave them to die — thank goodness the Christians put a stop to that, right? 😉

    It seems your question, though, is driving at a deeper meaning, namely: If God were so good, then children shouldn’t get cancer. Personally, I don’t see how the former necessitates the latter; I do agree that children getting cancer is a tragic thing, and I’m glad there do exist places where they can receive care (and many of them make it through, thank God) — but I don’t see how the alleged goodness of God should necessarily lead to a universal lack of cancer in children. The one doesn’t seem to logically follow from the other.

    For one thing, the line drawing becomes a nightmare: Are you saying, then, that cancer is acceptable if adults get it? If not, then why not just say that all cancer in general should be gone, if God is good? But, then, if cancer is bad, what about other diseases? Those should be gone too. While we’re at it, what about pain of any kind? Child abuse, rape, murder — those should all be gone too, right?

    It sounds good on the surface, but digging deeper you get to a completely different universe — one where either all consequences of actions that cause pain are completely erased, or one where people don’t possess the choice to do harmful things. Either scenario brings with it significant ramifications to our universe — can we say for sure whether either of these universes would more accurately display God’s goodness than the one we live in now? I’m not so sure.

    Thanks for your question! It is a good one 🙂

    • christianagnostic July 1, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

      First off, thanks for stopping by and for your question

      you said:

      If God were so good, then children shouldn’t get cancer.

      I don’t think it matters whether you are talking about children or adults. But children are especially vulnerable and have barely even begun to live and then enter a nightmarish world of pain, surgeries, grief, disability, and death.

      It drives home the question, that if God is Good, All Knowing, and All Powerful-why doesn’t he do something to relieve the almost unimaginable pain that happens in a children’s Cancer Ward?

      To take it a step further…if you believe that God has left nothing to chance and has planned out every nano-second of history-then you are saying that God planned this and wants these children and their families to suffer horribly.

      • Seth Scott July 1, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

        Thanks for your response 🙂

        Are you familiar with any futuristic, Utopian fiction? Huxley’s “Brave New World” comes to mind, but there are other works like it. These works usually begin in a society that, for one reason or another, has decided to do away with pain, crime, etc. — and, given human nature, this society is usually fabricated by imposing some physiological restriction upon its citizens, removing the hormones that cause aggressive emotions such as anger, lust, etc. Trouble is, you take those away, you also take away other faculties — such as the ability to feel love, create and appreciate art, to choose freely for one’s self, etc. So, you’re left with a society without crime, without pain, without suffering — but at the cost of so many other things that are central to the human experience.

        What I find interesting about these works is that they almost always involve some sort of “awakening” by an individual or small group of people that reverts them to the way things used to be. They feel emotions fully — anger as well as love — and the conclusion of almost all these works is that humanity was better off when it was fully human, warts and all. A fabricated society with no pain is worse than a human society with no love.

        My point is: If we’re going to weigh possible universes and juxtapose ours with one in which there is no pain, and if we’re going to judge which one is better (implying that the better one is the one that God should have created), then we have to weigh all the factors. Pain and suffering are bad, yes — but is their existence gratuitous and unnecessary, or are there things that are good that would not exist without them, and that an absence of those good things would perhaps be a worse situation than the one in which we find ourselves now?

        I’m not offering a definitive answer to this question, but I’m just pointing out that your question has to be weighed from both sides — all factors must be considered, not just pain and suffering, by themselves, as if they existed in a vacuum. So, yes, I do believe that God ordains specific suffering — but the presence of suffering in and of itself is not enough for me to strike the gavel and declare the suffering to be without meaning, or without purpose, or without the “unlocking” of greater good that could not have existed apart from it. There are more than enough examples from my life and from others’, where great victory, triumph, joy, happiness, fulfillment, etc. came as a direct result of suffering that, at the time, seemed gratuitous and unnecessary — and that those who went through the pain, were they to do it all over again, would have chosen to go through it again with no alterations. I am not convinced, therefore, that suffering in itself is enough to indict God for being unloving.

      • christianagnostic July 1, 2015 at 10:59 pm #

        I’ve read “Brave New World”-it was a world in which the few took control of the many for their own good. Yes, they mollified people’s natural choices in order to build a docile working class that would not rebel. It was a fictional response to the rise of industrial capitalism (Hence the saying “Oh Ford” instead of “Oh LOrd”) and political movements such as Fascism, Communism, and National Socialism).

        I am not asking if we should take away pain, I’m asking how you can justify calling God good when he sees the immense pain and suffering of a child in a cancer ward, and does nothing-even though most claim that this good loving God could heal this child in a second?

        What is good about the God that allows thousands of children to die a slow painful death by cancer?

        That was the question.

        I am not convinced, therefore, that suffering in itself is enough to indict God for being unloving.

        Fair enough, but it certainly does not bode well for the claim of a loving God, who cares for each and every person.

      • Seth Scott July 2, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

        Well, I admit that I haven’t experienced the kind of pain in my life that even begins to approach some of these cases we’re referring to — so you have a valid point: Perhaps my insistence that God is good, even in the midst of the presence of immense suffering, is short-sighted or naive. However, I have known and known of people who have undergone such suffering, who themselves, even in the midst of it, maintained that God was good — if people like that are able to declare God’s goodness even in spite of — even in the midst of — intense suffering, that’s enough for me to grant some weight to that conclusion. One may conclude that such sentiments are self-delusional — I happen not to think that this hypothesis accurately describes several of the cases I’ve seen.

        You make this point:

        … how you can justify calling God good when… this good loving God could heal this child in a second?

        I believe He could — but I don’t believe I have enough information to judge rightly that the situation, overall, would be better if He did. Recognizing that God can do something isn’t the same as saying that God should do something. This is the point I was trying to make before, in pointing out the possibility, evidenced by real examples, that suffering might be a necessary component of a greater good. It’s easy to make judgments about ultimate good or bad, looking at the isolated aspects of pain and suffering in a life — but, if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we really don’t know. It’s empty philosopher talk, trying to make extrapolations about what would be ultimately good and ultimately bad — we’d have to be omniscient to be able to see all ends like that.

      • christianagnostic July 2, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

        I appreciate your honest reflection. Not too long ago I might have said the same sort of thing about God and why he doesn’t do more to help those in desperate suffering.

        But this type of answer leaves me dissatisfied on a couple of fronts.

        you said

        I believe He could — but I don’t believe I have enough information to judge rightly that the situation, overall, would be better if He did. Recognizing that God can do something isn’t the same as saying that God should do something.

        and

        if we’re honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we really don’t know. It’s empty philosopher talk, trying to make extrapolations about what would be ultimately good and ultimately bad — we’d have to be omniscient to be able to see all ends like that.

        What you are basically saying, is that in the most pressing and trying moments of any persons life, there really isn’t enough that we know about God to count on him doing the right or loving thing. You’re basically saying that there isn’t anyway to know without having God like abilities ourselves.

        Without being able to really know much of anything about God (assuming there is one) then why make any claims about him/her at all about them being good or having a plan if there’s really no way to know?

        This dichotomy of making declarations about God-but then backing up into mystery or lack of information when God does not see to come through as promised in Scripture, seems like a hedge or special pleading. Christians ask folks to trust God and follow a moral code based on their view of Scriptures, but then essentially are agnostic when pressed on how we can know these things to be true.

        This leaves wanting for better evidence before I put my trust into a way of life that seems to have so little backing it up.

      • Seth Scott July 2, 2015 at 11:26 pm #

        What you are basically saying, is that in the most pressing and trying moments of any persons life, there really isn’t enough that we know about God to count on him doing the right or loving thing.

        Yikes, I wouldn’t put it that way at all. In fact, it seems you’re fundamentally misunderstanding me. I’m not casting doubt on God always doing the right thing, or even that we can know certain things about God — I’m questioning our ability to discern what the right thing is in a given circumstance, and thus questioning our judgment when it comes to indicting God for doing (or not doing) thus-and-so because we feel like it would be better if He did. How would we know that thus-and-so is the best, most loving thing God can do? Is it possible that the right thing would be to allow cancer to occur? As difficult as it may sound, I think we have a few solid examples of short-term or temporal pain being a necessary part of greater good on the other side of it; for instance, parents allow their children to experience pain all the time, in order to give them the greater gift of learning, understanding, character, etc. In such cases, I think it would be the wrong thing to deny the best good in order to spare one of the suffering it takes to get there — we call it “spoiling” when we speak of the parental relationship.

        As far as “God does not see to come through as promised in Scripture,” you’re going to have to be more specific on that one, mate. In any case, I do believe there is reason to believe that God is good, both from personal experience and from clues in the natural world.

      • christianagnostic July 3, 2015 at 3:07 am #

        I think the parental example is a limited one. Have I ever allowed my children to experience the pain of disappointment, or even limited physical pain-yes.

        But only when I thought it was not a threat to their well-being.

        Things such as childhood cancers, murder, rapes, etc…seem to imply a sadistic Parent. If I knew of a human parent who withheld life saving measures, or allowed their child to be abused I’d call the police.

        Secondly, I have learned in parenting, that if a child does not understand why they are being disciplined, then it is useless. They will only become angry,bitter, or afraid of you.

        Reading extreme pain and hardship as God’s care seems to be sadistic-especially if you have no reason why it is happening or being applied to you. Read the book of Job to get an idea of how well suffering works. In fact, the book starts out with God being willing to allow extreme suffering on Job’s family in order to win a bet with Satan.

        I think it’s a sick view of God that says that he would allow death and destruction of Job’s family in order to prove his child’s loyalty. It’s equivalent to me allowing a neighbor to torment one of my children so that I can win a bet with him that my child will never call me a bad Father. Again, if a human Father did what God did in scripture, we’d call the police and celebrate their incarceration.

        As for Scripture that doesn’t come through as promised-you could start with the last chapter of Mark or the Gospel of John where Jesus promises that his future followers would do even greater miracles than he has done. The promise that he’d never give us more than we could bear rings hollow for the Christians I’ve known that committed suicide.

      • Seth Scott July 3, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

        Have I ever allowed my children to experience the pain of disappointment, or even limited physical pain-yes. But only when I thought it was not a threat to their well-being.

        True. However. we must keep in mind that the Christian worldview includes an eternal dimension to existence, not just a temporal one. Thus, it stands to reason that one’s eternal well-being is far more significant than one’s temporal well-being. Using the parental analogy, the example is often used of allowing a child to touch a hot stove in order to learn, experientially, the pain associated with it and teaching them to avoid such things in the future. If, in our moral judgments, we only considered the well-being of the child’s hand, we would judge the parent to be an absolute monster for allowing such pain to occur to the hand; however, if we expand our paradigm of consideration to include the child’s entire well-being, then we could allow that the moral/experiential lesson learned by the child is beneficial to the point of justifying the temporary and small pain of the hand. The hand may disagree, or you might if you only considered the moments surrounding the pain itself — but, then again, neither approach is fair, because it doesn’t take into account the whole picture.

        Thus, even allowing someone to die physically is not the worst thing that can happen — not giving someone the best chance at attaining a favorable eternal existence would be the worst thing. Really understanding this point (at least, considering it for the sake of argument when considering the Christian worldview) greatly broadens the meaning of what “well-being” really entails.

        Secondly, I have learned in parenting, that if a child does not understand why they are being disciplined, then it is useless.

        Who says that God’s allowance of pain is always disciplinary? With the child touching the stove, the parent wasn’t disciplining his child, he was training it, preparing it for life. I think the view that all pain is because we somehow “deserve it” is sadistic indeed, and is extremely harmful — alas that some sects of Christianity indeed do teach this.

        … Jesus promises that his future followers would do even greater miracles than he has done.

        Have they not? People are reportedly being raised from the dead all over the world, for instance. Keener put together two volumes of such documented claims, the volume of which is much more than what Jesus was reported of doing in the Gospels. One can discount those evidences, if they wish to do so, or if they have an agenda. And the fact that we may not see such miracles so much in the West may have some clues in passages like Matt 13:58.

        The promise that he’d never give us more than we could bear rings hollow for the Christians I’ve known that committed suicide.

        “Can” bear is different than “does” bear. After a long, tiring day at work, when my wife asks me to help her with a task, I could help her — there’s nothing physically stopping me. However, do I always help, even though I could?

        The Scripture you’re referencing indicates that when we are tempted, God provides a way out. He doesn’t force us to take it. No one who commits suicide has to commit suicide — at least, that’s what I believe.

  3. mechanicdude July 2, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    CA- I think cancer wards exist in childrens hospitals because people need to try and answer prayers when they go unanswered by deities. -MD

    • christianagnostic July 2, 2015 at 10:54 pm #

      I tend to think you are correct.

      I am thankful for the countless people who staff these wards and do everything they can to save or extend a child’s life.

      But I can’t see how you can give God any of the credit-that’s just how I see things.

  4. mechanicdude July 6, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    CA- Deities are neither good nor anything else. I disagree with Seth about that physical death is not the worst thing to happen and that not given a chance for eternal existence would be worse. This is a modern version of human sacrifice to an angry god. -MD

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