The Ultimate Reason Why There Is Suffering

It is a raw, emotionally tearing book, and even though it has been years since I last read it, certain sections have stayed with me.  I am referring to Elie Wiesel’s book, Night.  As a survivor of the Holocaust (I am told that Wiesel is in the photo above), Mr. Wiesel speaks to the absolute evil that destroyed his faith in God.  In one of the more chilling moments, he said,

“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.

Never shall I forget that smoke.

Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.

Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.

Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.

Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.

Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.

Never.”

Suffering is a profoundly challenging subject, and over the course of several years, I’ve shared with you many different lectures exploring the issue.  Many of these have fallen short, and I have griped plenty enough about them.  Today I want to offer what I think is the best explanation to the problem of evil; an answer, that when you get right down to it, explains why it is so.  It doesn’t grapple with the branches on the tree, but it goes right to the very root system itself, the ultimate bedrock, or the place where we can dig no further.

The answer is given in the space of about ten minutes in a message by John Piper.  It occurs at about the 30-35 minute mark.  The message is called “The Echo and Insufficiency of Hell.”  You can also find the entire theme unpacked, but without the crucial quote, in “The Suffering of Christ and the Sovereignty of God.”  Both are excellent.

The answer won’t answer all your questions, in fact, it will raise many more.  But I do believe that it is the answer.

For the first, go here: Link

For the second, go here: Link

For another excellent message I recently had the pleasure of hearing, check out Dr. Mark Garcia’s, “I Believe in Monsters: God, Horrendous Evils, and the Christian Faith.”  It is a carefully crafted gem.  http://reformedforum.org/rfs8/

One Comment

  1. Barry York August 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    Thank you for this, Austin. Regarding the picture, I had recalled seeing Wiesel identified. If you go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/hab3045/3013428189/, faces in the squares have been identified. He is in the second row from the bottom, the seven face over from the left immediately to the left of the third beam.

    Also, Piper’s lengthy quotation of Edwards on this subject from the third chapter of his “Remarks on Important Theological Controversies” is below for reference.

    “It is a proper and excellent thing for infinite glory to shine forth; and for the same reason, it is proper that the shining forth of God’s glory should be complete; that is, that all parts of his glory should shine forth, that every beauty should be proportionably effulgent, that the beholder may have a proper notion of God. It is not proper that one glory should be exceedingly manifested, and another not at all; for then the effulgence would not answer the reality. For the same reason it is not proper that one should be manifested exceedingly, and another but very little. It is highly proper that the effulgent glory of God should answer his real excellency; that the splendour should be answerable to the real and essential glory, for the same reason that it is proper and excellent for God to glorify himself at all. Thus it is necessary, that God’s awful majesty, his authority and dreadful greatness, justice, and holiness, should be manifested. But this could not be, unless sin and punishment had been decreed; so that the shining forth of God’s glory would be very imperfect, both because these parts of divine glory would not shine forth as the others do, and also the glory of his goodness, love, and holiness would be faint without them; nay, they could scarcely shine forth at all. If it were not right that God should decree and permit and punish sin, there could be no manifestation of God’s holiness in hatred of sin, or in showing any preference, in his providence, of godliness before it. There would be no manifestation of God’s grace or true goodness, if there was no sin to be pardoned, no misery to be saved from. How much happiness soever he bestowed, his goodness would not be so much prized and admired, and the sense of it not so great, as we have elsewhere shown. We little consider how much the sense of good is heightened by the sense of evil, both moral and natural. And as it is necessary that there should be evil, because the display of the glory of God could not but be imperfect and incomplete without it, so evil is necessary, in order to the highest happiness of the creature, and the completeness of that communication of God, for which he made the world; because the creature’s happiness consists in the knowledge of God, and sense of his love. And if the knowledge of him be imperfect, the happiness of the creature must be proportionably imperfect; and the happiness of the creature would be imperfect upon another account also; for, as we have said, the sense of good is comparatively dull and flat, without the knowledge of evil.”

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