As I mentioned in the last post, teaching high school Bible studies can be tricky. Here is another in depth high school Bible study for you to use. Evil and suffering are difficult topics for everyone, and are another topic that Christian college students are often asked about. Why does God allow war? How can there be a God if children are starving in Africa? How can you believe in a God that allows things like the Holocaust to occur? Many of the students sitting in your youth group are probably wondering about these questions. Use the Bible study below as a starting place for your own and give students answers to these difficult questions.

High School Bible Study on Evil and Suffering

  1. Evil and suffering: How can a good, all powerful God allow suffering?
    1. Either God is not all good (he can help, but he doesn’t care to), or he’s not all powerful (he’d like to help but he can’t).
    2. When you say that if God hasn’t gotten rid of evil he doesn’t exist, what you’re really saying, “he can’t have a reason I haven’t thought of”
      1. If God was good, he’d stop it, what they mean is I don’t think there’s a good reason for evil, no greater good.
    3. Theodicy (defense of God) – reasons for evil
      1. Punishment – If we did it to ourselves, does God have an obligation to help us?
        1. Like a kid will ruin your car if you give him the keys, we ruined the earth
        2. If someone says, “I just can’t believe in a God that would allow evil”, reply “What do you think the human race deserves from God?” They’re assuming that God owes us a better life than we have. Maybe the problem with evil is why God allows so much happiness.
        3. The problem with this, of course, is that good people suffer and evil people don’t. It’s not that there’s suffering, it’s that it seems to be unfairly distributed.
      2. Free Will – If God wanted us to be truly free in our choice, we’re not robots, so we have to have the possibility of evil. So the greater good that God is allowing is Free Will, and evil and suffering is just the way we get there.
        1. The problem again is that there’s not a fair distribution of evil.
        2. Another problem is that free will isn’t a greater good than salvation; (not just because I’m a Calvinist)
          1. What if your son crosses the street, even when you told him not to, what do you do? Let him exercise his free will in rebelling against you and die, or run into the street and rescue him?
      3. Natural Law – have to have some orderliness to nature… you reap what you sow or we just can’t live life
        1. Same problems as above
      4. So a lot of the evil that we blame on God can actually be traced to us.
        1. Even hurricanes and landslides etc are attributable to sin: the people who die in those places are the poor, those who can’t afford to live in a safe place. How many rich people die in disasters like that? Earthquakes in Turkey vs earthquakes here, for instance.
          1. Or hurricanes; people choose to live on the coast knowing full well that hurricanes are a certainty, not a possibility.
      5. Ultimately these solutions are not good enough.
        1. Don’t tell someone who’s suffering these things
        2. Watch telling yourself these things, because sometimes it’s going to fail you (eg, is there possibly ever a big enough reason for a child to die? If they grew up to be Hitler… not much comfort.)
    4. It’s a mistake to use theodicy. Instead, say you don’t know the reason for suffering. It’s a mistake to assume that because you can’t think of a reason for suffering that there isn’t one.
      1. I look inside my tent and don’t see a Great Dane; so it’s very likely there’s not one in my tent. I look again and don’t see any fleas. Does that mean it’s likely that there aren’t any fleas in there?
      2. If it is likely that if God has a reason, would we be the first to know about it? Would we be able to think on the level of God? If there is a reason for allowing suffering and evil to continue, the one who would know is God.
      3. If there might be a reason for suffering that we don’t know, then it’s quite possible that an all powerful and all good God exists.
    5. Most philosophers you’re going to run into in Phil 101 are making this mistake, assuming that because they can’t think of a good reason for evil, one can’t exist.
      1. Alvin Plantinga shows this.
      2. There’s no longer a firm consensus that evil and suffering disprove the Christian God
    6. On the other hand, evil and suffering also prove God’s existence.
      1. If we just evolved, what is evil? It just doesn’t exist. Evil only exists if there is a moral law, and there can only be a moral law if there is a moral law-giver. Evolution can say advantageous vs disadvantageous, but the strong naturally eat the weak. If you know that’s just wrong for societies or people though, then where does that come from?
      2. Appalling wickedness actually creates a bigger problem for those who don’t believe in God than for those who do, for the one who doesn’t believe in God doesn’t even have a basis for being appalled.
    7. Summary: If you have a God great enough to be mad at for evil and suffering, you also have to have a God who is smart enough to have reasons for allowing it that you can’t guess.
      1. Careful doing this sort of stuff with a friend who doubts. It’s ok to ask Qs that get them thinking, but not ok to cram your thinking down their throats (just because I don’t think it works)
    8. Christianity’s explanation of suffering is still better than anyone else’s. We are the only religion with a suffering God. This is the personal response to a friend.
      1. Secular: why should suffering bother you? The strong should eat the weak, and there’s literally nothing but a gaping hole to hang your dislike for suffering on; moral relativism isn’t much of a basis for action (or coping). How can you address suffering or injustice if the oppressor’s point of view is equally valid?
      2. Eastern: Hinduism and Buddhism both apply Karma (I think), which blames the victim for their suffering, and encourages turning a blind eye (not forcefully but accidentally…). Also God is impersonal and doesn’t suffer, and suffering is an illusion, not something real.
      3. Judaism and Islam: God is above it all, though concerned with suffering;
      4. Only in Christianity does God actually suffer with us. What better response to suffering could there be, other than eradicating it, than suffering with someone? Christ suffering shows that God is willing to suffer with us, and that suffering is a huge problem that he can’t just snap his fingers and make it go away (without making us go away at the same time).
        1. Oh, and by the way, the plan all along was to eventually eradicate suffering!

When you say that if God hasn’t gotten rid of evil he doesn’t exist, what you’re really saying, “he can’t have a reason I haven’t thought of”

      1. If God was good, he’d stop it, what they mean is I don’t think there’s a good reason for evil, no greater good.
    1. Theodicy (defense of God) – reasons for evil
      1. Punishment – If we did it to ourselves, does God have an obligation to help us?
        1. Like a kid will ruin your car if you give him the keys, we ruined the earth
        2. If someone says, “I just can’t believe in a God that would allow evil”, reply “What do you think the human race deserves from God?” They’re assuming that God owes us a better life than we have. Maybe the problem with evil is why God allows so much happiness.
        3. The problem with this, of course, is that good people suffer and evil people don’t. It’s not that there’s suffering, it’s that it seems to be unfairly distributed.
      2. Free Will – If God wanted us to be truly free in our choice, we’re not robots, so we have to have the possibility of evil. So the greater good that God is allowing is Free Will, and evil and suffering is just the way we get there.
        1. The problem again is that there’s not a fair distribution of evil.
        2. Another problem is that free will isn’t a greater good than salvation; (not just because I’m a Calvinist)
          1. What if your son crosses the street, even when you told him not to, what do you do? Let him exercise his free will in rebelling against you and die, or run into the street and rescue him?
      3. Natural Law – have to have some orderliness to nature… you reap what you sow or we just can’t live life
        1. Same problems as above
      4. So a lot of the evil that we blame on God can actually be traced to us.
        1. Even hurricanes and landslides etc are attributable to sin: the people who die in those places are the poor, those who can’t afford to live in a safe place. How many rich people die in disasters like that? Earthquakes in Turkey vs earthquakes here, for instance.
          1. Or hurricanes; people choose to live on the coast knowing full well that hurricanes are a certainty, not a possibility.
      5. Ultimately these solutions are not good enough.
        1. Don’t tell someone who’s suffering these things
        2. Watch telling yourself these things, because sometimes it’s going to fail you (eg, is there possibly ever a big enough reason for a child to die? If they grew up to be Hitler… not much comfort.)
    2. It’s a mistake to use theodicy. Instead, say you don’t know the reason for suffering. It’s a mistake to assume that because you can’t think of a reason for suffering that there isn’t one.
      1. I look inside my tent and don’t see a Great Dane; so it’s very likely there’s not one in my tent. I look again and don’t see any fleas. Does that mean it’s likely that there aren’t any fleas in there?
      2. If it is likely that if God has a reason, would we be the first to know about it? Would we be able to think on the level of God? If there is a reason for allowing suffering and evil to continue, the one who would know is God.
      3. If there might be a reason for suffering that we don’t know, then it’s quite possible that an all powerful and all good God exists.
    3. Most philosophers you’re going to run into in Phil 101 are making this mistake, assuming that because they can’t think of a good reason for evil, one can’t exist.
      1. Alvin Plantinga shows this.
      2. There’s no longer a firm consensus that evil and suffering disprove the Christian God
    4. On the other hand, evil and suffering also prove God’s existence.
      1. If we just evolved, what is evil? It just doesn’t exist. Evil only exists if there is a moral law, and there can only be a moral law if there is a moral law-giver. Evolution can say advantageous vs disadvantageous, but the strong naturally eat the weak. If you know that’s just wrong for societies or people though, then where does that come from?
      2. Appalling wickedness actually creates a bigger problem for those who don’t believe in God than for those who do, for the one who doesn’t believe in God doesn’t even have a basis for being appalled.
    5. Summary: If you have a God great enough to be mad at for evil and suffering, you also have to have a God who is smart enough to have reasons for allowing it that you can’t guess.
      1. Careful doing this sort of stuff with a friend who doubts. It’s ok to ask Qs that get them thinking, but not ok to cram your thinking down their throats (just because I don’t think it works)
    6. Christianity’s explanation of suffering is still better than anyone else’s. We are the only religion with a suffering God. This is the personal response to a friend.
      1. Secular: why should suffering bother you? The strong should eat the weak, and there’s literally nothing but a gaping hole to hang your dislike for suffering on; moral relativism isn’t much of a basis for action (or coping). How can you address suffering or injustice if the oppressor’s point of view is equally valid?
      2. Eastern: Hinduism and Buddhism both apply Karma (I think), which blames the victim for their suffering, and encourages turning a blind eye (not forcefully but accidentally…). Also God is impersonal and doesn’t suffer, and suffering is an illusion, not something real.
      3. Judaism and Islam: God is above it all, though concerned with suffering;
      4. Only in Christianity does God actually suffer with us. What better response to suffering could there be, other than eradicating it, than suffering with someone? Christ suffering shows that God is willing to suffer with us, and that suffering is a huge problem that he can’t just snap his fingers and make it go away (without making us go away at the same time).
        1. Oh, and by the way, the plan all along was to eventually eradicate suffering!

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation