Answering “Questions Christians Can’t Answer” #35 God’s Inaction?

This article continues a series examining R.E. Pucket’s article “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer“. R.E.Pucket was a faithful Christian for much of his life. However, as he began to expand his reading and investigate arguments against faith, he became convinced that faith was irrational. This impression was strengthened by the fact that Christians with which he interacted largely told him that he should believe for belief’s sake, and that faith trumped rationality.

Pucket now spends a significant amount of time interacting with born again Christians who he feels are trying to convert him and win his soul. He rebuffs these attempts by presenting arguments that seem to stymie these Christians who in turn make vague appeals to “God’s Plan” and blind faith.
In his article, “Top 50 Questions Christians Can’t Answer” on Yahoo voices, Pucket lists out some of the arguments he has found that Christians seem to have no rational, logical answers for, and invites the readers to inspect their faith in light of these questions. Says Pucket:
“Don’t get me wrong, they will have an answer for them. You will find, however, that their answers have no basis in verifiable fact or evidence whatsoever, and will be largely based in their blind faith forsaking all reason.”
This series of articles will examine all fifty of Pucket’s questions, five per article, and offer responses to these questions.
One of the important things that the Pucket list teaches is the danger of dogmatism. If a system of belief stands or falls on every minute doctrine or teaching within the system, then disarming one of these causes the whole thing to fall.Christianity has undergone inspection by hosts of intelligent and thoughtful people over its 2000-year history. Some, like Pucket, have come to the conclusion that it was untenable. Many more have explored different ways of thinking about and applying Christian ideas that do not involve abandoning the system. The very fact that Christianity is a system of thought that allows individual thinkers to explore it, rather than to blindly embrace it, at least suggests that it is not a system of intellectual tyranny.
This author suggests that many of things about Christians popularly believe may be found faulty without the entire system being destroyed. For Christianity to be untrue, it would have to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that either humans do not require some sort of salvation from evil and suffering, or that no such salvation has been provided.
The answers provided to the questions in this series may not always be punchy rejoinders, magic bullets, or truth bombs. They may be far from convincing to a skeptic; however they do show that Christianity is at the very least internally consistent and existentially plausible.
A variety of the Christian views that Pucket attacks in these questions are held by a very specific sect of Christian believers, and by no means characterize the whole of Christian views. The questions also occasionally make broad statements which either mischaracterize Biblical teachings, or are backed up with no supporting evidence. Where these mistakes are made, the responses are largely aimed at correcting these mischaracterizations. This is not to say that the attack has no merit, but the attack would need to be re-worked to fit a proper representation of that belief.
Finally, it is worth noting that the questions are sometimes phrased in highly emotive or sarcastic forms. These articles will attempt to respond to the fundamental objection being raised, rather than the tone in which they are presented, however the questions themselves will be presented in their original form.

Why Doesn’t God End Famine?

35 – Imagine that I had the power and ability to feed millions and end all suffering. Now, imagine that I simply chose not to do so because these millions of people that are suffering did not like me. You would probably like me even less then, right?  Then why does God get a ‘get out of jail free card’ on that one? Wait a minute, ‘God’s plan,’ right? Gotcha. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To say that God allows suffering because people “do not like him” is to ignore the suffering of all of those people who do worship and adore him. Hence the more classic question “If God is all powerful and all loving, why does he not simply remove human suffering to begin with,” is more appropriate.

The question assumes that the cessation of suffering would be “good” and that its continuation is “bad.” If the existence of God is assumed, then one must also assume that he created everything and that those things serve some purpose for existing. Is this purpose to live in comfort until one dies, or is there some deeper pursuit – some existential fulfillment – that is more noble a pursuit than mere physical ease?
In 1943, psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote a paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation.” In this paper he proposed his now-famous “Hierarchy of Needs.” What Maslow said is that human beings begin with a very basic set of needs that they pursue in order to live. These include such things as hunger, thirst, and physical comfort. Once these immediate needs are met, they pursue more long-term needs such as safety and security. The third tier of needs Maslow suggests includes love and belonging. Fourthly, an individual would pursue respect and accomplishment. Finally they would seek out things such as philosophy, knowledge, and wisdom.

In all likelihood, Maslow would have considered things like religion and spirituality to belong to this final tier of human needs, making them the most expendable of all the needs a person might have.

The Bible appears to have the opposite view. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses instructs the new generation of Israelites with these words:

Deuteronomy 8:3 English Standard Version (ESV)
And he (God) humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

Later, Jesus quotes this same passage when responding to Satan’s temptation to break his fasting by turning the stones to bread.

In fact, the practice of fasting itself, recommended throughout the Bible, is a blatant denial of the Maslow Hierarchy. What the Bible seems to suggest is that spiritual needs are superior to physical needs such that physical needs must be placed in subjection to them.

While this may seem topsy-turvy, it makes a great deal more sense when one considers that, no matter how effective a person is in meeting their physical needs, they will still inevitably die. There is no amount of food, water, comfort or safety that can eliminate the possibility of death; these things can only delay it. However, if Jesus’ teachings are correct, then the meeting of spiritual needs affords a person eternal life beyond death.

Additionally, it is disputable that, even if a person were to rise to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, they would ever truly be satisfied.

The author of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes walks the reader through his pursuit of existential satisfaction. He relates that he tried physical pleasure – living a life of hedonism; he tried vocational pleasure – gaining wealth and accomplishing great building projects that brought him fame; and he tried mental and spiritual satisfaction – studying and becoming renowned for his wisdom. After accomplishing every stage of Maslow’s Hierarchy, he found it all to be meaningless and unfulfilling.

The search to meet these physical needs may, in fact, be a catalyst that brings people in search of God. As an example of this, consider this passage from the book of Matthew:

Matthew 9:2-8 English Standard Version (ESV)
2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing[a] their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Presumably the purpose for which the people brought the paralytic to Christ was not to have his sins forgiven, but rather to have him healed. Jesus, instead, put the priorities in their proper perspective by forgiving the sin for the eternal net benefit of the paralytic, rather than healing his paralysis, which was a temporary benefit at best. It was only when they questioned his authority to forgive sins that Jesus healed the man, doing so to prove his authority, and, as is fitting, the people who saw it “glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” Thus the man’s suffering served the ultimate purpose of glorifying God.
In fact, a strong argument could be made that people are brought to knowledge of God most frequently through suffering. The case of the paralytic is a good example. This man came to Jesus because of his suffering, an act that resulted in eternal rewards: a net gain for his suffering. The Gospels and the book of Acts are packed with such examples of people in suffering who, by seeking relief, came to saving knowledge in Jesus.
But one need not turn to the Gospels to see examples of this. Ask any Christian to give you their testimony and, in the vast majority of cases, they will sight an example of suffering that brought them into union with God.

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