My wife and I are spending a rather eventful and sleepless night with our newborn infant, who has had a very exciting first day and a half in the world, starting with a man in a green smock malicious pulling of his body from the nice warm ecosystem he had inhabited for his entire life. Soon after, he had a chance to rest with his mother, until a woman with green scrubs stole him, smeared goop into his eyes, and then cruelly stuck needles into his thigh. After being returned to his mother multiple women in green scrubs stuck a cold probe under his arms. His first morning after delivery, another woman in green scrubs took him to the side to stick something in his ear and make uncomfortable noises, another took him to a separate room where the doctor cut him in a manner so sadistic it is not mentionable, suffice it to say his diapers now cause pain and he is still recovering. Yet another of the medical menaces stuck a needle in his heel and cruelly squeezed the heel repeatedly to make it bleed.
It is clear that those people wearing green scrubs are evil incarnate, the boogie men of nightmares who live to torture little boys; except, of course, we know they aren’t. What the baby doesn’t know, and does not yet have the capacity to understand, is that these are compassionate doctors, nurses and lab techs (the only ones wearing scrubs some other color than green), who are putting the baby through painful procedures for his own good, and while his parents do their best to console him, he does not at this point understand.
One of the big questions raised against Christianity is the problem of evil, there are a number of complicated books answering this topic in part because there are number of significantly different, but related arguments and the answer to one, does not answer another. And yet, there are a number of different components found in a number of arguments. One of these is known as the “soul Building theodicy.” The soul building theodicy asserts that God allows pain and suffering in the universe, but that He chooses to use pain and suffering to build human souls; from this angle my son’s experience of the world is a perfect example. The doctors are trying to keep him well, and safe and yes, he will suffer for that to happen; the suffering instead is a byproduct of what God intends.
But what about Hell? Well as I noted there are a number of different components to the various answers to why God allows evil in the universe, but let me suggest that if man has free will (another component in most answers to the problem of evil), then men may very well respond incorrectly to suffering. City governments build stoplights to promote safety, and enforcement (pain and suffering) to ensure good behavior, and yet this theoretical goal is not always reached and some drivers lose their licenses from running red lights too regularly.
I’ve also noted in the past there are formal discussions of the problem of evil and what is called the problem of natural evil, and this is sometimes confused with an emotional argument from suffering. Might I suggest as believers, as we suffer we should view this as the potters refining, and the clay that is thrown aside does so because it refuses to be directed by the potter’s hand; as the hymn writer began, “Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear.”