Pain and Suffering In The World: An Emotional Appeal Against God’s Existence
By Osamagbe Lesley Egharevba | Lagos, Nigeria
An emotional appeal is a logical fallacy (or an error in reasoning), whereby a person attempts to win an argument by trying to get an emotional reaction from the opponent and audience. It is usually characterized by the manipulation of the recipient’s emotions in order to win an argument, especially in the absence of factual evidence. Let us keep this definition in mind as we discuss the problem of evil, pain and suffering vis a vis the existence of God.
That there are so many bad and terrible things happening in the world on a daily basis is a fact that is too plain to be denied. Many good people that we know have died mysteriously and this leaves us in pain. Babies die at birth and some, even before they were born. We hear of car accidents, plane crashes, tornadoes, sicknesses, etc. and several other painful upheavals that inflict pain on people and which ultimately lead to loss of lives. As a result of these, the agnostics and atheists alike have tried to disparage the existence of God.
The reasoning is usually put forth, that if there is a loving and powerful God who is in control of the world, He would not allow humans to suffer. And so, they conclude that since pain and suffering are present in the world, then such is an indication that the Christian God does not exist. This is because, according to them, an all loving, all powerful God will not allow people to suffer and experience pain if He can actually stop it. Thus, they think that the problem of evil, pain and suffering is a great challenge for anyone who believes in God.
In his debate with Kyle Butt on the subject of pain, suffering and the existence of God, the agnostic, Bart Ehrman reasoned along that line as he insists that all of the suffering in the world is an indication that the Christian God does not exist. But this reasoning seems more like an emotional appeal. In fact, that is exactly what it is. If we sit and make a list of all the troubles in the world and then conclude that these problems prove that God does not exist, we could as well sit down to make a list of all the blessings and happiness in the world and then conclude that God exists. In other words, if the pain and suffering in the world is an indication that God does not exist, then the blessings and happiness in the world should be an indication that God exists! Imagine how many homes are blessed with kids every now and then; imagine how many people get new jobs; imagine how many people get promoted at their work places, imagine how many farmers are blessed with good harvest, etc. Would not all of these be an indication that God exist if all of the bad things are indication of the non-existence of God? We can see that the atheists’ reasoning is just an emotional appeal. When you turn it around and show them the other side of it, their confusion becomes obvious.
The truth is: pain and suffering in the world is not an indication that our good God does not exist. In fact, it is actually an indication that He does exist and this should not be a problem to faithful Christians. In the first place, how do we even know that something is evil if God has not said it? Like Kyle Butt rightly said; “If humans evolved over millions of years by accidental processes, how could humans have any idea about what is evil and what is good? If all humans were simply the product of evolution, then every person’s opinion would be just as “right” as all other people’s opinions.” If there is no God, then we cannot have anything called evil in the world. Someone may think it is okay to steal but we know that this not right because God said it (Exodus 20:15; Ephesians 4:28). And since we have a Divine Being that tells us what is good and what is evil and commands us to abstain from what is evil (Genesis 6:5; James 1:13; I Thessalonians 5:22; Romans 12:9; Isaiah 5:20), then we should acknowledge and reverence Him.
God is not oblivious of our pain. On several occasions, the Bible tells us that we will have tribulation in the world (John 16:33; Acts 14:22; Romans 5:3; 8:35; 12:12; II Corinthians 1:4; 7:4; I Thessalonians 3:4; Revelation 1:9; 2:10). All of these passages point to the fact that as we run the Christian race, we will have troubles and because God allows it does not mean He is not good. God can still be all-good while allowing us to suffer. A doctor, while treating a patient, may give some injections. The patient may feel pain while being injected but that is not to say the doctor is not good, loving or that he is bad. The doctor is actually giving him what will be beneficial to him. In the same way, God allows us to suffer, preparing us for the afterlife, a better place arranged for us (John 14:1-4). Suffering is what draws us closer to God and makes us yearn for perfection with Him. Perfection would leave us without a desire to be with God. Jesus came and suffered for us, the ultimate proof of His love for us. We also must suffer, but God is with us and will bring justice at judgment. We are to “count it all joy when we fall into various trials” (James 1:2-3). This is because we have someone who is greater than our problems. God created man a free moral agent and not robotic. Inasmuch as man has the freedom to make choices, then people could choose to do evil or good. Pain and suffering came into the world as a result of the action of man (eating the forbidden fruit) and pain and suffering will continue inasmuch as man continues to have the freedom to make choices.
In conclusion, the problem of evil, pain and suffering is not an argument against God’s existence. It is simply an emotional appeal – an error in reasoning and this trick is often offered by atheists because there is actually no factual evidence to prove the non-existence of God.