The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Q&A with Derek Flood- author of "Healing the Gospel"

If God is working in the middle of evil suffering (hell) to redeem people why would we not say God works in the middle of hell (evil suffering) to redeem people?

This presents a sort of caricature of Evangelical Universalists, that is we would proclaim “Evil saves”. I don’t think anyone on the board believes that. We don’t proclaim Hell saves, we see it in the sense that God brings about a form of suffering in us because we need it.

I however would say that the propositions are too simple. I’m not certain that all suffering is evil. As Jason points out, if suffering is evil, then punishment all together is evil – for its purpose is to inflict some form of suffering. Therefore parents are not allowed to punish but must be like God allowing the child to suffer for what they’ve done by some natural means. I asked this very question to you Derek at the Rebel God blog. I asked if you place your child on time out and you responded, that’s hardly torture – but it does cause suffering doesn’t it? Is Derek evil for introducing some unnatural consequence upon his child? I doubt it.

My main concern is that the premise: All suffering is evil is incorrect. This is the why I have difficulty embracing this proposition.

Sometimes, I believe God does even cause the suffering in us in order to produce better character by some means. As Paul writes in Romans, it was God who hardened the Pharaoh to disobey his very command and thus punishes him. But I believe Paul is explaining that God did so to bring about mercy. The ends justify the means. Of course how extensive are the means is always a gray area. As Jason and I are both pointing out, if you deny it’s gray, then you cannot support punishment (causing suffering) of any type – for its all evil.

I’ve argued that retribution can be a good thing, such as charging a fine for speeding. This is to inflict some sort of loss or suffering to the offender. But its overall intention is not to make money but to keep the public safe. Thus retribution – where someone must pay for the damage done – makes sense. My difficulty is that you seem to paint it as synonymous with VIOLENCE. And that is a plain fallacy.

So I remain unconvinced that all punishment is abusive or all suffering is evil. Heak, I’m one who believes we should lie in order to save Jews from Nazis (Rahab), I simply hold we desecrate the command and yet remain blameless – and if Jesus can do that, so can God.


Forgive me for sounding so arrogant. When I said “it sounds like a caricature” I didn’t mean to make it sound like you were attacking anyone who holds that position. I sounded defensive of EU and I didn’t mean to come off so poorly. Again sorry for that.

Thank you again for your taking time and I need to re-read my posts before I hit “post”.

Paul in Galatians 6:7-8 indeed follows that up by saying that the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, yet the one who sows to the spirit (or to the Spirit) shall from the Spirit reap eonian life.

However, Paul was also well aware that doers of injustice seemed to live and to die well–certainly this is a common complaint among OT prophets and patriarchs!–and taught the bodily resurrection of the unjust to judgment. I certainly wouldn’t try to pit Gal 6:7 against 1 Cor 15:25 or 2 Thess 1:6-10, or many many other such scriptures indicating that God directly and authoritatively punishes, whether now or later, before and after His coming, also before and after the general resurrection. Or is Paul supposed to be the one miraculously inflicting whole-ruination on the Stepmom-Sleeping Guy of 1 Cor (apparently to the death, but certainly to major unwanted inconvenience, although with hope and expectation of salvation in the day of the Lord to come), yet Christ/YHWH is not inflicting whole-ruination (same term) on doers of injustice in the same Day of the Lord to come described by Paul in 2 Thess (citing at least two sections of OT prophecy on the same topic)?

As you say, God does at the very least claim authoritative responsibility even for evils which afflict people. Whether He is using an otherwise naturally produced effect to a greater good, God authorizes that the effect shall indeed follow and affect, and self-sacrificially keeps the effect (and the effectual cause(s)) in existence for whatever duration even if the immediate causation is natural reactions and/or actions of derivative agents. If God insists upon authoritative responsibility even for such things–a responsibility entirely consonant with supernaturalistic theism distinct from polytheism and/or atheism (or even from most pantheisms)–then I strongly doubt we have grounds for disassociating God’s active responsibility from events more directly represented as afflictions: if the lesser and more subtle, then also the greater and more obviously stated.

Hmm, yes. I can also see that God disciplines those He loves, and since He loves everyone, then it has to happen sooner or later. The trickiest part is that it’s often hard to tell (on this side of the dark glass, anyway) if it’s strictly “discipline” for its own sake, or if it’s just stuff happening that God is using to perfect us and demonstrate His power in bringing about good (such as in the case of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery for an ordained purpose).

Let me add in relation to Auggy’s comments: I don’t regard Christian ultra-universalists as being necessarily not Evangelical Universalists, just like I don’t regard Christian purgatorial universalists as being necessarily EU (even though more EUs seem to be currently purga-u than ultra-u.)

So I don’t regard Derek as speaking necessarily against evangelical Christian universalism. Ultra-universalists can have a high view of Judeo-Christian scripture (even higher than mine :wink: ), and a concern for preaching the good news of salvation from sin by God through Jesus Christ alone. I’m even willing to acknowledge non-trinitarian Christians as evangelical, so long as they’re dogmatically unitarian (not the doctrineless so-called unitarians) or non-pantheistic Incarnational modalists with a clear concern for holding to primitive Christianity for sake of accurate representation of God in the world and proper objects of worship. We may have major theistic differences in our Christologies and/or Pneumatologies, which logically prevent us from worshiping in communion per se (since our objects of worship won’t exactly line up), but we’re still monotheists calling for fidelity to God Most High through loyalty to the King Messiah of Judaism, the man Jesus of Nazareth, in historic appreciation of the struggles of Israel into whose promises we all (even Israel herself) are grafted.

Nor am I much (or usually even at all) concerned with ultra-universalism from an ethical standpoint; I don’t regard it as some kind of moral aberration which must be rejected and from which we need rescuing (so long as the ultra-universalism involves salvation from our sins).

I only disagree with ultra-universalism as a question of accuracy as to facts in God’s characteristics and relationship to His creatures; and even then I don’t typically disagree as to the characteristics and relationships presented–I just don’t think enough are being presented. :slight_smile:

Mel, quite so. :slight_smile:

This is related to an interesting thing that I’m learning in looking into different forms of universalism, a popular version of which lately seems to be varying forms of Pantelism. Pantelism is interesting because, while it is essentially an extension of Preterism, it is by definition effectively a version of Christian Universalism that is decidedly evangelical, as well as fully preterist.
This is the angle on the gospel being promoted in a book I’m currently reviewing, “The hour we least expected”, as well as Ivan A. Rogers’ “Dropping Hell and Embracing Grace:…” which I have also recently read, and plan to do a review on once I’m done with THWLE.


Thanks, I’m glad we can continue the dialogue from the break at 9-20. I agree that Jesus’ way, absorbing evil, challenges assumptions that inflicting violence is redemptive. Yet Jesus/Paul assert that God throws some into painful ‘fire’ (e.g. 2 Th 1:8f; Mt 13:48f). So (9/20) you rightly say that they might mean “negative destruction” that is bad behavior’s “natural consequences.” Yet you add, Paul did “not at all see that as positive or redemptive”! But I wonder if that could imply that God is more brutal than even your violent opponents think?

For in such an order, doesn’t God allow this built-in correlation with consequences that feel so painfully punishing? Wouldn’t insisting that there is no “postive” purpose in such pain then be perverse? In judgment, I suspect that a loving God would only permit such awful consequences as 'natural, ’ if God indeed secures some redemptive value in them. What am I missing here**?**

Grace be with you,

Whew, lots of stuff here!

Catherine, hope you enjoy the book!

DaveF, really good stuff, amen!

Let me throw out a clarification just to make sure we are speaking about the same thing. I suspect we may be talking past one another a bit:

Let’s be clear on our terms: When I speak of inflicting suffering, I am referring to things like torture or abuse. Abuse and “inconvenience” are clearly not the same thing. So if a parent tells their child that they can’t watch any more TV tonight, then that child might find that inconvenient, but they would not have cause to notify Child Protective Services and have their parents arrested for child abuse.

So if all one means by “consuming fire” is the uncomfortable experience of being confronted with love, then I guess I am in your camp too. I have no problem at all with that.

My concern is in the idea of inflicting harm and suffering for the alleged good of a person. Again, I am defining this as causing a person to feel violated and terrorized, and not simply an unpleasant experience, in other words I am talking about behavior that mental health professionals would classify as “abusive” in the strict technical sense of the term.

I’m concerned that we don’t advocate for that practice ourselves, and that we don’t imply that God does this either.

I notice that you say that you imagine God having a stern talk with people, along with healing their hearts. If that is all that is meant, then I have zero objection. I’m only speaking against the Dante-esque vision of tormented souls being prodded with molten iron pokers as a form of “purgation”.

There is of course more that could be said, but I just wanted to clarify that point to make sure we are talking about the same thing.


Yes, as I was saying to Jason above, I agree that not all punitive consequence is evil (I have also discussed this with you at length on my blog as you know).

The question is: what is the consequence for the person? If the result is that the person undergoes psychological trauma so that we would classify this today as abusive, then that is specifically what I am speaking about. That is obviously not what happens when a person gets a speeding ticket :slight_smile:

To bring this home: We are speaking of the atonement, and the question is whether the crucifixion can be considered a fulfillment of retributive justice. As I have understood it, some universalism make the case that punishment is restorative.

Now if we want to apply that to the cross, we need to look at what really happened there: Christ was brutally tortured, humiliated, and killed. That would absolutely be a traumatizing experience.

I’m suggesting that the crucifixion was not the fulfillment of punitive justice in any sense. I do think that God in a scandalous and wonderful way was able to make that cross in to the place of salvation, but not because what the Romans were doing was good or right.

I think that is where the rubber hits the road with all of this.

Let me also stress that most of the time those whom I dialog with are not universalists, but traditional evangelicals (which is my own background, and more specifically charismatic). So my apologies if I mischaracterize anyone’s position here. Please feel free to correct me when I do, and I look forward to learning from all the diverse perspective you folks have. What I most appreciate is the common focus I see on grace. I can’t say how good that is to see!

Thanks for those clarifications, Derek.
I’m about 3/4 of the way through your book, and one of the things I appreciate about it is that I could hand it to some “forward-thinking”, but non-universalist pastors and teachers, and I know some of them at least would “get it”. So I think it’s an important work partly in the sense that it could very well be a “stepping stone” book in the universalist/ non-universalist dialogue. It doesn’t appear to be overtly pro-universalism, but there are ideas in there that clearly point strongly in that direction.

Excellent points and ones I think most here agree with. I believe most here are not penal substitutionists. Again, I think our disagreement on what is the definition of “suffering” is a small one. My tendency is to agree with your point regarding our (mankinds) inability to control our anger.

I was going to raise the point that the book is truly about the atonement in relation to violence. And I for one am one in your corner. I don’t see Jesus’ death as God’s punishment (in any sense) upon Jesus. For similar reasons I’ve already stated in our disagreements, I do think there are some premises that penal substitution get right, such as “God is angry with the wicked”. That makes sense to me since love, according to Paul, is slow to anger, but it does get angry - and only because he loves us. His anger is never “violent” or “destructive” but rather is (as Talbott puts it) severe and restorative. So while I understand that PS gets some premises right, they are far too literal and draw an illogical conclusion that God is punishing an innocent man.

And let me also say what I’m exploring: The notion of the trajectory of the N.T. is a point that I believe has a lot of merit. As I’ve listened to you on the Beyond the box podcast and read your blog (and emails), I think there is a great truth to this point.

Blessings to you Derek.

Thanks Auggie, agreed!


That is an important, deep, and challenging question.

I see sin (note I say “sin” not sins") as having the natural consequence of separating people from God in two ways. (1) When people are selfish this self-orientation cuts them off from their true relational selves, and thus from love. (2) Conversely, when people suffer from sin (either because a person sins against them or because they fall victim to tragedy or illness) this can also make a person feel cut off from love. Many people report that sickness makes them feel cut off and abandoned. Those who suffer abuse often feel dehumanized…

I think we would all agree that the latter of these should not be seen as a punishment. It is not that person’s fault when they get sick or a horrible tragedy happens to them. It’s just what sometimes happens in our broken world.

What God is active in doing (as we see revealed in Jesus) is healing that alienation, both in terms (1) making sinners loving, and also (2) in mending the wounds of our souls.

So God is active in redeeming in the middle of all that. So redemption is there! We are not simply abandoned to pain. God is there in the middle of our pain and wretchedness, working to love and heal.

I see as axiomatic then Jesus says “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” That is slightly (and significantly) different than saying “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart it’s for your own good.”

Now where this gets sticky is your question of why God allows suffering at all. Before I respond, let me stress that this (along with all theology really) is something we really need to figure out together in humble dialog. So I stress that what I say here is not intended as a “final word,” but rather as a contribution to the conversation:

Here we are dealing with a question of theodicy. That is, how can a good and all powerful God allow evil or suffering? We might think that if there is suffering it is because God allows it for some greater purpose. I think that Dostoevsky give a powerful reply to this when he says that there is no prize that could be worth that price. It’s a passage that I can’t read without weeping:

I don’t know if I agree with everything he says above, but I feel his anguish, and it is simply gut wrenching. So I read it with my heart more than anything, and I have to agree that this can’t be intentional. Something is wrong with our world. I can’t believe that this is all planned out.

Yet somehow I want to trust Jesus when he says “take heart, I have overcome the world” I want to believe that even though this world is full of injustice and pain that God apparently can’t stop for whatever reason, that somehow I can still put my hope in the weakness of the crucified God that “All shall be made well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be made well.”


Now you are getting to the heart of the matter. Past all the theological categories and christian jargon into the broken, bleeding heart of the matter. A “good” all powerful God is a reason to be an atheist not a believer in such a god. That is the concept of God that causes people who care about the injustice and suffering in this world to become atheists. But a crucified God, that is a real God for a real world, the world we live in. It is the Gospel of that crucified God that the world needs to hear not that of the cosmic sovereign who has a plan, but a crucified God who has an unquenchable passion to overcome the injustice and suffering in the world at whatever cost to himself.

Most everyone here agrees that Jesus did not pay for the sins of the world, but would they not agree that he is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. “Take away” as in really take away so that they did not happen to us, so that sin and death itself is removed from the chain of causality and replaced with a new Genesis that began with the Big Bang event of Golgotha and resurrection of Jesus.

In Jesus I see a God who takes the sin, suffering and dying of the world so seriously that he who is the very source of life goes into the unholy, godless places and expends himself unreservedly into that desolation and void to fill it with his healing, transforming, life giving, presence. This is the God of non-power.

The God revealed in the non-power of the powerless Jesus hanging from a Roman cross is also the God of resurrection. The resurrection is the universe creating and transforming life of God that does what a an almighty god with a plan and retributive “justice” can never do: He can make things new, he does not just forgive our sins he can forget them so that they are never a part of the reality of his beloved creation.

The end is the beginning: The ultimate reality when God becomes all in all, or to paraphrase: when all that God is is given to all that there is. This is the true beginning of all things, the new Genesis where all things are made new and the former things have passed away and no longer define the creation. A whole new chain of causality is established. The notion that the past of the universe is not fixed but can be changed is not based on mere fanciful speculation, it was proposed by physicist John Wheeler, one of the leading physicists of the 20th century. All will be resurrected, born anew, not through evolutionary processes or genetic transmission but directly from the source of life, the Father (parent) of all creation. This is sadaq, the justice of God made real, true creative and restorative justice, not the counterfeit retributive justice that passes for justice in this world.

All of space/time, from the beginning of time to the end, is brought together into a new singularity of universal resurrection where all the laws of nature and the whole history of causality goes through the crucible of Golgotha. In this crucible all the inequitableness, pain and death experienced by the whole creation is judged (removed). The creation will be set free from the necessity of evolution; there we be neither survival of the fittest nor for that matter salvation of the fittest (being made fit for the new creation through punishment\correction). This was not accomplished by the plan of a sovereign, almighty cosmic potentate but rather through the passion of the Father and the powerless Lambkin hanging on a Roman cross. The Lamb has not paid for the sins of the world; he has taken away the sins of the world. He takes the injustices, pain and harm suffered by his creation so seriously that he, who alone is worthy and capable, takes exclusive possession of them. They will be hidden from us and only the all-bountiful life-giving and healing waters flowing from His presence among us will be seen and experienced by us — this is the new Genesis.

The world is facing an unprecedented convergence of crises that will shatter our civilization and bring suffering and death in scales never before experienced. This is not the ranting of Christian tribulationists but of hard nosed scientific thinkers such as Guy McPherson who recently wrote at his blog Nature Bats Last

Climate chaos is well under way, and has become irreversible over temporal spans relevant to humans because of positive feedbacks. Such is the nature of reaching the acceleration phase of the nonlinear system that is climate catastrophe.

As a result of ongoing, accelerating climate change, I’m letting go of the notion that Homo sapiens will inhabit this planet beyond 2030. I’m letting go of the notion that Homo sapiens will inhabit this verdant little valley at the edge of American Empire after it turns to dust within a very few years. I’m letting go of the notion that, within a few short years, there will remain any habitat for humans in the interior of any large continent in the northern hemisphere. I’m letting go of the notion we’ll retain even a fraction of one percent of the species currently on Earth beyond 2050. But I’m not letting go of the notion of resistance, which is a moral imperative.

If this sounds extremely implausible it is only because most of us are not well informed enough and paying attention to what is really happening to this living planet. Earth may well be the only living planet in the universe of 100 billion galaxies because the fine tuned parameters that allow the Earth to exist as the verdant place that it is are extremely improbable. Copernicus was only right about the insignificance of the Earth relative to its position in the solar system, the latest findings of cosmology and astronomy are that because of its unique parameters, which are many, the Earth may be the only planet that has complex life. This may go against the grain of the popular imagination fed by Star Trek but it is much closer to the real nature of the universe.

This is all well beyond the issues of Christian self-concern. Their sins, their repentance, their personal salvation… Soon, much sooner than we think, the ability to discuss these things comfortably from our computer over the internet will become impossible. Those who look for chastisement will get far more then they imagined, but it won’t be from the God revealed in Jesus but from the long suffering tormented Earth rising up against its tormentors.

If these things come to pass and we descend into a true hell on Earth, the Crucified Risen One will be there before us and the last one to leave that hell until all are healed and saved. And then all the dead and extinct will awaken into the dawn of the sunrise of God’s liberating, healing justice made real by the Crucified Risen One and all the former things will be no more, they will have never been. This is the unvarnished, unequivocal Gospel that the world desperately needs to hear in the coming hour of its greatest need.

Here’s what I see as a problem. Almost everything you state, is compatible with EU. We agree with the summation of all things under Christ. This is what makes it difficult to really hash out the differences.

I agree with Jason that Ultra-U does indeed take sin seriously. But I hope you can see so does Evangelical-U. Our disagreements are on the nature of punishment and suffering and how we should see this sovereign/non-sovereign God at work in our universe.

Speaking last night with Bob, he stated that he thinks the notion of freedom (fee will) is really looming here. I think he’s right. In fact when I raised up an objection regarding Paul’s articulation of the account regarding the Pharaoh, no one has commented on why it’s a false interpretation. I imagine there are other valid interpretations, but if you’re going to allow us to see what you see, you must be able to contrast your view with our own by explaining how you see things. If you just declare the things you do, we simply can’t wrestle with them, we need explanations.

From what I gather you seem to, at the very least, embrace imputed righteousness. Christ died for all and therefore everyone is saved. Perhaps I’m wrong about that.

So while I agree with Derek regarding God not punishing an innocent man, I don’t agree that God does not punish the wicked. It seems from both my experience in life and in scripture, that is exactly what happens – there is suffering for those who practice evil and it doesn’t stop in this age. That is based on my interpretation of a plethora of verses. Yes I know my interpretation may be wrong (probably is) and Derek may have some great insight into that. But we have to be able to compare and contrast our ideas. The worst thing you can do in defending your position is to either ignore it or dismiss the charges by stating that the writers were wrong – Paul didn’t know what he was talking about regarding the Pharaoh. It seems to me that the one who really promoted the grace of God also had ideas that God indeed was causing people to “fall asleep” because of their lack of care for the poor. This Paul endorsed that it was God who hardened not only the Pharaoh, but also Israel that mercy might come to the gentiles. How do you understand these things?

Can you give some examples of what you mean when you say: “It seems from… my experience in life… that is exactly what happens – there is suffering for those who practice evil”

My observation (and that of the Psalmists) is that this is actually not the case. So I’m not sure what experiences you are referring to.

Except that I was talking about uncomforts and inconveniences that might be intense, too, even intense to the extent of being (in one or more senses) fatal. And whatever we decide to do with it, the textual fact of the matter is that Jesus Himself by report used a term for “torturer” when describing someone being handed over into prison until he should pay up the final cent.

I fully acknowledge and insist that we’ve dangerously misread the point of that (and several other related) judgment parable, if we try to make the punishment hopeless (such as by regarding the get-out condition as being an impossible sop to legality mocking the fate of the prisoner), or if we try to make the punishment about being an embezzler instead of being about being unmerciful and insisting on punishment for someone else. (“Was it not required of you to be merciful?!”) The point is lost if there is not really any threat of punishment to those who are unmerciful, though.

Is it the intensity of a condition that constitutes “violation” and “abuse”, or is the goal of the infliction of the condition? A child could easily regard being required (or outright made) to stand in a corner or to go to his room, as being an “abuse” or “violation”; there are adults who claim such a thing, too, for all practical purposes! What about light spankings?

If the child likes or doesn’t mind the punishment (YAY, I GET TO GO TO MY ROOM AND PLAY!–my own attitude as a child when told I had to go to my room :mrgreen: --what bothered me was that my Mom or Dad was unhappy with me), then what has been accomplished by inflicting the condition at all? And it is still technically an “infliction” and a “coercion”. So would be the “uncomfortable experience of being confronted with love” (aside from whatever the particular psycho-physical conscious sensastions of that experience would be).

What you proposed was “that Hell is not ‘redemptive’ and neither is any other kind of pain or suffering.” If by “redemptive” you meant that so much pain somehow weighs or pays out against so much injustice, then I agree; but that kind of thing isn’t what redemption usually involves anyway. What redemption does usually involve is repentance for injustice, insofar as we’re talking about moral redemption and the immoral person’s cooperation with it. But the redemption itself is inflicted on us by God whether we want it or not, too. Without God inflicting something on us we don’t at the moment want, we wouldn’t be healed enough to want to repent or even to have the capability of doing so.

I am not sure what the strict technical sense of “abusive” is, but I do know that the strict technical sense of “suffering” and “inflicting” involves God acting to bring about (or authoritatively permit) and maintain (for any duration) any experience we are compelled to react to whether we want to react to it or not. Even if we want to react to it, that infliction could be abusive: that’s why it’s still morally wrong to aggressively seduce someone sexually until he or she can’t help but respond to the pleasure in a particular way, or to use drugs to render someone pliable to suggestion in various circumstances. But the moral issue of abuse has to do with the selfishness and the goals of the person inflicting the suffering. As the old maxim says, abuse does not abrogate the use: we cause suffering (strictly speaking in a technical sense) when we please each other in making love (and very intensely, too, if we’re doing it right!), and we use drugs with psychosomatic effects in therapy to help heal a person or protect them from pain during a procedure. But the relevant moral differences involved are not reducible to pain or pleasure or the intensities of either. A drill sergeant trying to prepare soldiers for rigors of even non-combatant duty during a time of involuntary war (when circumstances dictate there isn’t a choice about resisting the opponents in some dangerous fashion), may have to inflict some rather intense suffering but he (or she!) is intending to help the other person. A broken leg may have to be set or even rebroken and then reset without aenesthesia.

"]"I didn’t want to face the possibility that perhaps the self that I was protecting was pestilent, deformed and malnourished from trying to feed upon myself in my pride.

"Sometimes a bone that has been broken, by foolishness or by fate, heals wrongly, crippling the shape and the function, destroying the joy that could be had, that still could be had again… if only the bone can be rebroken, and properly set to heal.

"But, it hurts to break a bone. And it hurts, beyond comprehension, beyond the bearing of consciousness, to break a bone that has badly been set, swollen with infection… infection that sooner or later will spread to corrupt and destroy.

"It hurts so badly sometimes to heal, that only trust will allow the healing to start.

“And no broken bone can be rightly rebroken and set, without some co-operation, some willingness to face the pain, some willingness to find someone to trust, some willingness to take such a risk.

“How much harder it is to heal, when one’s self is what has been broken… by foolishness or by fate…”

I think the danger in inflicting intense inconveniences in order to try to lead people to repentance is that, due to very real practical concerns, we often can’t ensure (against our own selfishnesses, and in favor of witnessing to our intentions) that we share the experience with the one who is being inconvenienced. The rabbinic tradition of YHWH going into exile with Israel, sharing her suffering, is a type of this: it helped Jews remember God’s actual intentions and goals in inflicting the exile upon them. It’s hard for a child being spanked to believe that it really does hurt the parent more than it hurts the child (and of course there are examples where this is not true, even though stated, or even when the punishment shouldn’t be done although it really does hurt the parent more).

But the child often grows up to learn that his mother and father were telling the truth: it really does hurt the parent more in sympathizing and grieving with the child, because the parent loves the child that much.

It’ll take me a while to catch up on later comments in this thread. Hopefully tonight!

I have to agree that there is a significant distinction between causing pain (and/ or suffering) for it’s own sake vs. the principle of harming to heal. I must also admit that I see the principle of “harming to heal” at work both in life and in scripture. The big question is; what do we do with that when it comes to understanding how God operates?


You were gracious and clear! I’ve long thought the problem of evil is “THE” objection to theism. So I like most of what you say, especially that the mystery of suffering is what’s “sticky” here, BUT you (and Dostoesky) say that “God allows suffering for some purpose” is agonizingly ***un***believable. I respect that you genuinely feel that way.

But three problems with asserting God does Not “allow” our very existence’s nature, andcan’t stop pain” remain:

  1. This doesn’t at all exegetically address the claims that the Bible assumes the contrary.
  2. Classically, it’s theologically contradictory (unless God is finite - process theism).
  3. If God can’t stop evil, any confidence that “all shall be made well” seems completely irrational.

I’d much appreciate any further clarification on these three difficulties.