God is Cruel
2. God has no needs
3. God is the cause primary cause of everything that has ever happened
4. God did not need to cause suffering
5. God caused unnecessary suffering
6. Therefore, God is cruel
It does not matter if some good can come through suffering. It is still unnecessary and therefore cruel. There may not be other ways to bring about this good. The suffering is still not necessary. Also, even if some good can come through a terrible diseases, hunger, rape and murder, it is not worth it. If a mother says that she let a rabid dog maul her child in order to make the child a stronger person, she is deemed insane. God should be held to the same or higher standards since God is supposedly more loving than mothers.
Hello. I am new on this site and this will be my first debate here. :)
Thank you for providing this topic for debate. The 6 simple statements you outline should make for interesting discussion. I will consider your 6 statements by reference to the Bible, which I personally believe to be a reliable eyewitness record of true history.
Has God caused suffering?
May I start by acknowledging that the biblical description of God points to God as having brought terrible suffering and death (which we may say is a form of suffering) upon many, throughout history.
The following list, which indicates times when God killed people, was once presented to me by an atheist:
"It always amazes me how many times this God orders the killing of innocent people even after the Ten Commandments said “Thou shall not kill”. For example, God kills 70,000 innocent people because David ordered a census of the people (1 Chronicles 21). God also orders the destruction of 60 cities so that the Israelites can live there. He orders the killing of all the men, women, and children of each city, and the looting of all of value (Deuteronomy 3). He orders another attack and the killing of “all the living creatures of the city: men and women, young, and old, as well as oxen sheep, and asses” (Joshua 6). In Judges 21, He orders the murder of all the people of Jabesh-gilead, except for the virgin girls who were taken to be forcibly raped and married. When they wanted more virgins, God told them to hide alongside the road and when they saw a girl they liked, kidnap her and forcibly rape her and make her your wife! Just about every other page in the Old Testament has God killing somebody! In 2 Kings 10:18-27, God orders the murder of all the worshipers of a different god in their very own church! In total God kills 371,186 people directly and orders another 1,862,265 people murdered." (I note that this quote is actually from the website evilbible.com)
Seems pretty heavy-handed, right? How could this be a God of love?!?
Furthermore, let us not forget the account where God destroyed the entire planet with a global flood, while Noah and the animals aboard the Ark were allowed to survive. Some estimates of the number of people killed in this flood, are in the billions.
Was/is suffering unnecessary?
To answer this question we should firstly look at why any suffering or death exists in the first place.
From the Biblical account, consider the following:
So, we can see that the word of God himself warned about death, and He declared it when our ancestors rebelled. God cannot lie. Here is the curse of suffering and death in Genesis 3:
"Then he said to the woman,“I will sharpen the pain of your pregnancy,
and in pain you will give birth.
And you will desire to control your husband,
but he will rule over you.[c]”
17And to the man he said,
“Since you listened to your wife and ate from the tree
whose fruit I commanded you not to eat,
the ground is cursed because of you.
All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.
18It will grow thorns and thistles for you,
though you will eat of its grains.
19By the sweat of your brow
will you have food to eat
until you return to the ground
from which you were made.
For you were made from dust,
and to dust you will return.”
And this is confirmed in the New Testament. Romans 5:12-21 tells us:
Adam and Christ Contrasted
12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.
20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Accordingly, if we apply this to your 6 statements:
In a following round I can address the question: Is God causing suffering and death today?
I am glad that you agree with the statement that God causes suffering.
You say that the statement that "God has no needs" is "questionable". If this statement is not categorically true, I am not sure that we are talking about God any more. God is supposed to be All-Powerful. An All-Powerful being should be self-sufficient and have no needs. If God has needs, God cannot be All-Powerful.
Perhaps you missed my point. Even though it may be necessary for God to cause suffering in order to achieve certain ends, God did not need to create anything in the first place. This is because an All-Powerful being should be Self-Sufficient.
Is God all-powerful?
Let's examine this. Of course, we think of God as being the Sovereign Lord of all heaven and earth, able to do infinitely more than we could ask or imagine, through his mighty power (see Ephesians 3:20).
But does the Bible ever explain if there is things that God doesn't do? Perhaps there may be an exception or limit to what God can do? Numbers 23:9 gives us the following clarification...
"God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?"
This confirms what I stated earlier, that "God cannot lie".
This also supports my main argument in round 1, that suffering and death exist because God himself warned it would happen. So when man disobeyed, then God himself declared it, true to his word.
That our flesh and blood return to the dust (Genesis 3:19), is of course completely what we observe happening today. Interestingly, "dust" may also be thought of as atoms.
So any form or suffering or death, whether caused by God or man or something else, is logical and necessary because it is a fulfilment of God's warning and word.
Although it is reasonable to say that God is all-powerful, we can also say that God's power is limited in that He cannot break His own word. Not even God Himself is exempt from His own word. The curse of returning to the dust (i.e. death of our physical body) applied even to Jesus, whose death by crucifixion was a public spectacle.
Does God have needs?
I initially only lightly touched on this topic by saying that God may have needs, but as you have raised this issue I will consider it in more depth for you...
Based upon the above, we could say that God has a need to always remain faithful to His word and His character, as He does not change.
And this also supports what I suggested previously: that because God is love (1 John 4:8), God therefore needs someone other than Himself, toward whom this love can be expressed.
Furthermore, as we are made in God's image (Genesis 1:26), and we know that we experience needs, wants and desires, these may be a reflection of God's needs. Jesus, whom we believe to be God incarnate (see John 1:14), certainly experienced emotions and needs not unlike ours.
So did God need to create anything in the first place?
Consider it this way:
Let's now assume that God is not self-sufficient. Admittedly, this destroys my original argument because it is dependent on God being self-sufficient and having absolutely no needs.
However, your admission that God has needs, and needed to create humankind raises many other problems, and still does not prove that he is not cruel. In fact, it makes him seem more cruel.
Suppose you wanted to show your children that you loved them, but in order to do that you had to make them suffer. This would make you a very selfish and cruel person because you made sentient beings suffer just so that your needs could be fulfilled.
You are basically admitting that God caused women to be raped, children to die from diseases and hunger, and wiped out entire nations through floods, earthquakes and other calamities, just so he could fulfil his need for love. This is an undeniably cruel thing to do in my humble opinion.
Furthermore, a deity that cannot even prevent and protect its own creation from any kind of suffering because his needs will not be fulfilled is not even close to all-powerful and this exposes flaws and contradictions in the biblical description of god.
I dare say such a feeble and needy god - a god who had to create such a terrible, sorrow and pain-filled world to fulfil his needs - is not worthy of love and worship. This is because he is not just put us through pain for our benefit, but primarily to fulfil his own selfish needs.
You would never love a person who caused you to be raped and get diagnosed with cancer just because he needed things from you. You would consider such a person, selfish, apathetic and cruel. It does not make sense to excuse God for his acts, but not another human being.
Why is there death and suffering?
Let’s again review the simple Biblical explanation for why suffering exists in the first place:
You asserted that God has a need for us to suffer, that God "had to create such a terrible, sorrow and pain-filled world to fulfil his needs". But that is certainly not the case.
Rather, it is clear that suffering exists only because man sinned. God did not need for Adam and Eve to suffer. However, God did need to cause suffering after they sinned.
Sin causes separation between man and God, and "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). It is logical to say that to be separated from love and life, means suffering and death. On earth we get glimpses of love, life, suffering and death. But the true extent of these four experiences exists in eternity, which I will explain in more detail later.
So with respect to your original statement #4, I maintain that this statement is false. However, this does NOT mean that one of God's needs is for us to suffer. Compare the difference:
Of these two statements above, my argument is that the first is true ever since Adam sinned, and the second is categorically false. This does not support any of your depictions of a cruel God. The depictions in your round-three argument are not of the God in the Bible.
If God did need to make us as an outlet for the expression of His love, that doesn't mean He needs anything from us. His love is already freely expressed to us regardless of whether we accept it or reject it. God's perfect love (which is not self-seeking and does not demand its own way), gives us complete freedom to choose one way or the other.
Can't God stop the death and suffering?
You have suggested that God is "a deity that cannot even prevent and protect its own creation from any kind of suffering".
So why doesn't God stop evil? In response to this question I would ask: How much evil do you want God to stop? What would happen if God started to stop evil? Do you think you would survive? Is your record perfect?
In reality, to stop evil would be to stop free-will.
In any case, does God merely stand by watching, letting all the evil and suffering continue? No, God by his grace has made a way to "wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4)
And the way made by God does not contradict the curse in Genesis 3, for God does not lie. Here's how...
Jesus, God incarnate, bled and died on a cross
The Word was God, and the Word became flesh. (see John 1) God incarnate, in the flesh, is Jesus of Nazareth.
God did not merely stand by idly while his beloved people suffered. On the contrary, God Himself chose to leave His heavenly throne and endure the extremes of human suffering and death.
Jesus endured rejection from His closest friends, then execution at the hands of men. On Good Friday, we executed God!
"There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (John 15:13)
I trust you are familiar with the message of the cross and the gospel (literally, the "good news"). Essentially, Jesus is the perfect sacrificial Lamb who was slain to take away our imperfection, which separates us from God's perfection. As Jesus had no sin or imperfection worthy of death, He rose from the dead.
And we are totally free to receive or reject the gift of Jesus sacrifice, which gives us everlasting life and love. It is up to us. It is up to you.
The physical death and suffering which remain in this temporary world pale into insignificance compared to what awaits in eternity. Our life in this world is fleeting. In the end this world will be replaced by a new heavens and a new earth.
Consider suffering from an eternal perspective
If you could step outside of time to view your life on earth as a small dot on the infinite timescale of all history plus eternity, you can see that it has a beginning and an end. From this eternal perspective, you are dead already.
So as we are all destined to die, what difference does it make if God should choose to put an end to someone's life and move their spirit into eternity earlier than if He had not interfered? Whether you live for one decade or ten, or suffer a little or a lot, that is meaningless compared to eternity. It is like comparing one to infinity.
The wisest and wealthiest man in history affirmed the meaninglessness:
"what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless." (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23)
So why should we allow the comparatively meaningless suffering in this world to distract us from the eternal picture?
The apostle Paul, in Philippians 1:21-23, suggested it is far better to die now and be with Christ. Paul then went on to say:
"Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. (Philippians 1:28-29)
Yes, those who suffer for Christ do not suffer in vain, but for the glory of God! They are indeed blessed! It is certainly a privilege when your suffering adds your to eternal blessing! (see Matthew 5:10-12)
But how sad that so many should continue to suffer in vain and hopelessness, without receiving the free solution to the problem...
The problem: suffering in an existence separated from God
As noted above, it is logical to say that separation from love and life (of which God is the true love and eternal life), means suffering and death. And this ultimately describes Hell: the absence of God, love, life and hope. We already suffer on earth, yet suffering is greatest in Hell.
In Hell, people who were on earth just like you and I, are stuck in eternal suffering and torment. It is an eternal state of death and destruction, and the human spirit, made in the image of God's eternal spirit, cannot be extinguished. Those who do not receive God's free gift of forgiveness and life, will be in this place of separation from God, the place of utter despair.
"‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’" (Mark 9:44)
This is real, and below I have linked to the personal testimony of a lady who has toured Hell.
Jesus: the only solution to end death and suffering, if we accept
"For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. " (Romans 5:15)
Avoid the greatest suffering, no one needs to endure Hell
Now here is our opportunity. Who will receive, and who will reject the free gift of everlasting life which was bought for us by the death and suffering of God's only begotten Son?
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him..." (Revelation 3:20)
I hope the above explanations will help some people. These resources may also help: