Suffering: if God exists, why doesn't he stop it?

Suffering: if God exists, why doesn't he stop it?

Don't blame legendary Adam (or Dawkins)! Suffering is unavoidable in God's best possible, free world, where evolution's gains outweigh losses.


If God exists, does he care about his evolving, suffering world? Most answers are unsatisfactory. Morris's book is different: short but not superficial, strong in its science and philosophy, and realistic as a carer of a handicapped teenage grandson, still unable to walk and talk.
Like Stephen Hawking and Einstein, John Morris also tries to explore the mind of God. Violence began with the Big Bang, long before legendary Adam's sin. Morris believes God is typically non-interventionist but constantly interactive, operating creatively within his own physical laws, that allow freedom to particles and people, resulting in innovations and mutations, not always beneficial. Compared with other religions, Christ's cross and resurrection give more historic hope in a God who suffers alongside us, to create good, responsible persons. Here is a 100-minute read, of interest to believers and atheists alike. Its brave conclusion gives reasonable grounds for thinking we live in a loving God's best possible world, despite unavoidable suffering and natural disasters.


In this short, succinct and accessible account endorsed by many public figures including Martin Rees, John Morris tackles head-on the issues raised by theodicy - God and the problem of evil and suffering. He himself has a profoundly handicapped grandson, so speaks from personal experience. There was much public debate on the subject following the 2004 tsunami - in a similar vein to the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The classic statement of the problem is that an omnipotent and omniscient God cannot also be good because he lets suffering continue - so he is either lacking in goodness or power or both. The God envisaged by the author is both personal and loving but one who has restricted his/ her power in order to guarantee creativity and freedom. He/ she is, as Whitehead suggests, involved in the evolutionary process with a moral purpose to multiply goodness and bring growth out of agonising situations - suffering is then part of the package where virtue can be chosen for its own sake. In comparing the philosophies of other religions, Morris feels that the Christian suffering God is a real advantage. Many readers will be familiar with these arguments but the lucid exposition encourages them to revisit and perhaps rethink them. There can be no definitive answer, but as humans we should feel obliged to engage with the challenge. ~ David Lorimer, Paradigm Explorer

THE implicit answer to the question in the title of this short, lively, and accessible book is: “Because human suffering is an inevitable part of an evolving world that has the capacity to produce human free-will and moral virtue.” To get there, Dr Morris taps into those scientists, ranging from quantum physicists to cosmologists, who argue that evolution involves a tension between order and chaos to produce mutations that are fruitful for humankind (alongside, inevit¬ably, other mutations that are not). Earthquakes and tsunamis, for example, are essential to earth-crust formation even though on occasions they can devastate city populations. A God who intervened constantly in this essential process would finally not be a loving God. There is nothing especially new about this “resolution” of the problem of unwarranted suffering, but it is expressed in pithy ways by this Anglican priest and former teacher and tempered by his having a much loved but very severely incapacitated grandchild. This, for example, is how he ridicules the notion of an overly interventionist God (as religious fundamentalists and dogmatic atheists alike require): “Were he to do everything for us and rescue us from each impending disaster, we would have smaller brains and remain immature children. There is no way round it: a loving parent-Father has to restrain himself and let his ‘baby’ of virtue climb onto its own two wobbly feet!” This will make an excellent, thought-provoking book for a study-group. But it misses some points. Tom McLeish’s wonderful Faith and Wisdom in Science (OUP, 2014) would have helped to bolster his arguments about order and chaos in both science and the Bible. He could have explored the more novel idea that dogmatic atheists tend to make unscientific claims about the problem of unwarranted suffering. And his biblical exegesis is sometimes uncritical. Yet the 20 famous people (no fewer) that he has persuaded to endorse his book are basically right: this is a good read. ~ Robin Gill, Editor of Theology for Church Times

What makes this book work for non-believers like me is Morris’s intelligent approach to the questions we have. He may not have converted me, but he entertains and stimulates. So let’s call it a score-draw! ~ John Humphrys, BBC, 'Today', 'Mastermind'

‘‘A must read!” ~ Archbishop of York

One wishes that all theologians would write as clearly and succinctly as John Morris - his analysis of the 'problem of evil' will enlighten believers and unbelievers alike. ~ Lord (Martin) Rees, OM, Kt, FRS, Astronomer Royal

Having lost our 7-year-old son to cancer in 1967, after 3 years of suffering, we are especially interested in what is helpful to those facing sleepless nights. There are not many books that are. But this well done book is, so I can recommend it without reservation. ~ Rt Revd Charles L.Longest, DD, former Bishop Suffragan of Maryland

Rooted in modern science, philosophy and Christian theology, here is the best short answer to the problem of suffering I have ever met. It is forged in the furnace of family suffering and yet resolutely believes in God’s ultimate good purpose. It is a great achievement to have produced something so thoughtful and yet so succinct. ~ Canon Dr Michael Green, theologian, university speaker worldwide, prolific author

John Morris
John Morris John Morris, M.A.(Corpus, Cambridge), PGCE (London), M.Ed (East Africa), and PhD (Exeter), born in 1937, was a teacher, teacher-trainer and ...
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