Debates between Christians and atheists over the subject of suffering and evil are plentiful. Having listened to a good number of them myself, I cannot say how many times I’ve come away from the dialogue wishing the Christian would be more, well, yes, Christian. In other words, the tendency among apologists is to lose sight of the Lordship of Christ. It’s as though the Christian forgets this simple fact: If Christianity is true, then the details are true. And if the details are true, then glossing over those details will weaken the case. Isn’t that right? If a worldview is a coherent whole, then leaving out crucial elements will make the other points appear incoherent or inconsistent. It will provide the opponent a point of leverage, a place to stand whereby he can raise a finger and say, “Um, yeah, but…” Now granted, the opponent, in the face of the details rightly presented, may still think the position is absurd, but that’s alright. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:21). We will be laughed at. So don’t water it down.
Now when it comes to suffering and evil, most apologists fall into this trap by banking too heavily on the notion of free will. “God created His creatures free. He isn’t going to coerce them to love Him. So in order for there to be true freedom, a person must be able to choose equally between good and evil, obedience and treason, trust and distrust.”
The problem, of course, is that God cannot sin. He is perfectly holy. So does it thereby follow that God isn’t free? Is His love any less pure? Of course not! That’s crazy. We need to adjust our categories to better reflect what the Scriptures teach, not vice versa.
So what does this have to do with the debate mentioned in the title? Well, it might have something to do with this… it may not. Here’s why. I remember listening to this about four years ago and thoroughly enjoying it. I can remember thinking that the Christian had life experience that absolutely trumped the humanist (because he worked in the caste system of India for some time). I remember thinking that the humanist didn’t have a solid foundation at all. But… I also have this flicker of a memory, a memory of me walking along West Broadway, on a side street, rolling my eyes at something Dr. Vinoth Ramachandra said. For the life of me, I can’t remember what it was about (so maybe this is totally unfair to say this). But don’t misunderstand me. I really liked Vinoth Ramachandra in this debate. I’m just recounting my impression. Nevertheless, of all the debates out there about suffering, this one rises to the top of the pile.
Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced.
Must Listen Factor: Everyone should wrestle with the problem of suffering. Everyone. And this would be a great springboard for doing that very thing. Scavengers will gobble this up. As for the rest, it is a bit long. And it does require close listening. So if there are distractions about you, hold off.
P.S. The link is to the Veritas Forum. You have to register to download the audio. It only takes 30 seconds. Download Audio, People Suffer- Who Cares? See Picture.