Saturday, May 30, 2020

Alpha questions in the Guardian

In a couple of old Guardian articles (the newspaper, the leftist rag from the UK) from 2000, Jon Ronson reports his participation in an Alpha course at Holy Trinity Brompton, the founder of Alpha, Nicki Gumbel's parish.

In the group time, Gumbel invites questions.

Ronson mentions "If there's a God, why is there so much suffering?" and reports Gumbel's pamphlet in reply: Why Does God Allow Suffering? (answer: nobody really knows)

So much to say about this.

First, the question: to the average non-church-goer "Do you believe there is suffering?" ..."Do you think that suffering is wrong?"..."Do you think that suffering brings any benefits?"

These are just 'dimensioning' questions. If the person is even a vague theist, they will have a conception of God which is in some contrast to their idea of a world that includes suffering; even if they are an atheist and ask as a challenge to the integrity of the Christian world-view, they will pre-suppose a definition of God to make the challenge.

Most such definitions will define the 'god' of moralistic therapeutic deism and will leave out the Biblical information about God: he is holy, eternal, and holds out to us who he made in his 'image', the blessing of eternal life with him.

Why is there so much suffering? We live in a world of God-rejection. We reject God and seek to cut ourselves off from his life-giving love. God is only interested in a relationship that meets him and he has acted to open that to us who are in 'anti-god'. Outside that relationship, we live the experience of 'anti-god'. If we didn't there would be no indication that eternity without God awaits we who persist in lauding our anti-god lives and their idolatrous obsessions. Suffering is the foretaste of the eternal meaning of rejecting God and a reminder to us of our frailty and need for God.

And 'suffering'? The apostle Paul tells us that by comparison, we have before us an 'eternal weight of glory' the content of which has not even entered our minds.

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