If God is great, he must have the power to remove suffering. If God is good, he must want to remove suffering. Therefore; suffering must not exist. But it does, so rather God must not exist or at least one of the other statements about his greatness or goodness must be false.
This is at the heart of most people’s drift to atheism and agnosticism. When we first start to reason, at about the age of seven, the contradictions in the concept of an all powerful and wholly good entity functioning in this way become glaringly obvious. The church, indeed all churches, temples and mosques across the spectrum of faith traditions have done a poor job of arguing with this point. How can an infinitely powerful and infinitely loving deity allow any kind of suffering to enter the world without proving that he is neither?
Honesty... I don’t know. But what I suspect is that the whole debate is somewhat of a red herring.
First off the statement assumes that God and the forces of good are the lone spiritual agents in the universe. If this (and by this I mean our current, 3 dimensional, finite universe) is not all there is and if the forces of good are in a constant and ongoing battle with equally determined forces of evil then the whole question of what God wants to do get’s turned on its head. Indeed the fact that Jesus taught us to pray “your will be done,” [matthew 6:10] presupposes that it isn’t always that way. When you consider that this world is a battle field of competing wills, the idea of a good God wanting but somehow being prevented from removing suffering takes shape.
With this in mind God’s greatness is then called into question. If God can’t remove suffering then his power is somehow limited right?
Right; but not in the way you might think.
Omniscience is the capacity to know all that can be known. In most faith traditions God is considered omniscient but what most people miss here is the subtle limitation, did you catch it? I’ll show it to you again;
Omniscience is the capacity to know all that can be known.
A few weeks ago I talked about the difference between Arminianism and Calvinism; let’s take that one step further into a school of theology known as Open Theism. Open Theism is the assertion that the future, all of the choices that free will agents will make for the rest of eternity is open and therefore unknowable, even to God. God in his omniscience sees things more clearly because he sees all the individual actors at once but in giving us free will he removed his ability to know for certain the choices we would make.
People make bad choices; they ignore or misinterpret God’s will and are open to suggestion by the forces of evil. As a result bad things tend to happen. Does that make God any less good or any less great? I don’t think so. What it does is puts the responsibility back in us to make better choices, learn from our mistakes, fix our own mess and stay tuned in to Him. He helps us where he can but ultimately we need to take responsibility for the state of the world that our choice has created.
I don’t have children but that sounds like a pretty loving father to me.