Man in the Void
(We are on a journey to show how/why a Christian God allows suffering in the world)
We left off with deciding that the best way to approach the combination of suffering, Free Will, and God, is by getting rid of all of the variables of the world, which leads us to man placed in a void. At this point, we are limited by the things we can control, which, in the case of a void, is just ourselves. And that, interestingly, is quite meaningful, because then that gift Free Will puts nothing else but our lives in our hands.
Although we are in a void, the reasoning that follows is going to be a bit in depth, so I will do my best to break it up manageably.
A. Life or Death Choice
We are with man, and God, in a void, leaving the only variable remaining to be life/death. This is especially clear in a void, since we’ve removed all of the pesky details that get in the way of noticing that life or death decision we all make. Although we do not have control over whether we are born, we do have control over whether we die. Taking that further, we have the ability to choose to take our own lives in our own hands and kill ourselves. Before getting into intense counterexamples involving total paralysis or vegetable state or that the void lacks any oxygen, I want to note that the ability to choose death doesn’t mean that we necessarily succeed in achieving it. Rather, I mean to show that, beyond anything else, we know that humans have the ability to choose whether to live or die. We can intend to take our lives in our own hands, we are given that choice, it is necessary because we have Free Will.
Sidenote: I’m assuming that death is suffering according to my very vague definition (from Section I) “experiencing bad things”. If you disagree with that purposefully very very very general statement, then we should talk about it, but in a completely separate discussion. If not, let’s move on.
Objection 1: Vegetable State
There are a couple of replies to the statement I just made about taking our own lives, of course. The one that is most obvious to me is that of the specific counterexamples, for example, someone who is totally paralyzed, head to toe; and, though he may want to end his life, has no way of even communicating that desire. You could get pretty creative with examples of how people could be shackled and tied with no means of possibly taking their own lives. There is a problem with this nitpicking, however, which is what makes this counter rather annoying. The problem is that you’re adding details to an abstract example, one that specifically calls for a void without complications.
This could mean two things. One is that, when you think of an average human example, you think of that totally paralyzed, unable to make any external conscious choice person. If so, then you’re really asking a question about Free Will and less of what we’re talking about (the question becomes whether that person can make any choice whatsoever, since we already said that life is the only controllable variable in this void situation). That is a deeper, more complex, question, and it is honestly a dangerous one for a non-Christian to ask. For Christians, the reply is pretty simple: this person has a soul unbounded by physical forces, which can still make choices, and therefore has the option of choosing life (eternal) or lack thereof (also eternal). You may say that’s cheating, but that would indicate you’re not upset about the discussion of the Christian view of the human condition, and more upset about the cop-out answer.
This leads to a second reply, that is, you thought of the exception to add complications to the general rule. And this means you added details, extra stuff that isn’t necessarily human. So my reply is to “cheat” as well, and add extra details (we’ll ignore the morality of my seemingly un-Christian response of cheating to address another time). I say, “OK, say that we are observing his thoughts then, and we know that he wants to end his life, but cannot. This would be a lack of accomplishment of what one wants to do, which, as we all know as humans, hurts. I would say that inability to do what one wants is bad. Actually, I would say that it’s suffering.” Replying, “How could God allow such a situation??” is missing the point, because the original intent of the example is to show how Free Will and suffering are connected, and, in this case, it would show that suffering can come from lack of an action rather than an action (this actually simplifies what I will go into later, considering the effects of taking life as suffering).
Replying, “Well, he can’t think too!” gets back into the more complex question of Free Will and of what is human (and if you’re thinking of that situation for this example, you should probably consider and have a good answer for what makes that person human from a perspective without the Christian God). My quick answer to that is that every human will have some version of this choice, either on a rational or a spiritual level. Debating this point is getting more into the idea of Free Will, and getting away from our discussion, so I will move forward.
Objection 2: Why Not Get Rid of Death?
Another, entirely different reply (but also, in an indirect way, related to what we just mentioned), is contesting the ability to control death. Why not get rid of the death option entirely? After all, it is just God and human in this void we made, why not get rid of the option that causes the bad altogether? This is a perfectly valid, and interesting counterpoint, and it really requires an answer from a Christian. A Christian cannot just say, “That’s just the way things are, period” because that’s a circular argument, where assuming God also assumes the world, and you can’t have it both ways. So let’s answer it.
I’m going to make a rather safe (in my opinion) assumption in that getting rid of death in this case also means getting rid of pain altogether for humans. Pain, in many ways, is a small death. More importantly, pain, by itself (and remember we are in a void), is usually considered to be bad. So if we want to get rid of any possibility of suffering, we should also get rid of pain. I think this assumption is safe because one of the reasons (though not the only one) we usually think of death as bad is by the pain that is almost inevitably associated with it. In the end, we could go on to the point where we’re really asking God to remove suffering altogether. Note that this also addresses the situation of a paraplegic, or someone that cannot take their own lives, because we are removing any inhibitions on the choice of life or death–actually, we’re removing the choice altogether. We continue by asking the same question that we began with, but in a different way. This question is directed to something more than what we intended by it before, namely, “Why did God create the world at all?” Really, we are asking, “Why did God create humans?”
This may seem like a far jump to make, but I’d say that it isn’t at all when talking about Christianity. The fascinating result of this cutting away of mortality and pain and discomfort is a being that does not feel any physical pain, nor does it die, while retaining intellect beyond other creatures. As an extension of what we are already cutting away at, I will get rid of the limits of time and space, and add a lot more intelligence, since we do have God behind this, after all, we might as well make it really awesome and cool. And…. Viola! We have angels and demons!
B. The Last Variable
So the answer to the second counterargument very well may be that God did get rid of our limits and mortality, He just gave them different names. But He kept that Free Will, allowing the angelic beings a choice. I say a choice, and I really could say the choice, because we only have one variable left: God, or no God. And we can evaluate the results of this choice because, with Christianity, we have the records. And the records show that the choice, even for an immortal being outside time and space, can lead to bad. Not surprisingly, the bad choice is “not God”, which, appropriately, is “not Truth.” Demons, thus, by choosing not God, are living a lie, disobedience, and that leads to suffering. Now you could object to using Christian mumbo-jumbo to evaluate this suffering, except that we have already assumed a Christian God. And that roundabout dialogue would be where we’d have to stop for our proof. Thankfully, our purpose is not to prove God, or angels and demons for that matter, but that suffering is compatible with God. It is enough then for us to go with the assumption of a Christian God, and the beliefs that are included with it.
Objection 1: Prohibiting Bad Choices
Within the context of our assumptions, the alternative objection is the same one we raised earlier with the human condition, “Why doesn’t God remove suffering?” Here, if we think of it within our human void without the variable of death (and I can see no other way of thinking about it), there’s only one choice to remove, which is the choice of God. Obviously, getting rid of God is not an option (based on our assumptions). That leaves removing the choice, “not God,” and there’s only two ways of doing that. One is by removing Free Will, and we’ve already discussed how that is another argument altogether. For angelic beings, removing Free Will is even less appealing, since that’s just God making robots, which is not only unlike God, but also pretty darn boring.
Objection 2: Removing Bad Choices
And that leaves number two, which is that these beings would be totally self-sufficient and capable without God. That means the choice of “not God” would not be a bad choice for us. Which is claiming that “God” isn’t a good/better choice for us, and that not choosing such wouldn’t lead to consequences. And, the only way for us, in a monotheistic sense, to do that is to be…. Well, God.