The Problem of Suffering
Background
by Paul Hazelden


The Problem of Suffering:
Index   |   Overview   |   Background   |   Questions
Responding to Suffering   |   Apologetics and Suffering   |   Responding to the Challenge

Introduction

The problem of suffering is one which has been addressed in great detail by many people over the years. You can approach the subject from the perspective of theology, of pastoral care, or of apologetics, but it seems to me that any adequate response must cover all three of these areas.

In my own reading, it appears that most authors wish to provide a definitive answer to or response to the problem. Whatever the answer being offered, the one constant feature is the belief that this answer will do all that is required: understand what I am saying, and you will be able to deal with the pastoral, apologetic and theological challenges which come your way in this area.

Variety

While each of the individual ideas in these books may be good and helpful, I do not see how one approach can possibly deliver what is promised. Instead of aiming to produce the one definitive response to the problem of suffering, a more useful approach could be to identify a wide range of responses.

After all...

The Task

Does this mean that our task has to move away from assessing, testing and evaluating the different approaches to simply collecting them? I do not think this is the case, for two reasons.

Firstly, the theological debate will continue, and it can be fed by the contributions from the differing camps. A deeper understanding of how the theological, pastoral and apologetic dimensions of each of the various positions interact with each other can only aid the process of working to find a shared theology all Christians can embrace.

And secondly, the practical challenge is turned around, not lost: instead of seeking the one correct answer to give to everyone, we will be seeking to understand each individual, so that we can select from the range of answers available to us the ones which will actually help this person cope with their problems and to grow in faith and as a person.

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