August 4th, 2012
10:00 PM ET
My Faith: The danger of asking God ‘Why me?'
Editor’s note: Timothy Keller is senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York and author of The New York Times best-selling book "The Reason for God." His book for church leaders, "Center Church," will be published in September.
(CNN)–When I was diagnosed with cancer, the question “Why me?” was a natural one.
Later, when I survived but others with the same kind of cancer died, I also had to ask, “Why me?”
Suffering and death seem random, senseless.
The recent Aurora, Colorado, shootings — in which some people were spared and others lost — is the latest, vivid example of this, but there are plenty of others every day: from casualties in the Syria uprising to victims of accidents on American roads. Tsunamis, tornadoes, household accidents - the list is long.
As a minister, I’ve spent countless hours with suffering people crying: “Why did God let this happen?” In general I hear four answers to this question. Each is wrong, or at least inadequate.
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The first answer is “I guess this proves there is no God.” The problem with this thinking is that the problem of senseless suffering does not go away if you abandon belief in God.
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said that if there was no higher divine law, there would be no way to tell if any particular human law was unjust. Likewise, if there is no God, then why do we have a sense of outrage and horror when suffering and tragedy occur? The strong eat the weak, there is no meaning, so why not?
Friedrich Nietzsche exemplified that idea. When the atheist Nietzsche heard that a natural disaster had destroyed Java in 1883, he wrote a friend: “Two-hundred-thousand wiped out at a stroke—how magnificent!”
Because there is no God, Nietzsche said, all value judgments are arbitrary. All definitions of justice are just the results of your culture or temperament.
My Take: This is where God was in Aurora
As different as they were, King and Nietzsche agreed on this point. If there is no God or higher divine law then violence is perfectly natural.
So abandoning belief in God doesn’t help with the problem of suffering at all.
The second response to suffering is: “While there is a God, he’s not completely in control of everything. He couldn’t stop this.”
But that kind of God doesn’t really fit our definition of “God.” So that thinking hardly helps us with reconciling God and suffering.
The third answer to the worst kind of suffering – seemingly senseless death – is: “God saves some people and lets others die because he favors and rewards good people.”
But the Bible forcefully rejects the idea that people who suffer more are worse people than those who are spared suffering.
This was the self-righteous premise of Job’s friends in that great Old Testament book. They sat around Job, who was experiencing one sorrow after another, and said “The reason this is happening to you and not us is because we are living right and you are not.”
At the end of the book, God expresses his fury at Job’s ”miserable comforters.” The world is too fallen and deeply broken to fall into neat patterns of good people having good lives and bad people having bad lives.
The fourth answer to suffering in the face of an all-powerful God is that God knows what he’s doing, so be quiet and trust him.
This is partly right, but inadequate. It is inadequate because it is cold and because the Bible gives us more with which to face the terrors of life.
God did not create a world with death and evil in it. It is the result of humankind turning away from him. We were put into this world to live wholly for him, and when instead we began to live for ourselves everything in our created reality began to fall apart, physically, socially and spiritually. Everything became subject to decay.
But God did not abandon us. Only Christianity of all the world’s major religions teaches that God came to Earth in Jesus Christ and became subject to suffering and death himself, dying on the cross to take the punishment our sins deserved, so that someday he can return to Earth to end all suffering without ending us.
Do you see what this means? We don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, or why it is so random, but now at least we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be.
It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. He is so committed to our ultimate happiness that he was willing to plunge into the greatest depths of suffering himself.
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Someone might say, “But that’s only half an answer to the question ‘Why?'” Yes, but it is the half that we need. If God actually explained all the reasons why he allows things to happen as they do, it would be too much for our finite brains.
What we truly need is what little children need. They can’t understand most of what their parents allow and disallow for them. They need to know their parents love them and can be trusted. We need to know the same thing about God.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Timothy Keller.
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
What a ridiculous load of nonsense. Why is this here?
Because its the "belief" blog. Not the "facts" blog.
Why are YOU here? Because God created you.
The usual roundaround answers from a pastor to human suffering, i.e. god knows what he's doing, so keep quiet., or that god favors some for reward and let others die. Such a capricious god is nothing but a childish bully who keeps his adorant believers in slavery (pray to me, worship me, prostrate before me, etc.) and injects guilt everywhere he goes.
The good and bad are part of the human experience. Many people rise above the "why me?" to conquer their lives anew. They show resilience, they adapt, they teach us a lesson. The question is not a bad one, but it could be followed by "why not me?" Or, why am I so special that nothing bad (illness, violence, financial disaster, etc.) can ever happen to me? Is it fair to assume that some good people are spared a catastrophe while other good people suffer it (think of floods, for example)? Life is not fair, life is just is. Accept it.
If that's what you saw in the article, you missed the point. Keller says that the usual answers are NOT adequate. It is NOT because good stuff happens to good people. God is infinitely powerful and the reasons why, we can't fully understand. But we DO know He loves us and is ultimately working for our good.
Amen, sister. Well put!
Darth if we can't understand god, how do we know he loves us?
Here, I will teach you a lesson now. About your comment, what good does it make if you are repeating the questions again and completely ignore what has been answered in the article? You do know that he has answered what was tantamount to your thesis statement/first statement of your argument, right?
The rain reaches the righteous and the wicked alike just to show the world that God is fair. You do know what "fair" means, right? Fair is different from Just. Justice from God does not answerable to man since every man has sinned. God "capriciously" demands obedience from man because man comes from God alone. Isn't it weird if God demands fear from man but Jesus Christ's first words would be "do not be afraid"?
@saggy...your girlfriend/boyfriend says "I love you"...but do you really understand him/her? Let alone someone as powerful as God? We now know that God loves us through the messiah, Jesus Christ. You know, as in John 3:16 cliche...?
Face it christians, your "god" is a sadist b@st@ard who just loves to torture "his" allegedly beloved creation. Awwwwww. Reality sucks!
And he likes to torture animals too. When he destroyed the world in Noah's flood, why did he have to destroy animals too? What could they have done to make him mad?
Well, I guess some one should let you in on a little secret: yours is an altered reality.
That was my point on another of these religious blogs the other day. What's funny is that the bible only says "god" killed animals that walked on land and birds. So I guess if they could swim they were allowed to live? Or if they were amoebas?
Good luck trying to defend that statement on judgement day when you stand in front of Him. One thing God is not is all-forgiving, otherwise there wouldn't be commandments or hell. You may not believe in God but make no mistake ... He believes in you and knows every one of your words, thoughts and deeds, including your blasphemous and hateful comments on the internet.
If there is a god, on judgement day, he will let the atheists in because they used reason, logic, and showed compassion towards their fellow man. The believers will be turned away for their hypocrisy.
Prove there is a hell. Been there lately?! Retard!
And "commandments" are ripped off from pre-existing Hammurabi's Code. The Jews hardly had an original thought when they were finally getting around to writing down their mythology. Plenty of others in their region already had the ideas of heaven, hell, resuurection after 3 days, sun gods, etc., etc., etc. Read. Learn.
I think Buddha and Confucius had moral codes to live by as well.
My friend, may I ask why you are so angry?
In this advertisemnt for the pastor's book, we are given no information about what he has "survived". These people earn their living soothing those trampled upon and those doing the trampling. Evidently he had medical coverage. He is a good business man [otherwise] there would not be this "report." Who gave this person any right to "pass judgment" catagorically on "faux" public opinion's?
Maybe these types of books need a Truth in Advertising disclaimer: "There is no verified evidence for the supernatural beings and events presented in this book."
There is no god. An god that is all-good and all-powerful can't allow suffering. Just because we have an innate sense of right and wrong, which is faulty by the way (for example, people turn out in drove to eat chicken for traditional marriage in the name of god) does not demonstrate there is a god. If anything, this demonstrates our sense of justice couldn't possibly come from god.
i think an all powerful god could certainly allow suffering. it just wouldn't be an all powerful LOVING god.
You don't get it and you never will. Too bad because otherwise, you'll live what you may think is a full life but is actually vacuous, empty, selfish, smug and small. And I have no doubt that the afterlife holds many unpleasant things for you because of your refusal to acknowledge God's existence. Good luck with that.
You don't sound vacuous, empty, smug or small. No, not at all.
As usual, the nonbeliever responders just love the opportunity to spill their sadness out making themselves feel shallowly better.
We pray that someday you will come to understand and know the love of God.
The love of god that lets children starve to death. Yea, why can't I wrap my shallow brain around that, lol.
@Sarah: you sound like an angry christian. What is it that makes you think you know what is going to happen to Pavlov? So, you talk to god? She talks to you? You know what they call people who talk to their blow dryers? Crazy.
Why don't you religious people let non-believers be and live in peace. We did not start the fight between the religious and non-believers. You christians started it by trying to force others to believe in your imaginary friend.
And what about the suffering of animals? Does God allow them to be punished for our mistake of "turning away"? Or does the only suffering that counts belong to humans?
Yes, animals are under the same curse of sin that humans are because man was given dominion over the animals. Since we are all born sinners, the question to ask isn't "why me?", the question to ask is, "why not me?" Thankfully, God sent us His Son, Jesus to die for our sins so that when these sinful, mortal bodies die, we may have eternal life with Him.
and do the animals get the same "reward"?
and do you know any animals that are "sinners"? i've yet to meet one.
Oh yes, Matthew! PLEEEEZ Jeebus, make me suffer! I want to suffer so bad! I feel too well, Gawd! Torture me now! I beg of you!
If God is all powerful, why didn't he just safe our souls in an instant? Why send his son (who is also God, apparently) to be tortured? Seems like overkill.
Save, not safe.
Yes and no! Yes, in the fact that the Bible tells us there are animlas in heaven and there will be animals here on earth during Jesus' reign. The Bible also tells us that the wolf will lie down with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), meaning that once the curse of sin is removed, the animals' behavior will change and we humans will no longer need them for food and clothing. No, in the sense that animals don't have souls or spirits. It was humans who were created in the image of God, not animals.
Rational Libertarian: No, "god" can't prove that he incontrovertibly did not come from man (i.e., that "he" was made up by man). Of course "god" can't just write "his" message in huge fiery letters in space so that everyone could read it for all of time, and so as to have been obviously not manipulated by any man. Of course not! That would be too easy.
God is all powerful, but He also gave each one of us the free will to choose. Once Adam and Eve sinned, that made the entire human race sinners. He could have destroyed the entire human race and started over, but He loves us too much to do that. Sinful man was not capable of keeping a covenant with a Holy God. Therefore, God had to become man. Sinners cannot save sinners. That's the genius of the Cross! Jesus was born of a virgin; therefore, He was not born as a sinner. He then gave HImself as a sacrifice for our sins. The blood of animals could only cover sins, but it's only the blood of Jesus that can remove them.
If you didn't have your head so far up your rectum, you'd probably realize that your "god" made that mistake twice, since as the story goes, he did not destroy Adam/Eve, and then later also decided to destroy everyone (including animals) expect for Noah and his family. What a crock! What? Your "god" couldn't get it right the first time? Nor the second? Nor the third?????
No, that's called food.
where there is life, there is suffering
My problem with these theologians is that no one will address the problem from a sociological standpoint. None of them address social structure, laws, culture, etc. This is why, as the infamous quote goes, "religion is the opiate of the masses." It stops us from questioning reality and forces us to focus on the high, divine, and abstract.
It's good to think about the abstract from time to time.
There are many, many books from theologians that address the things you mention.
Respectfully, Mr. Keller, you lost me at "God did not create a world with death and evil in it. It is the result of humankind turning away from him. "
God warned Adam & Eve they would die if they ate from a particular tree in the garden. Obviously death had to exist at that point in order for God to use it as a deterrent. Otherwise, how would they know or understand death was not something they'd want if they had no concept of it? Nothing had died up to that point, right?
Also, if Adam & Eve had no knowledge of right of wrong prior to eating from the tree, how could they possibly know what disobeying god meant? How does one KNOWINGLY do something wrong if they don't know what "wrong" is?
Lastly, if evil didn't exist yet at that point, how does one explain the existence of the evil serpent and its evil intentions? Evil would have had to exist in order for evil intentions to be present, no?
These are questions I've had since I was a kid (turning 50 this year) and no one to date has been able to address them in a way that makes all these particular contradictions in logic line up in a way that inspires acceptance in me. And not just in the creation story. The bible is full of these kinds of holes in logic.
RJ, look at the post immediately below, I think you will find the answers
Don't you understand, we hit the jackpot, it is like winning every lottery in the world for a whole year. Do the arithmatic, 400 billion stars, probably many with multiple planets, in our little galaxy, with bilions of galaxies in our universe and god picked our little rock to create man, what a privillege. Not only that but he watches over each and every one of us, hold on, I just meant the 2 billion people that believe in that version of god, the other 5 billion are just hanging around waiting to go to hell.
Why wouldn't you believe this, don't think just believe ans send your contribution to......
God was to expel them from the garden, not kill them if they ate the apple. Women!
Spiritual death and physical death are two different things.
God has recently revealed the reasons for humanity's pain... Th Holy Mural Lecture Series explains why God created ALL light and darkness... ALL good and evil... ALL Heaven, hell, Earth wind and fire... You Tube/Holy Mural...
RJ, remember Adam and Eve knew what death was. They were around for an untold amount of time and Adam named the animals. they understood that death was opposite of life. They didn't exist before they were created. They saw animals die. Jehovah God did not create animals to live forever. They would live a certain amount of time and then die. So they di dknow what death was like. You cease to life and breath. You do not see, hear or understand anything around you. That's why Jesus called death.. like people sleeping. When your in a deep sleep u hear and see nothing. They were well aware of what would happen to them if they disobeyed his one command. The choose to go against God and that is why we live in sin and imperfection and all man experiences death. We are waiting for God to send his son Jesus to end this suffering here on earth. Jesus and the miillions of angels God has at his disposal will rid the earth of all those who deny who God is and who align themselves with Satan and his system of things here on earth. Read the Bible that's all God wants people to do. Seek him out and call on his name, yes God has a name Jehovah has been recoginzed for thousands of years as God's name. Some call him Yahwah or Jah but he does have a name to distinquish him from all the other false gods in the world that mankind worships.
The danger of asking "why me ?", is there is no answer, just as there was no answer in Job. The bs od "god(s) work in mysterious ways is no answer. This man's answer is the same ole same ole. If sin and death entered the world, AFTER Adam's fall, then where are the living dinosaurs ? (Don't bother, the answer is as ridiculous as the proposition that "sin and "evil" entered with the "fall". )
As any student of Comparative Mythology knows, the Garden myth in Genesis was taken from the Sumerian Chaos myths, and was a HUMAN attempt to explain "disorder". Not "sin". The "sin" (salvation) paradigm no longer serves us. The shooter is/was mentally ill, and had access to multiple-shot, repeating weapons. Why are thiose things not being addressed ?
So what, gun control is your solution?
The sumerian tablets were writter after the original genisis story. FYI
Agree with you totally until the part about the Aurora shooter being mentally ill. The "mentally ill label is another way to explain why someone would do such a thing so people can have a "reason" when something like that shooting occurs. The "reason" can also be that some people are just evil, hateful, violent. Those are not mental illnesses.
The Sumerian tablets were NOT written after Genesis. They were written 2750-2700 BCE. Genesis was written around 575 BCE.
" We don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue"
And it's dangerous to ask why.
It is people like you that contribute to the suffering of this world.
Prayer changes things
Once the children are brainwashed it is very difficult to deprogram them.
Other living things have been sacrificed as required.
All prayer is useless.
Prayer changes nothing. Getting up off your knees and doing something can change things
i don't think prayer is completely useless. spending time in prayer may not bring direct results from "god," but i think that the quiet, reflective nature of prayer probably helps lots of people find their way.
Prayer is not useless. It has profound effects on the brain and it's ability to heal. More plausible than a miracle.
"God did not create a world with death and evil in it. It is the result of humankind turning away from him. We were put into this world to live wholly for him, and when instead we began to live for ourselves everything in our created reality began to fall apart, physically, socially and spiritually. Everything became subject to decay."
So, we're back to the "Adam and Eve" theory of the formation of the Earth, are we? You will excuse me if I am skeptical of the philosophical musings of a man so spectacularly ignorant of natural history that he thinks the World began with one man, one woman and a possessed, talking snake".
Isn't it just exciting to know that an entire species was created with only 2 viable specimens, who had 3 male offspiring? Makes you wonder HOW the species developed doesn't it? lol
@mirosol, apparently it's dangerous to ask such questions.
I know lol ... you should have seen the looks I got when I asked that very thing in Catholic grade school back in the 1970's
You have never been bright enough to figure it out.
It looks like you are "more likely" to not understand sarcasm. I knew I would not get a straight answer when I asked it, and I was right. I didn't get a real answer, because it's a physical impossibility. It's a little difficult to get a sceintific answer from a Catholic priest when the religion CANNOT answer the question.
how would you know what God did or did not create .. God is a myth to scare the uninformed and children are the easiest targets .. get them to believe anything and you can do anything .. this pastor Keller survived because he has health insurance and access to the best medicine money can buy .. put him in the same position as those that died and see if god would care
You do realize your take on origins is as cloaked in speculation and conjecture as that of the writers?
God has recently revealed the reasons for humanity's pain... The Holy Mural Lecture Series explains why God created ALL light and darkness... ALL good and evil... ALL Heaven, hell, Earth wind and fire... You Tube/Holy Mural...
to the post below – Genesis 5:4 says that Adam had other sons and daughters. Not saying this ends all arguments, but there were women
It gets me that christians don't believe in evolution and will ask if we evolved from apes why there are still apes but yet do not see the lunacy of the Adam and Eve story, where in order to populate the earth incest would have been necessary. They believe in talking snakes but yet don't ask why there are not still talking snakes. I don't think it takes much for a rational, open-mind to start to see how the stories make no sense in this world.
"We were put into this world to live wholly for him, and when instead we began to live for ourselves everything in our created reality began to fall apart, physically, socially and spiritually."
Oh, I get it, god created us for only one reason, to worship him. Then why did he give us "free will" ? So I guess I have free will to worship god, or not. But if I don't, he will torture me forever. What kind of free will is that?
Would you want your spouse to love you because he/she chooses to, or because he/she was pre-programmed to love you and had no free will? Which would make you feel better, or glorify your relationship more? We have free will because God wants us to love Him of our own accord. The fact that there are ramifications for choosing not to doesn't mean you don't have the ability to make the decision for yourself...free will. Does a child exercise free will when he does something that he has been told not to, even though it could hurt him, such as touching a hot stove? By your assertion, he never had free will to begin with...that is illogical.
I guess just like you want your spouse to love you for who you are by choice. And beleive it or not the bible does not teach of torture forever. Them types of wordings were changed around in the bible 1100 years a go. The new world translation is the most reliable and close to original.
Ya, all the ideas are wrong, what mister "pastor" says is right... The answer is in the bible, but he never quotes texts explaining why suffering. God explains thins to his children, but the ungodly will never understand the reason. They will just keep on talk about what they think, as if what they think is right!!
This bible quote ?
"Yahweh said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground; man, along with animals, creeping things, and birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them." Gen 6:7
One on one- when God said that, the conditions on earth by that time were morally degarding. Very similar to the conditions we experience now a day, were what was considered bad is now good, there's violence everywere, corruption, etc... So I understand God when he told that... Just imagine how he feels now a days when he sees humans destroying earth...!
"In general I hear four answers to this question. Each is wrong, or at least inadequate."
You omitted the most common answer Pastor, namely "free will", which is also wrong and inadequate because it is inconsistent with the doctrine prayer.
So god Sent himself to earth as his son to suffered on the cross to relieve us of the curse he imposed on us in the first place because Adam and Eve made a mistake but he won't relieve us of our real suffering. And, if we don't believe all that hocus pocus, he tortures us in hell forever. Yea, that makes sense.
God sent his son. "no man has seen god" quotes from the bible. Due to his dynamic energy we cannot physiclly look at him also it explains in several places. Gods name Jehovah and his son is named Jesus two very different beings. FYI I would get into this a long typing but Im not. Satan challenged god, and told that man will never worship you if you dont bless them eternally. Well in short after that god said I'll show thats not true. SO, for now the bible explains gods hands are completly out of this system proving a point. Until he has made that point completly he will not re-establise order and perfection. Which I think is soon. One of the last prophecys is "many will start to loose faith that I am real"! I THINK THAT IS PRETTY CLEAR AND GOING ON.
First of all: There is no hell. The Bible doesn't say anything about people going to hell or anything about there being a hell in the first place. "Hell" is only the leftover from the Catholics threatening with purgatory in the dark ages. The closest thing you get to hell in the Bible is in "Revelations". However it only speaks of the rise of evil itself, not any hellish devil...
The Creation tale is simply a way for early humans to explain mans creation and "fall" from God's predetermined path...
The old testament is full of stuff more related to philosophy and health advice then "Gods word" However, this revelation has not made me less of a christian... In Contrast to those stuck in "the old ways" regarding faith (not believing in neanderthals and championing the claim that earth is only 6000 years old), I believe God created the universe on the very principle of physics and evolution (and other sciencey stuff)... Thus the first clash of atoms was the first step in the billionyear long recipe in creating the universe, the galaxies, the stars, the planets, life itself and us. I'm not saying God necessarily has some grandiose predetermined purpose for us, I'm just saying that he didn't create us from thing air in a matter of seconds. However, the "creation tale" may have one thing right at least; WHY God created us. (Hear me out)
In creations God bestows Adam and Eve the task of naming everything around them right? (or at least the animals, if i remember correctly). That inner quest to explore and discover lives on two this day. The more we explore and discover about the universe, and the building blocks of life, the more are we fulfilling our purpose (per say). As time goes on we are more and more starting to understand HOW God created the universe and how it and everything is "build up". In doing so we also give these things and processes names.
Put more simply: God created us so he could show off his other creations, make us come up with names for em all, and eventually see if we could get our head around who the heck he did it...
God isn't a child with a magnifying glass pointed at an ant farm, he's a genius teacher who loves to see the moments of "eureka" when we finally understand a part of his work. 😉
I can't understand how any woman could read the first few pages of the bible and not be completely disgusted.
Lamby, you should read the whole book and know the love of God. You would feel much better.
The DANGER of asking. Be scared and don't ask. Because if you do you might realize you were right the first time.