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.
About this blog
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.
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5 ESV)
Are you going to copy and paste the whole Bible here, a couple of verses at a time, just to prove you can do it? Or do you have a functioning brain of your own capable of generating original thots? Cuz I gotta tell ya, the evidence so far indicates not.
we wouldn't have evil if god didn't create it:
King James Version
“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”
Bootyfunk, I could very easily go out and demonstrate evil right now. God doesn't have anything to do with it. Only my own empathy for others and a fear for my own freedom and happiness prevents me from doing this. It has nothing...not a single thing...to do with God.
If Christ was willing to feel and take on every single sin of every person ever committed, and to do this willingly FOR mankind, then believing this is true empowers me to endure life's pain and horrors with hope of the next life which will be all joy and excellence.
jesus believed in slavery. don't think he's a good guide for ethical treatment:
37 "Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.
38 "Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.”
If you draw strength form believing a pleasant falsehood, more power to you. Some of us are strong enough that we can accept the less colorful truth and still be positive about our lives.
Amen brother! The fact that some people hate God and persecute us only increases our faith and blessing.
11“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
The gist I get from the original comment: Mars is really happy that a guy was tortured to death so that when Mars dies, he/she can have a happy life. Am I the only one who finds this just plain nuts?
silly23342, please rejoin the discussion. At least you were interesting and made me think. These idiotic bible-quoters are intolerably stupid. They might as well quote L. Ron Hubbard. Had about as much legitimacy.
Song of Solomon 8:1-3
1. If you were my brother, I could kiss you whenever we happen to meet, and no one would say I did wrong.
2. I could take you to the home of my mother, who taught me all I know. I would give you delicious wine and fruit juice as well.
3. Put your left hand under my head and embrace me with your right arm.
Nobody who doesn't already BELIEVE the Bible is going to be convinced by it. Unless you have a traumatic life experience and need some sort of psychological crutch to see you through.
Thus says the Lord:
"Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1, 2 ESV)
At midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of cattle ... and there was a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house where there was not one dead.
god sure loves murdering children.
Once upon a time there were three little pigs and the time came for them to leave home and seek their fortunes.
Before they left, their mother told them " Whatever you do , do it the best that you can because that's the way to get along in the world.
The first little pig built his house out of straw because it was the easiest thing to do.
The second little pig built his house out of sticks. This was a little bit stronger than a straw house.
The third little pig built his house out of bricks.
One night the big bad wolf, who dearly loved to eat fat little piggies, came along and saw the first little pig in his house of straw. He said "Let me in, Let me in, little pig or I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in!"
"Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin", said the little pig.
But of course the wolf did blow the house in and ate the first little pig.
The wolf then came to the house of sticks.
"Let me in ,Let me in little pig or I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in" "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin", said the little pig. But the wolf blew that house in too, and ate the second little pig.
The wolf then came to the house of bricks.
" Let me in , let me in" cried the wolf
"Or I'll huff and I'll puff till I blow your house in"
"Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin" said the pigs.
Well, the wolf huffed and puffed but he could not blow down that brick house.
But the wolf was a sly old wolf and he climbed up on the roof to look for a way into the brick house.
The little pig saw the wolf climb up on the roof and lit a roaring fire in the fireplace and placed on it a large kettle of water.
When the wolf finally found the hole in the chimney he crawled down and KERSPLASH right into that kettle of water and that was the end of his troubles with the big bad wolf.
11 Then the Lord said to Moses,
12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him
13 so that another man has se'xual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act),
14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure—
15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[c] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.
16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord.
17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water.
18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse.
19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had se'xual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you.
20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having se'xual relations with a man other than your husband”—
21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse —“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[d] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.
22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries.”
“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it. ”
23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water.
24 He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her.
25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar.
26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial[e] offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water.
27 If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse.
28 If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.
Thus, spoke the LORD!
"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"
the obvious answer is: Because God Does Not Exist
leave the cult, think for yourself.
1Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
be not envious of wrongdoers!
2For they will soon fade like the grass
and wither like the green herb.
3Trust in the LORD, and do good;
dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
4Delight yourself in the LORD,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him, and he will act.
6He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
and your justice as the noonday.
7Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9For the evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11But the meek shall inherit the land
and delight themselves in abundant peace.
He's making a list
and checking it twice.
He's going to find out who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.
So, Jesus = Polonius.
Maybe we should add the works of Shakespeare to the holy canon. I might actually go to church on occasion.
OK, you've learned to copy and paste. Next trick: Try to think for yourself. Then: Try to express yourself.
Here's a little hint: Nobody who doesn't already BELIEVE the Bible is going to be convinced by it.
So true. I need to learn to be as nice as you are about it.
and then god sent bears to slaughter children because they teased his prophet for being bald:
2 Kings 2:23-24
King James Version (KJV)
23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.
@ Richard. " Nobody who doesn't already believe the Bible is going to be convinced by it". Upon reading that, I was about to launch into a dissertation and then realized that it would suffice to say, that's just unequivocally wrong.
21“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ ~ Jesus
And so he said the chicken of your foresight will laptop with coaster repugnance. And after this, blanket unto trees the cloud of certain uncertainty. For we knowledge with the post of running darkness in the last jumping of anger. So it is said, so it is written.
Starting the afternoon with a 21st century prayer:
The Apostles' Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)
Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??
I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)
Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,
He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.
(references used are available upon request)
Hey bud... thanks for starting us out this afternoon with your prayer ! 😀
I guess you can't believe in morality either, as it is unproven (and unprovable by your empirical standards)
It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks.
13“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. ~ Jesus
I've seen something like this before in a Sgt.Rock comic book. "Dyin' is easy. It's livin' that's hard."
I actually prefer the comic book to the Christian book of fairy tails.
The basic problem with the question "Why me?" is that it ASSUME, right off the bat, without questioning, that there's a reason or plan behind what happens. Otherwise the question is meaningless. This is the teleological fallacy.
"The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." —Richard Dawkins PhD, River Out of Eden, 1995
1 million percent right on!
And the question implies that one would, apart from the moment of the complaint, actually want the universe to be somehow inconsistent. If a child falls out of a tree and has a brain injury, would her parents REALLY want the Law of Gravity to be capriciously repealed ? No. Cancer, weather events, and Psychological illness, etc, etc, etc, are actually the workings of a system which is fundamentally good, but occasionally has an event we perceive as bad, on an individual basis. Actually if random mutations did NOT occur, evolution could not happen. The fact that occasionally it causes cancer should tell us something about our insistence to see it all from a individual point of view.
You've never experienced anything good before? Wow. Never? Never had kids? Seen someone survive cancer? Looked at the vast open sea? Accomplished something that seemed impossible? Wow. To believe that life is random indifference is quite sad to me and certainly doesn't seem to be all that truthful.
Tiffany, why do you make these weird assumptions? All I said was that there was no PLAN or PURPOSE behind what we experience. The Universe doesn't give a rip about you, me, or anyone, because the Universe has no brain, thus no thots. The joys and pleasures we get from life are what WE make ourselves. The Universe gives us syphilis; human beings give us penicillin. The former has no purpose; the latter most certainly does — the purpose some actual person assigns to it.
Tiffany, you can have a great life without it having a higher meaning. In fact, you can probably have a better life if you remove the artificial expectations and just get on with the business of living.
You are correct in your assertion that much of the debate starts at assumption, or more correctly, "presupposition." When I see the awesome majesty of the stars and the marvelous intricate design of nature, I believe it supports the presupposition that God exists and he is not silent. God is the "universal" that ties all the particular facts of the universe together...the unifying factor - the reason that the scientific method even exists. God also reveals himself to be personal, not a blind force. This is WHY humanity, culture, nature, art, philosophy have meaning. Your presupposition starts with meaninglessness and ends with meaninglessness...
Quite a christian viewpoint, and overly simplified. Cause and effect are a huge part of life's drama. There is no dualistic God on a throne handing out punishment. There is personal karma, city karma, state karma, national karma, time period karma. The cause and effect is a madman was allowed to have guns. There is no punishment to the individuals who were shot, but cause and effect from a broken society.
and a broken society at a time where the dark side of the information age and over-population are being ignored and heavily upon us. Wish I could say I see things getting better sometime soon, but I don't.
atheism means nothing else but hindu Judaism, filthy secularism, denial of truth absolute. Way of hindu's, pagans, self centered to deny truth absolute, God.
I am not a "Hindu Jew", but this guy is making it sound rather attractive (if you fancy lamb).
Any one in in denial of truth absolute is a hindu Jew, filthy self centered, secular.
AND hairy backs!
Could someone pass me the lox vindaloo?
What? Hanging on the cross for a few hours with nails in your hands and feet – while painful – is HARDLY the "greatest depths of suffering" that others have gone through. People suffer that and more on an hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and some even an entire lifetime of suffering.
You think a few hours of a little pain is more than an entire lifetime of suffering? Puh-leaze.
The fact is – he did this for a handful of souls that believe in him and the VAST MAJORITY did not, do not, and will not believe in him and will go to hell.
MORE SOULS WILL FRY THAN BE SAVED. Satan wins. GOD LOSES. He's an abject failure for a god.
Maybe that is the REAL suffering he went through – after all that "greatest depths" and all – no one STILL wants to believe or worship him because he's so pathetically weak.
stupid religion is for tards
Thank you for that lucid and powerful insight. Motivational speaker?
First of all, you should not be calling your message "Allah"; referring to yourself. Second, Calling people with other beliefs "stupid", is against what "Allah" commands us in the "Quraan".
Most important, you can not believe in GOD without struggle. Since human beings have will power, it will always be a fight between good and evil. The most difficult and tough fight is within ourselves, and we go through this everyday, when we make a decision between good or bad, right and wrong. Your message here (as well as mine) is a decision we made, but maybe for different reasons. Religiously, we should show compassion to people who suffer, be patient with those who do not understand, and most importantly, set up and example for a decent respectable human being.
...and since bad stuff is bound to happen anyway, where do we get the tools to see us through?
Look inside yourself, and rely on those around you. The hard truth is THAT is what will get you through. Do you feel like you need something more than that?
We have Comedy Central, the community of mankind, not to mention our family, hobbies, and a sci-fi novel or two.
When all else fails, a sense of awe for the universe (without the nirvana and strawberry jam) helps us to keep perspective.
I was taught self-reliance by my parents. Should that not be enough, I have family and friends who will stand by me, as I will stand by them. I have tangible strengths to depend upon. I don't need the artificial comfort of an unsubstantiated supernatural being to survive bad times.
Your statement: "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."
Why is that a problem with this thinking? Does there have to be a true answer that makes all suffering sensable? That's the problem with your thinking,Timothy.
"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?"
I'm surprised by Timothy on this one because even in these blogs this has been debunked hundres of times. I would have expected Timothy to be more enlightened.
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." ~ Jesus Christ
“It has been said, 'the truth will make men free.' The truth alone has never made anyone free. It is only doubt which will bring mental emancipation.”
― Anton LaVey
No thanks I'll pass.
okay, so he's the bouncer of an imaginary intergalactic club. Got it.
hinduism, absurdity of hindu's, son of blessed Mary never claimed it, but he claimed, I can not do any thing my self, I do what ever I hear, or command by God.
"And only a hobbit such as you, Frodo, may carry the One Ring and cast it into the fire of Mount Doom." —Gandalf
See, we can quote fiction, too. And our stories are WAY better than yours.
So why does bad stuff happen? WHY?
Cause your a whiney bit.ch that's why.
because of denial of truth absolute in hindu Judaism, filthy secularism.
I'm having Nancy Kerrigan flashbacks.