Melissa and I are currently taking a class on Christian apologetics. This week we're discussing the problem of evil/pain. The following is a class discussion prompt, followed by my answer:
Many people believe like Charles Darwin. His beloved daughter Annie, died at an early age and something broke inside of him. He determined to have nothing to do with a so-called God who would allow his Annie to die. If you were to sit down with Darwin over coffee, what are some questions you might ask that would surface some of the underlying issues? How would you evaluate Darwin's feelings? How would you analyze the logic of his argument? How is you response to Darwin different than your response to someone who has doubts about the possibility of God and suffering both existing in the world?
How would I answer Darwin? I wouldn't, honestly.
I would ask questions and listen. I would esteem his pain. I'd weep with him and affirm his emotional place. I'd ask if there was anything I could do to help. How can I serve his family? How can I listen? Is there anything he needs?
The incoherent logic of his argument for disbelieving in God is irrelevant in that context. Ultimately, a time may come when we could visit his logic, but that could be a long way away, if it ever comes.
Communicating, even things such as the gospel, demand that we first understand and plow the soil in order for people to even be able to hear what we are saying. Otherwise, we're throwing pearls to swine. Theres a reason Jesus didn't preach in certain towns and a reason he only explained certain parables to his disciples.
To that end, honestly, I have a hard time believing anybody can just be in the "intellectual argument" side wholly and be void of the emotional argument to the problem of pain. We have a lot of tilling to do in people's lives if we're to bring them to a place in which they're willing to listen to logical arguments regarding the problem of evil/pain.
Then, and only then, can we begin to present our answer to the problem of pain/evil -- but we'll find that we've been incarnation-ally presenting it all along.
God's answer to the problem of pain was to enter himself into it. It was to stoop down and embrace it headfirst, finding that it meant his own death. His answer to pain was to let it do its worst to him, and then find it crushed 3 days later.
As Albert Schweitzer once put it, Jesus was called to throw himself on the wheel of world history, so that, even though it crushed him, it might start to turn in the opposite direction.
What it means to be people that follow Christ is to be a people that would enter into the pain of a hurting world and embrace it. Let you pain do it's worst to us. We know that the victory of Christ can not only stem the tide of evil, but reshape it into a beautiful new creation.