In regards to the Haitian earthquake, and the people suffering over it, Jim Wallis, a renowned liberal Christian, says that god is suffering with them. That’s right, god is suffering. He says,
“But I want to say this: My God does not cause evil. God is not a vengeful and retributive being, waiting to strike us down; instead, God is in the very midst of this tragedy, suffering with those who are suffering. When evil strikes, it’s easy to ask, where is God? The answer is simple: God is suffering with those who are suffering.”
But does the Christian god really “suffer?” Given his characteristics, could he? And would he suffer over this? Let’s take a closer look.
Pat Robertson, an American televangelist, has recently stated that the reason for the earthquake in Haiti that has killed an estimated 100,000 people is due to a deal they made with the devil a long time ago.
“Something happened a long time ago in Haiti and people might not want to talk about. They were under the heel of the French, you know Napoleon the third and whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’ True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK it’s a deal.’ And they kicked the French out. The Haitians revolted and got something themselves free. But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another.”
On one hand, theists claim that god gave man free-will and that this omnipotent divinity does not assert its power over ones will and choices (because if it did than one would not have free-will), while on the other hand, some theists simultaneously claim that god answers prayers, performs miracles, and in general, intervenes. I find that these two claims are not compatible. Let’s first define some terms and then look at the relationship between these two claims and what the implications are of an omniscient god intervening in our affairs.
It is considered that a person has free-will if they have the ability to decide to do otherwise in any given situation, that a person exercises control over their actions, decisions, and choices. Theists claim that god gave them this ability and therefore each individual can be held accountable for their actions.
According to Wikipedia,
“A miracle is a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature, such that can be attempted to be explained by divine intervention, and is sometimes associated with a miracle worker. Some suggest that God may work with the laws of nature to perform what we perceive as miracles. A miracle is often considered a fortuitous event: compare with an Act of God.”
To know how to spot a miracle, first we must define what a miracle is. Reflecting Wikipedia’s definition above, a miracle is most often considered to be the result of some divine intervention, of a god dabbling in the affairs of nature and in our affairs. When theists pray, they are praying for divine intervention of some sort, if what they pray for happens to come true, they often consider it miraculous. If it doesn’t happen, they will claim that god knows what is best and hasn’t answered their prayer for good reason or that god’s lack of an answer is actually an answer meaning, “No, it is not best for you right now.”