God and Human Suffering: Biblical Perspective

Speaker: Categories: May 08, 1999


[1hr, 17min, 33sec / 1hr, 9min, 27sec]


"Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, Nobody knows, but Jesus . . . .”

Do the words of this spiritual bring hope or merely compound the human dilemma? How would you answer the question? What has been your experience? Do you sense a conflict in thepromiseswhich the Bible seems to apply toward those who follow Yahweh and the actual experience of such followers? Is there a solution, an understanding, which might allow the words of that spiritual to be sung with meaning and understanding -- and with some comforting assurance?

Dr. Ivan Blazen notes:"In all my years of teaching, whether on the bachelors, masters, or doctoral levels, no subject has been more theologically pertinent nor theologically difficult than that of God and human suffering. How can these two realities be placed side by side in the same sentence or the same title? They seem mutually exclusive, [do they not]?"

How does society view and contend with parents who permit their children to suffer from hunger, other forms of physical neglect, or even social isolation? What consequences does our sense of justice require?

Dr. Blazen contends that if Christian theology speaks confidently about a Heavenly Father’s love, such theology must also address and respond to that essential question, even if imperfectly, of that Parent's to human suffering.

Would you agree? Can we expect our contemporary theology to supply such a response, even if imperfectly?

"To speak of human suffering,” Ivan Blazen assures,"is not to begin a discussion about aphilosophicalproblem [emphasis supplied] but about an experience. It is theexperienceof suffering that begets reflection [emphasis again supplied]."

Our May speaker observes,"I would like to speak personally about several elements I have learned from experiences of, or involvement with, suffering. Then, as a foundation for theological and philosophical reflection, I would like to review briefly the spectrum of positions held on the relation between God and human suffering and discuss a number of significant biblical perspectives on the subject."

Did you notice the plural form of perspective, i.e., perspectives, above?

Dr. Blazen, somewhat disappointingly reveals,"The Bible does not give us a systematic or all-encompassing view of God and human suffering. (We, at present, seethrough a glass darkly.)""But God's Word,"our closing speaker for the 98/99 Forum year promises,"does offer a number of vital viewpoints which can encourage and guide us until that day when we shall seeface to face."


Ivan T. Blazen has taught for many years at the SDA Theological Seminary, where for three years he chaired the Department of New Testament. He has done extensive graduate work at such prestigious institutions as Union Theological Seminary, the University of Heidelberg (Germany), Drew University, and Princeton Theological Seminary (New Jersey), where he received his doctorate.

His latest writings include commentaries on First and Second Corinthians and a ninety page essay onsalvationfor a projected volume in the SDA Bible Commentary series.

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