“No God would allow suffering like this”
A strategic response
Consider how much suffering there is in the world. If a truly good God exists, wouldn’t he have ensured there be a lot less or none at all?
Did you know that according to Barna Research, this is the greatest obstacle to faith for Millennials and Generation Z? (See chart below.)
So your friends will raise this objection and when one does, are you “prepared to give an answer” (1 Pet 3:15)? Here is one easily memorable strategy for when that time comes.
If someone raises the problem of suffering:
Step 1: RECOGNIZE IT. Remember as quickly as possible that their argument depends on what philosophers call a “Noseeum inference,” i.e. they infer that no “greater goods” exists to justify God’s allowing child leukemia etc., simply on the basis of “no-seeing” any greater goods! However, in the heat of a conversation, they won’t spell out their assumption for you. So, you HAVE to remember it on your own. (Note: A “noseeum” is a mosquito that is so small that you can’t infer there are none in your camping tent just because you can’t see any.)
Step 2: CALL IT. So much of how a conversation goes depends on how it is framed. Simply saying, “Hey, that’s a Noseeum inference” sets you up to metaphorically get in the comfortable dialogue hammock because it rightly sets you up for emphasizing that the critic has the burden of proof here.
Step 3: ENJOY IT. Now sit in the hammock and make the critic do his very hard work! “Hey, that’s a noseeum inference You’re inferring that no greater goods exist because you don’t see them. But (and this is step 3), WHY THINK WE’D SEE’UM?” i.e. “Mr. Critic, why think that we’d be able to easily see those greater goods if they were there?” He is the one making a bold Noseeum inference!
Note: There is a Trojan horse in this conversation to avoid. Do NOT let the critic say, “explain to me why God allows this suffering” as if your failure to know God’s reasons would mean there is no God. It is HIS job to defend HIS premises.
A theodicy is a proposed explanation for why God might allow suffering in general or some type or segment of suffering. If you would like to emphasize how ill-equipped the arguer against theism is when it comes to being able to consider all the details, throw some theodicies his way. Then ask, “when did you rule these all out?” You can see a list of 11 theodicies here.
It can be handy to have one theodicy ready to present, just so you can say “for example”. Here is a nice one to remember: “For all we know, humanity sins and God has a plan to atone for those sins—a plan that requires us see first hand how awful the world is insofar as we rule it and it is separated from God. Upon seeing our inability to govern ourselves, more people will be disinclined to look to mankind and the world as their utopia. That is, more people will turn from the world and look to otherworldly thing, finding God.” (See details on this theodicy here).