The following is a conversation I had with a student through facebook chat about some questions that were bothering them following our discussion last night about evil and suffering in relation to God. I have edited it to protect their identity, however, they did give their consent for me to post this.
S = Student, N = me
S: im here
N: how about that. me too 😛
N: to answer your question… “does God punish us for our sin?” it’s a complicated answer. yes and no. it depends on a number of things.
S: lol. well that may be a starting point…..to maybe make things more simple….my question was going to be where does the asking for forgiveness and repentance come in…and u guys may of discussed that
N: ok here we go. Punishment for sin comes in a variety of ways. There are instances in the Bible where God directly punished people for sin. those were known as Judgments in the scriptures
we talked a little about judgment tonight. judgment was God’s direct punishment for wickedness and is always preceded by a warning from God in some form. sometimes sin does not result in direct punishment but it may still result in consequences that are bad. like if a person decides to get drunk and then drives their car off a bridge.
S: lol. nice example…..this is a bit more complex than i had thought.
N: God didn’t make them drive their car off a bridge. they made the choice to get drunk and it inhibited their ability to drive.
S: and this is where free will comes in play?
N: yes, it’s our free will that gives equal opportunity for good or evil but the original design was for good with a capacity for evil. when God created Adam and Eve they were perfect and good. they didn’t even know what evil was. the tree they ate from was the “Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil”.
S: ok…..alright. so, lets say someone gets drunk, gets arrested for dwi,…the person makes a drastic life change, repents…God promises to forgive and not hold it over us as long as we repent…….but there are still the earthly consequences….right?
N: Usually yeah
N: but there are rare occassions when we are spared from those as well. for example: i knew an addict who got instantly delivered from drugs by God on the spot when he prayed for salvation and he was miraculously spared from nasty withdrawals.
S: right. so, do you think the reason a lot of people view these pain and suffering is simply of earthly consequences, not as some form of punishment from God….like the current economy for instance?
N: yeah, i believe the current economic state is a natural result of man’s sin and not a result of God punishing us. at the end of the day, we’re usually our own worst enemy.
S: but people can’t realize a difference in punishment from God and natural consequences….and its easier to say that we have an unjust God, rather than taking accountability…..as could be said for many things.
N: bingo, always remember this… People refuse to accept responsibility for their actions.
it started with Adam. when God asked him why he ate of the forbidden fruit, adam responded, “it’s that woman you put here with me, she gave me some of the fruit and i ate of it.” Adam was trying to shuffle the blame off to Eve and even God himself. we always like to paint ourselves as innocent.
S: ahh ok. im getting my head around this now
N: yay! 🙂
S: ok cool. well i was most confused about where the purpose of forgiveness comes into play in the whole situation. but now seeing a distinct line between God’s will and earthly things, i understand….
N: sure, let me address forgiveness and repentance real quick then i’ll hop off of here.
S: go for it
N: once man sinned we created a rift between us and God. before that time God showed up physically as a presence to be with adam and eve. genesis says “he walked with them in the garden in the cool of the day.”
N: the only way for God to repair that union is by offering forgiveness and the only way for us to attain his forgiveness is by repentance.
forgiveness is at it’s core, when an offended party does not claim their right to payment from the one who is indebted to them.
repentance is the act of recognizing your offense against someone, and pledging not to perpetrate that same offense again.
S: i like the clarification
N: the mistake people make when they start talking about forgiveness is in thinking that there is never a payment made for the wrong that was committed but ultimately, God doesn’t outright punish us. he accepts the punishment that Christ took on our behalf as his payment. it’s the core reason why arguing that evil and suffering are a result of God is such a feeble argument.
S: makes sense. thanks for the discussion!
N: no problem. i really hope that helped. God bless!
I hope this helps somebody.