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The following article, excerpted from Kushner’s bestseller, is a response to suffering which assumes that God is not the immediate cause of tragedy. It should be noted, however, that this is the theological solution of this particular thinker, and indeed, is probably contrary to traditional covenantal theology, which assumes that suffering is inflicted on the Jewish people because of their sins. Reprinted with permission from
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
, published by Schocken Books.
Suffering is Not Punishment from a Cruel God
I believe in God. But I do not believe the same things about Him that I did years ago, when I was growing up or when I was a theological student. I recognize His limitations. He is limited in what He can do by laws of nature and by the evolution of human nature and human moral freedom.
I no longer hold God responsible for illnesses, accidents, and natural disasters, because I realize that I gain little and I lose so much when I blame God for those things. I can worship a God who hates suffering but cannot eliminate it, more easily than I can worship a God who chooses to make children suffer and die, for whatever exalted reason.
Some years ago, when the “death of God” theology was a fad, I remember seeing a bumper sticker that read “My God is not dead; sorry about yours.” I guess my bumper sticker reads “My God is not cruel; sorry about yours.”
God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people, and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and being mortal, living in a world of inflexible natural laws.
The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior, nor are they in any way part of some grand design on God’s part. Because the tragedy is not God’s will, we need not feel hurt or betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. We can turn to Him for help in overcoming it, precisely because we can tell ourselves that God is as outraged by it as we are.
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