The One Big Question - Bishop Michael Baughen

The One Big Question - Bishop Michael Baughen

Suffering is part of the human condition. — Bishop Michael Baughen

Why do we suffer? Why is there suffering in the world?

In The Alchemist, Santigo learns that people suffer when they do not follow their dream, they listen to people around them rather than listen to what their heart tells them. [see The Alchemist]

People who fail to follow their dreams eventually learn to accept their lot, eventually they even forget their dreams, forget they ever had dreams, but their lives is the worse because of it.

In The Zahir, Paulo Coelho puts into words how you feel when the one you love, who you thought loved you, leaves. Having felt that pain, his words describe what I could not.

Why are there people starving in the world whilst others have obscene amounts of wealth? Why did the thug security in Bahrain fire on unarmed protesters? Why twenty years ago on St Valentine’s Day did the Americans bomb a shelter in Baghdad? Why is it that the decent people seem to suffer whilst the evil ones prosper?

If there is a just God, why does he allow these things to happen?

It was to address these issues, maybe the most difficult issue for people who want believe in a just and loving God, that Bishop Michael Baughen (former Bishop of Chester and Rector of All Souls Langham Place) gave a talk at St Peter’s Church.

Suffering is the BIG question. It is the killer question. Why? Why? Why?

Suffering is the great divider. It either drives us into the hands of God or makes us hate God. There is no sitting on the fence.

Why did my brother die before me, die a very painful death?

We pray to God, please God, make it a nice sunny day, I am having a picnic. Please let me pass my exams. Please get me a sexy girlfriend.

God is not a kindly old man, handing out the sweets.

Why did God not intervene when something bad was going to happen?

God is not a control freak. But let us assume God did intevene. What then? Something worse may then happen, we have set in motion a different path, the law of unintended connsequences.

In The Valkyries, Paulo Colho describes a different path being set in motion. We should pause and reflect, it happened for a reason.

The trenches in the First World War, is that not a good reason not to believe in God?

No, it is a reason not to believe in Man. It was Man in the form of Generals and Politicians who sent men in their hundreds of thousands to their deaths.

God gave us free will. Or would we rather be robots or automatons?

In My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk the devil says he is bored. There is little for him to do, as Man can do evil without his intervention.

Many people died in Haiti. That was due to an earthquake yes, but is was also due to bad housing. People were killed by houses collapsing, not by the earthquake.

A ship is safe when it remains in a port, but that is not why we build ships.

Earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates. Without the movement of these tectonic plates and various other Gaian control mechanisms there would be no life on Earth.

Why am I being punished? What have I done wrong?

Why am I not being healed? Is that not the power of prayer?

Man sets up God in his own image, then uses that image to deny the existence of God as God does not fullfil his expectations.

To suffer is part of the Human Condition. It is what we do, how we handle suffering, that determines the depth of our faith.

A sword is tempered by going through fire.

The One Big Question
– ‘I Thirst’
The Role of Science and Faith in the Development of Civilisations
What’s So Amazing About Grace

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6 Responses to “Suffering”

  1. Pandora Says:

    This is a very interesting and profound posting, and I often have churned around this question, why? there is so much suffering.

    Last night, it must of been on my mind because I dreamt of a man who had been punished and whipped badly across his back, he wore a white muslin over garment, and I put water which had been blessed on his wounds, the water calmed him, but he still was determined to complete his mission, which would end in his death (at the hands of another), of which he was fully aware.

    I don’t really understand the significance of this dream or its timing, but I woke in the middle of the night and felt really disturbed to my core.

    A sword is tempered through fire, but too much time in the heat and the metal would dissolve, the blacksmith needs a fine experienced hand to determine the length of time that is required.

    Man’s suffering towards man is it seems most likely due to the belief that this world is it, and that when you die here you die forever… without there being any accountability

    Thank you, going to be thinking about this for a long time.

  2. keithpp Says:

    Thank you Pandora for your kind thoughts.

    The talk was incoherent. It was only on reflection that I was able to make any sense of it. I have been reading his book, The One Big Question. and that reinforces what I have written.

    I have been sat reading in Plaza de Iglesia, en Puerto de la Cruz, en Tenerife.

    Yesterday whilst I sat reading, a crazy person came up to me and thumped me hard in the face!

    There are churches that preach a false doctrine, all happiness and light, pray and all will be well, happiness and light. To suffer is the human condition. It is how we handle that suffering that determines us as human being. Churches that promote froth, the people lose their faith when they suffer, as their faith is not deep rooted.

    Jesus warned his disciples, if you follow me, you will have a heavy cross to bear.

  3. keithpp Says:

    When I was a youngster growing up there was a neighbour, a busy-body, a gossip, always poking her nose into the business of other people. I did not like her at all. She was a regular churchgoer. If that was who went to church, then it was not a place I wished to be.

    She had two, maybe three children. A boy got married. He went away. He was walking along a beach with his new wife when a freak wave swept him away and he drowned. A girl went as a volunteer nurse to the Falkland Islands, either during or just after the Falklands War. She suffered a brain trauma. There was not the facilities on the island to treat her, Argentina would not let her be flown there. She had to be flown to the UK in a critical condition. She died on the way.

    This lady still goes to church. It has not denied her her faith. It is probably all that keeps her going.

  4. Adriana Campos Says:

    Why? Why? Why? Everybody asks.
    I have met so many people who question God’s justice. That has never been an issue to me. Although I understand humane necessity to answer these questions. In Brida, Paulo states there is a reason for everything eventhough we may not know it. And that is liberating: do not bother yourself with questions, just follow your path and forget about explanations.
    My weakness had always been faith. Till God showed Himself to me in the eyes of my son, and I understood He was LOVE and all I had to do was loving . Everything fell on its place.

    • keithpp Says:

      It is not God’s justice, which is why people ask why why why. It is human nature, the way we are, the way the cosmos functions. We can have free will or we can be robots.

      We are reasoning beings. We should ask questions, to which there may well be no answer. Blind faith leads to despots.

  5. Adriana Campos Says:

    I understand your point and I understand what you mean. It is human nature and the way the universe works. You are right: blind fate can lead to despotism, but not always. Simple people have blind fate and they do good to humanity manifesting God through their doings. My great aunt had blind faith and I can not recall a sweeter and more caring person. I grew up sorrounded by simple people with blind faith. I think out of ten, two people might become despots. In the eyes of an intellectual that faith can be seen as naive, but I don’t think God cares about it.
    The thing here is about the realm of mind and the realm of heart, or to be more exact: reason and intuition. Many of us are cursed with reasoning and that is what I was finding fault with. And I did this only because I was also cursed with reasoning till I understood love and faith are beyond reasoning. Thus they belong to the realm of intuition. Explanations don’t work in this realm. That’s why I meant that asking why was a waste of energy. Even though I understand that people like me should go through the same questioning to come to the same conclusion I came to.

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