I tried to set the subject in the context of real-world suffering and urged the students that the right response is not merely understanding but compassion. Instantly a very bright philosophy student accused me of being insultingly anti-intellectual, saying that it is critical to understand suffering from a philosophical point of view. The only reason that suffering people aren't interested in doing so, he claimed, is that their sufferings prevent them from seeing this clearly. If they weren't suffering they would see the matter clearly, as he felt he did. He vocalised the exact response I was trying to get them to avoid, in the process defining comprehension as the appropriate response to suffering.
I couldn't disagree more. Suffering and comprehension are in different categories. Comprehension is desirable, but it isn't an adequate response. Indeed I think it is a category mistake.
After the event I read an essay online by a young-ish graduate who was once part of of Cambridge Christian Union, on how he lost his faith and now believes that Christianity is false. It is a very thought-provoking piece of writing .. he says that evangelicals presented him with a faith that smoothed out rather than struggling with inconsistencies, that deliberately avoided the supernatural and offered easy, reductionist formulae when thoughtful depth was called for. He believes that he was presented with intellectual answers rather than with a living relationship with God, leaving him with a what he described as "brittle faith." Or possibly a definition of Christianity that equated having intellectual answers with having a relationship with God.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Is Christianity Blind To Suffering?
Marcus Honeysett spoke at Cambridge CU on Is Christianity Blind To Suffering last week, and also on Is Christianity about being religious. Marcus writes: