One of the main contentions of atheists is that human suffering disproves God because a loving and merciful God would not allow it. Some Christian leaders have tried to counter this by promoting a prosperity gospel in their megachurches. But unfortunately, those efforts are misguided and demonstrate a poor understanding of what Jesus came to do and why God created us. The result is that when many people lose their faith when they don’t experience the promised “health and wealth.”
The fact is that when a population has massive suffering, the Christian population grows. In his book On Guard, William Lane Craig gives three examples of this (pages 164-5):
China – Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution killed 20 million Chinese and generated massive persecution of the Church. However, since 1977 Christianity has grown more than ever in history. Researchers say there were as many as 75 million Christians in China by 1990. Craig calls Mao “the greatest evangelist in history.”
El Salvador – A 12-year civil war, earthquakes, and market collapse caused 80% of the population to live in poverty. As a result, the percentage of Christians in El Salvador grew from 2.3% in 1960 to 20%.
Ethiopia – In 1960, Christians made up 0.8% of the population, and war, repression, and famine killed millions of people. Christian martyrs who tried to address the problems of that country were numerous. In 30 years, the Christian population grew to approximately 13%.
In all three of these examples, people found that atheistic forces in their countries were causing the suffering, and Christians were the one group trying to alleviate human suffering. In addition, Christians realize that the war between good and evil is the primary purpose of our existence, and what happens in this life is not significant in the framework of eternity.
People who believe human suffering disproves God turn to survival of the fittest as the only purpose in life. However, they may lose their will to survive when confronted with human greed, selfishness, and materialism. Christianity has the only answer to pain and suffering in this life.
— John N. Clayton © 2022