The book, “Responding – 101 Questions often asked of Baha’is”, by Dale W. Eng, (Exir Publishing, 2006), deals with this and another 100 questions in the elaborate detail necessary to begin to get a complete grasp on the question. Dale draws deeply from the well of teachings from Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha about the idea of God, the nature of the human being, the nature of existence, and the purpose of humanity, to paint a response to the question. However this doesn’t always provide a complete response in the sense of a philosophical article. Much conclusion is still left to the reader to draw. Having discussed this question with others, I can see a great sense in this approach, as few people have the desire to weave the strands tightly together. For many it seems enough to be able to see each strand clearly as a necessary part to the answer. Rather how a weaver might see that all the coloured strands are reaady before the weaving begins.
My own approach is to look broadly at the many parts of the answer to get that broad pattern, and then try to weave the parts of the question. Sure it becomes a bit more complex. Sometimes it takes a bit more thinking through to ensure the next ‘knot’ in the weave can be made. There is a risk of dwelling to long on one part of the weave or falling into a looping logic. But returning to look at the broader framework of the answer helps this.
Interestingly, it seems, just as, when a clothe has been woven, any onlooker can observe clearly the pattern, perhaps exclaiming, “Love the bird”, the final product may be more easily expressed that during the process of weaving. Well, this should be the aim of every seeker, that they understand the results of their search well enough to render the answer into a form that can be more readily taught or understood by beginners. I have always been struck by the ease that the formula E=MC2(squared) conveys the physical nature of the universe, so that even highschool students can grasp what pre-Einstienien career scientists could not.
So, at the risk of appearing trite, here is my more concise answer to the question, “Why does God allow suffering?”
- The Essence of God is unknowable, is the Creator of everything (known and knowable), and does not reside within the created;
- The primary creation is the ‘Word of God’ which is not a word as we normally understand language but is, nonetheless, the ‘command’, the spark, the stimulation of creation;
- The physical reality and universe we exist within is one outcome of the presence of the “Word of God”;
- That universe is a particular process that we humans, because of our own nature, might call, “volatile”;
- The volatility of the universe was the cause of the many galaxies, stars and planets, and the development of the planet Earth, and then the human being;
- The human being was born out of volatility, and an organic system that, once formed, continues to generate increasing order;
- The human being is part volatility (response to hardship) and part the strongest organic order for sentient processes;
- The human beings physicality provides strong drives to appease hunger, thirst and reproduction;
- The human beings sentience gives the capacity to know everything knowable including the “Word of God” that underpins our own existence;
- The use of the higher sentient capacity for appeasement of the drives of the physicality, creates obsessions such as greed;
- Obsession can only be thwarted by training of the human being’s sentient capacity from the earliest stages of life so that the sentience is mostly habituated to complex and virtuous thinking, and, to do this, the soothing of emotional responses;
- Human beings are involved in building their full sentient capacity which call for the increasing ability to minimise physical/emotional desires and sharing and building resources for everyone;
- As human society increases its capacity, it risks that capacity being turned toward obsessions that will harm their fellows;
- Nonetheless, the forces towards the greater ordering of sentience creates an increasing receptivity of human beings towards knowledge how to build love, peace, sharing;
- There is an ability in human society to solve all physical and social problems but only a global society that fully shares its resources and knowledge building, can manage to solve the most difficult and dangerous problems;
- The ‘Word of God’ inherent in the nature of all creation is most clearly manifest through the bringing into every society over thousands of years, the Great Educators of humanity who have guided the sentient human towards greater circles of unity and greater potentials to avoid suffering;
- Yet the nature of this corner of creation is that the higher orders have developed out of suffering and hardships and so for a while yet, our education will be partly linked to the suffering we allow or impress upon our fellows;
- We have no physical guarantees from God, we all may perish at our own hands or by a tempest of the universes environment;
- We will have better potential for survival and higher development if we behave according to the teachings of Baha’u’llah, the manifestation of God sent to establish a fully global unity;
- Live or die, our future is determined by the effort we all put in to make this world, less obsessive, more sharing, and ever-advancing.