Evil is not Divine Discipline - the doctrine that God uses it to train us is evil is false for it ruins compassion

FIRSTLY
 
Christian Scripture in Hebrews 12:7-11 says that all suffering is God disciplining us -

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

# It just says hardship meaning the adversities that just happen and the terrible things people do to each other.
 
# It says that each person who endures adversity can benefit from the discipline.
 
# The discipline is not a side-effect - it is the reason why God lets the terrible things happen or be done to you.
 
# There is a difference between terrible things happening and you trying to learn to be a better person and the thing happening BECAUSE you are to learn from it. In this view, any improving of your character is a side-effect that you create. The bad event is not about making you better but you make yourself better regardless. The side-effect is created by you not the evil. The evil in itself is still useless and intolerable and thus a proof that there is no God.  If you can be good in spite of evil that is a proof that evil is wholly useless and a denial that it is part of a divine plan.
 
This teaching that evil is discipline says evil is sort of good but just doesn't feel good. It is twisted.  Human nature does not want a theory of suffering that says it is good under the circumstances.  It is callous and implies you should be eager to suffer.
 
Leads to blaming others
 
Some say that God may torment a person who needs no discipline in order that others who deal with the person may be disciplined through that. Or he might torment a person who needs discipline and torments that person not for her sake but for others - such discipline may be meant for others and not the person.
 
What if you suffer and you think it is about God using your pain to fine-tune and develop virtue in others?  The thought could be seen as a prompt from God.  To discipline you or anybody else, God has to send prompts.  You are blaming others for what is happening to you and this contradicts Jesus' rule that you must blame yourself before you blame anybody else. The teaching implies that the Catholic priest who rapes a child is doing that child a spiritual favour. The child should be happier about the abuse than saddened and traumatised. God is ultimately the abuser for he lets it happen and uses it as part of a plan. The doctrine is based on victim blaming.

You cannot be disciplined without it involving others too.  Those who think it is about them only are being arrogant and blind.  As God says you have to be other-centred not self-centred, it is possible your suffering is all about training others.

 

If you get the prompt that it is for you, it may be that you are refusing to take it as discipline. It is refusing to say, "I need discipline because of my sins and imperfections so this suffering is my own fault. I praise God for sending me the suffering."

 

Anyway, as we know any notion we take can be attributed to God, it is clearly superstitious to say God disciplines for that only works if he is indeed prompting us that we are the problem or others are.  It always involves blaming somebody else even if you blame yourself as well.
 
Means and ends
 
To hurt somebody to increase virtue in others is treating her as a means and not as a person who is important in herself. Religion may say that this is not a sin if there is no other way - if for some reason it would be worse if God refused to treat her as a means. They would say God can do this and still be good for he is not deliberately treating her as a thing - there is just no other way.

 

But it is very serious. If you are a means you need proof that explains why.  Faith, what you think are divine prompts and stuff will never be enough.  To say they are means you do need discipline but not in the way you think.  Its a disgrace.
 
The problem of evil
 
The doctrine of divine discipline says, "If suffering disciplines, then the Lord has sent it. You would not say that if you have the flu and if the teacher tries to help you become a better person because of it that the teacher is disciplining you. You would only say it if the teacher injected you with the virus. Suffering is God's will."
 
An all-powerful God who is all-good will not allow evil to happen for any reason but to teach us the right way to live. There is no doubt that if you believe in God you have to believe that he lets evil happen because it is best for improving us and if not us then other people somewhere but it is worth allowing. The Church asks people to take consolation in suffering for God is using it to build their characters if they let him. We will see that the unease we feel when we get this advice is appropriate and very appropriate indeed. The idea that the evil God allows, may not result in a greater good but just stops things getting worse so that with a specific evil such as smallpox or whatever or without it there will be no improvement has to be rejected because it is very unlikely that evil and goodness will break even. So God then has to be believed to bring about suffering for a better good. The sick thing about such an idea is that it indicates that suffering should be welcomed! Since suffering is the experience of worthless existence it is a liar and nothing can justify it. And naturally you cannot welcome the experience of worthless existence. Suffering is not pain for pain doesn’t stop you being happy but if pain is strong enough it will cause suffering. The suggestion that suffering is good for the soul and God uses it for that purpose says more about the person saying it and believing it than God!
 
THE INNOCENT SUFFER

God is supposed to send suffering to the innocent, to babies and animals and to the insane who cannot benefit from it themselves for there would be no compassion if he kept it for the deserving alone. Many say that God tells us we must judge nobody and believe that the wicked have repented even if it looks as if they have not. And we know that many so-called good people are full of malignance inside for it is in their best interest to act good but the teaching tells us to forget that. So, it seems there there is room for compassion after all if you assume that nobody deserves good.
 
You can exercise true compassion for a repentant monster being punished and still approve of the punishing provided you believe that the latter is done for a good purpose. It is the same as a dentist extracting a tooth and having compassion.
 
It would be degrading to approve of God hurting you when you were a baby so that he could discipline others for that is not agreeable with the fact that you are most sure you exist and come first. (This is the principle that you must respect yourself before you can respect others). You cannot approve of that degradation. To say God exists is to reject the view that compassion is possible even if only the wicked suffer. It is to say there should be no compassion for them.
 
THE ROLE OF CHOICE
 
“If there were no suffering there would be no people helping one another. Suffering makes good works possible. The Bible says that suffering is often chastisement, that is correction, for sins to help us to become better people and worthwhile servants of God (Hebrews 12). Your own personal suffering enables you to do good works by trying to be patient and trying to be more sympathetic towards others and trying to be more spiritual. Suffering is sent to originate and nurture holiness and goodness in us. Specifically, it makes us humble and prudent and compassionate. We might not suffer to get stronger in virtue but we should and are meant to. The suffering we experience might not be intended for our benefit but for that of others but still we must try and make it improve us. We are talking about discipline in this theodicy and not about learning lessons. It accounts for all suffering. God could harm a baby for the sake of our souls.”

So, the discipline can only be discipline if we let it be. It is free will that effects the change and not the suffering. If so then the suffering is unjustifiable because that is like curing an infection in a hand with bleach when you could use a gentle cream to do the same job.

 

VIRTUE-MAKING?
 
The discipline defence is bad for compassion so what about other virtues such as patience and humility? And as for the patience, patience is refusing to let delay get to you, so the more impatience the better for the more sacrifice it will mean. Prudence is not a virtue but intelligence and remembering to think and God could implant that in you. As for humility, you only have to change your thinking and it is cruel for a God to hurt you just because you believe you are too good for him or others unless you are in a position to start using concentration camps.
 
The strangest thing about the soul-building theory is that it always says that suffering is for building up virtue. But virtue is a good habit. You feel good about doing it and you programme yourself to do it so that it becomes hard or impossible to refrain from it. It makes doing good easier for you. When suffering is for this programming why can’t God implant all the virtue in us in the first place when it is the end for which he sends suffering?  Whether we or God do the programming is irrelevant - what matters is that our virtue is programming and a reduction of our free will. We are told he does not want the suffering but just wants us to be holy and virtuous. When that is all he wants there should be no suffering. Many of the good points we have were implanted in us and so he should have implanted the rest too. That would still leave us able to freely do good.
 
The suffering of others does not make a good person good but brings out the goodness in another person that has been already there so the discipline defence is a failure. It is the same with your own suffering.


IT IS ANTI-HAPPINESS
 
Discipline gives you relief from pain and suffering when it gets you to the goal. But it should go on all the time to make you suffer to do or will good if love is sacrifice. It never works for you are glad when it is over which means you have wasted it and ended up worse than you were at the start because you should be glad to have had it and to get the virtue it gives and be sorry to see it go. If it does such a good job at making you more virtuous then you should want it all the time to keep you in tip-top shape. Therefore, the notion of temporary discipline is at odds with the doctrine that love is selflessness and sacrifice which doctrine is required if you believe in the free will defence - that is the doctrine that God lets us hurt each other for he respects free will and intends us to use our will only for good. God would not give us free will if we were meant to do what we like best but is only concerned with what he wants. The theory needs the free will defence and yet it condemns it so the theory is incoherent.
 
There is no mistake: to believe even that God occasionally disciplines is to declare war on human happiness. Without the discipline excuse for divine apathy towards suffering and God's role in it God loses much of his attraction for people like to think that God will get back at those who injure them.


SPITEFUL
 
The notion that suffering is divine discipline is unfair for you cannot know what suffering does to everybody. The notion is vindictive and self-righteous. You are like the pupil who is happy to see the schoolmaster discipline somebody else as long as it is not you.
 
Any theory that claims that evil is for making a greater good is unsatisfactory and many would say that it is at best inconclusive though the truth is that it is more than unsatisfactory it is incoherent and nonsensical and dangerous. It means that we cannot look at the action of another and say for sure that it is evil. If a man murders we might say he did wrong for that is God’s job but what if he felt that God was telling him to do it? Christians base their extreme doctrines on the idea that God tells you these doctrines are true. For example, approval of what Jesus did to himself by going on the cross is an extreme doctrine. To condone suffering is a terrible thing and a horrible trait.

BIASED
 
If we are going to say that God is right to hurt us and make viruses to destroy our health then why can’t we say the same about an evil president who is running our country? Why can’t we say that his evil is good in a way we don’t understand and that we should assume he wants us to suffer so that we may engage in compassion? The Church answers that it is because God is good and therefore he should be trusted. So because the president is a human being and can do wrong he is not to be trusted and we are not to say that the evil he does is for some purpose we don’t understand that justifies it. But it is unfair to trust a being whose existence you cannot be as sure of as a man’s more than a man when both behave in seemingly terrible ways. The discipline defence then fails for it promotes injustice. It promotes not virtue but vice. God is a belief. If you are going to condone human suffering over a belief then it is your duty to condone the president’s especially if he claims his evil ways are not really evil. It is very insulting to sick people to condone suffering over a belief. Beliefs do not come before people.
 
The person you see should come before the God you cannot see for you can only believe in God when you don’t see him. We would be believing God, by condoning divine evil, to benefit God. It would be kinder then if we are allowed to do that to believe in the president to benefit him for at least then we are surer the president exists!
 
FINALLY
 
Christianity claims that God sends suffering to make us virtuous and happiness is secondary to this. In other words, if we can't be both virtuous and happy thanks to the circumstances of our existence then the happiness has to be destroyed. Christianity complains that too many attempts to explain how it can make sense to say evil and God can co-exist err for they assume God has to put our happiness first.
 
But that is a very serious attitude - you cannot adopt it lightly. You need huge evidence or proof before you can promote that attitude. Religion is guilty of valuing theology and God above people. The argument that suffering disciplines and this is the divine plan puts virtue before happiness. It is a cruel doctrine. It is better to be evil inside but live a good happy life of that benefits others though it is not really meant to and that benefits yourself than to be virtuous through suffering. 

 

It is obvious that if there is an almighty and all-loving God then suffering is permitted to happen by him to improve us as virtuous beings.  But it cannot improve so there is no loving God.  If there is improvement then it is something other than divine discipline that did it.