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I was raised Christadelphian, and after 17 years of education and reading the bible, I dismissed my faith and left the church. One of my main reasons for turning my back on God was this.

Why is it that children are born in Africa, with HIV or AID's, these children die of starvation and disease before they even learn to speak.

John 3:16 NIV

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

These children never have the chance to become baptised and give themselves to christ, they're minds never mature to an age where it's possible for them to understand this concept, nor in many places in the world, has the word of the christian god even reached.

If God is just, loving and merciful, why does he allow this to happen?

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You might be interested in The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. It covers this topic in depth (all the way to animal suffering). –  Richard Aug 31 '11 at 14:52
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@Bongeh you might choose to focus on unreached peoples as we already have a question on suffering. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/301/… –  wax eagle Aug 31 '11 at 14:56
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I don't believe I've seen any questions on the unreached, but in addition to wax eagle's link, you may want to check this question on children who haven't had a chance to be baptized or are even old enough to give themselves to Christ. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/126/… –  a_hardin Aug 31 '11 at 15:02
    
thanks a_hardin and wax eagle. I do not follow God, but am agnostic and not atheist. I'm still searching for answers. :) –  Bongeh Sep 1 '11 at 10:19
    
alternatively, we could ask, "Why do good things happen to bad people?" Presuming the natural sinfulness of man, there is no 'reason' for God to bestow blessings of any kind except for His good pleasure –  warren Oct 10 '12 at 15:57
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7 Answers

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I believe this is one of the most challenging questions to answer because it's so painful to see such terrible suffering in the world that occurs especially when it's at no fault of the suffering soul. Therefore, this question requires a sincere answer in response to the emotions it invokes as well as the possible contradiction posed by Epicurus.

In response to Epicurus; he makes a fatal error in his logic by not considering the possibility that God has a sufficient reason for allowing such suffering in the world. If this is even possible it completely eliminates any logical contradiction concerning the existence of a good God and the existence of evil. In God's omnipotence He can choose to allow terrible things to occur in order to bring about a greater good later. Think about the story of Joseph (Gen 37-50), or, most importantly, the betrayal of Christ which brought about atonement for our sins. In this past century alone, our world has seen the most despicable dictators such as Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein to name a few. Even in the face of the massive killings of China people are rushing to the Lord at a rate faster than any where else in the world. In Pakistan you can receive the death penalty for conversion yet they still are unable to stomp out the forest fire of belief in Christ. In Africa, from the early 1900's to date, the population has gone from less than 5% Christian to around 50%, in the face of famine, raping and brutal murders. God exchanges the suffering of the world, not only for many good things, but also for His most cherished affection, which is us.

Some may say if God is Omnipotent (all powerful) then why not just eliminate evil altogether and let us live in happy harmony. I suggest this premise has not been thought through very carefully for if God's standard is perfection He would ultimately have to either revoke our free will or eliminate all mankind since we have all fallen short of His glory (Rom 3:23) and deserve death (Rom 6:23). Even the atheist must admit that he has committed some evil according to God's standards, thereby qualifying for elimination. But as we have seen, God doesn't want to eliminate us but wants all people to be saved (1 Tim 2:4).

What about the children who die before being baptized, where do they go. I would first like to say that although Jesus commands a professing Christian to be baptized, he never requires it for salvation. In fact, he tells the criminal on the cross next to him who had a repented heart, "Truly, I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). This thief did not have the opportunity to be baptized yet Christ is telling him he will be in heaven. I would also like to point out in contrast to the Christadelphian claim, that the bible indicates here and in Luke 16:22 that believers will indeed be in heaven immediately after dying. Romans 10:9-13 tells us how to be saved and baptism is not part of it. Furthermore the bible indicates that a child who dies goes to be with the Lord. (2 Sam 12:23) When Davids son dies he says, "I will go to him, but he will not return to me", meaning David will see him again in heaven. And again in Ezekiel 16:21 God calls the young children of Israel who were being sacrificed by fire, His children, and we know from John 1 that to be a child of God is to be saved.

Lastly, about the people who are unreached by the gospel before there death. Read Romans 1 and 2 very carefully and you will find that although a man may not have heard the gospel he still has the testimony of God's existence from creation and an inner conviction (also see John 16:8). This conviction is the same conviction that drives any person to repentance. Christ is not limited to just using people to share the gospel, he can do so by coming Himself to a believing and contrite soul, in a vision, as he has done for so many people already. Many Muslims who have come to Christ will testify that they were met by Christ having never heard the gospel a day in there life, Amazing!! Read Acts 10 and you will see the story of a man who loved God but never heard the Gospel, and God sent Peter to him so that He may hear.

I hope this makes sense, I know it's very long answer but these are questions that many have written entire books about. I really hope and pray that you would reconsider your disbelief. Think about this, you lost your faith because of all the injustice going on, meanwhile the people being treated unjustly are gaining such strong relationships with God. James 1 was written just for these people to remain strong during trials, and I plead with you to do the same.

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Re: "He can choose to allow terrible things to occur in order to bring about a greater good later.". But since he is omnipotent, could he not bring about the greater good without the terrible things? While I realise it would be impossible to stop us from harming eachother while still allowing us to have free will, he should surely be able to prevent suffering that is not human-made, like natural disasters and so on? –  hammar Sep 2 '11 at 2:06
    
@hammar: While we have free will, don't we often make choices partially based on the environment around us or natural events? To remove disasters would quite often only leave direct modification of our wills as his only means to produce an end. How many people have been saved, directly or indirectly, from the results of some natural disaster? –  RCIX Sep 2 '11 at 2:47
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He can choose to allow terrible things to occur in order to bring about a greater good later. I think this is a little bit academic since the suffering is real now and with that argumentation you can endorse all kinds of bad things. In the end it even boils down to the argument that Satan is good because he only exists for the greater good later. Twisted logic, sorry to say. –  vonjd Sep 2 '11 at 5:21
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This answer gives enough evidence from scripture to answer my question as well as any christian can. Leaving the church, my family and friends included, was an immensely difficult decision. I will argue here that these areas of increased conversion are areas of intense suffering and poverty. As in medieval Europe. All religion thrives on giving people hope that after this terrible existence, there is a warm light at the end of the tunnel. So obviously out of fear and what I would call false hope, these people turn to God as a last resort. Thanks for your time and thoughts. –  Bongeh Sep 2 '11 at 8:36
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An Orthodox answer is that those who die outside of Christ go into the realm of the dead and await the preaching of John and the coming of Christ into Hades prior to his Resurrection -- recall the verse in which the dead are seen raised in Jerusalem. This seems temporally paradoxical (which is why it is not an answer usually offered) but we should understand that the realm of the dead and eternity are not 'in time'.

Therefore, whether or not these unbaptized are saved is of course still the judgment of God, but it is also not unlike whether or not those who preceded Christ's coming were saved. To those who do not believe any were, this is an unanswerable question except to say that God is the ultimate judge.

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thank you for your answer, as I stated before, I was raised Christadelphian, and as such have never for a moment believed in Heaven, Hell or purgatory. I was taught when we die, we die, like animals, we sleep and feel no pain in the grave, we rot and turn to dust, but when jesus returns to earth and makes the kingdom of god here on earth, we will be resurrected as Adam was created from dust. I would agree that death exists outside of time. –  Bongeh Sep 1 '11 at 10:17
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I think that this might fall into the free will category of Christianity. It is said that God loves everyone, but he also gives us free will. It's our choice to let such tragedies happen (whether we're the parents or those that watch those around us starve).

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while I agree with that, the child that suffers can in no way have possibly done anything to deserve it, nor can it act to prevent it. –  Bongeh Sep 1 '11 at 10:12
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I would disagree with that since there are many tragedies where innocent children suffer and die that have nothing to do with free will, e.g. earthquakes. –  vonjd Sep 1 '11 at 20:17
    
@vonjd, but people chose to live in that area. –  DForck42 Sep 1 '11 at 20:22
    
@DForck42: so you are saying that it is their own fault? Seems a little bit cynical to me (esp. concerning the children). –  vonjd Sep 1 '11 at 20:27
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@DForck42: I fear your position is untenable for at least two reasons in the Bible: First only Adam had a choice. After God's curse we have to suffer and die because of God's decision how to punish us (see my answer). Second: Considering e.g. the Great Flood God did it himself: He killed all of the human beings and we have to assume all of the innocent children too. There was no escape and this is the way God wanted it to be. –  vonjd Sep 1 '11 at 20:58
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According to the Bible the answer to this question lies in the fall from grace. Before that there was no pain and no death but because of Adam eating of the tree humanity was cursed for ever:

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, "You shall not eat of it", cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken;
you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

But I agree: It doesn't seem like all-loving at all because it can also be argued that this very incident was kind of staged because God is also all-knowing (it was his creation and he must have seen it coming). But anyway: If one person failed thousands of years ago why do we all have to suffer and die up until today? So your reasoning is understandable.

The whole discussion is very old. It is the problem of evil or Theodicy.

Epicurus reasoned:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

I think these problems are one of the main reasons why many people become atheists. See e.g. Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell

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He is able, but willing only if the other party is willing as well. If the other party is not willing, then he is not willing. If you call that malevolent, fine. But I call that mercy. –  Pacerier Sep 4 '11 at 17:29
    
I think you confuse God with a "tax-collector" but God is perfedt - see my answer here: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1809/… –  vonjd Sep 4 '11 at 18:39
    
God is perfect. That I know, and assure you. I've not been confused with God with a "tax-collector". –  Pacerier Sep 4 '11 at 18:40
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Anyway, we seem to have different opinions here or don't understand each other. But it has nothing to do with free will when an earthquakes kills you and your kids. And God could have definitely prevented that evil if he really was omnipotent - or he is, again, malevolent. –  vonjd Sep 4 '11 at 20:31
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This one is easy and I am confused you don't see it yourself: because the suffering of these poor people is real now! Or was your question meant cynically? –  vonjd Sep 5 '11 at 13:39
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i believe it is to reinforce our trust in God.

The question has also been raised,

If it is a sin to worry about things, what will happen tomorrow and what we will wear, for example, why are some born with anxiety problems?

The essential question is: Why is anyone born into hardship?

i can only see that this is to strengthen our trust in our Lord, and to remind us that there is little that we can do without Him. We need to recognize, no matter what our situation, that God can handle anything that we might have to deal with, and that we need to trust Him fully to take care of these things. In my case, i have ADHD, and this makes somewhat simple tasks (like homework) difficult because i cannot stay focused for long (and i end up on stackexchange sites ;) ). But this issue is not for me to deal with. i can safely say that i can cast this on God, give this to Him, and trust Him to take care of me. Only then will i have realized my relationship with my Creator.

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I think you've missed my point, in your case, your ADHD can be treated with medicine and therapy, invented by people (some might argue given inspiration through god), but ultimately, these children in Africa have NO way of helping themselves, and God seemingly does nothing. –  Bongeh Sep 2 '11 at 8:22
    
i think you've missed my point. My ADHD, while somewhat treatable, is a problem i cast on God instead of resorting to human solutions to human weakness. this is what i'm saying about the children in Africa, maybe if they had a way of helping themselves, they wouldn't need to turn to God. –  jlehenbauer Sep 2 '11 at 17:49
    
In my question, these children have no knowledge of God, even if it is in their homes, they are infants without speech and cognitive abilities. How are they expected to turn to God if they don't even understand the concepts of self awareness? –  Bongeh Oct 16 '12 at 8:33
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According to Jehovah Witness teaching, we are currently under the rule of Satan, not that of God (Jehovah). We see the horrid state of the world now as proof that we need God's kingdom to come here on earth as it is in heaven. We also believe that that time is almost here when there will be no more disease, famine, hatred, etc.

See this link for more information and Bible Scripture explaining why we believe there is suffering in this world.

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Welcome to C.SE! One of the things that will improve this answer is if you could summarize what you are linking to. Link rot is always a concern :) –  Affable Geek Oct 9 '12 at 0:45
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Also, you may want to source this as coming from a Jehovah's Witness perspective. Its completely on-topic, but as JW's are a minority world-wide, it is more helpful to casual readers to identify the perspective as coming from a less mainstream perspective. Please see this FAQ for details. –  Affable Geek Oct 9 '12 at 0:47
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Welcome to Christianity.SE. You'll note that (in keeping with the spirit of editing to improve quality as mentioned in our faq) I have edited your post with some English and formatting issues to help it fit better on our site. I've also clarified the position being spoken from. This will improve it's reception as people will judge it based on how well it represents that view, not on whether or not they agree with that view. I would love to see you around and would draw your attention to the fact that we have a lot of questions that call specifically for jehovahs-witnesses doctrine. –  Caleb Oct 9 '12 at 8:12
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People are born into famine and starvation mostly because of the greed of people. There is enough food to go around, but it is used as a weapon or, most recently, to make gasoline via a complex process that uses more energy than it produces.

The reason that God allows than condition to happen is to draw us closer to him for assistance, and to not rely own our own weak flesh. See Romans 8:18-20.

The suffering we experience now is to prepare us to fully experience the glory to come when we are in the presence of God.

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You've missed my point that some are born outside of the influence of christianity, some die in infancy before speaking their first words, God allows this to happen. –  Bongeh Oct 9 '12 at 10:42
    
@Bongeh, children who die in infancy have already fulfilled the purpose that God has for them in this life. Since it is God's grace that saves, then the fact that they have not yet been baptized will not affect their salvation. Their acceptance of Christ is of course up to the Holy Spirit, and their relationship with their mother may be all that God needs for those individuals to understand what their relationship to God. I don't see a contradiction between God's love and infant death. The main outcome is that parents perceive the lost of their child, which God experiences for each sinner. –  jcohen79 Oct 12 '12 at 14:22
    
So the pain and suffering the child feels in the short time it is given life on this earth mean nothing? and God is not accountable for that undeserved suffering? From what you tell me of God, he is a cruel individual who deserves no one's love nor their worship. There are many interpretations of the Bible however, and a large amount do not believe in a holy spirit/trinity. To the individual who feels pain, through no fault of their own, God is unjust in this instance. –  Bongeh Oct 12 '12 at 16:12
    
@Bongeh, the suffering we feel in our lives is like a nightmare. Eventually we wake up from a nightmare, and according to scripture eventually we will be reborn into a world without suffering. But God has lessons for us to learn during the period before that day comes. For people who die as infants, that period of learning is shorter than for the rest of us. The idea that we are somehow entitled to a life with no suffering seems rather a presumptuous attitude to take. The proper attitude is thanks to God that we have life and even more so that we have salvation. –  jcohen79 Oct 13 '12 at 2:16
    
Also, far from meaning nothing, the suffering that all of us, including infants who die young, feel in life is exactly what God has determined is needed in order for us to be prepared to come into his holy presence. –  jcohen79 Oct 13 '12 at 3:54
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