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So, recently I had the thought: suffering is irrelevant. I arrived at this conclusion using the idea of limits in Math.

  1. Say that suffering could be measured in units as a function of time (frowns per second? Level of pain * frowns / consolation???. It doesn't really matter how it is measured though).
  2. In heaven, suffering is 0, meaning that once someone is in heaven, suffering becomes a constant.
  3. Heaven is also eternal (time approaches infinity).
  4. Therefore, since the suffering is a constant, and it is being expressed in terms of an infinite value, it follows that all suffering normalizes to 0 (even if we do care about suffering in heaven... which we won't).

While this thought makes sense, I can't help but feel that somehow this is too simplistic of an explanation. Have I missed some piece of logic? Is this a heretical thought somehow?

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Is not man's life a drudgery? –  Peter Turner Aug 4 '12 at 3:07
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Deriving some formula on your own then trying to figure out whether it "fits" somehow is a dangerous way to live your life. You'll get yourself into all sorts of scrapes of your own making and miss out on most of the blessings God has in store.

Instead, you should learn to use Scripture as a sort of lens or framework by which to understand the world. If you had approached the issue of suffering by starting with the Scriptures then applying what you found there to the world, you would come to a different conclusion about the importance of suffering. Most significatly, I think you would find that it has meaning / purpose.

In Scripture, suffering is not a divide by zero equation, it produces something:

Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Furthermore we know that besides just some end product, the actual process has value:

1 Peter 2:19 (ESV)
19  For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

In summary, making suffering out to be of no consequence would clearly conflict with Scripture.

On the math issue, it's probably worth noting the kind of time based math we currently operate in is not the same order that God operates in or that we will eventually be ushered into. This creation (and it's timeline) are just a created capsule sustained by God's will for a purpose for a time. It will have an end. The economy of what survives and is of eternal value and what will perish and will "not matter" is defined by God's rules. Physics, chemistry and even theoretical math do not govern what does and does not have eternal consequences. Neither do any philosophies of men.

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It was a case of, "I have what appears to be clear logic producing a conclusion which is uneasy." –  Ignatius Theophorus Aug 3 '12 at 17:06
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