The christian god is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent according to all christian denominations I know of. These attributes seem to be contradicted by all the suffering we observe here on earth. Why does God not intervene to prevent suffering if he knows of it (omniscience), has the means to prevent it (omnipotence) and is benevolent?

The most common explanation I heard was that the free will of humans is responsible, but this questions is not about that. There is a lot of suffering caused by natural catastrophes, illnesses and so forth. I want to restrict the question to natural causes where we have no means to prevent them, such as e.g. incurable diseases.

How can one explain the presence of inevitable suffering not caused by other humans, but by natural means, if God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent?

  • 2
    possible duplicate of Are natural disasters the result of evil being allowed into our world?
    – warren
    Sep 1, 2011 at 15:38
  • @dancek - I agree, and would add it to the list on the VtC
    – warren
    Sep 1, 2011 at 16:00
  • 1
    I'm not seeing how that would be a duplicate of my question, the answers are somewhat similar but the questions are completely different. Sep 2, 2011 at 11:51
  • Seems distinct enough to me; if anything, the linked question follows from this one.
    – Shog9
    Sep 6, 2011 at 15:51

2 Answers 2


You're looking at the question from a mortal perspective, whereas God has an eternal perspective. He put us here not to be here as an end unto itself, but to prepare us for what comes after this life.

In the Sermon on the Mount, we are commanded to be perfect "even as your Father in Heaven is perfect." God is perfect because he never uses his power to do anything which would be wrong, no matter how tempting we might make it. But we are imperfect and prone to physical and spiritual problems of every kind in this life. In order to grow and attain a Godly level of perfection, we need practice. We need for things to go wrong so that we can learn to deal with them correctly. Otherwise, we can never become the kind of perfect people that the Gospel is supposed to lead us to be.


If the Christian god is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent then suffering must be the will of the Christian god and that god, must feel the suffering is somehow good for you.

This can be seen if you have ever been to the Dentist, Doctor, or washed out a wound with soap or antiseptic: the pain your are suffering is actually a side effect of something good happening. Another example would be uncomfortable (even painful) exercise or diet being good for you in the long run.

Interestingly pain is an indicator that something is wrong and that you should seek medical attention. The more intense the pain the more apt people are to seek help. Think of it as an annoying alarm or warning indicator that is there to capture your attention for your own good.

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    But your dentist is not omnipotent, he cannot achieve the positive effects without the pain. God is supposed to be omnipotent, he should be able to achieve any positive effect he wants without being forced to accept any negative side effects. Sep 1, 2011 at 15:35
  • @Fabian: I'm not sure that "Omnibenevolent" properly applies to God, but he certainly does allow suffering for the purpose of performing spiritual, mental, and physical repairs -- see 1 Peter 4:12-13 and 1 Peter 1:6-7.
    – RCIX
    Sep 1, 2011 at 15:41
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    @Fabian: to add, God isn't willing to break the natural laws of his Creation (at least not on such a large scale as repairing all of humanity), nor would he violate our free will to do so. Just because God is omnipotent doesn't mean he can do things that make no sense (like some nonsensical things, like making red sound blue or making low notes jump) :P [This book](www.amazon.com/Heart-Chronicles-Narnia-Knowing-Finding/dp/0849904889) covers it much more thoroughly and properly than i can in the comments of a post; I highly recommend you buy an (ebook) copy or at least rent it from a library.
    – RCIX
    Sep 1, 2011 at 15:46
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    @Fabian great point. How about this: The universe is a system. God designed the system to work a certain way (e.g it includes pain and suffering). God intended it to work this way. Building a system with pain and suffering is questionable to you and I. Therefore you and I must not be equipped to understand God's rational for the system design. This makes some sense considering he is supposed to be omniscient. Personally though, what I wrote above is a "will of god" type answer and I think that type of answer is often abused. I recommend looking outside Christianity for an answer. Sep 1, 2011 at 15:46

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