Suicide: Where Are The Answers?

I do volunteer work with a college apologetics ministry, Ratio Christi (www.ratiochristi.org). We mentor college students to defend their faith against attacks and questions from atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and critics. The most rewarding part of the job is working with great students who will go on to do great things. We get the pleasure to work with some of the brightest young thinking Christians.

This last weekend, one of our best students committed suicide. Our sense of frustration and sense of loss is obviously great, but I am sure not nearly as much as that of his family.

I know what have been my thoughts this week, but I can only guess what might be the thoughts of his family and close friends. This student was very bright, worked hard, had a good grasp of the issues, and was set to go on and do great things for God’s kingdom. We saw no signs of depression or mental illness. I am sure you can guess the questions: Why would God allow such a thing? Could not an all-powerful God stop this person? Could not God change him? Could not God have caused the gun to fail? Why would God allow such a tragedy, then allow the family and friends to suffer? The questions could go on, but you get the idea. These are not trivial questions, and many counselors see these types of questions all the time.

No doubt many atheists and skeptics use such situations to scream to the world that God does not exist, or He would have done something. Possibly God is limited or uncaring and is therefore unworthy of worship. This is the classic problem of evil.

I have considered this problem from a cool intellectual stance many times (just search for morals or evil in my search bar). Right now, however, I am looking at the problem with fresh pain and loss, for the senseless suicide has hit close to home. Added to the obvious pain is that my work is to pass along something to the next generation, and this suicide has added to the loss.

Either God is still worthy of worship in times like these, or He is not worthy any time. So what is my response?

I fully recognize the intellectual arguments, for I have blogged them here many times. But now the question is more personal, more feeling, so close that it is under my skin and in my heart. How do I respond?

My first reflection on this suicide was indeed “God, where are you? Where were you?” Following this is a recognition that there will likely be no simple answer that will satisfy the pain of those who knew this person. I admit that we all have the questions I listed above, but likely will never get answers this side of heaven.

My next reflection was on the hollowness of atheism in a time like this. No, not hollowness, but downright wrongness. I thought of Richard Dawkins’ quote “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” I am sure that if Dawkins were at the funeral he would be polite and cordial and not say such things to the family, but there is also no doubt that the day he said these words, somewhere there was a grieving mother who had a child that had just killed themselves. He cannot separate himself from a universe that has “blind pitiless indifference,” one with no evil or good, yet then turn around and say that we do not admit to such ideas in polite company, that the suicide this week was evil, we should have pity, and such evil acts are proof that God is absent or irrelevant.

Something inside me calls out to God for answers. But over that, something inside me screams out to the atheists that suicide of a loved one is indeed proof that evil exists, that we want good, and we are incapable of believing that blindness and indifference is the way of the world. No doubt the atheists at the funeral would agree, and are likely angry at me right now for suggesting that they are indifferent to such evil acts. But that’s just the point. If we admit that evil and good are real, that we cannot be pitiless and indifferent in situations such as this, we have pulled the foundation from under the atheists’ position and the whole show collapses on stage in front of everyone. If evil exists, and surely this suicide that has put fresh pain in my gut is evil, then now there is more to the world than chemistry and physics.

I may never know why my friend shot himself this week, for God does not respond to my demands. But I know that atheism presents no answers, and God promises to eventually wipe away every tear. I may not like the fact that God may never tell me the answers to my questions, but I rest knowing that a world without God is a more monstrous idea than the evil of one person’s suicide.

For you, Chase.

About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
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12 Responses to Suicide: Where Are The Answers?

  1. Jenna Seeley says:

    Jenna Seeley 571-247-7957

    >

  2. Jenna Seeley says:

    I’m so sorry about Chase…praying for comfort in this time of loss.

    Jenna Seeley 571-247-7957

    >

  3. Ben says:

    Sorry to hear about your student’s death.

    Having talked to you in the past and having shared some of our thinking on deep subjects, although I don’t have all the answers I felt compelled to hopefully give a little seed for thought about how I see the origins of evil and why it is allowed in the world. It is a subject that often comes up when I talk to seekers etc. and that I think about how to answer a lot.

    Anyway, a quick comment about those who ask, “if God exists why didn’t He do something” is that the short answer that I focus on is that in love for the creatures He designed in His likeness and image He also allowed for human volition. Man then took upon himself to have knowledge of good and evil and therein we fall short and evil decisions are made for which we alone are responsible – yet in whole I believe God’s purposes to make the world as He did with us in it was an omnibenevolent action from an Omnibenevolent God who allows evil for the greater good to exist as part of His plan in creating us. Although difficult to understand now I trust in the day when we have the tears wiped from our eyes we will clearly see the love that went into creation for us to exist with all the attributes we were given that has enabled us to experience life as spiritual beings and to know the truth of the immeasurable goodness of God and the fullness of His love which never changes.

    So to me hearing the question asked why God didn’t do anything to stop evil usually involves an answer taking into account the purposes in creation and the nature of God (Only Good) and the nature of man (with sense, reason, intellect and human volition) which I sometimes attempt to articulate as I did here:

    http://www.baptistsymposium.com/forum/forum/philosophical-theology-forums-all-christians/analyzing-theological-concepts/1759-aseity-of-god-his-unchanging-plan-including-human-volition-from-the-beginning

  4. Pingback: On suicide and maybe atheism | Random thoughts

  5. john zande says:

    “atheism presents no answers”

    Atheism doesn’t attempt to.

    As for your friends death, I would point you to Aaron Freeman’s wonderful, truthful words:

    “You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

    And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him/her that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let him/her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her/his eyes, that those photons created within her/him constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

    And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

    And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.”

  6. humblesmith says:

    The long quote you pasted was obviously an attempt to explain some truth and give a conclusion to a grieving person upon a loved one’s death…..but even if it were a simple listing of pure facts, it would be a truth claim. In my original post, the part you quoted was that atheism presents no answers. Thus the quote you posted was a claim to explain what is true about someone’s death.

    The other links I gave, and the comments afterward, are more to the point about whether or not atheism makes any statements to what is true, so I again refer you to those. I quoted several in the comments to those posts, but I suppose I’ll have to do still another post with atheist truth claims. It’s not difficult, for their books are plentiful, all claiming to tell me what is true. Stay tuned.

    • john zande says:

      As you seem hopelessly stuck on this position, perhaps you could explain, in detail, how atheism is linked to the law of conservation of energy… which Freeman is talking about.

      Thanks. I look forward to reading your answer.

  7. Midori Skies says:

    “No doubt many atheists and skeptics use such situations to scream to the world that God does not exist, or He would have done something.”

    Not if they have any sense of compassion, they don’t.

    I’m sorry for your loss.

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