We usually think of our imagination as the faculty by which we “make up” things. It is the source of our make-believe world and of fantasy writers in “worldmaking.” It is the faculty by which we imagine unicorns and mountains made of gold. These are hybrids made out the real world in our mind.
It has been argued that the imagination is also the means by which we take all the parts of knowledge and make sense of them. It is the means by which we see the whole world; by which we connect the dots; by which we attempt to make sense of life.
Take for example, the issue of suffering. There are plenty of challenges to making sense of the world. Imagine a young woman, minding her own business, walking down her neighborhood street. A car pulls up and 4 or 5 young men get out of the car, pull her the ground and, one by one, molest her.
When I first met her, five years later, to wrestle with the issues this event created for her, I asked if she believed in God. She shook her head, “No.” For clarification, I asked, “So you say you know there is no God?” She thought for moment, and said, ‘It’s not that I don’t believe in Him. It’s just that I hate him.”
Whether a person ends up denying He exists or ends up hating Him, it does not take a genius to connect the two: that is the traumatic event with the conclusion.
This woman simplified the age-old philosophical argument against God, in practical terms; not in the technical language of the philosopher or theologian.
Thomas Warren wrote,
It is likely the case that no charge has been made with greater frequency or with more telling force against theism of the Judeo-Christian (biblical) tradition than that such theism is unable to explain adequately the occurrence or the existence of evil. For some men the idea of omnipotent, omnibenevolent (perfectly good) God is simply ruled out by the enormous depth and far-reaching extent of human suffering and moral evil which these men at least think they see in the world (Have Atheists Proved There Is No God?, p. vii).
He concludes his introduction writing,
It is difficult, if indeed not impossible to imagine a challenge with more significance and implications (ibid. p. x).
All of the debates with atheists I have read or attended have been couched in abstract terms, and we have responded abstractly to them. I think that if we address the issue in light of the Story the Scriptures tell, we may be able to make as much sense out of it or more.
God made the world out of His good pleasure displaying His great glory. Man failed his mission to glorify God, sin entered into the picture, and death through sin (Rom. 5:12). Also to be considered is our arch-enemy, the devil. C.S. Lewis wrote that we live in enemy occupied territory. We live in a war zone, and in wars there are casualties, fatalities, and collateral damage. This combined with the fact that in the Fall the whole creation was subjected to futility has much explanatory power. The storyline of Scripture goes a long way toward explaining why we sin and suffer.