Seven Answers to the Problem of Pain

A reader with the sunny, angelic, yet septentrionic name of Uriel7 penned a miniature guest column last year, which was brought to my attention again, and which I think merits repeating:

There are seven answers to “the problem of pain” or “how to be happy”.

The Buddhist answer. Existence is pain. Happiness is illusion. Blessedness comes from cessation of existence.

The Pantheist answer. Division – existence as a separate being – is pain. Happiness is found by becoming one with everything – cessation of existence as an individual being.

The Hedonist answer. Existence is pointless suffering and happiness is a lie. Existence can be rendered more tolerable by the maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain.

The Stoic answer. Existence is suffering. The self-commanded man can become happy by disregarding pleasure & pain, becoming indifferent to the travails of the world and motivated only by his sovereign will.

The Gnostic/Bolshevik answer. The current state of existence is a lie designed to entrap and disenfranchise men by an evil and arbitrary authority. The internalization of this evil system by men produces suffering. Happiness can be found if the current order is destroyed; thus, for salvation to be accomplished, both the current state of existence and the nature of man must be changed. This change can only be accomplished by transgression and destruction. The new order of salvation will arise once sufficient transgression and destruction has been accomplished, bringing happiness.

The Theistic answer. Suffering is brought about by transgression of the Law, given by God. Salvation comes through following the Law. If you are saved, God will make you happy. This understanding is fundamentally transactional; pay undeserved suffering & obedience, receive happiness.

The Christian answer. For man, suffering and death came with the Fall. God blessed and hallowed suffering and death by Himself choosing to suffer and die – so He does not ask of us anything He has not done Himself.

Salvation comes via cooperation with God – He who is the Real, the Beautiful, the True, and the Good in His very nature.

This cooperation is accomplished through obedience and imitation of Christ, the Logos – the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the right order and reason of all things.

Obedience consists, in part, of accepting suffering – to “embrace the Cross” as our Captain sought and embraced His Cross. Happiness, in this life and the next, comes from union with God – a “marriage” between God and man. This is a non-transactional relationship. Ultimately, those Saved will become Sons of God – things like Himself, in union with Him.