May God make innocent beings suffer?

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Puritan Board Junior
Samuel, I hope it's okay to address to you just that I am very grateful you started the thread. Reading Lamentations 3 in light of this question was incredibly helpful to me. One can see our Saviour there identifying with His judged people, 'I am the man who has seen affliction', and understand the hope that sustained Him in the depth of His afflictions. Christ knew God better than anyone; and this question bears so much on what He knew about God that gave Him hope -- it has been a tremendous help to my faith, in union with Him. I'm sure I'm saying all of that badly; but it was a good thread. :)
I'm glad the thread was helpful to you. But that doesn't change the fact that my question was very foolish. :)


Puritan Board Sophomore
Animals aren't innocent or guilty because they are not moral creatures like human beings and angels.
). Animals are neither righteous/innocent nor wicked.
I am not sure it is appropriate to apply the term "innocent" to a non-moral being, because "innocent" is a moral term.
Jason, please note that guilt and innocence are categories only applicable to moral-rational agents, not to amoral creations.
Well Calvin seems to think that the creation suffers innocently.

Nor ought it to seem absurd, that, through the sin of man, punishment should overflow the earth, though innocent. [Calvin's Commentary on Genesis 3:17]


Puritan Board Doctor
Well Calvin may be using the word "innocent" in the popular sense of not having sin even if incapable of moral choice, rather than in the ethically accurate sense of being a moral creature who hasn't sinned.

Animals and rocks aren't guilty or innocent, and only (some?) animals can suffer pain.

Animals aren't innocent like the unfallen angels.


Staff member

Jesus was innocent of all charges, was perfectly sinless, and yet suffered on the Cross.


Because he was made sin for us. 2 Corinth. 5:21 Our guilt was imputed to him. He bore the awful load of all our sins.

Otherwise, the suffering of Christ would be a travesty.


Arbitrary Moderation
Well Calvin seems to think that the creation suffers innocently.
Nor ought it to seem absurd, that, through the sin of man, punishment should overflow the earth, though innocent. [Calvin's Commentary on Genesis 3:17]
Jason, this would be a good time to slow down. Yes, Calvin uses those words, but two people can use the same words and mean entirely different things by them. Such is the case in this situation. For example, you might consider reading Calvin's comments on Rom. 8:19-22 if you wish to understand what you quoted in terms of Calvin's own thought. In this passage, Calvin explicitly qualifies his own language, clarifying that when he attributes things such as reason, hope and will to "creation" in the context of suffering and punishment, he does so "by a sort of personification...and he [the apostle Paul] does this in order to shame our stupidity, when the uncertain fluctuations of this world, which we see, does not raise our minds to higher things." When he speaks of "creation" being punished, he qualifies this: it is not actually "suffering" as man can, or experiencing "punishment," but rather "since there is no reason in such creatures, their will is to be taken no doubt for their natural inclination, according to which the whole nature of things tends to its own preservation and perfection: whatever then is detained under corruption suffers violence, nature being unwilling and repugnant." Calvin proceeds to personify the earth's "obedience" in such things as bringing forth fruit, the flow of the air and water, etc., whereby the earth is shown "obediently" carrying out its "charges" in "hope." He personifies creation, attributing to it that which he overtly maintains cannot actually belong to it. Calvin does not say the earth can be "innocent" or "guilty," but rather through personification (figuratively attributing things like innocence and guilt to it), states that there was nothing wrong or defective in the earth: it was created and it was good; and did and was exactly as it should be: all of the decay and death that is in nature, is not from defect within itself, but is on account of man's sin. This is all he is saying. In fact, within the Genesis commentary which you quoted, if you jump down a few lines, you will find him state, "We may add, that, properly speaking, this whole punishment is exacted, not from the earth itself, but from man alone."

Always remember that, while it is important to know what words an author uses, it's even more important to understand *how* and *why* the author is using them.
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