The Problem of Evil

Anyone that lives in a post Holocaust or 9/11 World is aware (unless they are totally out of touch with reality) that a big question is how could God have allowed those things to happen? The main objection, that Atheists use when trying to show the existence of God to be unlikely is a variation on this theme of the problem of Evil. For the Atheist he does not ask how God can allow an event like 9/11 to happen, but the Atheist finds the grounds to reject the very existence of God from it. This is called the "Logical Problem of Evil", as Christians it is our moral duty to give an answer to this urgent and sometimes devastating question.

The Problem Stated

 

[1] God is all- good.

[2] God is all- powerful

[3] Evil exist

The atheist argument assumes a contradiction between 1-2 &3, but is there really one? I think not I will attempt to show why.

Before I go about giving a response we must ask another question that goes to the heart of the atheistic argument.

I .Who has a Problem?

The Atheist appeals to evil to disprove the existence of the Christian God, but we must ask the atheist how he can account for any evil in the world. Atheism by its very nature is a system of beliefs that leads to the conclusion that we live in a universe with no order, no morals, and no hope. There are many problems with the position, but the Moral problem will suffice for this article. Things like the torture of babies, the Holocaust, and 9/11 horrify the Atheist, and they should because, as anyone outside an insane asylum should know, these atrocities defy human explanations and are purely evil. The question then arises as to why the atheist feels morally repulsed. The Atheist has no grounds to make a moral statement, all other non-theistic (godless) moral systems fail, whether they are the theories, “the greatest good for the greatest number” or “Hedonism” (whatever makes me happy), fail the test.

So the Atheist to start with has no grounds to believe that evil even exists because he/she has no grounds for the existence of good and evil. The Theist does not have this problem, because God by his very nature is good; meaning that for him to become evil is like God trying to create a square circle (which is impossible even for an all-powerful being, because it is as absurd as 2+2=5).  So the Atheist in making his argument must borrow from the Christian worldview (system of core beliefs that Christians believe)! So from the beginning his/her “argument from evil” is foundationless.

The Atheist can say that it causes a problem for the believer because evil does exist in the theistic system even though the atheist may not believe that evil really exists, it is still a problem in the Christian system of beliefs. So evil would make an internal contradiction in the theistic belief system (note introduction to the argument above), which would make the Christian claim false. It is to this that I now turn.

II. Resolving the Tension

Back to the Logical problem above (1, 2, and 3) the Christian theist has a few options that have been used in the History of the Church and the History of Philosophy. I will focus on two that I think are the most satisfying.

If the Christian presupposes (assumes) that the Christian God is all – good according to scripture, then he is committed to viewing all things in light of that truth. To resolve the problem the theist can respond with the following counter:

 

(4) God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil in the world.

 

This resolves the tension by the presupposition that God is all- good because that is what scripture teaches. So when we see evil happen in the world we must conclude (based on God’s nature according to scripture) that God has a morally sufficient reason for it, thus resolving the “contradiction”.  In other words if we could look at the history of creation we would see that the evil that happens, or the evil that God allows to happen fits into his overall plan. In the New Testament we see a glimpse of this. In the book of Acts 2:22-23 and Acts 4.27-28:

 

For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

 

You that are Israelites, listen to what I have to say; Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with deeds of power, wonders, and signs that God did through him among you, as you yourselves know- this man, handed over to you according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of those outside the law.

 

 

 

So God allowing his own son, the second part of the Holy Trinity, to be killed in such away according to the plan of God before the foundation of the world

There is no contradiction in the logic of (4) because if God is all good then there must be a purpose for evil that is morally sufficient, therefore the problem of evil becomes one that must be dealt with in the context of the body of Christ because it is a problem stemming from mankind’s fallen and sinful state. Paul tells us in the context of persecution (evil) in Romans 8 that the creation is groaning for God to come back and make all things new. At the end of Romans 8 we have this comforting verse:

 

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.”

 

Second Defense: Free-will Defense

 

Those who believe in free- will (I must be honest and say that I do not) make the free-will defense, which is also a strong defense against the problem of evil. It states that God loved humans so much that he gave them free- will. Man rebelled from God and is the cause for evil. In other words, God loved humans so much that he took the chance of giving us free- will so that we could love him back, but with free-will comes the possibility to commit great evils.

 If God intervened on our free- will then he would be a cosmic rapist who violated our freedom. In logical form here is how it works out:

 

[1] If man is capable of committing good or evil of his own free- will and according to his desires, then God is not responsible for evil.

 

[2] Man is capable of committing good or evil of his own free- will and according to his desires

 

Therefore God is not responsible for evil.

 

Conclusion: Both defenses we looked at are ways to make a defense against the atheistic worldview. Whichever one you choose remember, that ultimately it is a question that has been wrestled with since the book of Job and before.

 I have not touched on the fact that our faith is based on the brutally evil torture of a crucified God, but I will hit on that in the next article. Romans 11:33-36 says:

“O the depth of the riches an wisdom and knowledge of God! How unreachable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

 

Before we ever think about the God of scripture we must remember that he his bigger and more magnificent than anything we can imagine with our fallen and limited thinking abilities. We should have pause before his majesty.

 

Sources:

Greg Bahnsen: Always Ready Published by the Covenant Media Foundation

J.L. Mackie Omnipotence and Evil

NRSV

John S. Feinberg No One Like Him. Crossway Books