The Problem of Evil (from an Amateur’s Perspective)
Certainly, we all struggle from time to time with the evil in this world, all around us, even hitting home when we experience a taste of it ourselves. The problem arises for Christians when the questions arises, “How can there be so much evil in the world if God is perfectly good as well as all powerful?” If God were perfectly good but not all powerful, then we may understand that He wants to stop evil but is not able. On the flip side, if God were all powerful but not all good, then we would realize that he does not stop evil because He does not want to even though He could. However, orthodox Christian doctrine affirms, among many other things, that our God is both perfectly good and all powerful. Since this is true, we are left with our original question:
“How can there be so much evil in the world if God is perfectly good as well as all powerful?”
While this seems like an insurmountable attack on the God of the Bible, the Christian actually does have a reasonable response. To begin to understand the answer, we must put aside our emotional feelings. This is hard to do, but once our emotions are taken out of the equation, we will be able to think clearly on the subject.
First of all, the genuine, consistent atheist must admit that there is no such thing as objective moral values and duties. Following atheism to its logical end produces a conclusion that there are no such things as good and evil. There is no objective basis on which to judge these things. Nevertheless, almost everyone knows that there IS such a thing as evil. Will anyone really deny that murder is evil? Are there folks out there who will disagree that child abuse is evil? Was the Holocaust not evil? What about ISIS; is burning people in cages not evil? Most of the world’s population will acknowledge that these things are evil and that evil exists. And yet, no one can make these sorts of judgments without the existence of God. Follow this logic:
(1) If we believe that there is evil in the world, then there must be good. If there is wrong, then there must be right and vice-versa.
(2) If good and evil exist, then objective moral values and duties exist.
(3) If there are objective moral values and duties, then there must be a universal, moral lawgiver.
(4) There is a universal lawgiver—God.
The theologians and Christian apologists call this line of reasoning, “The Moral Argument for the Existence of God.” The Scriptures affirm that God exists and that He has given us standards (Romans 1:18-21). He is holy, and, to have a relationship with Him, we must be holy as well. The Scriptures even go so far as to state that all human beings have this moral law written on their hearts, even apart from the Bible (Romans 2:12-16).
Here is the argument in three simple points:
(1) If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
(2) But objective moral values and duties do exist.
(3) Therefore, God exists.
Now, all we have done thus far is show that the question of the problem of evil does not disprove God’s existence. We have shown that that evil actually proves God’s existence. So, how are we to begin to deal with the problem?
The first answer to the problem of evil is the fact of free-will. God has created human beings in His image and likeness, and He has allowed us to freely choose to accept or reject Him. He has allowed us to choose good or evil. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and some human beings have chosen to pursue evil wholeheartedly. This is a horrible situation in which we find ourselves, but the alternative was for God to create us to simply be robots, programmed to only do good. The only remedy for this horrible situation is not to deny God and pursue wickedness; on the contrary, our only hope is to trust God and wait for the appearing of His Son who will rid the world of evil and establish an everlasting kingdom of peace and all that is good.
Another response to the problem of evil is that God surely has morally sufficient reasons for allowing pain and suffering to continue in the world. You see, not only is God perfectly good and all powerful, but He is also all knowing. He can see the end from the beginning. Before creation, He thought of all the possible worlds that He could create, and He chose to create this one. For whatever reasons, He created a world with free creatures which would allow for pain, suffering, and evil. Maybe that is the only kind of world there can be when creatures have freedom of the will. Maybe that is the world in which the most people would come to a knowledge of the truth and to saving faith. For whatever the reasons, even with the emotional turmoil that evil brings, we do not waver from the belief in the integrity of God. He is perfectly righteous—therefore, everything He thinks, says, and does is right.
There are many more things that can be said on this extremely relevant and greatly important question, and we have only scratched the surface. Maybe this article will help a little bit to move you toward some answers to the problem, and perhaps we can follow this up with some more articles.