The presence of evil, pain and suffering in our world is the most persistent argument raised against theism. The following are several of the main responses to the presence of evil in the world and its impact on the existence of the God of the Bible.
1. The Problem of Evil Stated
Traditional Statement—Atheists and others usually state the problem of evil in the form of a dilemma:
- If God is perfectly loving, He must wish to abolish evil
- If He is all powerful, He must be able to abolish evil
- But evil exist—the problem is, if you affirm two of these facts, you cannot affirm the third.
- Therefore, an all powerful, loving God does not exist.
- God is the author of everything.
- Evil is something.
- Therefore God is the author of evil.
- God made everything perfect.
- Imperfection cannot come from perfection.
- Therefore perfectly created beings cannot be the origin of evil.
- Therefore God must be the origin.
Attack Based on the Persistence of Evil
- If God is all good, He would destroy evil.
- If God is all-powerful, He could destroy evil.
- But evil is not destroyed.
- Hence, there is no such God.
2. Christian Responses
Christians should learn to state the free-will defense against the problem of evil quickly and clearly.
Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defense (Alvin Plantinga, God and Other Minds—A Study of Rational Justification of Belief in God. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 1967)
- Free will is of moral value. That is, a world with free will is better than one without it.
- It is a contradiction to say that God brings it about that humans freely will only the good [vs J.S. Findlay who claims that this is possible].
- God must bring about the best possible world in His capacity.
- Therefore, God must create a world with free will. [We believe the word "must" is objectionable here, but the point still stands. Instead read "God is correct to create..."]
- But then God is not responsible for evil (choices), since it is not in his power to bring it about that men freely choose only the good. [note: this assumes that God cannot, and need not, do the logically contradictory. If logic does not apply to God, then there is nothing wrong with asserting the apparent contradiction that God is good and He permits evil to exist. Where there is no logic, there are not any contradictions—and anything could be the case!]
Other Statements of the Biblical Position:
- God created the fact of freedom—man performs the acts of freedom.
- God made evil possible, but free will creatures make evil actual.
- The ability to do something does not necessitate doing it. God is able to control everything, yet He allows free will. The atheistic position reduces to a moral judgment that absence of all evil is more desirable than freedom.
*Note: Atheistic thinkers are usually contradictory at this point. Secular humanists prefer freedom in society even if it sometimes results in evil. Most atheists resist the idea of governmental attempts to eliminate evil by the use of control.
Eschatological Formulation (focuses on how the future, or end state of the world, will ultimately be the true standard by which the present will be judged).
- If God is all powerful, He can defeat evil.
- If God is all loving and good, He will defeat evil.
- Therefore, evil will be defeated.
*Note: The question of why God allows the persistence of evil is distinct from the question of why He permitted it in the first place. The biblical answer to the issue of persistence of evil probably has to do with God's strategy for insuring the on-going and safe existence of freedom in the universe.
3. Communication Guidelines
A. In his arguments against God's existence, the atheist presupposes an ultimate standard of justice and good when he refers to evil.
- Ask, "What basis does the atheist have for saying there is evil in the world?" "Is this not an appeal to his own relative moral feelings and opinions?" "Why should his feelings be authoritative?"
- Ask, "What's your explanation?" Never accept the burden of being the only one who has to hold to a cohesive and consistent world view.
- selfless:God creates other, so that not every being is a mere extension of Himself, he can be opposed, it is okay with Him if He doesn't always get what He wants, He can handle it
- sacrificial: if God's love always involved His own "happiness", we wouldn't consider it love. Some things must go wrong for God for His love to be displayed as sacrificial, God gives up something that He would like to have, it costs Him, there is a cost-benefit and not just a benefit-benefit
- unconditional: it can be demonstrated in and will endure any set of conditions such that circumstances do not always have to be ideal for everyone. If circumstances were always ideal for everyone, we would have no idea whether God's love was unconditional or merely conditional
God is Love; He is not equated with happiness. Yet, to hear many people who pose the problem of evil, one would think they are claim that God is ultimately happiness - happiness for God and happiness for us. If reality were all about happiness there would be no evil. But if reality is all about love, then love is best expressed and perceived where reality involves unhappiness of some sort, as explained above.
We think, "If I were God, I would be mainly concerned about my happiness, and would make everything and everyone only happy all the time." That may be what would make God happy as well, but God's nature is not tied in with happiness so much as it is a loving nature! God is not ultimately concerned about His own happiness as we selfish beings would be had we the power to get our own way. Neither is God ultimately concerned about our happiness. He is concerned about love.
Also, to hear many people pose the problem of evil, evil is equated with unhappiness such that "If I can't reach somewhere I want to reach, that is a problem, making me unhappy, and is therefore evil." In the case of Lucifer and many people like Lucifer "If I can't be God and only He gets to be God, that is a problem, making me unhappy, and is therefore evil."
But it is a logical impossibility for a creature to be the Creator of everything. We can never be God; we will always be creature/creation. We can't change that, and neither can God. The best thing in this case is to accept reality, not fight it or get upset over it. It is good enough that we are loved and that God is good. Imagine if our Creator were actually selfish, despotic, and unloving! We'd hate that reality, and we'd be equally unable to change it. We'd be forced to accept something terrible. In this case, the only reality we have to deal with is that of a loving Creator! This is cause for rejoicing, not for jealousy and complaining. The sin of Lucifer need not be our sin. We can be content for the relationship we are in, the position of honor we have, that God shares with us and has unity with us!
In the Book of Job, Satan's challenge to God was that Job only worshipped God because God kept Job happy and in favorable circumstances. God is proving to Satan and to all the angels that there are people who freely choose a loving relationship of give and take with God because of who God is and who we are. God is proving to the angels and to mankind that love is real, and really exists in the universe! God is willing to sacrifice, and so is Job, yet their love for each other remains. And in this is also demonstrated God's love for Satan and the angels, in that he cares about them to answer the challenge and to put His reputation for "goodness" on the line so that His love can be displayed all the more, and His people can be vindicated for our love as the reflection of His nature!
Scriptural Freedom is the antithesis of sin. So why do we define “FREE will” as the ability to sin?
(Look up every use of the Greek word “ἐλευθερία” [freedom] in the New Testament)
God is perfectly free (Is46:10) yet is incapable of sin (Heb6:18).
I think it’s more helpful to understand sinful humanity as slaves than as those possessing free will.
“Whoever sins is a slave of sin.”
I do however believe that by God’s grace we are growing in freedom.
“Who the Son sets free is free indeed.”
I believe one day we will have wills that are truly free, but this freedom will never serve as an excuse for sin, but rather for holiness. (Rom8:20-29)
First off all so called religious speakers, who want a book deal, and want a huge audience listen up. When you pose the same set of theories and the same answers as all speakers; listening to any of you after listening to one of you is foolish.
One of the reasons that evil exists today is because theories do not solve evil. End of sentance. For the human race to solve evil, we need right now to stop theorizing and take action. Real action. We need to work at eradicating evils not theorizing about it.
There's more. Man is inherantly evil. He may have a good intention. But man has the largest brain, has very few predators. He is able to dominate. That is good for man's survival.
But with large brains man is able to create the worst evil you could imagine.
With this real problem, man is the cause of his own evil.
Further, the world has too many enablers. They enable others who are evil to glorify evil and to find good points about being evil.
Further, man is doing nothing to solve it - fighting, arguing, name calling.
None of these foolish attempts to do something work.
If your floor is dirty you find a broom, and sweep the floor. You don't theorize about it.
If you're tired, you go to bed.
So many of the evils that exist are man's unlimited attempts at finding ways not do anything about evil.
Man many times, not all, is unable to transcend his own evil tendencies.
While others wish to do so, still others will try to. A few will.
Evil plagues humans because were smart enough to think of the benefits of being evil, and have large enough brains to figure out how to lie about. Finally how to be apathetic, not to do anything about it.
The worst part is God about evil. Man says "God will solve this. " It is religion that allows man to say "We don't know better, we can't help it. Don't punish us."
That is evil's best lie ever. To get you relate to evil and man's inability change.
You know how I know this. I too have a big brain. We all get tempted. Man needs to learn impulse controls. And to stop being evil now. Stop making excuses.
I'm not talking about an occasional beer, or smoking pot. I'm talking about bullying, killing, isolating people, threats to kill, slander.
I reject the Calvinistic idea that man is only a totally unresponsive corpse floating down the river. It is only God who decides to unilaterally, irresistibly, and completely rescue or choose some and unilaterally, irresistibly, and completely allow all others to float downstream into hell. Man has no choice!
I embrace the belief that man is only a totally unresponsive corpse floating down the river. However, in keeping with His desire for free will, God awakens every man with inexcusable knowledge" For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened."
(Romans 1:18-21 ESVST)
Do you have any further arguments you would like to advance?
Anon says that this is very one sided, more so in the defence of God and why evil allows to exist. Furthermore, not all arguments from the atheist view are demonstrated