The problem of evil presents great challenges to the Christian faith. There are many approaches that one can take in answering the problem of evil. However, when one is face to face with the effects of evil itself, such logical answers seem to do little to satisfy the suffering individual. With that in mind, weep with those who weep – rather than reason by presenting six step logically deductive arguments with those who weep.
Even non-theists can admit that if God has a morally exonerating reason for allowing evil and suffering at this time, then their argument is not air-tight. To satisfy that, and to begin to build a distinctly Christian case for the answer to evil and suffering, here are several possible responses:
-The free will of man brought evil into the world.
-Evil exists because man continues to freely choose evil.
-Evil exists because Satan has been given parameters of influence on the world.
-Evil exists so that we can know what good is.
-Evil exists so that we can show love and compassion to others.
-Evil exists in order to teach us to trust God.
-Evil exists to remind us that earth is not our home.
-Evil exists in order to bring the best out in us.
-Evil exists so that God can show his ultimate rule over it.
-Evil exists to produce the necessary amount of humility in us.
-Evil exists because every great story needs a strong sense of tension.
-Evil exists to create a context by which God could show his love through Christ.
Now, let me briefly describe God has I understand Him. God is the creator of all things physical and spiritual outside of Himself. As such, everything is subjected to His ultimate authority. God is the objective standard of goodness; anything opposed to Him define is evil. God is primarily holy, distinct and unique from creation, but He is also love – and loves all people. God is powerful – powerful enough to eradicate evil from the face of the earth. God knows the entire timeline of history as a permanent feature of His mind. God has a will- expressed through violable ideals and through inviolable sovereignty.
If such is a limited explanation of the character and nature of God, why would evil be prevalent in our world? First, evil is able to exist because of the created distinction between creation and creator. Such a world that is detached from the fullness of the nature of God is able to contain that which opposes God. He created man as something distinct from himself, with the freedom to choose to obey or disobey. As distinct from God, man must have been at least somewhat imperfect – giving him the ability to choose evil over good. Thus, man chose evil, and has suffered ever since because of it.
If you are a critical thinker, you are probably thinking, “Great. It seems like God created us to fail.” Did God create us in order that we would fall into evil and suffering? That was not His ideal will – for disobedience to God can never be considered of God. Therefore, God is not the author of evil. At the same time, had God never created, there never would have been evil. But that is like saying, “If I never have a baby, I will never have a disobedient child or a child that gets injured.” Even if the context allows for the possibility of evil and suffering, to have life is better than to not have life. Sometimes we consider non-life to be the neutral position. But we would not tell a paraplegic that ending their life is more dignified than living with an ailment. We rightfully consider life with suffering as more dignified than non-life.
Furthermore, the opportunity for free will is better than the guarantee of robotic obedience. With our modern technology, we are coming close to an age in which we could choose a robotic spouse rather than a human spouse. We could choose a spouse that always affirms and always agrees – but with no sense of choice. Free will is worth the “risk”/”cost” of disobedience and evil. If you don’t think so, go ask 100 people if they would trade their spouse in for a spouse that is designed to make no choices of right or wrong.
At the same time, God created us in a context in which He knew we would fall prey to evil, while also not being the source of evil. Goodness is the default nature of existence, because it is an essential characteristic of God’s existence. Therefore good must exist logically prior to the existence of evil. “Good” is anything above nonexistence. Evil is the perversion of the dignity and purpose of the good. Therefore evil cannot exceed the total quantity of good in existence – because “something” nonexistent cannot be perverted. If good is represented by water in a pot, then evil is the amount of evaporation. Any amount of the water in the pot can be taken away into evil by evaporation, but you would never see the amount of evaporation exceed the original amount of water.
Thus, any evil that takes place is dependent upon a prior good. We have been created with this great amount of dignity and good. Such goodness was not of our own doing, but was simply a gift thrown into our lap. Any evil that takes place in our life would be a insult or perversion of a prior unearned good. This means that the effect of evil, no matter how great, would always leave us in a better condition than had we not existed. Existence is the positive and evil is the reduction or limitation of the positive. This is why the devil is said to have the objectives of stealing, killing, and destroying. None of these objectives rely on the evil one’s ability to produce something new. Evil’s only ability is to try to take away from what is already positive, to end what is already dignified, and to destroy what is already valuable. Evil has no rights of dignity as an entity unto itself.
[Further solutions and reasons are coming soon in the 3rd and final part on the problem of evil.]