One of the strongest objections to believe in the Judeo-Christian God has to do with the amount and types of suffering and evil that exist in our world. Philosophers and theologians refer to this as
the problem of evil. The problem of evil for belief in God is this: If God is perfectly good, all-knowing, and all powerful, then why does evil exist? Those who believe in God have offered a wide variety of responses to this question, some of them better than others. Before we consider some of these responses, it will be helpful to make a distinction between two different categories of evil. First, evil refers to the evil and suffering that occurs because of the actions (or inactions) of human beings. This is the evil that we are morally responsible for, including theft, murder, torture, many forms of, oppression, and so on. Natural evil refers to the suffering caused by the natural order, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and disease. This distinction is important to keep in mind, as some responses to the problem of evil only apply to one of these two categories. Several of the responses to the problem of evil have the same structure, as they look for reasons that might justify God allowing evil and suffering. They are analogous in some ways to choices that we humans make. For example, there are times when a good person is justified in allowing or even causing suffering. When a takes his or her child to get vaccinated, this is a case of allowing suffering. The physician is causing suffering when she injects the child, since this is painful. However, there is a greater good which justifies this, namely, the prevention of disease. Similarly, then, some have argued that there is often a greater good in play which justifies God in allowing evil and suffering. Response #1: Suffering is necessary for some types of moral and growth. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle; medieval thinkers like Thomas Aquinas; and many contemporary philosophers have and do hold the view that genuine, in the sense of deep fulfillment and true human flourishing, requires one to have a good moral and intellectual character.
Given this idea, some philosophers and theologians have argued that the of moral growth requires that we face some evil and suffering. For example, in order to develop courage, one must face adversity. To develop compassion, suffering must be present in the world. To become generous, there must be lack in the world. So one reason God has for allowing evil and suffering is that it is required for certain kinds of moral growth. Response #2: Genuine requires genuine freedom, and this freedom opens up the possibility for moral evil. If God is forming a community of people who freely enter into loving relationships with one another and the Trinity (using a Christian of God) in which such people work with God forever to create and enjoy goodness, truth, and, this requires that we have freedom of the will. Authentic love is, in some sense, chosen ; it is not coerced. But granting us this freedom entails a risk of rejection, and of humans misusing our freedom. And this is what we so often do; we use our freedom not for good and loving purposes, but for evil ones. Response #3: Our experience of evil can lead us to God. Contemporary philosopher Eleonore Stump offers another response to the problem of evil. She claims that a world full of evil and suffering can lead us to receive and live out the grace of God. She writes, Natural evilвthe pain of disease, the intermittent and unpredictable destruction of natural disasters, the decay of old age, the imminence of deathвtakes away a person\’s satisfaction with himself. It tends to humble him, show him his frailty, make him reflect on the transience of temporal goods, and turn his affections towards other-worldly things, away from the things of this world.
No amount of moral or natural evil, of course, can guarantee that a man will [place his in God]. But evil of this sort is the best hope, I think, and maybe the only effective means, for bringing men to such a state. If our greatest good is to know and love God, then it is plausible to think that this is another reason God might have for allowing natural evil. The film explores this idea in the thought and life of C. S. Lewis. The existence of evil and suffering is a philosophical and existential problem for those who believe in God. In the next post, I\’ll consider some other responses that have been given to this objection to theistic belief. on, and check out. On Dec. 2, 2015, a mass shooting by two terrorists killed 14 people in California s Inland Regional Center. Three years earlier, a gunman forced his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and shot 20 пrst graders and six adults. From shootings like these to natural disasters that level communities, we regularly hear about or even experience the eпects of sin and evil in the world. This leads many to ask, If God can prevent such massacres and destruction, why doesn t He? That people routinely ask this question implies the widely held conviction that an all-powerful and all-good God would choose to destroy all evil. How could He possibly allow evil to exist? Many suppose the existence of evil disproves God s existence. But the human ability to recognize evil is actually a good reason to believe in a Creator. If there was no God, there would be no objective, universal standard by which to measure good and evil. Since, however, all humans agree that the two are distinct, there must be an independent, eternal standard by which we ground moral convictions. Nonetheless, some philosophers claim that the existence of evil is logically incompatible with the existence of the all-good, all-powerful God described in Scripture.
If God exists, the theory goes, evil cannot; if evil exists, God cannot. God and evil, like square circles, are logically contradictory and thus cannot coexist. But few philosophers think this argument successful. In fact, even philosophically-informed atheists acknowledge the weakness of this view. After all, it is logically possible that God, though all-powerful and all-knowing, has a good reason for allowing evil to exist. For instance, evil s presence ensures the preservation of human free will. If we have genuine freedom, then we have the possibility of choosing to do evil rather than good. God is certainly powerful enough to prevent us from doing evil, but He would be taking away our free will by doing so. He cannot force us to always choose the good, because being made to choose the good would mean that we are not free. There are other reasons God could allow evil to occur. For instance, coping with the eпects of evil in the world often contributes to the development of virtues such as empathy, patience, and trust in Jesus as Savior. Without the ability to choose and exercise free will or the opportunity to develop virtue, our lives would be shallow and without love; we could not truly love one another or love God. We would essentially be robots lacking the ability to have a relationship with God, and loving relationship with us is the very thing God desires. Though it is reasonable for God and evil to coexist, some say the presence of so much evil makes it diпcult to believe in God. However, this is a subjective judgment. How much evil is too much? Who but God can say? We all are troubled by evil, but God has dealt evil a fatal blow to evil through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This post is an excerpt from the Apologetics Study Bible for Students by Holman Bible Publishers. It is used with permission. You can purchase this resource in its entirety.