I have taken a prompt from the explore God discussion series going on simultaneously in over 800 churches in the Chicago area to write up a summary of the problem of evil. More specifically, I was spurred on by the discussion of The Problem of Evil and Suffering on Veracity Hill between Kurt Jaros, the host, and John Peckham from Andrews University.
I think this is the most difficult problem to deal with in the modern western world for the theist, and specifically the Christian who maintains, as Scripture reveals, that God is both all-powerful and all-good.
- If God is all-powerful, why did He create a world in which evil, pain and suffering exist?
- Does that mean He really isn’t all-powerful?
- Or maybe God isn’t good?
- Or maybe the God of the Bible doesn’t really exist?
Many people who can’t resolve this problem in their minds (or maybe their hearts) end up rejecting the idea of God altogether.
I began the discussion in an introductory blog, and I laid some groundwork to address the problem in Another Look at God in Light of the Evil in the World (Part 1). I can’t rehash it all here, other than to emphasize that we should not be lazy in our approach to the challenge. As with science, we need to work through, if indeed there is a resolution to be had.
If there is a resolution the problem, we can’t do it justice by abandoning the premises we are given. We need to work through it.
For the Christian, those premises don’t just include the omnipotence and omni-benevolence of God. We need to fit all the pieces of the puzzle together. I have come to believe that, if we hold on to and expand the premises we are given, and fill out the picture, some clarity begins to emerge.
One of the additional puzzle pieces is that God isn’t just good; God is love. In fact, God is love in His very nature.
Some people have trouble with the idea of the Trinity, three in one. We can understand God’s triunal (communal) nature in the context of love. As three in Person and one in Being, God’s very character is love from before time even began. (See The Plurality of God) God has community and relationship (love) within Himself.
And, Scripture says that He made us in His image. If we are made in His image, we are made to reflect His love. This is another of the puzzle pieces.
Love requires freedom. Coercion has no place in a loving relationship. Thus, for us to know love and to love God, we need to be free, and that includes freedom to reject God and what is good.
The Christian, who accepts the premise that God is good, rejects the idea that God is evil or caused evil to exist. Evil is not in the nature of God because God is who He is. Evil, then, must be a byproduct of the freedom God gave His creation. Evil is the rejection of God and what is good.
Pain and suffering aren’t, per se, evil, though evil produces pain and suffering. God created a world in which pain and suffering exist from the beginning. (see Part 1).
Finally, we find that God’s grand plan and purpose is that His creation would enter into a loving relationship with Him, not because it must, but because His created beings want to.
These are the basic puzzle pieces. (If you want to examine these premises more closely, you will have to read the previous posts and do some research of your own.) From here, we will go back to the premise of God’s power (sovereignty) and examine more fully how it can be that an all-powerful God (who is also good) can allow evil to exist.