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  • The Problem Of Evil

    May 24, 2022

    It is a fairly common belief that there are parts of human existence that are just plain wrong. Humanity seems to have an intuitive understanding that things are not the way they ought to be, which leads one to conclude that evil, as we typically think of it, does in fact exist. Not only that, but it runs rampant in our society, causing all sorts of problems and mental anguish for everyone. This is a fact that very few—if any—would deny. Indeed, it is because of the great amount of evil that can be so readily observed that one turns to addressing the problem of evil in the first place. At first glance, it can be extremely difficult to reconcile the existence of a perfect God that is benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent with the existence of evil, but in this post, I propose that such a God and evil can indeed be reconciled in the human mind quite easily. While this post alone cannot possibly offer complete and obvious proof that this God does exist, it definitively rules out the notion that God undoubtedly can not coexist with evil.

    We call the existence of evil "the problem of evil," and it is a widely used philosophical argument that postulates that the God of the Christian Bible cannot exist because His nature is contradictory to the existence of evil in the world. The logical argument looks something like this:

    1. If God exists, then He is by definition omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent.
    2. If God is omnipotent, then He has the power to eliminate all evil.
    3. If God is omniscient, then He knows that evil exists.
    4. If God is benevolent, then He has the desire to eliminate all evil.
    5. Evil exists.
    6. If both God and evil exist, then God either doesn't have the power to eliminate evil, doesn't know that evil exists, or doesn't have the desire to eliminate evil, otherwise He would do so.
    7. Therefore, God does not exist.

    This outlines the logical problem of evil, but I don't think the evidential problem to be sufficiently different from the basic principle put forth here. At face value, it appears that the Christian is trapped. However, it is extremely important to define the terms being used, and discuss the flaws in this logic. By doing this, I think we can see that the problem of evil is no problem for the Christian at all. It is in fact more of a problem for the atheist, who must explain the origin of evil in the first place.

    There is a very fatal flaw in the argument against God that must be addressed first. It is this: the problem of evil is formed on the premise that evil does actually exist. This may not seem like a problem at first glance, because it is blatently obvious to each and every one of us that evil does exist, but this latter fact directly indicates that there must also be an objective Good that all of us intuitively understand.

    Therefore, to entertain the problem of evil in the first place, one must assert that evil does in fact exist, and, by extension, that good does exist. Of course, you say, what does this have to do with anything? It has to do with everything. It is the single most important part of the argument that we must get right. This is to say that if one is not absolutely convinced of the idea that a supreme Good, more Good than any other, exists, then he cannot be absolutely convinced of the fact that evil exists. But we know that evil exists, and we know by extension that Good exists. And we know that by definition the being that is the greatest of all goods is called "God."

    What this boils down to is simply this: if there is no perfectly benevolent God, then there is no good or evil at all. There are only actions taking place within an indifferent universe. If this is the case, then we have no "problem of evil." The problem of evil is only to solve for those that actually believe there is a God. The problem simply cannot be solved otherwise. In fact it cannot even exist in the first place because there would be no evil. The actions that we consider morally wrong would not be considered such, they would just be actions, indistinguishable from any other actions. Neccessarily, then, the very fact that we can reckon with the problem of evil, and the very fact that we find in ourselves an objective morality under which we distinguish good and evil, and expect all other people to behave within this framework, is all the philosophical proof God exists that we need to solve the remainder of the problem. Only once we have understood this idea can we proceed.

    With this in mind, I don't think we can accurately say that human logic is infalliable. Who are we in this vast universe to say that we have all the answers? If we look at the sheer volume of things we know that we do not understand, how much greater must the volume be of things we do not even have remote knowledge of? It isn't a foolish argument to assert that perhaps there is a greater reason for existence, one that we cannot immediately comprehend. The very nature of God necessitates that he is elusive, or impossible to understand. If he were not, then he would not be God: we would.

    It is therefore rather reasonable to assume that God can indeed be benevolent; his belevolence is just a different kind, a kind that is much broader in scope than we can even begin to comprehend, for example. There is absolutely nothing that requires our notion of goodness and mercy to be identical to the goodness and mercy of God. What we deem cruel and unforgiving in the immediate future may, in fact, in the grand scheme of things, be God's mercy. The loss of loved family members, or a messy divorce, for example, both seem unfathomably cruel. Both lead us to shake our fists at God and ask "how could you allow this happen?"

    Yet what I think we don't adequately take into account is the possibility that these traumatic events do actually have a place in the grand scheme of things. Being near-sighted, many ask what good could possibly come out of these bad circumstances that could not come out of any other circumstance. I postulate, however, that God uses bad circumstances to make us better understand his divine nature. If there were no evil, we would still see God as infinitely Good, but the fact that evil exists actually highlights God's goodness even further. It creates a contrast, and shows us that on our own, we can do nothing but produce evil. We depend entirely on God for good to come out of us. And this is the heart of the Christian gospel. Evil is the consequence of our own doing. We brought it about. God did not "create" evil per se; rather, we created it for ourselves when we turned away from God. God simply allows us to be given over to our own evil, and the reason for this is not because he isn't benevolent. He still loves us and cares about us infinitely more than we can fathom, but he does so in a way that we don't expect. He often draws us closer to himself with the use of traumatic events. Indeed they do cut deep and hurt immensely in the moment, but in time, we often see that we have experienced tremendous growth as a result.

    This problem can be somewhat boiled down also to the discussion of free will. God does not want automatons, pre-programmed to worship him. He requires a better kind of worship and love: the kind that comes voluntarily from his creatures. Thus, by neccessity, we have the option of committing evil. God gave us the ability to commit evil so that we could fairly choose between any of the options. Any less than all of the options would indicate that we have no choice in our fate. Here, an interesting hypothesis is formed. What if, perhaps, a morally perfect world, one in which no evil exists, simply cannot produce creatures that freely desire to worship God? What if it takes suffering, hardship, and the general absence of God for us to realize just how good he is?

    I tend to dismiss this hypothesis because the angels of heaven would be such beings that can perfectly worship God. That being said, there is a distinct difference between humans and angels, and it is that humans likely have more of a free will than the angels, and humans are more like God. The Bible says that we are made in the image of God, but it does not necessarily say that angels are in the image of God too. Naturally, humans must then possess some sort of nature about them that the angels do not have. Morality, intellect, the ability to create, and the ability to make rational decisions and maintain a level of consciousness all come to mind as traits that angels possibly don't have.

    However, I digress. The point I can make here is perhaps that there was no other way to make us, being image bearers of God, fully appreciate God in love and in worship than to let us suffer under our own refusal to do so. We cannot suggest that God is any less good because he allows us to suffer, when his plan is much bigger than just suffering. His plan is to bring us into fellowship with himself, where we will experience infinite delight in him. Perhaps we can only truly appreciate that when we have experience the opposite, and perhaps that is how God makes us more perfectly suited to worship him.

    God, being well outside of time, sees the long run. While we see today, and tomorrow, and we look back at yesterday, and the years that led up to it, God sees eternity, in both directions, forward and backward. His plan is so much bigger than the momentary suffering we exerience today, and that should put our suffering into perspective. Instead of shaking our fists at God and asking "how dare you," we can have a little more humility, realizing that we aren't entitled to anything in the first place. What makes us entitled to a life without hardship? If anything, all we are entitled to is a life of condemnation, pain, and eternal torture because of our rebellion.

    So in a sense, we deserve the evil we experience around us, and though God is a loving and benevolent God, he is also a just God. That is why Jesus was necessary. God loves us, and so seeks to free us from his wrath, which is why he sent Jesus. God demands payment for sins. We owe a debt that we cannot pay. But Jesus, who is God himself, can pay it, and in fact already has for those that believe on him. It is pleasing to God that he would pay out our own debts. In this, both attributes of his nature are satisfied: he is perfectly just in that our debt is fully paid, and yet he is loving and merciful enough that he would spare us from paying it.

    The good news in all of this is that God does want to eliminate evil, and he does have the power to do so. His revealed Word tells us that he will eliminate evil for those that believe in Jesus. Just because it isn't on our time frame, doesn't mean it's any less benevolent. I don't say this to diminish the experiences of evil that so many feel today. I know that evil is real, and I know that it causes great pain and suffering. But I know can rest knowing that one day, evil will be no more, and we will find our ultimate satisfaction in God and nothing else.

    © 2019-2024 Jordan Bancino.