The Problem of Evil

Terrible Evil and Suffering in the World
Evidence That God Does Not Exist?
By Vin Sparks

The reality of terrible wickedness, suffering and injustice has brought many to question the existence of God – both unbeliever and believer alike. This is known in the fields of Theology and Apologetics as The Problem of Evil.

How could God allow such things as deadly natural disasters, the atrocity of genocide and even the harm done every day through domestic abuse, rape and havoc? The neglect of an infant, the abuse of an animal, the devastation of a tornado, the injustice of a dictator, the death of a child caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting – all lead to questions by even the staunchest of believers.

If God is God, then He is not good and if He is good, then He is not God. So goes the argument. If God is all-powerful and allows pointless evil to continue, how can He be a good God? If He is good, then He must be powerless to stop the wickedness and therefore, He cannot be God.

Believe it or not, this impasse can be addressed in a number of ways. Let’s discuss a few:

1. Just because we can’t fathom a good reason for something terrible to happen, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Okay, I can hear it now, “What possible reason could God have to allow Hurricane Sandy to devastate the Eastern seaboard, kill hundreds of people, destroy homes and wreck lives!?” My answer? I don’t have a clue, but my cluelessness doesn’t mean there isn’t one – one that is beyond my capacity to understand. It might be said that this is blind faith. I don’t agree. It is faith based in solid reason as reading the rest of this post will show. The misplaced faith is in the arguer’s cognitive abilities, who cannot conceive of a reason for what happens, therefore, concludes there isn’t one. That’s a little arrogant, isn’t it? I know that it is frustration that the arguer feels, not arrogance, but we’ve got to think about what is being said. “If I can’t see why this happened, then there cannot be a reason.” Is that rational thinking?

2. This objection to God is based on a sense of fair play and justice. For God to allow such evil wouldn’t be …well, right. Therefore God must not exist. However, in a world without God, where does the sense of right and wrong fit in? Evolution, the alternative, depends on death, a destruction of the weak and survival of the strong by any means to advance. There is nowhere for a sense of justice and the protection of the vulnerable in a world without God. The arguer’s appeal to a sense of morality requires the existence of God, so the argument against God on moral grounds is flat.

3. We find in life that good often has a way of springing up out of evil. In my own experience, asking the agonizing questions, “Why God? Why couldn’t it have been me that had cancer instead of my 14 year old son?” Why did he have to miss out on a whole season of little league? Why did he have to do his freshman year of high school from home? Why did he have to endure the surgeries and chemotherapy? These are all questions I couldn’t answer at the time and still can’t completely do so now. I do know this, in ways too numerous and profound to explain, that battle with cancer made my son the man he is today – an intelligent and empathetic man, a loving husband and an engaged father. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we’re thankful for the sickness but I know that he would not trade the character and strength he has gained by going through it for anything. There are some things that do not come but by way of adversity.

4. This is where I’ll lose some of you. I hope you’ll hear me out.

Could it be that we’ve got it wrong? God is not all-powerful – at least not in the sense that He can do anything.  It sure seems that He cannot. The first thing that comes to mind is a question that finds its way to us from the atheists themselves: Can God create a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it? Of course He can’t, but not because He’s not God. It’s because the power to do so doesn’t exist. There are other things that God cannot do: He can’t lie. Nope, can’t do it – the Bible says so. He cannot save us without our consent. The Bible says that God …is not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). So, according to His desire to save us, He brings His considerable inspiration upon our hearts, but when its all said and done, we have to respond to that influence or it will be all for nothing. So, despite God’s best efforts, there will be those who will be lost.

I often think of this discussion in terms of technology. Computers have continually gotten smaller to the point where we now have personal devices with enormous power that can rest in the palm of our hands, but we can’t type on them and the screen is too small for TV or movies. So we connect our flat screen televisions to the internet and stream programming in a large format, but we can’t take it with us. The technology to do so doesn’t exist.

Maybe the design according to which God created a world, custom tailored to support intelligent life, comes with a few natural caveats. First, what are the dynamics at play in creating a perfectly balanced eco-system capable of providing everything the human race needs? Tides and winds cleanse and aerate the oceans which are critical to sustaining the food chain. Could it be that we just get in the way of that colossal power from time to time? Could it be that to question God about it is kind of like holding the computer industry to task for not creating a 70” flat screen TV that fits in the pocket and comes with a portable keyboard?

If we are to have the capacity to choose our own way, we will live with the consequences of those choices and it’s not just the cost of our own choices that we’ve got to endure. This freedom to choose thing comes with some real impact! We live with the choices of those who have gone before us too.

So, it seems to me to be a bit small minded to think that reasons don’t exist for the evil we suffer just because we don’t understand them. Unfair and unjust as it may seem there is good that comes from it all. I believe that God is all-powerful in the sense that He possesses all the power that exists and that when we do get caught in something that devastates us, that power includes the ability to bring an incredible amount of good from it. Our lives are filled with examples of goodness and blessing coming out of suffering. I’m sure an example comes to your mind – even now as you read this.