Blog - Famous Thoughts On The Problem Of Evil
Blog - Famous Thoughts On The Problem Of Evil
We are facing unusual pressure as a society. Everyone I know has been affected in one way or another by Covid, The Riots and the ongoing issues in our society. Many people genuinely want to run into the arms of a loving, powerful God that can bring peace and hope. However, this God can only bring hope and peace if we truly believe he is who he says he is. Wishful thinking is not enough to ease the mind.
With the suffering that has been occurring I have been asked the age old question about the problem of evil more than usual lately. Instead of reinventing the wheel and sharing my own thoughts on the issue I wanted to compile and share the thoughts of my three favorite thinkers on this topic. Ravi Zacharias, C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobal. While I acknowledge that no one argument is perfect I have found these authors to instill a great deal of hope in me and I hope they can do the same for you.
The dilemma as explained by Wikipedia
The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God. As the first known presentation by the Greek philosopher Epicurus, as attributed and made popular by David Hume, puts it: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then from whence comes evil?"
Main take-away from Ravi Zacarias
How does an all-powerful and all-loving God allow for such evil to exist in this world? This is undoubtedly one of the challenging questions most people ask, so we reflect upon the 3 realities in response to this question: 1. God is all powerful 2. God is all-loving and 3. Evil exists.
Ravi shares that one cannot love without the freedom of the will, and argues that the supreme ethic that God has given to us is the ethic of love. Love places value upon the other person, being the peak of both intellectual and emotional alignment, thus, one cannot love without intrinsically weaving into it the freedom of the will. As we live through God’s greatest commandments, we cannot simply comply to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbor as ourselves, but we need to choose to do so for love to abundantly flourish.
If one asks God to always stop the evil, pain and suffering, then he might as well reprogram everything to begin with so we don’t go off course. He can simply turn boiling water into ice so we don’t get burned, or pull our leg when a speeding truck rushes in, or better yet, make the bullets disappear before we even have the chance to pull the trigger with the intention to kill. Stopping the triggers would be in violation of humanity’s freedom to choose, to differentiate between that which is good and evil. This freedom allows us to choose or reject, so that love as an ethic can ultimately reign supreme. This helps us realize God’s reasons for not stopping the triggers so we can witness the heinousness of evil and the majesty of all that is good. God does not ordain evil, but it is through it that God's grace abounds.
Main take-away from C.S. Lewis
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.
What raises the problem is that state of affairs in accordance with God's Will or not. If it is, he is a strange God you will say and if it is not, how can anything happen contrary to the will of a being with absolute power?
But anyone who has been in authority knows how a thing can be in accordance with your will and one way and not in another. It may be quite sensible for a mother to say to the children, “I’m not going to make you tidy to school every night. You’ve got to learn to keep it tidy on your own.” And she goes up all night and finds the teddy bear and the ink and the French grammar all laying. This is against her will, she would prefer the children to be tidy but on the other hand it is her will which has left the children free to be untidy.
The same thing arises in any regiment or trade union or school , you make a thing voluntary and half the people do not do it. This is not what you willed but your will made it possible. It’s probably the same with the universe. God created things with freewill that means creatures which can go wrong or right.
If a thing is free to be good, it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why then did God give them free will? Because free will though it may seem evil possible is also the only thing that can make things possible and love or goodness or joy worth having.
A world of optometry that works like a machine would hardly be worth creating. The happiness with God’s design for his creatures is the happiness of being free voluntarily united to him and to each other. The more intelligent and more gifted the person God creates, the greater the capacity to love and to be a positive force in the universe, but also, if that person rebels, the greater the capacity to cause evil, to inflict pain and to cause unhappiness.
Of course God knows what would happen if they use their freedom the wrong way, apparently he thought it’s worth the risk. Perhaps we feel inclined to disagree with him. But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes, you could not be right and he -wrong any more than a its own source. When you are arguing against him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all.
Main take-away from from Lee Strobal
We cannot fully comprehend how some actions of God could be loving. If our existence ended at death it would be hard to make a case for a purpose in suffering, but in light of Eternity I believe this possibility is more feasible.
“ For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
2 Corinthians 4:17
While the Bible is clear that God is not the source of evil, does not commit evil, or tempt people to do evil. We could make an argument that God allows evil or at least allowed for the possibility of it when he created this world with free will.
The Bear Trap
How can a mere finite human be sure that infinite wisdom would not tolerate certain short range evils in order for more long range goods that we couldn’t foresee
wouldn’t you agree that the difference between us and God is greater than the difference between us and a bear?
Imagine a bear in a trap and a hunter who out of sympathy wants to liberate him. He tries to win the Bear's confidence but he can’t do it so he has to shoot the bear full of drugs, the bear however thinks this is an attack and that the hunter is trying to kill him he doesn’t realize that this has been done out of compassion.
I believe God does the same to us sometimes and we can’t comprehend why he does it any more than the bear can understand the motivations of the hunter.
Justice delayed is not necessarily justus denied - the bible's response to suffering.
2 Peter 3:9 - “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance”.
What if God IS powerful enough to take care of Evil and IS loving enough to do it...and the only reason it hasn't happened yet is because if God were to destroy all evil/suffering right now, he would have to destroy all of us because our choices contribute to evil and suffering. Just because he hasn't done it yet does not mean he will not do it ever.
there will come a day when God will settle accounts and people will be held responsible for the evil they’ve perpetrated and the suffering they’ve caused criticizing God for not doing it right now it’s like reading half a novel and criticizing the author for not resolving the plot. God will bring accountability at the right time. In fact the Bible says one reason he’s delaying is because some people are still following the clues and have yet to find him. He's actually delaying the consummation of history out of his great love for us.
The Suffering of Christ - Emmanuel God with us.
John 1:14 - “ And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
Isaiah 53:3 - “He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed”.
If God had created this world and allowed for suffering but kept himself in a sterile environment. Even though the points we discussed might satisfy my mind enough. I think I would still wonder deep down if maybe in fact God was cold. I would still be a bit angry and deep down question if he really loved us or understood what we were going through. But in times of trouble the one point I couldn’t deny was that regardless of why God allowed suffering... he played by his own rules.
He himself took a greater beating then he ever allowed us to take. If God didn’t really love us in a deep passionate way. He would not have chosen the cross.
The answer is not a bunch of words it’s the word Jesus himself. It’s not a tightly woven philosophical argument, it's a person. The answer to suffering cannot just be an abstract idea because this isn’t an abstract issue it’s a personal issue it requires a personal response.
The answer must be someone, not just something because the issue involves someone - God where are you?
“In the real world of pain how could one worship a God who was immune to it he laid aside his immunity to pain he entered our world of flesh and blood tears and death he suffered for us our sufferings become more manageable in light of his” - John R.W stott
So what does this all mean - great there are plausible ways to reconcile a Loving, all powerful God with the reality of suffering in the universe. But that doesn’t make the suffering any easier...or does it?
Arms of Comfort
When we face suffering we can run into the arms of our loving father. He is not the cause of evil so any anger we feel should not be directed at him but instead we should have a righteous anger against sin. For it is not God but the absence of God that is at the root of suffering. It was rebellion against him and his ways (sin) that caused a curse on nature, death and suffering. When we are angry about suffering we would do well to be disgusted with and distance ourself from sin (the true root cause of pain) instead of pushing away the one person who wants to dry our tears.
purpose out of pain
We can take hope in the fact that even though God did not cause the evil he did promise to work it all together for good. He is weaving it into a beautiful plan. We can take encouragement that there will be purpose out of pain. That he will redeem it. Nothing will be wasted or meaningless.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
A God who is able to empathize
We can take comfort that he truly and experientially understands what we are going through and suffers with us.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.
This compassionate God will never leave us or forsake us.
A Future Hope
Lastly we can take hope that after a short time of trouble on this earth is over and we see him face to face, all of our tears will be wiped away. We can look forward to a future where God DOES take care of suffering and paradise will be restored.
Rev. 21:4 - “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
1 Corinthians 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him."