Thinking About Evil

I’ve been thinking, “Why does God allow evil?” Sometimes, this topic comes up in conversation looking like an intellectual problem. And you can deal with it on a logical, philosophical level just fine. Other times, it’s more of an emotional problem that requires empathy, a listening ear, demonstrated compassion, and wise, pastoral counsel. I’ve been on both sides of the counselling room and it’s tough either way.

Jesus once told his friends, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). William Lane Craig observes, “Christian theism is man’s last, best hope for a solution to the problem of evil.”  If Christianity is really true, we’ve got to begin looking at suffering in light of eternity. Clay Jones has done some excellent work that’s helped me think though this idea. Be sure to check out his interview with my friend, Brian Auten, in the audio section below.

Here are some recommended resources on the problem of evil and suffering:

Books

Audio

Video

Your turn. Is there a resource you’ve found helpful when talking to your friends about this? Feel free to post a link below.

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4 Responses to “Thinking About Evil”

  1. Melissa August 30, 2010 10:12 AM
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    I think about this issue a lot, too. I guess it comes with the territory when you spend a lot of time studying Genesis and the doctrine of original sin (as I do in my degree program). But aside from man’s fallen condition, I believe there are actually advantages to our witnessing (and sometimes directly experiencing) the evil in this world. I’ve been exploring the idea that to truly understand the utter perfection and excellence of God’s character, we have to have an opposite comparison. Similar to how you’d never be able to grasp the concept of light if you had never experienced dark. What do you think about that, Mikel? Do you think this treads too closely to eastern mysticism?

  2. Mikel August 31, 2010 1:43 PM
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    Yeah. But it’s an interesting thought, Melissa. Don’t know if I’d say we need evil in order to understand maximal excellence and holiness. As finite creatures, we’re limited in wisdom, insight, power, creativity, etc… Do you think these limitations themselves could have been a sufficient point of comparison before the fall? It’s possible that even comparing perfect humans to God still reveals his awesome character as the very source of all goodness enjoyed by his creation.

  3. Kevin Vandergriff December 4, 2010 1:06 PM
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    Hello,
    I am a current resident of Sacramento and also half way through the M.A. program in Christian Apologetics at Biola. I think that the this problem (the problem of evil) is the best argument for atheism. With that said, I also think that the work of Michael Tooley is extremely helpful with regard to the problem of evil. He offers three strategies, or defeaters of the problem of evil: 1) an inductive approach where we are able to identify enough plausible morally sufficient reasons for the specific kinds of evils in the world such that the remaining kinds which we don’t know of any morally sufficient reasons do not tip the scale of probability toward atheism; 2) Since what follows from the problem of evil is that God is INDIFFERENT to the pain and suffering of the world; all we would have to do is come up with a way to show that God is not indifferent; and here of course the argument for the resurrection of Jesus is more than on target; 3) Provide some independent reason to think that God is essentially loving, kind, just, and the like; and of course the moral argument is the best candidate for that.

    Personally, I am very confident in approaches 2-3 above, but approach 1 above, involves a heavy reliance on defenses and theodicies, and it seems to me that such attempts at finding God’s plausible (or even actual) reasons for allowing horrendous evils, in particular, is the greatest shortcoming of approach 1.

    Would love to here some thoughts.

  4. Mikel December 21, 2010 12:22 AM
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    Hi, Kevin. Great thoughts. I hear what you’re saying.

    It’s important to approach this question with humility, knowing that we’re just not in a position to evaluate whether or not God may have a morally sufficient reason for allowing this or that evil in the world. We could never know what good might result 20, 50 or 200 years down the line from an apparently pointless instance of evil and suffering. Likewise, we’d also have to know how much worse things could have been in another possible world where this type of event could occur.

    So long as it’s even possible that God could have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil, the logical problem of evil is defeated.

    I’m excited to hear you’re in the MA program at Biola. Drop me an e-mail or friend me on Facebook if you get a chance. Love to connect with you offline, too. Thanks for the comment, Kevin!