We will discuss the problem of evil, as it relates to God.
I. Options concerning evil (attempts at ways to avoid evil).
A. Evil is an illusion. That is to say, it does not really exist, we only think it does.
i. Where did the illusion originate? Even if it is an illusion, it must have begun somewhere and some time.
ii. Why does it seem so real? If it is an illusion, we would not care as long as it did not impact our lives. If it impacts our lives, then it does not matter if it is real or an illusion.
iii. There exists no practical difference in viewing evil as an illusion and viewing it as reality. It still affects us the same.
B. Dualism – Like Gnosticism, which postulates a supreme God of Good and a separate creator of the universe.
a. God cannot be the cause of evil, which is a reality; therefore evil must be external.
b. Otherwise, God is the author of everything, even evil. But we know from James 1:13 that God is not the author of evil.
a. Not every opposite has a first cause: small/large. Something small does not have to cause something large.
b. Things may be real without being positive: poverty, blindness, and lameness.
c. God, under this view, is impotent and cannot overcome evil. Being finite, God could be thwarted. But we know that God can not be thwarted (Job 42:2).
II. Options concerning God.
A. Finitism – God’s power is limited. He is unable to destroy evil in the world. Objection to Finitism: The problem with this idea is that God is all powerful (Psalm 147:5).
B. Sadism – God delights in, or is relatively unconcerned about, evil. Objection to Sadism: We know this is not the case, as we are told to cast our cares on the Lord, that He will not let the righteous fall (Psalm 55:22) – He cares for those who trust in Him (Nahum 1:7). Christ cares for the Church (Ephesians 5:29). We are told in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast our anxieties on Him because He cares for us.
C. Impossibilism – Two forms:
1. God did not foresee evil in the world. – Objection: We know that God knows everything (Isaiah 46:10, Psalm 147:5).
2. It is impossible for God to destroy evil without contradicting His creature’s free choice. Objection: We know God can do anything (Job 42:2, Jeremiah 32:17, Matthew 19:26).
D. Atheism. – Objection: People may not want to believe, but that does not change the fact that God IS (Exodus 3:14).
III. The Theistic Explanation of Evil.
A. The Problem
1. God is all wise
2. God is perfectly sovereign
3. He controls all and therefore permits evil
4. Why is He not, then, guilty of causing evil?
B. Definition of evil
1. Evil is not a thing or substance; it is a privation or lack. When what we call evil is not present in a thing, then the thing is better. But when all of what we call good is taken away, then nothing is left at all.
2. Evil is not a mere absence of good. It is a corruption that leaves what remains in a state of incapacitation.
3. God is not the author or privation, but of blessing.
C. Moral Problem of Evil – Why did an absolutely good God make creatures with free choice when He knew they would choose evil? Answer: God did it so He would be able to display His Grace.
1. It was not necessary for Him to create.
2. God had five options with regard to creation:
a. He could have chosen not to create any world at all. There is no morality involved in this option. It would have been morally better not to create.
b. He could have chosen to make a world without free creatures in it. Again, no morality is involved in this option.
c. He could have created a world of free creatures who would never sin. In this option, the supposedly free creatures would be mere robots.
d. He could have created a world of free creatures who must sin. This is the worst possible option.
e. He could have, AND DID, create a world of free creatures where they COULD sin, but were not required to. This is the best possible option of how to create the world in order to reveal God’s character. Because of the existence of sin, God can reveal His grace. As Paul wrote in Romans 11:32, “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”
IV. Explanations for physical evil
1. If suffering is a judgement on sin, either one must fight with God against the sin, or against the suffering. Not to fight the suffering is inhumane. Hence it is wrong to fight against suffering. Therefore theism is wrong.
2. The theist is morally obligated to promote the greatest good. But according to theism, the greatest good cannot be achieved if suffering is eliminated. Hence the theist is morally obligated to promote suffering.
1. Four things
a. Luke 13:1-5 – one can not conclude that sufferers are more wicked than non-sufferers.
b. Man brought the curse of sin on himself by his own free choice. Genesis 3:14; 5:12; 8:19-20.
c. Since man brought suffering into the world, man may legitimately work to alleviate it.
d. The theist works most concertedly on the cause, not on the symptoms.
2. Certain evils are permitted, not actively promoted. cp. Luke 10:30-37.
C. Unjust suffering – our most pressing problem.
1. There are many occurrences of unjustified suffering in the world. But even one instance of unjustified suffering shows there is no perfectly just God. Therefore there is no God.
2. Strength of argument
a. Not all suffering is self-inflicted or deserved.
b. Only one instance of unjustified suffering would disprove the God of theism.
i. We can not account for all innocent suffering. The real question is: can suffering be justified?
ii. Not all immediately unjustified suffering will be ultimately unjustified.
b. Ten reasons exist for God to permit physical evil.
i. Some physical suffering comes to us directly from our own free choices, e.g., overeating (1 Peter 4:3).
ii. Some physical suffering comes indirectly from the exercise of our freedom, e.g., laziness (Ecclesiastes 10:18).
iii. Some physical suffering comes from the free choices of others (John 18,19).
iv. Some physical suffering comes indirectly from the free choice of others, e.g., improper pre-natal care.
v. Some physical suffering may be a necessary by-product of other good activities, e.g. boating may cause drowning.
vi. Some physical suffering may come as a result of the choices of evil spirits Matthew 17:14-15.
vii. Some physical suffering is God-given warnings of greater physical evils, e.g., hunger.
viii. Some physical suffering may be used by God as warnings against moral evil, e.g., sexually transmitted diseases.
ix. Some physical evil may be permitted as a condition of greater moral perfection. Job 23:10; Genesis 50:20.
x. Some physical suffering occurs because higher forms live on lower forms.
D. Why does not God miraculously intervene and prevent all physical evil from occurring, but permit all physical good to remain?
1. We do not know that God does not intervene concerning some evils.
2. Evil men do not want God to intercept every evil act or thought, only some.
3. Continual intervention would disrupt the regularity of natural law and make life impossible.
4. Chaos would probably result from continued miraculous intervention. The intervention would ultimately remove all human freedom and responsibility. There could be no morality nor moral learning or growth: there could be no redeemability or perfectibility.
In Conclusion, God made creatures with free choice knowing they would choose to commit evil acts so He could display His Grace. The evidence of evil that man sees in the world are caused by a number of things, some of which include:
1) our own choices, or lack thereof, effect consequences in our lives and those of others, just as others’ choices have consequences in their lives and ours,
2) what we identify as evil may in fact have no moral content,
3) some unpleasant things, such as hunger, may give warning of more unpleasant physical things like death,
4) evils like an STD may give warning of God’s wrath against moral evil like pre- or extra-marital sex,
5) some of what we identify as evil may be allowed to occur to help us grow in moral condition.
As to why God does not intervene concerning evil, we do not know that He doesn’t. But we know He does not intervene in all occasions of evil, and in the cases where He does not, it may be to avoid chaos and to honor our free-will.