THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

BY: TIAGO HIRAYAMA

In addressing the problem of evil, we are encouraged to have in mind three absolute truths. First, God is sovereign. Second, humans are responsible for their actions. Third, God is good despite all the claims that He is otherwise.

To begin with, Scripture must be the standard for the Christian when wrestling with any issue raised by unbelievers. The Christian then must take the arguments seriously and give sufficient reasons for the hope that is in them. Given the presupposition that people do not want to believe in God because they do not wish to be held accountable for their actions, they also are seeking to minimize God’s control over creation and creature. Nevertheless, the Scripture is clear that God does whatever He pleases.[1] Moreover, God demonstrated this truth to a wicked king, making that men testify about God’s sovereignty.[2] Lastly, there are many other passages which the Sovereignty of God is evidently shown as an undisputable fact.[3]

Humans Beings Are Responsible For Their Actions.

Another issue raised by those who are trying to disprove the existence of God is the claim that the domain of evil is out of God’s reach as if God has no power to stop it, but the biblical data gives us the understanding that God is sovereign even over the evil deeds of human beings. The classical example of this is the story of Joseph being sold by his brothers into slavery which after all that Joseph went through, he says in Genesis 50:20 “you planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present results.”[4] God did not overlook that evil action. Instead, He used for his purpose and the good pleasure of his will.

Additionally, in the book of Isaiah, though God purposefully planned to bring His judgments through a wicked nation, the people of Assyria were held accountable for the evil they had done.[5] The book of Acts chapter two also 1demonstrates the truth of this healthy tension between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.[6] Therefore, Christians must hold together and affirm this tension of Individuals are unescapable responsible for their actions, and God is absolutely sovereign over all. This truth is pivotal when answering the problem of evil.

Responding to the logical problem of evil.

A huge proponent against Christianity is ‘The logical problem of evil,’ which claims that if God exists and He is good, then there should be no evil, but since evil does exist in the world then, therefore, God does/should not exist. According to Dr. Wellum, to give a satisfactory answer, we need to reformulate the premise one of the argument. “If God exists, then there is no evil unless there is a morally sufficient reason that would justify him permitting it.”[7] This addition to the argument eliminates the problem of incompatibility of God’s existence and the issue of evil. It puts God’s perspective first and leaves whoever is asking with no further logical or philosophical objections lest they go irrational or attacking one personally. However, it is worth noting that for the person who is asking, the problem is still not solved because the issue they have is not philosophical or logical, it is, in fact, psychological and deals with reality. They are ultimately asking why are there bad things that happen to good people? This argument brings us to the Religious or Practical problem of evil.

Responding To The Religious or Practical Problem of Evil.

The religious or practical issue here is dealing with a more personal level. Even if the person asking the question accepts the logical answer to the problem, he or she still unsatisfied because they do not want to believe that a supreme being exists and that they are responsible and will be judged eventually.

On this part of any conversation, the individual shift the gear from logical to personal. In other words, they ask questions such as, why me? Or Why that person I care for is suffering? Or why the little child was raped? What was the morally sufficient reason for that to happen?

The problem with this type of argumentation is evidently the presuppositions of it. As in any argument raised against the existence of God, the presuppositions need to be the primary focus of our attention. The first assumption is the inherent goodness and value of mankind which the question is trying to warrant. The second assumption is that it would be unfair to allow this type of evil to happen to such innocent people. The third assumption, that which is embedded in all the question concerning evil, is the concept of a moral standard by which they can distinguish evil from good.

To answer any presupposition, Christians must always return to the ultimate source of moral and goodness, the Bible. The first assumption is answered by explaining the problem of humanity and its rebellion against God. The second one could be replied with a presentation of the book of Romans chapter three. Finally, the last one is harder to address because of its philosophical and theological aspects. I would take the presuppositional apologetics style to do it.[8] I would ask how they can distinguish evil from good. Then, I would state that to distinguish is to point to a higher source by which we can differentiate one from another. However, since the questioner always has a different authoritative source, either themselves or the good of society, yet as Christians, we should make clear that the word of God is our standard rather than any word from man.

In a typical conversation with a layperson, it is normal for objections against the validity of Scripture be raised and we must be ready to answer those as well.

Responding To The Evidential Problem of Evil.

The evidential problem of evil not only raises the question of its existence but the amount and type of it that is obviously seen in reality. This argument seeks to show that Christian theism is unsatisfactory and unconvincing because of God’s mysterious reasons in his unwillingness to stop it.

A philosophical answer for this objection would be raising the question of free will. Even though the term free will is probably the most ambiguous term ever and for the sake of the argument, we are analyzing their worldview in their own terms. Consequently, free will is one of those terms that any humanist and secularist love to use.

Most people would agree that humans have freedom of action, and since individuals have the autonomy to act freely, why then blame God for the free actions of people? Ravi Zacharias, a great Christian apologist, brings up an excellent point on the matter of freedom leading to love. He says that “Where there is freedom, there is the possibility of love. Where there is love, there is the possibility of pain. Where there is a pain, there is the possibility of a savior. Where there is a savior, there is the possibility of redemption. Where there is redemption, there is the possibility of restoration. Freedom makes love possible, love makes pain possible, pain makes the savior possible, and the savior brings redemption, and redemption brings restoration.”[9]

Ironically, the people who are objecting against the existence of God using the problem of evil, are actually borrowing concepts from the Christian worldview to disprove the very being who they claimed not to exist.

In light of the questioner’s worldview, I close with Dr. Wellum questions yet to be answered by everyone who demands an explanation to the problem of evil. How do they account for evil? How do they conclude that evil exists? How do they account for the concepts of good and evil without borrowing Christian morality?[10]

[1] Psalm 115:3, 135:6-10, Isaiah 14:24-27
[2] Daniel 4:35.
[3] Acts 17:26, Ruth 1:13-20, 1 Kings 22:34-38
[4] Christian Standard Version.
[5] Isaiah 10:6-10.
[6] Acts 2:23.
[7] Stephen Wellum, Introduction to Philosophy: Lecture Notes and Outlines, (Louisville: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008), 36.
[8] In the Christian worldview, presuppositional apologetics seeks to expose logical flaws in the oposer’s arguments by establishing a reasonable foundation for the Christian Faith.
[9] The Problem of Suffering and the Goodness of God – Ravi Zacharias at Johns Hopkins. YouTube video, 1:58:56.  Posted by “TheVeritasForum,” December 21, 2013.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7-gP1gC8gM.
[10] Stephen Wellum, Introduction to Philosophy: Issues in Philosophy of Religion #8, (Louisville: Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2008), Lecture 24.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: