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Few arguments have undercut Christian’s faith as much as the problem of evil. This argument appeals to both the mind and emotion of the human experience.  With the advent of the New Atheist movement, the problem of evil has resurfaced. The problem of evil is like skeletal remains of dinosaurs that are housed in the back room of a museum and occasionally brought out for re-examination and public viewing.[1]

Possibly the most famous text in the last ten years regarding God and evil comes from atheistic biologist, Richard Dawkins,

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.[2]

While famous New Testament critic Bart Ehrman is not in the same explicit company as Dawkins, this issue was the main reason he left Christianity

If there is all-powerful, all-loving God in this world, why is there so much excruciating pain and unspeakable suffering? The problem of suffering has haunted me for a very long time. It was what made me begin to think about religion when I was young, and it was what led me to question my faith when I was older. Ultimately, it was the reason I lost my faith.[3]

Does the Christian worldview provide an answer for the claims of Ehrman? Is God as Richard Dawkins describes? Does the existence of evil disprove the existence of God?

  The logical problem of evil proposes that the existence of God and evil are impossible. They are like the irresistible force and the immovable object; if one exists the other does not.[4] The argument proceeds as follows:

  •  If an all-loving, all-powerful God exists, evil does not exist.
  • Evil exists.
  • Therefore, an all-loving, all-powerful God does not exist.

If the first two premises are correct, it logically follows that the conclusion is true. On the surface, the argument seems airtight. However, there are some issues with the logical problem of evil.

 Why think the first two statements are logically inconsistent?[5]  There are underlying assumptions made in the first line of reasoning. Consider the first assumption: If God is all-powerful, He can create any world that He wants. This assumption is not necessarily valid if humankind has free will to choose. Since it is possible that humanity does have free will, it automatically limits the type of world God would create. However undercuts the first assumption of the skeptic’s argument, thereby making the entire argument false.The second assumption: If God is all loving, He prefers a world without suffering. This is not necessarily true either. God could have overriding reasons in allowing evil. It could be that God in his desire for the most number of people to be in a relationship with Him freely, allows some evil to exist.

For example, in Acts chapter 8, upon Stephen’s stoning, there is a great persecution brought against the Church by Saul of Tarsus. The persecution leads to Christians scattering from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and other parts of the earth. The result of the suffering is the spreading of the gospel and the expansion of the Church. This particular instance coincides with Jesus’ mission statement to the apostles in Acts 1:8. Furthermore, it could be, for humankind to recognize the depth and nature of sin, God allows humanity to choose evil over himself freely. Thus, if these propositions are possible, they falsify the second assumption.[6]

Given that the first line of reasoning contains no explicit contradictions and that the assumptions made are fallacious, the entire logical problem of evil is false.

Footnotes

[1] Stewart Goetz. “The Argument from Evil.” Blackwell’s Companion to Natural Theology (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012) 449.

[2] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Transworld, 2006), 51.

[3] Bart D. Ehrman, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question-Why We Suffer. (New York City, NY: Harper Collins, 2008), 1.

[4] Craig, 154.

[5] Craig, 155.

[6] It should be noted that the answers to these assumptions do not have to be true or probable, but if they are possible, they demonstrate that the assumptions made by the skeptic are not necessarily true.

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