Answering the Problem of Evil


Hey fellas!

On another forum, with an equal number of athiests and Christians, we’ve gotten into a debate about the problem of evil. It’s a question I have struggled with in the past, but I think there is a clear answer that reveals a whole lot about Christianity, as well. However, I am not sure if it is valid, of if all the points are on the money. Could you guys look it over for holes and allow me to refine my understanding and my argument?

[quote=A Philosopher] The Problem of Evil
Presented Formally:

An omnibenevolent omnipotent omniscient God exists. (Assumption)
An omnipotent being could bring about any situation desired. (By 1)
An omnibenevolent being would not desire a situation with evil. (By 1)
An omniscient being could forsee evil existing in a situation. (By 1)
Evil does not exist. (By 1, 2, 3, 4)
Evil exists. (Assumption)
Contradiction by 5 & 6


This is my favorite Athiestic arguement to answer. It’s also the only one that holds any water, in my eyes. It’s taken me months to come up with a sufficient answer, I will admit.

It starts with this: God is omnipotent, yes, but he is not capable of contradiction. He won’t ever cause something to exist and not exist at the exact same moment. He won’t say one thing and then break his word. He won’t say “Human Souls will not cease to exist” and then break his word and cause one to cease to exist. God’s word is reality. (Now do some of you see why Christians believe in the second person of the Trinity, God’s word?) So that’s premise number one, that God is incapable of contradictions.

Okay, so now let’s try and analyze this idea of “free will.” Free will means that God allows an soul to be capable of any thought or action not limited by his ability (i.e., I have free will but am not able to destroy the universe. A baby has free will but does not have the intellect to make free choices. However, killing a baby IS within my sphere of power, and I could kill a baby if I wanted to, as some have). Free will includes the possibility of evil. If souls that have free will are allowed to live forever, then they must, eventually, commit some evil action or thought (i.e., “sin”), right? So how does God reconcile this contradiction. He can’t “omnipotize” his way through it, if premise one is true. How does God answer the problem of evil?

The answer lies in this world. God has forseen sin and evil and has used it to gain eventual sinlessness in the future, forever. Look at Adam and Eve: they lacked original sin and they still chose to sin; why? It’s because they had no knowledge of sin, they didn’t know what sin would really lead to. Now, we know. And it is because we not only know but have experienced it first hand that we will never sin again, in Heaven, ever.

Like a sword coming out of the furance for the last time, so will we be when we get to heaven: beautiful, pure, and strong, as we were meant to be. But we would not be so without the testing fires of a lifetime on this earth. Without the furnace, we would be burnt iron: broken, weak, and unfinished.

So, to break it down into a logical proof: 1) God cannot perform contradictions
2) “Free will” includes the ability to sin
3) God wants us to have free will and not sin (a contradiction by 1 & 2)
4) God solves this contradiction by letting us experience and commit evil and sin first hand - thus giving us the ability we need to never sin again.


I like your argument. One thing I would add is that God is the ultimate good. Thus He desires the greatest good in anything that He does. Free Will + Salvation is a greater good than predetermined obedience.


[/font]problem of evil


[quote=buffalo]problem of evil

Eh, the answer seems extremely incomplete. My answer would be, if I was an athiest: Why did God not see that evil was going to happen and, being omnipotent, stop it?


[quote=eaManwe]Eh, the answer seems extremely incomplete. My answer would be, if I was an athiest: Why did God not see that evil was going to happen and, being omnipotent, stop it?

Evil is an allowed consequence of free will. God loves us so greatly he gave us free will. Anything less we would be robotic.


I agree, Buffalo. God gave us free will, knowing that some would turn against Him. If He forced us to love and follow Him – what kind of love would that be? We must make a choice; He gave us that choice. A consequence of this is evil.


Two Christian philosphers that have dealt with this topic at length are William Lane Craig and Norman Geisler. In fact, Geisler did a television series on this a few years ago. You might want to do an internet search of those two to find out more.


Just thinking out loud here, so don’t burn me at the stake. This was actually proposed by a friend of mine whose mind is a lot bigger than my own:

  1. God “saw” that evil was going to happen. (Of course, He’s outside of time, since it’s nothing else than the ticking of creation. So He sees everything in one complete act now.)

  2. God can’t stop it. But it’s not because He’s not omnipotent. It’s precisely because He’s omnipotent. The ability to stop it is nothing, just like the ability to make a four-sided triangle. And “*nothing *is impossible to God.”

Ok, end thinking out loud here. That’s how my friend put it, and I must admit how shocked I was to hear him say #2.


An atheist will take the position of determinism, that is we have no free will. Everything is predetermined by some formula or theory. He will also take the position of materialism, that is nothing is needed for our existence except matter.

Free will is an affront to this. If he admits free will, he admits consciousness and ultimately God.


I don’t think it’s true that immortal beings with free will were bound to sin at some point. To say that would be to deny the power of free will, wouldn’t it? BUT-- Augustine points out (this is somewhere in the middling parts of The City of God , sorry I can’t be more specific) that an immortal, free-will existence could not be happy as long as the person enjoying such an existence didn’t know whether he would choose evil at some point in the future. Clearly we’re contradicting God’s benevolence if we’re saying He created creatures who couldn’t be perfectly happy!

The answer, of course, is Jesus. Hasn’t JPII indicated that the Incarnation was going to happen regardless of whether original sin occurred or not? It just would have been a lot more fun if our King hadn’t had to suffer with us…

At any rate, it seems to me that the neatest way out of this argument is to deny the eternal nature of evil-- that way, from God’s persective at least, evil would never have existed at all! Exalt does this partly in his original post by maintaining that, for those who are saved, whatever evil was in them will have been completely destroyed. But I get the feeling that teaching a universal destruction of evil is probably a heresy of some sort. :confused:

That, to me, is the question: according to our faith, the most beautiful, powerful spirit ever created is going to be EVIL for all eternity! I don’t know how we go about reconciling that with God’s omnibenevolence. I hope someone else can shed some light on it.


BTW, premise 3 of that argument essentially assumes the conclusion. And of course, it’s also false.


See Peter Kreeft’s "The Problem of Evil"


Kreeft is very good. I wish he’d spent more time on the fact that evil can be eternal. I can accept Auschwitz and Calvary when I am told that in eternity all the suffering entailed there will be “turned to gold,” but I just can’t understand how God would create anything, knowing that it would cause evil of an eternal nature to exist.

Every so often I get the feeling that God’s actions have really been quite tragic-- many things about His creation have certainly been good, but His greatest (or second-greatest?) creation, along with many others, became evil. I think one of the greatest mysteries of our faith is how this could, in a sense, have been “worth it.”

So the questions become-- is there something about God’s nature that required Him to create? If so, He Himself becomes a somewhat tragic figure. And if He didn’t have to, well… why did He?


In my view, evil would be a fairly simple (I say that somewhat tongue in cheek) “problem” to solve if not for one doctrine: hell.

The doctrine of hell teaches that evil will always maintain a beachhead in reality. Evil will always devour as a parasite on true human being.

Thus, Exalt’s implication that all will work out in the end because of heaven is somewhat of a simplification. If I were an atheist (which I am not) I would focus on hell as my trump card. Even if you can explain temporary evils (Hitler’s and Stalin’s millions, etc.) it becomes very, very difficult to explain an eternal evil.

Further, it is hard to make the argument that human will is perfectly free. Certainly, you and I were born with weak wills and raging passions. It would be like being born an alchololic and then telling the alcoholic he has perfect freedom not to drink. Yes…in one sense, that’s true. But in another?

So, I hope and trust with Exalt that God is taking his whole creation to fulfillment. But it is only that, a hope.

The other thing I would want to point out is this: there are two creations: one, is the first, found in Genesis, etc. That of Adam, etc. The other is the “New Creation”. If the first creation was ex nihilo, what are the circumstances of the new, second creation? Answer? Sin, evil, the moral nothingness to which Christ descended when he emptied himself of his divinity (recall Philippians 2, the kenosis) and ultimately died on the cross. This new creation is not only each individual Christian, who is buried in Christ’s death (Romans 6), but, more importantly, as the Fathers argue, it is the “creation” of the Church from the side of Christ on the cross.

So the point? Yes, God had the incarnation in mind all along. And more than that, the crucifixion (which implies he knew man would go astray). I would argue that as the more substantial creation, the second/new creation somehow has priority over the first creation (when Adam and Eve were given a choice between good and evil). I don’t mean a priority of time (though this is interesting, given God’s eternality), but a priority of substantiality: the second is real, permanent, and fully participating in Being/Love/the Good, etc. God’s Life; whereas, the first is merely a becoming, and as such, a passing away.

Evil, then, seen in the reality of the first creation is a problem indeed. But seen through the substantially real reality of the second creation, which is the reality of the beatific vision, it passes away, as there will be no more night.


Here’s a response for those who think the problem of evil disproves the Christian concept of God:

Here is one part of the answer to the problem of evil.

What keeps you from becoming another part of that answer?

– Mark L. Chance.


We were created by God for love!

Love requires free will.

Without free will there can be no true love!

Free will cannot exist without the possibility of evil.

Love and evil are both consequences of free will.

Free will is the means for true love.

It is a matter of choice and we have all been given the ability to choose. The fact that some choose evil should not pose a problem for those that choose love. Love conquers all!


At any rate, it seems to me that the neatest way out of this argument is to deny the eternal nature of evil-- that way, from God’s persective at least, evil would never have existed at all! Exalt does this partly in his original post by maintaining that, for those who are saved, whatever evil was in them will have been completely destroyed. But I get the feeling that teaching a universal destruction of evil is probably a heresy of some sort. :confused:
Evil does not exist. Evil is not something, it is the absence of something. If I have a dog without wings, I would not perceive it as an evil, because wings are not proper to a dog. However, if my dog only had three legs, I would perceive it as an evil, because something that is ordered to a dog is missing. *


There is also the idea that God only allows evil to obtain a greater good from it. We don’t necessarily know what the greater good might be. I think of my children when they had earaches and the doc looked into their painful ears. They experienced it as the evil doc causing great unnecessary pain, but it was the way to determine what was wrong and how to fix it.


For some interesting reading about evil, check out paragraphs 396 - 421 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, ISBN: 1-57455-109-4

Use this handy link Be sure to scroll down to find the search box for the Catechism. Hint: either put in paragraph 396 and enter the Catechism at this point or put evil in the search box.


All human life is worthy of profound respect from the moment of conception.


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