“If God is all-powerful He cannot be good, if God is good He cannot be all-powerful!”
– Lex Luthor in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Why does Lex think such a thing? He reaches this conclusion based on all the evil and suffering in the world (especially the suffering he experienced as a child). Lex is not alone. In fact, this “reasoning” is offered today as the greatest objection against the existence of a Maximally Great Being (God). Lex and many atheists reach their conclusions in the following manner known as “The Problem of Evil”:
1- God, by definition, is a Maximally Great Being
2- If God is perfectly good He would not want humanity to suffer or experience evil.
3- If God is all-powerful He could prevent humanity from suffering or experiencing evil.
4- Humanity suffers and experiences evil.
5- Therefore, God is either not perfectly good or not all-powerful (or both).
6- Therefore, God is not a Maximally Great Being.
7- Therefore, God, by definition, does not exist.
The logic of Lex is valid, but it is not sound. That is to say, if his four premises were true, then his three deductive conclusions must be true as well. With that said, however, not all of Lex’s premises are true. I contend that (2) is false and once we factor in other relevant data, (3) fails as well. Therefore Lex’s conclusions do not follow.
Since I have rejected Lex Luthor’s premises, now I have the burden of demonstrating why they are false. The rest of this article explains why a perfectly good and all-powerful God allows humanity to suffer and experience evil.
As I begin this case let me be clear that a Maximally Great Being (God), by definition, is perfectly good and all-loving. God is also all-powerful. He is the ultimate standard of love and there is nothing logically possible that God cannot do. The question is raised: If God is all-good, all-loving, and all-powerful, why is the world filled with all this evil, pain, and suffering? At face value, this seems to be quite the conundrum for Christian theists. Lex Luthor and the atheists have offered the existence of evil as a reason to think God might not exist; however, there are tremendous reasons to believe that God does exist! I have studied many reasons, arguments, and evidences demonstrating the existence of God. These arguments include, but are not limited to, the following hyperlinks (click on each one to learn more):
The Kalam Cosmological Argument
The Leibnizian Cosmological Argument
The Moral Argument
The Teleological Argument
The Ontological Argument
The Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism
The Freethinking Argument
The Historical Argument for the Resurrection of Jesus
This cumulative case has provided a powerful foundation and justification for a reasonable faith in God. Therefore, the conclusion provided by Lex Luthor and the atheists must be a false one as it does nothing to refute the conclusions following from the above arguments. With that said, however, the problem of evil remains. As philosophical theologians we should never settle to simply conclude that we must let some things “rest in tension.” The problem of evil is one that we must reconcile.
What Does Evil Prove?
The first thing that must be pointed out is that the existence of evil is actually evidence for the existence of God. We can conclude this via deductive logic through a version of the moral argument:
1- If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2- Evil exists (Lex and many atheists offers it as evidence against God).
3- Therefore, objective moral values and duties exist (some things are morally evil).
4- Therefore, God exists.
So, evil seems to be a hostile witness. The atheist brings it up as evidence against God in the courtroom of public opinion. However, just as Kato Kaelin turned on the prosecution in the O.J. Simpson trial, now the existence of evil is turning on the atheist prosecuting attorney and providing evidence for the existence of a Maximally Great — and perfectly good — Being (God).
The question remains, however: Why would a Maximally Great Being who is perfectly good allow humans to suffer and experience evil? An explanation is still needed.
Can God Do All Things?
I agree that God is all-powerful; however, I must add that I do not believe God can do ALL things! Now before I am accused of being self-contradictory at best or a heretic at worst, consider this: can God make a triangle with four corners? Can God create a “married bachelor?” Can God sin? The answer to all of the above is a resounding, “NO!”
Consider the “married bachelor.” God cannot create a married bachelor because if a man is married, he is no longer a bachelor. If a man is a bachelor, he is not married. Therefore, it is impossible for a married bachelor to exist. It is even impossible for God to create a married bachelor because God cannot do the logically impossible.
True Love and Free Will
Since the impossibility of God being able to do the logically impossible is established, let us return to the challenge; can God create any world He wants since He is all-powerful? The answer to that is “NO” as well, if you consider two things: true love and free will.
If God desired to make a world where the sentient beings in that world could experience a real and loving relationship with their creator, they must possess free will. If a person does not freely choose to enter into a loving relationship with another person, it is not true love. If a woman is forced to marry a man she did not want to marry, they might be legally married, but true love is not part of that relationship. True love can only occur if it is free from external coercion.
True love is only possible between two persons who both freely choose to enter into that loving relationship together. Moreover, it is logically impossible for someone to force another person do something freely. That is on the same logically fallacious level as square circles and married bachelors. It is logically impossible for those “things” to exist. In fact, those “things” are nothing more than a logically inconsistent combination of words.
If God desired to create a world in which human beings had free will so they could freely choose to enter into a loving relationship with Him, then, given their free will, humanity could also freely choose to turn away from God and sin. For a true loving relationship with God to be possible, it requires the potentiality that this loving relationship could be freely rejected by humanity. This is the ultimate sin!
God desires all men to freely choose to enter into a true love relationship with Him for all eternity (1 Timothy 2:4), but He does not force anyone into that relationship. If He did, it would not be true love. Many hold to a view that we are incapable of rejecting God’s grace if He chooses to avail Himself to us as individuals. However, if we are incapable of resisting the “call of God,” this seems to be equal to kidnapping! This is definitely not true love! This is startlingly similar to a phenomenon known as “Stockholm Syndrome,” which has been documented as occurring to some kidnapping victims after they have been held captive over a period of time. In many instances, the victim begins to have feelings for their captors. In fact, sometimes they say they are “in love” with the very criminal who kidnapped them.
This is obviously not true love but psychological trauma! If humanity is incapable of resisting God’s invitation to enter into a relationship with Him, the best relationship we could have with God is something akin to “Stockholm Syndrome,” which is the farthest thing from true love. Thus, since we were created to freely love God, then it is quite possible for humanity to freely choose to reject the Holy Spirit’s advances in our lives continually.
When we sin, we freely choose to act in opposition to God’s essential nature and character. When we freely choose to rebel against God, we choose to bring more pain, and suffering into this world. For true love to be possible with our creator, we must be able to freely choose to enter into that relationship. Therefore, we can see that if God truly is all-loving, He must create a world in which persons have free will, and if free will is really free (and not some word game), this world will have the possibility not only of pleasure and happiness, but also the real possibility of pain, evil, and suffering.
With this logic, it is indeed possible for a perfectly good God to exist, be all-powerful, and for suffering to occur in this world at the same time. Therefore, when the atheist exclaims, “It is impossible for God and evil to both exist,” that objection is clearly false, and should not be believed. We have also examined God’s goal in creation which includes having an authentic loving relationship with humanity. Given this goal, God has limited Himself and given man genuine freedom, which man has used to freely reject and disobey God. Thus, evil entered into this world by man’s actions, and God is innocent of causally determining any human to sin. Moral evil is a result of our own free and very real decisions.
It is logical to conclude that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good God exists. Since He is perfectly good, He is also all-loving. Since He is all-loving, He desires an authentic and eternal loving relationship with each and every human being that He has ever created. Since He desires an authentic love relationship with each individual human being, He had to give us the free will to choose to love Him or reject Him. With rejection comes sin and these transgressions have infected this world with evil, pain, and terrible suffering. God also allows suffering caused by moral choices (and natural causes), because suffering shapes us as well as bring us closer to Him, which is the greatest good a human being could ever experience. As the Apostle Paul makes clear, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17).
With this “eternal weight of glory” in mind, the only way God could eradicate evil is to eradicate free will. That would then eradicate the possibility of each one of us freely choosing to enter into a “true love” relationship with our creator. That eternal love relationship with our creator is the greatest good a person could ever experience; therefore, eradicating evil would be evil! Thus, when we keep eternity in mind, we see that it is good that evil, pain, and suffering were made possible and allowed by God.
1- If a Maximally Great Being (God) exists, He is perfectly good and all loving (this is the property of omni benevolence).
2- If God is all-loving, He desires a true love relationship with all mankind (1 Tim 2:4).
3- If true love is to be attained, all mankind must possess genuine free will.
4- If mankind possesses free will, then mankind can freely choose to do evil.
5- If a Maximally Great Being (God) exists He is all-powerful (this is the property of omnipotence).
6- Therefore, God could prevent evil actions by eradicating human free will (He would have the power).
7- If God eradicates free will, then He eradicates the possibility of true love with humanity.
8- Eternal love with God is the ultimate good humans can experience & humans freely choosing to love God brings Him ultimate glory.
9- Therefore, preventing love would be evil.
10- Therefore, it would be evil to eradicate libertarian free will.
11- Therefore, it would be evil for God to eradicate evil.
Sorry, Lex, but your logic is lousy. Moreover, think about this: moral evil produced the good of Batman (Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered) and natural evil produced the good of Superman (Krypton exploded). Similarly, the mean-spirited nature of many of the “new atheists” produced the good of FreeThinking Ministries! This reminds me of Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Stay reasonable (Philippians 4:5),
 Alvin Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil, Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1977 (34)
 William Lane Craig, “Belief in God Makes Sense In Light of Tsunamis,” in his first rebuttal in a debate with A.C. Grayling at Oxford Union, United Kingdom, 2005 http://www.reasonablefaith.org/belief-in-god-makes-sense-in-light-of-tsunamis-the-craig-grayling-debate (accessed 5-9-12)
 Patrick J. Carnes, “The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships” Health Communications Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL (34-35)
 Jacobus Erasmus has simplified the lengthy syllogism:
1. If God is all-good, then God will allow creatures to have the ability to freely make evil choices. (P -> Q)
2. If God allows creatures to have the ability to freely make evil choices, then God allows the possibility of evil. (Q -> R)
3. Therefore, if God is all-good, then God allows the possibility of evil. (P -> R)
*Thank you to my mom, Suzanne Stratton, for drawing the featured image above (I love you, Mom)!