Preventing the Problem of Evil

Timothy

Fox

(Orthodox Fox)

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June 4, 2015

The #1 argument against God’s existence is probably the problem of evil. If an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving God exists, why is there so much evil and suffering? It’s been asked (and responded to) for centuries and we’re still asking it. However, I want to narrow it down and look at it from a specific angle: What if God prevented all evil completely? I’ll try to give some reasons why God hasn’t solved the problem of evil yet. Or has He?

No evil whatsoever

So what are some ways God could have prevented evil from ever entering the world?

First, God could have never created anything at all. He was holy and perfect from eternity past. There is no evil in him, so any evil would have to be external to Him. Therefore, the only way for evil to exist is in His creation. (And for those wondering if God created evil, evil is not a thing; it is a lack of a thing. Evil is the absence of good the way that darkness is the absence of light.) Life, the universe and everything are gifts from God. Ones that He didn’t have to give. But He did so we could share in His goodness. So if God didn’t create anything, there would be no evil. But there wouldn’t be any us either.

But why couldn’t God create something that was perfectly good and devoid of evil? That would be possible, but only if He didn’t give man free will. Sin and suffering entered the world because Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God. And we’ve been sinning ever since! But then why did God bother giving them free will to begin with? The answer is simple: without free will, love is impossible.[1] God wasn’t interested in creating robots who were forced to love and serve Him; He wanted children who would freely choose Him, even at the cost of the many who would use their free will to reject Him and His commands. And how much of the evil in this world is only because we freely choose to harm others and ourselves? So no free will = no evil, but no love either.

Stopping evil in its tracks

So maybe God couldn’t create creatures who were both free and good all of the time. But couldn’t He find a way for man to be free while still stopping evil before it happens? Well, if you have any ideas on how that could work, I’m all ears! Maybe he could put a protective force field around everyone so they would never be harmed. He can cause all guns to jam and sabotage bombs so they can’t go off. But how is this any different from denying us free will? Sure, we have the appearance of free will, but we couldn’t act on it. So we really aren’t free.[2]

And when we criticize God for allowing evil, we typically mean evil that harms others, like murder and rape. And I get it; I wish those things did not occur either. But if God exists, He is the standard of goodness. He defines good and evil. So if God eliminated all evil, He would prevent everything that He considers sinful. That includes things like pirating music, cheating on taxes, and premarital sex.

So be honest: do you really want God to stop all evil? To put a no-sex force field around your boyfriend or girlfriend? Of course not. We want Him to prevent the sin we dislike but keep the sin we enjoy. How inconsistent is that? Here’s the problem: God hates all sin. We don’t. If God stopped all evil, we would still be unhappy because we can’t do those naughty things we like anymore.

The really bad stuff

So maybe God shouldn’t prevent all evil, just the really bad stuff. Now, this is where we get into very subjective territory. Where’s the dividing line between bad and really bad? Is there an acceptable amount of evil? Any evil is too much, right? If we knew for a fact that God stopped certain evil acts, we would then wonder why he hadn’t stopped more. Or all of it.

Also, this assumes that God hasn’t prevented a great many evils throughout history. We put God on trial to answer to us for wars, the holocaust, 9-11, and such. But how do we know there wouldn’t have been more if not for divine providence? We simply aren’t in a position to know.

The solution to the problem of evil

Many people who have encountered great evil and suffering in their lives have chosen to abandon all belief in a good God. But this doesn’t solve the problem; it only eliminates the solution. Evil exists whether or not we believe in Him. (And if you don’t think evil is real then you won’t be complaining about it.)

God sent His Son to solve the problem of evil, to forgive our sins and reconcile us to Himself (John 3:16). We want evil eradicated, and eventually Jesus will return and put an end to all evil and suffering (Revelation 21:4). But why hasn’t he done this already? Because He waits for as many people as possible to come to salvation (2 Peter 3:9).


Notes:

[1] Tim Stratton uses a similar argument in his article “True Love, Free Will, & The Logic of Hell.” Check it out!

[2] God doing all kinds of weird things to stop evil would also make His existence completely obvious, which would then impact our free will as well. I discuss the problems of God making Himself too apparent in my article “Why God Hides.”

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Timothy

Fox

(Orthodox Fox)

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