The Problem of Evil has been described as the Achilles Heal of the Christian faith and when discussing Christianity in almost any context this ‘problem’ or difficulty in one form or another is raised as an objection to the Christian faith. I read yesterday morning the best explanation I have read or heard. As point of interest, the very fact there are several Christian answers to the problem of evil should also indicate to the unbeliever that it’s not the problem they would like to think it is or maybe even hope it is. The reality is there are answers but are not acceptable to the sinner. As Jesus said: they will not come to the light in order that their deeds be exposed – in this case the exposure of their own inescapable bias.
As indicated in a previous comment I am slowly working my way through Greg Bahnsen‘s book (Kindle) Always Ready: Direction for Defending the Faith. The chapter on The Problem of Evil is the longest chapter so far (about halfway) in the book and is so well stated that it’s definitely worth a post. My task now is to try and convey this to you.
The problem is normally stated as follows:
1. God is all-good.
2. God is all-powerful.
3. Evil exists.
If God were both benevolent and Almighty evil would not exist. Evil does exist so Christianity cannot be true. However, Bahnsen adds a fourth premise that God has a purpose – unknown to us – in the evil we see, feel and hear about.
Here’s Bahnsen from pages 144 & 145:
However the critic here overlooks a perfectly reasonable way to assent to all three of these propositions.
If the Christian presupposes that God is perfectly and completely good—as Scripture requires us to do—then he is committed to evaluating everything within his experience in the light of that presupposition. Accordingly, when the Christian observes evil events or things in the world, he can and should retain consistency with his presupposition about God’s goodness by now inferring that God has a morally good reason for the evil that exists. God certainly must be all-powerful in order to be God; He is not to be thought of as overwhelmed or stymied by evil in the universe. And God is surely good, the Christian will profess—so any evil we find must be compatible with God’s goodness. This is just to say that God has planned evil events for reasons which are morally commendable and good.
To put it another way, the apparent paradox created by the above three propositions is readily resolved by adding this fourth premise to them:
4. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists.
When all four of these premises are maintained, there is no logical contradiction to be found, not even an apparent one. It is precisely part of the Christian’s walk of faith and growth in sanctification to draw proposition 4 as the conclusion of propositions 1-3.
Best to leave it there for now. But in another post I will track back a little and try to show you how and why Bahnsen gets us there.