So I had to write a paper for my current Theology class about the problem of evil. This is an explanation as to why evil exists in a world created by a perfect God. My husband enjoyed this little essay, while my mother said it went over her head, so I wasn’t planning to post it. But then I thought what the heck, perhaps someone will enjoy it!
The presence of evil in the world has raised many questions among both believers and non-believers. Being able to understand and explain this issue is crucial to a healthy understanding and relationship with God, and sometimes necessary in order to convert non-believers.
According to Elwell (413), “Theists and atheists alike have perceived the problem of evil to be a problem about the internal consistency of the following three propositions: “God is all loving,” “God is all-powerful,” and “Evil exists in a world created by such a God.”” With the problem of evil several questions are raised, such as “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?” and “How can I worship a God that does not remove evil from my life?” Also raised are the questions of moral and natural evil.
We see the first example of moral evil when we look at the fall of man at the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-24). The “moral evil” was the act to disobey God, and the natural evil in this instance was the suffering and consequences of sin; including guilt, a breach in man’s relationship with God, and death. We also see hell as a place that contains nothing but moral and natural evil, while heaven contains only moral goodness and natural blessedness (Elwell, 412).
An explanation to answer why moral and natural evil exists is called a Theodicy. Gottfried Leibniz’s Theodicy explains this problem of evil by stating that in order for God to create the best world possible both moral good and evil, and physical good and evil were necessary. This view describes sin as necessary to man’s existence. While Leibniz does not contradict himself within his system, it “minimizes the role of man’s free will and reduces the significance of sin.” (Towns, 514)
The “soul-building” theodicy states that God’s intent on creating man was to create a being in need of moral development so that man could prepare for the kingdom of God. While this system is internally consistent, the flaw I see is that God could have created man already prepared to build the Kingdom of God.
“The free will defense” is a theodicy which points out that human’s abuse of free will is responsible for evil, rather than God. Many people will ask, “why did God give humans free will?” and this theory explains that it was necessary for God to give us free will or we would be no less than robots, and also shows that God is still good because He gave us the ability and knowledge to avoid sin (Genesis 2:17). This system is internally consistent, and argues that God had the choice to either remove evil or make humans free.
Many atheists and non-believers have used the idea that religion contradicts itself in order to disprove it. For this reason, it is necessary to create a theory that is internally consistent. According to Elwell (414), “the crucial question is not whether a theological position contradicts another theistic system or even whether it contradicts the atheist’s views, but whether it contradicts itself.”
I personally agree with “the free will defense” for an explanation of evil’s existence. This view is internally consistent because it proves that God is still good by choosing what was best for mankind when He was given the option to exterminate evil or create mindless robots. It holds the view of an omnipotent God who does what is logical and good, and shows how God is not responsible for the present evil.
I have met people in the past who were angry with God after struggling with evil first hand and they let it pull them away from God, but I have also seen people who have used the experience to be drawn closer to God. When I struggle with evil I have to remind myself, “what is faith if we only have it when things are going well?” (James 1:2-4, Romans 12:12) I believe God chose to allow evil because it was better than creating us without free will, but still if we let God He will use our trials to help us grow.
Whether or not someone is attacking God rather than a theological system by asking questions and pointing out contradictions is determined by their motive. Are they trying to disprove God’s existence, to put down someone else’s beliefs, or bring doubt into someone’s mind about God? Or are they trying to make sense of a theological issue in order to improve their own, and other peoples understanding of these concepts?
The problem of evil in the world will continue to be debated among believers and non-believers. It is necessary that we have a biblically and theologically consistent understanding in order to support our views when questions arise.
Word count: # 800
Towns, Elmer. Theology For Today. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008. 514. Print.
Elwell, Walter. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. second. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company, 2001. 412,413, 414. Print.