A fact of life and of living in this world is that there is evil. Another fact, to a majority of individuals, is that there is also a God. Herein most people come to a wall and are not sure how to get to the other side. This is The Problem of Evil. How can God exist and allow evil?
The problem of evil has more to do with the existence of evil while in the existence of God. Questions like, “If God loves people why did he allow…” or “if God is a good God why does He allow bad things to happen” illustrate precisely what the problem of evil is.
Within the problem of evil are two distinct categories: the problem of moral evil and of natural evil. Moral evil is evil that is produced by someone who has the capacity to understand right from wrong (ex: it is right to pay for something, it is wrong to steal something). Natural evil is that which occurs through the “natural order” (ex: a tornado that tears through a community killing anyone in its path).
Moral evil, sin among mankind, is a result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve in the
garden. God created both of them as sinless, but created them with free-will: the ability to make decisions. He gave them a command to obey (Genesis 2:16-17), and Satan tempted them to disobey this command (3:1-5). They had a choice, free will, in the matter, and chose to disobey God (3:6). This act of disobedience not only effected Adam and Eve and their entire race (mankind), but also the created world. Because of this disobedience, mankind is forever “incapable of not sinning”, and the world is in “bondage to decay” (Romans 8:21).
There are a number of theodicies that attempt to solve the problem of evil. Gottfried Leibniz explains that since God is all-good he cannot have willed a world that is less than best, that does not contain the “greatest number and variety of beings”, and that does not contain physical evil and good. While his theodicy may be internally consistent, it requires a “best possible world”, which does not exist any longer (not since the fall).
Another theodicy uses the free-will defense, which says that God could not have created mankind with free-will while always making them do good. While this is the case, it is difficult to see how God can use the evil acts that free-will produces for good.
A third theodicy is soul-building theodicy, which states that the God did not intend to create perfect creatures, but creatures that needed to be developed into Kingdom worthy material. This theodicy is also internally consistent but is weak when evil in the world actually turns people away from God instead of to God.
In paragraph six, this author shared his theodicy (based on free-will), how he explains and solves the problem of evil. This theodicy is internally consistent (which is important because “the intent in writing a theodicy is to avoid self-contradiction”) in that it allows an all-good, all-loving, and all-powerful God to create a perfect world that contains evil. It recognizes that God created mankind with the ability to choose to obey or disobey his commandments. This theodicy demonstrates that God can and does take the evil that man produces and turns it into good and ultimately His victory (Gen. 3:15).
While God is able to use evil for good, there are ramifications for mankind. Any human that experiences sin personally will experience what Adam and Eve experienced after eating the fruit in the garden: separation from God (Gen. 3:8). Prior to eating the fruit they were in perfect harmony with God, but after disobeying Him they were separated from him. This same truth applies to all mankind today.
In writing a theodicy one may notice that they are bringing into question certain characteristics about God and his nature. To dispute (argue, debate) with the proper motives will reap knowledge and aid the individual in learning more about who God is. What one cannot do is begin to “attack” (take aggressive action against) God. It is a fine line, but one may dispute certain beliefs about God (with the goal of learning) without actually attacking God.
The problem of evil is a problem that has been around for centuries. It is a problem that will always lead people to question God, his love, and even his existence. But, as long as these questions are leading people to God is all that matters. From that point on they are in the best hands, God’s hands.
Points to Remember
- The problem of evil is made up of two parts: moral evil and natural evil.
- A theodicy is a way to explain God’s ways to man, and it will particularly resolve the problem of evil.
- Any human that experiences sin (which is everyone, Rom. 3:23) will experience what Adam and Eve experienced: separation from God.
Questions to Promote Discussion and Personal Bible Study
- What is The Problem of Evil?
- What is the difference between moral evil and natural evil?
- What was effected by the disobedience of Adam and Eve? What Scripture supports your belief?
- Of the three theodicies presented in this paper (Gottfried Leibniz’s, free-will, or soul-building), which do you believe resolves the Problem of Evil? Why?
- In the process if writing a theodicy you will in time begin questioning certain characteristics of God and his nature. What are your thoughts on this? Is it right or wrong to question characteristics of God? To what extent is this acceptable?
-  Feinberg F.S. “Problem of Evil.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001), 414.
-  Demarest B. “Fall of the Human Race.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001), 436.
-  Feinberg F.S. “Theodicy.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001), 1185.
-  Ibid.
-  Ibid., 1187.
- Demarest B. “Fall of the Human Race.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 434. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001.
- Feinberg F.S. “Problem of Evil.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 413. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001.
- Feinberg F.S. “Theodicy.” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Elwell, A. Walter. 1184. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book house Company, 2001.
- Article header photo credit: The Fall depicted in the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_Sündenfall.jpg
- Bibliography Photo Credit: http://www.maicar.com/GML/Bibliography.html
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