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God and Evil

An example of evil - Elie Wiesel

  • “Blessed be God's name? Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because He kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? … My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man” (Night, Pg 67, 1960).


How do other worldviews answer the problem of evil?


  • Atheism: “there are no moral phenomena at all, only a moral interpretation of phenomena” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 1886, p. 108).

  • Richard Dawkins: “The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference. DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music” (River out  of Eden (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995), pp. 132–133.


  • Deism: God made the world and then stepped back.


  • Islam  basically states that the reason humans do evil is because they forget Allah’s commands. As for natural evils Allah is said to be so sovereign that they come from him. Further, Surah 3:165; 11:118–119 states that Allah wills evil and that he is beyond the category of evil. Natural disasters are from God, because everything proceeds from the will of God (Q7:94, 32:5–7, 45:26, 40:68.)

  • “Either sin is not as serious a problem as in Christianity, so that God could forgive Adam merely on the basis of Adam's progress in spiritual formation, or Allah's holiness does not extend as far as the Christian view does, so that he can resume fellowship with a sinner apart from any mediating work of reconciliation” (Win Corduan, “Evil in Non-Christian Religions,” in God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain, eds. Dew, James K Jr. and Chad Mister (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2012), p. 178)


  • Buddhism: The four noble truths: 1) Life is full of suffering (dukkha). 2) Suffering has a cause, namely as the result of attachment/desire (Trishna). 3) Suffering can end when desire ends (Nirodha). 4) The way to end desire is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path (Magga).


  • Hinduism: One’s attachments to it’s desires and individualistic existence keeps one from unity with Brahman. Also, “Karma does not allow for the possibility of forgiveness. Its consequences are inevitable and inescapable.” Halverson, Dean C., Ed. The Compact Guide to World Religions. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1996. Page 90


  • Daoism/Taoism: “The ultimate form of the Tao is beyond moral distinctions. The yin-yang duality that flows from the Tao represents the balance and the interaction between good and evil. Thus, good and evil are coequal and mutually dependent.” Corduan. Pocket Guide to World Religions, 224.


The logical problem

1) God exists and is all-powerful, and perfectly good

2) There is evil

*Hidden assumption

3) God would have no good reason for allowing evil.



  1. An all-loving, all powerful God exists.

  2. If God is all-powerful, He can create any world that He wants.

  3. If God is all-loving, He prefers a world without suffering.

  4. Suffering exists.

  5. Therefore, God does not exist.


Reasons God might have?

  1. Libertarian Freewill

  2. To develop character (a soul-making defense)


An Objection to Free Will Defense by JL Mackie

1) It is possible that there be a world with free creatures who never go wrong

2) If God is omnipotent, He can create any possible world

3) Therefore, God can create a world with free creatures who never go wrong


The Freewill Defense

A) If Adam was offered $10k he would freely accept the bribe

R) If Adam was offered $10k he would freely reject the bribe

O) The state of affairs of offering $10k

Modified from: Plantinga, Alvin C. God, Freedom, and Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1974.

The only difference between the two worlds is what the free agent does. As far as God goes there is no difference in the sense that he just actualizes the world. Hence, what happens in the world is in part dependent on the free creatures.

See also: Bernstein, C’Zar, and Nathaniel Helms. "A Simpler Free Will Defence." International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 77, no. 3 (2015): 197–203.


The Probabilistic Problem (sometimes called the evidential problem)

1) God exists

2) There is evil

Evidential problem: P(1|2) = very low [Probability of (1) given (2) is very low]


Plantinga’s Response

1) Feike can swim

2) Feike is a Frisian and 9 out of 10 Frisians can’t swim

so then P(1|2) = 0.1

3) Feike is a Frisian lifeguard and 99 out of 100 Frisian lifeguards can swim.

So then P(1|3)=0.99  [Probability of (1) given (3) is 99%]

See: Alvin Plantinga (1978) "The Probablistic Argument from Evil" Philosophical Studies 35: 1-53. Available at:


WLC’s Response

  1. We are not in a good position to assess the probability of whether God has morally sufficient reasons for the evils that occur. 

  2. The Christian faith entails doctrines that increase the probability of the co-existence of God and evil.

    1. The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God. 

    2. Mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and His purpose.

    3. The knowledge of God spills over into eternal life.

    4. The knowledge of God is an incommensurable good. 

  3. Relative to the full scope of the evidence, God’s existence is probable.


Stephen Law’s “Evil God Objection”

Theists cannot rebut the evidential version by claiming that there is more good than evil in the world, because atheists can reverse the argument: an evil god allows some good to exist so as to achieve a greater evil.

Theists argue that objective moral values and duties are evidence of God's existence, not the existence of specific occurrences of good in the world.

The evil god argument cannot explain why Jesus would come to earth as a man to die for mankind.



Personal /emotional problem of evil (the pastoral problem)


Biblical Framework

  • Genesis 1–2. In the beginning God who is good, made everything good, there was no suffering, no death.


Our Sin

  • Gen 3; Rom 5: Sin entered the world through humanity’s doing.

  • We must not minimize how horrible our sins really are


The Vantage from the End

  • Rev 21–22: In the end God will set things right

  • “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”


The Cross of Christ

  • Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

  • Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed”.


God with Us

  • Hebrews 2:18 “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted”.


Stand by Me

  • Our family in Christ to support us

  • Philip Yancey in his book “Where is God when it hurts?” was asked to give a one sentence summary of it. He responded with 'Where is the church?'.


John 9:1-3

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.



1:1                          Job is a righteous man

1:6-12                    Satan attacks Job

1:13-19                  Loses his family and possessions

2:1-11                    Loses his health

2:11-37:24            His friends accuse him of having a secret sin

38-42                      God speaks


The Gift of Pain

  • Ashlyn Blocker



  • Song – When Tears Fall by Tim Hughes


Recommended Resources

  • William Lane Craig, “The Problem of Evil.”

  • Yancey, Philip. The Question That Never Goes Away? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 161 pages.

  • Yancey, Philip. Where Is God When It Hurts? Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990. 290 pages.

  • Plantinga, Alvin C. God, Freedom, and Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974.

  • Carson, Don A. How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006.

  • God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled with Pain, eds. Dew, James K Jr. and Chad Mister. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2012.


A Moral Argument

  1. If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.

  2. Objective moral values exist.

  3. Therefore God exists


Ravi Zacharias

  • “When you say there’s such a thing as evil you’re assuming there’s such a thing as good. When you say there’s such a thing as good you’re assuming there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But when you say there’s such a thing as a moral law, you must posit a moral lawgiver, but that’s who the atheist is trying to disprove.”


Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. London: Harper Collins, 2001, 38–39.

  • "My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal; a fish would not feel wet. Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist – in other words, that the whole reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part or reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning; just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known that it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning."


An Objection

  • The Euthyphro dilemma – is what is right, right because God wills it or does God will it because it is right?

  • The dilemma is that goodness is arbitrary or goodness is external from God.

  • Christians say that God is the good. God’s will depends on His character.


Define “God”

  • “The term “God,” is traditionally understood, signifies a personal being who is worthy of worship.” Gould, BTCOG, pg 1.

  • The being who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.

  • God refers to the greatest possible being (or maximally excellent being or a perfect being).


The Positions on Freewill


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

  • “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”


Natural Evil

  • Plantinga sees natural evil as an off shoot from the fall and says it is possible that natural evils are the product of demons i.e. Job 1

  • William Dembski sees all natural evil, even animal suffering in the world before the arrival of humans, as retroactively due to human sins.

  • Gary DeWeese has suggested a free process defense seeing the natural laws in the world as dynamic and not directly caused by God moment by moment. Chaos theory.


Gratuitous evil

  • evil that is pointless and unnecessary.

  • Some might respond that gratuitous evil fits with a soul-making defense, providing a suitable arena for people to develop character. Other might says the evil only appears gratuitous, but unknown to us God has a reason or a purpose.


The Problem of Animal Suffering


Classifications of Poverty

1 poor because of unfortunate circumstances (i.e. the breadwinner got injured, famine), our response is to help out (not self righteous fatalism)

2 poverty stemming from malicious exploitation of others. Poverty is a direct result of someone else’s sin.

3 the lazy poor. Pro 13:4,8; 14:23; 19:5; 23:20-21. This is an area where sweeping generalizations are almost always out of place, judgments must be made on a case by case basis

4. the poor who are dependent on the punished (i.e. a murder’s wife)

5 voluntarily poor. Those who chose a simple life.

6 the poor in spirit.

Adapted from: Carson, Don A. How Long O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006. Chapter 4.


The Story of Mabel

William Lane Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers Pg 110-112.

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