What is the problem of evil?
As we develop a theology of suffering in our Christian Worldview, we need to do this by framing things biblically and thinking biblically. When people bring up the problem of evil, we must understand what the essence of the question is. First off, we must understand that it is an argument against the existence of God.
“…we need to do this by framing things biblically and thinking biblically.”
Problem of evil defined:
This argument against God’s existence from the presence of evil in the world is often stated in the following form: “How can an all-powerful and all-good God [in other words, the God of the Bible], how can your God allow suffering in the world?”
Now I want you to see the three main concepts that are addressed in this fundamental question:
(1) God is all-powerful;
(2) God is all-good;
(3) Evil exists.
Ok, so these are the three main concepts in the issue of the problem of evil; God is all powerful, God is all good, and evil does exist. The problem comes in because logically it seems impossible for these three concepts to all exist at the same time.
So, if you state (as we would) that God is all powerful, all good, and evil exists; then the argument is that one of the three statements has to be false because they can’t all be true at the same time. Their argument is that any combination of the two can exist but not all three. It looks like this:
- If you claim that God is all-powerful and all-good then you have to say that evil cannot exist. But the fact is, that evil does exist. So one of the other two, in this argument must be false.
- If God is all-powerful and evil exists, then He is not all-good for allowing it.
- If God is all-good and evil exists, then He is not all-powerful.
“The word “theodicy” literally means the justification of God.”
Are you tracking with me? That is how the argument is often framed. That is the problem of evil and when a Christian addresses that problem; it’s called a Theodicy. The word “theodicy” literally means “the justification of God.” It is the attempt to reconcile God’s positive attributes with the apparent problem of evil.
There are many ways that people have addressed this issue and framed their theodicy. Some are partially biblical and some are outright unbiblical. What I mean is that they use the Bible to address the issue, but they don’t use the whole counsel of God to address the issue and that is dangerous.
That’s what happens when we fragment Scripture, when we study the Bible in isolation from the whole. Remember, every verse is part of a pericope. Every pericope is part of a chapter. Every chapter is part of a book. Every book is part of a genre. Every genre is a part of a testament. Each testament fits in the grand story of redemption.
We must fight the urge to violently rip Scripture out of its context and seek the whole counsel of God’s Word to fully understand the issue.
Over the next few posts, my aim is to briefly explore some of the various methods Christians have used in the past to explain the problem of evil and I will end with where my studies in the Word of God have brought me. Check back soon for part two in our series on the Problem of Evil.