In our last post dealing with the problem of evil, found here, we laid out the explanation of what a “Theodicy” is and how answering the supposed problem of evil relates to developing our theology of suffering.
In today’s post, my aim is to highlight five of the more common methods for answering the question as to why evil exists in our world, in light of the fact that God is both all-loving and all-powerful.
My goal is to conclude this short series with an article on what I believe is the biblical approach that takes in the whole counsel of Scripture.
Best Possible World Theodicy:
The German philosopher Gottried Leibniz, concluded that since God is all-powerful and all-good then the world that we have is the best possible world as God is obligated to create that which is best and good.
The thrust of this view is that evil and suffering is a logical necessity in this world. For God’s full character to be rightly known then evil is a logical necessity in a perfect world. Leibniz rightly blamed mankind for the reality of evil but his view falls short of the full counsel of Scripture.
“Scripture is clear that a perfect world does not logically require evil and suffering.”
Scripture is clear that a perfect world does not logically require evil and suffering. According to the Word of God in Gen 1:31, the original creation contained no evil. Was it imperfect for that reason? No. And Rev 21:1-8 tells us that the New Heavens and Earth which is the ultimate perfection of the created order will also be without evil. So this view is not biblically consistent.
Another view that an early church father taught emphasizes that God made human beings with the need for “soul-making”. In today’s vernacular we would call it personal development. Since we were made with the need to develop, God made the world with evil in it to give us opportunities to grow spiritually.
According to this view there is a “vale of tears” that prepares us for the next world to follow. So this present world is not the best world, but it is the best path to the coming best world.
And through participation in this imperfect world we become better prepared for the glorious world to come. So we’re to understand evil in the world as character developing through testing, trials, and tribulations and for the most part people are better off because of the process.
So you can see that there are biblical points to his view, but again, it seems incomplete in its statement that this is the reason for evil in the world. For starters, Adam would not have had to experience suffering if he never sinned. And an argument can be made for the reality that not all suffering builds character. This view, even though it is partially true, does not go far enough.
Evil is an illusion approach:
This view posits that evil is just an illusion, it doesn’t truly exist. Some eastern religions like Buddhism and western cults like Christian Science purport this theory. That whole approach is so interwoven in the Eastern religions but this is an inadequate explanation at best.
There is no reason for us to think that evil is an illusion. And if it is an illusion, it is a horrible and painful illusion. It is an illusion that brings misery, pain, suffering, and death. If you then say that pain is also an illusion, the natural reply is that there is no difference between illusory pain and real pain, so far as the problem of evil is concerned.
And the best you have done in resolving the question of the problem of evil is rephrased it a little. Because now the problem is “how could an all-powerful, all-good God allow such terrible illusion of pain?”
“…Scripture’s viewpoint is that it doesn’t play games with suffering people.”
One great advantage of Scripture’s viewpoint is that it doesn’t play games with suffering people. In Scripture, evil is treated quite simply as something we must deal with, whatever its metaphysical status is.
God is not all-powerful approach:
The view that God is not all-powerful started in a heresy called process theology and is now part of open-theism. Which is advertised as the consistent outworking of Arminianism.
But basically, this view is that God is waiting to see what’s going to happen next and basically has no control over the evil that happens in this world.
He might govern what happens in the end, but is helpless whether through choice or of power, in preventing or stopping, or guiding events in this world.
This solution denies the historic Christian doctrines of divine omnipotence (God is all powerful), divine omniscience (God is all-knowing), and divine sovereignty (God is in control) while seeking to preserve God’s attribute of goodness.
But Scripture itself not only fails to teach this solution, but firmly contradicts it. God’s omniscience is seen in (Psa 139; Heb 4:11-13; Isa 46:10; 1Jo 3:20;), His omnipotence is seen in (Psa 115:3; Isa 14:24, 27; 46:10; 55:11; Luke 18:27) and His sovereignty in (Rom 11:33-36; 1 Tim 6:15-16); these are all central to the biblical doctrine of God.
If you buy into the solution of a God who is not all powerful, you may resolve the problem of evil in your mind but now you have a greater problem, you lose any sure hope for the overcoming of evil.
You gain intellectual satisfaction at the cost of having to face the horrible possibility that evil may triumph after all. I think it is ironic that this is actually called a solution to the problem of evil.
In our next post, we will aim to unpack on of the most common explanation for the problem of evil, the Free-Will defense.