Saturday, September 10, 2011

Resources on the Problem of Evil

Ten years after 9/11, many will be reminded of the problem of evil. People may define the problem of evil different ways. Some, like Bart Ehrman, would say that evil is God's Problem, while many point out the errors in such a view. Some theodicies attempt to explain God's reasons for allowing evil, but as Ravi Zacharias points out, every worldview must provide an explanation for evil. Clearly, evil and suffering present one of the biggest challenges to believing in a loving God. Here are a number of helpful resources for working through this issue:

This 18-minute video by Paul Copan gives a brief overview and answer to the problem of evil. Three problems of evil by Peter S. Williams outlines the various types of evil we experience. William Lane Craig discusses the issues and challenges of evil and suffering in this talk. Peter May wrestles with how one can believe in a loving God since evil exists. Doug Geivett discusses the problems of evil, and Mardi Keyes gives four categories of the problem.

For those considering the subject of theodicy, even deeper study is ahead. Check out Bruce Little's interview on theodicy and Clay Jones's interview on evil and suffering. Bruce Little also has a good lecture called Evil and the God Who Knows, as well as a series of lectures digging deeper.

Still think Bart Ehrman's got a good case against God with evil? Check out Michael Brown's debate with Bart Ehrman on the problem of suffering.



Patrick said...

In the following I’m presenting an attempt of a solution for the Problem of Evil, which may be called “Theodicy from divine justice”:

- God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings (see Isaiah 59,1-2).
- Unlike God Christians are not perfectly just. Therefore, unlike God, they are in a position to help people with unforgiven sins. By doing this they may make those among them who haven’t yet accepted God’s salvation receptive of it (Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2), which in turn frees these persons from suffering in the afterlife.
- The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice (see Matthew 13,27-29). Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.
- Someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16-17, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s death.
- A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect (Luke 16,25) and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife; the amount of suffering in this life is so to speak subtracted from the amount of suffering in the afterlife. So, God may not be inclined to relieve this person’s suffering.
- A person’s suffering in this life may make the person receptive of God’s salvation (Luke 15,11-21), which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.
- There are degrees of punishment in the afterlife depending on one’s moral behaviour (Matthew 16,27, 2 Corinthians 5,10), one’s knowledge of God’s will (Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48), and, as mentioned before, one’s amount of suffering in this life (Luke 16,25).
- Those people who suffer more in this life than they deserve due to their way of life are compensated for it by receiving rewards in Heaven.

Discussions of this theodicy can be found in the following threads, in which my comments have been sent under the names “Patrick (Christian)”, “Patrick”, and “patrick.sele”, respectively.

Davitor said...

For more than 150 million years, dinosaurs dominated the earth. Then 65 million years ago the dinosaurs vanished from the world forever? Do you see this as an evil act of God?
The key to seeing a solution to this problem is to note that we’re the one who’s judging what is evil and what it’s not.
You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that is creating it.

Mikel said...

Awesome resources. I love Clay Jones' approach to this. You do the best interviews! Thanks for posting this list, Brian!


Apologetics Guy

Gabriel Pagel said...

Great work with all of these!!!

Anonymous said...

Great stuff as always Brian. I've got my queue loaded up! Thanks!


Quintessential said...

I appreciate the way William Lane Craig sets up the question of evil and suffering. First, he points out that it is not evidence that God does not exist, rather it is a defeater. Then, in reference to Alvin Plantinga, he explains that the only thing necessary to defuse the argument is for God to have a basis for allowing their existence. Craig's personal opinion is that pain and suffering maximizes the salvation potential for mankind.

uchitrakar said...

I want to put a question to those who claim that an all-powerful, all-knowing, and wholly benevolent deity exists: How did they come to know that this deity is all-powerful, all-knowing, and wholly benevolent? Or, was it all nothing but their imagination? Will they please describe to us in detail by which means they came to know absolutely correctly what attributes this deity did actually have? Did they possess some supernatural power that common people does not normally possess? Or, were they also all-knowing like the deity they believe in? .

Ex N1hilo said...


The word of God discloses to us a number of details of the "how" you came to know your Creator.

Psalm 19, verse 1 tells us “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (This is from the English Standard Version translation.) And Hebrews 3:4 gives us the full extent of God's creative work, “For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.” (Again from the ESV.)

It is Jesus, the Christ, who is the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom. Whatever you know, you have learned from Him. As the apostle Paul indicates:

Colossians 2:1-3 (ESV) For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Romans chapter one explains that, although all of us human beings know God, not just as Creator, but also as Just Judge, we suppress this knowledge because of our unrighteousness.

Romans 1:18-23 (ESV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

Indeed, the “things that have been made” include you and I. Our minds and consciences, as creatures made in God's image, reveal more to us about our Creator than even the heavens and the world around us.

Every time we make a moral judgement—every time our conscience pricks us for having done wrong—we acknowledge that God, in whose image we are created, is just and has the right to judge us.

Romans 1:28-32 (ESV) And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

This is why it is that you, uchitrakar, know God as your Creator and your Judge.

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