In brief, the classic problem of evil stands as the greatest, most persuasive, damning, and straightforward objection to the existence of God, especially the Christian one. The classic form dating back to Epicurus and retooled by David Hume runs something like this:
- If God exists he is all-good and all-powerful.
- If he is all-good he will want to remove evil from the world
- If he is all-powerful he can remove evil from the world.
- There is evil in the world.
- Therefore, God doesn’t exist, or he is not all-good, or all-powerful.
Straight-forward enough, right?
Still, in recent developments in the philosophy of religion, it has been noticed that the strict version just outlined can be evaded by pointing out that if God had a good enough reason to, he might allow evil to exist while being all-powerful and all-good. The skeptical rejoinder, then, is that there is no such reason forthcoming from believers to justify all of the apparently pointless evils we see in the world.
Now, while there’s a great deal of lengthy literature on the subject (some of which I’ve read) about the logical, evidential, and powerful existential forms of the argument, I’ve come to the conclusion that, in nuce, the outlines of a logically-intuitive, and even pastorally-comforting ,defense against the problem of evil are given to us in the simple Gospel story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ itself.
Note, this is not a theodicy--an explanation of why God allows evil to exist–it is only a defense, showing that it is logically possible for God and evil to exist. With that clarification made, here’s my attempt at a Gospel-centered defense against the problem of evil in a nutshell:
- If God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, I have good reason to believe both that he exists, and that he is unfathomably powerful.
- Furthermore, if he is good enough to send his only-begotten Son to die on behalf of a sinful, rebellious world he loves, he is unfathomably good.
- Next, if God is wise enough to use what is objectively the most horrifying, and initially apparently pointless, event in human history–the unjust murder of the Godman–for the salvation of the world, then it is entirely reasonable to trust he has a good enough reason for allowing the evil that he currently does.
- Finally, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the promise that ultimately evil will be judged, removed, and made right.There is comfort and hope for the future.
All of these points could be filled out at length, of course; this is a nutshell–and a very small one at that. And yet, it is enough to set us marveling at the way, once again, all of life’s deepest, most troubling questions find their answer in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria