For thousands of years this has been a watershed question of religious and Christian experience. Can evil be reconciled with a God that is good or any God at all that cares about those whom he has created? In many debates best selling author and atheist, Christopher Hitchens, exposed what he felt was the greatest proof against the existence of God by building upon what is called the "Epicurean Paradox" or the problem of evil and suffering in the present world. It was stated by Epicurus like this:
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" ~ Epicurus
Here is how an inductive version of it could be set forth:
- An omnipotent and benevolent God would not allow evil to exist in the world.
- Evil exists in the world
- Therefore God does not exist.
Now there are many problems with the argument as often set forth by atheists and nonbelievers. So it has been modified over the years in effort to make it as intellectually fulfilling as it appears to be on the surface. A modification would go generally like this:
- The Christian proposes that God is both omniscient and maximally good
- An omniscient and maximally good God would eradicate evil
- Evil exists
- Therefore, God does not exist
At either rate the object is to draw a sharp contrast between what Christians teach as the good and loving nature of God, to the existence of evil and suffering in the world.
Of course, there is no Christian who has not asked themselves or asked God at one time or another, why HE has not healed, protected or performed a miracle in certain circumstances to alleviate or remove suffering when, as the creator of the universe, he could have done so rather simply and without effort. This is the focal point of the Epicurean problem. If God is, why does he not?
In one of Mr. Hitchens most effective admonitions and even evangelical styled tirades, he would speak about a case involving Fraulein Friesel of Austria who's deranged father kept her in a dungeon for 24 years, bringing her out only to rape, sodomize and abuse her. He described how for a 24 year period of time there was not only intense suffering and perversion, but also intense prayers and hope for deliverance. In his summation, the "sky" was empty, meaning that there was no God there to answer prayer. If there was, a God that would sit silently couldn't "by any stretch of the imagination" be characterized as good for allowing 24 years of abuse when it either 1- could have been prevented or 2- stopped immediately by a miraculous act or event.
A second part to the argument deals with the justice of God. Mr. Hitchens went on to explain that finally, at age 76, and quite by accident, Fraulein Friesel's father was caught by law enforcement and she was finally freed from her inexplicable torment, however her father's remaining years of life and eventual imprisonment would in no wise equal, pay or account for the 24 years of daily suffering and affliction that he had placed upon his daughter.
Now, that was a true event according to my understanding of Hitchen's accounting that occurred in Austria. However this is America. Little did we know at the time of the case of Jaycee Dugard which was being played out at the same time that Mr. Hitchens was making his rounds in Christian and religious debate circles all over the country.
Jaycee Dugard 18 Years of Suffering
Now as Christians, I believe that we should address and tackle this issue head on. theodicy is an attempt to address the problem through logic and reason. A theodicy could be structured similar to this:
- A omniscient and maximally good God exists
- An omniscient and maximally good God would and could eradicate evil
- Evil exists
- Therefore an omniscient and maximally good God will eradicate evil in a future event
However the critic often asserts that what they require are intellectually fulfilling answers. However, naturalism doesn't come close to offering intellectually fulfilling answers at all...Shall we ask the reason for the existence of life at all? Does naturalism come close to presenting an answer that is intellectually fulfilling? Shall we ask how a quantum fluctuation (which is something) can be said to be "nothing", that gives rise to all things that we see and experience both biological, non biological and immaterial? Can naturalism deliver an intellectually fulfilling answer to that at all? Can we ask how abiogenesis occurs outside of any established rules or process of selection etc? Are there any intellectually fulfilling answers for that? This is called a reductio ad absurdum argument. Though this sort of argument or comparison does not specifically answer the question of the problem of evil, it does display that Christianity is a much better choice toward solving and addressing the issue over naturalism or other forms of religion or religious belief.
So all answers need not satisfy the subjective standard of "intellectually fulfilling" in order to be accurate and true. What may be intellectually fulfilling to one, may not come close to that standard to another and may be way over the top to even another.
1 Peter 3:15 ~ "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:"
We can often view the generalized suffering of mankind and come to certain conclusions, but like Hitchens, what of individualized suffering? What happens when we can view the horrific and sometimes senseless and seemingly purposeless suffering of others such as Jaycee Dugard who could have been rescued long ago if one of the over 66 official visits had actually been followed up on correctly?
In light of all the pain, can we deliver a "hope" to everyone that asks? I believe that we can and that we should because the evil that exists centers around the sin of man and mankind. Human suffering is never easy and examining the bible with no understanding of the spiritual condition of mankind while rejecting the personal revelation of HIS nature, is tantamount to only reading a small portion of what actually exists.
Hopefully some believers will address this issue head on. We can all learn from various biblical and philosophical understandings.
Also Please Read:
Does God Create Tragedy?
Evil & Who Knows It Pt. 1
Evil & Who Knows It Pt. 2
Is God A Moral Monster? ~ Dr. Paul Copan
The End Of Christianity ~ William Dembski