The problem of evil has many forms, a few of which being the Logical Problem of Evil, the Emotional Problem of Evil, the Statistical Problem of Evil, and many others. In this article, I will be addressing the Logical Problem of Evil.
In my opinion, the Logical Problem of Evil (LPE) is the strongest argument there is against the existence of God, yet it is surprisingly weak, as I will show you. The LPE in its most basic form is a sort of trilemma, where supposedly only two of the three premises can be consistently held at any one time. The three premises in their simplest forms are as follows:
A. God is Good
B. God is Almighty
C. Evil Exists
The question for the believer is how one can consistently hold all three premises. If God is Good and wants to eliminate evil, and is Almighty and capable of removing evil, why does evil yet exist? The next step in the argument is (erroneously) drawing the conclusion that God is either not Good, not Almighty, neither Good nor Almighty, or doesn’t even exist. All of the four possible conclusions are equally destructive to the Judeo-Christian Faith. How would you respond to this?
Here are some bad answers:
One answer that seems reasonable on the surface is saying that evil is a means to the good, based on the passage of scripture (Romans 8:28) which says, “all things work together for good.” However, this answer uses that passage out of context if it is used to refer to unbelievers; and even if the passage is not being used out of context, if evil is a necessary means to a good end, then evil becomes indistinguishable from good. Evil becomes “good” because it is a necessary step toward a good end; evil becomes merely good in disguise. This just cannot be the case as God makes it clear in His Word that evil itself is a real enemy that will one day be eliminated. Real, objective evil does exist, and denying its existence is no answer at all for the reason of its existence. Also, this sort of answer also begs the question to be asked, “Why is God not using good means to achieve His ends? Why must He use evil means? Is He incapable of achieving His good ends by good means alone? What if He doesn’t know all things, and He is just picking up the pieces to make something good of the world?” I would highly recommend NOT using this response to the LPE.
Another answer that seems reasonable on the surface is saying that good can’t exist without its counterpart ungood, or evil. But that raises the question, “IF God is supremely Good, and if good doesn’t exist without its counterpart, then does not a supremely evil god then exist? And if this evil god is a necessary counter to God then God cannot destroy this evil one. This answer makes this universe into a dualistic world where Good God wars perpetually with, but can never overcome, the evil god. This clearly runs counter to the Bible’s teachings.
Another bad answer is saying that we have to experience evil to appreciate good. This raises the question, “Does this mean that in order for us to be able to appreciate God’s supreme goodness, a supremely evil being must also exist?” Basically, just reread the above paragraph and apply it here.
Another bad answer is that evil came from satan. Why then did God create satan? Is He then not all-knowing because He didn’t know that satan would bring evil into the world? If He did know, why did He allow satan to bring evil into the world? After satan fell, why did God not prohibit satan from corrupting everything else?
Another answer is saying that evil exists as a punishment for man’s sin. Though this answer is certainly true, it can only explain some, but not all, of the evil we observe around us. Disease, death, decay, and pain do exist on account of man’s sin; man, through sin, brought these evils into the world. Yet this does not explain why God allows grotesquely heinous actions of mankind. After all, “innocents” like young children are often victims of the worst evils of the world. This answer cannot account for this kind of evil.
Now, some more or less “good” answers:
One such reasonably good answer would be to point out that the Logical Problem of Evil, as framed above, assumes that if God is both Good and Almighty that He would then eliminate evil immediately. Yet the Bible reveals that God is merciful. Mercy means withholding deserved punishment. This means that there is yet one more conclusion can that can be drawn from LPE, that God does not immediately eliminate evil. However, this answer does not address why evil exists in the first place. “It is nice that God will eventually eliminate evil, but why does it exist in the first place?”
Another reasonable answer is that the existence of evil is a prerequisite for the freewill of man, and for man to love God freely and not as a robot. This is to say that man would not have the power to freely choose the right way/path/action and love God unless the wrong way/path/action was available for choice; this is known as the Freewill Defense. However, consider that even in Heaven we will still have freewill, yet we will only choose the good. In fact, it would be accurate to say that in Heaven it will be impossible for us to sin. Will we then be robots? Surely not! This shows that there is no contradiction between possessing freewill yet not having the option to sin available. If such a state of always choosing the good is possible, why was not the world created that way from the beginning? Even this too is, I think, unsatisfactory.
The only strong answer is arguing from presuppositions. If one presupposes that God exists, then the existence of evil does not force you to reject God. Rather, assuming God exists, He must therefore have a perfectly good reason for allowing the existence of evil. This is strong because you never have to actually propose a reason for God’s allowing of evil, yet the Atheist can never say that God does not have a good reason for allowing evil; one, because he would by so doing admit that God exists; and two, he can never claim to know the mind of God. At this point, the problem of evil is solved, but the argument does not stop there- not before turning the tables on the unbeliever. If, one presupposes that God does not exist, the question to the unbeliever must be raised, “How can evil exist in an Atheistic universe?” There is not, nor ever will be, a consistent definition of evil in an Atheistic universe. Indeed, some, like Richard Dawkins, deny the very existence of evil, yet if evil does not exist, how can its existence be a reason for God’s non-existence? If evil doesn’t exist, where is the Logical Problem of Evil? If evil does exist, how can it so exist if God does not exist? Let me put this into a more logical format.
If evil exists, then good exists, because the existence of evil assumes the existence of good (but not the other way around). If evil and good exist, then there must be a way to distinguish between good and evil; this is what is called a Moral Law or Code. Evil can only be connected with people: a bomb going off is not, in and of its self, evil. However, a bomb going off and killing a person, or damaging a person’s property, is evil. Also, rocks cannot be evil; persons can be evil, but rocks cannot. So we see that evilness is either said about a person or it happens to a person; evil cannot exist apart from a person. Therefore, the existence of a Moral Code demands a Personal Moral Law Giver; that Person is God. If God does not exist, then there can be no Moral Law. If there is no Moral Law then there is no difference between good and evil. If there is no difference between good and evil, then good and evil do not really exist. If evil does not exist, where is the logical problem of evil? So we see that the Logical Problem of Evil is NOT a problem for the believer, per se, but an insurmountable problem for the unbeliever.
Truly, “a fool says in his heart, ‘there is no God’ ” (Psalms 14:1) for the ungodly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because the thing which may be known of God is clearly revealed within them, for God revealed it to them. For the unseen things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being realized by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, for them to be without excuse. Because, knowing God, they did not glorify Him as God, neither were thankful. But they became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:19-22)
Always, and in all things, let God be glorified.