The problem of evil is perhaps the most common objection brought up against Christianity, and more broadly the existence of God. The objection questions the validity of a perfectly moral and good creator God existing while “evil” exists at the same time.
That “evil” term can be defined in different ways. Evil could refer to anything that is harmful to
humans, the opposite of good, anything that does not conform to the nature of God, etc. For the purpose of this (and future) posts, I will consider evil to be anything that causes harm to humans, whether physically, emotionally, or spiritually. I chose this definition because people who bring up the problem of evil usually refer to things like sickness, natural disasters, and crime. Not all of these things are necessarily immoral, but from our perspective they do cause undesirable harm.
I just briefly want to introduce the problem of evil, and hopefully go into more detail in future posts. One objection about addressing this issue in the first place is that giving an intellectual answer to the problem is pointless. Obviously, some situations in life can be extremely difficult and emotional to go through. People endure extreme stress, sickness, injury, and the death of a friend or relative. Going through those moments personally is much different than rationalizing the situations from an outside perspective. In those hardships, how is an intellectual response going to help? The pain will still be there!
I sympathize with a person who makes this point. Thinking about why bad things are happening in your life will not automatically heal you from whatever you are going through. There is this emotional side of the response to evil that makes it very hard to rationalize.
However, the problem of evil should be addressed intellectually for at least two reasons. First, providing some understanding to the existence of evil can at least help a person through hardships in life. That understanding will likely not “fix” those hardships, but it can assist in the process of emotional healing. Second, the problem of evil is primarily an intellectual objection, and thus its answer needs to be an intellectual one.
Also, notice that problem of evil objection assumes that evil is a reality in the world. If evil does exist, it must be explained by a worldview in order for that worldview to be reasonable. For example, the existence of evil must be explained by the worldview of an atheist who claims that his view is true. The problem is not limited to religious thought. However, since the objection is mostly brought up in a religious context, I will discuss it in that context.
There are two types of objections brought forward regarding the problem of evil in relation to the existence of God. One is the logical objection, which states that “a perfect God cannot logically exist simutaneously with evil”. Simply put in a question, “How can God and evil both exist at the same time?”
The other type of objection is the probability objection, which says “God most likely does not exist considering all the evil that is in the world”. Put in a question, “Do you really think it’s reasonable that there is an all-knowing, all-loving God out there when we have all these wars, diseases, and death in the world?” This objection is brought up more often and tends to trigger more emotion.
I hope reading this post helped with understanding the problem of evil, and why addressing the issue is so difficult. While it is a tough issue to get into, I hope to continue writing about it in future posts, no matter how far into the future that may be 🙂