In my last post I gave an introduction to the problem of evil, one of the most common objections brought up against the existence of God. I briefly explained two objections involving this problem: the logical objection and the probability objection. In this post I will talk about the logical objection.
The objection is pretty simple, and the response to it is as well. The objection goes something like, “It is logically impossible for an all-good God and evil to exist at the same time.” This objection implies that if a perfect God who was in control of everything in the world did exist, the world would be perfect as well, thus it would lack any type of suffering.
In logical form, the argument could look like this:
1. Evil and God cannot both exist
2. Evil exists
3. Therefore, God cannot exist
In a future post (link to come), I will explain in order for an argument to be logical, the premises (#1+#2) must follow to the conclusion (#3), like they do above. When the premises do follow, at least one premise must be shown false in order for the argument to be broken down.
A Christian would agree with premise #2 – evil exists. The existence of evil is an essential part of the Christian worldview. More to come on that point later, but for now I’ll just say that the Bible predicts evil’s existence.
So the premise that needs to be broken down to defeat this argument is #1 – evil and God cannot both exist. Let’s assume that the “God” in this argument refers to a perfect, loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God (as the one described in the Bible). And let’s assume that since this God is loving, he would want what is best for his creation.
Premise #1 breaks down if there is one example of how the God described above and evil can both exist. And setting aside passages from the Bible or elsewhere, there are plenty of examples where this coexistence is possible, based on human experience alone.
Remember my definition of evil given in the first post – evil is anything that causes suffering to humans. Many humans have been through a time of suffering, but that suffering led them to a situation where they were better off than before the suffering occurred.
For example, someone who eats a lot of M&Ms will eventually feel stomach pain (human suffering). But from that “warning sign” of pain, that person decides to eat healthier, and becomes healthier overall as a result.
Now that is a very simple example, so let’s go to something more serious. A man gets into a car accident and becomes paralyzed from the waste down. Obviously, this is a case of prolonged suffering. As a result of the accident, the man gains a passion for speaking to people about safe driving. He tours the country and his talks influence many. The man also feels that he is living life with more of a purpose than he had before.
This last example is not intended to say that this man is living a better life post-accident than pre-accident. It is just an example to show how suffering can lead to at least some good. If you asked almost anyone about a time where they endured temporary suffering, but later realized that there was good reason to go through that suffering, they would likely be able to give you several examples. Also, some of the qualities that people see as good, like courage and patience, oftentimes are built up during times of suffering.
And if evil/suffering can lead to good, then it not logically impossible for an all-good God and evil to both exist. God may need to allow some evil to occur in order for something good to come about. Thus, it is at least possible for God and evil to exist at the same time.
This idea of suffering leading to good (i.e. a building of character) is described in the Bible plenty of times (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, James 1:2-4). Many Christians can explain situations where suffering brought them closer to God, which is a very good thing from a Christian perspective.
The point of this post is not try to explain all evil in the world (saying that they all turn out for good), but instead it is to show that the existence of evil does not rule out the logical possibility of God’s existence. The probability objection, however, is more difficult to answer. That will hopefully be the topic of my next post in this mini-series.