The Problem of Evil and the Bible (Part 1)

Tornado column in rural landscape

INTRODUCTION

            Throughout human history, mankind has been sullied by an inexorable plague called evil. It has penetrated all times and places and manifested itself in both humanity and the natural world. Undoubtedly, many of the great thinkers and philosophers of history have tangoed with this problem of evil, especially in its relation to the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly morally good deity. Today, most philosophers hold that the problem of evil stands as the greatest threat to theism. Many theists have responded but still a philosophically and theologically satisfactory solution has not been attained, at least according to nontheists. However, Michael Peterson points out in Reason and Religious Belief that this insufficiency should be reckoned on account of the theological basis of the argument, namely, restricted theism. He suggests that “a minimal or restricted theism could yield, at best, a minimal theodicy. Likewise, it is reasonable to think that theodicy, if it is going to have a fighting chance, and if it seeks serious explanatory adequacy, will have to draw upon the full resources of its own religious tradition (i.e. its key doctrines, scriptures, and wisdom of the believing community, etc.).”[1] Thus, in this paper, I will purpose a Christian theodicy that pulls from the resources of the OT and NT. Moreover, this theodicy will be more or less a biblical theology of suffering. I will first concisely summarize the problem of evil, particularly from the standpoint of the nontheist. Then, I will set forth a biblical theology of suffering as theodicy. Next, I will present and defend a possible objection to this theodicy. Finally, I will conclude by stating the upshots of holding this view. Overall, I will argue that the Christian Bible presents a strong, reasonable, plausible, and comprehensive case that responds to the problem of evil, namely, its origin, reign, and ultimate defeat in the world.

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

To begin, I will briefly state the problem of evil from the standpoint of the nontheist. On the whole, the problem of evil deals with the question of, “How can a perfectly good, omniscient, omnipotent God exist, if there is so much evil in the world?” It can further be broken into two categories, namely, the logical problem and the evidential problem. First, the logical problem of evil views the two claims of (1) “a perfectly good, omniscient, and omnipotent God exists” and (2) “there is so much evil in the world” to be irrational. Those who hold this view think that this kind of God would not make such a world filled with evil, but rather would make a world of only goodness, or at least a world with more good than evil. Secondly, the evidential problem of evil does not think that theism is irrational, but rather that it is implausible. This is primarily because the facts of the world are that tremendous suffering and evil happen, and a benevolent God would not allow such things to happen. Thus, those who hold this view conclude that it is more plausible that God does not exist. However, as we will see, the Bible presents a strong, plausible, reasonable, and comprehensive response to both the logical and evidential problem of evil.

Part 2 coming next week…



[1] Michael Peterson, Reason and Religious Belief, 156.

2 comments on “The Problem of Evil and the Bible (Part 1)

  1. David McKinney says:

    First, thank you for your post and I am looking forward to the continuation of this discussion. To gain a better understanding of evil in the natural world it would help me if you could clarify the term “natural world”. I am under the assumption it is the world or society that humanity interacts with, but I do not want to frame this incorrectly.

    Secondly, from observation it is not difficult to see evil things happening within humanity. Seeing suffering can bring questions of “whose fault” within the suffering. I am certainly not expecting answers to every situation, because that would almost bring a debate of God’s interaction on a case by case basis. That realm would bring confusion to the categories you brought forth in this blog. These views have proposed questions about God’s control or interaction with a world where evil exists. These views appear to viewed from the human standpoint with expectations on God’s interactions with humanity to resolve the evil without human involvement. One concern I have for the logical view is that there needs to be a measurement of what is more good than evil. To derive that understanding there can almost be a debate for the measurement or determination that the world falls into the situation that there is not more good than evil. I would think that the implausibility is a more difficult to engage. To engage there seems a need to build a logical progression of conclusions using Scripture response rather than an argument based upon societal interaction.

    I think this is a valid discussion, especially if evil has impacted your life in any way. I would welcome your thoughts on anything I have stated.

    • Timothy Christian says:

      David,

      Thank you for your comment. By the natural world, I mean the cosmos – the earth, animals, weather, vegetation. Basically everything else in the world that is not humanity. So evil is manifested in humanity by sin, murder, envy, etc; and in the natural world by disease, natural disasters, etc. I hope that helps.

      Also, you are right that the implausibility position is much more difficult to engage. So I am taking on that challenge here in my blog, arguing that the Bible gives a plausible explanation to the problem of evil and that it is more plausible to believe in the God of the Bible who hates evil in the world more than the atheists do, and that he actually has the power to do something about it, and in the end will do something about it, namely, eradicate it from the earth. I look forward to your subsequent comments and feedback. Thanks for following this discussion.

      Timothy

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