Why would God allow Evil and Suffering?

Forgive these questions; in a perfect world I wouldn’t have to ask them. But if God is all good and all-powerful and all-knowing, why does he allow bad things to happen to good people? [Craig] This is I think the principle argument

For the atheistic side that my opponents in the debates will sometimes bring up, and I think that there’s a couple of ways to respond to this. First we need to understand what the atheist is claiming here. Is he arguing that God and

Suffering are logically incompatible with each other? If he is, then he needs to show that there’s some sort of implicit contradiction there, because there’s no explicit contradiction, and I would say that no atheist has ever been able to sustain that burden of proof to show that there are necessarily true

Assumptions that would reveal some kind of a contradiction between God and the suffering and evil in the world. In fact, I think we can prove that they are compatible by just adding a third proposition, and that would be that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil and suffering in the

World. As long as that’s even possible, it shows that God and evil are logically compatible. So that logical version of the argument doesn’t work. Now very quickly, there’s a probabilistic version of the argument which says alright God and evil are logically compatible but nevertheless it’s highly improbable that

God exists given the evil and suffering in the world. And I think there’s a number of moves that the theist can make in response to that argument to show that it’s not improbable that God exists given the suffering in the world.

[Questioner] I happen to believe, and I’m trying to be as objective as I can throughout the debate, that the reasons why there is suffering and pain are entirely obvious and in fact they’re inevitable if there is a loving God. But how would you explain

Them? Why then does God have to allow discomfort, suffering, pain, terrible pain? [Craig] Well I would say Michael that there isn’t any single reason. Rather there’s a multitude of reasons that would be in play here. One would be that God wants to create a world of free creatures who can become responsible

Moral agents and mature persons, and that will require a world that operates according to certain natural laws where the fire that warms you can also burn you; the water that sustains you can drown you, and it would require the ability of these creatures to do morally evil acts. And so

Creating that sort of an arena I think is going to allow the possibility of natural suffering and moral evil to occur, but that God permits these with the overall goal in mind of bringing people freely into a knowledge of himself and

To eternal salvation. And the goal of human life is not happiness in this life; we are not God’s pets. His goal is not to create a nice terrarium here for his human pets. Rather, it is to bring persons into communion with himself forever

Freely, and in order to do that, it’s not at all implausible that a world suffused with natural and moral evil would be the correlative of that.

#God #Evil #Suffering

Why Suffering/evil poses a Problem for Atheists

Because I think there’s a real problem  here and the problem isn’t what you’ve said   it’s can suffering and evil pose a problem to the  atheist as well? Because I think this is the real   problem, the problem is for the atheist. Can you  perhaps explain why it’s a problem, the problem  

Of evil and suffering. I think so too and  I think it’s very important to turn the tables   when we’re speaking about this issue too  because thinking about suffering like I said   I think it’s something that all people all  around the world throughout history have been  

Thinking about, theists, polytheists, monotheists,  deists, these people are thinking about suffering,   suffering is a part of this world so but i  really think that it’s a big problem for the   atheists from for three specific reasons. The first  thing is when you speak about the problem of evil  

You’re actually speaking about an objective  standard for what is good and bad and evil   and not even and i will speak about that the  second thing is that when people are suffering   uh it’s really something that goes through their  nervous system that you can feel pain is something  

That goes through your nervous system and  the nervous system is incredibly designed   and it really points to a designer. So it’s  really an evidence for for God’s existence   and the last thing is how to cope with  suffering and evil in the world as an atheist. So  

Let us speak about the first thing when we speak  about the problem of evil let me say because   this is … I’ve seen Stephen Fry he’s a  very famous British comedian and and so on he’s an  

Atheist he says he’s an atheist and he was going  on about how evil suffering was he used the word   evil repeatedly and many people found this  very very ironic and contradictory just   this is a real problem so real atheists are  really saying it’s evil and you can see Stephen  

Fry going on and on about this on youtube so why  is that a problem for atheism i think that most   most general atheists they have a sense inside of  themselves it’s a part of the Fitrah, the natural   instinct that there are some objective moral  goods and evils that they think that this and  

This and that are objectively good it’s not just  my opinion and the opinion in my culture this is   good to help children that are starving it is a  good thing to do it’s not just my opinion that  

It’s good it’s a good thing to do and holocaust  and so on they are evil things it’s not just   my opinion that it’s evil it’s evil but if  you’re an atheist you don’t you can’t have these   objective moral standards because everything just  goes down to personal beliefs or feelings  

And we can see that atheists that really take the  atheism to this extent like you can see Alexander   Rosenberg he’s a professor of philosophy as a  book that is called Atheist Guide to Reality   and when he speaks about these issues he  said there are no such thing as good, bad,  

Evil, and so on it’s just you should do  good things because it makes you feel good   but there are no objective moral standards for  good and evil in ethics atheistic worldview you  

Can even see like i don’t know if you read the  books of Noah Harari: Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind, and Homo Deus, deals   they’re quite interesting books when he’s  speaking about these things because he’s a  

Real darwinistic atheist and he takes all these  things to it’s he’s a real nihilist so when he   speaking about human rights he said there is  no such thing as human rights because human   rights are based on the belief that humans  are created equal from a creator this is the  

Declaration of the Independence of the United  States people are not created in his view there   have evolved evolved and they are not equal  they are different people are different so   how can you speak about human rights this is a  metaphysical concept it’s like we don’t have any  

Rights we’re animals we’re evolved animals so  when atheists usually speak about these things   i think they kind of go back to their Fitrah,  their natural instinct, that there are some   objective moral good and evil they’re using  religious language yeah they’re illegitimately   borrowing some religious language of good  and evil as metaphysical objective concepts  

Whereas in fact truly as their own philosophers  have said there is no good or evil for atheists so   actually it’s it’s a bit of a um a tricky argument  because they’re borrowing religious language and   saying oh but we’re not we don’t believe in  religion they can’t really do that consistently  

Yeah and the the second thing is the nervous  system uh why do people suffer why do you feel   pain when i do like this because i have a nervous  system if i would not have a nervous system  

I will not feel pain when i do this and this and  that and i’m not a doctor so i can’t speak about   how the whole nervous system is built up and so on  but you can just go into youtube and write a human  

Nervous system and you can when you see these  things it’s just Allahu Akbar like Subhanallah   how just in a microsecond when you do like this  you can feel straight away in a microsecond pain  

And if we would not feel pain we can lose our legs  so we don’t know which is that someone cuts off   our legs and we don’t know what’s happening with  us so it’s really a signal for us that there’s  

Something wrong here there’s something wrong in  your body here you can feel pain here okay you   should go to the doctor you should look it up  and so on and this is pure design and the sign  

Points to a designer so the whole thing the whole  concept of suffering goes back to an incredibly   designed nervous system and the third thing that  i think it does not really disprove atheism but   it’s if you really think  about the atheist worldview  

And you can see that they are suffering  or people around them are suffering   how can they find like uh consolidation  or how can they find some kind of comfort   i used to have a neighbor in sweden who was an  atheist on a countryside when he was feeling pain  

He was old and he had chronic pains or something  like that and he used to find comfort in saying   well it would all go away in the crematorium when  i die and will cover that all of my pains will go  

Away this was his way to find the hope that he  will lose pain and he’s yeah in his worldview   it’s right how can they find something if we look  at the hadith that i mentioned the ayat of Allah  

And hadith of the prophet upon whom be peace and you suffer you  can really feel like ok okay i can take this   because it will take away my sins and i’ll have a  reward in the next life and so on and so on so you  

Can feel comfort that God will reward us for all  of these things but as an atheist what if you have   chronic so you feel chronic pain chronic diseases  suffering the only thing that will take it away   is death and it’s like okay after death  what’s there it’s nothing so i think that  

This is really it’s really depressing if you  really think about what atheism means it’s   depressing because okay you strive today you study  and you work you gain money and you gain fame but   at the moment that you die everything inc in  accordance to your worldview finish nothing there  

And how can you you can see that people are  suffering people oppressing others you could see   that Hitler it took over like almost the whole  of Europe he killed people by the millions and   when the Russians came close killed himself  and he’s finished we as muslims believe that  

He will be responsible allah azzawajal will have  him responsible for his needs and his actions   at the same time all of these people that died  and so on and people that die and wars and so on   uh Allah azza will make justice in  the next life so when you believe  

In that it really gives you comfort  and it makes you cope with the hard   hardships of life and the sufferings of life but  i can’t really see how an atheist can feel that   it’s very hard for me so i think that the problem  of suffering is really a problem for the atheist  

Yeah and yeah this is the great great irony  actually that this problem actually uh rebounds   back on them with incredible force uh for the  three reasons uh that you mentioned they can’t   complain about evil evil doesn’t exist  for them and then and in their and their  

Exquisitely designed nervous system bears  testimony to a designer anyway and anyway   atheism is his hopeless nihilistic literally god  forsaken ideology which offers no consolation or   hope to humanity so it really rebounds back  on atheism very painfully for them I think.

#Sufferingevil #poses #Problem #Atheists

Suffering and Evil: The Probability Version

In part one, we looked at the logical version of the problem of suffering and evil.This argument attempts to show that since suffering and evil exist, it is logically impossible for God to exist, and we explained why even atheist philosophers admit that this argument fails. But wait. It may still be argued

That while it’s logically possible that God and suffering both exist, is far from likely. There’s just so much pointless suffering, it seems improbable that God could have good reasons for permitting it. This is the probability version of the problem. Suffering provides empirical evidence

That God’s existence is not impossible, just highly unlikely. Is this a good argument? Consider three points. First, we are not in a position to say with any confidence that God probably lacks reasons for allowing the suffering in the world. The problem is that we’re limited in space and time, and in

Intelligence and insight. God, on the other hand, sees every detail of history from beginning to end, and orders it through people’s free decisions and actions in order to achieve his purposes. God may have to allow a great deal of suffering along the way. Suffering which appears pointless within our limited scope of

Understanding may be seen to have been justly permitted by God within his wider framework. Sometimes what we experience makes no sense until we gain a wider perspective and see the big picture designed by the Creator. Here’s the second point. Relative to the full scope of the evidence, God’s

Existence may well be probable. You see, probabilities are always relative to background information. For example, if we consider only how much this man weighs, we would say it’s highly improbable that he’s a world-class athlete. But when we’re willing to consider new information, that he’s a professional sumo wrestler and

The world champion, we quickly revise our view. In the same way, when the atheist claims that God’s existence is improbable, we should ask, improbable relative to what background information? If we consider only the suffering in the world, then God’s existence may very well appear to be improbable, but if we’re

Willing to look at the full scope of background information to take into account the powerful arguments for God’s existence, we may come to a very different conclusion. The third point is Christianity entails doctrines that increase the probability of the coexistence of God and suffering.

Consider four of these. First, the chief purpose of life is not happiness. People often assume that if God exists, his role is to create a comfortable environment for his human pets. They think the ultimate goal of our lives on earth is happiness, and therefore, God is obligated to keep us happy.

However, Christianity presents a radically different view, that the purpose of life is to know God. This alone brings true, lasting fulfillment. Suffering can bring about a deeper, more intimate knowledge of God either on the part of the one who’s suffering or those around him. The whole point of human history is

That God, having given us free will, is drawing as many people as he can into his unending Kingdom. Suffering is one of the ways God can draw people freely to himself. In fact, countries that have endured the most hardship often show the

Highest growth rate for Christianity. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Second, mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and His purpose. Terrible human evils are testimony to

Man’s depravity, a consequence of his alienation from God. The Christian isn’t surprised at moral evil in the world; on the contrary, he expects it. The third doctrine states that God’s purpose is not restricted to this life, but spills over beyond the grave into eternal life. This world is just the

Beginning, the entry way to an unimaginable, never-ending life beyond death’s door. Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, underwent afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, hunger; yet he wrote, we do not lose heart, for this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for

An eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen, for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. Paul understood

That life on earth, and whatever suffering it holds for each of us, is temporary. Our pain will not endure forever, but our lives with God will. Paul was not belittling the plight of those who suffer horribly in this life. Indeed,

He was one of them; but he saw that those sufferings will be overwhelmed forever by the ocean of joy that God will give to those who will freely receive it. And the fourth doctrine is this: the knowledge of God is an incomparable good. Knowing God

Is the ultimate fulfillment of human existence, an infinite good. Thus, the person who knows God, no matter how much he has suffered, can still say God is good to me. So if Christianity is true, it’s not at all improbable that suffering and evil should exist. In summary, for all these

Reasons, the probability version of the problem of evil is no more successful than the logical version. As a purely intellectual problem, then, the problem of evil does not disprove God’s existence. But even if those intellectual arguments fail, the emotional problem of suffering and evil

Remains very powerful. If you have suffered deeply, or if you’ve watched someone you love go to intense pain, you may be thinking, so what is God exists? Why would I want to respond to him or worship him? I feel cold and empty, and

Want nothing to do with him. You’re not alone. God knows your name; he knows who you are and what you’re going through. God promises to be with you through your suffering. He can give you the strength to endure. Jesus Christ also suffered;

Although he was innocent, he was tortured and sentenced to death.His suffering had a purpose: to provide you and me the life-giving connection to God. Not only does God exist, but he loves you. He seeks after you, he offers you hope, and in time, he will make all things new.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, crying, or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

#Suffering #Evil #Probability #Version

Why Doesn’t God Stop Evil?

You see what the atheist has to say, he’s got to be able to prove that it is impossible or improbable for God to have a morally sufficient reason for permitting these facts of suffering, and that’s a burden of proof which is so

Heavy that no atheist has ever been able to sustain it. [Moderator] Explain that, because the question I was going to ask you is let’s talk about this subject of faith, which is where I was going, so you jumped right where I was headed. When they say

That, okay, explain that idea that you just entered into. [Craig] Take someone’s little daughter dying of leukemia, or getting run over by an automobile. We don’t see why that happened, and we wonder why wouldn’t a sovereign God intervene to stop it? And what the atheist has to say is that it’s either

Impossible or it’s highly improbable that God could have a morally justifying reason for allowing that to occur, but there’s no way given our finitude, our limits in space and time, for being able to make that kind of a claim with any justification. God’s morally sufficient reason for allowing your daughter’s

Death might not emerge until 300 years from now, maybe in another country. Every event that occurs sends a ripple effect through history so that the consequences of any event are simply incalculable and incomprehensible for finite, local persons. So the atheist is making a claim here which is just completely unsustainable;

There’s no way for him to show that it’s improbable or impossible that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing this evil to occur, and therefore his argument really has no intellectual credibility. It’s a purely emotional argument. [Moderator] And it’s a compelling one, isn’t it?

[Craig] Emotionally compelling, but not intellectually compelling. [Moderator] Correct, and so when somebody says in that moment, in immense pain, I don’t care what good he can bring out of this, [yes] I reject him. And we hear that a lot, [sure] C.S. Lewis drifted towards saying that in his Grief Observed, and

God, when God hears us say those kind of things, okay, his response is one of understanding. Scripture says he too has been tempted in every way, even as we were. [yes] And so God doesn’t shut us off when we

Say that. [Craig] No no, no I think that’s absolutely right. Look at the Psalms, how the psalmist expresses anger toward God, and God where are you, why are you allowing this, why am I going through this? I think the lesson of

The Psalms is come to God with your hurt and your pain and your anger and don’t try to stifle it and suppress it. Let it out and he’ll listen to you. [Moderator] He’ll listen, and if you’ll let him, if you’ll listen to him, as Christopher Hitchens

Acknowledged he gives the only consistent logically constructed plausible answer that frankly even Hitchens acknowledged; you know what? Christianity alone solves this problem. [Craig] Yeah, I remember Bertrand Russell, the great atheist philosopher, once said that no one can sit at the bedside of a dying

Child and believe in God, but when Jan and I were in Paris we met a young minister who was trained and now worked in counseling dying children. And I thought to myself: counseling dying children, what would Russell have said to those children? What could he say? Too bad?

Tough luck? That’s all the naturalist has got to say. As you say it’s theism, it’s belief in God, that provides a hope and a reason for the suffering that its redeemed, whereas in atheism we’re locked in a world that is filled with gratuitous and unredeemed suffering, and there is no hope of escape.

#Doesnt #God #Stop #Evil

Questions Jesus Asks – Where Divinity Meets Humanity

Hi I’m Israel Wayne I’m an author and Conference speaker my most recent book is called questions Jesus asks where Divinity meets Humanity it’s a followup to a previous book that I wrote with new Leaf press entitled questions God asks and this really came out of a Bible

Study that I was doing in the Old Testament initially and I noticed that there were many occasions in the Bible where God ask people questions and I thought this was rather intriguing and then I began to think about how in Jesus ministry was common for him to engage

People with probing questions in fact the very first time that we see Jesus speaking in the Bible in Luke 2 he’s 12 years old at the temple and he is asking questions of the teachers of the law Jesus often had the practice of answering questions that he was asked

With a question and this is a model that I find is really helpful for evangelism and apologetics as we engage with those who are skeptical or those who are uh critical regarding the Christian faith one of the things that I learned from writing the questions Jesus asks is how

Jesus questions tend to dig deeper than the surface they tend to go to the heart of the issue many of us have questions that we ask of God there are many questions that we have like where is God when it hurts or if God is good why is

There evil and suffering in the world but Jesus asks questions of us and these questions help us to assess our biases and assumptions and presuppositions these questions deal with a huge range of our human emotions and experiences things like suffering and pain and relationships and money and

Healing and so many other issues that are engaged in these questions that Jesus asks because these questions are contained in the Holy Scripture they have relevance not only for the people that Jesus asked 2000 years ago but they have relevance for us today one of the things that we learn from studying the

Questions that Jesus asks as we learn about him we learn about his nature and his character John 173 says this is eternal life that they may know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent this is really our primary purpose for our existence is to know God

In Jesus Christ which is one of the main reasons why I wrote questions God asks and questions Jesus asks I want to know Jesus better and you can come to know Jesus better through this intensive study of the New Testament through the questions he asks many people in our day

Are looking for Hope Jesus questions show us that even though he was fully God he was also fully man and he experienced many of the same things that we experienced so we have a high priest who can identify with us who can relate to our suffering and to our struggles

This is a great comfort to us to know that in many of the issues that we face and that we go through in our life Jesus went through those same issues and those topics that are close and near to and dear to our heart are topics that are

Explored within the questions Jesus asks I hope that you will pick up a copy of this book and maybe use it as a family read aloud for Family Worship or just for your own individual Bible study or perhaps for a small group study I think you will be encouraged you will be

Educated and you will come to know Jesus better and know how to relate better uh to others and to love and serve other people better through this study thank you God bless you

#Questions #Jesus #Asks #Divinity #Meets #Humanity

How to Respond to the Problem of Evil

What is a gracious, effective response to someone   who pushes away from the idea of  God because of the problem of evil? Well, my first question is, what exactly is the  problem? Now, of course I’m— this is a question  

I’m asking to get the other person to spell it  out because it’s not that I am ignorant about   the kinds of ways people factor in the problem of  evil into the existence of God. I want them to  

Spell it out because i actually think there are  serious problems with using evil as an argument   against God. So, I want them to spell it  out. Now, I know the way it’s usually characterized.

Well, if you think God is good and he’s powerful, and that would be God, right? But if he’s good, he’d   want to get rid of all evil. If he’s powerful, he’d be able to get all rid of all evil, but  

There’s evil, right? So there you go. God probably  doesn’t exist. And it turns out, though that sounds   like an argument. Like a step-by-step syllogistic  argument leading from premises to a conclusion, it turns out that when you press the issue, you  can’t build a valid argument from those facts.

If God were good, for example, then he  wouldn’t allow any evil. Really? Is that true? That’s a question, and we talk about this— I talk about this— I’m looking at you because I’m   saying “we” because you were such a help to me in editing The Story of Reality, but you recall  

From The Story of Reality how I talk about my  daughters don’t like shots, you know? They don’t   like that’s evil for them because it causes  them pain, but Daddy makes them get shots, so   why does he do that? Because Daddy’s evil? No.  Because I know that the short-term evil to them is  

Going to result in a longer term good. And so there  is a moral justification for the shorter term bad. All that does is point out that it certainly could  be possible, and that’s a very simple illustration. There’s dozens and dozens we can think of. It certainly is possible how something bad  

Could be justified. There could be a  morally sufficient reason for allowing it   because it leads to something good, okay?  Or maybe something bad that prevents   something even worse from happening. So,  there’s different ways to construe this,

To demonstrate that it is not the case that if  God were good he would never allow anything evil. Rather, he could have a morally sufficient  reason for allowing it for a time. And   that, by the way, is all we need to parry  the objection about the problem of evil.

Now, the possibility that he could have a reason, we don’t have to tell them what that reason is. Remember, the type of objection that this is is  a strong defeater. It’s not possible that there  

Is a God because there’s evil in the world, and  my response is, well, wait a minute. Maybe so. And   this, by the way, I step out a little step by step  in The Story of Reality. So, anybody wants to go  

There, they can see the chapter where I deal with  this. It’s not tricky, but it has some steps to it. This is why it makes a little bit more difficult  when you’re having a conversation with somebody. Somebody’s even listening to this saying, “Well, I  can’t remember all that stuff that he just said.”

Well, that’s true, I can understand that. But if you  don’t know why the problem of evil is not a good   argument against God, but a good argument for  God, then it’s going to be hard for you to make  

That point. And that, I think, is the most powerful  point that can be made from the problem of evil. This helps us. Evil is on our side, in that sense, because if there were no God, there would be no   evil at all…Because there’d be no  lawmaker. It’s just molecules clashing in the  

Universe. Okay, so then, what is wrong? Says  who? Your grandma? Kind of thing. So sometimes   I get to the point in a little different  way. What’s the alternative? So, somebody says, “Well, there can’t be any God, there’s evil in  the world.” Really? There’s real evil? What do  

You mean by evil? So, I would just want them  to emphasize that, okay? So, if there is no God, how can there be evil? What do you mean? Well,  there’s no lawmaker. There would be no law, alright?

Notice, those are questions, and I’m trying to  lead to make this point, or what’s the alternative? Well, the alternative is there is no God, okay?  Let’s say there is no God then, right? So, what makes  

Anything evil? You just complained about the problem  of evil. There must be evil in the world, right? So   what do you make of evil now that God doesn’t  exist? How do you get traction to even complain  

About evil in the world? You can’t. And I make  this point again in The Story of Reality because   people think that they somehow solve  the problem of evil by getting God out of the  

Equation. And what I point out is, okay, now you got  God out of the equation, okay? Now you’re an atheist. Yeah. Okay, that’s our view now. Right. How do you  solve the problem of evil? What do you mean? Well,  

You got God out of the picture. You didn’t get  rid of evil. You still got all the things that you used to call evil. They still are existing, and you  still probably consider them evil, okay? Now, solve  

The problem. The point I’m making is, atheism can  give you no traction to even make sense out of   evil to begin with. And if somebody wants to say, well, okay, then evil is just an illusion of   evolution or something. Really? Wait, just a  few moments ago, you’re saying it’s so real  

That it disqualifies the existence of God, and now you want to say it’s an illusion? See, our answer makes sense of all the  facts. We don’t have to play games like that. The world is broken. That’s why there’s evil in the  world. Broken means it ain’t the way it’s supposed  

To be. It started out one way, and now it’s a  different way. So these are all— and we broke   it. And so, we’re responsible. Some people haven’t  thought about it this way, Amy, but our whole story  

Is about the problem of evil. It starts in the  third chapter, it doesn’t get solved till 66   books later. If there was no problem of evil, we’d have no story. We’d have no Christianity. So in a certain sense, we could say  that evil is quite at home in our view.

It’s central to our story, and our story is not over yet. But it has no place in an atheistic worldview. It  does not make any sense whatsoever in an atheistic   worldview. Now, people can get that notion in  their mind, and I do walk through fairly carefully  

Not only The Story of Reality, but in the last  couple chapters of the book on Relativism that   Dr. Beckwith and I wrote called, “Relativism: Feet  Firmly Planted in Mid-Air” and lots of things we’ve  

Done on the air here, and lots of things we have on  the internet makes the same point. If there is no   God, there is no morality. But there is a morality, since the problem of evil, therefore, there is a  

God. That’s your basic modus tollens argument  for God. Moral argument for the existence of God.

#Respond #Problem #Evil

Suffering and Evil: The Logical Problem

We are all well aware of the suffering and evil in the world: horrific suffering, unthinkable evil. How then can anyone believe in the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God? And if God does exist, why would anyone want to worship Him? Epicurus framed the logical problem of suffering and evil like this:

If God is willing to prevent evil but not able, then he’s not all-powerful. If he is able to prevent evil but not willing, he is not good. But if he is both willing and able, how can evil exist? And if he is neither

Able nor willing, then why call him God? In other words, it’s logically impossible for God and suffering to both exist, but we know full well that suffering exists. Therefore, God does not. Is this a good argument? Let’s look at it more closely.

Are these two statements logically inconsistent? No; here is an example of two logically inconsistent statements. David can’t be both married and a bachelor, but there is no explicit contradiction between these two statements, so there must be hidden assumptions behind this argument that

Would bring out the alleged contradiction. Here they are. If God is all-powerful, he can create any world he wants, and if God is all-loving, he prefers a world without suffering. So if an all-powerful, all-loving God exists, it follows that suffering does not exist. Since suffering

Obviously does exist, the atheist concludes that God must not exist. But are the atheist’s two hidden assumptions necessarily true? Consider the first assumption. Can God create any world he wants? What if he want a world populated by people who have free will? It’s logically impossible for God to force

Someone to freely choose to do good. Forcing free choices is like making a square circle; it’s not logically possible. It’s not that God lacks the power to perform the task; it is that the supposed task itself is just nonsense. So

It may not be feasible to create a world populated by people who always freely choose to do what is morally good, so the first assumption is not necessarily true. Therefore, the argument fails, and what about the second assumption? Is it necessarily true that God would prefer a world without suffering? How could we

Possibly know this? We all know of cases where we permit suffering in order to bring about a greater good. If it’s even possible that God allows suffering in order to achieve a greater good, then we cannot say this assumption is necessarily true. For the logical problem of suffering to succeed, the atheist

Would have to show that it’s logically impossible that free will exists, and that it’s logically impossible that God has good reasons for permitting suffering. This burden of proof is too heavy to bear. It’s quite possible that God and suffering both exist. This is why philosophers, even atheist philosophers,

Have given up on the logical problem of evil. We can concede that the problem of evil does not after all show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another. Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically

Inconsistent with the existence of a theistic God. No one I think has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim. It’s now acknowledged on almost all sides that the logical argument is bankrupt. But this is hardly the end of the discussion. We still need to explore the probability version of the problem of evil.

#Suffering #Evil #Logical #Problem

The Problem of Evil (Aquinas 101)

What is evil, and why does God permit it in his creation? St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that in a general sense, evil is an absence or lack of what should be there. Technically speaking, we call this a privation, so evil is not a being or in nature. It’s the absence of something.

Suppose I say I’m going to draw a circle, and then I don’t finish it. You might say, “Hey, that’s a bad circle. Part of it’s missing.” You’re pointing out a privation. Notice though that I haven’t directly caused something that is bad in itself. The circle is good as far as it goes.

It just doesn’t go all the way. But wouldn’t it have been better if I had caused the whole circle to exist? Well, in general, yes, but perhaps there was a good reason why I didn’t. Maybe I was trying to illustrate what a privation is.

In that case, this defective circle would be an essential part of some larger project, some higher good–like bringing you to understand the problem of evil. This is how Aquinas approaches the problem of evil. God has created a changeable world of material things, and in order for such a world to exist,

It’s necessary that things grow, die, and decay. Aquinas calls these things natural evils. Gazelles eat grass, and lions eat gazelles. He sets this idea of natural evil in a larger context. It’s a necessary feature of the good of the whole ecosystem of the whole universe.

Now when Aquinas talks about the evil that human beings experience, he no longer speaks of natural evil. Rather, there are two unique types of evil that pertain to rational and free creatures. The evil of poena in Latin that’s translated typically as the evil of pain or penalty or

Punishment, and the evil of culpa in Latin translated as the evil of fault or of guilt. So, an example: Suppose Billy the Kid wakes up late for work. He doesn’t have a horse, so he steals his neighbor’s.

This is bad, of course, for his neighbor, but even more for Billy who has willfully refused to do what right reason tells him and has committed a serious injustice, an act unworthy of a human person.

This is what Aquinas calls the evil of fault or of guilt, and it is a kind of moral suicide. Arrested by the sheriff, Billy is sentenced to prison. This too is an evil for him because he’s now deprived of his freedom of movement.

But this second evil–being in prison–is not the same kind as the first. It’s an evil Billy suffers in response to an evil that he committed, and it’s called a penalty or punishment. How should we compare these two evils?

Well, the evil of fault is worse. By sinning Billy has freely chosen to make himself a bad man. By contrast, Billy’s punishment, while an evil for him in one sense is good and just, and it can even help Billy become good.

Especially if he accepts it and offers it in reparation for his fault. God never wills the evil of sin or of fault. Sin is our fault, not God’s. We choose some partial good contrary to the order of right reason, not caring about the

Damage that will result, and God permits us to do this, but he in no way is its cause. But God does will the punishment that follows from this moral evil both in order to restore the right ordering of justice and also to correct the wrongdoer,

Much like a judge and other honest citizens rightly desire a thief to be arrested and given a just punishment. Just like Billy can offer up his punishment in reparation for the evil he did, so we too can offer up all the evils we suffer in reparation for the sins we and others have

Committed. Let’s pose a harder question. Why does God permit the suffering of the innocent? We’re entering deep waters here, and we can only sketch a very brief answer. Human suffering, bodily death, undergoing persecution and injustice– these are very real and terrible evils, and they were not part of God’s original plan for us.

He created our first parents in grace with the special privilege of being free from illness, suffering, and death. Those evils only entered the world because of the sin of our first parents and we inherit the terrible consequences of this original sin: suffering, death, and even an inclination to sin.

It’s a lot like a baby born to a mother who’s a heroin addict. That baby inherits the terrible consequences of the mother’s addiction. In those who suffer them, they are the evils of pain or penalty. They can be the occasion for great moral nobility and goodness, like when a person offers his

Life to God in the midst of illness or when someone perseveres in the truth and even forgives an unjust persecutor. The hardest question is why does sin exist? Because every sin involves a privation, a lack of what should be there, we’re dealing with non-being and non-being is strictly speaking unintelligible.

So we can explain how a sin is possible. The creature focuses its attention and directs its will to some limited good disregarding the defect or disorder that that choice will cause, but we cannot explain why the creature does this. Because evil is incoherent in itself. It’s always stupid and self-defeating.

Why then does God permit it? Some have answered this question by using the so-called free will defense, saying that if there’s freedom, it’s impossible for God to prevent evil. This is not Aquinas’s answer, and he thinks it has serious philosophical problems. As we explained in the video on predestination and freedom,

God as our creator is the origin of our freedom and implants in us our desires for good, and so he can act within our will, moving it to good. So in any particular case, God could move us to freely choose the right thing. Why then doesn’t he always do so?

Here we’ve reached a mystery too deep for our minds, why God has created this world and not another. Aquinas doesn’t think we can say much more than this, but he does offer two quasi explanations that help us glimpse the deep wisdom of God’s providence.

First, we can be sure that God only permits evil for the sake of some much better and higher good, including not only our individual good, but the good of the whole creation. This is very mysterious, because we can’t see this whole, and we can’t conceive how permitting sin might lead to good.

But we know it’s true. God is infinitely powerful and infinitely good. Able to bring an even greater good out of every evil. We also know that we are very limited, especially in our understanding of the whole.

We’re kind of like a baby with a soiled diaper who screams because his father makes him take a bath. He doesn’t understand the good that his father is accomplishing for him through what seems to the baby like pointless suffering, but in reality, it’s for the baby’s good.

Finally, Aquinas says that God allows the defect of sin so that he can manifest his goodness in an even greater way as our savior. This is a beautiful and high truth, and it reaches its pinnacle in the cross.

There God himself takes upon his human shoulders the whole weight of our sins and bears them through terrible suffering, even unto death. He does this precisely so that his redeeming mercy and love for us sinners would shine out more clearly. So that we might be brought from sin unto forgiveness and eternal life.

For readings, podcasts, and more videos like this, go to Aquinas101.com. While you’re there, be sure to sign up for one of our free video courses on Aquinas. And don’t forget to like and share with your friends, because it matters what you think!

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