The Problem of Evil - Part 2

The Argument Formalized

Sometimes it is useful to formalize an argument in order to work through it. The argument we have presented already can easily be placed in such a form as follows:
a) God is all powerful
b) God is all loving
c) God knows that evil exists
d) Evil does exist
e) Therefore, God does not exist
What we can see here is that the first three premises seem to describe a being that knows evil exists, wants it to go away, and is able to make it disappear. Therefore, the introduction of the fourth premise, that evil actually exists, seems to form a contradictory state of affairs. That is, the seeming conclusion is that if evil does exist then it is logically impossible for a being described by the first three premises to exist. If this is the case then it is indeed a problem for Christians!

The Weight of the Problem

Although it should be apparent it is worth clarifying that the Problem of Evil does not simply claim that it is most likely the case that the Christian God does not exist based on the preponderance of evil. Rather, it boldly asserts that such a God as described in the Bible cannot and does not exist. In other words, since God and evil cannot both exist, and evil does exist, then God does not exist.

It is at this point that the average Christian may simply write this problem off as irrelevant. After all, for him it is clear that God does exist and so any argument which seems to dispute God’s existence must be invalid and isn’t worthy of discussion. Furthermore, this Christian may be quick to remind the unbeliever that we believe in God based on faith[1], not on logical arguments. For as God transcends everything, even our understanding, any argument that disproves God’s existence can simply be ignored as coming up short in relationship to God’s transcendent nature.[2]

What is particularly ironic about this situation is that the Christian in this example has made use of a very specific logical truth (that a contradictory state of affairs cannot exist) in order to justify a dismissal of the claim that the existence of the God of the Bible (along with evil) is a contradictory state of affairs! He has made a practical use of logic in ignoring this problem thereby implying that logic is necessary in some situations but unnecessary in others. To be consistent, the Christian must confront this issue head on in a logical manner.

Furthermore, although this Christian may be able to satisfy himself that no problem exists, it is the unbeliever (who doesn’t already believe in God) who is presenting this challenge to the Christian. Therefore, it is the unbeliever who can rightly[3] say that God logically cannot exist, based on this line of argumentation. In fact, it is very possible that the Problem of Evil, if not properly dealt with, may be all it ever takes to keep an unbeliever from coming to Christ.

Next time we will look at the most common solution to the Problem of Evil and see why it fails.

-- BK

[1] It is indeed the case that our belief in God is one that is based upon faith – the Bible itself is very clear about this. However, Christians must pay attention to and deal with claims that even a faith-based belief in God is illogical.

[2] I recall a slogan that a local Christian College used to tout. It said “Don’t Think Logically, Think Theologically”. Now although there is benefit in some sense to this catchy phrase, there are too many believers today that take it literally, choosing to ignore reason entirely, and cling to the Bible purely on faith alone (something the Bible doesn’t even tell us to do.)

[3] By way of clarification, I do not mean that the unbeliever is objectively warranted in continuing in his or her disbelief based on this argument. Rather, I am saying that this argument makes sense to the unbeliever, based on their existing assumption that God does not exist. It provides them with enough reason to cease from adopting a belief in God.

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