“Undoubtedly the greatest intellectual obstacle to belief in God is the so-called problem of evil.” ( Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview) From a Christian philosopher as experienced and renowned as William Lane Craig, this statement should cause us to sit up and take notice. One reason the obstacle is so great is because of its two-pronged challenge. The problem of evil, more so than any other challenge to the Christian world view, contains both a significant intellectual challenge, as well as a significant emotional challenge. It is a problem of universal proportions, because each and every thoughtful individual has experienced pain, suffering, or some sort of evil in their life and is forced to either ignore the problem or to come to grips with it. C.S. Lewis defines the problem of evil in this way: “If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.” (The Problem of Pain)
Before we attempt to work through to an answer to this problem, we will make sure that our terms are properly defined. The most important definitions, obviously, will be evil and God. We will then show how some popular non-theistic options fail to solve the problem of evil. Answers have been put forth from within theism as well; however, these too, have missed the mark. We will review these and demonstrate how, despite their attractiveness, they fall short as well. Scripture contains the answer, and requires a complete acceptance of God’s absolute sovereignty and a full appreciation of the “evilness” of evil. We will discover that God has not fully solved the problem of evil from our perspective – yet. He promises, however, that He will.
While our human tendency compels us to have everything clearly defined, evil is one word whose definition continually morphs, depending on the situation. Philosophers like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas have “argued that evil is not something” (No Doubt About It: The Case for Christianity) and have produced a very classic and reliable definition of evil as “the absence of good.” (No Doubt) This definition, known as the privation theory of evil, is of limited use. It would appear that the definition’s primary purpose is to convince the skeptic that evil is not something that God could “create”, and since by definition, it is not created, it is “not something”. While this is a logically consistent argument, there are two issues - the fact of evil has not been dealt with and the definition lacks something significant, namely completeness. As such, we must seek to find a definition that will help develop a common understanding of the term.
Henri Blocher, a French theologian, has offered the following:
What do people mean, when in a real-life situation they use the word ‘evil’? They are talking about its unjustifiable reality. In common parlance, evil is ‘something’ that occurs in experience and ought not to. It has occurred, but it is not what you would expect. Spontaneously and whole-heartedly we say ‘No!’ to it, like Jackie Kennedy when the assassin’s bullet hit her husband by her side in the open car. At that time Claude Terrien commented: ‘No, that is the cry of human beings in the face of death.’ And we could add: in the face of the evil of death, and of the evil of evil.(Evil and the Cross: An Analytical Look at the Problem of Pain)
For our purposes, we will use Blocher’s definition of something that happens that “ought not to.” While the issue of what “ought” to happen and what “ought not” to happen can be debated ad nauseum, a common ground amongst skeptics can be achieved by using examples such as Holocaust, 9/11 terrorist attack, and the various dictatorial atrocities that have seemingly become commonplace around the globe.
When being asked to respond to a difficult question, Ravi Zacharias is noted to have said, “the only more difficult question I can think of, is ‘define God, and give two examples.’” This is similar to how I feel when a portion of this paper is titled ‘God Defined’. I do not, indeed, I could not, ever hope to do anything more than point at Him, as one points at the sun but cannot stare directly at it, or fully understand the magnitude of its light or its power. In his book No Doubt About It, Winfried Corduan puts forth a “concept of God”, or “the characteristics of theism” (No Doubt) that he is interested in defending throughout the rest of his book. This concept is detailed as such:
1. There is only one God
2. This God is unlimited (infinite) and possesses His attributes in an unlimited (infinite) way. As a result, He is:
· Unchangeable (immutable),
· Omnibenevolent (all-good, all-loving), etc.
3. God is personal.
4. God created the world; therefore, the world is dependent on Him, but He is not dependent on it.
5. God is transcendent, that is, He is over and beyond the world.
6. God is immanent, that is, He is actively present within the world.
7. The God of theism is the source of the standard for right and wrong. He is holy and good, completely untainted by any evil. He commands His creatures to live by the standards of morality He has established.
To the extent that these characteristics of God are generally accepted and well-defended tenets of the theistic worldview, they will need to suffice as a ‘definition’ of God, or at least a concept that we will be assuming to be true as we deal with the problem of evil that brings these concepts into question.
The Problem Defined
With a working definition of evil and a well-defined concept of God, we are able to clearly lay out the problem. J.L. Mackie, a vigorous defender of atheism, wrote:
In its simplest form the problem is this: God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true the third would be false. But at the same time all three are essential parts of most theological positions: the theologian, it seems, at once must adhere, and cannot consistently adhere to all three. (The Problem of Evil & The Problem of God)
William Lane Craig takes this logical problem and adds the emotional component in his book Hard Questions, Real Answers:
I think of a prominent Christian leader in my home town who was decapitated in a sledding accident when he ran into a barbed wire fence he hadn’t seen; or of a pastor who backed out of his driveway and ran over his infant son, who had been playing behind the car; or of some Canadian missionaries who were forced to return from the field when their little daughter fell from her third-story window to the concrete driveway below and suffered severe brain damage. (Hard Questions, Real Answers)
Simply put, how could the God described previously allow such terrible events to take place? Craig’s point is to demonstrate that the problem exists in a very real state, even for those who happen to hold a very firm view of their Creator being a loving God. There is no denying the awfulness of these tragedies or the awfulness of the countless similar events that occur daily, to believers and non-believers alike.
How is one to deal with this? The problem is real. The problem is difficult. Each one of us must wrestle with it, or, as stated earlier, simply ignore it. Three prominent responses to the problem are to believe that: God is not real; evil is not real; or God cannot stop evil. Each of these responses appears to solve the logical problem of evil, and eliminates the “apparent inconsistency”(No Doubt) of believing in both a good God and the existence of evil. However, each requires a pill to be swallowed that leaves us in a much worse state than not having swallowed that pill at all. Let’s examine each.
God is Not Real
Atheism, at first glance, seems like a very straightforward and convenient way out of the dilemma. However, things are very often not what they seem. Removing God from the picture is akin to removing the corner card in a tall house of cards. If one thinks that the problem of evil is difficult to comprehend, removing the cause for the universe’s existence will create a whole new set of problems, much more difficult to make coherent.
The evidence for the universe coming into being from nothing and by nothing is non-existent. However, it is a basic tenet of natural law that nothing comes from nothing. The atheist’s response to the age-old philosophical question, “Why is there not nothing?” is, “Everything came from nothing.” While this may seem an oversimplification of the atheist’s stance, I contend that it is not. The scientific evidence for the universe having a beginning is incredibly compelling, especially when compared to the scientific evidence for the atheist’s stance. Corduan states it this way: “if you think you can look at the world without finding God behind it, you are not looking at the world correctly.” (No Doubt) This statement sums up the basic truth presented by the cosmological argument, of which there are many forms that result in a similar conclusion: our universe requires a creator.
Evil is Not Real
Another popular solution to the problem of evil is to deny the other half of the apparent inconsistency, the very existence of evil itself. Hinduism is one religion that has sought to brand evil as simply an illusion, with no real, tangible value whatsoever. Ravi Zacharias states, “By declaring everything in the physical world to be nonreal, illusory, changing, transitory, it ends up with philosophical problems beyond measure.” (Jesus Among Other Gods The Absolute Claims Of The Christian Message) Christian Science is another religion that has placed evil in the world of the illusory. In Science and Health, the Christian Science textbook, Mary Baker Eddy writes, “It is sometimes said that Christian Science teaches the nothingness of sin, sickness, and death, and then teaches how this nothingness is to be saved and healed. The nothingness of nothing is plain; but we need to understand that error is nothing, and that its nothingness is not saved, but must be demonstrated in order to prove the somethingness – yea, the allness – of Truth.” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (W.M.B.E.)) If the reader attempts to grapple with the statement that “error is nothing … but must be demonstrated”, the incoherence of a belief in the non-reality of evil becomes clear. Personal experience with Christian Science has convinced me of the irrationality of a belief that evil is not real. I lost two grandmothers to untreated cancer, one to cancer of the skin, the other to breast cancer. I can attest that there was genuine pain and suffering for them and no amount of “belief” in its non-existence could make it disappear. “To deny that evil is real does not diminish wickedness, nor does it daunt the heart’s desire to seek purity.” (Jesus Among Other Gods) To keep it quite simple, an oft-quoted poem by Edward Lear can be utilized:
A certain faith-healer of Deal
Asserted: “Pain is not real.”
“Then pray tell me why,”
Came the patient’s reply,
“When I sit on a pin
And puncture my skin,
Do I hate what I fancy I feel?” (The Roots of Evil)
God Cannot Stop Evil
Logical problems abound with either of the two options proposed above. In attempting to avoid many of those problems, some have put forth another option: God would love to take care of the problem of evil, but He is powerless to do so. Probably the most famous proponent of this view is Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Corduan sums up Kushner’s position in this way:
· Violate the laws of nature;
· Contravene events that come about by chance; or
· Go against decisions made with our free will (No Doubt)
In a debate with Dr. Norman Geisler, it became evident that Rabbi Kushner’s problems with God’s omnipotence and sovereignty have their root in a very personal, sad, and emotional experience from his life. In Kushner’s own words:
As I watched my son decline and die the day after his fourteenth birthday from progyria, I was so full of anger and pain at the unfairness of it all. If I thought that God was inflicting this on an innocent child, I could not have worshipped that God. I might have been afraid of Him; I could not have loved Him. It was very important for me to believe for myself and to share with others the belief that God is not our judge, he is our friend. That God does not want children to suffer and die; God doesn’t want planes and automobiles to crash or hurricanes to wipe out communities. God stands for what is good, what is loving, what is constructive, and not for pain and destruction. (Geisler and Kushner Debate)
One cannot help but feel deeply for Rabbi Kushner’s pain, as well as for the pain of so many others who have suffered in similar ways. However, no matter what personal pain might be involved, removing God’s omnipotence brings us to a familiar spot – we have created many more problems than we think we might have solved. The fundamental problem with this view is the idea that God has the capacity to create the entire universe, and yet is powerless to act with the same power and energy on that universe He created. In his debate with Kushner, Geisler states it in this manner:
I think the difference probably comes in this idea of natural law; whether God’s hands are tied by the laws he made, or whether God transcends the laws He made. Now it seems to me if He created the natural laws, then He transcends them and can from time to time, intervene. To have nature, or the chaos, or the void, more powerful than God, is to make God, who created them, finite, and the laws He created, all-powerful. (Geisler and Kushner Debate)
Simply put, forcing God to be subject to the laws He created is a logical impossibility, and does nothing to help solve the real problem of evil, no matter what emotional help it may provide.
Some “Easy” Answers
We have seen how the above three responses to the problem of evil fall short of solving the problem, and indeed, create greater problems. It would seem we are left at a frustrating point. The co-existence of a good God and evil seems to simply be contradictory, and, even worse, a logical impossibility. In response to this, some have developed theories about why evil exists that I will term “easy”. The reason I call them “easy” is because they make sense to us and many people are satisfied by the apparent rationality behind these theories.
The first theory is one that many have not thought of, yet, when first heard, makes immediate sense. It is the idea that many of the things that we call “good” could never be understood without a corresponding notion of what is “bad”. D.Z. Phillips describes the idea in this way: “Any good gets its sense from a contrast with an evil.” (The Problem of Evil & The Problem of God) For example, we would never truly understand courage unless we understood fear. We would never truly understand healing if we did not understand sickness. The examples abound, and we are left with a startling truth: “To call for the absence of evil is, unwittingly, to call for the absence of good at the same time.” While this idea certainly makes its home quickly in our rational minds, it leaves a question that is still unanswered. This question is the heart’s cry of many that look at the world and seek to make sense of what they see. “Why, if God is good, is there so much evil in the world?” The idea that evil is a necessity for good’s existence makes sense, but it really doesn’t help answer the problem of the volume of evil that is experienced. “After all, it is easy to imagine a world with fewer earthquakes, less cancer, or not so many exams.” (No Doubt) We intuitively know that we would still be able to understand the concepts of courage and healing even if the Holocaust had never occurred.
This is where another “easy” answer enters. It is called “the free-will defense”. Alvin Plantinga describes it this way: “A world containing creatures who are sometimes significantly free (and freely perform more good than evil actions) is more valuable, all else being equal, than a world containing no free creatures at all.” (The Problem of Evil & The Problem of God) Freedom is a wonderful thing. It, probably more than any other value, is extolled by our culture and fought for fiercely throughout the world. God knows how great freedom is, and therefore created a world where his creatures were free to make their own decisions. Those decisions have resulted in some wonderful things taking place in our world, and those decisions have also resulted in some of the worst things imaginable taking place. The free-will defense states that the evil we experience in the world is the price we must pay to enjoy the highest imaginable value: freedom.
Can we truly follow this line of thinking? “Did God have to pay the price of allowing evil in order for us to have freedom?”(No Doubt) While it might seem that God had to allow evil for freedom, I often wonder how many people that are struggling with the worst evils would buy it. The countless victims that have died at the hands of evil men would most likely have forfeited their “freedom” in order to be rid of the terrible suffering they were experiencing. Digging a little deeper, very often the very word “freedom” is often misconstrued and misunderstood. Those that cling tightly to the notion of a free will have difficulty holding together a working notion that is completely rational. While we are deemed to be free creatures, we realize that there are many things that we are not completely free from. For example, I was unable to pick my parents. I am unable to be the world record holder in the marathon. My freedom exists only within the choices that are available to me. Many theologians use a term to define this: “created freedom”. This helps us to understand that while we know we are given liberty to do many things, this freedom is bound by something greater than ourselves, namely God.
Probably the most compelling argument against the veracity and completeness of the free-will defense comes from the theistic view of heaven. Corduan puts it this way:
People who believe in free will typically do not believe that such free will is lost in heaven…. There is no sin in heaven. In other words, heaven is supposed to be exactly the kind of environment to which I am appealing: free creatures choose freely only to obey and not to disobey. If God can arrange things this way at the end of time, why could He not have started out that way? (No Doubt)
We have not solved the problem of evil, but we are on our way to seeing the solution. We have introduced the notion of Heaven, which begins to point us in the right direction. After seeing how the options of this world still leave us in need of a solution to the problem of evil, let us now consider what God has told us about it and about Himself.
In the Bible, sin is the “cardinal evil” (Evil and the Cross: An Analytical Look at the Problem of Pain) and is truly the ultimate problem facing the human race. It is never a side matter, rather it is a constant battle. As long as we draw breath, we are never free from sin’s grip.
The first thing to consider about sin is its universality. Each and every human being since Adam has had to deal with sin, because “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men”. (Romans 5:12) Earlier in Romans, Paul quotes some Old Testament passages in order to make clear our universal depravity before God:
There is no one righteous, not even one;
there is no one who understands,
no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)
The second thing the Bible forces us to consider about sin is its effect. While many daily consequences of individual acts of sin in our lives exist, the Bible clearly teaches that the primary effect of sin is tragic: we are separated from our Creator. God is perfect. “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) In order for us to have fellowship with this perfect God, something must be done. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus established the standard by which we can achieve this fellowship: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Since we have established the universality of human sin, we can clearly see that sin’s effect is to bring us all “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and in serious need of a solution to this problem.
God is in Control
While Scripture clearly teaches that sin is a problem, it never leaves room for God to be subject to it. If we remember back to the argument against the idea that God is not powerful enough to get rid of evil, we can see that there is a logical inconsistency there. The Bible also leaves no room to deprive God of sovereign power over His universe, often defined as “providence”. “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” (Psalm 135:6) This passage is just one of countless passages that extol God’s total sovereignty and reign. This inevitably raises the question, “Does he even reign over the bad choices man makes?” Scripture responds in the following manner: “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23) This appears to be a very hard pill to swallow, especially for those of us grasping at the “easy” answer of the free-will defense. Yet this same passage calls for God to pour out His wrath on the peoples who do not acknowledge God, indicating that they bear responsibility for that decision. The example of Joseph also helps to make this idea easier to understand. After Joseph’s brothers committed an incredibly egregious act (selling their brother as a slave, and lying to their father about it), Joseph confronts this same truth. His brothers were wrong for what they did. They deserve to be punished for what they did. However, no hint is ever given in Scripture that God bears any responsibility for their evil actions, but Joseph brings it together in this way: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 5:20) The brothers’ responsibility for their actions and God’s providence over the entire situation is clearly presented here. They are not presented in contention with each other, but are presented as truth. The writer of Lamentations also presents God’s awesome power alongside our responsibility. “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? Why should any living man complain when punished for his sins?” (Lamentations 3:37-39) What is so striking from the biblical accounts is: Who is it about? It becomes alarmingly clear that it is about God and His purposes, not man and his. “Such a word is hard to many people; to others it is sweet.” (Evil and the Cross: An Analytical Look at the Problem of Pain) Indeed, God is sovereign over His creation.
One finds it difficult to scripturally deal with the problem of evil without turning to the account of Job in the Old Testament. There we are given the clearest, most unambiguous defense of God’s character in the face of evil. In the book of Job, Satan is given permission to test Job’s faith and see if it is genuine. Notice that God permits Satan to inflict pain on one of his most trusted servant. It is clearly demonstrated in this passage:
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the top of his head. Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes. His wife said to him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. (Job 2:6-10)
One immediately asks, “How could God do that?” and in the same breath queries, “Where does Job get the strength?” The subsequent speeches from Job’s three friends show how they continually attempted to understand the evil Job is confronted with in some natural, rational way. However, God is not pleased with their attempt and tells Eliphaz, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” (Job 42:7b) Job’s response to God’s revelation of His sovereignty should be the model for us: “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.” (Job 42:2,3) When faced with God’s power and sovereignty, everything, including the evil he is faced with, pales in comparison. We see that God permitted the evil in Job’s life, and through it He was glorified in a manner that might not have been possible without the test Job went through.
Scripture does present a solution to the problem of evil. We have clearly demonstrated that sin separates us from God, essentially giving us death. “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.” (2 Samuel 14:14) When we are faced with the terrible nature of sin and evil, and confronted with the goodness and sovereignty of God, the fact that God “devises ways” for us to “not remain estranged from him” should simply bring about praise and thanksgiving for the fact, and a thirst to find out how it can be achieved.
How can we get to a place where we are no longer estranged from Him? Man has posited many ideas about this. The one common thread of each man-made solution is this: we must work for it. However, the Bible teaches very clearly that perfection, or perfect righteousness, is the standard, and no amount of good works can help us achieve that. “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” (Romans 3:20) Most world religions teach that there is a way to follow and that way has to do with how you live your life here. The Bible teaches that there is a Person to follow, and He is the only way. “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) The penalty for our sin, as expressed earlier, is death. Jesus took that penalty on Himself at the cross.
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
?We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
It is when we stop trusting in our feeble attempts at good works, and put our trust in what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross, that we are able to no longer be estranged from our Creator. “God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:24) This is God’s solution to the problem of evil: His Son.
“But,” one will say, “Christ died 2000 years ago. And I continue to see evil every day!” Not only do we see evil, we experience its presence in our own hearts. We know that, even after seeing the folly of trusting in our own goodness and placing our trust in Christ, that sin and evil still has a place in our hearts. We try to flee from it, and yet it is continually there, like a bad cold that will never go away. The apostle Paul states it this way:
“So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21-24)
Paul wrote the book of Romans twenty years into his ministry. This struggle with sin raged within him continually. Notice the future tense of his heartfelt cry at the end of verse 24: “Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul’s response to his own question can be a source of joy and comfort for each and every person who has put their trust in Jesus Christ. “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) God has given us a way to be free from the problem of evil. But evil is still here, and God has not removed its effects from us… yet!
This is the great promise of the Bible. God will deliver this world from evil. The apostle Paul was a man who was no stranger to pain and suffering. Not only had he spent a good portion of his life inflicting pain on others, he himself had suffered beatings and imprisonment. However, his perspective was radical. “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) “If this is so, a book on suffering which says nothing of heaven, is leaving out almost the whole of one side of the account. Scripture and tradition habitually put the joys of heaven into the scale against the sufferings of earth, and no solution of the problem of pain which does not do so can be called a Christian one.” (The Problem of Pain) The Bible is not very verbose when it comes to Heaven, but is very clear that it will be a place much better than this world; there will be no pain, sorrow, or suffering. However, Scripture tells us that we are to rejoice when we experience suffering in this life, “because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” (James 1:3) Paul states that our suffering here is not even to be compared to the wondrous things God has for us in Heaven, and James states that when we do suffer, perseverance is being developed, and that is a good thing.
Not only will God deliver us from evil and make us righteous, but He can make sense of it here in this life. And it is all because of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross has taken the problem of evil and conquered it. “The wisdom of God in the event of the cross maintains its unique, concrete character, spelt out with total clarity by what the cross achieved: perfect redemption and propitiation. In short, at the cross evil is conquered as evil.” (Evil and the Cross: An Analytical Look at the Problem of Pain)
The problem of evil, often known as “the rock of atheism,” presents a serious challenge to any theistic world view. However, we have seen that atheism creates many more problems than does the existence of evil. We have also demonstrated the belief that evil is illusory suffers not only from logical problems, but significant experiential problems as well. Additionally, the belief that God cannot do anything about evil is logically inconsistent and untenable. In attempting to come to grips with the problem, theists have put forth the ideas that evil is a necessity for good, and that man’s ability to choose freely is of such value that God had to allow evil. While both of these beliefs are attractive and straightforward, we find that they fall short of solving the problem. In the Bible, God has revealed to us that evil is truly evil, and that God is truly sovereign over His creation. The effects of evil have placed man in a place where righteousness is unattainable on his own. God has solved this problem in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Through Him, we are confident that we can overcome evil, and achieve righteousness and a fellowship with God that would have been impossible without Him.
A note must be made at this juncture about the usefulness of debating various philosophical viewpoints regarding the problem of evil. Such discussion is immensely useful and profitable in an educational setting; it is of little use when people are experiencing the types of pain and suffering we have considered here. Again, we find that the Bible has the solution for those of us seeking to counsel those in need: we are to love them. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church, he writes:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
When we are genuine in our love for those that are suffering, we are pointing the way for them to meet the One who took the penalty for their sin. Jesus Christ is the only answer that will ever wipe the tears away, and our actions will speak louder than any words ever could. However, the Great Commission is still our charge, and the Gospel must be proclaimed.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,? just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16, 17)
When love is combined with a clear proclamation of what God has done through His Son, evil doesn’t stand a chance.
Books dealing with the problem of evil:
Here are some really good resources if you are struggling with this issue or you know someone who is. C.S. Lewis is always a great place to start, and then they get deeper from there. Ravi's Jesus Among Other Gods is an excellent one for an unbeliever or an immature believer.