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I believe that evil exists because God gave us free will. Adam and Eve disobeyed God. Because of this The Fall of man happened and drew us away from God. Suffering exists not only because God can exert justice on the evil of the earth but also because God can grow people and bring them to greater revelation through suffering.

Is this a correct argument? If so how do I expand and support it to make a good response to a non-Christian who says something like:

  • I can't believe in a good God when there is evil and suffering in the world.

*Note my argument assumes a non-Christian who knows some of the basics of Christianity. To be clear, I intend for my question to be broad in the sense that a non-Christian also includes those of various other faiths and those that might not believe God exists.

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A small note that "I can't believe in a good God when there is evil and suffering in the world." is, I gather, a minority reason for non-belief. More would simply argue that there is no need/reason/evidence for any form of God, and as such would have no reason to ask "Why does evil and suffering exist?" - simply reasoning that a: bad things happen, and b: some people do noticeable harm. –  Marc Gravell Aug 24 '11 at 14:44
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My question is about non-Christians, which while I was writing the question I was thinking of those who lost their faith and might know about the Bible. The answers have reminded me that non-Christians includes a large number of people with different backgrounds. I think one problem with my question is that my question assumes a non-Christian who is familiar with the Bible which is pretty specific maybe too specific for this site. I'll make sure the scope is clear. –  Steve Moser Sep 10 '11 at 19:14
    
Removed obsolete / irrelevant comments. Question now asks for help with a response to a specific argument in a specific scenario. –  Shog9 Sep 10 '11 at 21:55
    
Whenever I hear "I can't believe in a God who would..." I think of Francis Chan who responded by saying something like, "who would what? Do something you wouldn't do? Is it possible that you are not perfect, you are not God, and he might do something that you wouldn't do?" –  styfle Apr 23 '12 at 0:05
    
I would encourage any/all to read Jon Levenson's Creation and the Persistence of Evil. Good stuff. –  jackweinbender Aug 12 '12 at 2:10
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21 Answers 21

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This is called the problem of theodicy. The assumptions usually made in the problem statement are, with a little variance:

  1. God is almighty and all-knowing
  2. God does not want evil in the world
  3. God is good

The problem goes on to state the fact that there is evil in the world, and claims a contradiction between the assumptions and this observation.

I see really no problem here. If just (1) was true, God could certainly do anything. If (1) and (2) were true, there certainly would be no evil in the world. But if (3) were true, God would do only things that are good, regardless of whether He could.

Now we have (1), (2) and (3). God could do anything, but since He is good he will not do just anything. There's no contradiction. God could remove all evil, but that would not be good.


Up to that point it's all just logic. The reason that removing evil would not be good is more a matter of speculation. I suspect it has to do with free will: people are allowed to choose between good and evil, and removing the choice would be worse than the evil that ensues. This is just my speculation. God surely has His reasons.

Goodness doesn't always mean doing what is the most convenient to me. Quoting C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed,

What do people mean when they say, "I am not afraid of God because I know He is good"? Have they never even been to a dentist?

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+1 for the CS Lewis quote. It shows by analogy that God has a higher and more long-term perspective than we do, which is the core of any real answer of this question. –  Mason Wheeler Aug 24 '11 at 14:39
    
I'm not afraid of dentists... ;-) But the thing here is: God removing the possible, the ability, to do evil would mean we'd not be free. And, if you look closely, you'll see that (okay, my opinion, but..) freedom and love are the cornerstones of God's design/being. He gave Adam and Eve the choice... we humans would have built a wall around the tree and put razorwire on top. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 12 '11 at 16:38
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Free will might explain suffering caused by humans, e.g. the Holocaust, but it doesn't explain suffering from natural causes. When an earthquake or hurricane causes suffering, it is not because of the free will of any human. –  joshdick Sep 14 '11 at 18:01
    
@joshdick: That might invalidate the second part of my answer (where I explicitly tell that I'm speculating). I think Satan was allowed reign in this world because of Adam and Eve's choices, and that is the reason for natural disasters. But this is very speculative. –  dancek Sep 14 '11 at 19:20
    
@joshdick: Isa 24:5 (KJV) The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Read Isa 24:4 to 6 –  Click Ok Oct 13 '11 at 18:30
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From the perspective of a non-Christian, the explanation you put forth makes no sense. It relies on a number of assumptions that a non-Christian doesn't necessarily hold. Regardless of whether it makes sense in the context of your belief system, it does not make sense to a non-Christian.

For example:

  • If evil is the result of the actions of Adam and Eve, what was it when the serpent tempted Eve to break God's rule? Either the serpent was evil, in which case evil predates the actions of Adam and Eve (thus they didn't cause it), or the serpent's actions weren't evil, which brings into question whether the actions of Adam and Eve were.

  • If suffering were merely a tool of God to bring us closer to Him, then why would children too young to have committed sin, or to understand the idea of God (let alone God himself) face unbearable suffering? Why is so much suffering purposeless? What's the point of free will if God is micromanaging everything that happens to us in such a confusing and unpredictable way (i.e. if this was to teach us a lesson, wouldn't it be a clear relationship between behavior and punishment/incentive like we use to bring up children?

From the perspective of a non-Christian, the only ways I can find to posit both the existence of evil and suffering as observed on earth and the existence of God as depicted by the Christians are the following:

  • God truly gave us free will (not the typically-described "free will except where it conflicts with God's plan"), and some people use it to do good things, while others use it to do bad things... others just do stupid things. In other words: blame people.

  • Evil is a force separate from the will of God, with which God is battling for control. Sometimes the other side gets a point.

What makes these different? (Note, I'm not saying they are true in the context of Christianity; I'm giving examples of the kinds of reasoning that actually make sense without certain assumptions of Christian philosophy and culture behind them.) If you tell someone who isn't already assuming that God is X that Y must be true because God is X, you can't get anywhere unless you can prove that God is X.

Short of actually meeting God amid some grand supernatural display that could not possibly have been created by man, the only way to try to convince someone of the existence of God is through positing a God-dependent explanation of things we can observe, but cannot otherwise explain. When those explanations are self-contradictory, rife with logical fallacy, or conflict with our observations of the world around us, they are quite unconvincing.

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+1 for "blame people" –  John Aug 26 '11 at 3:40
    
+1 Thanks for pointing out that my argument is based on one knowing some basics of the Bible. However there are non-Christians who do know the Bible and probably better than a lot of Christians. I added a note to my question stating that it is open to non-Christians of all backgrounds. –  Steve Moser Sep 10 '11 at 19:40
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I think you have a good reason for why evil exists, but I would follow that with suffering exists because evil exists. I don't agree that all suffering is punishment from God. He may allow for suffering, because He can use it in our lives to make us perfect.

Another root reason is that God allows for our free will. He does not want us to be robot worshipers, but gave us the choice to follow Him or not. Many abuse that choice and do not follow him, whether that's through Satan working in their lives to tempt them away from God or simply not knowing. It is through that choice, that they do evil and allow it in this world.

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How can you argue that God gave us free will, and then argue that it is an abuse of that gift to exercise free will in thinking anything other than what God would prefer we think? –  HedgeMage Aug 24 '11 at 13:22
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@HedgeMage Correct me if I'm wrong, but what I believe you are getting at is that if we choose something other than God's will, we are making the wrong choice; therefore, that is not free will. As mentioned above, free will is being able to choose, though, whether right (God's will) or wrong (evil). –  a_hardin Aug 24 '11 at 13:31
    
You assert that "he does not want us to be robot worshipers" and then describe not worshiping as instructed to be "abuse [of free will]" -- that's self-contradictory. –  HedgeMage Aug 24 '11 at 13:50
    
@a_hardin: What Hedge is arguing about is your use of the word abuse. –  Ullallulloo Aug 29 '11 at 18:05
    
"He can use it" Period. What for? I don't know, and I'm not in a position to know. Neither do I care anymore. He can use it. He does. How? Am I God? "To make us perfect"... nope. Sometimes, suffering helps to bring us closer to Him, and that helps us on the road. But directly, no. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 12 '11 at 16:46
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Because God gave us free will. He is not interested in puppets on a string who just hop to his commands. He is interested in followers who of their own free will accept the knowledge of God.

Free will cannot (Without being internally coherent) exist and the choice to do evil not.

So it looks like God could either have created a puppet humanity with no free will with which he make sure their is no evil in the world or he can give humanity free will and with it the option to do evil (Even though he prohibits it.)

It seems he has chosen the latter.

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Do you want to be loved because that someone loves you, or because that someone doesn't have a choice? Slavery and love don't mix. IOW: I agree. :D –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 12 '11 at 16:52
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There are two basic approaches:

1. Blame Mankind

Evil and suffering exist because of mankind's disobedience to God. Exactly how this works is more difficult to comprehend. Certainly a lot of suffering is the direct result of man's actions, but other types of suffering - things like natural disasters - can't be justified quite so easily. They may be understood as the indirect result of man's actions, but demonstrating this brings its difficulties (a literal interpretation of Genesis makes this easier to explain but brings its own challanges).

2. Glorify God

We don't understand everything about why people suffer, but we can say what God's response is to it:

  1. Jesus came into the world and suffered along side us
  2. Jesus worked tirelessly to reduce the suffering of others
  3. Jesus died to free us from the sin that causes so much of our suffering
  4. Jesus rose again with the promise of a life to come that is free of suffering
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Oh, do you have any pointers to this literal interpretation of Genesis you mention? I think I'm of that opinion, but I'd love to read a (hopefully) learned treatise on it. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 12 '11 at 16:55
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@Jürgen: Sorry, no references, just logic. Belief in evolution seems to imply that physical death (and therefore at least some measure of suffering) existed before humans evolved, which implies that mankind's actions are not responsible for at least some of the bad things that happen. There is surely more to it than that, but comments are not the place to explore further (and to be honest I'd get out of my depth rather quickly). –  Kramii Sep 12 '11 at 17:18
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In my understanding there are different kinds of evil. A Christian needs to be able to discern between the different evils that are in this world. God knew that men would be evil, this is probably the reason why He created a realm just for man to reside within because God was probably not willing to let us defile the heavens.

God disciplining His children.

When you become a child of God, things are not always easier. God will discipline His children as if He were pruning a tree that it might produce better fruit.

Hebrews 12:7 NIV

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?

Many people do not recognize this as discipline, but instead see hardship as evil and/or suffering in the world. In the book of James we are told to take on this Hardship with Joy.

God is the source of Wrath/Evil for a just cause

Let's not discount God's ability to bring wrath and destruction onto/into the world. See in these next verses where God has actually promissed to bring evil/destruction upon sinners.

Isaiah 45:7 NIV

"I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things."

Amos 3:6 NIV

Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?

Joshua 23:15 NIV

But just as all the good things the LORD your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the LORD your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you.

1 Samuel 16:15 NIV

Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you.

Understand that God does these evil acts as acts of Justice. He tells us that all of His ways are Just and He does these things because of the wickedness of the people.

Job 34:10

“So listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do evil, from the Almighty to do wrong.

In Job it is referring to God doing evil for the sake of doing evil and not for a just purpose.

Man is the source of unjust Evil

In the last section I mentioned evil for two purposes, one for just purposes, which is the evil from God and the other for unjust purposes, which is not from God. Men on the other hand are continuously creating evil for the sake of being evil. This is what the gospel is all about. We are a wicked and filthy people, literally enemies of God.

Luke 6:45 NIV

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.

Matthew 13:41 NIV

The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

The mentions of evil that I cannot explain

Read the first paragraph of Ecclesiastes 6.

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Just a friendly FYI, you might want to edit your answer to include accurate Bible References. For instance Isaiah 45:7. I think you quoted the KJV, the NIV mentions disaster not evil. biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+45%3A7&version=NIV –  Steve Moser Sep 10 '11 at 19:32
    
@SteveMoser, Hi. Actually I've read the Hebrew words that were translated. They mean evil/destruction/disaster. –  Jonathon Byrd Sep 10 '11 at 19:43
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An interesting question might be what is the difference between wrath and evil. –  Steve Moser Sep 10 '11 at 19:53
    
So, what the KJV translates as evil can also be translated as destruction? Why then use such a misleading translation? If you translate as destruction, God stops doing evil. Interesting, don't you think? –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 12 '11 at 16:49
    
@jurgenaerhard, you must not understand God then. He is perfect in His justice. Meaning if you do evil, He will repay it with Evil. You must also understand that the Hebrew word that was used, means evil/destruction not one or the other. –  Jonathon Byrd Sep 12 '11 at 19:01
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Another argument for a existence of a just God despite the presence of evil is exactly that: the existence of evil. If God does not exist then morality is what humans make of it. If morality is what we make of it, then it shifts with time and location.

Yet throughout time and cultures, we see certain moral codes virtually everywhere. Stealing is bad. Adultery is bad. In other words, there are certain ideals that transcend humanity. Where else would they have come from if they didn't come from humans? They came from God. God impressed His law on each of our hearts.

In short, the existence of absolute evil in inexplainable by naturalistic causes.

Sorry for lack of citations. I dont have my resources with me.

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While this may make sense from a Christian perspective, the OP asked specifically about answers that are persuasive to non-believers. Because there are non-Christian religious and completely secular systems of morality that are objective rather than relative, this argument is very flimsy. Many non-Christians have objective moral systems. –  HedgeMage Aug 24 '11 at 14:07
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"there are certain ideals that transcend humanity. Where else would they have come from if they didn't come from humans?" I would say, no, they don't transcend humanity, they are common to humanity. And they are common because our values are (largely) common. E.g., no one wants to be murdered, and thus murder is a point of morals for all people. No one wants to be stolen from, so theft is a point of morals for all people. –  Chelonian Sep 1 '11 at 17:46
    
Stealing and adultery aren't, I think, quite as absolute as you make them out to be. Murder is a much better example. –  Jürgen A. Erhard Sep 12 '11 at 16:50
    
@JürgenA.Erhard That is my first reaction too but there are some cultures where murder isn't always wrong. For example, Muslims and Hindus have honor killings. Strangely, stealing and adultery are still considered immoral. –  Jeff Sep 26 '11 at 2:07
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I myself has always been partial to the line from the movie "Constantine:"

Angela Dodson: I guess God has a plan for all of us.

John Constantine: God's a kid with an ant farm, lady. He's not planning anything.

Now John's a cynic, and not a believer. In fact, at this point in the film he's about as un-sympathetic as possible without actually being the bad guy, with that line as one of the "cappers." But that doesn't mean it's not my answer.

God created us and gave us this place. It's ours, and we do with it what we like. If we build an interstate, it stays built; if we discover a vaccine, it keeps working; if we execute an innocent man, with one notable exception, he stays dead.

Some people stop there and claim then that there's no need for God, or even no room for God. But that isn't true. For starters, God isn't a child and this isn't an ant farm. He works on this planet, but not by stepping in and fixing it for us, but by working through us. Like a loving father, just because he "gave" it to us doesn't mean that he doesn't want to see us make the best of it.

And so we have the prophets, and the Incarnation, and the Spirit. Not to take it out of our hands and "fix it," but to show us the ways to make it better and to enable us to do so.

And, ultimately, I do believe God has a plan. A big one, bigger than we can possibly imagine. But I've sat through too many funerals and tragedies where "it's God will" was repeated to the point of desperate chanting, or poems read about why he sometimes picks the youngest flowers to pretty up his home, a phenomenon Rick Diamond calls "God the Monster." And I'm with him in saying: please stop saying that: "Just tell them you love them and your sorry this happened. That's enough."

After my mom's friend drowned in a riptide, there much of that. He was a well-beloved missionary and family man who was known for his kindness. And there was much "we don't know why this happened." And during that, I realized I did: loving God and ones family doesn't give someone the ability to breathe underwater. That's what makes riptides dangerous to everyone. And then I could start to mourn him.

After that, I stopped blaming God for not saving us from ourselves. The problems we have as a world, we have because we haven't solved them yet. The evil is that we let our own short-sighted self-interest and fear keep us from solving them. God is at work within us to correct that, if we will let him.

And that's how I would respond, but that's just my answer.

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Tim Keller in his book, Reason for God dedicates a chapter to this very issue. I'll provide a preview of what he says...

He states it this way:

If a good and powerful God exists, he would not allow pointless evil, but because there is much unjustifiable pointless evil in the world, the traditional good and powerful God could not exist. ... Tucked away within this assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely, that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless.

He then goes on to point out that just because you can't see a good reason why God might allow something to happen does not mean there can't be one. Beneath this skepticism is an enormous faith in one's own cognitive faculties.

If our minds can't plumb the depths of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can't be any! This is blind faith of a high order

Tim Keller, The Reason for God, Chapter 2 "How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?"

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Yes, your arguments are correct. Here is some expansion and support…

  1. The first and best answer to suffering is the freewill defense. For God to make free creatures is worthwhile; truly free creatures are able to act for good or evil. People who cannot do certain things are not truly free. A person needs no other response, but other responses are available to help make sense of suffering.
  2. The ability to suffer fulfills a valuable function; it signals that out body is about to be damaged. Without it we would do ourselves irreparable harm. --> There is a rare condition where people are unable to experience pain; this is not a blessing but a curse as children particularly are not aware, e.g., when their bodies are harmed by hot stove plates, etc. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Congenital_insensitivity_to_pain)
  3. Christian thinkers, such as Richard Swinburne, explain suffering in terms of a theodicy (an explanation of why God does what he does). Swinburne explains that suffering gives people opportunities for the development of character and virtues that they would not have had otherwise. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irenaean_theodicy)
  4. The ability to suffer forms the basis of a universal, intuitive moral code. Everyone recognizes that causing pain and suffering to innocents is wrong, regardless about what they believe about God. Without this code, people would be more evil than they are, with fewer consequences, making right and wrong a less serious affair. Hence, suffering is an essential ingredient in a world where right and wrong matter.
  5. Suffering makes our choices serious, adding value to our lives. Whether people work for good or evil; for themselves or others really matters in this life.
  6. Suffering provides warning that the end is near; it reminds us of our mortality, thus disposing us favorably to the need for salvation. Natural suffering (e.g. earthquakes, tsunamis) remind people that death can come at any time, and salvation is essential. --> It is most often those who do not experience suffering that see suffering as an obstacle to belief in God; those who actually suffer are often believers. --> People in poverty are more often believers than the affluent; people go to heaven homeless and to hell in comfort.
  7. With regards to death, it is within God’s prerogative to end life. If life is some sort of test, then a time limit was always part of God’s plan. When people kill each other it violates this plan, interfering with the test, but God alone chooses when people have had enough time to write.
  8. Suffering is a sign that all is not right with the world, confirming the biblical doctrine of the fall and sin. Providing a foundation for the gospel.
  9. Finite suffering (no matter how seriously) is ultimately inconsequential compared to eternity.

In summation, suffering fits with a world with right and wrong, where choices matter and where God is interested in more than just our temporary happiness. (Any answer to the contrary relies on the (quite childish) assumption that God only intends our comfort.)

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This has to be the finest overviews of this subject I have ever read. I would love to add this to my blog, but have no way to attribute it to its author. Alas! I hope you continue to post. –  Steve Jun 28 at 1:30
    
Thanks Steve. My name is on my profile. Love to be added to your blog. –  InsideOut Jun 28 at 22:58
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There's a fascinating dissection of Job that I recently read: http://www.bookofjob.org/

It's a pretty long and thorough analysis, but the summary is that God allows evil and suffering to happen because if he didn't then our love would be conditional on his protection from evil and suffering. Just like Satan says about Job, he only loves God because his life is free from suffering. God not only gives us free will, but has to allow a situation where we freely choose him out of love rather than in exchange for blessings.

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As a note, while this answer is compatible with Christianity, it is not, strictly speaking, a "Christian" answer to the question. Basically, it is a Christian's non-Christian approach.


I think that the question is misstated.

I don't believe in God because of evil.

Ok. What is evil? Basically, it eventually maps to suffering, so the new quote is:

I don't believe in God because people suffer.

Now, first whether God exists is completely irrelevant from whether we have the expectation that God should act to prevent all suffering. It is the difference between asking whether a thing exists and what qualities we can expect if we assume its existence. It could be that God does exist and God is evil. In such a world, suffering should exist and that should be the most suffering possible. The question, then, is:

Assuming the existence of God, is a good God compatible with the suffering we experience?

If the answer is "No" there are three possibilities:

  1. They believe that a good God would allow no suffering at all. I personally find this to be very unsatisfying as it reminds me of a parent who does not allow a child to do anything which could lead to the child's injury. This means no running and playing, no interacting with other kids, no exposure to even the slightest germ... We have seen these sheltered people, and while they may not have "suffered", they have certainly been denied some of the greatest of joys. Further, the ability to choose necessitates the ability to determine the lesser good. In a world without suffering, such a lesser does not exist. This means that all preferences and choices are equal. Such radical equality does not bring about the diversity which is such a boon to mankind.

    It may be possible that someone who comes to the conclusion of "good means no suffering" will agree that all of these outcomes are necessary (at this point, most will fall back to either "God cannot be good" or "there is too much suffering"). But, if someone is willing to posit all of these, then the final metric of their view of God is that their God is that he should be Dionysus. In such a case, one wonders why, exactly, they are debating the attributes of God, instead of involved in bakkheia.
  2. They do not believe that God can be good. This argument is a bit circular. They believe that the suffering we observe is not compatible with a good God because God cannot be good. If their justification for this belief is anything other than, "God is the deist God and does not relate to us individually", it will clearly be a circular argument and should not be pursued further. If it is the deist argument, then it must be the case that God knows us and has chosen our end. If God knows us and has chosen our end, then it must be the case that God has ordered our end for our benefit or detriment. This means that the deist condition is not an actual answer to the "is God good" question, merely a deferral.
  3. The believe the world is not good enough. Obviously some suffering is stipulated (if not, see the first point), but why is there so much suffering? Shouldn't we expect less? The failure of this argument is that it is inventing a yardstick which cannot be defined and then insisting that God measure up to their standards. How much suffering would be too much? 1/8 what we have today? 1/16? Why that much? Why not more? Why not less? How have they determined that there is any more suffering on this world than there needs to be? tldr; They haven't.

    "But what about babies?" they might ask, "Should they suffer too?" Unfortunately, without some form of yardstick, some form of metric which defines "too much", the assertions of "God is insufficient" really has no meaning.

From here the conversation will diverge, but the important path forward is that you keep forcing them to define their terms. Eventually the argument leads to circuity, a self-contradictory definition, or the aforementioned yardstick becomes an arbitrary piece of wood. You may never win this, but so long as you don't let your opponent get away with vague generalities and ambiguously defined terms, they will be frustrated.

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May I propose a "love of particular persons" theodicy. God loves us, not just as persons in general, but as particular persons. Persons in general could exist in a perfect world, but the particular persons whom we are could not exist except in a world of imperfection. In a perfect world, none of us would have ever been born, even though others would be born in our place. God loves us as particular persons, as individuals, and shows his love for us by bringing us into existence; and in order to bring us into existence (as particular persons), he must bring into existence the imperfect world which is necessary for our existence, and all the evils which that entails.

Without the suffering of others, we would never be born. Sure, people would still be born, but different people from us. The set of children that are born is determined by who mates with whom, which is determined by many factors which natural disasters, wars, genocides, etc., will have a heavy influence upon. To start with, people die, and thus are removed from the mating pool; thus any children they might have bore will never be born, but at the same time, those partners who would have had kids with them may well instead have different kids with different people - thus the death of others purchases our existence. Disasters make people move long distances, and thus they may meet people and have kids with them whom they never would have met but for the disaster. So Hurricanes and Holocausts and Hiroshimas - these are all ways that God shows his love for us. He shows his love for us by causing us to exist, and he does so by bringing about the evils necessary to our existence. This is the true "original sin" - the sin without which I am not, the sin of my own existence.

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This question indeed must have made many a person think which ever religion he may believe in concerning the existence of "evil and Suffering". To many the one responsible is the devil or satan as referred by the church.It is very true in the mind of many that all the wickedness and evil around us is caused by the devil.

As a bible believing Christian we need to ask ourselves "who is the God of the Bible" or "how do we explain the Bible". I believe if Christians can explain and come to understand who this God is, the question of all the evil in this world will be understood. My theory concerning the God of The Bible is very simple. I generally say to people to listen to my thoughts and see if it makes sense,examine it with the Holy scriptures.

Firstly the Bible is all about God.The Bible is Gods story. It is the History of a God. If any one wants to know about God you will find his story in the Holy Bible. Children of the Christian faith have come to the knowledge of God through only one medium that is the Holy Bible..this means The Bible is the History of God. If the Bible is Gods Story,there must be role players in "His" story".All stories have role players if not person they are things. In God Story there are four main role players. Each one is created to play their role.God is the director and producer of his story. The first role player is Man. Man has been created to worship the creator,that is mans supreme role and the highest form of worship is "Obedience". In obedience I mean carry out the will and command of God on earth.May I just mention that obedience is better then sacrifice. The second role player is called Satan,some refer to him as a Lucifer or the evil one.Satan is just carrying out his role. His role is to kill,devour steal and destroy as found in John:10:10. to my knowledge Satan has carried out his role very well. In fact God the father is very pleased in the manner Satan is carrying out his role. There was just one place and time where God the Father rebuked him, this is found in the Book of Job, when God rebuked him for lazing around. The Third role player is Jesus. His role is to redeem fallen man.Redeem man who has fallen from a life of obedience. It is my understanding that every person who has accepted Jesus as their lord has now to live a life of a obedience. Man has been saved from a life of disobedience to live a life of obedience. Man was a servant of unrighteousness but through Christ he us now a servant of righteousness.

The FOUTH Role player is the Holy Spirit. His role is to help redeemed man to live a life of obedience. He us called the Helper.

Now may I state some facts, theologians have told us that Lucifer was a anointed cherub,a sweet singing angel. They told us that lucifer rebelled against God quoting Isaiah 14th chapter and Ezekiel 28 chapter. But what they did not tell us was who caused "lucifer " to rebel. We know who caused Eve to rebel against God. Who than cause This sweet singing anointed cherub to Rebel. If Lucifer was created perfect as mentioned by theologians, who seduced him. May I say that there is nothing absolutely nothing Satan can do without our God the father. There is only one power source, God the father is that power source..there is no other power than the Power given by God. So may I ask what can.....lucifer...Satan...the dragon...the evil one...or what ever name you want to call him can do. May I ask if there was not evil how would you know Good, if there was no darkness how would you know light. The whole bible is Gods story. His story will end after the white throne judgement. There after there will be a new story which starts with a New Heaven and a New

I wish to remind readers that I have yet to find someone to correct my theory concerning the "God Of the Bible" I would appreciate your comments.

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Welcome to C.SE. Good start! Be sure to check out our help center and What makes us different from other sites –  Affable Geek Jun 28 at 13:01
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If there is an all powerful Creator, why does evil exist?

Another way of thinking about it is to consider who initiates wicked actions, which gives two possibilities, Divine responsibility or human culpability.

  1. God directs his subjects to commit sins for reasons unknown to us. This is known as predestination. The troubling implication is that we should celebrate rather than abhor these bad deeds because our Maker must surely have a greater good in mind.

    The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. (Proverbs 16:4)

  2. Mankind has been granted free will and hence is able to elect to do evil. This is a more straightforward explanation and easier to accept.

    For if we wilfully persist in sin after having received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. (Hebrews 10:26)

Why doesn't God just appear unambiguously?

Imagine if our Maker just showed up in majesty and glory. Assuming we could live to tell the tale, we would no longer need faith. All nontheists would immediately become believers out of fear. The most important human choice would cease to be, and freedom and responsibility would effectively come to an end.

Why does God allow suffering?

Our faith is often tested when we witness people undergoing great adversity and pain due to some sort of calamity like a natural disaster. We wonder why such a catastrophe could be allowed to happen. The earth is governed by various physical processes and these work intricately together to enable us to live. The same forces that can cause so much trauma can also be supportive or even essential to our very existence, rain being a good example. Hard though it is to accept, suffering, like evil, is is a by product of our free will and frequent interventions to prevent it would have similar consequences for us as full revelation.

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A couple of questions for you - Different denominations have different views on predestination and suffering. Which of these does your answer represent? Can you support that with any quotations or citations of church teachings? Without that kind of support, this sounds more like your own personal opinion than the theology of a group. Edit your answer to put that information in and it will be so much better. –  Matt Gutting 2 days ago
    
I give the 2 views and have now added a Bible verse for each, but I lean towards free will as it is a more satisfactory explanation of the existence of evil and for God's apparent inaction over suffering in the world, at least for me. I've not heard a good explanation for the predestination case. The ones I've come across centre around God having a universal view in which He is happy vs a personal view in which He is sad at the evil or suffering. –  mcarans yesterday
    
Much better! Upvoted accordingly. –  Matt Gutting yesterday
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the first human couple rebelled against God’s rulership, choosing to set their own standards of good and bad. They turned away from God and suffered the consequences.“Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin,” “and thus death spread to ALL men because they had all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

Today as their descendants we are experiencing the effects of their bad choice. But God did not originate human suffering. The Bible says: “When under trial, let no one say: ‘I am being tried by God.’ For with evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (James 1:13) Suffering can afflict anyone—even those who are favored by God

the bible highlights some of the factors why evil and suffering exist

“Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

“Time and unforeseen occurrence befall them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

God does not rule the world “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (John 12:31; 1 John 5:19)

the question is why does god not rule the world. why does he let it happen. does he care?

he is allowing time to pass for Satan to fully express his authority over the world and prove his failure as a ruler.

mans temporary suffering proves that we need his guidance and protection and his rulership something adam rejected.

and as prophecy confirms (psalms 37:9) “There is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.” (John 12:31) god will step in very soon to end suffering and give us back the conditions on earth adam lost out on. REV 21:3,4

which was always GODS original intention

Gen 1: 28 Further, God blessed them, and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many, fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving on the earth.”

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Welcome to the site! This doesn't really have much to do with your answer, but I find that sharing the following tends to help new visitors avoid mistaking the purpose of this site. I do hope to see more from you! When you get a chance, please see How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Feb 23 at 23:55
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God is Breath Here are the verses that prove this

God is Breath, and those who worship Him must worship in breath and truth. (John 4:24)

Error entered into the world with the knowledge of Function and Dysfunction

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:17 NKJV)

Words of Perfection and Words of Error

We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the breath of truth and the breath of error. (1 John 4:6)

Error creates suffering
What proof do I need? Just ask anyone who is suffering from a medical error, or a computer malfunction, all the way to the slightest mistake for a woman painting her nails.

With God there is no error he is perfect.

As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. (2 Sa 22:31 NKJV)

There is Evil and Suffering in the World Because we Sin

And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Breath within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. (Rom 8:23)

So Then Since You Do Not Like Sin Repent

From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat 4:17)

The Kingdom of Perfection! That will be so sweet!

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God exists and evil exists. Evil, according to Maimonides, the preeminent mediaeval Spanish rabbi and philosopher, comes in three varieties. Natural evils, evils committed against ourselves, and evils commited against other humans.

Natural evils are what the name implies–evils existing in nature. Natural evils are not intrinsically evil, and affect us only as a result of the fall of humanity. Because of plate tectonics, there are tsunamis and earthquakes. Because of genetic mutations, genetic illnesses sometimes arise, such as sickle cell anaemia, Tay-Sachs disease, or haemophilia.

Planetary scientists argue that the existence of tectonic plates is a necessity. Without them, the quintessential ingredients of life–hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen–would not be replenished. Without the existence of genetic mutations, human life would have never emerged. Human beings exist as a result of mutations in hominids that caused the genus Homo and eventually the species Homo sapiens to arise.

Philosophers often ask hypothetically the question 'What would we expect the world to be like if an omniscient, omnibenevolent God existed?' No child would die. No adult would die. Poverty, hunger, and disease would not exist. There would be no natural disasters. Yet we as modern humans understand how slender the limits within which a universe could emerge, and how much more slender the conditions for the emergence of life are. A world in which there would be no mutation or disaster is a world that exists only in fantasies. We have only the world that is.

These last two evils–evils commited against ourselves and evils commited against other humans–arise as a result of human free will. Human beings murder, rape, steal, and covet. The person who eats a poor diet complains to God about his obesity. The adultress complains about her divorce.

The existence of free will is often criticised. Could God not have created human beings who freely chose good, never evil? The answer is a simple no. Self-control is a virtue to be cultivated. The freedom to choose means the freedom to choose all avaliable options, which is in this case, both good and evil.

The philosopher John Cottingham says something fascinating about religious faith and protest against evil. "The most profoundly spiritual and passionately religious people in the world's history, the people who produced Moses and the propherts and Jesus and Paul, were a people whose history was conspicuous by the most terrible suffering, the cataclysmic tramas of slavery, wandering in the desert, a homeland marked by the ever present treat of war and annihilation, brutual captivity, exile, ruthless suppression and control by a series of imperial subjugators. This is the poeple who reflected endlessely on chesed, the loving kindess of God, who produced the immortal lines, ach tov va'chesed yirdefuni kol yemi chayai–'surely thy goodness and loving kiness shall follow me all the days of my life'."

The existence of evil is not an obsticle in the way of belief in God, but reason all the more. In the words of Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, "It is a refusal to accept evil as inevitable, but at the same time and acknowledgement that we cannot leave redemption entirely to God...God is not the solution of a contradiction, but a call to become his partners in the work of redemption." It is a call to hope in our darkest hour. It is a call to justice in the face of crimes. Christianity is a religion of protest. We are to accept only that which we cannot change.

To quote Sacks once again, the man whose argument is paraphrased in this essay, "Perhaps this is not the world we would have chosen, but it is the only one we have. Either we resign ourselves to the evil it contains, or we resister a protest against it."

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Is this really a Christian answer? You quote two rabbis! And I'd have to question whether you're right about 'natural evils'... many Christians believe they exist only because of the fall. –  curiousdannii Jun 26 at 23:45
    
@curiousdannii I fail to see your point. I quoted two rabbis because their explanations on the existence of evil are sounder than any Christian argument I have ever encountered. The true measure of wisdom is to recognise that of others. Just because many Christians believe that natural evils exists just because of the fall does not mean that they are necessarily right. Science teaches us that genetic mutations have existed since the earliest life forms. Sin, death, and disease entered the world through the Fall, but disaster and mutations have always existed, and are not by nature evil. –  Jules Jun 26 at 23:51
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This site is for Christian questions and answers. There's no problem with quoting rabbis as long as you can also show that some Christian denomination or group agrees with them. –  curiousdannii Jun 27 at 0:59
    
Jules, this is a very good answer for a general religions SE site, if there were such a one; this particular site is focused on the theology of particular Christian denominations, which often have very different understandings of "the problem of evil". If you can find a way to add into your answer some information about specific Christian denominations which agree with your interpretations, I'll vote this up in a heartbeat. –  Matt Gutting Jun 27 at 13:25
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No. The arguement is not correct. God gives us choice. Evil and suffering exist as a result of sin and its consequences. God does not overide our choices or the results of them. Malachi 3;6

  1. God's goodness.

    a. 1 John 4; 7,8,9

    1. Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God: and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

    2. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

    3. In this is manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into this world, that we might live through him.

    b. Jeremiah 29;11

    For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you and expected end.

    c. Malachi 3;6

    For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob ae not consumed.

  2. Sin (Iniquity)

    a. 1 John 3;4

    Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.

    b. Matthew 15;19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

    c, Matthew 6;23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!

  3. Satan

    a. Revelation 12;7,8,9 And there was war in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

    b. And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.

    c. And the great dragon was cast out, that serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he as cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

    d. Ephesians 2;2

    Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, The spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience

    e. Matthew 13;38

    The field is the world; the good seed are the chidren of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;

    f. Matthew 13;39

    The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

    g. Ezekiel 28;14,15

    1. 14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God: thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

    2. 15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways From the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

    3. 17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou has corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings , that they may behold thee.

    4. 18 Thou has defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities , by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.

    h. Isaiah 14;12,16,17,20

    1. 12 How art thy fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, Son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

    2. 16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;

    3. 17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?

    4. 20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

      i Revelation 12;12

    5. 12 Therefore, rejoice ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.

  4. The Fall

    a. Genesis 2;16,17

    1. 16 And the LORD God commanded the man saying, of every tree of the garden thou may freely eat;

    2. 17 But the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest of thou shalt surely die.

    b. Genesis 3;15,17,18

    1. 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

    2. 17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast harkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, thou shalt not eat of it: Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

    3. 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to there; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

  5. Evil and suffering will end when Jesus returns.

    a. Revelation 16;15

    1. Behold, I come as a theif. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
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One of the ways I can address "I can't believe in a good God when there is evil and suffering in the world" is by asking if the questioner considers himself a good person. When he answers yes, then I can tell him that a good person can make a leisure lifestyle the thrust of his life, the pursuit of happiness and fun, with very little of helping other people along the way.

Therefore, if he considers himself to be good and not live a life of relieving evil in the world, then why could not God, who is good, have sensible reasons not to engage in resisting evil in the world?

Since the good person could rationalize why he doesn't do more in life to help the sufferers, he should either admit that he is a hypocrite calling himself good and not helping others, or not being able to make that leap, admit that there might be some reasons why a God would not do all He could to ease the suffering of others.

Since the good person does not address the suffering as much as he could, and he exists and cannot deny himself, then he has to admit that it's a poor argument by which to deny believing in a God who also isn't doing as much good as he would like to see.

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A good person is neither omniscient nor omnipotent, making the analogy fall short. –  Flimzy May 5 at 14:37
    
@Flimzy Your observation is fair. However, the OP only makes reference to the "good" of God, not any other trait. –  Steve May 6 at 0:04
    
That's true, although the argument as commonly put forward, and the only way it makes sense, is if the good God is also omnipotent and omniscient. –  Flimzy May 6 at 0:19
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my goodness, they've lifted the censorship. how magnanimous.

the primary reason evil exists is because God truly, completely, and freely grants human beings free will. no strings attached. the fallen nature of our human race is axiomatic in Christian theology. and it ain't God's fault and it is logically unreasonable to blame God for evil that is the making of humankind. we must take it as a grace or a blessing that God loves us so much that we are not created puppets or robots.

suffering does occur because of evil, but not all of it. tornadoes or hurricanes or earthquakes or tsunamis are not evil. being killed and eaten by a Bengal tiger is not evil. being maimed or killed in a car accident is not (usually) evil. (but it is suffering.) it is reality, which sometimes is hazardous. but, because of the nature of humankind, which is a byproduct of our true free will (no strings attached) bestowed on us by a God that really and fundamentally loves us to grant us such being, there is much evil in the world and there is much suffering because of it.

but suffering is not foreign to the nature of God. first, this should be obvious to the Christian believer because of the very nature and story of the historical Emanuel (a.k.a. "the Word became flesh").

even though Jesus really did preach to a vision of how humankind can reduce suffering as a consequence of the occurrence of sin and evil (these were part of Jesus' teaching, e.g. Sermon on the Mount) with right horizontal and vertical relationships, God does not necessarily "solve" our suffering (by just omnipotently making it "go away"). the Lord of the Universe shares our suffering and even then some (like the suffering we place on Jesus, all of us have participated in sinning against Jesus when we sin against "even the least of these"). God suffers with us; alongside of us. no matter what the suffering is.

suffering exists partly because of evil. and suffering exists because it is in God's nature to take on suffering. and, being children of God, it is our lot, too. suffering at the hands of evil, suffering as a result of our own sin, and suffering as a consequence of reality in a sometimes hazardous world.

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