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The following is a more succinct presentation of the Logical Problem of Evil based on the original presentation found in the introduction of the article Logical Problem of Evil | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Logical Problem of Evil

The existence of evil and suffering in our world seems to pose a serious challenge to belief in the existence of a perfect God. If God were all-knowing, it seems that God would know about all of the horrible things that happen in our world. If God were all-powerful, God would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. Furthermore, if God were morally perfect, then surely God would want to do something about it. And yet we find that our world is filled with countless instances of evil and suffering. These facts about evil and suffering seem to conflict with the orthodox theist claim that there exists a perfectly good God. The challenge posed by this apparent conflict has come to be known as the problem of evil.

This article addresses one form of that problem that is prominent in recent philosophical discussions–that the conflict that exists between the claims of orthodox theism and the facts about evil and suffering in our world is a logical one. This is the “logical problem of evil.”

Formal argument

  1. God is omnipotent (that is, all-powerful).
  2. God is omniscient (that is, all-knowing).
  3. God is perfectly good.
  4. Evil exists
  5. If God is omnipotent, he would be able to prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.
  6. If God is omniscient, he would know about all of the evil and suffering in the world and would know how to eliminate or prevent it.
  7. If God is perfectly good, he would want to prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.
  8. If God knows about all of the evil and suffering in the world, knows how to eliminate or prevent it, is powerful enough to prevent it, and yet does not prevent it, he must not be perfectly good.
  9. If God knows about all of the evil and suffering, knows how to eliminate or prevent it, wants to prevent it, and yet does not do so, he must not be all- powerful.
  10. If God is powerful enough to prevent all of the evil and suffering, wants to do so, and yet does not, he must not know about all of the suffering or know how to eliminate or prevent it—that is, he must not be all-knowing.
  11. If evil and suffering exist, then God is either not omnipotent, not omniscient, or not perfectly good. (from 8-10)
  12. God is either not omnipotent, not omniscient, or not perfectly good. (from 4 and 11)
  13. God is omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good. (from 1-3)

There is no way that (12) and (13) could both be true at the same time. These statements are logically inconsistent or contradictory.

Statement (13) is simply the conjunction of (1) through (3) and expresses the central belief of classical theism. However, atheologians claim that statement (12) can also be derived from (1) through (3). [Statements (5) through (11) purport to show how this is done.] (12) and (13), however, are logically contradictory. Because a contradiction can be deduced from statements (1) through (4) and because all theists believe (1) through (4), atheologians claim that theists have logically inconsistent beliefs. They note that philosophers have always believed it is never rational to believe something contradictory. So, the existence of evil and suffering makes theists’ belief in the existence of a perfect God irrational.

What are Christian responses, in terms of defenses and theodicies, to this specific presentation of the Logical Problem of Evil? Do they specifically challenge certain premises or steps in the argument's reasoning process? Answers that provide detailed insights into the challenged steps of the argument would be greatly appreciated.

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    This was dealt with in depth twelve years ago when the site first opened. Why do evil and suffering exist ?. The accepted answer covers this question also.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 11 at 7:45
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    @NigelJ That question lacks focus. This one is based on a very specific formal presentation of the logical problem of evil.
    – Mark
    Feb 11 at 8:18
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    . . . . . . which makes your own question more philosophical and much less a matter of Christianity. Yes, I agree.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 11 at 8:55
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    The question itself is derived from the finite perspective of man with limited knowledge and assumes it to be sufficiencient towards the justification of an all-knowing and infinite God. Much like discipline administered from a loving parent to a child; what may seem unjust from the perspective of the child is perfectly justified from the perspective of the parent. I, however, argue that God is not intervening at all in His current age of grace. It is the hearts of men that are evil continually, but God has offered evil man the free gift of salvation from ourselves through having faith in Him. Feb 11 at 15:03
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    @MarkVestal God is not intervening at all in His current age of grace? Is that Deism or Cessationism? Feb 12 at 13:09

8 Answers 8

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Logical response

The argument is unsound because premises 7 & 8 are false. The wording of premise 5 is suspect, but to defeat the argument I don't need to tackle the meaning of "Omnipotent" since premises 7 & 8 will bring down the argument on their own.

With premises 7 & 8 removed, #12 is no longer valid, and #13 remains a logically valid conclusion, without contradiction.

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Theological response

It is helpful to recognize that God is not a fairy godmother or a genie who grants X number of wishes. He is our Father (see Hebrews 12:9), and as a good father He is more interested in our well-being than in our comfort.

Malachi compares God to a refiner's fire (see Malachi 3:2-3); He does not refine us because it will be comfortable; He does it because of the worthwhile end result:

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:16-17)

Granting us moral agency (see Joshua 24:15) entails allowing evil to exist. Carrying out His purposes in a fallen world entails allowing suffering to exist.

If the end result described in Romans 8 requires moral agency (I affirm that it does and would be happy to argue that in a separate question, if needed), and if the development God intends for us is development that is designed to occur outside of God's immediate presence (see my argument here), then a loving God would allow evil & suffering to exist.

Atheists sometimes struggle to grasp this argument because, in their worldview, death is final. Justice not meted out in this world is justice denied. There is no opportunity for growth & development to come from tragedy because there is no afterlife. Although they are welcome to use their God-given agency to choose this worldview, to use this to argue against the existence of God is just begging the question.

The moment we open the door to an afterlife--especially an afterlife that is far greater in scope & duration than mortal life--theological explanations for human suffering in mortality abound. My own experience gives me the conviction that God does hear & answer prayers, but He does not always give the answer I want. God could give us what we want today, but He loves us enough to offer something eternally better.

The difference between short-term vs. long-term perspective is captured beautifully by Douglas Malloch's poem Good Timber:

The tree that never had to fight For sun and sky and air and light, But stood out in the open plain And always got its share of rain, Never became a forest king But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil To gain and farm his patch of soil, Who never had to win his share Of sun and sky and light and air, Never became a manly man But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease, The stronger wind, the stronger trees, The further sky, the greater length, The more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth We find the patriarchs of both. And they hold counsel with the stars Whose broken branches show the scars Of many winds and much of strife. This is the common law of life.

The eternal perspective granted by God makes sense of what is otherwise insensible.

(A theological discussion of why God lets us grow, rather than creating us fully-grown, is found in my post here. He does not create us "fully grown" for the same reason He does not create square circles. Such creation would, theologically, be a contradiction in terms).

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Conclusion

Premises 7 & 8 get it backwards.

Any parent who has helped a child learn to walk or to ride a bike intuitively understands that it would not be loving to surround our children in bubble wrap, hide them from all human interaction, and never let them try something they might fail the first time. Loving parents do not prevent all pain & injury--within certain limits, these are features of growth.

Agony in this life can be absolutely excruciating (Jesus understands this firsthand). An eternal perspective allows the contrast between the comparatively momentary trials of this life and the enduring nature of the afterlife discussed in my post here.

In the moment a baby falls while trying to walk, there may be pain that feels purposeless. In hindsight, the baby will find that walking unlocks potential that far exceeds the suffering along the way. A loving parent will carefully limit the extent of the possible injury (e.g. not teaching a baby to walk on an interstate highway), but will not prevent injury entirely. To limit their child's growth in this way would not be loving.

In the moment a person suffers the harms of great evil in this world, there may be pain that feels purposeless. In hindsight, children of God will find that the experience of mortality in a fallen world unlocks potential that far exceeds the suffering along the way. A loving God carefully limits the extent of the possible injury (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:13, 1 Cor 15:22), but will not prevent suffering entirely. To limit His children's growth in this way would not be loving.

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  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Christianity Meta, or in Christianity Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Ken Graham
    Feb 11 at 22:45
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    8 is not a premise. It is a lemma following from premises 5, 6, & 7. The argument presented here does not (and does not need to) address 8, it only addresses 7
    – Tristan
    Feb 12 at 16:56
  • @Tristan thanks. I think that was indeed the intent of the argument and I thought about responding to it in this way, but since the word "want" in P7 introduces some ambiguity of meaning, I went ahead and treated 8 as an additional claim worth challenging. Feb 12 at 18:18
  • Probably of interest: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/100129/61679
    – Mark
    Feb 12 at 18:31
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    The common theme is the tendency to proclaim at the start that they are arguing against the concept of an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent God, but then at some point they slip in a substitute which is not omniscient, and then proceed to attack that straw man.
    – EvilSnack
    Feb 17 at 4:10
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To respond to this specific presentation, we can address three errors in the arguments.

Definition of evil

The first one is with the argument number 4. Here is not defined what is meant with "evil". Yes, this exists, but what do you mean with evil? If for an act of racism they do not allow you to enlist yourself in the army, but the next day it starts a war, and you would not longer participate in it. Is that temporary emotional suffering something evil or does it become something good when comparing it in with the whole context, by helping you to avoid a greater evil?

While all is vanity, to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:. ... God hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their {the sons of men} heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end (Ecl. 3:1,11; Cf. Rom. 8:28).

The omniscience of God

The second problem is with the argument affirmed in the second point. According to this, God has all the knowledge in a perfect way, much more than any of the humans. However, due to the form of argumentation of the points 8 to 11, the fallible human is placed as a judge of what should be done with the problem of evil. It is the man who decides not only what God should do with evil, but also how should do it. If not, if it is any other form or option is made invalid regardless that this comes from a perfect God as described in the points 1 to 3.

That is why God rebukes them by telling them: thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself (Psal. 50:21; cf. Job 36: 22-23)

Assumption of inoperance

My third argument is based on the points 8 to 11. By stating that evil still exists (4), it is assumed that God is not acting. Is like the one who sees a sick man with pain in the arm, and doesn't know he is taking his pills and thinks he is not doing anything. And think to himself: "To avoid the pain of that person, that evil, in the fastest way posible, the arm should be removed". But he can't see inside their body, as his medicine is acting to improve his condition. His distrust does not prevent the total recovery of that man when his treatment ends, maintaining his arms intact.

What does the man know of the works that God is doing or not? In fact, God is doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? (Isa. 43:19). He has a perfect plan since eternity and calls you to repent of all your evil doings.

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isa. 55:7). For this pardon, He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (Joh 3:12). That Son, Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2). And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new (Rev. 21:5). Even the creation itself waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God with an earnest expectation. For the creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8: 19-23). There, God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away (Rev. 21:4).

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2Pe 3:9).

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    "By stating that evil still exists (4), it is assumed that God is not acting" - if an all-powerful being acts to remove something, that thing would not exist. The actions of us humans are bound by our abilities, by our knowledge, and by time, but an all-powerful being has no such limitations. For your sick man example, if God wants him to not be sick, he wouldn't need to take the "fastest" way us humans can take of removing his arm - he can just instantly cure the man. You could argue that God does not act to remove evil for a reason, but you can't argue that God is acting.
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 11 at 3:56
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    Doesn't Christianity itself talk extensively about what evil is? It could be said to be antithetical to the traits of God. This is hardly a new concept introduced by the problem of evil. Although the Wikipedia page on the problem of evil discusses how one could define that. Although, whether you'd call that evil or not, I'd say the problem is unnecessary suffering (i.e. suffering that doesn't serve some greater good).
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 11 at 4:11
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    @NotThatGuy God is acting. He sent his Son to free us from evil. He is using preaching and the Holy Spirit to transform people's hearts and thus reduce evil even in this world. All our perception is bound by our abilities, by our knowledge, and by time. Certainly He has no limitations, but we do at the moment of perceiving the works He does. Feb 11 at 4:11
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    @NotThatGuy a greater good for Whom? There we start with a problem of perspectives Feb 11 at 4:13
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    If you're trying to argue that "good" and "evil" are meaningless and subjective, you may run into some theological problems with saying God is "good". Do you say God is good? Good for whom? There we start with a problem of perspectives. (See what I did there?) There are responses to the criticism you're raising, but that criticism would apply equally well to Christianity as a whole, so it doesn't really seem like you've fully thought through the implications of what you're saying (or you hold to somewhat more fringe Christian views).
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 11 at 5:02
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This post will critique premise 7 from a Latter-day Saint perspective.

Moral agency

Agency--the ability to choose--is a central feature of God's plan of Salvation. In the pre-mortal realm, Satan sought to destroy the agency of man (see Moses 4:3), proposing in place of God's plan an alternative in which there would be no moral accountability. This could be deceptively branded as a success because no one would be guilty of sin, but in reality it would be a great failure for no one would be able to progress.

Satan's plan would have blocked God's children from receiving eternal life, stopping their eternal growth in order to avoid the (sometimes very painful) consequences that come from free will. God the Father rejected this counterfeit. His purpose was also described by Moses:

For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man (Moses 1:39).

  • Immortality = living forever
  • Eternal life = the kind of life that God has

We chose to accept God's plan. We are voluntary participants in a world in which bad things happen:

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life. (The Family - A Proclamation to the World, par. 3)

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Probation & Opposition

A succinct purpose statement for this life was described by God in the pre-mortal existence:

We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell; And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them (Abraham 3:24b-25)

We live in a fallen world (see a summary of what this means in my work here: The Vital Doctrine We Call The Fall) but it is a stop along our path, not our intended destination. Alma taught of the probationary nature of our time here:

there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God (Alma 12:24b)

A time of testing, training, & development in which there was no challenge would produce no growth. The prophet Lehi taught:

For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so, my firstborn in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad. Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility. (2 Nephi 2:11)

Because we have moral agency and we have opposition, as also taught by Lehi:

Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself. (2 Nephi 2:27)

If heaven were just idly sitting on a cloud, maybe playing a harp (or perhaps a lyre?), the need for development & preparation may not make sense. But eternal life is to live the kind of life that God has, to do as He does, to be as He is (see discussion of Theosis here). This kind of power, future, and opportunity is not to be taken lightly, and God is developing us into the kind of people who are prepared for this future. To quote Dale G. Renlund:

But God is not interested in His children just becoming trained and obedient “pets” who will not chew on His slippers in the celestial living room. No, God wants His children to grow up spiritually and join Him in the family business. (source).

This is a lofty future and it is quite some journey to get there.

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The Atonement of Jesus Christ

We are hopelessly unable to attain this future on our own. God the Father sent His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior. He performed the atonement, including suffering for our sins, feeling our pains, voluntarily giving His life, and rising from the dead to immortal glory. Some of the things accomplished by this central act of all eternity are:

  • To give Him perfect understanding of our pains & struggles (see Alma 7:11-13)
  • To redeem us from the Fall (see 2 Nephi 2:26)
  • To pay the price of sin, giving Him the ability to blot out our sins and make us clean (see Moroni 10:33-34)
  • To change our nature, if we are willing participants in His covenants (see Mosiah 5:2)
  • To not only get us back to the point where we started (what would be the point?), but to elevate us somewhere we had never been before (see Doctrine & Covenants 76:50-70)

Salvation is not a cheap experience.

When we find ourselves in circumstances where it is really hard, when the world gets really bad, the words the Lord spoke to Joseph Smith (when he was wrongfully imprisoned in a frigid dungeon facing probable death while his friends were forced from their homes and violently driven from the state of Missouri) shine a bright light of hope & purpose:

7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? (Doctrine & Covenants 122:7-8, emphasis mine).

Perhaps nowhere is our Savior & Redeemer closer to us than when our pain & anguish is the greatest. He felt it. He is a willing participant in this plan too. Through His infinite & eternal atoning sacrifice He made it possible for us to learn from our experiences without being condemned by them, and He charted a course from wherever we are--wherever we are--to where He is.

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Eternal Perspective

The OP asked for a response to the logical problem of evil, not the more popular emotional problem of evil. These concepts are hard. Sometimes we want to be told things will be easy and everything is just fine. That's not the program we signed up for. But when we saw God's plan we shouted for joy (see Job 38:7), not because of the lowest points of the journey, but because of the destination.

Two quotes below capture for me a portion of what it means to maintain an eternal perspective--which only works, of course, if we have full trust in our Heavenly Father, His plan, and His promises.

From the prophet Joseph Smith:

“All your losses will be made up to you in the resurrection, provided you continue faithful. By the vision of the Almighty I have seen it.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 296.)

And from President Spencer W. Kimball:

If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.

If joy and peace and rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be no evil—all would do good but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.

Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, nor eternal life

...

Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery.

...

I would likely have protected Paul against his woes if my power were boundless. I would surely have healed his “thorn in the flesh.” And in doing so I might have foiled the Lord’s program...Paul many times could have lost himself if he had been eloquent, well, handsome, and free from the things that made him humble.

...

With such uncontrolled power, I surely would have felt to protect Christ from the agony in Gethsemane, the insults, the thorny crown, the indignities in the court, the physical injuries. I would have administered to his wounds and healed them, giving him cooling water instead of vinegar. I might have saved him from suffering and death, and lost to the world his atoning sacrifice. (source)

How grateful I am that God, seeing the bigger picture, does not always give us what feels good in the moment.

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Specific examples from the Book of Mormon

In addition to the broad contours of the Plan of Salvation discussed above, the Book of Mormon gives several specific examples--two of which I'll cite here:

The prophet Mormon recognized that affliction can humble people who are otherwise too self-confident and too comfortable to see why they need God:

2 Yea, and we may see at the very time when he doth prosper his people...doing all things for the welfare and happiness of his people; yea, then is the time that they do harden their hearts, and do forget the Lord their God, and do trample under their feet the Holy One—yea, and this because of their ease, and their exceedingly great prosperity.

3 And thus we see that except the Lord doth chasten his people with many afflictions, yea, except he doth visit them with death and with terror, and with famine and with all manner of pestilence, they will not remember him. (Helaman 12:2-3)

(I'll trust God over my own wisdom as to when & where this eternal-parenting technique is best applied)

But wait, you might say. In all this theory you haven't grappled with just how bad this world can be. Let's fill the comments with counterexamples so abhorrent that we can claim that even God with all eternity at His disposal cannot mend these wounds (I emphatically disagree, I'm just offering an antithesis. I firmly do believe that the Master Healer can heal even such ghastly wounds).

Okay, let's go there.

Alma 14 offers the problem of evil in one of it's clearest forms. I recommend the whole chapter; I'll cite just a portion of it here.

8 And they [the wicked people of Ammonihah] brought their [the faithful believers] wives and children together, and whosoever believed or had been taught to believe in the word of God they caused that they should be cast into the fire; and they also brought forth their records which contained the holy scriptures, and cast them into the fire also, that they might be burned and destroyed by fire.

9 And it came to pass that they took Alma and Amulek [who had taught these people the Gospel], and carried them forth to the place of martyrdom, that they might witness the destruction of those who were consumed by fire.

10 And when Amulek saw the pains of the women and children who were consuming in the fire, he also was pained; and he said unto Alma: How can we witness this awful scene? Therefore let us stretch forth our hands, and exercise the power of God which is in us, and save them from the flames.

11 But Alma said unto him: The Spirit constraineth me that I must not stretch forth mine hand; for behold the Lord receiveth them up unto himself, in glory; and he doth suffer that they may do this thing, or that the people may do this thing unto them, according to the hardness of their hearts, that the judgments which he shall exercise upon them in his wrath may be just; and the blood of the innocent shall stand as a witness against them, yea, and cry mightily against them at the last day.

...

14 Now it came to pass that when the bodies of those who had been cast into the fire were consumed, and also the records which were cast in with them, the chief judge of the land came and stood before Alma and Amulek, as they were bound; and he smote them with his hand upon their cheeks, and said unto them: After what ye have seen, will ye preach again unto this people, that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone?

This account comes from the same prophet Alma who declared God's plan a plan of happiness, who taught that God is perfectly merciful and perfectly just, and who wrote the last verses I'll cite in the conclusion. He was no stranger to the very awful deep dark depths of depravity of the problem of evil. He recognized the people who were murdered had gone on in glory to the next step in God's plan for their development, they had passed the test of mortality, and were free from pain. Their murderers, on the other hand, though still living (for a few more paragraphs), would face the full weight of God's eternal justice.

Only an eternal perspective can make sense of these things. 80 or so years in mortality is a drop in the bucket of eternity. The contrast is even greater when we look at the worst year or worst month or worst day in mortality. Elizabeth Smart--herself exceptionally well acquainted with the problem of evil through experiencing abuse of the most sinister nature--drew this contrast at the age of 25:

I have been alive for 307 months. Nine of those months were pretty terrible. But 298 of those months have been very good. I have been happy. I have been very blessed. Who knows how many more months I have to live? But even if I died tomorrow, nine out of 307 seems like pretty good odds. (Elizabeth Smart, My Story)

The pain is very real, but the odds are even better when the denominator is eternity.

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Conclusion

#12 in the logical argument is no longer valid if premise 7 is removed. #13 remains without contradiction.

Premise 7 may sound easy on the ears, but premise 7 was Satan's plan. Alma 7 describes God's plan:

11 And he [Christ] shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.

12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

13 Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me. (Alma 7:11-13)

The plan of salvation does involve pain, but like childbirth it is pain with a purpose. We chose to accept this plan because the destination is worth the journey. I believe William Lane Craig is correct when he postulates that upon arriving at the destination God has intended for us, we will look back and say we would be willing to do it all a million times again to be where we are now.

In our darkest pain we are not alone; the Redeemer of the world is with us because He has been there, done that, times infinity. We do not suffer alone. To paraphrase Michael Jones, that only happened once, and He volunteered.


Disclaimer - these thoughts are products of my own study and do not constitute official statements by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Our pastor covered this very briefly, beautifully, and succinctly in a sermon a few weeks ago.

As a parent, you love your child and want only the best for him. You know that when he learns to ride a bike, he'll gain confidence, enjoy freedom, get exercise, be able to keep up with you when you go for a walk (depending on age). There are all sorts of benefits to learning to ride a bike.

As a parent, you also know that your child is going to fall and end up getting hurt to some degree or other as he's learning to ride the bike.

Putting a helmet on his head, sitting him on the bike and giving him a push, even though you know he'll likely end up with a skinned knee or even a bloody nose, does NOT mean you're an evil parent or that you don't love your child. It means that sometimes, nay always, each of us must go through some pain and suffering to reach a greater level of knowledge and ability.

Without some struggle there is no growth, no improvement, no betterment. God simply does the same for each of us.

2

You also asked another Question on the same topic, which happens to have the exact same flaw. While I Answered that one, I think I'll take the time to expand on that here.

The right way to understand the flaw in this argument is to understand its axioms. Without knowing those axioms, we cannot reliably analyze the argument itself. I'm not going to try to uncover all of them (and being truly exhaustive would be overly pedantic), but there is one in particular that matters. What is it? Well, let's look closer at (7):

If God is perfectly Good, He would want to prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.

With even a little scrutiny, it's clear that this is chock full of unstated assumptions. Why is preventing all evil "Good"? Well, the reasoning goes something like this (when referenced later, I will prefix these with 'A', for 'axiom', to keep them separate from the points in the Question):

  1. I cannot see how a particular evil could be used to accomplish a greater good.
  2. My knowledge and reasoning is surely sufficient to use as the basis for logical argument.
  3. Therefore, evil cannot produce a greater good.
  4. Therefore, a Good God would prevent Evil. (7)

(This should look familiar; it's the same in principle as Rowe's argument and the same axiom I explained in my Answer there, namely, that there is no reason for evil (A1) and we would surely know the reason if one existed (A2). I maintain that these two Questions are, in fact, duplicates; while the argument is expressed differently, the underlying flaw is identical.)

In order to disprove this logic, it is necessarily simply to demonstrate that (A1) is flawed. However, (A2) also deserves a look. Here, we see the guiding principle of Humanism; that man is superior to God. This is the Original Sin and remains by far the most popular sin. God-denial almost always traces ultimately back to Humanism. The appalling hubris is obvious... but let's go back to (A1).

Others have already noted the two main issues; first, that preventing all evil would require the suppression of Free Will, and second, that "bad experiences" are themselves purposeful. "Suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope." (Romans 5:3-4) "[God's] power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) It used to be common knowledge that suffering and adversity had positive sides as well as negative sides. Additionally, permitting evil, even evil such as the suffering of a wild animal that never sees or is seen by a human, is a way of teaching and reminding us of the consequences of Sin, and that we humans are ultimately responsible for evil being permitted in the world. Just as it isn't healthy for a parent to be overly protective of a child, God permits evil as a way of instructing and edifying His children.

Another problem is that Humanists have no sense of scale. Say I'm redoing the electrical wiring in my house, and an Evil is perpetrated against me; someone steals one atom of copper from the wire I'm going to use. Let's say this is equivalent to God permitting me to trip on the sidewalk which causes me to suffer a minor abrasion. Now let's take the equivalent of me being brutally tortured to death... someone stole a trillion atoms of copper. Compared to Eternity (or the amount of copper I need to rewire my entire house), I won't even notice. (Note: one gram of copper is about 1022 atoms, or a hundred billion trillions of atoms.)

Suffering in this life, no matter how severe, is finite. The New Creation is infinite. Anything finite compared to infinity is immeasurably small. Therefore, it is irrelevant to talk about "degrees" of suffering in this life; if it can be shown that being bruised can have a positive outcome, then the same logic mathematically must apply to the worst suffering imaginable. A Humanist arguing against God on the basis of degrees of suffering is not arguing logically.

A simple counter-example is sufficient to falsify the foundation of the axiom on which this argument is built, and that can be provided trivially. Both Scripture and "common sense" tell us that a person shaped by adversity is "better" than someone that's lived only in a protective bubble. When we realize that God's goal is for that person to live with Him for eternity, the benefits of such refining — an infinite Good — infinitely outweigh the infinitesimally momentary pain — a finite Evil — thereof. Thus, (A1) and (A3) are disproved (and (A2) is objectionable), and therefore (A4)/(7) is not a valid premise. With (7) invalidated, the entire argument collapses.

1

Freedom has a price.

So, people are going to suffer for my choices, and I am going to suffer for theirs :-( . There's a contradiction in "I am free and I am not able to be evil".

3
  • Great. Can you clarify which premise or step in the argument would be invalidated by 'freedom'?
    – Mark
    Feb 11 at 19:38
  • 1
    For example, premise 7 is not valid. There are more important things than evil. For example, people being free (and that has a price).
    – Ganton
    Feb 11 at 19:56
  • 2
    Can you please edit your answer? Comments do not count (they can be deleted).
    – Mark
    Feb 11 at 19:57
1

The formal argument unfortunately fails are the very first step; there are limits to God's power, though we do not know the complete list of limits. Some limits include:

  • lying (Titus 1:2. Hebrews 6:18)
  • changing his nature (Malachi 3:6)
  • break an oath (Psalm 89:34)

Many people will use "omnipotence" as a stand-in for "really, really powerful" but when it gets down to logical games, omnipotence is a pretty silly concept and not supported in Christian nor Jewish sources.

5
  • Unable to lie, change your nature, or break an oath... sounds pretty powerful to me. Feb 12 at 22:37
  • 3
    "Omnipotence" doesn't merely mean "really, really powerful". Nor does it mean "capable of doing anything including that which is logically contradictory". In general, I don't think it's fair to call God "limited" on the basis of what are arguably self-imposed restrictions.
    – Matthew
    Feb 12 at 22:38
  • 1
    @Matthew Are those self-imposed restrictions? That's an assumption you're making, and we're talking logical inferences here.
    – Michael W.
    Feb 13 at 15:13
  • How would unlimited power prevent you from lying? I don't reckon those are limits on God's power, but that rather raises questions about how justified we are in trusting him (which may in turn raise questions about his traits, what he does and why, and potentially whether he exists at all).
    – NotThatGuy
    Feb 13 at 22:40
  • @NotThatGuy, it doesn't. Michael is arguing that being unable to lie means that God doesn't have unlimited power. Strangely, I think you might be agreeing with me in recognizing a distinction between actual limits and (for lack of a better term) moral limits.
    – Matthew
    Feb 14 at 22:24
1

Sometimes there are things we may not be able to answer.. But I would put pressure back on the person who asked the question..

Didn't the LORD command us to Love and trust in him with all our hear soul mind and strength?

If so isn't this question evidence that you may not fully trust the LORD?

Proverbs 3:5-6
New International Version
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

When the living GOD commanded the Israelites to go into the promised lands they had all sorts of "logical" objections:

    Numbers 13: 31 - 33
    31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 
32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.
 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

Somethings are beyond our understanding:

Judges 13:18
New International Version
18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.[a]”

But be careful as this question could be used as evidence against you (that you do not trust the LORD fully)

So too when the living GOD tested Abraham do you think the great man Abraham used his logic and reasoning when he was going to sacrifice his son? or did he instead blindly trust the LORD?

Fear GOD trust him and lean not on your own understanding.

I too fall short.. but that Is why we have the Christ

3
  • 1
    Likely worth citing as well: Isaiah 55:8-9: 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
    – Mark
    Feb 13 at 0:37
  • 2
    Certainly we ought to trust God... but simply parroting that isn't going to be much help to someone already disinclined to do so. Compare 1 Peter 3:15; God does not ask us to trust blindly, but to seek wisdom and understanding.
    – Matthew
    Feb 13 at 16:29
  • God, the Father, Jehovah, the creator of all things gave us the ability of intellect for a reason you can even see that God gives wisdom to King Solomon and God gives us logic so that we can use it for good. God created humans with the ability of logic for a reason. he also gives us logic and reason, core tenants of mathematics and science so that we can come to understand and know how His creations are and to see the beauty of His greatness through the understanding of the complexity involved in nature, which is truly marvelous, exciting, entertaining and romantic.
    – How why e
    Mar 30 at 23:38

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