I came across a good blog article on A Brief Primer on the Problem of Evil by C Michael Patton.
The logical or deductive problem of evil is famously stated by David Hume as”
Is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is impotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Whence then is evil?
Or put in a more formal syllogism:
1. If God is all powerful (omnipotent) and
2. If God is all good (omnibenevolent)
3. Then His goodness would motivate Him to use His power to eradicate evil.
As Patton points out there are three main ways to answer this problem (though five or more could easily be added):
- The free-will defense: The basis of the argument is that “It would be a logical contradiction to say that God can create a world where true freedom exists, yet evil is guaranteed not to exist.”
- The greater good defense: “God has a transcendent purpose that ultimately legitimizes all evil, even if our understanding of this purpose is absent.”
- Evil defines good defense: “Evil creates opportunities for good to present itself as truly good.”
Nowadays the deductive problem of evil is not even considered a viable argument against God’s existent thanks to Alvin Plantinga (see here) in the 1970s. As atheist J.L. Mackie has famously said regarding Plantinga’s free will defense:
Since this defense is formally [that is, logically] possible, and its principle involves no real abandonment of our ordinary view of the opposition between good and evil, we can concede that the problem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another.
While I’m glad that Plantinga and other philosophers have settled the problem of evil, I do not think that it was really a problem to begin with.
When someone formulates some variety of the “problem of evil,” they make a massive assumption that is not true. They assume that humans deserve much better in a given circumstance and that they are essentially good and innocent. They never even consider that people are sinful, have offended a perfectly holy God, and deserve His complete wrath to be meted out on them for an eternity.
In essence, a problem of evil only exists if one assumes and ponders with Rabbi Kushner, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. But in light of holy and righteous God the fact that God has not completely destroyed every one of us because of our sin, the real problem is one of grace. There are no good people in light of a holy righteous God. What is ultimately perplexing is “when good things happen to bad people,” which is occurs on a moment by moment basis for every one of us.
Jesus answered the so-called problem of evil in Luke 13:1-5:
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
The Gospel is God’s answer to the “problem” of evil exposing it for really what it is: a problem of grace. In Romans 5:8-9 clearly point out this magnificent reality:
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
The “problem” of evil assumes a naturalistic and humanistic understanding of reality, that humans are good and do not deserve to suffer one bit. The Gospel implodes this faulty assumption and reminds us that very breath we take is an undeserved gift from God that we would not have if not for Jesus, His work on the Cross and resurrection. Lets make the Gospel our primary apologetic and stop allowing faulty presumptions to guide our apologetic.
There is no such thing as a problem of evil; only of grace.