Is There a Problem of Evil for the Existence of God?

Flash, Thunderstorm, Ore Mountains

Introduction

This was originally written to satisfy the requirements for Systematic Theology I for Liberty University’s John R. Rawling’s School of Divinity. This post was originally written to answer the following prompt: “Erickson discusses the various ‘Themes for Dealing with the Problem of Evil.’  Which of those given ‘themes’ do you find most beneficial in answering those who are critical of the Christian faith? Why? Demonstrate knowledge of the subject matter by inserting substantive content. Also, present the logic, cogency, and evidence of your explanation(s) and argument(s). Avoid casual talks and testimonies by interacting theologically and critically.”

Disclaimer

The following discussion will answer the prompt at a theological level, not a pastoral level. Generally when this question is asked, it is asked by hurting people who would rather be comforted than given a theological answer. Yet, for the sake of the prompt, it will be answered theologically.

Themes Which Help The Argument for God’s Goodness

Erickson does discuss different themes in dealing with evil. While this author rejects the idea of a “free will” as Arminians view it, humans being moral agents with moral choices does contribute to the theme of the item at hand.[1] Yet, God as the victim of evil has the most merit contributing to the proposed issue.[2] God is not some evil tyrant laughing at evil and calamity. He is deeply affected by the sin of mankind, and He is angry at it (Romans 1: 18). His holiness and goodness has been wronged by the sin of mankind, who willfully chose to sin, and plunged the whole world into death (Romans 5:12-14).

Evil is Not a Problem for God

Evil is not really a problem for the theology of God. It is a false dichotomy to claim that since there is evil in the world there is no good God. The doctrine of evil can easily be resolved by the doctrine of Total Depravity. Evil has corrupted the mind, emotions, will, and physical bodies of men to the point that man cannot choose God unless God first regenerates him.[3] God hates sin and must punish sin because of His goodness (Exodus 20:5, Habakkuk 1:13, Acts 17:31). It is no wonder why the Lord lets bad things happen to bad people; however, people have to realize everyone, no matter how nice or pleasant, is evil (Romans 3:10-18).

It would be better to ask the question, “Why do good things happen to bad people?” The answer is the same as to why God punishes the wicked. It is a part of His character. He is merciful as well as good (Romans 3:23-26). Jonathan Edwards put it well in his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God:” “Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly.”[4]

God’s Solution for Evil

God ultimately solves the problem of mercy and the problem of evil in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are genuinely good people, since God has regenerated people to salvation through the cross of Christ (2 Corinthians 5: 21). God saves those people, brings them into his presence at death or the return of Christ, and rewards them for their suffering (Matthew 5:10-12, Ephesians 1:3, Philippians 1:18-23). The problem of sin is condemned by Christ’s sinless atonement and fulfillment of the law of God (Romans 8:3-4). Jesus’ sacrifice was the only time anything bad happened to anyone good, and God was able to bring the ultimate good of ransoming people from sin through it. This way God can be both the good God He claims to be and the Savior of all who trust in Jesus (Romans 3:26).

God’s Patience

The reason God tarries to end sin once and for all is He is giving people time to repent of their sin (2 Peter 3:9). Yet, He is going to end all evil and suffering once and for all when Christ returns to judge the evil, living and dead (Acts 17:31, Revelation 21-22). This completely solves the problem of evil.

Conclusion

In summary, the problem of evil is not really a problem for the theologian. The Bible shows evil is a problem for men, not for God. Human beings are desperately wicked and deserve whatever calamity they will receive for their evil. Yet, God is a God of mercy. He gives grace and kindness to human beings as well as salvation through Jesus Christ. God brought the ultimate good out of the ultimate evil done to the only good person in the world, Jesus Christ. One day Christ will solve the problem of evil by removing it completely by sending all the wicked and death itself to Hell. When Christians suffer they are rewarded for it and will be brought to God. Evil is only a problem for those who elevate men over God.

If you want more information on studying the Bible and how to interpret it correctly, check out the store section at strivingforeternity.org/store. There are tons of resources to help you get started on your journey to interpreting the Bible better. Also invite Andrew Rappaport and AMBrewster to come to your church and teach you biblical interpretation with their Biblical Interpretation Made Easy Seminar. Andrew Rappaport, AMBrewster, Anthony Silvestro, Justin Pierce, and other guests on Apologetics live would also enjoy answering your questions on the live show on Thursdays from 7pm–9pm CST with the link to the stream yard at strivingforeternity.org/apologeticslive. Lord bless you and strive to make today and eternal day for Christ Jesus.

[1] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), 395.

[2] Ibid., 401.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Second Edition. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Academic, 2020), 626.

[4] Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Blue Letter Bible, Accessed July 24, 2022, https://www.blueletterbible.org/comm/edwards_jonathan/sermons/sinners.cfm

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