One only has to turn on the news to hear of sad stories of all kinds – a mother killed by a drunk driver, a child dying of cancer, war between nations, earthquakes leaving villages in ruins, not to mention the issues surrounding ISIS. So, does Christianity have an adequate response?
Where to begin?
Philip Yancey in his book Where is God When it Hurts? states that if he had to give a one-sentence answer to this question he would reply: “Where is the church?”
I begin this way because I realise that this is not merely an academic question. Life is full of suffering. As you read this you may be going through difficulties of various kinds, yet as a fellow pilgrim, I want you to know that the Christians of Singapore care and would be honoured to mourn alongside you and try to be the nail-pierced hands and feet of Christ. So please speak to any of us from the Church and allow us to help bear your burden with you.
The logical problem of evil
That being said, there is a time for an intellectual consideration of the matter and to this we shall now turn. The challenge raised against the Christian can be formulated as follows:
1. An all-loving, all-powerful God exists.
2. If God is all-powerful, He can create any world that He wants.
3. If God is all-loving, He prefers a world without suffering.
4. Suffering exists.
5. Therefore, God does not exist.
The Christian can respond that premise 2 and 3 are not necessarily true and if that is even possibly the case, then the logical problem is false. Premise 2 is not necessarily true, since if God has given humanity genuine free will, then it is logically impossible for God (or anyone else) to make someone do something freely.1
Also, premise 3 is not necessarily true either. God could have morally sufficient reasons for allowing suffering such as to bring about a greater good, perhaps the existence of free creatures or the formation of character. As long as any of these suggestions are even possibly true, then the logical problem of evil is not successful.
But a problem still remains
So, while the logical problem may have been answered, the questions still remain: Why me? Why does it hurt so much? Why did I have to go through this particular instance of suffering? In response to these, kindly see my next article on the emotional problem of evil (slated for MM Oct 2015, P24).
Nevertheless, in brief, I would say perhaps we are in the position of Job, an innocent sufferer, who suffered because of the evil perpetrated by others. Further, Job was not in a position to know the reasons why God allowed him to go through this, but Job came to see who God is – God is the all-powerful creator, who knows all things – he is a God who can be trusted. God is trustworthy even if we don’t understand why He has called us for such a time as this.2
1Specifically, a Libertarian understanding of free will, namely that determinism and freedom are incompatible and humans are free. For more information, see: Steven B. Cowan, and James S. Spiegel. The Love of Wisdom: A Christian Introduction to Philosophy. Nashville, Tennessee: B&H
Publishing, 2009. Section 5.3. Kindly note that this does not mean God is not sovereign – God certainly is. For a defence of this see section 6.2 and section 6.3 for a more detailed defence of the logical problem of evil.
2For those who would like to hear both sides of the matter I would suggest the debate between William Lane Craig and A.C. Grayling at the Oxford Union in 2005 on: “Belief in God makes sense in light of Tsunamis.” Available at: http://www.premierchristianradio.com/Shows/Saturday/Unbelievable/ Episodes/Unbelievable-5-Jul-2011-William-Lane-Craig-vs-AC-Grayling-debate-on-God-Evil
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David Jonathan Graieg is a Masters of Theology graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary (2012). He served as an adjunct lecturer at East Asia School of Theology and attended Wesley Methodist Church from 2013-2015. He currently serves with City Bible Forum in Australia. David is happily married to Grace, and they have three young children: Sophie, Charlotte and Elizabeth.