Why The Problem Of Evil Is a Failed Argument For Atheism

Why The Problem Of Evil Is a Failed Argument For Atheism

This is a paper I wrote on The Problem Of Evil. It’s 30 pages long, so I’ve made it available as a downloadable PDF for anyone who wants to save it for later. This paper was written to supplant the 8 part blog post series I wrote on The Problem Of Evil a few years ago. I figured that people would rather be able to read everything I had in one long article than in 8 short ones. If you want to download the PDF, click here –> https://www.dropbox.com/s/qg97r9zcipc66zb/Why%20The%20Problem%20Of%20Evil%20Is%20A%20Failed%20Argument%20For%20Atheism%20%281%29.pdf?dl=0

Abstract: The Problem of Evil is considered one of the most potent objections to the existence of God there is. There are actually three different version of the problem of evil, two of them are intellectual problems and the other is an emotional problem. In this paper, I will show why all three are failed arguments for atheism. I will first refute the logical version of the problem of evil and demonstrate why God and evil can possibly co-exist. Afterwards, I will move on to refute the evidential version of the problem of evil via a three legged stool response; (1) Our cognitive limitations make it impossible to make a probability judgment. This argument is most commonly called “Skeptical Theism”. (2) certain Biblical Doctrines increase the likelihood that God and evil should co-exist, and (3) When all of the evidence is taken into account (i.e The Arguments for God’s existence), God’s existence becomes substantially more likely. After having done all of this, I will address the emotional problem of evil. This version of the problem is not an argument, but an emotional dislike towards God for allowing suffering to occur. In responding to this version of the problem, I will switch from talking about the problem of evil as a philosophical puzzle and instead will address it as a pastoral issue. 

Introduction 

The problem of evil is one of the most powerful arguments against the existence of God that the atheist has in his arsenal. There are three versions of The Problem Of Evil. Two of them are intellectual in nature, and one of them is emotional in nature. The first is the logical version; this version dates back as the Greek philosopher Epicurus,1 but it’s insurgence of popularity was made popular by the philosopher David Hume. The Logical Problem Of Evil argues that the existence of God and the existence of evil logically cancel each other out. If one exists, the other cannot exist. Given that evil exists, it follows that God cannot. As Hume put it: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then from whence comes evil?”2 The second version is The Evidential Version of The Problem Of Evil. This version is much more popular in philosophical circles today. This version argues that even if it can be demonstrated that God and evil are logically co-possible, nevertheless, given the sheer immensity and enormity of the suffering in the world, it is improbable that God exists. The final version is The Emotional Problem Of Evil. Unlike the previous two, this version of the problem is not a philosophical argument, but an emotional hatred of God for allowing suffering to occur. 

In this paper, I will refute the two intellectual versions of the problem of evil, and finally, I will move on to give pastoral advice to those who may be struggling against resentment towards God for allowing some disaster to fall upon them in their life. 

1.1 The Logical Version Of The Problem Of Evil

The key to this argument is the atheist claim that it is impossible that God and the suffering in the world coexist. The claim is that the following statements cannot both be true:

1. God is all-powerful and all-good.

2. Evil exists.

This, however, needs additional explanation. There’s nothing explicitly contradictory about the statements “God exists” and “Evil exists”. Explicitly contradictory would be things like “This object is both a square and a circle”, “I am both married and a bachelor”, or “No physical objects have shapes”. Squareness and circularity are obviously contradictory to each other. Moreover, it is evident that a bachelor (an unmarried man by definition) cannot be married! However, the statements “God and evil both exist” doesn’t seem to be as obviously contradictory as the aforementioned examples. Atheists must think that “God Exists” and “Evil Exists” are implicitly contradictory and are therefore assuming some hidden premises which would serve to bring out this implicit contradiction and render it explicit. What might those premises be?

They seem to be two in number:

3. If God is all-powerful, then He can create any world that He wants.

4. If God is all-loving, then He would prefer a world without suffering.

From these, it follows that God desires a world without evil and suffering, and has the ability to create it. It follows that 

5: Evil does not exist. 

But statement 5 is in contradiction to 2. Since a possible world without evil and suffering is not our world, the atheist would argue, it follows that God doesn’t exist. The atheist would say that from these 2 hidden premises, it follows that The Logical Version Of The Problem Of Evil is true, and therefore atheism is true.

1.2 Response To The Logical Version Of The Problem Of Evil

First of all, what makes for a good argument? For an argument to be successful in establishing its conclusion, all of the premises must be true. If even one of the premises is false, then the argument is fallacious and you won’t be able to reach the argument’s conclusion.

Moreover, in the case of the logical version of the problem of evil, all of the premises have to be necessarily true. If it’s even possible that they’re not true, then the logical version collapses.

Let’s examine Premise 3. Is it necessarily true? I’m skeptical that it is. How do we know that God is able to create any kind of world that He desires? I would suggest that it is possible that (1) God desires a world of creatures endowed with libertarian free will and (2) that it is possible that it is infeasible for God to actualize such a world and ensure that no free creature ever abuses his freedom to introduce evil and suffering into the world. 

Before we proceed, it is important we define what we mean by the term “Omnipotence”. By omnipotence, we do not mean that God can do literally anything. We do not mean that God can create square circles, one ended sticks, or rocks too heavy for Him to lift. By omnipotence, we mean the ability to do anything logically possible. Put another way, God can actualize any state of affairs that isn’t incoherent or violates the laws of logic such as non-contradiction, excluded middle, or identity.3

Anything that’s logically impossible, God cannot do. On the other hand, if it’s logically possible, then God can do it. God can create everything out of nothing, make the blind see, the deaf hear, raise the dead, make ax heads float in water, part The Red Sea, cause a donkey to be able to speak, etc.

As C.S Lewis wrote “His Omnipotence means power to do all that is intrinsically possible, not to do the intrinsically impossible. You may attribute miracles to Him, but not nonsense. This is no limit to His power. ….meaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning simply because we prefix to them the two other words, ‘God can.’ It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities. It is no more possible for God than for the weakest of His creatures to carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives; not because His power meets an obstacle, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”4

This definition of omnipotence is accepted by the majority of contemporary theologians and Christian philosophers.

It is possible that in any world of free creatures God could actualize, there would be at least some people who go wrong. In this case, premise 3 is not necessarily true. It may be the case that God cannot create any world He wants because in any feasible world, there are people who abuse their God-Given free will and cause suffering to other creatures. God cannot force someone to freely do something. If they do something freely, they’re not forced. If they’re forced, they do not do it freely. Being omnipotent, God can either give men free will and let them choose how they please, or He can causally determine them to always do right, but He cannot do both. It is not necessarily true that God can create a world without evil and suffering if human beings have free will.

Now, if the atheist wants to respond that he thinks the correct definition of omnipotence is being able to do literally anything even the logically impossible, and therefore God could create a world of free creatures where no one causes suffering, then the logical problem of evil vanishes. Why? If God is able to bring about logically incoherent states of affairs, then He can bring it about that both He and evil coexist, even though, according to the atheist, they logically cancel each other out. So, I think it would behoove the atheist to stick to the definition of omnipotence that most contemporary theologians accept. 

At this point the atheist may object that while it’s possible that God is unable to create a world of free creatures in which no one ever causes any suffering to another individual, nevertheless why would God care so much about free will anyway? Since God could ensure that no one ever does evil by forcing people to choose right instead of wrong, why not create that kind of world? I think there are a couple of plausible reasons why God would prefer a world of free will even if that entails suffering to a world with no free will and no suffering. Here, I’ll just go into one.

Love, in order to be genuine, must be freely given. Dr. Tim Stratton of FreeThinking Ministries gives a very helpful illustration from pop culture that helps gets this point across. He writes “Many think the love [Harley Quinn] has for the Joker is the epitome of love! This relationship was portrayed in the recent movie ‘Suicide Squad.’ ….Harley Quinn demonstrates that she lives for the Joker, she is willing to die for the Joker, and she is willing to kill for the Joker. Her life revolves around the Joker and she is devoted to following him no matter the costs! …..Although it has been said that Harley Quinn and the Joker are a great example of true love, I think this relationship is the farthest thing from it….. I contend that this relationship is not true love at all; rather, it is the epitome of evil.

You see, according to the Suicide Squad movie, the Joker kidnapped and brainwashed Harley against her will. The Joker forced himself upon her and causally determined her to be unable to resist him. Left to Harley’s own devices, she would always reject the Joker if given a choice, but the Joker took any ability away from her to choose otherwise. She has been manipulated, she has suffered psychological trauma, and she has been raped against her will (even though the Joker has forced her to think and act in accords to his will). You see, the Joker has no idea what it truly means to be loved. All he has is a kidnapped woman who has no choice but to follow him. She literally has no ability to do otherwise. …

Now, I’m sure the Joker would have preferred it if Harley Quinn would have freely chosen to love and follow him as that would have brought him more glory, but since she would not freely choose to be with the Joker, he had to force himself upon her against her will. The Joker simply became ‘irresistible’ as she had her ability to resist stolen from her. Now she has no ability but to follow him and utter the words ‘I love Mr. J.'”5

An example I often like to give involves a futuristic society in which robots look, think, and act 100% identically to human beings. Let’s say you go down to “Robot Depot” to buy yourself a wife. You buy this android that looks as beautiful as a supermodel. Based on her looks, you already know she’s got the attractiveness quality. But what of her character? The manual she comes with tells you that you can program her personality any way you desire. So, you program her to always do whatever you want, to always put your needs above hers, and to always laugh at your jokes, etc. You program her to never leave you for another man. You program her to say “I love you” 20 times a day. You program her to never bother you while watching football. In fact, you program her to be just as into football as you are. You program her to be the perfect wife.

Question: would any of this be meaningful to you? Would you feel loved? No. You would clearly recognize that her love for you is artificial. Every act of kindness, every display of affection, and every “I love you”, was your doing, not hers. You causally determined her to do these things for you. They did not originate within her. All of her acts of love and selflessness would be empty gestures because you caused her to do them, and she had no capability of doing differently.

Similarly, if God causally determined everyone to love Him, praise Him 24/7, to never disobey Him, and to always do good, our actions would be devoid of meaningfulness. The only reason we praise Him is that He programmed us to praise Him. The only reason we abstain from sin is that He programmed us to abstain from it. It would be the same for our “love” for one another. If God causally determines a man to love his wife, I don’t see how that would be any more meaningful than when a little girl causes a Ken doll to show love to a Barbie doll.

Let’s go on to look at premise 4 in The Logical Problem Of Evil. “If God is all loving and morally perfect, then He would desire a world where no evil or suffering exists.” It seems like this premise is true. God doesn’t want a world where people kill, rape, and maim each other, right? This is why He forbids many evil actions in His inspired word; The Bible. He wouldn’t command us to not murder (Exodus 20:13), not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14), not steal (Exodus 20:15), etc. if He didn’t desire us to follow these commands.

However, although God would like a world like that, it’s possible that God has overriding reasons which might make Him prefer a world more like ours. I already gave one of those reasons; namely that God wanted a world where it was possible for us to genuinely love Him and each other. In order to create a world where genuine love exists, God may have to put up with a world in which hatred exists. It’s possible that God had no choice but to create a world with suffering if true love were to be possible. Moreover, it is possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting all the evils in the world that we see. It’s possible that God knows that if He permits a certain instance of suffering, a greater good would come out of it. We all know cases where we ourselves permit suffering in order to bring about a greater good. Just think of the first time your parents took you to the doctor to get a vaccine. The injection hurt and you probably cried, yet clearly your parents had a good reason for allowing you to suffer (i.e so you wouldn’t contract a serious disease). God may allow suffering X at T-1 knowing that greater good Y would come about at T-5. So although God may find a world without suffering more attractive than one with suffering, it’s possible that He would prefer to actualize a world with suffering, given the aforementioned. So, it’s possible that premise 4 is not necessarily true.

We can reformulate the argument as follows 

1: God is all powerful and all good. 

2: Evil Exists 

3*: It’s Possible that a world in which free creatures always do the right thing and never cause others to suffer is a world that is infeasible for God to create. 

4*: It’s Possible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting evil to occur, such as being able to bring about a greater good. 

Hence, since neither of the 2 premises are necessarily true,  the logical version of the problem of evil and suffering collapses. God and evil/suffering are logically compatible. For the logical version of the problem of evil to succeed, the atheist shoulders an enormous burden of proof. He has to show that libertarian free will is impossible, or he has to show that true love can exist even in the absence of freedom (thus removing incentive for God to create a world of free creatures), or he has to show that a world of free creatures in which every individual always did good and never ever sinned was a possible world that was feasible for God to create. If he does any of these, then Premise 3* above would be undermined. To refute 4*, the atheist has to prove that God cannot possibly have any good reasons for all the bad things that have ever happened.

The logical version of the problem, while widely propounded by non-philosophers, is nevertheless not commonly argued among atheistic philosophers. As Paul Draper, a well known atheist philosopher, says “Logical arguments from evil are a dying breed. . . . even an omnipotent and omniscient being might be forced to allow E[vil] for the sake of obtaining some important good.”6 And as Peter van Inwagen put it “It used to be widely held that evil was incompatible with the existence of God: that no possible world contained both God and evil. So far as I am able to tell, this thesis is no longer defended.”7

1.3 But What About Natural Evil? 

Most of what I said in regards to the logical version’s third premise rested on “The Free Will Defense” famously associated with the Christian Philosopher Alvin Plantinga, who defended it in his book God, Freedom, and Evil. Although I think The Free Will Defense is a powerful response to the problem of moral evil, critics of the argument say that it doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t answer why God allows natural evil. Even if, the critic says, we grant that God could not actualize a world where free will creatures always treat each other with respect, and ergo do not cause suffering to each other, nevertheless it certainly seems feasible that God could actualize a world where natural disasters like tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, pandemics like COVID-19, etc. do not occur. So even though The Free Will Defense might show that God’s hands were tied with regards to moral evil, certainly God’s hands should not be so tied when it comes to natural evil. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a world-renowned astrophysicist and science popularizer.8 However, he also spends much of his time popularizing an argument against the Christian view of God. Tyson often makes claims such as the following:

“Every description of God that I have heard, holds God to be all-powerful and all-good. And then I look around and I see a tsunami that killed a quarter million people in Indonesia — an earthquake that killed a quarter million people in Haiti. And I see earthquakes, tornadoes, and disease, childhood leukemia. And I see all of this and I say I do not see evidence of both of those being true simultaneously . . . If there is a God, the God is either not all-powerful, or not all good. It can’t be both!” 9

To once again draw on the work of Doctor Stratton, with regards to natural evil, this may also serve a good purpose; a purpose that God actually could not achieve without the suffering natural evil (and evil in general) helps to achieve. Stratton gives what he calls “The Three Circles Model”10 response to The Problem Of Evil. This, he says, deals with “all the problems of evil”. Stratton gives the outline of his proposal; 

a) Suffering, whether it be moral evil, natural evil, or seemingly gratuitous evil, points us to the way things ought to be (we learn from suffering and evil that it ought not be).

b) The “way things ought to be” is an eternal love relationship with God and all people in a perfect state of affairs. This is what we refer to as “Heaven.”

c) Libertarian freedom is necessarily required for true love.

d) Finite creatures who possess libertarian freedom learn over time.

e) Supernatural “zaps” of knowledge do not work. Most created beings must attain experiential knowledge (This will be revisited later on in this paper).

f) Adam, Eve, Satan, and a third of all the angels took suffering-free states of affairs for granted, and freely chose to “wreck” it.

g) You and I have experienced evil, suffering, and affliction — and we are aware of so much more. Because of our experiences with evil and suffering, you and I will not take suffering-free states of affairs for granted because we have genuinely learned from our experiences.

h) Because you and I have learned how stupid evil is, although we possess the same ability to “wreck” a perfect state of affairs, God created a world in which He knew that we we will always freely choose to love God and all people exactly as God intends us to for eternity. (That is to say, although we could “wreck it” and sin as Adam did, God knows that we never would or will sin into the infinite future after experiencing limited amounts of evil on earth.)11

Ji) Some creatures have freely chosen not to learn from evil. They will be eternally separated from those of us who have.

A and B seem intuitively obvious. Just a moment’s reflection on what’s wrong in your life shows you that you believe it ought not be this way. You should be happy, devoid of physical, mental, and emotional pain. Your loved ones should not be dead. The Bible teaches that this is exactly what Heaven will be like (see Revelation 21-22). It’s also pretty evident that Adam and Eve took the garden of Eden, a Heaven-like state, for granted. The most controversial planks of this model will be C, D, and E. I’ve already defended C above. E will be defended later in this paper. 

In order to guarantee that no sin occurs in Heaven, it may be that God has to actualize a world in which we experience suffering pre-Heaven. In any world feasible for God to actualize, there may not be a world in which everyone freely recognizes the good they’ve got. In any feasible world, if God were to create me and my crush in the garden of Eden, we would have taken it for granted, ate the fruit, and doomed the world to sin and death (Genesis 3, Romans 5). If God had created my Mom and Dad in Eden, they would have freely chosen to listen to nachash.12 If God had created Tim and Tia Stratton in Eden instead of Adam and Eve, they would have taken it for granted and listened to nachash’s lies. 

Dr. Stratton’s primary point is that in order to prevent us from sinning in Heaven, and introducing evil and suffering there, we’ll have to learn what it’s like to live in a fallen world. He invites us to imagine one day in which we wake up and everything is perfect. There are no wars, no pandemics, no bills that need to be paid, your obesity is gone, your mental disorders are gone, etc. Now, the way to keep this state of affairs from falling back into the suffering-state it was in before, all you have to do is obey a few rules. Would you obey those rules if it meant no one (including yourself) would ever suffer or die again? I don’t know about you, but I would do everything I could to keep up those rules. What rules are we talking about though? Love The Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). So when we enter into glory, and we experience the beauty of an unfallen creation, although we’ll retain the ability to sin, we will always choose not to. We’ll be like “Been there. Done that. It wasn’t fun.” The suffering that comes from sin serves to us like a shock collar to a dog’s bark. We will learn to not do it anymore because of how awful it is.

Thus, we can tweak 3* in The Logical Problem of Evil as 

3**: It’s Possible that a world in which free creatures always do the right thing and never cause others to suffer is a world that is infeasible for God to create. It’s also possible that God may not get people to freely take suffering free states of affairs for granted without allowing suffering that is the result of natural evil at minimum.  

2.1 The Evidential Problem Of Evil 

Remember that at the start of this paper, I said that there were three different versions of the problem of evil and suffering. Two of them are intellectual in nature, and one of them, emotional. We’ve seen that the first intellectual version of the problem is no good. However, the atheist could say “Well, granted, it’s possible for God and suffering to co-exist. Nevertheless, it is highly improbable that they do.” This version, known as “The Evidential Version Of The Problem Of Evil” allows the atheist to carry a much lighter burden of proof, for he doesn’t need to prove that it’s impossible that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting every instance of suffering, he just needs to make a good case that it’s improbable that He does.

On this version of the problem, the previous responses won’t apply. I can’t simply say “It’s possible that God has good reasons for permitting suffering” or “It’s possible that humans have free will and God can’t actualize a world where they always obey Him”, for if I do, the atheist will respond “But I’m not arguing that it’s impossible, I’m merely saying it’s incredibly unlikely.”

2.2: Our Cognitive Limitations Render Such Probability Judgments Impossible.

I don’t think we’re in a position to judge one way or another whether it’s probable that God has good reasons for permitting suffering. We’re just not in a position to make such probability judgments given that we humans are limited in time and space, and are of finite knowledge. God, on the other hand, is omniscient. He sees the end of history from it’s beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and He knows what would occur in any given circumstance. The only one who would be in the position to make such probability judgments would be God Himself!

In chapter 7 of his book On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision, William Lane Craig offers two illustrations to flush out this point; one from contemporary science and the other from pop culture.

The first illustration draws on the concept of Chaos Theory: that tiny disturbances in a system can set off a chain reaction that leads to catastrophic consequences. Craig makes reference to a butterfly fluttering its little wings on a tree branch. People looking just think “Aw, what a pretty butterfly”, but little do they know that the fluttering of this butterfly’s wings has set in motion a chain of events which eventually result in a massive hurricane! No one looking at the butterfly could possibly know that a hurricane would be the outcome of what they’re observing. 13

The second illustration Dr. Craig uses draws from the movie Sliding Doors which features a woman named Helen, portrayed by actress Gwyneth Paltrow. The movie opens with Helen hurrying downstairs to catch a train. But as she nears the train, her life splits into two totally different timelines, two totally different lives Helen could live.  In one life, she is enormously successful, prosperous, and happy. In the other life, she encounters failure, misery, and unhappiness. Whichever life she lives will all depend on a split second difference of whether or not she is able to pass through the subway doors. Dr. Craig then points out that that difference is due to whether a little girl playing with her dolly is either (A) snatched away by her father, or (B) momentarily blocks Helen’s path. Craig says that we have to wonder about the events that lead up to that event. Craig says that perhaps whether A or B occurs is due to whether the girl and her father were delayed leaving the house that morning because his daughter refused to eat her cereal, or whether the man just wasn’t paying attention to what his daughter was doing because he was preoccupied with reading the newspaper. And what lead up to that event? We don’t have a clue.14

The movie has a twist at the end. In the happy and successful life, Helen is killed. In the life that brought her so much misery, it turns around and she finds true love. Dr. William Lane Craig’s point is that given our cognitive limitations, we are in no position to judge whether or not God can have a morally sufficient reason for permitting any event. Given the dizzying complexity of life, and the incomprehensible way in which events are intertwined with one another, it is beyond the mental capacity of mere man to say that with any confidence whatsoever that, when some incident of suffering occurs, that it’s improbable that God has a good reason for permitting it.

From Helen’s perspective, whether or not she got through the sliding doors didn’t seem like such a life changing event to her, but if you’re an omniscient Being like God, then you know that whether a certain event happens or not can have radical effects on future events that take place after that. If you want a certain event in the future to occur, you’ll have to allow a certain event in the present to occur. If A doesn’t happen, then B won’t happen, if not B, then not C, if C doesn’t happen, then D won’t happen, if D doesn’t happen, then E won’t happen. In order to get E to happen, you’ll have to allow A through D to happen. Events A through D may be events of horrible suffering, but event E is a greater good which justifies the allowance of events A through D. God knew that if he didn’t allow suffering A, then greater good E would not occur.

So if you ask me “Why didn’t God strike the 9/11 terrorists down before they could destroy The World Trade Center?”, I would answer that God knew the ripple effect that would emerge from that single event. We have no idea what those ripples were, but God does. Perhaps God had a plethora of morally sufficient reasons for permitting The World Trade Center to fall that will manifest themselves at different points in time in different peoples’ lives for centuries. Maybe there’s some event in the 25th century God needs to bring about, but it wouldn’t come about unless God allowed 9/11 to occur. 

Time Travel enthusiasts know full well that changing even a single event can send ripples through time. Every event brings about other events, so if one event doesn’t occur, the events that that event prompts or causes won’t occur. God, being omniscient, will know what will happen whether He allows or stops X from occurring. If X would bring about a greater good, or if X would prevent disaster, God might allow it.

The Bible actually teaches that God does this. For example, in Romans 8:28 we read “And we know that God works all things for the good of those who love Him.”. The Bible also includes an intriguing example in which God permitted evil and suffering, but clearly brought a greater good out of it in the end. That example is the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50.

Joseph was the son of Jacob who was the son of Isaac who was the son of Abraham. Joseph was one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Joseph’s brothers hated him because he was Jacob’s favorite child and this was obvious from the fact that Jacob constantly showered Joseph with far more affection than his other children. One day Joseph’s brothers finally had enough, and they sold him into slavery.

As if being a slave weren’t bad in and of itself, Joseph suffered in his slavery as well. Pontiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of trying to rape her (she did this out of spite because she came onto him and he refused to have sex with her). This resulted in Joseph being sent to prison. While Joseph was in prison, he was able to accurately interpret the dreams of two other prisoners who were there. One of those prisoners told the Pharaoh about Joseph’s amazing ability to accurately interpret dreams once they were released and Pharaoh was in need of having someone interpret his dreams. Pharaoh let Joseph out of prison and Joseph told him his dreams. Joseph told the Pharaoh that his two dreams meant that there would be 7 years of abundant food followed by 7 years of horrible famine, and that to prevent widespread starvation he should store up food during the 7 years of abundance so that they could compensate for the lack of food the next 7 years. Pharaoh elected Joseph as governor and put him in charge of food storage.

As bad as Joseph’s experience was, God had a good reason for allowing it all to happen; If God hadn’t let Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery, Joseph would never have been able to interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams, and that would mean that Pharaoh would not have known to save up food during the 7 years of abundance so that they would have food to eat during the 7 years of famine, and that would mean that thousands of people would have died of starvation. As Joseph was being carried off to Egypt, he was probably wondering why God didn’t intervene to stop his brothers from selling him into slavery. He might have been thinking “Why didn’t God stop my brothers from selling me into slavery? Now I’ll never see my father and younger brother Benjamin again!” If Joseph had reasoned like an atheist, he would have thought “I can’t see any good reason for God not to have intervened to stop my brothers from selling me into slavery. God must not exist.” But Joseph later realized God’s purpose for allowing his suffering (and Jacob’s suffering as well for that matter since Jacob was mourning because he believed a wild animal had killed Joseph). He himself said so when he saw his brothers again years later “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” – Genesis 50:20

God had a reason for not intervening when Joseph’s brothers were sinning against him, but from Joseph’s vantage point it was impossible to discern that reason until much later. If Joseph had judged that it was improbable that God had a good reason for allowing him to be sold into slavery, he would have been wrong.

This response, often labeled “Skeptical Theism” is in and of itself a knockdown argument against the evidential problem of evil. We are simply not knowledgeable enough about what future events some event in the present to occur, to judge “There’s probably no good that will come from this, so an all loving, all powerful God would stop it if He existed”. 

The Cognitive Limitations argument shows that, since we don’t know the exhaustive content of all feasible worlds, and we don’t know how each individual evil and individual good work in the grand scheme of things, the claim “God has no good reason for allowing X” is not sustainable. Maybe you want X to be a murder, a rape, the Coronavirus, or whatever. To make such a probability judgment requires you to have knowledge of how all events interconnect in space and time. This is impossible, which is why in the Back To The Future trilogy, Doc Brown wanted Marty to destroy the time machine because the time travel they already did altered the course of future events. God permits some event X, or intervenes to stop X, because He knows how it will affect future events. In a sense, God does time travel meddling without the time travel. I think The Cognitive Limitations Argument (a.k.a Skeptical Theism) absolutely eliminates The Evidential Problem Of Evil. You cannot make a probability judgment since you know so little about how all of a feasible world’s historical events intertwine with one another.

This response applies equally to the problem of both moral evil and natural evil. God may know what would come about if he say, permits COVID-19 and He knows what would happen if he intervened to stop it (say, He Thanos snapped all of the coronavirus germs out of existence). Perhaps a plethora of greater goods will come about in different times and places that wouldn’t have if God had Thanos snapped all of the COVID-19 out of existence. We simply are not in a position to say. 

Now, you may still feel the force of the problem of evil, sure, this is an issue that hits us where we live and no level of philosophical argumentation can comfort you when your child is dying in your arms. But you cannot say that you’ve rationally sustained the evidential problem of evil. We got to go with what we think, not what we feel. Emotions are worthless guides to truth.

Rebuttal: We Don’t Know The Probability That God Would Allow Any One Event, But The Improbability Increases The More Instances Are Taken Into Account

One attempt to undermine the skeptical theistic response that I’ve heard comes from a fellow who frequents the Facebook page of my ministry. He wrote “We don’t know the odds that God would allow evil event X. So let’s say that the odds are 50/50. This applies to each evil event, although I am sure the actual odds get worse as the level of evil goes up. So when you multiply all of the trillions of evil events together the odds are essentially zero.”

Is this a good response? No. Whether God has a reason for allowing one evil isn’t probabilistically independent of whether he has a reason for allowing other evils, so just multiplying probabilities together isn’t the right way to do the calculation. An analogy will suffice to show why this thinking is flawed; Let us suppose the chance that any given experience of God is veridical is only one in a million. But billions and billions of people claim to have experienced God, so it’s virtually certain that at least one of those experiences was veridical. That’s a bad argument, and for the same reason. 

My interlocutor responded “I don’t see the issue with the verdical experience of God argument. If that was the case, we would expect their to be at least one such experience. It’s just doing the math.”

Well, actually, that IS the case. Many people from around the world claim to experience either God’s presence, an activity of God, or something of a supernatural type of thing. We can just take the number of Near Death Experiences alone. It doesn’t take a whole lot of research to find them. Even entire television programs have been dedicated to them.

So, suppose the chance that any given Near Death Experience is veridical is only one in a million. But billions and billions of people claim to have gone to Heaven or Hell, so it’s virtually certain that at least one of those experiences was veridical.

I told him “If you really think this isn’t a bad argument, then congrats, you’re a theist! You admit veridical experiences of God and veridical Near Death Experiences. Now I just need to move you from generic theism to Christian theism.”

2.3: The Bible Teaches Certain Doctrines That Increase The Probability Of God and Suffering 

It is the case that that the problem of evil and suffering is easier to deal with given the Christian God instead of a generic concept of God. This is because the The Bible teaches certain things that increase the probability of suffering. What are these doctrines? Well, I already mentioned one above; namely that God’s use of “The Butterfly Effect” actually has a biblical basis as it’s presupposed in the story of Joseph and it’s explicitly stated in Romans 8:28. However, there are others. Let me mention 2 of them.

Doctrine 1: God’s Main Purpose For This Life Is Not Happiness, but Knowledge Of Himself. And A mountain of Testimony Shows that God Uses Suffering To Bring People To Repentance 

One thing I’ve noticed from listening to testimony after testimony after testimony of people coming to faith in Christ is this: every single one of them involved a long, hard road of suffering that culminated in the person coming to the end of their rope and crying out to Jesus for help and salvation. 

We’re in a sin situation. We’ve all fallen short of God’s moral standard (Romans 3:23), and as a holy and just judge (Psalm 11:6, Psalm 9:7-8, Psalm 10), God must punish sin. As a loving Being though (1 John 4:8), God doesn’t want to punish us but desires to forgive us. God became incarnate (John 1:14) and took the punishment on Himself at the cross of Calvary (Romans 5:8). All one needs to do is repent and receive this gift, confessing Jesus as their Savior and Lord (Isaiah 55:7, Romans 10:9). God is “not willing that any should perish, but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). If God knows if a person would freely be saved if he endured through an immense amount of suffering, then it makes sense to think that God will allow suffering to enter that person’s life for the sake of their eternity. After all, which is better: to suffer for a finite amount of time and and gain eternal life, live an okay life for a finite amount of time and end up either in eternal agony or being annihilated in the flames of Hell (Evangelicals disagree on what happens in Hell, but I think the former is overwhelmingly evident in scripture). 

So many people have come to Christ because of immense suffering. Testimony upon testimony could be compiled to show that the majority of people who become born again Christians actually have, in part, immense suffering to thank. You can check out Lee Strobel’s book The Case For Grace to read about a few of these. Moreover, one day while I was reading The Bible, I discovered something interesting. In Jesus’ “Parable Of The Prodigal Son” recorded in Luke 15:11-32, we find that the prodigal son didn’t return home to his father until he had lost everything and became so hungry that even the pig’s food looked appealing to him. It was only until The Prodigal Son hit rock bottom that He “came to his senses” and returned to his father.

Yes, I absolutely believe that pain and suffering is one of God’s ways of drawing us to Himself.

As C.S Lewis once put it, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”15

And as venerable archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said “Sometimes the only way the good Lord can get into some hearts is to break them.”16

Doctrine 2: The Bible Teaches That God Can Use Suffering To Shape Our Moral Character

Suffering leads to character development. The Bible says:

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:3-5

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – 1 Peter 1:5-7

From these passages, we see that The Bible teaches that God can use suffering to build character. God can mold us into better people through what we suffer. The atheist may scoff “God would really allow a lot of suffering just to develop character?” Well yeah. “Well, what kind of character traits could we not obtain in a suffering-free world?” I can think of a few: Courage, Compassion, Forgiveness, Self-Sacrifice, and Charity. I think we can all agree that these are moral virtues, and I think we can all agree that it is better for a person to possess these moral properties than to lack them. Now, here’s my question: is it possible for people to obtain these virtues in the lack of suffering?

Can you have courage in the lack of danger? No, in order to develop courage, you need chances to be courageous. In order to be compassionate, you need someone suffering so that you can be compassionate. In order to develop the virtue of forgiveness, you need to have some evils done to you so that you’ll have transgressions to forgive. Want a world where people are charitable? Welcome to a world with poverty.

For certain moral virtues to exist or develop in human beings, there must be some evil and suffering. In fact, each moral virtue has a specific kind of suffering that correlates with it, as I’ve already pointed out.

Courage <——-> Danger

Compassion <—-> Suffering

Forgiveness <—–> Evil

Self-Sacrifice <—-> Hardship

Charity <——> Poverty

You would never know what courage is unless you had to face danger. You would never know what forgiveness is unless someone had wronged you and gave you a sin to forgive. You would never know what it means to give to the needy if there were no needy people. You can’t just snap your fingers and suddenly develop these traits in a puppet.

Remember when I said that I would get back to step E in Tim Stratton’s “Three Circles Model”? Well, I’ve just gotten back to it. 

Doctrine 3: mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and His purpose. 

Dr. William Lane Craig writes in his book Philosophical Foundations For A Christian Worldview that “Rather than submit to and worship God, people rebel against God and go their own way and so find themselves alienated from God, morally guilty before him, groping in spiritual darkness, and pursuing false gods of their own making. The terrible human evils in the world are testimony to man’s depravity in our state of spiritual alienation from God. Moreover, there is a realm of beings higher than man also in rebellion against God, demonic creatures, incredibly evil, in whose power the creation lies and who seek to destroy God’s work and thwart his purposes. Christians are thus not surprised at the moral evil in the world; on the contrary, we expect it. The Scriptures indicate that God has given mankind over to the sin it has freely chosen; he does not interfere to stop it but lets human depravity run its course (Rom 1:24, 26, 28). This only serves to heighten mankind’s moral responsibility before God, as well as our wickedness and our need of forgiveness and moral cleansing.”17

Dr. Michael S. Heiser explains that there are actually three biblical reasons for why the world is so messed up. All three of these episodes happened during the primeval history period of The Bible which is Genesis 1-11. Dr. Michael Heiser explains “You will find the idea that the sin of the Watchers is sort of lurking behind things like human depravity and the origin of the expansion of sin, the proliferation of evil, proliferation of wickedness throughout the world. And in the case of some Second Temple writers, they would even speak of what the Watchers did as the origin of sin. You say, well, what about what happened in the garden? Apparently, some Second Temple Jewish writers thought that Adam could kind of get a pass because he was kind of dumb. He got deceived, that sort of thing. Eve was deceived and Adam sort of just didn’t know what was going on. They’ll try to give him a pass and then put everything at the feet of the Watchers. But I think in Biblical theology, we’re more consistent saying here’s when sin, rebellion enters God’s world in Genesis 3, and then we have this other thing happen in Genesis 6. And I’ve made the comment before that, especially in Unseen Realm, that if you asked a Jew why’s the world the way it is? Why do we get depravity? Why is humanity so messed up? If you asked a Jew that question, you’d get here’s where it started back in Genesis 3 or it started in Genesis 6. You’re going to get one or the other there. And then they’re going to talk about Genesis 6, about how what the watchers did to transmit forbidden knowledge to humans and humans took that knowledge and basically perverted and turned it against themselves, things like lust and what not. All this is going to be laid at the feet of the Watchers, their entrance into the world and their interaction with people. And that’s going to be the real guts of why the world is in the awful condition it is. It’s going to be the Watchers. Then thirdly, of course, you’re going to have what happens at Babel. So I’ve made the comment before that you’re dealing with three episodes here but in Christian theology, Christian tradition, what people grow up hearing in church, they’re only going to be oriented to one, and that is Genesis 3 incident, the Fall, whereas if you asked a Jew the same question, that is not the same answer you’d get. And the Old Testament never references Genesis 3 as an explanation for the condition of the human heart or the condition of human wickedness. You don’t get a passage that references it.”18

Unfortunately, as Heiser said, it is true that the sin of The Watchers and what really happened in The Tower of Babel account goes largely ignored in most Evangelical theological circles. So, for the interested reader, I recommend checking out my “Primeval History Paper series” in which I exegete all 11 chapters of The Primeval History period. → https://cerebralfaith.net/category/primeval-history-paper-series/

Doctrine 4: A Day Is Coming When Suffering Will Cease And God Will Judge Evil

Although this sub-subsection is about the emotional version of the problem of evil, I think this point applies just as much to the intellectual versions, and that is that evil and suffering are not something that will always exist. Yes, we’ll go to a perfect afterlife if we trust in Christ, but even our physical universe will be reformed some day.

The Bible says that a day will come when sickness and pain will be done completely away with and people will be held culpable for the nasty deeds they did. This is talked about in Revelation chapters 20 to 21. Justice will be served in a perfect way. That day will come, but not yet.

Now, you may be wondering what’s holding God up. One answer is that some of the readers of this paper may be. The Bible teaches that God is actually procrastinating the cosmic apocalypse so that more people will come to trust in Him and ergo, spend eternity with Him in Heaven. He’s delaying out of His love for mankind. 2 Peter 3:9 says “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” When you read 2 Peter 3:9 in context, you see that the entire passage is actually about why Christ is taking so long to return, and Peter says “This is the reason! God wants all people to be saved! He’s tarrying for the sake of those still yet to repent!” If a person will repent tomorrow, God will keep the world spinning until tomorrow. If a person would repent in 2022 if God allowed the world to continue that long, then God will allow the world to continue until then for the sake of that one person.

Atheists, at this point, might object that we have no reasons to think these biblical doctrines are true. However, this response would be illegitimate, for It’s the atheist who is making the claim (ergo bearing the burden of proof) that suffering makes God’s existence improbable. The Problem Of Evil is an argument for atheism, so the atheist, therefore, is the one who needs to back up the argument that he thinks supports his worldview. If the atheist says “God’s existence is improbable in light of suffering”, to this, I say “Not the Christian God!” The atheist needs to show that the Christian God is improbable relative to the suffering in the world. What he needs to do is either (1) falsify these biblical doctrines or (2) show that they wouldn’t affect the probability structure even if conceded.

2.4: Relative To The Full Scope Of The Evidence, God’s Existence Is Probable 

Probabilities are always relative to some background information. For
example, suppose we’re given the information that Dave is a member of Greenville Wesleyan Church and that 90 percent of Greenville Wesleyan Church members are young earth creationists. Relative to that information it’s highly probable that Dave thinks evolution is false. But now suppose we’re given the additional information that Dave is a biologist, and that 99% of biologists do accept the theory of evolution. Relative to this new information, it now becomes highly improbable that Dave is a young earth creationist.

There are many sound arguments for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. For example, The Kalam Cosmological Argument For God’s Existence, The Cosmic Fine-Tuning Argument For God’s Existence, The Local Fine-Tuning Argument For God’s Existence, The Moral Argument For God’s Existence, and The Ontological Argument for God’s Existence. Aside from these, there’s The Minimal Facts Case For The Historicity Of Jesus’ Resurrection. It is not possible to defend every single one of the arguments in any justifiable depth in this paper. However, I give an in-depth defense of all of them in my 2019 book The Case For The One True God: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Case For The God Of Christianity. I also have many blog posts on these arguments on my website Cerebral Faith (www.cerebralfaith.net). 

Imagine a scale, as it were, with all of the arguments for God’s existence on one side of the scale, and evil and suffering on the other side. When you take all of the evidence into account, God’s existence becomes overwhelmingly more probable than His non-existence.

  

The Moral Argument has a peculiar bearing on this subject. Ironically, this argument actually shows that if God does not exist, then there really is no such thing as the problem of evil. The late Ravi Zacharias said it well: “When you say there’s too much evil in this world you assume there’s good. When you assume there’s good, you assume there’s such a thing as a moral law on the basis of which to differentiate between good and evil. But if you assume a moral law, you must posit a moral Law Giver, but that’s Who you’re trying to disprove and not prove. Because if there’s no moral Law Giver, there’s no moral law. If there’s no moral law, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil.”19 Ironically, the atheist has to borrow a concept that can only exist on the Christian worldview in order to argue against the Christian worldview!

Just look at The Moral Argument when phrased in the following way:

1: If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2: Evil exists.
3: Therefore, objective moral values and duties exist.
4: Therefore, God exists.

So, in order to continue to use the argument from evil against God, it seems that the atheist’s only hope is to affirm objective morality and find some way to knock down premise 1. Philosophers such as Erik Wieilenburg20 and Sam Harris21 , for example, try to do this,but I think their attempts fail. Again, space does not permit a treatment of any of the arguments for God’s existence here. I defer the reader to my book The Case For The One True God: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Case For The God Of Christianity in order to get full defenses of this and other arguments. If you want to see why I think objective moral values and duties cannot exist on the atheistic worldview, check out chapter 4 of the aforementioned book. You can also check out the various blog posts on my website. → https://cerebralfaith.net/arguments-for-gods-existence-subsections/

The irony here is that evil doesn’t serve as evidence against God’s existence, it serves as evidence for God’s existence! 

What’s interesting about The Ontological Argument is that it is 100% immune to the probabilistic version of the problem of evil. This argument shows that if it’s even possible that God exists, then it follows that God exists. Probability is irrelevant. God’s existence may be very improbable, or it might be very probable. It makes no difference to The (Modal) Ontological Argument. All that’s needed for The Ontological Argument to succeed is that the concept of God be logically possible.

While the logical version of the problem of evil would be a counter to The Ontological Argument if it succeeded (and it does not), the probabilistic version cannot be used as a counter at all! If The Modal Ontological Argument is sound, the probabilistic version of the problem of evil is an abject failure.

3.1 The Emotional Problem Of Evil 

Although the logical and evidential versions of the problem of evil are abject failures as disproving God, the problem of evil is not merely an academic exercise. As I said before, the problem of evil hits every one of us where we live. Evil and suffering aren’t just abstract concepts we analyze, they are horrors every one of us has at varying degrees at different kinds. 

Some people just don’t like a God who would permit them or others to suffer. They begrudge Him for allowing them to experience it. They shake their fists at him in rage. If you’ve seen the movie God’s Not Dead, then you’ll know that the movie’s antagonist Professor Radisson (played by Kevin Sorbo) struggled with the problem of evil on an emotional level. When he was a child, he prayed for God to save his mother’s life when she was dying from cancer. But God didn’t answer his prayer and his mother died. This fueled his bitterness and animosity towards God and everyone who worshipped Him. Josh, the protagonist, was able to get Raddison to admit this at the end of their debate. Josh asked repeatedly, almost like a prosecutor putting a witness on trial “Why do you hate God?” and finally Professor Radisson blurted out “Because he took everything from me!” He didn’t just simply accept atheism because he found it more reasonable than theism, he had a true hatred of God, which as Josh pointed out, is bizarre thing if he truly doesn’t believe God exists.

What can we say to those who are struggling with the problem of pain on an emotional level?

Remember, Your Tears are God’s Tears

One thing that brings me comfort is knowing that whenever I suffer, God suffers with me. When you hurt, God hurts. God feels pain in His heart to see you hurting even though He’s allowing you to hurt for a good reason and it’s all part of His divine plan. When Martha was weeping over the death of Lazarus (see John 11), Jesus didn’t sit back cooly observing her suffering. No, Jesus wept when Lazarus was dead (John 11:35). I believe He was crying because He sensed the pain inside of Martha and Mary’s hearts. I don’t agree with the common interpretation that Jesus was weeping over Lazarus’ death. I mean, look, Jesus knew for a fact that He was about to raise Lazarus back to life and everything was going to be ok. In fact, He said that was the reason He took so long to get there. He said “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him” (John 11:14-15). Jesus said He was glad that it happened so that He could raise Lazarus from the dead and confirm his messianic status even further. He knew ahead of time that He was going to raise Lazarus. That’s why he let him die. He knew Lazarus was going to come back to life, so why would He weep over Lazarus’ death? That’d be like mourning over your friend taking a nap. You know he’s going to wake up soon, so why fret?

But Jesus loves Martha so it hurt Him to see her in so much pain. Martha and Mary didn’t know of Jesus’ plan to raise Lazarus, so they really were mourning. 

Since Jesus is God (John 1:1-4, John 1:14, John 10:30, Isaiah 9:6, Colossians 1:15-17), I know that God The Father is that same way when we’re in pain. He knows the future and knows that we’ll be smiling again (see Psalm 30:5) and that these things are happening for a good reason, but He hates having to see us hurting.

When I was 3, my mother took me to get a flu shot. When I got the vaccine, it hurt, and I cried all the way back to the car. My mother knew ahead of time that it wouldn’t be pleasant to get the vaccine, but she allowed the doctor to stick me with it anyway because she knew that if I didn’t get the shot, then I would most likely get the flu, get very sick and possibly would die from it. She allowed me to suffer to bring about a greater good. But don’t you think it hurt her to see me hurt?

Just as my mother didn’t like to see me crying from a flu vaccine, yet allowed it to happen anyway for my good, the same is true when God allows suffering to afflict our lives. In His wisdom, he permits it to happen. He knows every result in the butterfly effect, but in His compassion, He hurts with us.

Lean Upon God For Comfort And For Support

Sometimes God calms the storm, sometimes He calms His child. If and when you go through terrible suffering in this life, you shouldn’t spurn God, instead, you should do just the opposite! You should turn to Him for comfort and support. The Bible says that God “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3). The Bible says that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18). Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28).  Psalm 32:7 says “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

These Bible passages tell us that when times of suffering come, God is there for us. He is our hiding place (Psalm 32:7), He will heal our broken hearts and bind up our wounds (Psalm 147:3). He will give us rest if we come to Him (Matthew 11:28).

Who will you be like? Will you be like Job’s Wife, who thought that Job should curse God on account of his suffering (Job 2:9), or will you be like Martha, who ran to Jesus during her time of mourning (John 11:20)? God gave you free will. It’s up to you how you respond to your circumstances. The better thing to do would be to run to Jesus, fall at His feet and say “Lord, my heart is broken. Heal me”.

I do believe that I am qualified to say this. On July 30th 2018, I lost a very dear friend of mine. I knew it was coming in the near future, I just didn’t know when. I was worried that grief would overwhelm me like it did the last time I lost someone. I was afraid that the extreme pain would cause me to turn on God and angrily shake my fist in His face for not stopping it from happening, but that’s not what happened. I shed many tears and my heart felt like it was ripped in two, but I didn’t fall apart. In fact, rather than rail against the Almighty, I fell to my knees and praised Him like Job did when Satan took everything from him. He is the God who gives and takes away (Job 1:21) and though he slays me, I hope in Him (Job 13:35). I thanked Him for giving me the time with him that I had. After a little while of weeping, I just stopped. I still hurt, but I had a peace inside of me. A peace that surpasses any understanding (Philippians 4:7). If a song could have described that night, it would have been Casting Crowns’ “Praise You In This Storm”.

I say this with a bit of reluctance. I don’t want to appear that I’m showing off any piety on my part (cf. Matthew 6:1-6). Instead, I feel that my own experience can speak to those struggling with the emotional problem of evil. In the midst of the storm, I found peace. In the midst of my weakness, I found strength. I had sorrow, but sorrow didn’t have me. That was ALL OF GOD! That is not of my own doing. If it weren’t for The Holy Spirit who dwells in me, I would have been a complete wreck. Have you experienced loss recently? Does your heart need to be put back together? Do you need emotional strength? God can give you that if you ask Him to. If you don’t know Him, please call out to Him tonight. Call upon the name of Jesus Christ; the One who is truly human and truly God.

I felt immense power on that black night. Natural Theology is cool and all, but that night, God was more real to me than He had ever been. I felt His power flowing through me like medicine through my veins. He kept me from falling apart. He was close to me, the brokenhearted. He saved me, the crushed in spirit. I came to Him and he gave me rest.

If you don’t know The Lord and you are hurting tonight. If you don’t know how you can possibly make it through the pain, turn to Him. First, confess any sins you have committed and ask Him to absolve you of them in the name of Jesus. Then confess Jesus as your Savior and Lord. Finally ask The Holy Spirit to come into your heart and indwell you, and to give you the peace that surpasses understanding. God is truly amazing! He is awesome! I have felt Christ’s power to help me weather the strongest of storms and so can you! Turn to Him and have your sins forgiven! Turn to Him and have your wounds healed!

The Beauty That’s In Store Outweighs The Hurt Of This Life

I don’t want to at all minimize the suffering of anyone reading this, however, I think it helps if we look at suffering with a long-term perspective. Read this Bible passage, and keep in mind that it was written by the Apostle Paul, who endured a life of “afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, and hunger.” (2 Corinthians 6:4-5)

Paul wrote: “So we do not lose heart. . . . For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Paul says that as rough as this life can be, it pales in comparison to the beauty and joy that God will lavish upon those who trust in Him. He said this also in his epistle to the Romans.

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” – Romans 8:18

Paul lived his life with an eternal perspective. He knew that as terrible as this life can get, as he himself could personally attest to, it isn’t anything compared to how wonderful the life to come is.

Lee Strobel gave this illustration to make the point. Just mentally change the year to the current year. He wrote “Say that on the first day of 2012, you had an awful, terrible day. You had an emergency root canal at the dentist and they ran out of pain-killers. You crashed your car and had no insurance. Your stock portfolio took a nosedive. Your spouse got sick. A friend betrayed you. From start to finish, it was like the title of that children’s book: Alexander & the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. But then every other day of the year was just incredibly terrific. Your relationship with God is close and real and intimate. A friend wins the lottery and gives you $100 million. You get promoted at work to your dream job. Time magazine puts your photo on its cover as ‘The Person of the Year.’ You have your first child and he’s healthy and strong. Your marriage is idyllic, your health is fabulous, you have a six-month vacation in Tahiti. Then next New Year’s Day someone asks, ‘So, how was your 2012?’ You’d say, ‘It was great; it was wonderful!’ And they’d say, ‘But didn’t it start out bad?Didn’t you go through a lot of trouble that first day?’ You’d think back and say, ‘You’re right. That was a bad day, no denying it. It was difficult at the time. It was hard. It was painful. But when I look at the totality of the year, when I put everything in context, it’s been a great year. The 364 terrific days far outweigh the one bad day. That day just sort of fades away.”22

This is analogous to our life versus our eternity. In Lee Strobel’s analogy, our whole life represents January 1st of the year where everything goes wrong, but our eternity in Heaven represents the 364 days where everything goes right. When you think about it: the time we’ll spend in suffering (approx. one century) is infinitesimally small to the time we’ll spend in overwhelming, uninterrupted joy in God’s Kingdom (all eternity). All of our sufferings will be a mere blip in time! No wonder Paul called it “a slight, momentary affliction”!

Jesus said “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

Conclusion 

The Logical, Evidential, and Emotional Problems Of Evil are failures. Evil and suffering does not disprove the existence or God nor does it render His existence unlikely. 

———————————————-

NOTES

1: https://americanvision.org/7989/epicurus-problem-of-evil/

2: Hickson, Michael W. (2014). “A Brief History of Problems of Evil”. In McBrayer, Justin P.; Howard-Snyder, Daniel (eds.). The Blackwell Companion to The Problem of Evil. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 6–7. ISBN 978-1-118-60797-8.

3: “What Are the Three Laws of Logic?” By J. P. Moreland – January 6th 2015 → https://arcapologetics.org/objections/three-laws-logic/

4: C.S Lewis / The Problem Of Pain / Chapter 2/ Page 18 / HarperOne

5: “Harley Quinn + The Joker = True Love?” Dr. Tim Stratton (The FreeThinking Theist) | December 13, 2016 — https://freethinkingministries.com/harley-quinn-the-joker-true-love/ 

6: Paul Draper, The Skeptical Theist, in The Evidential Argument from Evil, 1996, 176-77).

7: Peter van Inwagen, The Problem of Evil, the Problem of Air, and the Problem of Silence, Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 5: Philosophy of Religion ,ed. James E. Tomberlin: 1991, 135)

8: I’m actually a big fan of his. I loved his TV Series “Cosmos: A Space-Time Oddysee” and his book “Astrophysics For People In A Hurry”. 

9: Tyson was interviewed by Chelsea on Netflix, Does Neil deGrasse Tyson believe in God?, https://youtu.be/jXAokvnv7Mc , (accessed March 1, 2019)

10: “3 Circles & ALL the Problems of Evil” – Dr. Tim Stratton, January 22, 2019 — https://freethinkingministries.com/3-circles-all-the-problems-of-evil/ 

11: “3 Circles & ALL the Problems of Evil” – Dr. Tim Stratton, January 22, 2019 — https://freethinkingministries.com/3-circles-all-the-problems-of-evil/ 

12: The Hebrew word for “Serpent” used in Genesis 3. See my paper “Genesis 2 & 3: Adam and Eve As Archetypes, Priests In The Garden Of Eden, and The Fall” for an exegetical discussion on who and what “The Serpent” was. → https://cerebralfaith.net/genesis-2-3-adam-and-eve-as-archetypes-priests-in-the-garden-of-eden-and-the-fall/ 

13:  See William Lane Craig, “On Guard: Defending Your Faith With Reason and Precision”, Chapter 7, page 158, David C Cook.

14: ibid.

15: C.S Lewis, “The Problem Of Pain”, HarperCollins, page 3.

16: Quote By Fulton J. Sheen. (n.d.). Quotery. Retrieved August 8, 2017, from http://www.quotery.com/quotes/sometimes-the-only-way-the-good-lord-can-get-into/ 

17: Moreland, J. P.. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Kindle Locations 15127-15134). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

18: The Naked Bible Podcast 2.0 Number 94 “The Sin of the Watchers and Galatians 3-4” Dr. Michael S. Heiser With Residential Layman Trey Stricklin April 2, 2016. → https://nakedbiblepodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Transcript-94-Sin-of-Watchers-and-Galatians-3-4.pdf

19: In response to the objection, “There cannot be a God, because there is too much evil in this world.” Can Man Live Without God?, p. 182

20: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iVyVJAMiOY 

21: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/videos/debates/craig-vs.-harris-notre-dame/

22: Lee Strobel, from the article “Why Does God Allow Tragedy And Suffering”, July 25th 2012, http://www.apologetics315.com/2012/07/why-does-god-allow-tragedy-and-suffering.html

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