What is the problem of evil?
The problem of Evil, though not one singular problem, is a perceived inconsistency found in three foundational truths about God. The three truths are: “God is all-loving, God is all-powerful, and evil exists in a world created by such a God.”1 The issue of evil is a complex one that must be analyzed in more than one way. First, it is a religious problem. When a person is experiencing the effects of evil, their relationship with God is strained. From a philosophical and theological standpoint, one must consider how evil can exist in a world created by an all-loving, all-powerful God.
Define moral evil and natural evil, and illustrate them with examples.
There are two types of evil: moral and natural evil. Moral evil is evil that occurs as a direct result of the actions of moral agents.2 Moral evils are violations of the Law of God such as murder, rape, incest, theft, and blasphemy. A scriptural example would be the Israelite Achan keeping some of the devoted things for himself in Joshua chapter seven. Natural evil is the evil that occurs in the natural processes of the physical world as a result of the curse placed on creation after the fall of man.3 Natural Evils are the groanings of creation such as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis. Luke illustrated this in chapter thirteen of his gospel when someone asked Jesus why the tower of Siloam fell and killed eighteen innocents.
Seek to explain why there is sin among mankind (the philosophical problem of moral evil) and why bad things happen in nature (the philosophical problem of natural evil). Consider the various theodicies presented in the reading, and address the merits and faults of each one.
All evil is rooted in sin. Sin is turning from God, resulting in alienation from God. Sin exists among mankind because the father of all men, Adam, sinned. God allowed Adam a moral choice of whether to be obedient, or to rebel. He rebelled against God, and in so doing, he passed sin to all mankind. As a result of Adam's fall, God cursed creation. All creation is polluted by sin, and yearns for recreation. God has allowed all of this to transpire to display the fullness of His attributes to all of creation through His redemptive purpose. Some try to rationalize the existence of evil by contending that God created a world containing evil because it is the best possible scenario.4 Though God's will is inherently best, this fails to explain how God is not complicit in evil's existence. One theodicy claims God created man in need of moral development. God created the world with evil, but he will use it to develop man into spiritual perfection, so God is not implicated.5 This view does not fit with Scripture, because men who have been born again undergo spiritual development, but those who are lost are spiritually dead. Some theologians say, and I agree, that God created the world free from evil, and evil in the world has been introduced by beings created by God. Those beings exercised their free will and chose rebellion, but in the end God will use evil to bring about good.6 This fits the overall message of Scripture, and proves God is not the originator of evil.
Briefly explain why a theodicy must be internally consistent, and defend the internal consistency of your explanation of evil’s existence
Before a theodicy can be considered, it must be able to present views of God, man, evil, creation, and the relationship between them that are internally consistent. If the internal elements of a theological position can not be rationalized, it can not be considered a logical view of the justification of God's relationship to man. My theodicy is that God created a world free from sin, but His creation exercised its free will and rebelled. It is consistent because God's creation of free will is “a value of the highest order.”7 The only way God can show all His attributes to man is to grant him free will. A creation full of “automatons”8 under God's complete control could not exercise true love for God, or make any decision other than that which is ultimately God's decision. In order to show Himself holy and merciful, He had to give mankind a choice to make and redeem those who choose Him.
Consider how personal experience of evil may affect one’s relationship with God (the religious problem of evil). Do you believe someone can dispute a certain belief about God without actually attacking God Himself?
Experiencing the affects of evil alienates a person from the communion with God intended in the beginning of creation. Suffering and affliction causes a person to question the goodness and mercy of God. As we see in Job, suffering causes men to analyze their belief systems in light of circumstances. This does not equate to sin though. Man's agonizing over who God is and why He allows evil to befall His creation actually serves to gain man a far greater comprehension of God than can be obtained through prosperity. Although it is mysterious, the experiences in this fallen world serve as a refining fire for those who seek a proper understanding of who God is.
Word count: 774
Elwell, Walter A. 2001. Evangelical dictionary of theology. Grand Rapids, Mich: Paternoster Press.
1Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2001. pg. 413
2Ibid. pg. 414
4Ibid. pg. 1185
5Ibid. pg. 1186