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THEOLOGY > Sin > The Problem of Evil > The Problem Stated


The problem of evil involves three simple truths: God is good, God is powerful, and evil exists. If the first two are true, then why is there evil in the world? In this question is the colossal problem facing the believer.

Obvious in the three statements and in the question that arises from the three statements is that the problem is related to God. The fact of sin seems to impugn the orthodox concept of God. Either God is good but not powerful, or He must be powerful but not good, for both God’s goodness and power cannot be true given the existence of evil.

If God is good and if God is powerful then why does evil exist? Why did God, who is both holy and omnipotent, allow sin to arise, and why does He allow it to continue? If God is good, then He must not be powerful enough to prevent evil, for evil exists; and if God is powerful, then He must not be sufficiently good to destroy evil, for evil exists. Such are the reasoning and affirmations of the non-believer.

The problem is stated in the words of David Hume: “Is he 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” (Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, Part 10).

The problem is indirectly suggested by the well-known prayer that is taught to children: “God is great and God is good; let us thank Him for our food.” If God is the source of food then God must be the source of everything. Then what about sin? If “God is great” (powerful) and if “God is good” (holy), then how is evil to be explained? If both characteristics of God are true, then why does sin exist?

The problem of evil involves the fact of both moral evil and natural evil, personal and environmental evil. Why am I bad? Why do I do bad things to people, and why do people do bad things to me? And why do I experience general evil in the world around me in the form of natural disasters and calamities? Evil is pervasive; therefore, the problem of its existence continually surfaces.

Central to the problem is the perspective taken on the issue relative to God. Is evil to be understood in regards to God Himself or is it to be understood outside of God; in other words, does the discussion involve God or that which is exterior to God? Should the reflection focus upon sin as it relates to the nature of God, or should it be viewed as an element completely outside of God and foreign to God?

It is important to note that nothing within the nature of God requires the existence of evil; God’s essence, therefore, does not necessitate the appearance of sin. Argument for this point does not invalidate the fact that God indeed has permitted/ordained the existence of sin. Though His nature does not require its appearance, He has determined its appearance.

Nor does sin exist because it is a force/power that God could not keep from existing. This is affirms that sin is not greater than God, but that God is greater than sin. Evil does not control all things, God does.

If God exists,
and the God that exists is the God of the Bible,
then why is there evil?

Return to: The Problem of Evil; Next Article: The Source of Evil

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