Answering the Problem of Evil and Suffering

ANSWERING THE PROBLEM OF EVIL AND SUFFERING

Question: How do we reconcile a loving, omnipotent God with evil and suffering in this world?

  1. Some unbelievers who have suffered greatly, or lost loved ones have charged that this is an irrefutable case against the existence of God.
    1. They ask, “Couldn’t God have made a world in which evil and suffering don’t exist? “
    2. The may say, “I would never hurt my children needlessly, so why does God? If God is not even better than me, why should I worship him?”
    3. The standard argument for atheism formulated by David Hume is:
      1. Premise 1: If God were all-powerful, he would be able to prevent evil.
      2. Premise 2: If God were all-good, he would desire to prevent evil.
      3. Conclusion: So if God were all-powerful and all-good, there would be no evil.
      4. Premise 3: But there is evil.
      5. Conclusion: Therefore there is no all-powerful, all-good God.
  1. The answer to these objections starts with an examination of the assumptions behind the question
    1. It is assumed that suffering is necessarily ___________. 
    2. It is assumed that people are basically___________ so that suffering is somehow unfair.
    3. It is assumed that evil and suffering cannot result in___________ that will make it worthwhile.
    4. BUT, it is also assumed that at there is a___________ between good and evil.
    5. There is a___________ by which to judge between good and evil.
    6. The standard can be___________ and ought to compel people.
    7. There is___________ to the events in the world and to the suffering of people.
  1. Non-Christian Answers
    1. Non-Reality of Evil View—Eastern religions (and some atheists) deny that evil and suffering are any more than an                         .
    2. Weakness of God View—God does not overcome all evil because ___________, even though he wants to.
    3. Free Will View–Man has free will, and therefore, God has nothing to do with evil because he cannot without impinging on man’s free will.
    4. “Christian” Fatalism—God is in control, and therefore you cannot avoid suffering. Don’t let it get you upset. Just stoically accept it, because all things work together for good. So, actually it’s a blessing. It’s nothing to cry over.
  2. A Christian Answer
    1. God is the___________ for his own actions–whatever he does defines concepts of justice, goodness, love, and mercy
    2. God does not need to___________ his actions to us. He does not defend himself for giving Adam a wife who led him into sin (Gen. 3:12), or when he tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22), or when Job wants answers (Job 23:1-7; 31:35ff; 40:4-42:6).
    3. As fallen, finite, and created beings, we cannot___________ the reasons of a perfect, infinite, and uncreated God (Ezek. 18:25).
  1. An even better Christian answer is that God may have a perfectly good reason for allowing evil and suffering that we cannot know or comprehend.
    1. The standard atheistic view assumes that God could not possibly have a good reason for allowing evil and suffering, yet cannot prove that assertion in any way.
    2. The Christian answer says that with man’s limited ___________, he cannot possibly know whether or not God has good reasons for allowing suffering.
    3. The Christian response to the standard atheistic view might look like this:
      1. Premise 1: If God were all-powerful, he would be able to prevent evil.
      2. Premise 2: If God were all-good, he would desire to prevent evil.
      3. Premise 3: But there is evil.
      4. Premise 4: God may have a morally sufficient reason for allowing evil that we don’t know about
      5. Conclusion: Therefore, God may allow evil for reasons we don’t know, and still be all-powerful, all-good
  1. Ultimately only the Christian worldview validates that suffering is genuine, yet not meaningless.
    1. God ___________ over evil and suffering (John 11:35).
    2. God himself experienced the___________ in order to ensure an end to suffering.
  1. Ultimately only the Christian worldview has grounds to call evil what it is, to see evil as really destructive and awful as it really is, and to provide hope for future judgment on those who perpetrate evil.
    1. God ___________ evil and has nothing to do with it (Hab. 1:12; Jam. 1:13-17).
    2. Evil is the___________ of God and all he has made.
    3. Non-Christian views___________ evil, fail to recognize it as such, or are unable to give distinctions between good and evil.
    4. God ultimately___________ evil by the death of his Son, Jesus. Jesus conquered the consequence of sin, death, by his resurrection. He makes it possible for us to overcome evil by copying his example (Rom. 12:17-21; John 11:25).

*For more answers to the problem of evil and suffering see D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? (IVP, 1990), John Piper and Justin Taylor, eds., Suffering and the Sovereignty of God (Crossway, 2006), and Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering (Penguin, 2015)

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