"How can an All-Good, All-Powerful, and All-Knowing God allow evil and suffering in the world?"
There are basically 2 components to the question of "Evil and Suffering":
- The Emotional Response - This involves loving, caring, praying, counseling someone who is going through a tragedy.
- The Intellectual Response - This involves the logical answers raised by the existence of evil and suffering in a world that has been created and is sustained by an All-powerful, All-loving, All-knowing God. This is the version of the problem that I will give you some answers to below. If you are seeking help regarding the emotional aspect, please come talk with me at Calvary and I'd love to pray for you, ok?
In regards to your question about Sudan/Darfur/Egypt, here are some of the answers that we know to be true from the Scriptures and solid Christian Theology/Philosophy:
- "Evil" isn't an actual thing, in and of itself- "Evil" isn't a substance, but rather the lack of good substance; "Evil" is simply "the absence/corruption of a good that should be there." This is the view of St. Augustine based upon Scripture.
- "Evil" actually demonstrates the existence of an All-Good God - The idea of "evil" implies an objective, transcendent Moral Law, the violation of which is "evil." But there could never be an objective, transcendent Moral Law unless there was a transcendent Moral Lawgiver - God. Therefore, our perception of "evil" implies the existence of the Moral Lawgiver, God.
- "Good" could never exist, unless the possibility for "Evil" did as well- For example, unless a life-threatening situation existed, the good of self-sacrifice and heroism would never come to be. If there was not potential for "evil" there would likewise be no potential for the "good".
- Evil human choices MUST be allowed by God - Even God can't do anything (sin, evil, lie), especially that which is logically contradictory such as creating a "square circle" or a "married bachelor". Making someone freely choose Him, or forcing someone to freely choose to do good are both logically incoherent and contradictory. Therefore, if God is truly Perfect and Good (which He must be) He cannot force people to do good. This creates the possibility for evil and suffering in the world. This is known as the "Free Will Defense" by Dr. Alvin Plantinga, a renowned Christian Philosopher. As God is the Sovereign of the Universe, He has created us in His Image with human sovereignty as well (Genesis 1:26,27).
- Some evils are permitted in order to produce a greater good - Some goods would plausible never come to be unless a certain amount of evil was permitted. For example, a child experiences a bit of pain in order for them to receive a shot of vaccine in order to prevent their infection and death. God may allow temporary pain, if it is the only thing that will lead a person to an everlasting relationship of peace and joy with him. The eternal good outweighs the temporary pain (2 Cor 4,5)
- Some evils are permitted in order to prevent an even greater evil - The above example will function here as well. In order to prevent the countless billions of humanity spending an eternity apart from Him, the Lord allowed one Man Jesus Christ, to suffer the evil that they rightly deserved. It is better to spank a child and so teach him to obey authority, that to never correct him, and allow him to grow up and become a law-breaking criminal, inflicting pain upon others and himself in the process.
- Just because God has not stopped evil yet, doesn't mean He never will - This kind of thinking imposes an unjustified time constraint upon God. Who is to say that He must stop evil by this day or that day? We do know that if He is a Good and Perfect God (which He is) that He MUST step in eventually and vanquish evil and suffering. The Scriptures actually tell us that this will happen, and then the final triumph of the Perfect and Good God over the forces of Evil will be complete (Rev 19-22).
- God, being Perfect and Loving, is being Merciful in tolerating evil presently - Although this is not usually mentioned when this issue of "Evil and Suffering" is discussed, it is very relevant. If the complaint is that God needs to wipe out all evil in order to show His existence and reality, then this puts the questioner in a very awkward position - the questioner himself would thereby be eliminated! The reason for this is that every human being is morally imperfect, and has violated objective morality in some way. This is what the Scriptures refer to as "sin", coming from the old English word meaning "to miss the mark." We have all missed the mark of God's Moral Perfection, whether it is Mother Theresa or Adolf Hitler, and therefore all of humanity deserves God's wrath for our "cosmic crimes" against him (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9,10). It is only in his mercy and longsuffering that He has not yet destroyed all evil. He is graciously extending His grace and patience to humanity, hoping that we will come to our senses and return to our Creator, through the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
These 8 answers are but a small number of the intellectual responses to the problem of Evil, that we can offer from the Christian Worldview. There are many more answers and possibilities we can give in addition to these mentioned here.
Also, please remember that it is not only the Christian that must answer the Problem of Evil, but also the other 6 Worldviews that people may hold to:
Atheism, Pantheism, Panentheism, Finite Godism, Polytheism, or Deism. Other than Christian Theism, no other Worldview or philosophy can give as coherent, comprehensive, and intellectually compelling response to this problem of suffering and pain within the world.
, this problem is always difficult and painful for all of us as people. If we will turn to the One True God, in the Person of Jesus Christ, He can comfort and strengthen us in the midst of our trials, tribulations, and pain (2 Cor 4,5; Romans 8).
, the Lord has made possible for us to navigate these evils in the world, having provided us with a great variety of possibilities that may be the reason for some pain or suffering. As we get the know the Persons and Nature of the Father, Son, and Spirit, we can logically and relationally trust that the Lord has good, moral, reasons for allowing some pains in our lives and in the world around us.
For further research I encourage you to search our site under the word "evil" and examine that articles that we've already posted in the past on this subject.
Feel free to send me you questions or comments to our "Intelligent Faith 315" Email.
- Pastor J.