This chapter of Groothuis’ Christian Apologetics tackles the problem of evil.
Related are the appendices dealing with hell and Old Testament issues.
Groothuis tackles this issue last because one problem should not defeat the entire cumulative case for Christianity and against atheism–it doesn’t exist in a philosophical vacuum.
The Problem of Evil:
a) God is able to prevent evil, but is unwilling (and thus not omnibenevolent), or
b) God is willing to prevent evil, but unable (thus not omnipotent),
The existence of evil is evidence against God’s existence.
Groothuis dispenses with 5 false answers to this problem: atheism, a finite god, a god who is not good, nonexistent evil, and karma/reincarnation.
In order for evil to be a problem, it can’t just be an illusion, as various pantheistic religions believe it is. There must be objective evil–which requires that there must be objective goodness…for evil cannot exist without something to pervert. Various pantheistic religions make the moral judgment that “Being concerned with right and wrong is a ‘sickness of the mind'” — it refutes itself in saying that such a moral judgment is itself sick. Atheism can point to nothing in reality that is always as it should be. Neither a finite god, nor a god who is not good, is as god should be (omnipotent, omnibenevolent). Religions that believe in karma and reincarnation deny the reality of the self–but then, if that’s true, there are no enduring individual selves to reincarnate, no selves for karma to act on…and an impersonal system like karma cannot evaluate or govern.
By contrast, the Christian view grounds goodness in God’s unchanging love-despite-adversity, accounts for evil with human free will to depart from God’s image in us (whether or not we evolved), and redeems the wreck we are in with Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the promise of a new heavens and new earth.
The section on free will: I disagree that libertarian freedom contradicts God’s sovereignty–and counter that a compatibilist view of “freedom” (genuine agency is compatible with the determination of the agents actions by factors outside of the agent) contradicts the possibility of human responsibility. See Geisler’s moderate-Calvinist resolution in “Chosen But Free.”
The Christian view defends God’s allowance of evil– “A good God will eliminate evil as far as he can without either losing a greater good or bringing about a greater evil.” (Plantinga, p. 631 of Groothuis) One biblical example is that Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery, but God meant it for good (Genesis 50:20). There are no gratuitous (pointless) evils. The ultimate example of good triumphing over/through evil, is Jesus’ death and resurrection. The idea of “redemption” will set everything right in the end.
I want to end with a quote from C.S. Lewis, mentioned in Keller’s “The Reason for God” — “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.” (34) Also see the Dostoevsky quote that precedes it in that chapter by Keller.
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