Over the past few years, I have taught classes and delivered papers that deal with the problem of evil. I am going to attempt to summarize much of this material in a series of blog posts that I hope will be helpful. Check back for updates.
The Problem of Evil: Part 1
The purpose of this series is to familiarize the reader with fundamental points of entry by which the irrationality of claiming the non-existence of the Christian God, based upon the existence of evil, may be demonstrated.
In responding to the various objections levied against Christian theism by popular promoters of atheism, the problem of evil is one of the more difficult objections to overcome. The difficulty in responding to this objection is not due to its strength as an argument against Christianity. Instead, its strength lies in the emotional response it conjures. Sadly, the emotion-evoking rhetoric of the New Atheists (i.e. Dawkins, Harris…etc) tends to blur the lines between that which makes sense logically and what speaks to the heart emotionally.
Perhaps the most basic of all of the classic statements regarding the problem of evil is as follows:
1. If God were all-powerful, He would be able to prevent or to destroy all evil.
2. If God were all-good, He would desire to prevent or to destroy all evil.
3. Evil exists.
4. Therefore, an all-powerful, all-good God does not exist.
William Rowe formulates the problem this way:
1. There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
2. An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some great good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
Given the conditions he observes in the world, Rowe concludes,
3. There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.
The traditional formulation of the problem assumes a few critical facts: First, that which can be objectively identified as evil actually exists. Certainly, the use of the term objectively could be debated. Still, this concept is being assumed in order to furnish a viable premise upon which to deny the existence of God. Second, if God existed, He would want to and actually would destroy all evil. Third, the reality which we experience is therefore logically incoherent with Christian theism. The first and third assumptions directly demonstrate worldview inconsistency. (See Part 2)
 Adapted from John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1994), 150.
 Louis P. Pojman, ed. Philosophy of Religion. William Rowe, The Inductive Argument from Evil Against the Existence of God (Albany, NY: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1998), 212.