This summer my church, CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, has hosted a “Difficult Issues Series” on Wednesday nights, and last night I addressed this topic: “How Could a Good God Allow Suffering and Evil? A Biblical Approach to the Logical and Emotional Problems of Evil” (MP3s Part 1 & Part 2 | Handout PDF). I am especially indebted to Drs. Carson, Feinberg, Frame, and Piper. Here’s the outline:
- What is evil?
- What are some examples of evil that are (almost) universally outrageous?
- What is the problem of evil?
- Why must Christians address the logical and emotional problems of evil?
- What are some challenges to solving the logical and emotional problems of evil?
2. What are some unbiblical/inadequate solutions to the logical-intellectual-philosophical problem of evil?
- Evil is not real.
- God is not all-powerful.
- This is the best possible world, and evil is necessary for its perfection.
- Evil is a result of peoples’ free will, so God is not accountable for evil.
- Evil is necessary for people to mature (i.e., build character).
- God is the indirect (not direct) cause of evil, so He is not accountable for evil.
- God is above the law, so He can do what seems evil to other people.
- Non-Christians have no right to question whether God is both all-powerful and all-good.
3. What does a biblical approach to the logical-intellectual-philosophical problem of evil include?
- Bad things do not happen to good people; good and bad things happen to bad people.
- The problem of evil is an argument for God, not against Him.
- God is not obligated to explain the problem of evil to anyone.
- God (not our sense of justice) is the standard for what He does.
- God ordains and causes evil, but He cannot be blamed for it.
- The logical problem of evil (including providence) involves mystery, requiring that Christians maintain doctrinal tensions in biblical proportion.
- God uses evil for a greater good.
- There was no problem of evil before the fall, nor will there be one in the eternal state.
- God uses natural evil to illustrate how bad moral evil really is, and the right response is repentance.
- The most significant problem of evil is the cross.
4. What does a biblical approach to the emotional-religious-existential problem of evil include?
- People who are suffering typically are wrestling primarily with the emotional problem of evil (not the logical one).
- Understand how people initially react to suffering.
- You shouldn’t say certain things to people who are suffering.
- You should do certain things to people who are suffering.
6. Recommended Resources
- Books [23 resources]
- MP3s [8 resources]
The handout includes a more detailed outline, and the recommended resources section asterisks the most highly recommended resources, hyperlinks to every author and resource, and ranks the level of difficulty of each resource.
- The address is condensed as a simple four-page essay for CrossWay Community Church’s Exploring Christianity outreach.
- Reformation 21 reprinted this article in June 2009.
- Related: “Do We Have a Free Will?” (which Reformation 21 reprinted in August 2009)
- Two addresses at a conference on April 9, 2010: “The Logical Problem of Evil” | “The Emotional Problem of Evil”
- Interview with John Frame on the Problem of Evil