the problem of evil and human suffering

Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?”
(Psalm 10:1)

Of all the popular anti-Christian arguments out there, the argument from the existence of evil and human suffering is surely the most powerful. If God is all loving (1 John 4:8) and He is all powerful (Psalm 135:5-6) then He would not only desire the eradication of evil and human suffering, He would have the power to do so. Since evil and human suffering remain (so the argument goes), it follows that either God is not all loving, or that He is not all-powerful, or that He doesn’t exist at all. The argument appears sound, even conclusive, that is, until we probe deeper. Virtually every philosopher who has grappled with the problem admits that there exists the logical possibility that God has morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil and human suffering we see in the world today. Unless and until the non-believer can show it impossible that God has such morally sufficient reasons, he will have to drop the logical form of his argument. So far, no one has been able to do this. As a recourse, most have adopted a probabilistic version of the argument. They will say that there are many instances of evil and human suffering that don’t appear to have any good reasons for occurring. Though we cannot prove this to be the case with logical certainty, it appears to be more likely the case than not. In other words (on this view) the Christian God probably does not exist. The problem with this weaker, probabilistic argument is that it hinges on us having all of the relevant background information. This we do not—in fact, cannot—have right now. We are seriously limited in terms of wisdom, insight and location, both geographically and in time. We can’t imagine what the “ripple effects” are of any specific instance of evil and human suffering. We take on faith that God permits what He does for the purpose of greater goods (Romans 8:28). As to what these greater goods are exactly we admit that we cannot say. We leave the specifics to God and His secret but wholly good counsels. When we are confronted with the problem of evil and human suffering as an argument against our faith, we now know that both forms of the argument—the logical and the probabilistic, don’t actually work as arguments. Nevertheless, we still have a problem. Evil and human suffering touch all of us at some point. Some experience these things in terrible measure. Though we may not have a logical problem, we doubtless have an emotional one. The Bible recognizes this and explains that the world today is not what God originally created (Genesis 1:28-31); it has been smashed and ruined by man’s sin (Romans 5:12; 8:22). Knowing this helps, as does knowing that the ruined state of the world is only temporary (Isaiah 11:1-10; Acts 3:21; Revelation 21:1-5). Until the restoration of all things, let’s trust in the Lord Who sympathizes with us (Hebrews 4:15-16), while we strive to be a comfort to others also (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

May the Lord bless and keep you today, dear saints,

pastor john