Sunday, February 1, 2015

God and Evil

The problem of evil is stated quite simply: God cannot be omnipotent and perfectly good if evil exists. There are at least two different kinds of evil that exist in the world: 1) physical evil and 2) moral evil. The presence of evil in the world contradicts the kind of God that Christians claim exists. The challenge for the Christian is to reconcile the experience of evil with the claim that an all-powerful and perfectly good God exists. If God were perfectly good, He would destroy evil. And if God were all-powerful, He could destroy evil. Evil exists in the world. Therefore, a perfect good and all-powerful God does not exist. The Christian must either solve the problem put to them if they are to be taken seriously by any rational standards whatever.

Some theists have denied the morally perfect God, claiming that God is a good God but that He has His faults the same as finite humans. Others have claimed that God is not all-powerful in that this is simply the best world God could have created. In other words, God could not have done better than He has and therefore, evil exists even though He would rather it not to have existed. Others attempt to deny objective evil. Some even claim that evil is simply the absence of good. One thing is clear from all the various responses to this challenge: the problem of evil is a serious problem that every Christian must engage if they are to be faithful to texts like 2 Cor. 10:3-5. The Christian must meet these challenges head-on, and like an enemy combatant, take them captive and send them to Gitmo where they belong.

H.J. McCloskey moves through five common responses to the problem of physical evil and two proposals respectively to moral evil, with two criticisms of those proposals. What is interesting to me is that McCloskey does not define evil in a single instance. If evil is to be used as an internal critique against the Christian, then evil as truly defined by the Christian must be the basis upon which that internal critique is offered. That approach seems to be entirely lost on McCloskey and therefore, his article ends up considerably wide of his mark.

The problem of evil is a serious problem for the Christian and the Christian should be ready to provide the unbeliever with the Christian’s perspective on the problem. The thrust of the argument is that the problem of evil presents the Christian with a contradiction in his system. The allegation that Christian theism involves a contradiction deserves a response since Christians claim that God is a perfectly rational being. The good news is that a number of responses are more than capable of demonstrating clearly that Christian theism does not involve any contradiction whatever in claiming that God is all-powerful and morally perfect while at the same time affirming the presence of objective evil in world. Christians must ensure that evil is defined on Christian terms, not non-Christian terms. Second, Christians must insist that God’s word serves as the final authority for both it’s definition of evil and it’s understanding of the nature of God. Finally, Christians must state and defend a Christian view of logic rather than non-Christian view of logic and hence a Christian affirmation of the legitimacy of theological paradox in Christian teachings. This is the direction in which I will move as I post more observations on the problem of evil and the unique challenges it offers the Christian system of belief.

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