Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Problem of Evil

Since I began blogging, I've had a few requests to spend some time on the "problem of evil," and I have promised to do so. I'll try to get started here. I anticipate that it will take quite a few posts, since the issue is so complex. (I'll intersperse other, less difficult posts throughout the series, as usual.) In fact, it is with some trepidation that I begin, so let me do so with a disclaimer of sorts.

The issue can be separated into at least three facets.

One is the logical problem. To many, the existence of God (and particularly of the God of the Bible, an all-loving, all-powerful, and all-knowing God) is disproved by the existence of such evil and suffering in the world. Atheists will use the existence of evil to attempt to prove through logic that God doesn't exist. I'll be happy to respond to this.

A second facet might be called the evidential argument. That is, assuming we cannot prove that God doesn't exist, doesn't the sheer volume and intensity of evil and suffering make God's nonexistence more likely than His existence? This will also be interesting and valuable to address.

With regard to each of the two facets just mentioned, it will also be helpful to discuss two different kinds of evil, what are traditionally referred to as moral evil and 'natural' evil. The former includes the sorts of things perpetrated by humans upon others (other humans, other animals, and perhaps even plants and the Earth itself). The latter generally refers to what we call natural disasters (tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and such) as well as to predation, parasitism, birth defects, diseases, and accidents. A moment's reflection should suffice to suggest that these two different kinds of evil require slightly different sets of responses from the theist.

The third facet of the problem is what could be called the existential problem. That is, there are individuals--specific persons--who are at this moment reeling from the effects of unimaginably deep personal bereavement, pain, or suffering. And here's where my trepidation (and disclaimer) comes in. Whatever responses I may make to the logical and evidential aspects of the problem of evil will likely do nothing to ease the pain of such folks. Indeed, to hear me giving logical arguments and piling on evidences may very well offend and repel the person currently experiencing a suffering like none I've ever known.

I believe that Christians--and especially Christ Himself--can provide the best apologetic available to those overwhelmed by suffering. And we'll discuss that, too, eventually. But as you might imagine, that's a completely different issue than addressing the logical and evidential arguments against God's existence based on the presence of evil and suffering in the world.

One more disclaimer... In this medium, I'll only be able to scratch the surface of these issues, issues that have occupied the lifetimes of philosophers, theologians, and apologists over the centuries. So I'll also try to refer you, where appropriate, to resources through which you could go into greater depth yourself if you wish. Fair enough?

1 comment:

lt said...

Can't wait to dive in...!