The Problem of Evil:In Defense of a Theodicy
God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni benevolent, and yet evil exists in the world. Is it possible for both premises to be concurrently true? This seeming paradox has plagued the minds of theologians, philosophers, and great thinkers of the times. Multiple responses have been made to the stated problem of evil, including a theodicy developed by John Hick referred to as “soul-making”. Hicks concludes that were evil to be non-existent, a form of higher good could not be achieved. It is to this end he infers, that God as an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being can justify the presence of evil in the world. However, many find fault in Hicks’s line of reasoning, presuming that the prevention of evil would not preclude ultimate goodness. The question of a solution is irrelevant. For it is not in the answer that we come to appreciate and develop our beliefs of God, but in the search.
In a world without evil and suffering, man could not truly understand good. If man’s true purpose is to grow in their relationship with God, he must undergo moral development. In order for humans to grow spiritually, they must live in an environment in which they are forced to make moral decisions. If God were to prevent evil from occurring, He would concurrently be preventing man from true free will. In a situation in which one does not have freedom to choose to do evil, he can never truly experience good. In this situation, man is under compulsion to do good, since he is prevented from doing otherwise. Therefore, the very notion of a moral and spiritual development of any type requires the presence of evil. In keeping with the notion of the necessity of evil in the world, one must consider the notion that one must feel adverse to evil in order to be a truly good being. How can one seek to avoid evil and fight against it when it has been prevented from existence? The God of the Bible seeks followers who are committed to Him, His cause, and in doing good. This type of follower could not be possible if humans had no conception of that which they were to stand against. Additionally, no human could possibly conceive of God’s greatness if he had nothing to contrast it with. God is worthy of human praise because He is holy and set apart. If humans existed in a world free of evil, God would no longer be set apart, ceasing to be above human nature, stripping Him of deity. It is to our advantage to understand God’s holiness and purposes for our lives. The greatest gift a human could receive is the personal relationship with God. This relationship would not be necessary if we had nothing to stand against. The role of the Christian is to be different. Therefore, it is to the greater good that evil exists. It is in this way that God as an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being can be justified in allowing evil to exist in the world.
While it is commonly accepted that a world void of all evil would prohibit a true understanding and existence of good, it is arguable that the prevention of some seemingly unjustifiable acts of evil would in no way cause the world to be void of all evil entirely. Many evil acts occur presumably randomly, affecting the innocent. Is it just for innocent lives to be harmed for the sake of moral development? Certainly, one cannot argue that acts of detestable violence and cruelty achieve a greater good. It is true that men must undergo moral development in order to experience life’s greatest happiness. To undergo moral development, evil must exist to allow man to make moral decisions. However, it does not make sense to say that an omni benevolent God would allow innocent lives to be unduly altered due to evil when preventing such acts would in no way cause evil to cease to exist.
The very notion of God implies something of a mystery. God’s ways and thoughts are above our own. It is towards this end that He is God, and we are not. It is ostentatious to say that certain acts of evil can be prevented while still being able to achieve a greater good. To say this would suppose knowledge of God’s plans and ultimate will. How can we as humans attempt to understand the mind of a holy being? It is in fact ridiculous to blame acts of evil on God. God in His goodness created a human race free to choose. Not desiring robotic followers, acting under compulsion, God created man with a free will to choose as he pleases. We as humans are free to follow God or to reject Him. While many people refrain from acts of raw evil, it would stand in the way of God’s plan of free salvation to prevent people from choosing to do so. People make their own choices. While God’s will for those people is not to do evil, it is in His will to give everyone the choice to choose Him or reject Him. It is towards this end, that evil acts are not to be blamed on God, for they do not conflict with His nature. Rather, they can serve as a testament to His nature. He is not a God of force. Instead, He is a God who seeks those who truly seek Him. The choice is ours. He does not make our choices for us. Therefore, it is perfectly rational to hold that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and that evil exists.
As long as time exists, the argument will exist. God will continue to be the subject of wars, debates, and endless theories. Logic and faith will continue to serve as springboards for responses. However, one must realize that God transcends logic, all human understanding, and the bounds of faith. We must be content with the search. There is no answer, only the questions.