The Problem of Evil
Photo by Hillie Chan / Unsplash
- 4 min read

The Problem of Evil

On this page

Question: How can you believe in an All-Good God when evil exists? 

Answer: God is all good and shows it by giving us free will, by being in ultimate control, by providing eternal justice, and by operating according to ultimate justice. 

As Christians, we are faced with a profound and persistent question that sparks our curiosity: the enigma of evil. This complex issue takes on various forms, yet its core remains unchanged: If God is inherently good, why does evil exist? 

This problem has been posed in this way: 

  • God is supposed to be All-Knowing, All-Good, and Completely Benevolent. 
  • Evil is real. 
  • Therefore, either God is unable or unwilling to destroy evil. 

For some, this is the chief reason they cannot believe there is a theistic God. They cannot think that God is actively involved in our lives. If He is, why would evil be allowed to exist? This is a good question and worthy of our consideration. While I claim to be able to settle this problem for a while, here are four doorways to a solution for this challenge. 

1. The Free Will Defense

Alvin Plantinga made the Free Will Defense popular. He has stated that the reason evil is allowed to exist is because God has gifted His creation with free will. Sin is not a created thing but a privation or a distortion of something good. For humans to be truly free, we have to have the ability to choose to do what is good or to distort something into evil. Plantinga says evil is the price of allowing free will. God can do all things logically possible. However, God cannot do what is logically impossible. He has set up these laws of logic to help us understand how His will works. For example, he cannot create a married bachelor. This would be an illogical contradiction. This is also how to look at the idea of free will. Someone once asked if God could create a free world where there was no idea. That would be a logical contradiction. Therefore, evil exists because free will exists. 

2. God Is In Control. 

There has been a debate over whether God can be in complete control and for us to have free will simultaneously. Believing both are true is another logical contradiction. However, it is not. The view that both are true at the same time is called compatibilism. This means God can be in control and give us free will simultaneously. How does this work? Here is an example. Let's say you want to watch the Super Bowl but have a work obligation. You record the game so you can watch it the next day. Before the next day arrives, you hear the outcome of the game. When you sit down to watch the game's result, does your knowledge hinder the players on the field from making their free choices? No. They can still make their choices even though you already know what they will decide. This is how it works with God. He stands outside of time. He already knows how it all ends. However, His foreknowledge does not stop us from making the decision. This is why we can confidently say God is in control. 

3. The "We Cannot See the Whole Picture" Argument. 

We have finite minds and live within the scope of time on this Earth. It is hard for us to think of our lives anywhere other than our life on Earth. However, God exists outside of time, and God's Word promises that being absent from this life means being present with Him. This means that while our terms of justice end at death, God's does not. Not everyone will have justice here on Earth, but all have complete justice within the scope of eternity. We can trust that God will eventually settle all accounts and make everything right. 

4. The Problem of "Good." 

There needs to be a solution with the premise of the discussion. We expect God to operate under our sense of "goodness." Good is in the eye of the person talking. A father who disciplines his son thinks he is doing good. The son receiving the discipline likely disagrees at the time. Because of this, we may think God is more or less suitable depending on how we view goodness. This is why our trust in God is so important. We believe God is completely good in all things. Therefore, we trust that what He is doing will end in ultimate goodness, even if we do not see it or agree. This does not mean there is anything wrong with God. There may be something wrong with our perspective. 

Bottom Line: Here is the challenge to everything I have said above. All of this can solve our logical question regarding the problem of evil. However, it does little to quiet our souls when evil comes to our doorstep. What do we do when we lose a family member? What do we do when we experience abuse or unspeakable tragedy? The answers above can give us the logical answer but leave our souls longing to know if an all-good God is also kind. 

The answer is that God is infinitely kind. Jesus came to Earth, lived a sinless life, and entered into all our pain. He died a painful death on the Cross for our sins and to bear our pain. The book of Hebrews says we do not have a high priest who is untouched by our pain. Instead, Jesus knows all about our struggles. Why did the King go to the Cross? He did it to save us from our sins and experience our pain. 

So, when you experience the problem of evil, realize there are excellent logical reasons for why evil exists. But remember, our King also loves you and walks with you in all your pain. 

Once upon a time, I made a video slideshow talking through this for a class. I hope it starts some helpful conversations.