The Problem of Evil and Suffering
By Luis Palau
John Hick noted, “To many, the most powerful positive objection to belief in God is the fact of evil.” Peter Kreeft agrees, saying, “The strongest argument for atheism has always been the problem of evil.” That’s been the case the past twenty-five hundred years, since the days of Buddha’s “enlightenment.”
The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (342?-270 B.C.) stated the problem in four parts: “God either wishes to take away evil, and is unable, or He is able, and unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able. If He is willing and is unable, He is feeble, which is not in accordance with the character of God; if He is able and unwilling, He is envious, which is equally at variance with God; if He is neither willing nor able, He is both envious and feeble, and therefore not God; if He is both willing and able, which alone is suitable to God, from what source then are evils or why does He not remove them?”
What Epicurus failed to consider is that, in light of his eternal purposes, God may choose to allow evil for a time. It wasn’t his idea, it’s certainly not his ideal, but he’s not going to instantly obliterate the universe to eradicate it, either.
Still, many atheists cite this problem as proof positive that they know better than God. Nietzsche, for one, called God “the greatest immoralist in deeds that has ever existed” and decried the religious theories that attempt to explain human suffering as equally immoral, especially those theories that infer that suffering is rightly brought on as a divine punishment of Humanity’s supposed sinfulness.
Some writers claim the problem of evil and suffering actually is the source of humanity’s varied religious impulses. Echoing Feuerbach, Holbach, and Freud all in one breath, Michael J. Buckley remarked recently that the aboriginal source of religion “is ignorance and terror, and the model on which the imagination fashions its creations is the human person writ large. Once fashioned, this chimerical agent is open to prayers and sacrifices, appeal of penitence and self-denial, which will disarm his anger and control the outrages of nature. Religion is the magical way of controlling the causes of human tragedy.”
The implication? Buckley is blunt: atheism evolves into antitheism, actively seeking to destroy religion, which he sees as opposed to his “scientific” way of thinking. “Take, for example, the attribute of ‘goodness,’” writes Buckley. “Theologians call god ‘good,’ and human beings have some idea what is contained in that predicate. Then realize that this god is also omnipotent. Try to combine these two predicates in the face of human pain, the desolation of war, the destruction of earthquakes and disease. It makes no sense to say that this omnipotent god is good…. The goodness of an omnipotent god is contradicted at every turn of human history.”
Buckley claims it makes more sense to say this life doesn’t make any sense at all; nature alone calls the shots, arbitrarily, certainly without any reference to morality, necessity, or purpose…
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