If God, Why Suffering? Thoughts on Theodicy

by Jonathan Mclatchie

sufferingAnyone who has been doing Christian apologetics, for any significant period of time, knows that the most frequent objection to the Christian faith is the problem of evil and suffering. Indeed, this paradoxical conundrum has resulted in probably more people abandoning their faith than any other challenge to the Christian worldview. The logical structure of this argument typically takes the following form:

Premise 1: If God exists, he is by definition omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing) and benevolent (all good).
Premise 2: If an omnipotent being exists, he would be able to prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.
Premise 3: If an omniscient being exists, he would know about all the evil and suffering in the world.
Premise 4: If a perfectly good being exists, he would want to prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.
Premise 5: If a being existed with knowledge of all of the evil and suffering in the world, and both the ability and will to prevent it, such a being would do so.
Premise 6: Evil and suffering exist.
From 2, 3, 4 & 5:
7: Therefore, if an omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good being exists, that being would prevent all of the evil and suffering in the world.
From 6 & 7:
8: Therefore, no omnipotent and omniscient and perfectly good being exists.
From 1 & 8:
Conclusion: Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

How Sound is This Argument?
In terms of its logical structure, provided the first six premises are true, the argument seems at first brush fairly robust. The key premise, I think — indeed, the main premise which I contest — is Premise 5: If a being existed with knowledge of all of the evil and suffering in the world, and both the ability and will to prevent it, such a being would do so. This Premise is only valid if one assumes that God cannot have morally good reasons for tolerating the presence of evil and suffering in the world. Further problems abound when we consider Premise 6, where we are compelled to ask, “What is the reference point for pronouncing a proposition as ‘evil’ or ‘unjust’?” As we shall see in the course of this blog post, Premise 6 is difficult to justify within the conceptual framework of the materialist worldview…

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