The Problem with Answering the Problem of Evil

by J Warner Wallace

The problem of evil is perhaps the most common objection non-believers have to the existence of God. If God is allegedly all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow the horrific evil we witness in history or in our daily lives? Is He too weak to stop evil, or simply unwilling? Does the existence of evil negate the reasonable existence of God? Like many short, rhetorically powerful objections to God’s existence, there are sound and adequate responses theists can offer, but few that can be articulated with brevity. Any attempt to answer the problem of evil is called a “theodicy” (from the Greek theos “god” and dike “justice”): “a vindication of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil”. Like many of the criminal cases I work as a detective, the case for God’s existence (given the presence of evil) is a case made cumulatively.

All of my cold cases are circumstantial cases made by assembling a large variety of evidences pointing to the same conclusion. The cumulative nature of my cases requires jurors to consider the collective whole, rather than any isolated piece of evidence. In fact, no single piece of evidence in a cumulative circumstantial case may be all that convincing when considered on its own. But when it is added to the other evidences pointing to the

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same conclusion, the totality of the case becomes overwhelming. This is the difficult nature of circumstantial cases. They are time consuming, both in their development prior to trial and in their presentation before a jury.

In a similar way, the answer to the problem of evil is cumulative and often difficult to develop (and time-consuming to present). It requires us to consider a number of evidences pointing the same conclusion, and to prepare for the attack any one of these evidences is likely to experience when skeptics attempt to isolate them from the larger case. Any effort to defend the existence of God from the problem of evil must address and include the following cumulative set of truths:

The Relationship Between Moral Evil and Human Freedom
Our theodicy must articulate the nature of love and God’s desire to create a world in which love is possible. True love requires that humans have the ability to freely choose; love cannot be forced if it is to be heartfelt and real. Freedom of this nature is often costly. A world in which people have the freedom to love and perform great acts of kindness is also a world in which people have the freedom to hate and commit great acts of evil. You cannot have one without the other, and we understand this intuitively…

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