Why Would a Good God Allow Evil to Exist?
By Natasha Crain
(This post answers question #3 in my “65 Questions Every Christian Parent Needs to Learn to Answer” series. Sign up to receive posts via email to make sure you can answer each one!)
One night recently, I was tucking my daughter into bed after a particularly difficult day. I didn’t have to tell her just how hard it had been. Unsolicited, she wailed, “Mommy, I tried soooo hard to be good today. But I just kept messing up. I don’t know how to be better like God wants!”
Before I could dispense my motherly wisdom on why we’ll never be perfect, however, she took the conversation in another direction.
“Why doesn’t God just stop me from being mean before it happens? Like, right before I’m mean, why doesn’t He just make me be nice?” she asked.
My son, listening with interest from the other room, yelled over, “Yeah, like I don’t understand why He doesn’t just stop bad guys before they do bad stuff! Why wouldn’t He just want good things to happen?”
There it was. My twins had already sniffed out an apparent contradiction in their budding faith: If God is perfect and good, how can there be evil in the world He created? My kids were in good company by identifying the issue. It’s a question that’s been asked for thousands of years and continues to be one of the most significant faith challenges posed by atheists today.
The Problem of Evil
Why is the existence of evil such a difficult problem for Christianity? The heart of the issue is this:
- If God is all-good, He would eliminate evil.
- If He is all-powerful, He could eliminate evil.
- But evil in fact exists.
- How can the existence of evil possibly be reconciled with the existence of the Christian God? (Atheists answer it can’t be.)
Millions of pages have been written on the problem of evil (literally). This post will introduce you to the framework Christian apologists typically use to address the issue. Of course, there is no way to do justice to such a complex topic in a single blog post. I highly recommend Norman Geisler’s book If God, Why Evil? for a concise yet thorough treatment of this very challenging topic.
First Things First: Did God Create Evil?
There are many aspects of the problem of evil, but the starting point for discussion is typically this: If God created everything, and evil is something, doesn’t that mean God created evil? Because Christians believe God is perfectly good, and that God created only good things (1 Timothy 4:4), that seems like a contradiction…