Maas, Korey D., and Adam S. Francisco, eds. Making the Case for Christianity: Responding to Modern Objections. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 6, “Gratuitous Evil and a God of Love” by Angus Menuge, Loc. 2494-2928.
The problem of evil is, simply put, “If God is all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), and perfectly good, why is there any evil in the world?” (Maas 2014, Loc. 2498). The existence of evil is used by skeptics to deny God, his omniscience, his omnipotence, or his goodness (Ibid., Loc. 2502). The three classic orthodox Christian responses as a theodicy, justifying evil for a greater good; a defense, saying there may be possible justifications, or a narration, showing God using evil to draw people to himself (Ibid., Loc. 2508). In more scholarly discussions, the logical question asks if God and evil are consistent. The “evidential question is whether God’s existence [is] probable” (Ibid., Loc. 2512). Menuge explores the logical problem then the evidential issue.
The logical problem of evil is generally responded to by “The Free Will defense of Alvin Plantinga. Plantinga argues that God may be justified in allowing moral evil because if his creatures have morally significant free will then it must be possible for them to do evil . . . “ (Ibid., Loc. 2526). Free will to do moral evil is allowed by God even though he is sovereignly in control. The consequences of evil are bad and the world, being largely predictable, acts as a deterrent to evil (Ibid., Loc. 2549).
Menuge next discusses “the evidential problem of evil” (Ibid., Loc. 2564). The evidential position says that there are some pointless evils, that there would be none if God existed, therefore God does not exist (Ibid., Loc. 2578). While we might make some theoretical answers, Menuge brings out a fairly strong response, that “finite, fallen creatures are not well-placed to discover whether or not an omniscient God has a reason to permit evil, so we cannot responsibly claim that some evil is probably pointless” (Ibid., Loc. 2603). The world is extremely complex and we cannot know all the possible outcomes of actions. Menuge further observes that in a world without objective moral law a definition of evil becomes very difficult (Ibid., Loc. 2640).
Another challenge to the evidential response is to suggest that God cares for our souls and reshapes them in positive ways, even though the process may be painful (Ibid., Loc. 2656). The metaphor of a shepherd caring for sheep or a father caring for a son is common in the Bible and illustrates this concept well. An objection to this answer says that maybe God is intent on teaching us to do better or simply on showing human inability (Ibid., Loc. 2689). Menuge answers that objection. Many of the “moralistic soul-making” arguments depend on a theodicy, saying God manages somehow to balance good and evil (Ibid., Loc. 2718). A stronger argument is a “creaturely conviction” argument, in which we see our inability and must depend on God (Ibid., Loc. 2736). Yet this does little to justify evil. Menuge prefers “a Christocentric approach” (Ibid., Loc. 2760). Seeing the world of sin and evil as evidenced by the cross of Christ, we are also able to see that Christ suffered as one of us. In the resurrection he shows that evil has been condemned. This cuts through all the philosophical and theoretical arguments and allows for an answer not subject to our own limitations (Ibid., Loc. 2793).