At first, it seems that if God is all good and God is all powerful, then there would be no evil, no wrong in the world. Now obviously there is evil in the world, so we have a problem. (A few people try to ignore or deny evil, but for the most part, all of us recognize this reality.) It appears we have only three alternatives: either evil doesn’t exist, God is not all powerful, or God is not good.
My impression is that, at least in the West, we define God primarily in terms of power. When we speak of God, we mean some supernatural being “out there” who has the power to do anything he wants. Because of this, I imagine the belief that God is not all powerful to be more or less equivalent to atheism. I can’t think of a good example of a person who believes that God exists but is not all powerful. In this article, I won’t argue for the existence of God but rather will assume it and that we are trying to argue for a God who is all powerful such as the Bible describes.
If we recognize evil and believe that God exists and is all powerful, then the only apparent option left in question is whether or not God is entirely good and loving. It is little surprise to find that many people who believe in God wrestle with this very question. Is God involved in the world or is he disengaged? Does God love us or is he angry with us? I hope to allow space for these questions to be answered positively, by showing a way which dilemma of evil can reasonably be resolved.
These latter questions affect many people, both those who actively think of themselves as Christian and those who don’t or are uncertain. Now people may well not consciously believe that God is uninvolved or unloving, but their experience may have led them to this conviction. (See my previous post on psychology for more on convictions and unconscious beliefs.) If a person has this view of God, whether conscious or unconscious, it will certainly impact their relationship to God negatively. For this article, I also assume that we are trying to describe a God who is all good and loving.
(Note: I am calling this “the problem of evil” rather than “the problem of pain” because I am not prepared to delve into the question of whether certain kinds of pain such as the pain or discipline or warning are actually good and necessary even in a perfect world.)
In my next post, I will describe another common way Christians try to resolve this dilemma. Then in subsequent articles, I’ll argue why I think this problem comes from certain misconceptions, and how I resolve this challenge.