A listener of the PleaseConvinceMe podcast recently sent me an email expressing his doubts in the existence of an all-powerful and all-loving God, given the presence of evil in the world. This is a classic objection to theism. If God does exist, why would He allow people to do evil things?

Either this "God" is unable to stop people


Epicurus and the Problem of Evil

The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus is credited with first posing the"problem of evil" as it relates to the existence of God;

"Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, 

but does not want to. if he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. 

If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, 

and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?"

(According to Lactantius in On the Wrath of God, ca. AD 313)


from acting as they do (in which case He is not all-powerful), or He is unwilling to stop them (in which case He is not all-loving). The writer posed this question to me because he knew what I did for a living:

"I bet you see many terrible things that people do to one another. How can you still believe in such a God?"

The problem of evil is perhaps the most difficult issue to address because it is emotionally loaded. Its at times like these that I try to help people walk through the distinctions between reasonable doubts (that are grounded rationally) and   possible doubts (that are grounded emotionally). Let me explain. We need to start by recognizing that there are many good reasons to believe that God exists (we talked about some of them in chapter 3). These pieces of the puzzle are already in place before we start talking about the issue of evil. Yes, there are some unanswered questions related to the existence of evil, but we have to begin our examination by recognizing that the puzzle is well on its way to completion even though this piece may seem to be missing. Next, we have to ask ourselves if the presence of evil truly represents a missing piece. Is it possible, instead, that the existence of evil may actually be an additional piece that helps make the puzzle more certain?

When people complain that there is evil in the world, they are not simply offering their opinion. They are instead saying that true, objective evil exists. They are complaining about evil behavior as though this behavior ought to be recognized by all of us, regardless of our personal likes, dislikes, or opinions about human conduct. If evil were a matter of opinion, we could eliminate it by simply changing our minds. People who complain about evil behavior must accept the premise that true, objective "right" and "wrong" exist in the first place. They must accept that some things are morally virtuous and some things are morally repulsive, no matter who you are, where you are located, or when you live in history. This kind of moral evil transcends all of us; if it doesn't, why complain in the first place? If evil is simply a matter of opinion, why doesn't the man who emailed me simply change his opinion?

You see, in order for true evil to exist (so that the writer has something legitimate to complain about), there must be a true barometer of right and wrong. In order for an act to be objectively "bad," there must be some standard of objective "good" by which to measure it. What might that standard be if not God? Can the standard come from some evolutionary process? Can it come from the slow development of cultural groups? If so, morals are simply a matter of opinion (albeit a largely held opinion), and there is nothing objectively evil to complain about. Remember that even the most heinous regimes of history identified their own behavior as morally virtuous. In order for true evil to exist, there must be a source of true good that transcends any and all groups that might make a claim about the existence of evil. In other words, the existence of true evil necessitates the presence of God as a standard of true virtue. It turns out that the existence of evil is actually another evidence for God's existence, another piece of the puzzle that reveals God's image.

But let's return to the very real issue of evil behavior. Why would God allow people to kill each other if He loves us and is powerful enough to stop it? While this question has emotional power, we have to ask ourselves if there might be a reasonable explanation. Are we thinking it through evidentially, or are we reacting emotionally? Are we rejecting the existence of God because there is no rational explanation for the existence of evil, or are we resisting volitionally because we stubbornly refuse to accept any explanation that might be offered?

I can think of a number of very good reasons why God would allow people to behave immorally, even though He loves His creation and is certainly powerful enough to stop evil.



"The theological discipline that seeks to explain how the existence 

of evil in the world can be reconciled with the justice and goodness of God" (Webster's New World College Dictionary, Wiley Publishing inc., Cleveland, Ohio, 2010).


Ask yourself this question: 

Which is more loving, a God who creates a world in which love is possible or a God who creates a world in which love is impossible? It seems reasonable that a loving God would create a world where love is possible and can be experienced by creatures who are designed "in His image." But a world in which love is possible can be a dangerous place. Love requires freedom. True love requires that humans have the ability to freely choose; love cannot be forced if it is to be heartfelt and real. The problem, of course, is that people who have the freedom to love often choose to hate. That s why freedom of this nature is so 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.

In addition to this, from a Christian perspective, we are all eternal creatures who will live beyond the grave [WELL  CHRISTIANS  WILL  LIVE  BEYOND  DEATH,  IN  A  RESURRECTION,  NOT  AN  IMMORTAL  SOUL;  SEE  THE  STUDIES  UNDER  DEATH  AND  RESURRECTIONS  -  Keith Hunt].  If this is true, then questions about why God might not stop evil are a bit premature. At best, we can say only that God hasn't stopped evil yet. But God has all eternity to act in this regard. Our eternal life provides the context for God to deal justly with those who choose hate and perform acts of evil. God is powerful enough to stop evil completely, and He does care about justice. But as an eternal Being, He may choose to take care of it on an eternal timeline. 

Compared to eternity, this mortal existence is but a vapor, created by God to be a wonderful place where love is possible for those who choose it.

If there are good reasons why God might permit evil in this life (such as the preservation of free will and the ability to love genuinely), concerns about His failure to act are simply unreasonable. Doubts about God's existence based on the problem of evil may have emotional appeal, but they lack rational foundation because reasonable explanations do, in fact, exist. While one can imagine possible doubts related to the problem of evil, careful consideration of the nature of objective evil reveals that these doubts are not reasonable. We ought to be able to move beyond our reservations here because the problem of evil does not present us with a reasonable doubt.