There is a darkness in this world that presses in on every one of us. In the background of every worldview, there's a frightening reality. We can try to ignore it but it will surface. The world isn't as it's supposed to be. No worldview is complete until it makes sense of the problem of evil. You see, this problem is the most persistent challenge of the existence of God. But there are answers to the challenge. Over the next 5 classes we're gonna bring some clarity to the problem of evil by asking 4 questions:
-1 what is exactly the problem of evil?
-2 what is evil?
-3 why is there evil?
-4 what's God doing to solve the problem?
When we're done, here is what you're gonna walk away with; we'll see the answer to the problem of evil isn't atheism; it's just the opposite. The answer to evil is the very thing the problem cancels out: God.
Stay with me, take your notepads and pens out; it's gonna get hairy, but I'll walk with you every step of the way. I'm Jon Noyes, welcome to the STR-U class: The Problem of Evil.
Our first question is: what exactly is the problem of evil? The problem of evil is the challenge of how to make sense of the existence of evil and suffering if God is all powerful and perfectly good. You see, the challenge is meant to show an internal contradiction in what Christians believe about who God is. If God is all powerful, He'd be able to eliminate evil. If God is all loving, He'd want to eliminate evil. But evil exists; therefore, God is too weak to oppose evil or He is too sinister to care, or more probably the way the atheists say it is "God simply doesn't exist at all".
You can see why this is the atheists favorite argument. It was when I was an atheist, it's the most persistent objection against theism of any sort, and the one that seem most damaging. For many, it seems insurmountable. It's an aggressive attempt to defeat the Christian worldview. You see, theism, can't be true because it entails an internal contradiction. And if it succeeds, Christianity fails. There is more to the problem though. The real problem of evil isn't intellectual, it's personal. When standing at the gates of Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp, we don't engage in an intellectual battle of the morality of the events that took place there. Instead, we ask a personal heartful question: where was God?
When you and I; when we face tragedy in our lives, when we cry this cry, it's not intellectual, it's personal. This is what the great atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell was getting at when he asked "how can you talk about God when you're kneeling at the bed of a dying child?". Talking about the existence of evil and suffering in the world, 19th century poet Baudelaire wrote "If there is a God, He is a devil".
So, let me be clear about 2 general things from the very start. First, I'm not addressing this problem as a trained pastor or apologist or philosopher, I'm coming to this issue just like you do. As a human being who lives in the same world you do. I have to answer the problem of evil just like everybody else. This is a human problem, not just a Christian problem.
Every person, every religion, every worldview has to grapple with this problem. Even the atheist has to give an account for the evil in the world. The person who gets rid of God because of the problem of evil hasn't gotten rid of the problem. He's only gotten rid of one of the possible solution to the problem.
If you're hurt by personal tragedy or corruption in the church and are tempted to abandon your convictions, I understand. But what now?
You still have to answer the question: what do I make of evil? What resources does atheism offer as a worldview to solve this problem?
Now, that we know what the problem is, the real issue is this: who has the best answer?
Who has the best explanation for the way things really are?
We all have to give an answer to the problem of evil in light of our understanding of reality, Which way of understanding the world has the best resources to make sense of the issue?
That's my question, as a human being trying to make sense of my world.
Now, that we know what the problem is, the next step is to dig deeper and ask: what exactly is evil?
And that's what we'll do next time. I'm Jon Noyes for Stand to Reason. I'll see you in the second class on the problem of evil.