Monday, August 11, 2008

The Problem of Evil:
III. Why Can't Evil be Stopped?

Part II looked at Where Evil Came From - with the conclusion that we, as moral creatures, are the cause of evil through the actions taken by our free will. We are therefore responsible - as moral creatures - for our actions and the good, and bad, results of those actions.

The next question Geisler and Brooks approach in Chapter 4 of When Skeptics Ask is

Why Can't Evil be Stopped?
I conclude that the existence of evil was the byproduct of some other condition that God desired to bring about in creation. The work of theology then would be to attempt to develop an understanding of what that desired condition was, and how it was that the existence of evil was a necessary byproduct thereof. -- Starwoman
I quoted that in Part I - and Geisler now presents his idea of what that greater good is:
The classic form of the question has been rattling around the halls of college campuses for hundreds of years
  1. If God is all-good, he would destroy evil
  2. If God is all-powerful, he could destroy evil
  3. But evil is not destroyed
  4. Hence, there is no such God
Why hasn't God done something about evil? If he could and would do something, why do we still have evil? Why is it so persistent? And it doesn't even seem to be slowing down!

There are two answers for this question. First, evil cannot be destroyed without destroying freedom. As we said before, free beings are the cause of evil, and freedom was given to us so that we could love. Love is the greatest good for all free creatures [
Matt. 22:36], but love is impossible without freedom. So if freedom were destroyed, which is the only way to end evil, that would be evil in itself --because it would deprive free creatures of their greatest good. Hence, to destroy evil would actually be evil. If evil is to be overcome, we need to talk about it being defeated, not destroyed.
I think that is absolutely right - our ability to love is the greatest good and offsets our use of our freedom to do evil. However, is God done?
The argument against God from evil makes some arrogant assumptions. Just because evil is not destroyed right now does not mean that it never will be. The argument implies that if God hasn't done anything as of today, then it won't ever happen. But this assumes that the person making the argument has some inside information about the future. If we restate the argument to correct this oversight in temporal perspective, it turns out to be an argument that vindicates God.
  1. If God is all-good, then he will defeat evil
  2. If God is all-powerful, he can defeat evil
  3. Evil is not yet defeated
  4. Therefore, God can and will one day defeat evil
Now, for the vast majority of Christians the major battle in God's struggle to defeat evil was the Cross. Geisler continues:
. . . There is no question here that if it has not yet happened and God is as we suppose Him to be, that we simply haven't waited long enough. God isn't finished yet . . . Apparently God would rather wrestle with our rebellious wills than to reign supreme over rocks and trees. Those who want a quicker resolution to the conflict will have to wait.
What are the social/political implications here? We too, as imago dei are just as incapable of destroying evil without destroying freedom - we too have to work to defeat it. We also have to struggle with rebellious wills (our own and other's); and will have to wait for a resolution that may be a long time coming.

However, it is pretty clear from scripture that all things (even evil) work together for the good under God's direction. So, . . .

Next Question: What is the purpose of Evil?
Series Link


  1. Hi,
    Your link to "When Skeptics Ask" doesn't seem right.
    Thanks Hans

  2. Thanks for the catch - I have fixed it now


How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly