Problem of Evil Reexamined

March 21, 2011

These thoughts are in light of the recent earthquake and tsunami that has killed tens of thousands and destroyed many others’ lives.  Some religious figures have shared their thoughts in the following link:

There are several ways to respond to the problem of evil, as Sam Harris points out.  First, we can say that God did not intend for evil to exist, and hence is impotent.  Second, we can say that God is evil.  Third, we can say that there is no God.  But he missed the fourth option, that God is both omnipotent and good, and that the existence of evil serves some ultimate good purpose.

Rabbi Harold Kushner seems to take the first approach.  He claims in his interpretation of the verse that God was not ‘in the earthquake,’ which is a very formal, literal interpretation.  The Rabbi concludes that the earthquake was not an “act of God” and therefore was not willed by God.  But read in the context of the story, God did send the earthquake, precisely at that time and at that magnitude to teach, to humble and to comfort Elijah.  God was not “in” the earthquake in the same way that he was in the whisper,  but he certainly caused both to happen.  If God intended the earthquake for Elijah, does this mean that God intended the one in Japan?  If God intended everything that seems evil in the Bible, does that mean He intended everything evil that happens outside of the Bible?  Can we apply verses such as Isiah 45:7 more generally to all disasters?

“I form the light and create darkness,
I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.”

I think this verse, along with the rest of the Bible, is pretty clear that God does cause all disasters.  He is indeed omnipotent.

But if God is omnipotent, we are faced with the second option, that God is evil.  But the Bible is pretty clear on this as well.  Psalmist writes in Psalm 100:5 “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever.”  Are we then left with the third option, that this omnipotent and good God cannot exist?

There is another option, that there is some ultimate good purpose for which evil exists.  There are hidden presuppositions in any formulation of the problem of evil, in that we ourselves presume to be the ultimate judge of morality.  We think ourselves wiser and more discerning than God.  But what if God is the ultimate judge of morality?  After all, He is the only one with omniscience to truly judge whether any particular action was good or evil.  But what about the natural disasters that He himself causes?  From our limited knowledge we cannot know all the things that will come about as a result of this tragedy. We don’t know how many Christians have been killed or affected by the earthquake.  We don’t know how this will affect the survivors, the rest of Japan, and the world.  But we can see in the way that people are helping each other and praying for each other, that some good has come out of it.  But even more amazingly, God works all things for the good of the elect.  If we do not see a purpose for evil and suffering, this does not mean that there is no purpose.  Seeing comes through faith.


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