The Problem of Evil (Part 2)
In the first entry, I mentioned that speaking of just one Problem of Evil (PE) is problematic and should be avoided. A second problem with speaking of only one PE stems from the fact that evil poses us difficulty in a number of ways. There is the evidential problem of evil, the logical problem, and the pastoral problem. In fact, each of these aspects of the problem can further be distinguished and sub-divided in to smaller “problems.” However, this plurality of forms to the particular objection to theistic belief shouldn’t overwhelm us. Rather than providing an insurmountable obstacle for faith, dissecting the problem into many forms aids handling each form with meticulous attention.
For the sake of categorization, I will divide the various ways in which the pie can be cut down to a mere two: the theoretical problem (which consists of the evidential and logical problems of evil), and the practical problem of evil (which consists of the pastoral problem). The chief purpose of this essay is apologetic in nature and hence will not substantially address the practical dilemma of personal suffering.
Alvin Plantinga, in his book God, Freedom, and Evil, has helpfully made the distinction between theodicy and defense. The objective of a theodicy is to provide an explanation and rational for why an omniscient and omnipotent God has allowed evil into His good creation. By way of contrast, a defense is more modest in its goals. The objective of a theistic defense to the problem of evil, hereafter PE, is simply to demonstrate that the presence of evil does not rule out the existence of God.
As mentioned earlier, I hope to sketch out here what I believe is a faithful defense of the belief in the Christian God. Yet, this is not an easy task. Those convinced of the Bible’s truth are not (and dare I say, should not be) concerned with the defense of merely the belief in a god. Instead, the God whose existence we reject as incompatible with the presence of evil is the Trinitarian God revealed in both the Old and New Testament. Thus, we are in the precarious position of defending “whole-Bible” Christianity rather than generic theism. No response to the PE is acceptable that compromises the richness of Christianity’s doctrinal matrix.