Far too often I hear Christians say that they don’t have an explanation for why God allows pain and suffering. While it is okay not to have an answer to everything we should at least attempt to know why there is evil present in the world. After all, it is one of the reasons why unbelievers and skeptics aren’t Christians. They claim Christians can’t explain it within their worldview.
As a Christian who has witnessed my fair share of evil it doesn’t make me question my faith in Jesus and I hope you can say the same. I have spent time in this area through personal experience and in my personal study time and I can confidently say that every person asks, why does God allow evil and suffering?
I have also had to ask myself am I living out scripture? If I am I must do as 1 Peter 3:15 says:
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
Evil is not a topic that anyone likes to talk about but even when issues are difficult scripture commands us to be able to communicate our answers to others. One of the most important questions to know how to respond to is the presence of evil and suffering.
We cannot change the views of unbelievers especially if we have not earnestly thought through life’s difficult questions ourselves. Afterall, this question is one of the top objections to Christianity that an unbeliever puts forth and if you don’t have a response besides, “Jesus is the answer,” then the unbeliever will just assume your faith is shallow or worse, blind. We also have to take into consideration that a majority of the time we are going to talk about this issue with unbelievers or skeptics. Therefore, we must explain our response in a way that the unbeliever can understand, that means we can’t use christian terms and expect them to understand our point.
Here are 3 reasons we can use in our conversations to explain pain and suffering.
When God created us he gave us the gift of free will. C.S. Lewis says it best, “If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible.” It’s easy to complain that there is evil in the world but then we love the freedom to choose what we think is best for ourselves. We are free to choose God or reject him and it doesn’t make much sense for a person to reject God but then complain that he is allowing evil to co-exist with us. People are quick to blame God for all the evil and suffering they see but they don’t always give God credit for the good in our world. They just want to blame him when situations aren’t lining up with their standard of good.
Looking at evil and suffering in the world it’s imperative we ascertain how it was caused. A few years ago I read a news story about 19 Coptic Christian children who were brutally murdered because they would not renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. This evil was carried out by man–not God. So, as with these types of evil we must remember our free will gives us all the choice to hurt others or to help them. Further, even after these horrible events happen we have the opportunity to help others. We always have a choice.
Free will could only exist in a world that God created, otherwise we would not have the need to know the difference between good and evil. We wouldn’t have a standard of good and evil because there wouldn’t be a law giver to issue that standard. We also would not have laws that everyone must abide by.
Objective Good and Evil
God allows evil and suffering, that is a fact that both Christians and unbelievers have to account for. The Christian does not have the burden to prove God’s existence in the midst of the presence of evil and suffering, although they can. The problem of suffering is a dilemma for every human being. Also, it does not create a snafu for the Christian in how they explain their faith in God. In fact, the presence of evil and suffering provides more evidence for God’s existence and goodness. If someone is questioning why God allows suffering or if they question his existence because of the presence of suffering it’s important to point out the most obvious fact…there is a standard that we all are expected to follow.
There is no question that we can agree that there are some atrocities that all make us wonder why violence is taking place. So if we are assuming that there is objective evil then we must also assume there is objective good in the world. C.S. Lewis says it this way, “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust.”
So evil can’t exist unless good exists. But good can’t exist unless God exists. In other words, there can’t be no objective evil unless there is objective good, and there can be no objective good unless God exists. If evil is real–and we all know it is–then God exists.
-Frank Turek, Stealing From God
Meaning and Purpose
Great Philosophers have written on the topic of the meaning of life for centuries. We live our lives, following our passions as if they mean something, because they do. Evil is only possible in a world that God created, otherwise we are just puppets without purpose. But we know that there is meaning and purpose in our world, science is just one example of many, where there is evidence of intelligent design. And if there is evidence of intelligent design then there has to be an intelligent designer. If everything that begins to exist has a cause then we can conclude that we, too also have a cause and a reason for existing. Even our suffering has meaning.
“The point is this: If God does not exist, then life is objectively meaningless; but man cannot live consistently and happily knowing that life is meaningless; so in order to be happy he pretends life has meaning. But this is, of course, entirely inconsistent—for without God, man and the universe are without any real significance.”
-William Lane Craig, Philosopher
We all will face suffering at some point in our lives. We can’t escape from it, so how can we justify God allowing evil to co-exist with us? Experiencing suffering does not diminish the goodness of God or his plans for us. However, unbelievers and skeptics rest on the idea that if they can create enough doubt in your mind that for God to really exist that he must create only goodness in your life, then you will question his existence and goodness. This idea necessitates the fact that you would be playing God in order to determine this idea of what goodness is. The real problem here is the condition of our hearts and where it leads us. Are we following a standard or creating one?
Christianity does answer why God allows suffering and these are only 3 reasons as to why. We must not soften the real pain of suffering and evil in the world. Suffering is not easy to endure and if we are vigilant we will not fall into being desensitized to seeing its severity. It is clear that evil and suffering is all around us and it is pertinent for everyone, regardless of faith, to continue to ask difficult questions like this one. Are we objectively looking at good and evil as we discern how they both can co-exist in a world that God created?!
Our failure to teach a biblical theology of suffering leaves Christians unprepared for harsh realities. It also leaves our children vulnerable to history, philosophy, and global studies classes that raise the problems of evil and suffering while denying the Christian worldview.Randy Alcorn, If God Is Good
Christianity is the only religion that can give a reasonable explanation to the problem of evil and suffering. We shouldn’t be afraid of these tough questions because we have the answer.