If God is good, all powerful, and all knowing, how can evil persist in our world? This is a common question non-believers want to hear answered (and many believers, too). And understandably, there does seem to be a contradiction here, doesn’t it? After all, if God is good and knows of our suffering, and has the power to stop evil, why wouldn’t He?
That is a fair question, to be sure. But I would like to re-frame it a bit (And credit here belongs to my apologetics professor at seminary, Dr. Thorvald Madsen).
Every person, whether conscious of it or not, holds to a particular worldview. A way of seeing the world and explaining the reality around them. For example, there is a Christian worldview, a Hindu worldview, an Islamic worldview, and an atheistic worldview. They all seek to provide answers to common questions in order to make sense of our existence. Through the answers they provide also come a series of claims made by each. It is our job to determine which worldview does the best job at explaining reality.
So what claims does the Christian worldview make about suffering? Pretty simple, actually. The Christian worldview maintains that suffering is part and parcel of human existence in a world marred by sin. Many of the imprecatory psalms as well as the Book of Job indicate that suffering is by no means a foreign idea to the Scriptures. Though not all suffering should be directly attributed to sin, we can say that suffering exists because sin has entered into the world. And it doesn’t get much better when you become a Christian either. In fact, it is usually quite the opposite. Jesus clearly told His disciples, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
So here is the million dollar question: does this seem to track with reality?
I would say it does.
You do not have to look far to find human injustice and suffering (24 hour media coverage has greatly increased our awareness). The Christian worldview is consistent with this point. It would only be inconsistent if it maintained that suffering is not a part of human existence. In fact, it would be very cruel to even make such a claim, as every day we are reminded that this world is not as it should be.
So paradoxically, the Christian worldview would be in more trouble if one day we discovered a group of people who had never experienced any kind of trial or injustice, or who had never committed a sin. While it may sound a bit weird, the sin and suffering we see so prevalent today actually authenticates the claims of what the Bible says is true about the world.
I don’t say this to minimize the tremendous suffering of millions of human beings all around the world. But I do say that to show that the Christian worldview is not to be rejected because of its presence. In fact, it is the reverse. Sin and suffering are best explained through a Christian worldview. In evaluating worldviews, we have to look for consistency. And Christianity has it here.
I would like to hear from you on this one. How do you think an atheist would explain the problem of suffering?