This is post number 3 in our series considering the problem of evil. Currently, we are assessing the success of the logical problem of evil that is as follows:
Logical Version: “It’s Logically Impossible for God and Suffering to Coexist.”
The argument goes something like this:
1. An all-loving, all-powerful God exists.
2. Suffering exists.
3. If God is all powerful, He can create any world that He wants.
4. If God is all-loving, He prefers a world without suffering.
Argument: God is all-loving and all-powerful. Therefore, He both can and wants to create a world without suffering. Therefore, it follows that the world has no suffering. But that contradicts 2, Suffering exists. Therefore, God must not exist. 1
Last week we addressed assumption #3 here. This week we take a look at assumption #4- "If God is all-loving, He prefers a world without suffering."
Again, the question we must ask is "Is this necessarily true?" I content that it is not. Once again William Lane Craig is instructive:
"For God could have overriding reason for allowing the suffering in the world. We all know cases in which we permit suffering in order to bring about a greater good (like taking our child to the dentist). The atheist might insist that an all-powerful being would not be so limited. He could bring about the greater good directly, without allowing any suffering. But clearly, given freedom, of the will, that may not be possible. Some goods, for example, moral virtues, can be achieved only through the free cooperation of people. It may well be the case that a world with suffering is, on balance, better overall than a world with no suffering. In any case, it is at least possible, and that is sufficient to defeat the atheist's claim that 4 is necessarily true." 2
Consider the example of Jesus Christ. Here we see God the Father allowing His only begotten Son to suffering and die for the greatest good- forgiveness of sins and the free gift of eternal life for those who freely choose it.
For assumption 3 or 4 to be successful, the atheist must show that free will is impossible and that it's impossible that a world with suffering would be better than a world with no suffering.
Finally, Dr. Craig explains that we can push the argument even further. He writes:
"We can make it plausible that God and suffering are logically consistent. All we have to do is come up with a statement that is consistent with God's existence and entails that suffering exists. Here is such a statement:
5. God could not have created another world with as much good as, but less suffering than, this world, and God has good reasons for permitting the suffering that exists.
The idea here is that given human freedom, God's options are restricted, and it may be that a world with as much good as the actual world, but with less suffering, wasn't an option. Nevertheless, God has good reasons for the suffering He allows. If statement 5 is even possibly true, it shows that it's possible that God and suffering both exist. And it surely is plausible that 5 is possibly true." 3
For reasons such as these, the logical form of the problem of evil is all but dead.
Next week, we will begin considering the evidential version of the problem of evil.
Courage and Godspeed,
1. William Lane Craig, On Guard, p. 154-155.
2. Ibid., p. 156.
3. Ibid., p. 157.