Thoughts on the Problem of Evil

A friend told me about a dinner conversation that turned to the question, “Do you believe in God?”

One couple said, “We don’t believe in a God who would allow such terrible things to happen.”

My friend didn’t know what to say. She had already admitted that she believed in God. Genuinely troubled, she came to me to ask, how could I have answered?

As I told her, it’s a tough question that philosophers and theologians have grappled with for thousands of years. The commonest response is to refer to free will. God made creatures with freedom. If he put a stop to all evil, he would violate those creatures’ freedom. Human beings would no longer be human, but something more like robots.

I think that’s a pretty helpful answer, though perhaps overly abstract.

Writing about God’s justice has made me think about it from a different angle. I have taken more seriously the Bible’s statement that God did, at one time, consider putting a sudden end to all human evil.

“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created–and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground–for I regret that I have made them.'” (Genesis 6:5-7)

Would you really like God to do that?

I believe in a God who chose not to instantly put a stop to evil, but set about transforming the human heart– a very complicated operation.

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