The problem of evil is raised as an unanswerable objection to the existence of God. The problem of evil or phrased in another way – the problem of suffering or pain, states that if there is a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good, how can he permit bad or evil things to occur? The conclusion then drawn is that either God cannot be all-powerful if He is all-good, or cannot be all-good if He is all-powerful. However, the problem of evil argument ignores the fundamental message of the bible; that an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God has put in place a plan to end suffering and evil.
God is all-powerful in the sense that it was His choice to create beings with a choice to embrace good or evil. The freedom that He allowed to us individually led to the evil in the world today. In order for humans to be able to do good we must have the ability to do evil as well. In other words, to act morally, we have to choose to do good rather than evil to truly do good. No one would claim that a robot programmed to only do good things was morally good, just that he had a morally good programmer.
Moreover, the Bible clearly tells us that God is not going to leave things as they stand. It tells us that God will judge the actions of all of us and punish those who have done evil. He will then rule over a new world of peace. If you dismiss the Bible as man-made because you reject the idea that there is a supernatural or spiritual dimension to our world you are not playing fair because if you take on the problem of evil you are going beyond the simple dismissal of the supernatural. (Click here to read some ideas on the idea that God is man-made.) You are arguing that even if you grant the possibility of a supernatural dimension to our world, the idea of the all-loving Christian God of the Bible presiding over a world of so much pain and suffering is a fatal contradiction. So, to be consistent the problem of evil should be presented as follows: even if I grant the existence of a supernatural dimension to this world, the God presented by the Bible is an impossible contradiction. But if you take into account what the Bible says, the Bible presents an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God who has a plan to bring about an end to evil. He is not powerlessly standing by.
Some like the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre have dismissed the dichotomy of good and evil. However, this is surely a minority view. Even the most ardent denier of the existence of God to acknowledge that there is evil in the world. In fact many of the most-widely disseminated critics of God’s existence constantly harp on about the prevalence of evil in the world. They maintain that religion is the source of evil.
Christopher Hitchens, the noted atheist, maintains that religion has been the cause of much evil in the world. From the crusades and the Spanish inquisition to Al Qaeda, he details atrocities that have been perpetrated in the name of religion. Of course many atrocities, perhaps more, have been perpetrated in the name of irreligion.
There is no question that religion has been used by some to further evil selfish ends, and some have warped Christianity to provide to justification for selfish hateful ends. Indeed in my opinion as an Irishman, on many occasions where religion is blamed for conflict, the underlying conflict is ethnic in nature and religion is dragged into the fight as a convenient marker of ethnicity.
However, whether or not Christianity has been abused by those seeking to use it as a cover to spread hate, authentic Christianity is not a religion in this sense. Jesus challenged and held in contempt the hypocritical religious authorities of his day who in their holiness oppressed those who didn’t agree with them. The religious leaders of Jesus' time professed holiness but had no qualms about condemning an innocent man to death as they did in the case of Jesus. Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies. Jesus preached that we cannot reach God by following rules but must permit God to reach out to us by grace.
Finally, the fact that evil exists points to the existence of a universal moral standard. If evil exists, good must exist and there must be a way to distinguish between the two. Where does this standard come from? It cannot be man-made or it would vary from society to society and person to person. The traditional solution was that this standard was an unchanging metaphysical or spiritual truth to which we physical humans have access. Christians believe that the God of the Bible is the source of these universal truths.