Essentials of Christian Apologetics - Lesson 5
Problem of Evil
Problem of Evil
The Problem of Evil
I. What is the problem of evil?
A. Two Kinds of Evil
B. Different Forms of the Problem
II. Two Alternative Worldviews
A. Religious Dualism
1. Step 1
2. Step 2
3. Step 3
III. Two Versions of the Problem
A. Deductive Problem of Evil
1. Search for the Missing Premise
2. New Proposition
3. New List of Christian Beliefs
B. Inductive Problem: Gratuitous Evil
1. Deductive Formulation
2. Inductive Formulation
3. Final Point
IV. The Christian Worldview
A. Two Kinds of Good
B. Two Kinds of Evil
C. Scripture Texts
1. Romans 8:28
2. Romans 8:18
For more information, see:
The full course, Christian Apologetics, Lecture #4 The Problem of Evil
Nash, Faith and Reason, pp. 177-221.
- An introduction to the reasoned defense of our faith.
These lessons are a summary of Dr. Nash's introductory course to Christian Apologetics. The full seminary level class is available in our Institute Program.
Dr. Ronald Nash
Essentials of Christian Apologetics
Problem of Evil
In the last segment of this summary, I'm going to look at one of many other problems that we could consider. My time is short. I'm going to assume the burden of dealing with apologetically what is, for many people, the greatest intellectual challenge to Christian faith. And that is the problem of evil. I have discussed the problem of evil in my book, Faith and Reason. My earlier discussion of the problem of evil appears in the longer tape, but I've since reexamined my approach to the problem of evil, and I, at the present moment at least think that the material I'm going to present at this time is probably the best work that I have done on the problem of evil. But I'll leave that judgment. I'll leave that judgment to you. What is the problem of evil? The problem of evil is grounded on the fact that a number of related and essential beliefs about God appear to be incompatible with the evil we encounter in the world. Christians believe that God is totally good. All knowing and all powerful Christians also believe that God created the world. The difficulties that these beliefs seem to engender with respect to evil look like this one. If God is good and loves all human beings, it is reasonable to believe that He wants to deliver the creatures he loves from evil and suffering to if God is all knowing. It is reasonable to believe that He knows how to deliver His creatures from evil and suffering. And three, if God is all powerful, it is reasonable to believe that He is able to deliver His creatures from evil and suffering.
[00:02:18] Given these claims, it seems to follow that God wants to eliminate evil, that God knows how to eliminate evil, and that God has the power to eliminate evil. But evil exists. In fact, great amounts of evil exist. Indeed, great amounts of apparently senseless and purposeless evil seem to exist. It seems reasonable to believe that God does not want to eliminate evil, thus casting doubt on His goodness or doesn't know how to eliminate evil, thus raising questions about his knowledge or lacks the power. In short, the existence of evil seems inconsistent with our belief in God's goodness or omniscience or power. Troubled by the reflection on these difficulties, many have found it easy to take the additional step and conclude that the existence of evil in the world makes it unlikely that God exists. Thinking Christians then appear to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. They cannot deny any of the factors that make up the problem of evil. They can hardly deny the world God created contains large amounts of evil, much of it apparently gratuitous or meaningless, but is theists. These Christians must affirm their belief that this world, with all its evil, was created by a good, loving, omnipotent and omniscient God. The challenge for theists is to show that the existence of the evils we find in this world fit or are consistent with the Christian view of God in the world. In other words, we must explain how the conceptual scheme that is the Christian worldview is consistent with the evil we find in the world. Two kinds of evil A good place to begin our downsizing of the problem of evil is recognizing the difference between two kinds of evil, moral and natural evil. Moral evil results from the choices and actions of human beings.
[00:04:14] When the question why is asked about some moral evil, the answer will include a reference to something that humans did or did not do. Moral evil sometimes results when humans act, for example, by shooting a gun. But moral evil may also occur as a result of human inaction. Perhaps someone could have prevented the person from getting the gun and didn't. So moral evil is evil brought about by human choices and actions. Any other kind of evil is what we call natural evil. The class of natural evils includes such things as earthquakes, tornadoes, diseases not resulting from human choices. Many wise people believe the two kinds of evil require different kinds of answers. Now, I want to make a distinction between two other problems of evil the theoretical versus the personal problem of evil. It is one thing to deal with evil on a purely theoretical or philosophical level. It can be something quite different to encounter evil in a personal way. Sitting in a philosophy classroom and thinking about the problem of evil is obviously. From struggling with the news that a loved one has just died in an auto accident at the moment when one is being hammered existentially by some particular instance of evil, it is easy to forget that some philosophical argument once seemed to suggest answers as to why evil exists. When someone is troubled by aspects of the theoretical or philosophical problem of evil, the assistance of a good philosopher or apologist might help. But when we are confronted by the personal problem of evil, what we may need is a wise and caring friend or pastor or counselor. The distinction between the theoretical and personal problems of evil is relevant to events in the life of the Christian writer C.S.
[00:06:03] Lewis, one of Lewis's more influential books. The Problem of Pain offers his answers to the theoretical problem of evil. I am one of many who believe there are some very good arguments in that book. However, after Lewis met and then married Joy Gresham, he learned the painful truth about the personal problem of evil. His wife's eventual death from cancer after a long period of painful suffering, plunged Lewis into a time of doubt and depression. Now he was confronted by the personal problem of evil, and the philosophical arguments in his earlier book seemed to offer little help. After Joyce death, Lewis wrote a significantly different book titled A Grief, Observed Both it and the problem of pain should be read together to show what different steps must be taken to deal with both facets of the problem of evil. Now I want to examine a related issue. Evil and the two alternatives to the Christian worldview. The problems that Christian appear to have with the evil in God's creation are supposed to drive Christians to abandon belief in the Christian God and turn to a different religious worldview such as dualism, pantheism, pantheism, or to an anti-religious, materialistic and atheistic worldview known as naturalism. Limitations of space and time make it necessary to focus on only two of these alternatives, namely religious dualism and metaphysical naturalism. First, religious dualism. Religious dualism is a very old alternative to the Christian view of evil in place of the one good God of historic Christian theism. Many people have tried to explain evil in terms of two gods or two supreme beings, one good and the other evil according to this dualistic worldview. The good God thought of in terms of light and the evil God darkness are eternal and coequal in power.
[00:08:08] Neither can defeat the other. The battle between good and evil has already been going on forever and will continue forever into the future. Variations of religious dualism can be found in the ancient Persian religion known as Zoroastrianism. Advocates of this religion can still be found in some areas of present day Iran. Another manifestation of this kind of dualism occurred in a religious sect known as Manichean ism. During the last years of the fourth century A.D., no less a person than Augustine of North Africa held this view before his eventual conversion to Christianity. Large numbers of people in contemporary Christendom have been bitten by the dualistic bug. It should be noted that the being that Christians call Satan or the devil is not a party to this kind of dualism. Scripture clearly teaches that Satan is a created being and not an eternal God whose power matches that of the Christian God. There is a short, clear and powerful reputation of the kind of dualism I have described. I will develop the argument in three stages. Step one How do we know which God is the good one? Religious dualism can be challenged by asking people how they know which of their two gods is the good one. Of course, most people will reply that the God who encourages humans to kill, steal, rape, lie, and so on is the evil God. And they will assure us the God who commands us to love, tell the truth, protect the innocent, and so on is the good God. But what is the ground for such claims? Perhaps the God who commands us to kill, steal and rape is the good God. One way to avoid absurdities like this is to appeal to a standard that is higher and more ultimate than the gods of light and darkness.
[00:10:02] Only if such a standard exists can we identify which of the two gods is the good one. Step two. What is the content of this absolute standard? Unless there is an absolute and objective standard by which we can judge dual isms to candidates for God, there is simply no definitive way for humans to know which God is the good one. But there seem to be two equally legitimate possibilities. The ultimate standard might be absolute goodness, or it might be absolute evil. Are there compelling reasons that tip the scales in favor of one of these two options? According to the influential British author C.S. Lewis, there is a persuasive argument in favor of the view that the ultimate standard in such a case must be the good rather than evil. Lewis argues that evil is always parasitic upon the good. As we know, a parasite is an organism that survives by living in or off of a host organism while contributing nothing to the survival of the host. One example of a parasite is a tapeworm. Another is mistletoe. In order for a parasite to grow and survive, it must prey upon a healthy organism. The parasite needs its host. The host is not dependent upon the parasite. Following this analogy, Lewis states that the good comes first, and evil is always a corruption of some prior good. It would take a strange thinking person to contend that the healthy human body is the parasite and the tapeworm as the host in the conflict between good and evil. Goodness is prior, and evil is the corruption of the good. And so Lewis contends, When we seek the ultimate standard to judge whether light or darkness is the good God, that standard must be the absolute. Good.
[00:12:03] Step three Bad news for Dualism. In this way, we learn that dualism requires an appeal to one modernistic principle. Without such an ultimate principle, we could never know which God is the good one. We also learn that the one ultimate monastic principle is good. And once we recognize that there must be one ultimate good that stands over the finite gods of light and darkness. It follows that neither of dualism two gods can be God. Proper reflection about the two deities of dualism leads us to the existence of one absolutely good being to rescue dualism from absurdity. We must become believers in just one Good God. Since dualism turns out to be a logically self-defeating position. It obviously offers no help at all in human efforts to resolve the problem of evil. Now, the other alternative that we're able to consider is an anti-religious alternative to Christian theism, and it's the view we call naturalism. For much of the 20th century, the worldview of naturalism has been the major antagonist of the Christian faith and those parts of the world described by the label of Christendom. There is little doubt that naturalism is the preferred worldview of many who seek to use the problem of evil as a defender for the Christian worldview. The central claim of metaphysical naturalism is that nothing exists outside the material mechanistic that is non purposeful natural order. My discussion will focus on naturalists who are what we call physical lists, people who insist that everything that exists can be reduced to physical or material entities. A naturalist believes that the physical universe is the sum total of all it is. In the famous words of Carl Sagan, who died in 1996, quote, The universe is all it is or ever was or ever will be.
[00:14:14] For a naturalist, the universe is analogous to a sealed box. Everything that happens inside the box, which is the natural order, is caused by or is explicable in terms of other things that exist within the box. Nothing, including God, exists outside the box or the natural order or the physical universe. Therefore, nothing outside the box that we call the universe or cosmos or nature can have any causal effect within the box. Naturalism and the Christian faith are natural opponents in the world of ideas. If one of them is true, the other must be false. Some people reject the Christian faith because they make a religious commitment to naturalism and then find any further interest in Christianity logically impossible. Other people begin by rejecting Christianity for one reason or another and then naturally gravitate. To naturalism. There's an obvious reason why naturalists do not believe in any objective good. Their worldview will not allow them to. The words good and evil in a naturalistic universe cannot possibly refer to anything transcendent, anything, in other words, that has standing outside the box the natural order of things. For this reason, many naturalists simply assert that what we call good and evil are merely subjective preferences. Other naturalists balk at this extreme and problematic view and find other grounds for treating good and evil as relative. Few naturalists seem to realize how their relativistic approach to good and evil disqualifies them logically from being proponents of the problem of evil. Whenever they seek to raise problems for Christians by pointing to this or that instance of evil, they do so in terms that simply are not consistent with their naturalistic and relativistic understanding of things. For a naturalist, there cannot be any real objective, transcendent standards of good and evil.
[00:16:18] The Christian worldview allows Christians to recognize the existence of real goods and real evils. The naturalistic worldview does not. Even if Christians have their difficulties with the problem of evil, it ought to be obvious to fair witnesses of the debate that naturalists and other opponents of Christianity have difficulties with what should be called the problem of goodness. Imagine yourself in Bertrand Russell's world, Bertrand Russell being a very well-known, now deceased British philosopher of the last century. In Bertrand Russell's world, the cosmos again is a closed box. The physical universe is all that exists outside the box. Nothing exists, no God, no transcendent truths, no transcendent standards of good and evil. In other words, nothing. Here's another description of Russell's view of the world. Quote That man is the product of causes which had no provision of the end. They were achieving that man's origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs are. But the outcome of accidental collocations, of atoms that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling can preserve an individual life beyond the grave. But all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction. And the vast death of the solar system and the whole temple of man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins. All these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand only within the scaffolding of these truths. And one must ask How can there be any truth in Russell's universe, but only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of the unyielding despair can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.
[00:18:22] Well, the Christian worldview provides a ground both for the existence of real goods, not imaginary or theoretical goods, but real goods, as well as for real evils. Naturalism can do neither of these. Now it's time to think about two versions of the problem of evil. The two major versions of the problem of evil that I will examine in the rest of this discussion are what we call the deductive version and the inductive version. Let's look first at the deductive version of the problem of evil. What I call the deductive version attempts to show that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with one or more major tenets of the Christian faith. Proponents of the deductive version claim that a logical contradiction lurks at the very core of Christian theism. For example, a British philosopher named J.L. Mackey, who at the time he wrote his article that I'm going to cite 1955, advocated the deductive problem of evil. Here are his words. Quote. It can be shown not that religious beliefs lack rational support, but that they are positively irrational, that the several parts of the essential theological doctrine are inconsistent with one another, since a contradictory set of beliefs is necessarily false. The deductive version of the problem of evil would, if sound, posed the most serious threat possible to Christian theism. It would mean that Christianity is not just possibly false, but necessarily false false in every possible world. Things can't get much worse than that in the structure of the deductive problem of evil. The problem arises because of a supposed contradiction that lies within or among the following six propositions, all of which Christians are supposed to believe. Proposition one God exists to God is omnipotent. Three God is omniscient. He knows everything, for God is omni benevolent, completely and perfectly good.
[00:20:44] God created the world. And six the world contains evil. Obviously, this list does not include two propositions, one of which contradicts the other. While the list contains the proposition, the world contains evil. The proponent of the deductive problem of evil must find a way to demonstrate that the first five propositions entail the claim that the world does not contain evil. So you've got to set up a contradiction here. If you could do that, that would then produce the desired contradiction, namely the conjunction of the proposition. The world contains evil and the proposition the world does not contain evil. Then you've got a contradiction. In other words, the advocate of the deductive problem of the evil must find a way to get from those first five propositions I gave you to a new proposition. Namely, the world does not contain evil. If this alleged entail, man does obtain, in other words, of statements one through five, and I won't repeat them, should imply that the world does not contain evil, then our set of Christian beliefs would indeed have a problem. The set would be logically inconsistent and thus necessarily false. However, in order to make their case, the critics of Christianity, the advocates of the deductive problem of evil, must find another proposition that, in conjunction with statements one through five, would imply that seventh proposition that the world does not contain evil only by supplying such a missing premise. Would the alleged contradiction become evident while proponents of the deductive problem of evil tried every move possible? None of them succeeded. The new propositions they offered to reduce the sought for contradiction failed either because they were not true or because they were not. Claims that Christians embrace, for example, some anti theists offered as the missing premise the claim that an omnipotent being can do absolutely anything.
[00:23:01] Believing that when this proposition was added to our original list, it would entail Proposition seven, the claim that the world does not contain evil, thus giving us the desired contradiction. In this way they sought to generate the contradiction that would presumably demonstrate that Christian theism does contain a logical inconsistency at its core. But there was a major catch to this the proposition that the Christian God can do absolutely anything. The proposition is not true. Informed Christians have always recognized that an omnipotent being cannot do lots of things. For example, the Bible declares that God cannot lie. The God cannot swear by a being greater than himself. That's in the New Testament book of Hebrews Chapter six. The end result of all the hoopla over the alleged contradiction existing at the heart of the Christian faith turned out this way. No proponent of the deductive problem of evil ever succeeded in supplying the missing proposition needed to reveal the presumed contradiction. Obviously, it is one thing to demonstrate that no one has discovered the missing premise up to this point. It is important to note, however, that philosopher Alvin Planning has provided a procedure by which Christian Christians can demonstrate the logical consistency of their set of beliefs. This information, Alvin planning his argument, demonstrates that not only has no philosopher ever succeeded in proving this contradiction up to the present moment, no one will ever be able to do it in the future either. All that is required to prove that our list of propositions is logically consistent and thus forever immune to the possibility of being shown to be inconsistent is to add a new proposition that is logically possible. Which simply means that it does not describe a contradictory state of affairs. The new proposition must be consistent with the other propositions in the list and in conjunction with the other propositions that must entail that evil exists in the world.
[00:25:16] Planning as proposition is the following claim God creates a world that contains evil and has a good reason for doing so. God creates a world that contains evil and has a good reason for doing so. Now, if we telescope our earlier list, if we squeeze them together, our earlier list of six propositions, our new list of Christian beliefs looks like this one. God exists is omnipotent, omniscient, omni benevolent, and created the world to God. Created a world but now contains evil and had a good reason for doing so. Numbers one and two, taken together, of course, entail that the world now contains evil. Therefore, the propositions from our original list of Christian beliefs that now appear in number one are logically consistent with the existence of evil. The only relevant question regarding Proposition two is whether it is possibly true That is logically possible. Obviously it is, since it is not logically false is not a contradiction. Therefore, our original list of Christian beliefs is shown to be logically consistent from which it follows that the deductive problem of evil has been answered. The existence of evil in the world cannot be used to demonstrate a logical inconsistency at the heart of the Christian faith. Now my discussion of the deductive problem of evil has, of necessity, skipped over a lot of details, some of them technical in nature. The interested reader is advised to examine these details in other publications which are readily available, and that would include my book, Faith and Reason. But the point is clear. The existence of evil in the world does not create a problem of logic for the Christian. Of course, it may still raise other sorts of problems, some of which I'll discuss later in my comments.
[00:27:25] It is important to note that even J.L. Mackey, that British philosopher in 1955 who helped get the deductive problem of evil rolling. It's important to note that even J.L. Mackey conceded that his earlier position does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another. In other words, Mackey admitted that he was wrong. Another philosopher, an American philosopher who's a frequent critic of Christian theism. William Rowe admits, quote, Some philosophers have contended that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of the theistic god. No one, Rowe says, has succeeded in establishing such an extravagant claim. Indeed, there is a fairly compelling argument for the view that the existence of evil is logically consistent with the theistic god. So here, here are two well-known atheists from the 20th century who admit that the deductive problem of evil is a failure. Of course we may ask, but why did God permit evil? However, the relevant issue here is that such a reason need not be known or produced for the argument that I've been given here to succeed. The rules of modern logic make the strategy of this argument successful, whether or not we can identify God's reason. The point at the moment is that the claim that God has a reason for creating a world that now contains evil is logically possible. Since it is, the argument succeeds and the attempt to locate a contradiction at the heart of Christian theism fails. As a final observation, we should note once again that nothing significant follows from the fact that Christians may admit they don't know God's reason for promoting evil. Some opponents of theism act as though such an admission implies that there is no reason. That is, if we don't know what the reason is, then that must mean that there is no reason.
[00:29:39] But this hardly follows. In fact, all one could reasonably infer from the admission. But let's say Ron Nash does not know God's reason for permitting evil. All it follows is that Ron Nash is not omniscient. Monash does not know everything. But that's hardly surprising news. So the deductive argument is a failure. What about the inductive version of the problem of evil? Well, the shortcomings of the deductive problem of evil do not mean that opponents of Christian theism have given up on the problem of evil. It simply means that they have turned to a different way of formulating the problem. The move from the justly discredited deductive to an inductive form of the problem of evil is a shift from the strong claim that theism is logically and necessarily false to the much more modest assertion that Christianity is probably false, according to advocates of the inductive problem of evil. Evil tips the scales of probability against theism. The existence of evil makes theistic belief improbable or implausible. Most attempts to answer the inductive problem of evil are variations on one basic theme, namely that God permits evil either to make possible some greater good or to avoid some greater evil. God, it is claimed, always has some reason for allowing evil. An instance of evil might be a test to strengthen character or punishment for some previous act of moral evil. What does seem likely is that no human that I'm aware of will know what God's reason might be in any specific instance of evil. Now, the need to cover other subjects makes it necessary to cut off this discussion while there is still more to say. I will examine what seems to most people to be the most powerful version of the inductive problem of evil, what many call the problem of gratuitous evil.
[00:31:49] What if the world can? Haynes gratuitous evil that is truly senseless. Mindless, irrational and meaningless evil. If this is true, the appeal to greater good would collapse and with it apparently would also fall the claim that God permits evil because it is a necessary condition for some greater good or the avoidance of some greater evil. Let's consider one version of the problem of gratuitous evil. Consider the following propositions. One If God exists, then all evil has a justifying reason. Two But it is not the case that all evil has a justifying reason. In other words, number one is false. Therefore, God does not exist. If God exists, then every evil has a justifying reason. But since there is evil that does or does not appear to have a justifying reason. Therefore, the claim the conclusion is made that God does not exist. What can we say about this argument? To begin with, it is certainly valid. It conforms to the rules of formal logic. If the premises are true, then the conclusion is certainly true. But are the premises true? Suppose for now we concentrate only on the second premise the claim that not all evil has a justifying reason. Several questions come to mind. For one thing, how can the critic of Christian theism know that premise two is true? To get right to the heart of the matter, how could any human being know that gratuitous evil exists? Any sensitive and observant person must admit that many evils in the world appear to be gratuitous accidents that strike people down in the prime of life. Diseases that result in long periods of horrible suffering, birth defects, natural disasters that can suddenly kill hundreds of people and destroy the lives of survivors. But given the limitations of human knowledge, it is hard to see how any human being could actually know that some particular evil is totally senseless and purposeless.
[00:34:12] It seems then that the most any human being can know is that some evils, that many evils appear gratuitous, meaningless. But of course, such a claim in the place of promise too, would not entail the conclusion that God does not exist. Philosopher Jane Mary Trowel has provided a different formulation of the problem of gratuitous evil. Now, please note here she is formulating the problem of gratuitous evil, but she does not herself accept this. It's important to remember that. Well, here's how she writes, quote, It seems that unless it can be shown that all cases of apparent gratuitous suffering are, in fact not purposeless, it is most reasonable to believe that they are as they appear to be. And since it cannot be shown that they are in fact not purposeless, it is reasonable to believe that they are as they appear to be. Since there appear to be such cases, it is more reasonable to believe that God does not exist. End quote. Well, while this is an interesting argument, it raises at least two questions. The first and less serious question concerns the placement of the burden of proof on this matter. How did the theist suddenly get stuck with the burden of proof? After all, he was simply minding his own business as he went about the task of believing in God and living in the world. But suddenly he is told that unless he, the theist, can show that none of the evils in the world are gratuitous, belief in the existence of God must be judged to be unreasonable. We should remember it is the atheist who's attempting to prove that God does not exist. In this case, the atheist is attempting to make his case for the nonexistence of God by pointing to the existence of gratuitous evil.
[00:36:05] Since the atheist is issuing, the challenge, should not the burden of proof rest on his shoulders? Should not the atheist be the one required to show that there is gratuitous evil in the world? My point, of course, is that the atheist knows fully well that no human being can show that there really is gratuitous evil in the world. So he simply adopts an attitude of philosophical imperialism, throws down the gantlet and adds in passing. By the way, I thought you should know that you also have the burden of proof in this matter. I'm not trying to defend theism by default. I am simply pointing out that it is not at all clear that the theist is stuck with a burden of proof in this matter. But trials argument, as stated, suffers from still another problem. As she herself points out. The second premise of the argument involves an appeal to ignorance, a common logical fallacy, simply because the theory cannot prove that all evils in the world are not gratuitous. It hardly follows that some of them are indeed. Trial goes on to say the following quote The most reasonable position to hold appears to be this We cannot explain cases of apparently gratuitous suffering until we know whether or not they are indeed gratuitous. And this we can never claim unless we are sure as to the analogical status of God, since we cannot prove or disprove God's nonexistence from the argument. From gratuitous evil, we must first prove or disprove he his existence. In other words, we have to prove or disprove his existence or nonexistence on other grounds. We cannot use the argument from gratuitous evil to settle that issue. Because we can't settle the issue of whether there is or is not gratuitous evil until we know whether or not there is a God.
[00:38:05] I hope you'll understand that according to trial, the one sure way of showing that the world does contain gratuitous evils is to prove that God does not exist. It would then seem to follow that one cannot appeal to gratuitous evils while arguing against the existence of God. Unless that is, one is unconcerned about begging the question. One final point is worth noting. What properties must a being possess in order to know that some evils really are gratuitous? It certainly appears as though one such property must be omniscience. It would seem then that the only kind of being who could know whether some gratuitous evils exist would be God. But if the only being who could know whether such evils exist is God, then surely there are problems in arguing that the existence of gratuitous evils are a defeat her for the existence of God. Now I'm beginning to draw this to a conclusion. I want to begin talking about the Christian worldview and evil. It is important to remember that the worldviews of millions of people deny the existence of evil, but affirm that such evils as pain and death are illusory. This is the case with non-Christian forms of pantheism, as well as the bizarre theories of the American born system known as Christian Science. Which is, of course, also a form of pantheism. Surely fair people will agree that Christian theism deserves credit for not running away from the problem of evil by pretending as though evil, pain and suffering do not really exist. Now. I want to distinguish between two kinds of good and two kinds of evil. Listen carefully. The best way I know how to make the distinction between these two kinds of goodness that I'm talking about is to use the terms transcendent, good and non transcendent good.
[00:40:12] I define a transcendent good as that good, then which a greater good cannot be conceived. From the perspective of the Christian worldview, there can be no greater good than eternal fellowship with the God who made us, loves us and redeems us through the salvific work of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. It should not be difficult to see that all other goods that humans seek are in comparison. To eternal fellowship with God, that these other goods that humans seek are non transcendent. Now corresponding to this distinction, there are two kinds of evil using the same terminology. Then we can think about transcendent and non transcendent evils. Suppose we define a transcendent evil as that evil then which a greater evil cannot be conceived from the perspective of the Christian worldview. That kind of transcendent evil would be losing one soul and being forever separated from the source of love, righteousness and goodness of the God who created us and the universe in which we live. As horrible as many evils in the history of the world have been the biblical world through tells us that there is one transcendent evil that makes all other evils, non transcendent people who regard themselves as Christians ought to seek a better understanding of their worldview. That understanding requires them to know what their ultimate rule of faith and practice the Christian scriptures have to say about their worldview. And finally, they need to show that they have the strength to put the beliefs they profess into practice. One important passage in the New Testament that speaks to this point is Romans 828. Which says, and we know that all things work together for good. To those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.
[00:42:10] Many of us know people who believe this verse reads as follows All things work together for good, period. That's how lots of people read it. And because of this error, millions of people mistakenly think the promise of this verse applies to them. But the proper audience for this verse is the large company of people who not only love God, but who are called according to God's purpose. The full understanding of who those people are requires a fairly competent grasp of the entire New Testament. One more comment is needed. Does Romans 828 promise that everything works for good during the earthly existence of the people who are described in the latter part of the verse who are called according to God's purpose? Many competent expositor of the texts think not. They believe the text reports that all things work together for good. When viewed from the perspective of eternity. In other words, don't get up every morning and assume that every day is going to be just a great day and there going to be no problems. It's only when our life is viewed from the perspective of eternity. Then and only then will believers fully recognize how the trials and travail of the Christian pilgrimage in this life have worked together for good. I trust it is clear that all I'm doing here is explaining the important teachings of the worldview that millions of people believe. It is worth remembering that this is the same worldview that most proponents of the problem of evil hope to refute. A companion text to Romans 828 is Romans 818, which says the following quote for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
[00:44:09] End of quote. Here, the Apostle Paul acknowledges the pain, grief and suffering that often afflicts believers in this life. Paul implies that the day will come when believers can look back and say, That was really a tough time in the life of my family. We cried a lot. We miss those who died before us. Those things really hurt. But when I am finally in the presence of the God who has always loved me, that earlier suffering just cannot be compared with the glory of what God has prepared for me. Paul's points can be expressed in terms of my earlier distinctions between transcendent and non transcendent goods and evils. Is Paul not saying that all of the sufferings he experienced, which finally ended in his being stoned to death, were not were non transcendent evils? And when compared to his ultimate standing in the presence of the Triune God, when he attains that transcendent good then which no greater good can be conceived, he will know that all things did work for good. Well, do I believe that I've answered the problem of evil? Actually, I know better than to think I could or should do this for everyone. I began this discussion by noting that every listener will approach this issue from the perspective of a worldview, many of which are incomplete, confused and incoherent. I explained my worldview and pointed out that many opponents of my worldview think the problem of evil is its greatest challenge. While I have admitted that I know no one who can explain every evil that occurs, it seems unreasonable to demand that people who share my worldview be able to do this. It is one thing to attack a worldview. It is far more demanding to offer a competing worldview such as naturalism or dualism or pantheism that answers more questions and leaves fewer and fewer questions unanswered.