When it comes to arguments against the Christian faith, the “Problem of Evil” is one of the toughest. “How can a good God allow suffering?” is another way of putting it. Basically, the argument says that all four of these statements cannot be true at the same time. In order for it to work, one or more of them has to be wrong. Here they are:
- God is good.
- God is all powerful.
- Evil exists.
- God exists.
If God (4) and evil (3) both exist, then God could be all powerful (2), but he is not a good God (1); therefore he doesn’t do anything about the evil. Or, if God (4) and evil (3) both exist, then God could be good (1), but he is not powerful (2) enough to do anything about the evil. Right away, either God is powerful (2), but not good (1); or, God is good (1), but not powerful (2). Another option is that God doesn’t exist (4) at all, though evil still exists (3). A final option is that God (4) exists, but evil (3) does not exist. Anyone can see that the final option is ludicrous, for we can see evil everywhere.
Did you catch all of that? Basically, the argument says that not all four of these statements can be true at the same time; one or more of them must be false for the logic to work. God could exist and be good, but not be powerful enough to stop evil. Or God could exist and be powerful, but not be loving enough to stop evil. Or, God might not exist at all. Or, evil might not exist at all.
As we’re busy trying to figure out how to make sense of the four statements, God has already provided the solution. God has already given us a way to make sense of all four statements, a way for all four statements logically to fit together. God is good, God is all powerful, evil exists, and God exists. Where do all four statements come together?
They come together in Jesus Christ. Let me show you how Jesus holds all of our statements together, even when we want to pry them apart. In the Bible, John 19:1-11 brings each of our four statements together, in the person of Jesus.
First, God is good. Pilate tells us over and over that Jesus is good. He is not guilty of any crime, nor has he done anything to deserve punishment. “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him” (4). And again, “I find no guilt in him!” (6). Jesus is not evil, malicious, or self-absorbed. Jesus is completely good, perfect, and just.
Second, God is all powerful. We are told that Pilate was terrified of Jesus (7), even though Pilate was the one empowered by the Roman Empire. Pilate knew that his earthly power was nothing compared to Jesus’ heavenly power. Also, when Pilate claims to have authority over Jesus, Jesus answers, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (11). In other words, Pilate has derivative authority—it comes from God. Jesus makes it clear that he (Jesus) has access to ultimate power or authority.
Third, evil exists. We see this in the way they treat Jesus. Jesus has to endure suffering and evil. “Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe…and struck him with their hands.” (1, 2, 3). After all of this torture, they would crucify him (16-37). Jesus endured more evil than we ever will.
Fourth, God exists. Jesus’ accusers make it clear what Jesus claimed about himself. “He has made himself the Son of God” (7). In other words, Jesus was claiming to be God. And if Jesus were God, then, obviously, God exists.
Here is God’s marvelous solution to the problem of evil: Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus was good, Jesus was all powerful, Jesus endured suffering, and Jesus was God. In the person of Jesus, we find our answer. In the person of Jesus, each of our statements consists and coheres.
Our answer does not necessarily get a logical solution, but an Incarnate Solution. Jesus becomes our remedy, providing for us more than just an answer. His death provides us with more than cognitive peace, but spiritual peace. He gives us a solution to evil, itself, a way out of the pain. The goal of his suffering is to free us from our suffering. His suffering actually led to life, and so can ours. God’s goal is not just to help us make sense of evil; rather, God’s goal is to get rid of evil.
When you go through trials in life and want to ask the question, “Where is God when I hurt?” please look to the cross and see Jesus there. See the goodness and power of God in the person of Jesus, destroying the things that are destroying us, making all things right again.
You need Jesus to make sense of the problem of evil. Apart from him, there is no satisfying answer.
© Samuel Kee, 2012