I suppose there is nothing that tests our trust in God more than the challenges we face in life and our inability to understand them. Imagine in a hospital a newborn infant with an incurable fatal disease that is of no fault of any person. Imagine the fire that burned down a home, destroying all a man’s property and taking the lives of his wife and children. Imagine the young woman who is completely overcome by depression and gives into suicidal thoughts. Imagine that woman’s family. Multiply those poor souls by a million, and it wouldn’t be even a single stitch in the tapestry of human suffering and misery. The fact is that in many places around the world right now there are people who are absolutely overcome with grief due to circumstances that are completely out of their control and which they do not “deserve.”
How can God let such things happen?
This is the logical problem of evil. It revolves around some underlying assumptions concerning God’s nature and the nature of the world we live in. The inability of many to understand how God can let such things happen grows out of the theological underpinnings and assumptions of the Christian creeds.
- God is absolutely all-powerful. He can do anything he wants that is logically possible (for example, God cannot create a round square).
- God is perfectly good.
- God created everything out of absolutely nothing (creatio ex nihilo).
- God knows everything and therefore has absolute foreknowledge of all the outcomes of his creative choices. That is, he knows what the consequences would be of creating a world like ours and the people in it.
Premises 1, 3, and 4 require that God is responsible for all that is bad in the universe. However, it would require denying premise 2. If we insist on premise 2 being true, then we must reject premise 1, 3, or 4.
Twentieth century philosopher Antony Flew put it this way:
We cannot say that He would like to help but cannot: God is omnipotent. We cannot say that he would help if he only knew: God is omniscient. We cannot say that he is not responsible for the wickedness of others: God creates those others [out of nothing]. Indeed an omnipotent, omniscient God must be an accessory before (and during) the fact to every human misdeed; as well as being responsible for every non-moral defect in the universe. (Antony Flew, “Theology and Falsification,” in New Essays in Philosophical Theology, ed. Antony Flew and Alasadair Macintyre, p. 105).
The soundness of this reasoning can’t be denied.
So, does the Christian God exist? If He does, can he be trusted as good? A few have lost their faith in God because of this problem. Prominently is Dr. Bart Ehrman (See his book–God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer). Others seriously question God’s existence or his goodness, including my dad’s friend who lost his wife to Alzheimer’s and mused on these things when considering my son’s chronic sickness and ultimate death.
In coming post(s?), I will show how the revelations and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith resolve the issues associated with the logical problem of evil and give us the confidence we need to trust God in our most difficult and devastating circumstances.