One of the greatest and most enduring challenges to theistic belief is the so-called “problem of evil.” How could an all-good and all-powerful God allow a world where evil exists? The problem of evil is a tough nut to crack and probably one that won’t be fully solved this side of eternity. A number of solutions have been proposed, some better than others. But, if we’re really talking about evil, should we really expect it to fit nicely into our theological boxes?
However, while it’s a powerful argument against the internal logic of most theistic systems, it’s not a very good argument for atheism. It’s not a good argument because it assumes too much. The problem of evil is only a problem if evil is real. And, from the perspective of atheism “good” and “evil” are really just words that signify nothing. As Wittmer puts it in Despite Doubt “If there is no God, the best I can say is that I dislike being robbed or getting cancer. I cannot say that these events are evil, for what is bad for me might be good for someone else… It is a bold move to declare ‘this is good’ or ‘this is evil.’” In other words, to say that evil is a problem we have to acknowledge that it really exists. And the most natural way to acknowledge its existence is to adopt a theistic worldview.
Also, while the problem of evil is still a problem for Christians, Christianity has a stronger answer than other theistic systems. Again Wittmer: “The problem of evil is not an abstract problem for the Christian God. Our God doesn’t ride above the fray untouched by our fears and tears. He enters our world and joins our suffering to do something about it.”
For God the problem of evil is personal and he overcomes evil in a personal way. Jesus came to overcome evil by suffering on the cross. He experienced the worst evil ever experienced. No one was ever so undeserving as Jesus and no one had as much to lose. On the cross the Son experienced separation from the Father. How this separation could even occur is a profound mystery.
But here’s the amazing thing: We know the reason for this event. We know why the worst evil in history happened. It was for our salvation and it was experienced by God himself. So, even if we don’t know the reason why some evils happen, we do know that if God triumphed over evil on the cross then he can triumph over any evil we may face.
All theistic systems offer some of the same answers for the problem of evil – the existence of free will, the ultimate plan of God – only Christianity has a God who was willing to conquer evil by being willing to experience it. Our God both defeats evil and sympathizes with us when we experience.
Wittmer concludes the argument by stating: “Do you believe in evil? That’s the best reason I know to believe in Jesus. Only Jesus can supply the security, success, and sympathy that you know you need.”