Someone asked me a great question recently, “If God is omnipotent, why does he allow evil and suffering in the world?” This question calls for a vindication of the goodness of God in the face of evil. Such a vindication is called a theodicy.
My effort to answer this question was as follows. God can do anything He wants; but He chose to create a world where human beings would have free-will and would live in a physical, material world. Thus evil and suffering are not caused by God. They are caused by his creations. The first of these is humans. Humans choose to misuse their free-will and do evil instead of good. The evil that humans do creates suffering for others and often for the evildoer as well. This first point goes a long way toward explaining why humans do evil and create suffering. But what about suffering that comes from disease, genetics or other physical causes? Well, this is due to the nature of the physical, material world in which we live. When a child inherits a genetic disease, physical substances called genes from both parents come together in such a way that leads to disease. When people develop heart disease after years of having high cholesterol and/or triglycerides, this is just a natural process that occurs. Likewise, when hurricanes cause devastation, this can be explained by the interaction of ecologic, atmospheric, and other natural forces.
God is Just
“But why does God not change this?” I suppose this is because God wanted to create a world where humanity would be called to achieve perfection, and this meant the world couldn’t already be perfect.¹ “But why would God do that?” Well, if God had chosen to make the world and humans perfect to begin with, what glory would that have brought God? In other words, people and nature would obey God because they had no choice. However, it is by having a free- will and then choosing good over evil that God is glorified. In a perfect world, humans would be a lot like robots – wired to do the right thing automatically. Nature would also just automatically create the perfect living conditions. Thus, there would be no disease, no bad weather, no trials or tribulations. Could God create such a place? Of course, He could. Such a place sounds a lot like heaven. However, God wanted to reserve heaven for people that are not only good but holy like He is. So. there had to be an Earth where people’s fitness for heaven would be tested. If humans choose good over evil during their journey here on Earth, they will go to this perfect place called heaven after dying.
- McGrath, A. (2011). Christian theology: An introduction, 5th Ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.