29.1 The problem of evil
Every book about a good God should explain how it is that we have evil in the world.
This book is no exception. We will address these issues, even though we have not
properly defined good or evil, since for many people these questions are obstacles
to belief in theism. Like Charles Darwin, they say they do not want to believe in
the existence of a God who could be responsible for the evil in the world. Along
with evil actions by people and their effects on innocent victims, they see many
‘natural evils’ such as earthquakes, floods, and asteroid impacts. They ask questions
about genetic defects and sickness in living beings as well as allegedly bad design
in animal physiology. We should also add to this list the mistakes that come during
the growth of humans, since we all are born in states of such great ignorance.
I will not claim to provide a complete answer to these questions. Any answer
must depend on God’s management policy concerning all these defects and on our trust
(or otherwise) in the goodness of that policy. This is the policy normally called
providence. It governs how quickly God will deal with all those difficulties
and also governs the balance between our short-term objectives and God’s long-term
objectives. Impatience will commonly give rise to negative views of apparent strategies.
This chapter will confine itself to the philosophical foundational questions
and scientific details that need to be understood before any conclusions (positive
or negative) can be confirmed as real and not just speculation or wish-fulfillment.
I will not attempt to provide a solution to the problem of evil, partly because
any proposed solution would be read in some quarters as a justification for evil
in the presence of God.