One of the greatest weapons of atheists is the use of evil and suffering in the world. They argue that if God is good and loving He should purge evil and suffering from the human experience.
No doubt, many of us have grappled with this issue. Why did God allow Satan to enter the world? Why does He not get rid of him?
Arlie Hoover (a schoolmate of mine who later became a professor at Pepperdine University) wrote a book entitled, “The Case For Christian Theism,” in which he deals with these questions and I am quoting some of the statements that may be helpful.
In discussing hedonism (the belief that pleasure is the sole, or chief, good in life), he said: “Any world view that makes pleasure the supreme good will always judge a world of suffering like this one bad. If we start with a ‘playboy metaphysic,’ if we assume that existence is supposed to be an eternal picnic, we’ll never get to a solution of the problem of evil” (p. 249). It is not accurate to equate God with pleasure and therefore to conclude that if pain exists, God does not.
Atheism has no answer to the problem of evil and suffering. If nature is all there is, then the atheist should not be disturbed by evil because it is caused by the same blind chance that accounts for the universe. Why would an evolved animal worry about the problem of evil? The fact is that the atheist’s denial of God does not change the existence of evil and suffering. He has no explanation for its origin, and no solution to its existence.
The believer has some insight in the example of Jesus. “He suffered as much as any man yet he never pontificated on the problem. He never talked about the origins of evil. He never said that good men wouldn’t suffer. He refused to blame evil on the angels, on Adam, or even on the individual exclusively. He knew that suffering doesn’t always improve character.
To him, evil was the enemy, the strange, the mystery—and we must fight it. He loved God’s creation, but you’d never catch him saying, ’This is the best of all possible worlds’” (pg. 254,255).
Jesus helps us with the problem of evil by bringing God into His suffering creation. In Christ we see that love caused suffering. “If the cross of Christ became history’s finest example of self-giving love, how could suffering really contradict love?” (p. 256). Jesus did not seek the greatest pleasure in life, but the path of redemptive love. In Christ, we do not understand all about evil and suffering, but we do have a means of overcoming them. “Jesus helps, yes, but the problem still won’t go away. It stays with us Christians, chained to our ankles like an iron ball, a constant reminder that we don’t know everything in this life, that faith isn’t knowledge, that hope isn’t fruition. In the final analysis, you must chose to believe either that evil destroys God or that God will someday destroy evil” (p. 257). Pain and tragedy should cause us to realize our ignorance and weakness. It is only by faith in God that we can get a handle on the problem of evil and suffering. We look forward to the place where there is “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and (where) there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).