In the last post in this series, I talked about why the existence of evil means that God allows evil to exist.
Since this is, understandably, a little difficult to deal with, theologians have created several theodicies, or explanations for why God allows evil in the world.
A soul-making process characterizes the first theodicy. According to the idea of soul-making, God desires that His children develop into increasingly moral beings. This results in “an immeasurably good state in which rational creatures are in the richest possible intimacy with their Creator.”
Proponents of a soul-making theodicy argue that natural and moral suffering create the perfect “moral training ground” for this process to occur. People can only grow into ethically upright beings by surmounting the moral challenges God places in their path. Just as hunger drives a person toward food, suffering guides a person toward a deeper connection with God. Thus, through the persistence of suffering, God achieves a greater level of communion with His creation, which He considers an ultimate good.
Another popular theodicy purposes evil as the ultimate backdrop for God’s righteousness. The apostle Paul declares, “But if our unrighteousness brings out the righteousness of God, what shall we say?” (Romans 3:5). Contextually, Paul is saying that Israel’s wickedness does not nullify God’s goodness toward them. Rather than dimming the character of God, Israel’s sin makes His righteousness even more radiant. Only by the contrast of evil does the purity of God abound. In more practical terms, a Christian would never realize the extent of God’s righteousness – not to mention their moral inadequacy – if not for evil. As Christian theologian John MacArthur acknowledges, “We would never understand the full glory of God’s righteousness if we were not so familiar with our own.”
How could we receive salvation if we could not measure our sinful deeds in light of a sinless God? Or how could God make known His goodness and mercy to an evil race if evil never existed? According to this theodicy, evil serves as the darkness that makes the flame of God’s goodness shine even brighter.
While the problem of evil may sometimes appear to bring about the collapse of Christian theism, there are numerous arguments that offer a sound response. However, multiple responses indicate that no individual theodicy or defense can truly withstand all queries raised concerning the problem of evil. Is there truly an answer to the “Achilles’ heel” of Christianity?
Maybe the answer is God himself. God is God. As Most High, He maintains the authority to do whatever He wants. “The Lord does what is good in his sight.” (2 Samuel 10:12). If the Lord does only what is good, who are we to question the means by which He brings it about?
We exist as finite beings, yet we are trying to comprehend the ultimate complexity of God’s divine will. If this were ever possible, human beings would ascend to the very supremacy of the Most High himself.