Problem of Evil

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info.gif Problem of Evil: "Difficulty posed by the existence of evil (both moral evil and natural evil) in a world created by a God who is both completely good and all-powerful. Some atheists argue that if such a God existed, there would be no evil, since God would both want to eliminate evil and would be able to do so. An argument that evil is logically incompatible with God's reality forms the logical or deductive form of the problem. An argument that evil makes God's existence unlikely or less likely is called the evidential or probabilistic form of the problem. Responses to the problem include theodicies, which attempt to explain why God allows evil, usually by specifying some greater good that evil makes possible, and defenses, which argue that it is reasonable to believe that God is justified in allowing evil, even if we do not know what his reasons are."

Evans, C. (2002) Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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    Adams, Marylin McCord


    Horrendous Evil and the Goodness of God

    "The worst evils demand to be defeated by the best goods. Horrendous evils can be overcome only by the goodness of God. Relative to human nature, participation in horrendous evils and loving intimacy with God are alike disproportionate: for the former threatens to engulf the good in an individual human life with evil, while the latter guarantees the reverse engulfment of evil by good. Relative to one another, there is also disproportion, because the good that God is, and intimate relationship with Him, is incommensurate with created goods and evils alike. Because intimacy with God so outscales relations (good or bad) with any creatures, integration into the human person's relationship with God confers significant meaning and positive value even on horrendous suffering."
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    Allen, Robert F.


    St. Augustine’s Free Will Theodicy and Natural Evil

    "The problem of evil is an obstacle to justified belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God (O3G). According to Saint Augustine’s free will theodicy (AFWT), moral evil attends free will. Might something like AFWT also be used to account for natural evil? After all, it is possible that calamities such as famines, earthquakes, and floods are the effects of the sinful willing of certain persons, viz., ‘fallen angels.’ Working to destroy our faith, Satan and his cohorts could be responsible for the natural disasters that bring us to grief. Here, I develop this account alongside AFWT."
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    Clark, Kelly James


    I Believe in God the Father, Almighty

    "The problem of horrific pointless suffering is a serious problem for the rational acceptance of theism. Yet the athelogian often ignores dissimilarities between God and human beings which are relevant to one’s judgments—God may be morally permitted to allow harm that earthly parents are not. Furthermore, the theist may see ways in which God could be good even to sufferers of horrific evil. While the considerations that I have brought to bear are not decisive solutions to the problems that the athelogian has raised, they do militate against the athelogian’s conviction that it is irrational or epistemically improper for the theist to believe in God."
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    Collins, Robin


    The Connection Building Theodicy

    "The problem of evil is the apparent conflict between the belief in an all good, all powerful God and the existence of the tremendous amount of evil we find in the world. A theodicy is an attempt to offer a plausible set of reasons for why God allows evil...[I]n this paper, I will develop a new theodicy that I call the connection building theodicy, which others have encouraged me to call the 'love' theodicy. I do not claim that this theodicy offers a complete account of why God allows evil; I only claim that it offers significant insight into some of the reasons why an all good God would create a world with the evils we find around us."
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    Craig, William L.


    The Problem of Evil

    "Undoubtedly the greatest intellectual obstacle to belief in God is the so called problem of evil. That is to say, it seems unbelievable that if an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God exists, He would permit so much pain and suffering in the world. The amount of human misery and pain in the world is, indeed, incalculable...In light of the quantity and nature of the suffering brought on by human or natural causes, how can it be that an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God exists?"
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    DeRose, Keith


    Might God Have Reasons for Not Preventing Evils?

    "Virtually all monotheistic religions profess that there is a divine being who is extremely powerful, knowledgeable, and good. The evils of this world present various challenges for such religions. The starkest challenge is directed toward views that posit a being whose power, knowledge, and goodness are not just immense, but are as great as can be: an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being (for short, an oopg being). For it would seem that such a being would have the power, the knowledge, and the moral disposition to prevent any evil whatsoever, and from this one might readily conclude that if there were such a being, there would be no evil at all."
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    Dembski, William A.


    Christian Theodicy in Light of Genesis and Modern Science

    "Redemption...denotes an exchange that restores to one party something previously belonging to it but now in the hands of another. God is the redeemer. Humanity used to belong to God. But through sin, humanity has become captive to evil. The redemptive work of God in Christ on the Cross restores humanity back to God...[H]umanity, in becoming captive to evil, gave its consent. In other words, humans are complicit in the evil from which God is striving to deliver them. For redemption to effectively deliver humanity from evil therefore requires humanity to be clear as to precisely what it has consented to in rebelling against God and embracing evil. To achieve this clarity, humanity must experience the full brunt of the evil that it has set in motion, and this requires that the creation itself fully manifest the consequences of humanity’s rebellion against God."
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    Dougherty, Trent


    The Best Possible Subset of Possible Worlds: A Quasi-Leibnizan Theodicy

    "In this paper I attempt to set out the first steps for a theodicy which is roughly in the tradition of Leibniz in that it affirms that our would must be in some category of 'best'. However, I argue not that the actual world is the best individual world, but the best kind of world. A special feature of this view is the allowance made for a more robust view of human freedom than in Leibniz’ original theodicy, paving the way for a free will defense to supplement theists’ justification of God in light of natural and moral evil."
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    Ferraiolo, William


    Eternal Selves and The Problem of Evil

    "My point is merely that a theist who can make the case for a Platonic, Augustinian, Cartesian, or otherwise transcendent account of the “true self” has, thereby, a potentially potent response to the traditional problem of evil. If persons are properly identified with something like disembodied (or resurrected) eternal selves that transcend the material world, then the apparently gratuitous suffering of the better part of humanity may be neatly reconciled with the existence of the theistic God. If our suffering is merely apparent, or afflicts only a minuscule portion of our total existence, then theism (on this score, at least) may be salvageable."
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    Franklin, James


    Two Caricatures, II: Leibniz’s Best World

    "Leibniz’s best-of-all-possible worlds solution to the problem of evil is defended. Enlightenment misrepresentations are removed. The apparent obviousness of the possibility of better worlds is undermined by the much better understanding achieved in modern mathematical sciences of how global structure constrains local possibilities. It is argued that alternative views, especially standard materialism, fail to make sense of the problem of evil, by implying that evil does not matter, absolutely speaking. Finally, it is shown how ordinary religious thinking incorporates the essentials of Leibniz’s view."
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    Franklin, James


    Leibniz’s Solution to the Problem of Evil

    "...[T]he best solution so far put forward to the problem of Leibniz’s theory that God does not create a better world because there isn’t one — that is, that (contrary to appearances) if one part of the world were improved, the ramifications would result in it being worse elsewhere, and worse overall. It is a 'bump in the carpet' theory: push evil down here, and it pops up over there. Leibniz put it by saying this is the 'Best of All Possible Worlds'. That phrase was a public relations disaster for his theory, suggesting as it does that everything is perfectly fine as it is. He does not mean that, but only that designing worlds is a lot harder than it looks, and determining the amount of evil in the best one is no easy matter."
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    Graham, Jill


    The Problem of Evil in the Writings of C.S. Lewis

    "This is the age-old dilemma of the problem of evil. Evil exists, yet according to Christian theism, a perfectly good (omni-benevolent) and a perfectly powerful(omnipotent) God also exists. To add to the problem, God is also all-knowing (omniscient), so he is well aware that evil exists. These propositions seem mutually exclusive...Thankfully, however, the problem of evil is answerable in a Christian theistic framework. Renowned author and atheist-turned-apologist C. S. Lewis is one of the Christian thinkers who has taken the problem of evil head-on and has formulated a cohesive and convincing answer. C. S. Lewis develops this answer in a number of his works, most notably: The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce, and Mere Christianity."
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    Guthrie, Shandon L.


    Assessing the Problem of Evil and the Existence of God

    "For centuries, many have tried to dismiss the existence of God on the basis of the existence of evil. This particular pursuit is appropriately known as the problem of evil because of the implications produced by its presence. Theists who have disputed such arguments are said to be engaged in a theodicy, which is a scheme designed to disclose the compatibility between God and evil. There is no doubt that this is one of the most perplexing problems theists have to face. In this essay I defend the contention that evil is not logically incompatible or improbable with God's existence."
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    Haig, Albert


    A Deontological Solution to the Problem of Evil: The ‘Informed Consent’ Theodicy

    "This paper introduces the ‘informed consent’ theodicy. God desires that all created persons should not only be free, but should also possess essential perfect goodness, and hence by nature be incapable of evil. However, before causing created free agents to take on a nature rendering them essentially perfectly good, God has a moral obligation to obtain their informed consent. This necessitates that every moral agent which God creates must initially be permitted a temporary probationary period, during which their moral character is unfixed and malleable, in order that they may gain knowledge by acquaintance of both good and evil. This knowledge is a necessary precondition to enable them to make a genuinely informed decision regarding their ultimate moral destiny."
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    Hick, John


    Evil and Soul-Making

    "If, then, there is any true analogy between God's purpose for his human creatures, and the purpose of loving and wise parents for their children, we have to recognize that the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain cannot be the supreme and overriding end for which the world exists. Rather, this world must be a place of soulmaking. And its value is to be judged, not primarily by the quantity of pleasure and pain occurring in it at any particular moment, but by its fitness for its primary purpose, the purpose of soul-making."
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    Howard-Snyder, Daniel


    God, Evil, and Suffering

    "My thesis is simple: every argument from evil fails. Unfortunately, I haven't the space to consider every argument, so I will restrict myself to some popular ones and offer objections that will apply to others...Evil constitutes a genuine theoretical problem only if there is a good argument from evil. There is no good argument from evil. So, there is no theoretical problem evil."
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    Howard-Snyder, Daniel


    Is Theism Compatible with Gratuitous Evil?

    "The most widely taught and frequently discussed version of the 'problem of evil' is known as the argument from gratuitous evils. Its most popular representative is William Rowe...God and gratuitous evil are incompatible only if there is a minimum amount of intense suffering that God must permit in order for the greater goods at which He aims to be secured. Thus, if there is no such minimum amount, then Rowe's incompatibility claim is false."
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    Howard-Snyder, Daniel


    On Rowe's Argument from Particular Horrors

    "...[E]ven if God and evil are compatible, and even if we can see how God might be justified in permitting a good deal of evil and suffering, certain facts about evil and suffering may constitute strong evidence for atheism, so strong that it is rational to be an atheist--provided one has no equally good grounds to think there is a God. This is William Rowe’s thesis in his justly famous essay 'The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism'."
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    Howard-Snyder, Daniel


    Theism, The Hypothesis of Indifference, and the Biological Role of Pain and Pleasure

    "Following Hume’s lead, Paul Draper argues that, given the biological role played by both pain and pleasure in goal-directed organic systems, the observed facts about pain and pleasure in the world are antecedently much more likely on the Hypothesis of Indifference than on theism. I examine one by one Draper’s arguments for this claim and show how they miss the mark."
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    Howard-Snyder, Daniel



    "According to traditional theism, there exists an unsurpassably powerful, knowledgeable, just and loving creator of the world (‘God’, for short); thus, according to theism, nothing happens that God does not permit, including the horrific evil and suffering that permeates our world. Theism can be quite perplexing in light of the facts about horrific evil and suffering. After all, it isn’t just obvious why God (if there is a God) would permit horrific evil and suffering, or so much of it. And surely he must have a reason. To suppose otherwise is to suppose that, even though a perfectly good being could prevent it, he permits it for no reason whatsoever—which is absurd. So what are God’s reasons? What might His purposes be?"
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    Howard-Snyder, Daniel and Michael Bergmann


    Grounds for Belief in God Aside, Does Evil Make Atheism More Reasonable than Theism?

    "Many people deny that evil makes belief in atheism more reasonable for us than belief in theism. After all, they say, the grounds for belief in God are much better than the evidence for atheism, including the evidence provided by evil. We will not join their ranks on this occasion. Rather, we wish to consider the proposition that, setting aside grounds for belief in God and relying only on the background knowledge shared in common by nontheists and theists, evil makes belief in atheism more reasonable for us than belief in theism. Our aim is to argue against this proposition."
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    Kreeft, Peter


    What is God's Answer to Human Suffering?

    "The answer must be someone, not just something. For the problem (suffering) is about someone (God—why does he... why doesn't he ...?) rather than just something. To question God's goodness is not just an intellectual experiment. It is rebellion or tears. It is a little child with tears in its eyes looking up at Daddy and weeping, "Why?" This is not merely the philosophers' "why?" Not only does it add the emotion of tears but also it is asked in the context of relationship. It is a question put to the Father, not a question asked in a vacuum."
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    Manzari, Joe


    God, Freedom, and Evil

    "The existence of evil and suffering presents one of the largest obstacles to belief in God--for both the theist and the atheist alike. The incalculable amount of human suffering and pain has led many to conclude that it is unbelievable that there is an all-powerful and all-loving God who would allow such misery and pain. In this paper I will present the problem of evil in its two most popular forms, the logical and external problems, show how the problems may be satisfactorily answered, and then show how the existence of evil rather than being a defeater for belief may be used as a pointer to the existence of God."
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    Murray, Michael J.


    Leibniz on the Problem of Evil

    "Without question, the problem of evil vexed Leibniz as much as any philosophical problem during his career. This is obvious from the fact that the first and the last book length works that he authored...were both devoted to this problem. It is, as well, equally striking that this latter work was the only book length treatise Leibniz saw fit to publish during his life. In this entry we will examine to two main species of the problem of evil which Leibniz addresses."
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    Murray, Michael J. and Glenn Ross


    Neo-Cartesian Theodicies of Animal Suffering

    "The existence and extent of animal suffering provides grounds for a serious evidential challenge to theism. In the wake of the Darwinian revolution, this strain of natural atheology has taken on substantially greater significance. In this essay we argue that there are at least four neo-Cartesian views on the nature of animal minds which would serve to deflect this evidential challenge."
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    Otte, Richard


    Evidential arguments from evil

    "Recent discussion of the problem of evil has centered around what is known as the probabilistic or evidential argument from evil. According to this argument the evil in our world is evidence against the existence of God, even though evil is logically consistent with God’s existing. Based on this it is claimed it is irrational to believe one of the traditional theistic religions, unless there is overwhelming positive evidence to counter this negative evidence. One of the most important and widely discussed versions of this argument is due to Paul Draper.1 In this paper I will look at Draper’s argument and argue that he has made a simple fundamental error; as a result his argument is irrelevant to most theists."
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    Peterson, Michael L.


    Christian Theism and the Problem of Evil

    "The problem of evil has always been one of the most serious philosophical challenges to the Christian faith...In this article, I survey the contemporary literature on the topic and note ways in which the problem has been conceived...I then identify two very important formulations, what I call the problem of logical consistency and the problem of prima facie gratuity, which are the primary atheistic arguments from evil. As devices to elucidate the structure of these two arguments, I cite two familiar theistic arguments, the ontological and teleological arguments respectively. Last, I recommend responses that Christian philosophers and theologians should make to the two different problems of evil. It is only after such an investigation that we can begin to construct a responsible answer to the theme that has so long bewitched studies of history, literature, philosophy and religion."
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    Pruss, Alexander R.


    A New Free Will Defense

    "If creatures are to have significant free will, then God's essential omnibenevolence and essential omnipotence cannot logically preclude him from creating a world containing a moral evil. This is argued for with no reliance on subjunctive conditionals of free will, but in several independent ways based on premises that many will accept."
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    Pruss, Alexander R.


    The Cosmos as a Work of Art

    "The idea that the cosmos is a work of art is deeply embedded in Western theism. And if we take this idea seriously, then we realize that there is a holistic value that the cosmos may have which, at least for the nonce, is beyond our ability to make a judgment about. And this holistic value may be one for which the various parts of the whole which are individually bad may be necessary-God might well have reason to allow them (though not to produce them himself). The magnitude of this value we cannot even guess at. Thus, for all we know, despite the evils, the whole is such that the evils are not gratuitous. And so the argument from evil is not conclusive."
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    Rebard, Theodore P.


    The Problem of Evil Revisited

    "The problem of evil never fails to elicit due philosophical and or theological interest; ironically, the issue seems to exercise a genuine attraction. The present article attempts to address some strictly philosophical attention to certain aspects of the problem. This effort at suppressing some of the heads of the Hydra-like problem of evil is one part Thomas Aquinas, one part C. S. Lewis, and partly my own modest work."
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    Stein, Ross L.


    Theodicy for a World in Process: God and the Existence of Evil in an Evolving Universe

    "The existence of pain and suffering is a source of profound anxiety to all reflective people of faith, for how do we sustain theistic belief in the face of the world's evils?...In this paper, I develop a theodicy that more faithfully reflects what we now know about humanity and the universe. I argue that both moral and natural evil can only be understood in the context of a God who creates evolutively."
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    Swinburne, Richard


    The Problem of Evil

    "Although a good creator might have very different kinds of justification for producing, or allowing others to produce, various different evils, there is a central thread running through the kind of theodicy which I have made my theodicist put forward. This is that it is a good thing that a creator should make a halffinished universe and create immature creatures, who are humanly free agents, to inhabit it; and that he should allow them to exercise some choice over what kind of creatures they are to become and what sort of universe is to be (while at the same time giving them a slight push in the direction of doing what is right); and that the creatures should have power to affect not only the development of the inanimate universe but the well-being and moral character of their fellows, and that there should be opportunities for creatures to develop noble characters and do especially noble actions."
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    Trakakis, Nick and Yujin Nagasawa


    Skeptical Theism and Moral Skepticism: A Reply to Almeida and Oppy

    "Skeptical theists purport to undermine evidential arguments from evil by appealing to the fact that our knowledge of goods, evils, and their interconnections is significantly limited. Michael J. Almeida and Graham Oppy have recently argued that skeptical theism is unacceptable because it results in a form of moral skepticism which rejects inferences that play an important role in our ordinary moral reasoning. In this reply to Almeida and Oppy’s argument we offer some reasons for thinking that skeptical theism need not lead to any such objectionable form of moral skepticism."
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    Wall, Robert Walter


    The Problem of Observed Pain: A Study of C.S. Lewis on Suffering

    "John Locke once wrote that 'pleasure and pain, like other simple ideas, cannot be described, nor their names definied; the way of knowing only by experience.' Yet few, including myself, are ever content to leave Locke's advice well enough alone. The history of theological and philosophical speculation is replete with examples of those who have refused to leave discussions of pain to the intuitions of experience. This results in discussions, organized in the appropriate dogmatic categories, which seem to never quite translate the feelings of pain--both tangible and intangible--from one person for the next. But the genre of 'problem of pain' papers and books marches on--sometimes painfully so."
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    Wegter-McNelly, Kirk


    Natural Evil in a Divinely Entangled World

    "In this essay I have presented a model of the God–world relation in the form of an analogy from quantum physics. The basis of this analogy, what I have called nondirective quantum entanglement, suggests the possibility of seeing God’s active presence in the physical world as compossible with the existence of natural evils. A physical world nondirectively entangled with God would be a place in which God’s presence could be easily perceived to be ineffective, but which could also be understood as the very basis for creation’s relative independence and causal autonomy."
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    Welty, Greg


    The Problem of Evil

    "Tries to summarise and critically interact with some of the current literature on the problem of evil. Here I try to (1) evaluate the recent shift in the literature from the 'logical' to the 'evidential' form of the argument, (2) expound what I call the 'Wykstra-Alston Hypothesis' against the evidential argument from evil, and (3) defend this hypothesis against some of Swinburne's criticisms. I close with an examination of what it means to 'beg the question' against the atheist."
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    Wykstra, Stephen J.


    Rowe's Noseeum Arguments from Evil

    "If Rowe's inductive argument from evil is a retreat from the earlier attempted deductive arguments from evil, there are now signs of a further retreat, to "abductive" arguments from evil justifying atheism by way of "inference to the best explanation." On this way of thinking, there are two broad accounts of noseeum evils. One is the naturalist's account: we see no point to such evils because there is no point; they are pointless events in an indifferent universe. The other is the theist's account: behind the universe is God, who cares for us (and sparrows and fawns as well); we cannot, however, see the purposes for which God allows many of the things he does. The Christian specification of theism, in particular, promises no insight into God's purposes, but assurance of his love."
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    Wykstra, Stephen J.


    The Humean Obstacle to Evidential Arguments from Suffering: On Avoiding the Evils of Appearance

    "Many of us-believers as well as nonbelievers, car mechanics as well as philosophershave at some times in our lives felt instances of suffering in this world to be evidence against theism, according to which the universe is the creation of a wholly good Being who loves his creatures, and who lacks nothing in wisdom and power. If it has proven hard to turn this feeling into a good argument, it has, perhaps, proven just as hard to get rid of it. Indeed, the most logically sophisticated responses to the 'problem of evil' can leave one wondering whether our intuitive perplexities have not been lost in the gears of the formal machinery brought to bear on them. Maybe this is an unavoidable epiphenomenon of analysis; nevertheless, I want to try to mitigate it here."