09 September 2010

The problem-of-evil dodge (NEXT! #25)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: You're a Christian? How do you handle the problem of evil?

Response: Me? Mainly, by switching sides, by God's grace.

(Proverbs 21:22)

Dan Phillips's signature


Anonymous said...


Thomas Louw said...

You, got a problem with evil?
No... come on, you can't be serious?

Romans 7.

Nash Equilibrium said...

GREAT comeback - particularly since it is also ACCURATE!

donsands said...

Some good Scripture there to read and remember. I'm born again, and so new creature, not a slave to sin any more. And when I sin, God's grace helps me to repent and trust in the death and ressurection of Jesus.

CGrim said...

Ahahaha, that is awesome. :)

As for the question they're likely asking: John 9:3 is pretty much the answer. Evil exists so that God may be glorified. A universe where evil exists refines our character to a superior degree over a universe where evil doesn't exist, but more importantly, it demonstrates God's glory to a greater degree than would be possible in a universe where evil didn't exist.

James Joyce said...

Another response that I heard recently is, "If God were to end all evil at midnight tonight, where will you be at 12:01?"

Rob said...

Or Dan, there's a variation thereof:

"You're a Christian? How do you handle the problem of evil ABC Prime-time television programming like 'Lost'?"

Ed Dingess said...

For Christians, the existence of evil is not a problem. For atheist, the existence of evil is inexplicable. But I like your answer better.

Unknown said...

Is there a link where you have all the challenges and responses?

Hope so....

DJP said...

Click on the NEXT tab under the post. You'll see all 25.

Unknown said...

Thanks Dan,

I feel kind of dumb.

Good thing it's not a new feeling.

lawrence said...


Aaron said...

I always say, "what's the problem?"

If I'm really feeling clever, I say "you're right, I should have evangelized to you before."

Jacob said...

Please critique this explanation of evil:

Evil isn't really some "thing" that is somehow opposite God in a ying-yang Eastern sort of belief. Evil is failure to do what God commands one to do. To disobey. To give in to temptation. To think or act in contradiction to the Law of God.
Thus, God did not create evil nor is He somehow making you sin, nor is He directly responsible for the evil deeds committed in this fallen world.
We are responsible, hence why, apart from Christ, we rightly would face God's judgment and punishment for the evil we have committed in thought, word, and deed.

Jacob said...

Er, to continue my thought:

So, no, evil doesn't HAVE to exist in order for God to exist. There is no requirement for evil in order to have good, and that will be proven when God does away with sin once and for all (and in a sense He has already begun that process through Jesus dying on the cross and by raising Him from the dead).

Magister Stevenson said...

I like that this NEXT! gets at the truth of the matter: we are an integral part of the problem with evil. Many I talk with who are genuinely upset with bad things happening to the innocent or "good" do not see themselves as really part of the problem. They are merely observers to the bad that others do.
I will have to search this site and your BibChr to see how you handle the objection of bad things happening to others on the other side of the world where my switching sides does not seem to have an impact on their troubles.
I don't struggle with the age of the earth (10k, +/-), but the issue of evil is a tough one for me.

Sonia said...

Amusing...but it dodges the question ... and the question is not invalid.

Nash Equilibrium said...


Do you think your not switching sides would possibly add to the miseries of people around you, and possibly (depending on who you are) even to some on the other side of the world? If yes, then your switching sides would make a difference.

As a more proactive example, many people who have switched sides support Christian relief efforts, who wouldn't otherwise do so if they hadn't switched sides.


DJP said...

Magister: I have written some more on it, for instance, here, and devoted an entire session on it in this conference.

Sonia — think so? Would you please explain all that is in the question and all that is in the response in this post, bringing in the Scriptures I cite? That will help me see what you think is lacking.

Penn Tomassetti said...

Witty. Thoughtful. Powerful. Biblical.

Thanks again for the NEXT's (say that out loud), DJP!

JSA said...

C.S. Lewis wrote, "My argument against God [when I was an atheist] was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?"

And, as DJP has pointed out, as soon as you assume God exists, the answer to the "problem" is obvious -- repent and lay down arms.

Interestingly, I've heard several people tell me that their belief in God and hell is what motivated them to question Christianity and eventually doubt enough to leave the fold. It's the old, "I couldn't worship a God who would make by grandma/boyfriend/girlfriend burn in an eternal hell". That's almost like a *reverse* PoE

Anonymous said...

(Let's try this again. LOL.)

It's not my job to handle evil. As a matter of fact, I'm supposed to stay as far away from it as I can!

Anonymous said...

I've sometimes had folks throw the "how can a loving God allow...", and I will usually respond with something along the lines of,
"What's the worst thing you've ever done? The most cruel, hurtful, indefensible thing you've ever said and done to another person? Where was God then?"

Evil is in the hearts of men, and God prevents evil by redeeming those hearts. That he allows us to commit evil acts upon each other doesn't show Him to be unloving, but instead, shows that He is absent from our life.

"If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"

Nash Equilibrium said...

Someone once told me "if we got what we deserve, we'd all be dead."

I think I read on this blog sometime or another, a comment along the lines of "How can a just God allow us to continue living?"

Both of those (very similar and astute) comments give me something to chew on, in light of the question this "NEXT!" installment poses.

Magister Stevenson said...

Thank you for the links; I did my own quick theodicy search and read what came up as well (and I did follow Frank's series over at his site).
I appreciate the humanity with which you approached the subject in your talk. It is not the fact that there is evil or suffering which is tough. I intellectually get it. And I am fully persuaded that it will continue till God removes sin from the world (Lord, come quickly!).
It is the actual act of suffering, the emotional side, which is tough for me. I marvel that Jeremiah can move so quickly between the horrors of Israel's sacking and God's mercies. But he does, and I must.
For now, I trust that God's word is true and sufficient for all that I encounter. And I don't go out of my way to wallow in the miseries of the world or read about others who throw them up at God as reasons for doubt. I find great help in reading the biographies of many who have endured suffering (or helped in the face of great suffering) and still turned to God for their strength. And I appreciate how you guys here give intellectual arguments AND compassion to the hurting in this area.

Sonia said...

Dan wrote:
Sonia — think so? Would you please explain all that is in the question and all that is in the response in this post, bringing in the Scriptures I cite? That will help me see what you think is lacking.

:) LOL -- I think that's asking a bit much for a mere blog comment!

Sorry if my comment was too nebulous, here's a longer (but not nearly as long as it could be) version:

I assume it was your intention to avoid the question, by shunting the conversation onto another issue: that of the responsibility each of us has in the existance of the evil in question.

That might be a good tack in certain circumstances, but my objection is that your answer seems to trivialize what, to many people, is an intensely troubling problem. If God is All-Good, All-Knowing and All-Powerful, how is it that His creation -- designed, ordered, and maintained by Him -- is so charactarized by evil? And why is the evil of the world perpetuated most by those creatures "made in His image"?

As Creator, God's character--his goodness, and his power are called into question. God's reputation is on the line. No doubt this is one reason some take the view that God made it, set it in motion, and then went away.

I guess that most Christians have wrestled with this question, and found some answer or set of potential answers that they can be content with.

In any case, the good thing about this answer--if it sheds no light on the origin of the problem--is that it does throw into perspective the fact that the solution to the continuing problem of evil lies in the repentance of each individual from his own contribution to it.

And this (repentance) is, in fact, the work of God Himself. Whatever may be the various opinions regarding the existance of the problem in the first place, God takes the responsibility for solving it upon Himself--through the offering up of Christ as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

DJP said...

Thanks for all that, Sonia, and it would be a great answer if I had asked, "Please repeat your objection at greater length."

What I'm trying to do is get you to engage the actual post, and the thinking that went into (and should come out of) it. In cases like this, I always prefer to point people in the right direction so they can figure it out. I think it's more satisfying and useful.

So maybe you don't get what the "NEXT" series is about, what its purpose is?

On that assumption, please click on the link associated with the word NEXT! in the post, and read that first post in the series.

After you do that: perhaps you haven't clicked on the link associated with the words "by switching sides, by Gods grace." Please do.

Then I'd like you to give a good try at what I asked you to do in my previous comment.


Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

So, what the challenger does is ask you merely for an exchange of information - an argument - and you change the focus from a mere exchange of information to their heart, and the REAL problem of evil - that THEY are evil and need to run to Christ to be saved and repent. It's kind of like what Jesus did with Nicodemus in John 3 - Jesus answers the question that Nicodemus DIDN'T ask and engaged his heart rather than just his head.