How can God exist when there is so much evil in the world?
“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
The Greek philosopher Epicurus, lived in the third and fourth centuries before Christ. He is regarded as the founder of a school of philosophy that we refer to as Epicureanism. The “Epicurean Paradox” suggested in this quote above is a version of the problem of evil.
1) If God is all-powerful and good, then there would be no evil.
2) There is evil.
3) Therefore God does not exist.
There are multiple slightly variant versions of this same problem that is referred to as the logical problem of evil, or simply Theodicy.
It is not the Christian belief that God is the originator of death, or that it is his will that anyone should suffer. He did not create evil. Christian belief from the earliest times has been that Evil has no hypostasis. It has no existence as such. Evil is a negative. It is the absence of good. Death has no existence as such. It is the absence of life. For a created being to experience Evil is to experience estrangement from the Creator. It is the experience of loss for human beings who were created good. The sinner dies because he, or she, has become alienated from the source of life. God is not responsible for evil. He is not its cause. And He receives no satisfaction at the death of his creation.
God created humankind with freewill. That freewill, if it is to be truly free, necessarily carried with it the possibility of the human beings making choices that cause them to become alienated from God. If it were not so then human beings would not in any real sense be free.
Christian belief is that God created us with the intent that we should be His co-workers creation. That we should be responsible for our own eternal destiny. God permitted these things to exist out of respect for our freedom. He permits trials and sufferings without having created them. But he also knows in His infinite wisdom how to transform the causes of evil into that which is profitable for man’s salvation. God has secured our salvation from this impaired state we are in, if we will only, of our free will, cooperate with that salvation.
Salvation is not something that God imposes on us. It is not determined for us despite our wishes. Neither can it be had merely by the works of human will. It does not depend upon whether or not we find ourselves able to believe certain propositions about God. We have to work out our own salvation, but not all alone. We do so in a synergetic cooperation with God. God does not override the freewill that He created us with, but to neither is it true that we are able to redeem ourselves without His help. Salvation cannot be purchased by keeping the law, or by living virtuously. Our attempts to do those things may only signify our will and resolve to be in restored communion with God. To really accomplish our part of this synergetic cooperation we must only rely on God to give us what we need.