by John Henson
Atheists have developed the argument from the problem of evil in several different ways, but they all depend on assumptions.
The assumption the problem of evil requires is since an omnipotent and benevolent God allows suffering and death, there must be no omnipotent or benevolent God. The axiological argument, which is expressed in the goodness or badness of a particular state of affairs, fails because of the assumption that all suffering is bad.
The argument is expressed in this way:
1. There exist states of affairs in which animals die agonizing deaths in forest fires, or where children undergo lingering suffering and eventual death due to cancer, and that (a) are intrinsically bad or undesirable, and (b) are such that any omnipotent person has the power to prevent them without thereby either allowing an equal or greater evil, or preventing an equal or greater good.
2. For any state of affairs (that is actual), the existence of that state of affairs is not prevented by anyone.
3. For any state of affairs, and any person, if the state of affairs is intrinsically bad, and the person has the power to prevent that state of affairs without thereby either allowing an equal or greater evil, or preventing an equal or greater good, but does not do so, then that person is not both omniscient and morally perfect.
Therefore, from (1), (2), and (3):
4. There is no omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person.
5. If God exists, then he is an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person.
6. God does not exist.
Why God doesn’t take action against all suffering is two-fold. Not all suffering is bad, nor does all suffering lead to death. Man often makes the mistake of thinking that he knows to which end suffering leads. Often, he does not.
Suffering may lead to a better understanding of man’s mortality and many find themselves actually increasing their faith because of their suffering.
Even death, with all of its well-known ramifications, can be a powerful factor in realizing how important obedience to God can be.
Solomon wrote, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for by sadness of face the heart is made glad,” (Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 ESV).
Pain and suffering are a factor in mankind’s consequence for sin. God’s warning to Adam and Eve was “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die,” (Genesis 3:3 ESV).
The assumption God brought pain and suffering into the world is false. Human beings are responsible for the existence of suffering, not God.
God has offered the solution to the most terrible of sin’s consequences: obey the gospel and live the Christian life, then look forward to an eternity of bliss (Matthew 28:18ff).
by John Henson