Critical Thinking: The Problem of Evil

An AC3er sent me this short Tik Tok video of a young skeptic who found his way out of the Church through “critical thinking”.  I want to respond to it below.  First, check it out here, it’s less than a minute: The Problem of Evil.

The Skeptic’s Key Question

You can see the thinking this skeptic done, which led to a loss of faith, is on the classic problem of evil.  It boils down to a question:  how can the Christian God of Love exist with all the evil in the world?  He takes classic counter arguments against the problem of evil and attempts to debunk them in 60 seconds.

At first this seems compelling, but pulling it apart, we can see his critical thinking didn’t go far enough.

The First Misunderstanding

First, what the vlogger has done is made the mistake of mischaracterizing our argument which is most evil is a by-product of human choice.  When told love cannot exist without the choice to love, he makes a sheer jump to presume choice must itself be evil. But this is not true, nor fair to the free will defense.

Freedom does not presume or demand evil.  All Freedom does is presume the ability, the power, to make a choice between competing options. So, it’s a sheer jump to presume giving the gift of freedom is the same as God creating evil. To divorce freedom from evil, we simply point to God:  God is the freest being (with the most ability to do the most things) in the universe.  And yet he never uses his freedom to choose evil. So freedom is not inherently a flaw in creation, and neither is freedom inherently evil. An evil choice is what’s evil and what God grants is the freedom to make this evil choice. But by granting the freedom he does not thereby create evil. We do.

Now, freedom certainly risks evil, but it does not create it. So we may quibble with God’s wisdom in making a very risky world which, for the sake of love, risks incredible evil. However, this is different from laying the blame of the actual evil freely chosen by beings other than God, at God’s feet.

The Second Misunderstanding

Secondly, the skeptic misunderstands what omnipotence means. He admits, maybe evil is not what God chooses, but then this means God is not all-powerful because evil is something outside of his control.

But this is exactly what freedom means!  God cannot give us some delegated parts of his power and yet exercise the power himself at the same time. It’s an illogical impossibility.   Now does this mean God is no longer omnipotent. No. Omnipotence simply means God is the source of all power and God delegates some of his all-controlling power to us, and all the power returns to him finally in the end. This is what we mean by omnipotence. We do not mean omni-controlling.

A Common Trouble Spot About Omnipotence

This is where people get into trouble thinking which an omnipotent God is out there pulling the trigger of murderers’ guns and executing the rapes of rapists. If God was omni-controlling he would be doing those actions through those moral agents but then they wouldn’t really be free would they?

We believe those agents are totally free and therefore God has truly delegated some of his power to them, a power he no longer controls.

However, this doesn’t mean the universe is “out of control”.  In God’s sovereignty, he maintains oversight over human history in such a way even these freely chosen actions can be made to work together towards an overarching plan which God nevertheless does control, and He will see to it, it comes to his desired, good conclusion.

The Third Misunderstanding

Third, about Satan’s temptation, we have simply here the outworking of the implications of free will.  So the argument is no different for Satan than for human interactions.  If my will (or Satan’s) is to remain free, it must be allowed “follow through”, even when it means harm to another.  Imagine God stepped in to counteract every abuse of our free will.  We wouldn’t really be free, right?  Our decisions would be nullified as soon as they negatively affected another, thus nullifying freedom.

Further, notice he says, “it’s God’s job to protect her [Eve] from Satan”, as if this is in a different category from protecting us from each other.  It’s not.  And here he simply misunderstands the Bible’s whole story and therefore makes an unwarranted presumption about what “God’s job” should be.  What if it turns out God’s aim is not our moment by moment safety?  What if, instead, His aim is to call a people of his own and bring all who will freely come, into his eternal goodness and glory?  If this is the case, then what God’s role is in “protecting” Adam and Eve may look quite different than if we were to draw up God’s role.

Our beloved critic in this video likely reads the whole Bible story through the lens of modern, western, pampered comforts, and so assumes God’s aim in our lives is to keep us safe.  No one who reads the Bible’s story would get this impression.  Now, does this mean God is not loving, if he allows trouble or trial or temptation into the lives of those he loves?  Not if the ultimate design of such allowances isn’t our protection from potential harm, but our final and permanent bliss.

Countering the Final Argument

Finally, he makes the argument belief in an omnipotent God leads to power abuses by parents and other authorities. Now, it may be true in doctrinal streams or even religions like Islam where God’s power is his key attribute, these Traditions tend towards control. But as I think we’re seeing, God’s primary attribute is not control but rather love. For the Bible says “God is love” (1 Jon 4:8). If this is the case, then he prioritizes Freedom over Control.

And if this is true, then we cannot have it both ways. Our friend cannot complain God gives too much freedom on one hand and then in the exact same breath complain that God is too powerful and inserts himself too much (and people who follow God’s example are thus too controlling). We can’t have it both ways. You can’t say there is no God because there’s no intervention and then complain when the Bible says God intervened.

For more discussions like this check out our Ask Anything page. For more questions you can reach us here.