Some Material on the Problem of Evil

Recently I had the privilege to share a presentation on the problem of evil at The Vine. Here are some of the material that I put together for the presentation, I hope you find it helpful!

Problem of Evil Discussion:

Logical Problem of Evil:


Attempt to demonstrate that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of God

Generic Problem

  1. God is all good and all powerful
  2. If evil exists, then either God is not all good or God is not all powerful
  3. Evil exists
  4. God is not all good or not all powerful
  5. God does not exist

Proof from contradiction (1) and (4) 

Mackie’s development

  1. God is all good and all powerful
  2. Goodness is such that it is always opposed to evil and would always eliminate evil
  3. If evil exists, then either God is not all good or God is not all powerful
  4. Evil exists
  5. God is not all good or not all powerful
  6. God does not exist

Proof from contradiction (A) and (E) 

Evidential Problem of Evil:


Attempt to demonstrate that the existence of evil makes it highly unlikely that God exists.

Rowe’s formulation: 

“Suppose in some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering. So far as we can see, the fawn’s intense suffering is pointless. For there does not appear to be any greater good such that the prevention of the fawn’s suffering would require either the loss of that good or the occurrence of an evil equally bad or worse.”

His Arguments:

  1. Gratuitous vs. Non-gratuitous Evil
  2. Moral Evil vs. Natural Evil
  3. Deontology/ Intrinsic Value vs Consequentialism/ Subjective Value 


Free Will Defence: 

There exists higher order goods which make it possible for God to permit evil. E.g. The existence of free beings is, in itself, a desirable moral situation. Since humans are free, evil actions are a possibility. Evil is the result of the misuse of freedom. (Presented by Plantinga)

Soul-building Theodicy: 

Evil is required for soul-building. We can experience how challenging evil is beneficial for our own moral status. There is likewise good reason to believe that evil can exist to help us to become better moral agents and draw closer to our understanding of God. (This theodicy is found mainly in the works of Hick and Ireaneus) 

Natural Evils as Necessary/ Fine-Tuning:

The world cannot be in any other way. Natural evil is bad, but the laws of nature which cause them are necessary for human survival. An avalanche is dependent on gravity. Without gravity, humans cannot survive. 

Cosmic Conflict Theodicy:

We exist in a spiritual conflict. Angels and demons also exist and cause havoc and unity in the world. Natural evils can be explained by the moral depravity of devils and are in reality moral evils. (Presented by Peckham)

Further Questions: 

  1. Why is the problem of evil the biggest argument against the existence of God?
  2. What is evil?
  3. Can evil be fully explained philosophically? 
  4. Can atheism (God not existing) explain evil? 
  5. Does evil still pose a significant problem for Christianity even if we accept that God exists? 
  6. How do we face evil in our lives as Christians? 
  7. What is the right outlook towards the evil and suffering around us in the world today? 

Further resources: 

Basinger, David, and Randall Basinger. “The Problem with the ‘Problem of Evil.’” Religious Studies 30, no. 1 (1994): 89–97. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20019661.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov, Translated by David Mcduff. (Penguin Books Ltd, 2003) 

Mackie, J. L. “Evil and Omnipotence.” Mind 64, no. 254 (1955): 200-212. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2251467.

Peterson, Michael L. “Recent Work on the Problem of Evil.” American Philosophical Quarterly 20, no. 4 (1983): 321–39. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20014015.

Peckham, John. Theodicy of Love : Cosmic Conflict and the Problem of Evil. (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2018.)

Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil. Essays in Philosophy. (London: Allen & Unwin, 1975.)

Rowe, William L. “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism.” in The Problem of Evil, edited by Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) 

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The Slides for Download

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