Douglas Groothuis

Defending Christian Faith, December 14, 2004




part 1



My soul is in anguish.

How long, O LORD, how long?—Ps. 6:3


I am the resurrection and the life.—John 11:25



I.          Worldview Prelude:  Two Views of Evil


A.        Buddha and death (Bart Gruzalski, On the Buddha, 39 – 40)


B.        Jesus against death (John 11:1 – 44)


II.        The Problem Evil:  Perennial, Vexed, Formidable


A.        Pastoral, existential problem: wisely coping with suffering (more later)


B.        The philosophical problem of evil


·         Testing the internal consistency of the Christian worldview


C.        Epicurus’s statement of problem


D.        Harmonize four theistic propositions without inconsistency


1.         A personal God exists


2.         God is omnipotent


3.         God is omnibenevolent (all-good)


4.         There is objective evil: that which frustrates positive values (may or may not include suffering)


a.         Natural, nonhuman evil


i.          Natural evil affecting humans (hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, plagues)


ii.         Natural evil affecting animals (Darwin’s bane).  See C. Hunter, Darwin’s God


b.         Human evil


i.          Intentional: murder, rape, adultery, other sexual perversions, theft, deception, gratuitous violence, bigotry, etc.


ii.         Accidental:  medical accidents, car accidents, “friendly fire”


iii.        Ill-health (mental and physical): episodic, fatal, chronic (see:


c.         Specifically Christian concepts of evil


i.          Supernatural evil:  Satan and demons (2 Peter 2:4)


ii.         Hell:  eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46).  See William Peterson, Hell on Trial (Presbyterian and Reformed, 1995)


III.       Four Unsatisfactory Alternative (non-Christian) Explanations


A.        A personal God does not exist.  What then of evil?


1.         What are the metaphysical necessary conditions for evil?


2.         What worldviews support (1)?


3.         Some form of monotheism.  We have argued for Christian monotheism through natural theology (Romans 1 – 2)


4.         E. Stump, “The Mirror of Evil,” on the recognition of good against evil as evidence for God.  Os Guinness, ed, The Journey (NavPress), 164 – 174.


B.        God is not omnipotent (as classically defined)


1.         Process theism view (Alfred North Whitehead, John Cobb, etc.)—God as finite.  God is not a perfect being


2.         Openness theism view—God as lacking knowledge of future acts of free agents (Greg. Boyd, Clark Pinnock, John Sanders).  God is a “perfect” being (on their reckoning)


3.         Against this, see Mark Talbot “True Freedom: The Liberty That Scripture Portrays as Worth Having,” in Beyond the Bounds: Open Theism and the Undermining of Biblical Christianity, ed. John Piper et al  (Crossway, 2003), 77 – 110


C.        God is not omnibenevolent (all-good)


D.        Evil is not real, but illusory (Nondualism, Zen, Christian Science, New Age)


1.         “Only those who repent of sin, and forsake all evil can fully understand the unreality of evil”—Mary Baker Eddy, Science and health With a Key to the Scriptures


2.         Pain is real, incorrigible.  Why are we all deceived, dupes, if no pain?  Problem of deception emerges