Charlie's Blog: Why Does God Allow Evil to Exist?


Why Does God Allow Evil to Exist?

When the stars threw down their spears 
And water'd heaven with their tears: 
Did he smile his work to see? 
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

The existence of evil and suffering is a cause of grief for believers and a cause of unbelief for unbelievers. How can God allow such evil and suffering in the world? This is not a question the Bible ignores as suffering features prominently in the New Testament as well as Old Testament books like the Book of Job and Ecclesiastes. Great thinkers like Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas tackle the problem, but their answers are unsatisfying. Even modern thinkers like Peter Kreeft are left at the end with saying that they don't know. Who wants to hear that? Yet, I think a satisfying answer does exist. The answer is plain and easy to understand and has always been there in the Bible staring us in the face.

The Problem of Theodicy

The problem of theodicy is a fairly easy problem to state. God is good. God is all knowing and all powerful. Evil exists. No one disputes the existence of evil. What is called into question are the attributes of God's omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. Those are big words for some readers, so I will state it plainly as I can. Evil exists because God is either evil or incompetent. This flies in the face of all we know and have been taught about God and is blasphemy. Yet, we are at a loss to resolve the problem. So, people have made attempts at resolving the problem.

The Manichean Answer

Manichaeism was an old Gnostic sect that began with a teacher named Mani back in the 200s. Saint Augustine is famous for once being an adherent to this heretical cult. The religion of Mani is dead today, but it does live on in one idea which is dualism. Anyone who has ever watched Star Wars with its Force that has both a Light side and a Dark side knows what dualism is.

The Manichean answer or dualist answer is that evil exists as a sort of negative to God's positive and must exist by logical necessity like darkness to light. God did not create evil. Evil exists by itself. This argument undermines the omnipotence of God. It also implies that evil has always existed and always will exist. God is powerless to do anything about evil.

Rabbi Harold Kushner's Answer

In 1981, Rabbi Harold Kushner published a book called When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Kushner is one of those good people who suffered the loss of his son to the rapid aging disease of progeria. In trying to come to terms with that tragedy, Kushner comes to the conclusion that God is good, but He is powerless to end evil and human suffering. Essentially, God is not omnipotent. Kushner meant well with his book hoping to comfort people in their grief, but he has written blapshemy in this regard.

The Atheist Answer

The atheist answer to the problem of theodicy is very straightforward. God doesn't exist! Philosopher Peter Kreeft admits that the problem of theodicy is the atheist's best argument, and his response is to say ultimately that he does not know. The agnostic/atheist skeptic Michael Shermer dismisses all of the Christian arguments on the matter as philosophical word games. And, as a former atheist, Shermer's opinion was essentially my own. The problem of evil was a Gordian knot that was solved with the slice of the sword of atheism.

What Aquinas Has to Say

Now, in my personal opinion, Saint Thomas Aquinas is the greatest thinker that has ever lived. I think he clearly refutes the atheists with his proofs for God's existence, and I think present day science does provide the empirical data that confirms Thomas's philosophical arguments. God exists because nothing comes from nothing.

Thomas also goes on to argue that God has the attributes of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. These attributes are necessary to God's being. To put it bluntly, how can God be an imbecile, an incompetent weakling, or utterly indifferent to a world that He cared enough to create? Either God exists in all of His attributes, or He doesn't exist. This refutes Rabbi Kushner.

Thomas then refutes the Manichean error by stating that evil is not a thing in itself but a good misdirected. God did not create evil. God created good. Evil comes about when creatures with free will (angels and humans) exercise their free wills in disobedience to God. Evil exists as a consequence of free will. The question should not be why God allows evil. The question should be this. Why does God allow evil beings to exist? Phrasing the question in that way also provides a clue to its answer.

This last argument from Aquinas is enough to settle the problem. It resolves how God can still be good and all powerful while allowing evil to exist. Yet, no one seems to find satisfaction in this answer. This is because Aquinas didn't explain any further the beauty or consequences of his argument. I will now fill in that blank and give you, Gentle Reader, the satisfaction you are seeking.

Evil and Suffering

As I explained in a previous essay, evil and suffering are not synonymous. Evil can be the cause of suffering, but it can also be the cause of pleasure such as when a husband cheats on his wife or the satisfaction an angry man feels when he commits an act of violence or murder. Conversely, one can do good and suffer for it such as when Jesus went to the Cross, or we sacrifice something for the sake of the good of the other such as giving up a Saturday to raise money for kids with Down's syndrome.

Atheists link evil and suffering, but I think this linkage is an error. Evil properly defined is disobedience to God. The atheist likes to mix and match his terms because he does not see or want to see the irrationality of his own argument. So, I will make it plain. The atheist is arguing that God should give us a paradise without God. God already provided a paradise with Him and has done so again through the redemptive work of Christ. The atheist does not want this.

A Paradise Without God

I have never heard an atheist make the argument that free will was a bad idea. In fact, they glory in free will and think Adam and Eve's eating of the forbidden fruit was an awesome thing. This is what the knowledge of good and evil means. We know good and evil, and we get to choose. We get to live a life apart from God and His commands. The atheists also express a certain admiration and gratitude to Satan for this "gift." But Satan did not give free will to men. God gave it.

Evil came about because of the exercise of free will in disobedience to God. We can argue that we didn't eat the forbidden fruit, but free will was not lost in the fall. We add our signatures to the Declaration of Disobedience in that original sin when we choose to sin as well. Today, atheists try to negate this free will and responsibility by various appeals to biological determinism. It isn't their fault somehow. We are no better than animals that obey instinct. But this is nonsense. If you have known the speed limit and refrained from breaking it, you have the knowledge and the ability to obey it. Humans have free will.

The problem for atheists is not that humans have free will, or that free will has been exercised to do evil and disobey God. For them, their problem is that this evil has brought consequences known as suffering. Behind this argument is the desire the atheist wants for a paradise without God. The atheist wants to live in bliss while doing evil. And this is why atheists refuse to believe in God and pursue utopian delusions like communism or reduce life to mere seeking after pleasure with the option for suicide and abortion when that pleasure is no longer attainable. And they are mad at God for not fixing this problem for them even though they created it.

God does fix the problem of evil, but it is not the solution that atheists desire. Here are the options on God's menu:
1. Negate free will. 
2. Allow evil to go unpunished but rewarded. 
3. Obliterate all evil beings including you and me. 
4. Make a way for people to turn from evil back to good while resolving all of the damage and harm done by the disobedience.
God went with option 4. I present this menu of options to show that we also would go with option 4. God did not create this problem, and He is fixing the problem He did not create and has no obligation to fix. Why is there a problem?

Some clever sophist will point out that these options negate the omnipotence of God. Why can't God make 2 + 2 = 5? Such arguments are complete bravo sierra and nonsense. God does not exist outside of logic because God is logic. There are no contradictions in God. If God cannot will Himself out of existence, does this mean God is not God? Somehow, the stupidity of this nonsense is wiser than the wisdom of God.

The Suffering of the Innocents

The atheist will point to various forms of human suffering especially the suffering of innocent people like children with crippling and fatal diseases. Nevermind the millions that have been slaughtered in the womb by abortion with the tacit approval and support of the vast majority of atheists. Because the innocent suffer, God is the bad guy, or He simply doesn't exist. The atheist answer to suffering is merciful death for themselves and others.

The reason why we all suffer is obvious. This world is not paradise. Paradise was lost in the Fall. It will only return to this world in a future restoration that only God can bring about. In the meantime, we are called to endure the suffering of this awful world in the same way that Christ endured it. Christ was truly innocent and did not deserve what was done to Him. But He accepted it and offered it up on behalf of the human race in atonement for their sins.

When atheists bewail the existence of evil, they are never referring to the evil of worshiping false gods, blaspheming the name of the Lord, or doing ill to one's neighbor by calumny or covetousness. Instead, they trot out some innocent victim of some natural or human horror and put God on trial for what was done to the victim. But as I said, the remedy these atheists seek is a paradise without God. They never stop to consider that such a thing is a logical impossibility.


For the believer, the existence of evil and suffering causes a great deal of grief and doubt. The atheist does not suffer from this same grief because he has ceased believing in God. The problem is solved for the atheist by taking God completely out of the problem. All that remains for the atheist is the evil that exists and the pitiless indifference of an empty universe where everything dies.

Could God not just wipe out the evil people and leave the good people? Well, God has done this very thing. He did this with the Flood wiping out all of humanity and preserving Noah and his family. The ground was barely dry before you saw the return of evil again. God wiped out Sodom and Gomorrah in a similar fashion. And He brings chastisement and punishment upon nations when their wickedness exceeds a certain limit. These things are not cures for evil but merely checks on evil to hold it to a certain level. Evil exists like a mad dog on a leash. God has His hand on the leash.

The probably with wiping out humanity is that it takes the good down with the bad. God could have dropped the hammer of judgment on Adam and Eve the moment they ate the forbidden fruit, but this would have wiped out all of their human offspring including Jesus Christ and His Blessed Mother. It would have also wiped out you and me. So, God showed mercy to the two evildoers and to the rest of us. Was God wrong for doing this? Is mercy an evil?

God shows mercy for the sake of the elect. When Abraham prayed for God's mercy on Sodom and Gomorrah, God said that He would relent if just ten righteous people could be found there. Obviously, there were none except Lot and his family who weren't so righteous. Yet, God spared them from the destruction that He brought.

A similar story is told of the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God tolerates the two to grow together for the sake of the wheat. Likewise, God tolerates evil in the world for the sake of those who believe in Him or will believe in Him. In addition, He allows people to suffer precisely to keep them from falling into evil or to turn them from evil.

Is there a better way than this?! No, there isn't. That was the final answer we get from the Book of Job. Fixing this world requires a goodness and intelligence beyond any human being. God has provided an answer, and there is no one in existence more qualified to give a better answer. This is why Job shuts his mouth at the end of the book. This is also why atheists should shut their mouths. They can't bring us a paradise without God, but they have managed to bring hell on earth.

Our only response to evil and suffering is patience. We have to let the game play out. That is essentially the message of the Bible. There is a lot of history in that book, and that story is still being told into the present day. We must remember how we were evil, and God was merciful to us in our wickedness. The atheist demands justice not realizing what foolishness he is demanding. Only a fool who thinks he is innocent demands justice.


Life is hard and difficult, and many things happen in this world that make us rage and cry. We are the reason for the evil in this world. The suffering is just the alarm bell. God is merciful for the moment because His justice will be final. People demand a world without evil, but this is a false demand. They really want a world of evil without suffering. How do I know? That's easy. Show me an atheist that became a saint while remaining an atheist.

Atheists don't become saints. Equating suffering with evil, they try to eliminate suffering. Inevitably, they fail and turn to their final answer which is merciful death for themselves or others. Since the end justifies the means for these people, they end up inflicting a great deal of suffering upon themselves and others in the process. I know because I did this when I was an atheist.

Here are two options for you to consider:
1. You can be evil in a world without suffering. 
2. You can be good in a world with suffering.
We will ignore the fact that option 1 is a logical impossibility. Let's imagine it could be had. Would you choose this option? As for option 2, this is the world we live in now. Then, there is the implied option 3 which is to be evil in a world with suffering. We already know what this looks like. This is where you try and eliminate the pain for yourself while saying to hell with the rest of the world including those you may hurt along the way. At some point, you will discover that this third option is also a logical impossibility.

Your choice is fundamentally this. Do you choose good? Or, do you choose evil? For me, I faced this choice as an atheist, and I chose the good. I knew that I never wanted to be a monster regardless of what it may gain me or cost me. In an Auschwitz style concentration camp, I would choose to be a prisoner instead of a guard. I would rather be the ashes in the oven than be the guy tossing the bodies in the oven.

Option 4 is to be good in a world without suffering. This place exists, and we know it as Heaven. There is neither evil nor suffering there. Unfortunately, you have to suffer to get there. The atheist does not believe in Heaven. Denying the existence of God and Heaven allows the atheist to live as he pleases. Inevitably, the atheist figures out that the pleasure he seeks eludes him. If he is fortunate, this realization comes on this side of the grave. And when the realization comes, it is an awesome thing.

God tolerates evil people because sometimes those evil people become good people. In addition, those evil people serve as a warning and a reminder to good people to not fall into evil. Regardless of the situation and circumstances of this world of misery, choosing to do evil should never be an option for us. For many atheists, they prefer to suffer in a world without goodness or God. This world actually does exist. We know it as Hell. The evil beings there will have eternity to try and turn it into Heaven.