So we’re at the place where we can say a couple-four things from the existential side of the problem of evil:

[1] from the perspective that pain exists, and we perceive it, we as human beings (you could say “people”) have an urge to do something about it when we see it.

[2] that urge even extends to the pain of others; we have the ability to empathize with the pain of others and therefore want to do something about it as well.

[3] Often – and I would make the case that almost always — the problem of pain results in our having to choose to suffer a greater loss to end one kind of pain or suffering. For example, to end the holocaust and the death of 6 million Jews, people were willing to pay the price of over 60 million deaths.

[4] Atheism in general doesn’t give us the philosophical tools to sort out when a greater loss is worth the price of ending the suffering of others – and in fact it can create dilemmas like the problem of what to do with children who are being indoctrinated by their parents into ideas we do not agree with.

And the atheist, as we have noted, would say this: “yes, fine – but that doesn’t get your idea of God off the hook. God should be good enough and smart enough and strong enough to have made a universe in which we shouldn’t have to choose between bankrupting a prosperous nation and feeding all the hungry children in the world. Your ‘God’ should be clever enough to sort out how to have made all of us all happy all the time – and in the very least, He didn’t. So in the best case for you, He’s not all you have cracked Him up to be.”

Yes, well: let’s hold the horses here. Before we stampede all over God’s goodness or wisdom or power, I think the Atheist has frankly left his barn door open before he can get to this critique.

Let’s consider something: if in the atheist existential case we can admit that in order to achieve outcomes which we desire we often have to pay a steep price for the sake of achieving what we intend to achieve, why must this be ruled out in the case of God? That is: let’s imagine for a moment that there are outcomes in the purpose of the universe for which God requires that there be some suffering. In order to achieve some of the goals of the universe, God may require that people suffer.

See: the atheist can look at this, and even imagine it, but in his mind the only way to judge this is to say, “if that’s so, God must be evil. Any God which requires suffering to make His objectives into reality is a cruel God who somehow enjoys our pain.”

The problem, however, is that the atheist, in saying this, credits God with less than the atheist would credit to himself. The atheist would admit that it is better to dig out a splinter than to let it fester and infect its victim – in fact, the atheist would call a doctor who refused to dig out splinters a cruel doctor for refusing to treat his patient. The atheist would demand that the law-breaker who committed a crime be incarcerated for his crime – even though the time of rehab or punishment would be far longer than the time it took to commit the crime, and the prime the criminal paid would in fact be far higher than the pain he inflicted.

At the same time, I suspect something about our hypothetical atheist: he would call the doctor who forbade all carpentry (as an example of splinter-causing events) cruel or inept; he would call the government which eliminated convenience stores for the sake of eliminating convenience store robbery oppressive.

Knowing this, it is a false accusation to posit that God is cruel if pain exists. The only way to know why pain exists in a theistic framework is if God tells us why pain exists, and at that point we have to assess only if God is telling the truth or if God is a liar.

And this is why we turn the corner from assessment of the atheist complaint and his own solution to the problem to actually advocating for God: theism – particularly, those who say, “know for certain that Jesus is both Lord and Christ” – have an obligation to speak to the problem of evil not merely from a philosophic standpoint, but from an existential standpoint. We have an obligation to tell people what God has actually said about this matter – because he has said something, and His view of things are authoritative because He’s the author.

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