Ways to deal with the problem of evil

Alastair’s recent thoughts on the subject caused me to jot down a list of common ways that people deal with the problem of evil.

If God is really all-powerful, why is there so much suffering in the world? Why do hundreds of children starve to death every day? How come there is so much hate and slaughter? Why doesn’t God do something about it?

Some options:

How to deal with the problem of evil:

1. God CAN’T because he doesn’t exist. (Atheism)

2. God CAN’T because he is sufficiently distant from human affairs. (Deism)

3. God CAN’T because he is not powerful enough (Open theism, Demi-theism, Mormonism)

4. God CAN’T because he is sometimes overpowered by the devil. (Dualism)

5. God CAN, but doesn’t because he is evil. (Cult of Cthulu?, Unbelief)

6. God CAN, but doesn’t because he is in fact instituting the slaughter so it isn’t technically evil since he wills it. (Hard Calvinism, Nominalism, Islam)

7. God CAN, and in fact WILL do something about it, just not yet. (Future redemption and undoing, Some versions on the borders of universalism)

8. God CAN, but isn’t because he does not want to interfere with the will of man (or at least some men), which is apparently more important. (Popular non-reformed Christianity)

9. God CAN, sort of, but we don’t really understand what’s going on and are asking the wrong question to begin with. (Philosophical doubt)

10. God CAN, but doesn’t and I’m not sure why and it pissed me off, but I trust him regardless. (Mystery, trust)


At this point, I’m a pretty big fan of #7 above, though #9 and #10 have some merit, despite being naturally unsatisfying. Few of the saints of old were theologians. For most of them, #10 was the norm.