The Problem of Evil (Bahnsen)

This is a loose transcript I created from Greg Bahnsen’s lecture, Defending the Christian Worldview Against All Opposition (Vol. 2): 7. The Problem of Evil.

The problem of evil is a logical problem. You’ll be told that Christians hold to a series of premises and that you cannot hold to all of those premises consistently. We believe that God is all good, secondly we believe that God is all powerful and thirdly we believe that evil exists. But as the argument goes, if God is all good and all powerful, he wouldn’t want there to be evil in the world and he would elimate the evil.Therefore, if evil exists, God is either not all good or not all powerful. These premises will not logically hang together. When faced with objections, remember to ask, “Is it an arbitrary consideration? Are there inconsistencies? What are the consequences of it? What are the preconditions of it?”

Is evil a problem for the Christian or the non-Christian? The unbeliever cannot use the argument of evil against you unless the unbeliever has the right to assert that there is evil. It is crucial for them to evaluate some specific instance as an instance of evil. By what do they mean by good and evil? By what standard does the unbeliever determine what counts as good and what counts as well? What are the presuppositions in terms of which the unbeliever makes any judgment about good or evil whatsoever?

Lets look at some possibilities:

Perhaps they take good and evil to what evokes public approval or disapproval. But if good or evil pertains to the evoking of approval or disapproval on that basis the following statement will always be senseless. Well sometimes the vast majority of the community hardily approved of and willingly join in that evil deed. If evil is what evokes the communities disapproval, then it could never be true that the majority of people engaged in an evil deed. The fact that a vast number of people feel a certain way shouldn’t convince others that that feeling is correct. Ethics doesn’t reduce to statistics. Approval should constitute its goodness not the other way around.
An action is good if it achieves a certain end like the the greatest happiness for the greatest number. The irrelevance of that concept of goodness for making ethical determinations, is that one would need to be able to rate and compare happiness in order to make any judgments about goodness. Good is what achieves a certain end begs the question, because how do we know that certain end is good?
If good is what gives pleasure or happiness, he is forgetting that pleasure was given to the child molester. When a person condemns child molestation they are assuming moral absolutes. Moral absolutes cannot be made sense of except in the Christian worldview.
Now we need to answer how there is no inconsistency with God’s power, goodness and evil. Remember we evaluate everything in light of our ultimate assumptions or presuppositions. What are my ultimate presuppositions? I presuppose God’s revelation of what He says about Himself in the Scriptures. We learn that God is all-good and all-powerful. We then draw the conclusion that God has a morally sufficient reason as to why He allows evil and everything He does, there is no logical problem of evil, but there is a psychological problem. The only logical problem which arises in connection with the discussions of evil, is the unbelievers philosophical inability to account for the objectivity of his moral judgments. The problem of evil is a psychological problem, not a logical problem. That is we find it emotionally challenging to trust His goodness, faithfulness and power when we are not given the reason why bad things happen to us and others. God rarely provides an explanation for the evil they experience and observe. The Bible calls upon to trust that He has a morally sufficient reason as to why He allows evil in this world. But the Bible does not give us the reason or reasons that are morally sufficient. The unbeliever will find that intolerable for his pride, his feelings and maybe for his rationality because he refuses to trust God. He won’t believe in a God that won’t tell him why evil things take place.


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