There is perhaps no stronger argument leveled against the existence of God than the existence of evil and suffering in the world. How could a good God allow suffering? Perhaps the strongest factor in the argument is not any logical problem, not any actual argument, but the pure emotional response that the thought of suffering produces. Because of this, the Christian dealing with this question must always bear in mind that there are two vastly different problems of evil:
- The existential/experiential/emotional problem
- The logical problem
Before delving into the question, the wise apologist will always try to determine whether the questioner falls into the first category or the second.
The Existential Problem
The existential problem is mainly emotional (although this does not mean they do not also consider the logical problem). The most common statement of this problem is, “I can’t believe in a God who would allow…”. These people are actually experiencing suffering, and arguments will not dull their immediate experience of evil in the world.
The Logical Problem
The logical problem on the other hand, comes from the person who is considering just the question of whether there is a logical contradiction or implausibility in the coexistence of God and evil. Again this problem can be separated into two distinct questions:
- God and evil are directly contradictory (deductive problem of evil)
- God and evil are not contradictory, but the amount or type of evil we experience is improbable given that God exists (probabilistic problem of evil)
See the pages for the deductive problem of evil and the probabilistic problem of evil for more