The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The problem of evil and its existence

My question is more a comment rather than a query. It concerns the problem of the existence of evil in a universe which was originally created infinitely perfect and supremely good by an infinitely loving creator, the triune God. I personally believe that evil is a the antithesis of perfect being that perfect being which is perfected eternally and infinitely in the most Holy and sacred trinity. Evil is a type of non being; a type of non perfect existence. In the Western philosophical tradition even among the pagan Greeks such as Aristotle and Plato they were dimly and imperfectly aware of this through the limited powers of their God given reason. It began with the Archangel Satan who wished to become a sort of counter god, because of a perversion of his will, a turning against God in his “non serviam”. ( I will not serve) . An unwillingness to become what God had planed for him. It was the same sin, the sin of spiritual pride which was the downfall of our first parents in the Garden of Eden urged on by the tempter and eternal enemy of man.

God permits evil in the world today so that he can draw a greater and more perfect good from it and so he can demonstrate to us more perfectly his infinite love graces and mercy to all those who will turn to him in love and acceptance.

God Bless you. Please comment if you so wish.


Yes, one of the attempts to explain the age-old problem of evil is to affirm that God has a deeper purpose for “allowing” it, or even instigating it.

To me this is an unsuccessful attempt to get God off the hook.

The problem of evil has been debated for centuries, and I have never yet encountered a completely satisfying explanation for it.

The usual philosophical argument against the existence of God as an all-loving, all-powerful Being, is based on this problem:


  1. If God is all-loving, He would wish to stop evil in the world.
  2. If God is all-powerful, He COULD stop evil in the world.
  3. Evil in the world continues.
    Therefore, God is either not all-loving, or not all-powerful.

My partial answer to the Problem of Evil is as follows:

Argument #1 Premises:

  1. The main way in which man was created in the image of God was God’s gift of free will to man.
  2. God seldom, if ever, violates man’s free will, for He wants man to choose to submit to Him, and fully relate to Him. This cannot happen if God imposes His own will upon man.
    Therefore God seldom, if ever, intervenes to prevent man’s atrocities committed against others.

Argument #2 Premises:

  1. There are many “natural” disasters which occur and hurt or destroy people such as floods, earthquakes, etc.
  2. All nature “fell” with the fall of man as described in Genesis.
  3. If God intervened so as to miraculously prevent “natural” disasters, life would be unpredictable so that man could not function in a consistent manner.
    Therefore God seldom, if ever, intervenes with fallen nature.

I know that these arguments at best are only partial solutions to the Problem of Evil. I think the Problem is quite complex, and that no completely satisfactory solution has yet been proposed.

I think you’re right on about that, Paidion. The same questions have arisen over and over throughout church history. Doesn’t mean we should not try to think them through, but it’s good to know that many others before us have tried, and what conclusions they came to.

Yes, TPE is a tough nut to crack. We’ve had some good discussions on this forum involving TPE and I always end up learning something, though never coming to a fully satisfactory solution…Natural evil is especially difficult as ‘The Free-Will Defense’ does a good job explaining ‘moral evil’ but attributing ‘natural evil’ to The Fall is unsatisfactory and implausible for many. Here are a couple threads I’ve been involved with where TPE comes into play that might be interesting and/or instructive:[Evolution and Theodicy:An article)


Have you ever read Satan and the Problem of Evil by Greg Boyd?

No, I never have. I “looked inside” the book at Amazon. Looks interesting. Kindle edition not available.

Have you, yourself, read it?

I have not, but you can read a good deal of it on google books. I’d be very interested in your thoughts on it. … &q&f=false

Hi guys,
I believe Pog has read it and you could PM him and see what his thoughts are or see if he’s interested in posting on this thread? I know he has said he holds to “Cosmic Warfare” as the origin of natural evil and as an open theist, is sympathetic to Greg Boyd’s work. (And, in fact, introduced me to Greg Boyd’s work on another thread) Personally, I find the “Cosmic Warfare” explanation very problematic for a number of reasons.

please - discuss!

All right then, Chris. :smiley: I’ll try to explain my understanding of the “Cosmic Warfare” theodicy of natural evil and my problems with it. Basically, “Cosmic Warfare” posits powerful, fallen angelic/demonic beings as ‘corruptors’ of the natural world, perhaps even corrupting the foundational physical laws resulting in things like earthquakes, disease, harmful genetic mutations and death. These beings were delegated powers and responsibility by God but “fell” (or at least some of them “fell”), rebelled against God and their handiwork is what we perceive as “natural evil” today—evil not due to the sins of men, but ‘evil’ due to nature itself.

There are several problems with this theory. :frowning: The first and I think the greatest problem is that of the postulated “fall” of the angelic beings, similar to the traditional view of the ‘fall’ of man. I’ll quote John Hick here .

It’s difficult, I think, to come up with a coherent and plausible scenario where extremely powerful beings would be created, given vast power and responsibility and yet a propensity to disobey and ‘corrupt’ creation.

The second problem is a more an aesthetic problem. If nature is corrupted and not just ‘undeveloped’ or ‘immature’ then we may see aspects of it and even creatures in it as evil in the sense of being the work of demons. I think this sort of view does temper some people’s view of nature. Creatures such as wolves are considered “evil” and should be shot on sight. Preserving and improving a world that is corrupt ‘at its root’ is far less important as well. I think it would be harder to get excited about things such as wildlife conservation, preserving wetlands and wilderness.

Finally is the problem of plausibility, if you can get around the first problem of the logical incoherence of a ‘fall’ there remains the problem of plausibility. I think this by Randal Rauser explains well what I’m referring

So, that’s where I’m at with “Cosmic Warfare”….

When I want to ask a member to have a look at a topic, I tag them. I’m not actually sure what happens when you tag someone here – I don’t think I’ve ever BEEN tagged, so I hope it’s not painful! :laughing: To do it, click on the “Tag” tag at the top of the response window (it’s the last one) and then type in the person’s “handle” between the tags. Be sure to type it in exactly as it appears on their posts or it won’t work (I don’t know if caps matter). [tag]pog[/tag], Dave was hoping you might jump in here and explain your Cosmic Warfare theodicy. You have been tagged! :wink:

I’ve gone over my own theodicy re the existence of evil before, but maybe I’ll be a little bit more in-depth this time. I may even learn something about what I myself believe that I believe. :wink:

It started something like this:

One day I was “being good” and walking on our elliptical machine (I should do that more often :blush: ) and simultaneously reading All Shall Be Well (edited by Robin Parry). Pictures came into my head. Sometimes that happens to me. In this picture, I imagined Jesus, having died, reeling off into the “nothing,” the “nowhere,” the “chaos.” It seemed impossible for Him to come to Himself; He was completely dependent on His Father to bring Him back. But how could He even hear the Father’s voice calling? It seemed impossible to me that He could hear. Yet He did hear, and somehow He was able to respond from a billion miles away (but there were no miles there – nothing was there – it couldn’t even be CALLED a “there” because it was nothing) and somehow move Himself or submitted to being moved by God across the infinite vastness of the void. This was the GREATEST miracle that had ever been done – far greater even than the creation of the universe. I had an idea that Jesus needed to go “there,” into the void, the chaos, to make it His – to claim it, as it were, though it was “nothing.”

From this thought the idea sprang that THIS – this NOTHING – was perhaps the “stuff” of which God made the worlds. What if He somehow opened up a “wound” within Himself (as He filled all in all, this would be necessary in order to create anything that was NOT Himself) in which to make the universe? It would be a place where there was nothing, yet He somehow took the nothing and wrested it into matter. The nothing would be disorganized (inasmuch as “nothing” CAN be said to be disorganized), or at least, at any rate, it would not BE organized. It occurred to me that life IS organization (not ONLY organization, but organization is absolutely essential to life), and when disorganization progresses too far, we call the result “death.” This void, maybe it was death, and maybe death was the void?

Did God pull life from the deathfull void by main power and by infinite wisdom, and force the “nothing” to be made “something?” What if the “nothing” didn’t “like” being made something? (“Like” is an anthropomorphism here – I don’t mean it literally.) Everything left to itself becomes disorganized and dies or falls apart. Leave a house uncared for over the course of several decades and see what I mean. Eventually, if not resuscitated, the house will fall to splinters. This world “wants” to do the same thing. It’s only held together by the One in whom all things hold together – Jesus. (If for some impossible reason God had found Himself unable to raise Jesus from the dead, WOULD the world have held together long? Hmm . . .

As it is, what if all the turmoil we see about us – tidal waves, volcanoes, asteroids, sink holes, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides, and so on, are symptoms of the disorder “fighting” against the order, “desiring” to return to its own natural state of chaos? What if God has been fighting that battle, inch by inch transforming the “nothing” into what He means for it to be? And what if it HAS to be a slow process, because that’s what it takes to make a soul that can respond to Him, and be like His Son, and be free yet loving, and eventually, perfect and mature?

For ME, that would explain a lot. Why do we have all this suffering? It’s the result of the turmoil of a world in the process of being made. I drive by a construction site and I think, “What a mess! Yet I know that in a year’s time or maybe more, this will be a beautifully landscaped public building. If I didn’t know that, I’d sure never guess by what it looks like now!” From this view, instead of the fall, we have a world slowly being sketched out by a pen in the hand of the Almighty. It may not look very good just yet. There’s suffering certainly. It’s temporary and it’s a necessary part of creating the world, but Father doesn’t ignore it. Sometimes He alleviates it. He’s with those who call out to Him (even if they don’t know who He is or THAT He is.) Usually He lets it continue, knowing that it’s temporary and that His creatures will benefit from it even though it isn’t, in itself, a good thing. He didn’t create the suffering or the evil, but in a sense He IS responsible for it, because if He had never created at all, there would be no suffering – BUT in order for Him to create the soul discrete from Himself, He has to allow suffering. Otherwise there could be no “other ones” beside Himself – creatures destined to be one with Him, yet also to remain discrete (though not separated) from Him.

In this view, we still have room for the concept of free-willed individuals being allowed to cause suffering (because otherwise there could BE no free will). The suffering is not good, but it does work a good purpose in those who suffer (and that DOES NOT mean we aren’t obligated to work to relieve suffering!)

Because of all this, I started thinking how the theory of evolution fit this model better than the 7-day creation. If God gradually creates, then why not through evolution? It makes perfect sense to me now. We all develop from embryos to our physical/mental peak conditions, and then as our bodies age, disorganization sets in and we go that same way eventually – that same way that Jesus went. But the world as a whole, trending in a direction that is NOT natural to it – from disorganization to organization – could certainly, with the command of God, bring forth every green herb and the fruit yielding seed, each according to its own kind. The sea could bring forth living creatures and the land could bring forth creeping things and every beast, and eventually Adam into whom God breathed the breath of life – the sort of life in which you know you have a name, and that you are separate from the world around you, though you are also one with it. All these things could have developed their unique organization just as an embryo develops eventually into a tall, strong man capable of who knows what feats of strength or intellect or imagination.

I see God working in nature from the simple to the highly organized – even in the life of a finite human being. God seems to work in patterns. A developmental model for humans, a developmental model for nations, a developmental model for the universe? It makes sense to me. This is consistent with the way He works. He is making souls and that is a long process. At least to us it is.

There is evil and suffering because these things come from a universe that is good, and yet is not finished. It’s still disorganized. There are still large chunks that don’t work they way they WILL work when they’re finished. They’re still settling in, and because of this they cause upheavals, storms, suffering. Humans are like this too, in our treatment of one another, our carelessness, our fallibility. THAT’s why I believe evolution, in one form or another, must have been the way Father created the world – because it fits with all the other things we CAN see that He does. He sketches us out, then paints, then inks if we’re that kind of a picture, tweaks and revises and perfects, and finally mats and frames that work of art which is our universe.

That’s my theodicy – best I can explain it at present. Now it’s time for bed! :wink:

Night all!

Many things I’d agree with, some I’d disagree with. Interesting eitherway. :slight_smile:

Given some of the things you’ve said here, I’d suggest a little follow up reading on Barth’s das nichtige, and cosmic warfare theodicy.

Some stimulating thoughts here, particularly from Steve and Cindy. I don’t really want to rehash my own thoughts on the so-called problem of evil, as I’ve done so at exhaustive length elsewhere here. Having said that, a couple of observations:

Steve, I think Hick knocks it out of the park, across the street and over the city limits on cosmic warfare theodicy :smiley: . Like he says, the ‘fatal incoherence’ on which that model is founded is, well, fatal. And personally, I think you multiply layer upon layer of difficulty - practical, philosophical, moral - if you attempt to posit a supernatural explanation for evil. Quite apart from Hick’s objections, you’ve got the very obvious difficulties of explaining what ‘demons’ are and how they operate. Unless it’s through advertising, of course.

But for me, the main reason I reject the whole concept of demon possession and cosmic warfare (because I see the two as inextricably linked) is that it’s a cop out. It’s a way both of ducking our responsibility for our own sin, and avoiding facing up to the reality of mental illness.

Personally I know of no convincing evidence that the devil and demons exist anywhere outside the pages of a Dan Brown novel :smiley: . But I’m sure Chris (pog) will put me right if I’ve misunderstood or misrepresented the cosmic warfare model :slight_smile: .

Cindy, I like much of what you say, particularly about God bringing order out of chaos, complexity out of simplicity. As you know, I reject orthodox notions of The Fall as some kind of move away from sinless, deathless perfection in creation. I see the story of creation, as framed in the Bible, as linear, not circular.

And I would also say, contra what others have said on other threads recently, that ‘Adam’s sin’ - whatever that was - did not bring death into creation. Death has always been intrinsic to the way the universe runs. It is the very engine of life, at every level in the organic world and also, I suspect, the inorganic (chemical elements decay, atoms are ‘destroyed’ to release energy etc). And of course, the only way we can shed this sinful skin of ours is through our own deaths. Death is the gateway to immortality - and twas always meant to be.

Cheers all


Once upon a time, I wrote a response to an atheistic video about the evidential problem of evil.

Cindy, thats kinda how I see it too. Look at this from TWOT on the word ‘bara’ the word used for create in Gen 1.

The root bara’ has the basic meaning “to create.” It differs from yasar “to fashion” in that the latter primarily emphasizes the shaping of an object while bara’ emphasizes the initiation of the object.
The question of the meaning of the root bara’ is complicated by its connotation in the Piel of “cut down” (Jos 17:15, Jos 17:18; Eze 23:47). This meaning may also obtain in the use of the word in Eze 21:19 [H 24] where it need not connote carving a signpost, but simply the act of cutting down a branch or sapling as a marker). If this meaning attests to the concrete form of the Qal, the word may have meant “to form,” “to fashion” in the sense of carving or cutting out. But it is possible that the Piel form may represent an entirely different root. KB (2d ed.) posits a second root used in the Piel meaning “to cut down.” THOT (in loc.) follows KB (3d ed.) that there is one root with the basic meaning “separate,” “divide.” This would explain the usages of the Piel, but, as is often the case, is not decisive for the nuance of the meaning “create” in the Qal. And, since the word is used in such a distinctive sense in the Qal it is best to consider the meaning of the root solely on the basis of usage. The word is used in the Qal only of God’s activity and is thus a purely theological term. This distinctive use of the word is especially appropriate to the concept of creation by divine flat.

Notice the carving of a branch. Hmmm, it seems to me that the branch may represent something. I believe the chaos was created after the Branch was birthed or carved out of the Father, as the prototokos. And then the chaos is overtaken and assimilated by the infusion of the Logos. To tie this in with the “Adam” and “evolution” threads and dialogues going on, I think that Genesis 1 is not a scientific treatise, but a roadmap of this process. Gen 1:1 describes the birthing out as the first fruit over creation of the divine Logos. The days 1-6 then are the taming of the chaos and restoring of the peace of shalom of the seventh day, the day of rest, which as Hebrews tells us is entering into Christ, or the growing up into the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

The process of division leads to divinization, or theosis.

(For my trinitarian friends, --actually non-Trin’s would appreciate these videos also-- I would recommend watching the group of videos by Bruce Wauchope on YouTube, he is a perichoresis guy, ala Baxter Kruger. He discusses this concept of carving out from a trinitarian perspective)

Keeping with my tie in to the Adam thread, TWOT spoke of the carving out as a signpost. Well the word zion has a common origin as 06726 tsiuwn which is a signpost. Enns was talking about Genesis being written from a Israel-centric lens there may be some little word clues here.

Some excellent thoughts here! :smiley: It seems like this thread is starting to focus on ‘the problem’ of ‘natural evil’ which I think is helpful and is in my opinion a more difficult problem as I mentioned. Taking TPoE as a whole is something we’ve done before here, but ends up being a bit superficial given the breadth of the subject.

First off, thanks Cindy for explaining how to “tag” someone. You ‘tagged’ me the other day and it was completely painless! :smiley: I meant to PM you and ask how it was done but you’ve taken care of that so thanks! (Anyone ‘tagged’ will get a PM notifying them with a link to the thread)

Cindy, this:

…really seems to echo the ‘Irenaean’ view of Adam we’ve been discussing on other threads, but includes ‘nature’ and not just mankind. I think something along this line is what I’m looking at as a theodicy to explain natural evil. It seems that nature and the process of evolution has a tremendous “freedom” and organisms ‘brought forth’ through that process seek their own well-being at the expense, generally, of other organisms/creatures. Is there some process akin to “moral development” in amoral nature that God is working out in creation?

I think redhotmagma here:

…describes the same sort of process.

Johnny, I think Hick’s argument is also ‘fatal’ to Cosmic Warfare theodicy. I am agnostic about the possibility of lesser “demons” existing—perhaps created in a similar manner to mankind. But the idea of ‘the fall’ of, in essence, ‘demigods’ from a Paradisal state and subsequently acting to corrupt all of nature is untenable, I believe.

I think I am in general agreement with your view of Death. One of my pet speculations is that Death acts like a “governor” on an engine to limit the extent of evil in the universe. When creation has reached maturity, the ‘governor’ will no longer be needed.

Hi Pog! Glad to see you (and Aragorn) again. :smiley: I brought your name up in the thread as folks were wondering about Boyd’s Satan and the Problem of Evil and I know you thought it was very helpful. By the way, the “Refuting Arminianism” thread here:[Refuting Arminianism?) has morphed into a discussion of open theism and you might be interested in that. As far as Barth’s das Nichtige , my only familiarity with that is from John Hick’s discussion in Evil and the God of Love. It’s in ‘The Problem of Evil in Reformed Thought’ section of the book. He (as you might expect) finds some major problems with Barth’s teaching.

Here’s a link to “The Nothing” (I hope that’s a correct translation? I’m just guessing after all.) I looked for Barth’s works at Amazon and they were way out of my price range, but you got me thinking, Pog, that maybe I could find this one paper on-line at least, and here it is: das Nichtige . AND it isn’t even long! :laughing:

Aargh! It isn’t Barth after all. It’s someone writing ABOUT Barth. :frowning: [tag]pog[/tag] do you have a source? I’m finding it in German, but not in English.

I fail to see how millions of years of hurricanes, death, etc. are evil. Humankind was safe from these things when he existed in the land of Eden. It wasn’t until they sinned that they were cast out of the land and the land became like the rest of creation. Before this time hurricanes and predators existed to glorify God. They didn’t sin for such things aren’t moral creatures. They just do what they were naturally designed to do. Even in the absence of sin the destructive forces show forth God’s power and divine nature. Such displays of power are very good because the animals, seas, sun, and moon don’t sin. God didn’t create sin. There is no such thing as natural evil.

Hi Cole, (Do you prefer to be called Michael or Cole, by the way?)

I agree that the things you mentioned don’t sin and that God doesn’t sin. ‘Sin’ would be a form of “moral evil”—natural evil is the suffering, pain and death we see in our lives and the world around us that is not due to a moral agent—in other words, things like the suffering we see in the animal world, death and destruction from things like tsunamis and hurricanes, and plagues and disease like cancer. The 'Problem of Evil" is that a good God would not be expected to allow such things and the discussion here is to try and explain why He might allow them. What good reason might he have for these things existing?