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Hamartiology: the Problem of Evil (Theodicy)

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THEO 202-B17

Hamartiology: The Problem of Evil (Theodicy) You would have to ask yourself, why does a God who is all-loving and all-powerful, allow evil to exist in a world that was divinely created by Him? Because when you ponder the problem of evil, it is the most obvious and serious challenge to belief (Faith) in God and His existence, which is why religious scholars have dedicated so much effort towards resolving it.
Elwell states, “The phrase ‘the problem of evil’ is a label for a series of such problems involving good and evil.”[1] But the problem with evil is if an omnipotent and omniscient God exists, then there should be no reason God would tolerate such pain and suffering. Evil acts, thoughts, and words will always separate us from God, which was established from the beginning with Adam and Eve. Isaiah 59:2 says “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.”[2] This is the only thing that separates us from God and causes Him to turn His face away from men. However, evil would have never existed had Adam and Eve not sinned and opened the door for it to enter the world upon all men (Romans 5:12).[3] The resolution then is to be united back to God, who is the source of eternal life, through His Son Jesus, (1 Jn.5:20; Jn.17:2-3). The biggest problem today, among believers and non-believers, is that they are blinded to what evil is and what it does (2 Cor.4:4). And according to Elwell, philosophers and theologians recognize two kinds of evil: moral and natural. Moral evil stems from human actions such as bullying, murder, rape, theft or terrorism. Natural evil occurs as a consequence of nature such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, diseases, and so on. But sometimes the two are intermingled, such as when flooding results in loss of human life due to poor planning or cheap construction of buildings. The Word of God informs us that while it is important to remember that “evil” is a cause of suffering and “suffering” is a result of evil, God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who, by their wickedness, prevent the truth from being known, (Romans 1:18). In the beginning, God endowed Adam and Eve with emotion, intellect and a free will to either obey or disobey, and as we know it according to Genesis 3, they chose to go against the will of God. Through their free act of will, and by divine imputation, sin entered into the human race among all mankind, men and women alike. Spiritual deprivation was the result after the fall and “additionally, the image of God in man survives (Genesis 9:6), reason has lost its soundness (2 Cor. 4:4); the will no longer is free to choose God and the good (John 8:34), and sinners are spiritually blind (1 Cor. 2:14), and dead (Eph. 2:1, 5).”[4] God also cursed the ground that resulted in poor cultivation efforts, exacting toil and sweat to make it produce,” [5] and the result are natural disasters such as earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, poor harvests, and drought’s, river pollutions and so on. Theodicy must be consistent. If a contradiction can be found in the system the existence of God himself can be disproved. So six points relative to theodicy were pointed out by Elwell, “the logical consistency of a theological position, the relevant to the problem of evil it addresses, a relevance to the specific theology it addresses, is intellectually interesting only for theologies that incorporate a notion of God’s omnipotence according to which he may do any logically consistent thing, most adopt a particular axiom with regard to moral agency and moral blameworthiness, and finally most attempt to resolve the apparent contradiction by arguing, that God, in spite of his omnipotence, cannot remove evil.”[6] By using these six, points, you can help your theodicy to remain internally consistent, which is significant because without doing so would allow for mistakes. I know that a personal experience with evil can hinder one’s relationship with God because suffering comes upon us all. The Word of God (1 Peter 4:12), tells us, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to test you, as though some strange thing happened unto you.” When evil comes we tend to ask the question, “Why me Lord?” questioning God’s authority, which can cause doubt and unbelief in the relationship a person has with God. But if a person spends quality time in Scripture, the stories would inspire the oppressed and unbelievers. Joseph envisioned evil used for good by God (Gen. 50:20). David encouraged himself in God during trials (Ps. 18:6). A person seeking to dispute a belief about God can only do so if the theodicy accurately portrays God.[7] Because theodicies are concepts of human perception, it is possible to attack or deny a theodicy without denying or attacking the attribute or the existence of God. As Daniel Howard-Snyder points out, “the problem of evil is thus a problem only for “the theist who finds all its premises and inferences compelling and who has lousy grounds for believing theism”; but if one has more compelling grounds for theism, then the problem of evil “is not a problem.”[8] So when we comprehend Jesus’ sacrifice and love for us, this puts the problem of evil in an entirely different perspective, because we can see that the true problem of evil is the problem of our own sinful behaviors.
Word count: 921
[1] Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001).

[2] John F. MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible. NASB Version (Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006).

[3] Elmer L. Towns, “Hamartiology” Theology for Today, (Mason: Cengage Learning, 2002).

[4] Ibed., 436. [5] Ibed., 436. [6] Ibed., 1184-85. [7] Ibed. [8] Daniel Howard-Snyder, “Introduction,” in The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1996), p.xi.

Daniel Howard-Snyder, “Introduction,” in The Evidential Argument from Evil, ed. Daniel Howard-Snyder (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1996), p.xi.

Elwell, Walter A., “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition,” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001).

MacArthur, John F. “The MacArthur Study Bible”. NASB Version (Thomas Nelson: La Habra, 2006).

Towns, Elmer L. “Hamartiology,” Theology for Today”. (Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008, 2002).

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