Why does a good God allow suffering?

To begin to address this issue, I would like to take an excerpt from a debate a while ago.  In this debate Dr. Craig addresses some key points.

Taken from the William Lane Craig – Christopher Hitchens Debate at Biola “Does God Exist?”


AUDIENCE MEMBER 4: For Dr. Craig, what do you think about Epicurus’ argument that if God is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, if He knows about kids in Africa, like, that are born with, like, AIDS, what do you think about Him suggesting—like Him not intervening and Him not changing that fact. That’s a question that I’ve always struggled with so I’m just wondering, like, could you expand on that and I’d also like your input on it.

William Lane Craig’s response:

“…the atheist would have to show that it is logically impossible for God to have morally sufficient reasons for permitting the evil and suffering in the world and no atheist has ever been able to do that. So, that the logical version of this problem, I think, is widely recognized to have failed. Those atheists who still press the problem therefore press it as a probabilistic argument. They try to say that, given the evil in the world, it’s improbable that God exists, not impossible but improbable. Well, again, the difficulty there is that the atheist has to claim that if God did exist then it is improbable that he would permit the evil and suffering in the world. And how could the atheist possibly know that? How could the atheist know that God would not, if He existed, permit the evil and suffering in the world. Maybe He’s got good reasons for it. Maybe, like in Christian theism, God’s purpose for human history is to bring the maximum number of people freely into his kingdom to find salvation and eternal life and how do we know that that wouldn’t require a world that is simply suffused with natural and moral suffering. It might be that only in a world like that the maximum number of people would freely come to know God and find salvation. So the atheist would have to show that there is a possible world that’s feasible for God which God could’ve created that would have just as much salvation and eternal life and knowledge of God as the actual world but with less suffering. And how could the atheist prove such a thing? It’s sheer speculation. So the problem is that, as an argument, the Problem of Evil makes probability judgments which are very, very ambitious and which we are simply not in a position to make with any kind of confidence. Now, I recognize that that philosophical response to the question doesn’t deal with the emotional problem of evil and I think that for most people, this isn’t really a philosophical problem, it’s an emotional problem. They just don’t like a god who would permit suffering and pain in the world so they turn their backs on him. What does Christianity have to say to this problem? Well, I think it has a lot to say. It tells us that God is not some sort of an impersonal ground of being or an indifferent tyrant who folds his arms and watches the world suffer. Rather, He is a god who enters into human history in the person of Jesus Christ and what does He do? He suffers. On the cross, Christ bore a suffering of which we can form no conception. Even though He was innocent, He bore the penalty of the sins of the whole world. None of us can comprehend what He suffered. And I think when we contemplate the cross of Christ and His love for us and what He was willing to undergo for us, it puts the problem of suffering in an entirely different perspective. It means, I think, that we can bear the suffering that God calls upon us to endure in this life with courage and with optimism for an eternal life of unending joy beyond the grave because of what Christ has done for us and He will give us, I think, the courage and the strength to get through the suffering that God calls upon us to bear in this life. So, whether it’s an emotional issue or intellectual issue I think ultimately Christian theism can make sense out of the suffering and evil in the world.”


I have another point to make I’ll include on the next post regarding evil and suffering in the world.