Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Problem of Evil

My article, "Addressing the Problem of Evil," first published in The Christian Research Journal, is now on line. I have a chapter on this in my forthcoming book, Christian Apologetics (IVP, August, 2011, we hope).


John said...

Hope there will be a Kindle edition of your upcoming book!

Douglas Groothuis said...

InterVarsity will control that. I imagine there will be.

The Atheist Missionary said...

Professor, the only problem with your argument is that it works just as well in reverse. Have you read Stephen Law's paper on this issue? It can be accessed here:

I would be interested to know your reaction to the evil-god challenge.

Douglas Groothuis said...

I have published on the absurd idea of an evil God previously in Philosophia Christi. I also take it up in my forthcoming book, Christian Apologetics. Good is primary; evil is a defection from the God. No being that is all-powerful and all-knowing could be evil, since there is no possibility of defect. That is the short version. Swinburne also defends this idea, although his metaphysics of God is somewhat different. I hold that God's existence is logically necessary (ala Anselm); Swinburne does not.

Constantine said...

Dr. Groothuis,

I am greatly interested in the problem you deal with in your article and your upcoming book. Thank you for that. However, I wonder if you solution doesn't prove too much.

When you write, for example,

“While the reason for many particular evils may be opaque or unknowable to us, these evils are not gratuitous or pointless. On the contrary, they are employed by God to bring about good outcomes that would not otherwise be possible. For example, a world fraught with risk makes courage and heroism possible.”

While I understand your first sentence as being in concord with the Bible (Isaiah 48:1, as an example) the second is more difficult. And the reason, I suppose, is that it posits an understanding of God's final purposes which are unknowable to man(see, Isaiah 48:11 here). If God's Word through Isaiah has any meaning it would seem that we cannot know what “otherwise would (not) be possible.”

Beyond that, it seems that this may have some fairly serious apologetic ramifications. For example, what kind of a God has to resort to evil to do good? If, in fact He is all-powerful, why couldn't He just do good to do good? Why is it that your God can only create a desired outcome from one evil possibility?

Another leading Christian philosopher notes that the extent of our knowledge is: 1. God exists, 2. God is good, and 3. evil exists. And, to borrow Calvin's phrase, that may be the boundary of our “learned ignorance”.

I'll be anxious to read your book. Your comments are appreciated. Blessings to you in the New Year.


Unknown said...


Good question. I've been thinking about that problem for several years now. I can't speak for Dr. Groothius, but as for me, I'd say this.

God does not HAVE to allow evil to achieve good, BUT it is a more marvelous display to show how even the worst kinds of evil can be redeemed through transcendent goods where heaven, fellowship with God, victory over sin,final justice, renewed heaven and earth, etc. provide such an overwhelmingly grand "end" that even the worst evil's this world has seen fail to count against the great meaningfulness of the final eschaton.

Put more simply, God's grandeur is more gloriously displayed by achieving victory--with (so to speak) one arm tied behind his back, down by 42 points, in the fourth quarter. He steals victory from the teeth of evil thus displaying for the world to see how far superior he is that he does not have to "go around" evil he can plow right through to achieve his great and glorious ends.