The Problem Of Evil Has Been Solved
BELIEVER: God is love. God is all-powerful and all-good.
NON-BELIEVER: But if God was all powerful and all good there would be no evil because if He was really all powerful he could destroy evil and if he was all good he would want to. Evil does exist therefore God cannot be all-powerful in which case he is finite and not God (finite theism). Or God is not all good in which case he is good and evil (cosmological dualism eg New Age, ying and yang, where good and evil are regarded as being equally ultimate).
BELIEVER: No, God does not create evil. Evil is the result of the abuse of free-will. God's love is so great that it produces everything that exists. Some of what God created is spiritual in nature (ie angels + humans). Being spiritual these creatures were created with intellect and free-will. God does not force any of His spiritual beings to love Him. He does not force angels or humans to do His will. God does not force us into Heaven. So, with this risk of making angels and humans free came the only 2 possible results: A) God's spiritual creatures would freely choose to do God's will and remain in paradise; OR B) they would freely choose not to do His will and so suffer disease, violence and death.
NON-BELIEVER: If God really did create everything then He must have created evil.
BELIEVER: When a person chooses against God they sin. Sin is a deliberate violation of God's law of love. The result of sin is evil. Evil is the absence of good. Had all angels and humans obeyed God there would be no evil. But, plan A did not happen because some angels and the first humans (of whom all other humans are related) sinned. But, even with plan B occurring, God still wins, because no matter how evil angels and humans become, God, who is all powerful and all loving, can extract good from evil. Remember, God did not create evil, evil occurred by the abuse of free-will. Since evil now exists, God will use it to bring about a greater good (Rom 8:28), greater than the evil that now exists.
NON-BELIEVER: How can God extract good from evil if evil is an absence of good?
BELIEVER: Because there is more than evil involved in the extraction process. Every thing God creates is good because it is God who creates it. But those of His creation who are created with free-will can become morally evil by their own choosing. It is really the good that remains, in spite of the evil, that God will extract.
NON-BELIEVER: What about the agonising, tortuous death of a child without pain-relief?
BELIEVER: If such a death was unfair, God would know it. Since God is Love, and He loves the child infinitely more than any of us could, we can reasonably hope that His infinite justice and mercy will somehow compensate for the apparent harshness of the child's horrendous death. What gives us reason to hope? Because God [Jesus] died an agonising, tortuous death without pain relief for that child. Suffering balances sin, it can become the energy that fills up the energy spilled away in sin; it can be applied for the benefit of others. Our difficulty with suffering is that we do not see the application God makes of it to the soul here and now and in the hereafter.
NON-BELIEVER: So, how does a Catholic deal with suffering?
BELIEVER: A Catholic sees not the problem of suffering but the meaning of it. A Catholic knows that there's nothing worse than wasted suffering. Consider the Crucifixion. God sends His only Son to die on the Cross in order to undo the work of Satan and to forgive all sin. In a very real sense the love He shows for us by dying on the Cross in such a horrible way is a greater sign of love than Him simply incarnating in a pre-Fall Earth. Many sick people become better people spiritually through their suffering. God will only bring about the absolute, ultimate good from all evil at the end of time because, before that, people will still be free to choose evil. But when Jesus comes in glory the forces of evil will be definitively overcome (1Cor15:28). Until that time, when bad things happen, we need only look at the Crucifix to solve the problem of evil. The only way to get rid of sin is to forgive it, as Jesus did on the Cross. The Crucifixion shows us how to deal with all the bad things that happen in life until the end of time. Jesus never gives any of us a cross that we can't carry. He didn't promise freedom from suffering, but He did promise that we would somehow never be overcome by it. Catholics trust Jesus. But then you'll probably ask: “WHERE EXACTLY DOES CHRISTIANITY SAY THAT WE WILL NEVER BE OVERCOME BY SUFFERING?” See 1Cor 10:13. The Bible assures us all that God never gives any of us a cross we cannot carry. Suffering happens, we can reject it completely and commit the sin of euthanasia, or we can moan about it and curse God, OR if we unite our suffering with Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross our suffering becomes a gift to God that helps save souls. Offering up our suffering to God for our own soul and those souls in most need of His mercy has enormous spiritual value. A suffering non-believer looks only in this life for an answer to suffering and finds none. A suffering believer, on the other hand, looks beyond this life for the meaning of suffering and finds a super-abundant answer in the crucifixion of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Sheed, Theology and Sanity; Sheen, audio-tape; Hahn, Faith and Reason; Watt, Heresies I Have Known.
* Please note that this text should be read in the context of the whole work and in recognition of the appropriate paragraphs of the Catechism of the Catholic Church highlighted in the index.