I appreciate many of the arguments offered by the theists who commented. Many of them have merit. But at the risk of alienating my believing friends (something I seem to be doing a lot lately!), I must declare myself on the side of the skeptics here. If I had to choose a winner, it would be Psiloiordinary, and the skeptics who joined him. Of course, I disagree with where their arguments lead them. I am solidly in the theist camp. But the tone of some of my fellow theists on this topic, their dismissiveness of the problem, their lack of humility distress me. The problem of evil is, in my view, a significant challenge to theism, one that has lacked a satisfactory answer. Christians often object to theodicy itself (that is, the felt need to defend God), as a pointless, even presumptuous endeavor. “Who do we think we are to sit in judgment of God and his actions?” they ask. I’ve never accepted such an approach. It presumes that, though the Creator made us rational and moral beings, he expects that we will not use these faculties in our response to him. No, for me the problem of evil is a very real problem, one that cannot be dealt with easily. We owe it to a world of skeptics to offer our best answers with a high level of humility.
Many who have thought long and hard on this problem have come to similar conclusions. Because the problem of evil is a real problem to me, and to my faith, I have read a number of books on the subject, including The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, Unspeakable by Os Guinness, The Doors of the Sea by David Bentley Hart (which should be required reading by all who would engage in this debate!), and Is God to Blame by Gregory Boyd (which comes the closest to my own views). (I've also read the challenges of Richard Dawkins, and other atheists on the subject.) For the most part, the Christian authors above display a healthy tentativeness in their approach, and a humility in their tone befitting the issue at hand. There are no easy answers.
Having said that, I now propose to boldly lay out my own views on the problem of evil. I addressed these views briefly a year ago in a series of posts on this site. I will now resubmit them with more detail and elaboration. I will do this in a new series of posts. I will not defend or debate my thoughts as I present them. If readers have questions for clarification, I will be happy to respond. I will deal with reader objections only after I have finished the series. Fair enough?
I will begin shortly at an unlikely starting point: Jesus’ radical teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. Stay tuned ....