The problem of evil is a question that often comes up that deters some away from the existence of God. The question goes; if God is real, why is there so much evil and suffering in the world. It is difficult to reconcile a good God who is supposed to be the creator of all things as well as a God who is in full control along with a world where there is so much evil and suffering around. How can this be? How can God exist in a world such as ours, surely this would more reflect the absence of any all-powerful and loving God. Greek philosopher Epicurus poses the same question commonly known among philosophers as Epicurus Riddle:
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
Epicurus wonders, is God willing to prevent evil but is powerless to do so? This would make God powerless against evil, and if God was powerless against evil, how could he be God? Epicurus also wonders if God is able to prevent evil but choses not to, then surely this would make God himself evil. If God then is evil, he cannot be good and he wouldn’t be a God we would want to know. However, what if God was both able and willing to prevent evil and suffering? If this was so, why is there still evil and suffering in the world? This would mean God was unwilling to prevent it and if this was so, why would even call him God? Epicurus seems to wrap up all out modern thoughts on how can God exist when there is such evil in the world, or even, if God does exist, why doesn’t he stop all the evil in the world or even get rid of the evildoers.
Well, there is quite a simple answer to this question which leaves God both good and all powerful. Since God is God, would it be possible for God to create a world exactly as he wants it? Well, the immediate answer would be yes! Of course he could! However, what if God wanted man to have free will? The choice to choose? If God created a world that we expect of him, ie, a world without evil and suffering, wouldn’t it be necessary for us not to have the freedom to make decisions that would create evil and suffering? In order for the world to be without evil and suffering, free will must be taken out of the equation. God would have needed to create a perfect world with perfect people who can only choose good, in-fact, good would not be a choice, you would not have the choice to decide whether you believed in God or not, you would just have to believe.
God, however, did not choose to create a world without free will, God wanted man to have the freedom to choose yet man did not always make good choices. For example, right back in Genesis, God had instructed Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:16-17). God gave an instruction, however, God had also given Adam and Eve the freedom to choose whether or not to obey him and incidentally, they chose to disobey God and they ate from the tree which bought into the perfect world God had created evil and suffering. It was not of Gods doing, but mans.
Does this therefore mean that God cannot exist because evil is in the world or that God was powerless to prevent Adam and Eve eating from the tree? No, it means although God is all powerful and loving, he wanted man to have the choice to choose to obey him rather than force man to obey him. This is relevant even to this day, God wants us to choose him, God does not want to force that decision upon us. It was because of this disobedience right in the very beginning that man was separated from God because of Adam and Eves choice to sin. Adam and Eve enjoyed complete unity with God until that very moment when they chose to disobey and it was because of that choice that man is born separated from God, however, God made a way whereby man can once again be in perfect unity with him and that is though Jesus Christ suffering of the cross which He endured for us.
This shows that it is not Gods will for man to be separated from him nor is it his will for evil and suffering to be in the world, but as long as man has the freedom of the will to choose, there will be evil and suffering in the world, however, as we have seen, this is not a valid argument against Gods existence.