How can a good God allow so much evil and suffering? That’s a fair question. As a believer, I concede that it is the most powerful piece of evidence an atheist can advance in order to prove that God does not exist.
But what people who hold this view fail to realize is that it is based upon fallacious reasoning. Timothy Keller says it like this:
Tucked away within the assertion that the world is filled with pointless evil is a hidden premise, namely, that if evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless….Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one. Again, we see lurking within supposedly hard-nosed skepticism an enormous faith in one’ own cognitive faculties. If our minds can’t plumb the depths of the universe for good answers to suffering, well, then, there can’ be any! This is blind faith of a high order.
In his book, God, Freedom and Evil, Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga expands on this point with his free will defense, which argues that if if there is even a possibility that God has a good reason for permitting evil to exist, the argument against God from evil fails.
Indeed, it is presumptuous to assume that one’s finite mind ought to be able to understand every reason God might have for permitting evil and suffering. But what we can understand is that oftentimes trials and painful experiences end up providing us with insight, personal growth and success. Again, from Timothy Keller:
With time and perspective most of us can see good reasons for at least some of the tragedy and pain that occurs in life. Why couldn’t it be possible that, from God’s vantage point, there are good reasons for all of them?
Not only can trials and tribulations produce personal growth, but, more importantly, they can draw us closer to God. Christian philosopher William Lane Craig makes a cogent observation:
The purpose of human history is the kingdom of God. God’s desire is to draw freely as many people as He can into His everlasting Kingdom. It may well be the case that suffering is part of the means God uses to draw people freely into His Kingdom.
Amen! And when we get into His kingdom, every tear of sorrow we ever shed in the world will be washed away with tears of joy. The joy will be so immense that the pain and sorrow we experience in the world will seem utterly insignificant.
As Mother Teresa once observed,
In light of heaven, the worst suffering on earth, a life full of the most atrocious tortures on earth, will be seen to be no more than one night in an inconvenient hotel.