Christians often muse how different it would now be had Adam and Eve not tasted fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Had they not succumbed to this temptation, they could have dwelled perhaps forever in that idyllic garden of Eden created for them by the Lord God. Alas, such thoughts are no more than wishful thinking. Neither Adam and Eve, nor it seems, anyone since them has been able to exercise such stringent self restraint, nor avoided suffering the consequences. Who is to be blamed? Should we fault Eve alone, or Adam as well? Or, does every individual who subsequently erred bear responsibility? Or perhaps we should accuse the serpent? Certainly this third option is most tempting, because it frees us of personal guilt,. But beware of temptation! Behind this serpentine allurement lies a deadly trap which may severely test our faith. For if we blame the serpent we may as well blame the serpent’s master. And, having gone so far, we may as well ask why an all-knowing and all-loving God made such a crafty creature at all. With full knowledge of human foibles, why did God set in motion such a doomed cause-and-effect situation which has led today to “suffering, inequality and injustice, disaster and death,” in short to the “human hurt and wickedness that confronts us on every hand?” To continue on such questioning may even lead one to doubt the very existence of God. Yet human reason impels those thirsting for the truth to seek answers to these questions. Those who take such risk may find the tender creepers of their devotion strengthened by the ordeal that reason demands.
Let us join M. Peterson, et al as they explore these issues in Chapter 6 of Reason and Religious Belief. We shall examine the logical and evidential forms of the problem of evil, and the typical theistic approaches to theodicy. Finally, we will look at the ancient texts of India which may help Christians and those of other persuasions to reconcile the reality of evil with the existence of God.
Any precise definition of evil will tend to favor one particular theory of evil over another. To avoid such prejudice, we may specify two broad categories of evil: moral evil and natural evil. Moral evil includes the wrongful acts and bad character traits of free human beings, while natural evil covers the physical pain and suffering resulting from either impersonal forces or human actions. With these commonsense notions in mind, let us now proceed to compare and contrast the logical and evidential problems of evil.