How not to answer the question of evil

Here is Voddie Baucham¬†Jr.‘s treatment of the question of evil:

A couple of things need to be observed here:

  1. Voddie completely dodges the question.
  2. Voddie turns the question around to be about the questioner.
  3. Voddie derides the questioner by assaulting their intelligence (his preamble regarding first year philosophy students is not only uncalled for but a clear appeal to authority, namely his own)

Man does not put God under a standard by asking the question. The problem with Voddie’s approach, which seems typical for most Calvinists, is that it attempts to avoid the real and serious question by attempting to turn it around to be all about the questioner. This attempt at trivializing a weighty subject is the paramount of both arrogance and ignorance in my estimation.

The issue is this: If God causally directs all events “for His glory” as men like John Piper have often claimed in the past, then

  1. How can we say that evil really exists (since all things are causally directed by God)
  2. How can we hold any other creature accountable for something they have no causal control over (beating a dead horse is the phrase that comes to mind here) and
  3. How are we to make sense of God claiming to be at war with something he secretly causes to bring about his ends.

You see, none of the above issues..

  1. ..depend on a standard of holiness that is independent of God (though I’m sure you’ll take the time honored tradition of redefining words in a desperate attempt to further weasel out of this problem) or
  2. ..have anything to do with the questioner, these issues would still exist even if all men (and angels) were wiped out in the next instant.

As one person pointed out in an earlier conversation regarding this issue. This does not have to be an issue that does great damage to Calvinism. Afterall, many Calvinists like Alvin Plantinga have long since accepted the fact that only by upholding the limited freedom of other causal agents such as men and angels, as the Bible clearly teaches, can we avoid the horrible implications raised in a causally closed universe. However this is a very damaging challenge against a particular brand of hyper-Calvinism which depends on a causally deterministic view of God in relation to His creation.

For any answer to the problem of evil to be considered even remotely good it needs to satisfy the following criteria:

  1. It needs to recognize the pain and suffering in the universe.
  2. It needs to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of the question. Flippant appeals to sovereignty, mankind’s depravity, or anything else simply will not do here.
  3. It needs to actually show how it is logically possible for evil to exist in a world created and sustained by an thrice holy God. This means showing both
    1. How evil can even exist and
    2. How God is truly separated from that evil

For a good example of how to answer the question of evil I recommend this material from Dr Little, this debate between Michael Brown and Bart Ehrman, and this lecture by Dr William Lane Craig.

Now because I don’t want you to form the opinion that all of Voddie’s material is worthless. Here is an excellent clips of him dealing with the issue of marriage and how men ought to love their wives:


4 responses to “How not to answer the question of evil

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How not to answer the question of evil | Reason To Stand --

  2. Great post here, Wes! I think your observations are very astute. I think that Vodie's content in the video is valuable, but not in this case. He shouldn't use it to answer the problem of evil, but to present the amazing picture of God's grace and mercy to sinful people. Vodie is a pastor, not a philosopher, and Calvinists all over the place would do well to do a little philosophical digging when it comes to the POE.

  3. While Voddie's point isn't a thorough examination of theodicy, his point must, from the perspective of this disciple, be part of the explanation. Evil is not a natural part of this world, but the result of people who violate God's moral standards. It's easy to suggest that God MUST deal with the evil "out there", but most of those who complain about the evil "out there" want to ignore the evil lurking in their own hearts. We want judgment for others and mercy for ourselves…and, until we're willing for God to deal with our own evil, it's inappropriate to suggest that He must deal with the evil in others.

    In other words: I think his answer is right on target, even if it's incomplete.

    • Tony, that might work if he were addressing an atheist or non-Christian in the scenario he uses as the backdrop of his talk. However that isn't the case. He is addressing a Christian who, after examining the issue, comes to the conclusion that there are logical contradictions inherent within the theological system that men like Voddie promote. However, rather than address those issues, Voddie attacks the questioner. No matter how you slice it, an ad-hominim answer (which is what this is) is a sign of a poor foundation.

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