(from Bakerís Encyclopedia of
Christian Apologetics, Baker, 1999)
No evil is good, but some evil has a good purpose.
Warning pains for example are painful, but there painfulness has a
good purpose. Of course, not all evil seems to be of this type. What,
then, of evil which seems to have no good purpose? The problem can be
summarized as follows:
1. An all-good God must have a good purpose for
2. There is no good purpose for some suffering.
3. Therefore, there cannot be an all-good God.
It seems evident that there is useless suffering in
the world. Some people get better through suffering, but others get
bitter. Broken bones are stronger when they heal, but some never heal.
Many die. What about all the purposeless evil in the world?
The theistic answer to apparently purposeless evil
is fourfold. First, God has a good purpose for everything. Second, we
do know a good purpose for much evil. Third, some evil is a byproduct
of good. Fourth, God is able to bring good out of evil
God Has a Good Purpose for Everything.
The antitheist overlooks an important distinction:
God knows a good purpose for all evil, even if we do not. Simply
because finite minds cannot conceive of a good purpose for some evil
does not mean that there is none. Since God is omniscient, he knows
everything. And since he is omnibenevolent, he has a good purpose for
everything. Hence, God does know a good purpose for all evil, even if
we do not know it:
1. An omnibenevolent God has a good purpose for
2. There is some evil for which we see no good
3. Therefore, there is a good purpose for all evil,
even if we do not see it.
The fact that finite beings donít see the purpose
for some evil does not mean there is none. This inability to see the
purpose for evil does not disprove Godís benevolence; it merely
reveals our ignorance.
The purpose for much evil is known by us.
In spite of the fact that we do not know everything,
we do know something. And what we do know is that there is a good
purpose for much evil. Warning pains have a good purpose. In fact, the
ability to have pain has a good purpose. For if we had no nervous
system we could destroy ourselves without even feeling any pain. Also,
physical pain can be a warning to save us from moral disaster. As C.
S. Lewis noted, pain is Godís megaphone to warn a morally deaf world.
And if we as finite beings know a good purpose for much evil, then
surely an infinite Mind can know a good purpose for the rest.
Evil sometimes is a byproduct of a good purpose.
Not every specific evil needs a good purpose. Some
evil can simply be a necessary byproduct of a good purpose. The early
bird gets the worm, but the early worm gets eaten. What is life for
higher forms is death for lower forms.
Plants and animals die so that man may have
food to live. Thus, evil results indirectly from good because it is
the consequence of a good purpose. Hence, the response may be put this
1. God has a good purpose for everything he does.
2. Some good purposes have evil byproducts.
3. Therefore, some evil is a byproduct of a good
Not every specific event in the world needs
to have a good purpose; only the general purpose needs to be
good. The blacksmith has a good purpose for hammering the molten iron
into a horseshoe. However, not every spark that flies has a purpose
for its destiny. Some sparks may ignite unintended fires. Likewise,
God had a good purpose for creating water (to sustain life), drowning
is one of the evil byproducts. Thus, every specific drowning needs to
have a good purpose, even though making the water in which they drown
did. So many good things would be missed if God did not permit evil to
exist. Fire does not burn unless air is consumed. Neither just
retribution is inflicted nor patience is achieved, but for the evil of
God can bring good out of evil.
Of course, God is all-powerful and he is able to
redeem good even from evils. A drowning person may inspire acts of
bravery. Although sawdust is an unintended byproduct of making lumber,
it can be salvaged to make paper. Likewise, God in his providence is
able to redeem much (if not all) good out of the evil byproducts in
the world. God would in no wise permit evil to exist in his works
unless he were so almighty and so good as to produce good even from
That does not mean that this present world is the
best of all possible worlds. It means that God has made it the best
possible way to attain his ultimate goal of the greater good. God may
not always redeem good out of every evil byproduct in a fallen world.
This could be true in both the physical and the moral realm. Like
radioactive waste, some evil byproducts may resist reprocessing.
Indeed, in view of the second law of thermodynamics, the physical
world is decaying. But God has the power to recreate it (cf. 2 Peter
3:13). Human death can be overcome by resurrection (cf. Romans 8; 1
Corinthians 15). Neither of these is any problem for an omnipotent