Chris Hallquist has written “An Open Letter to Religious Believers on God and Evil.” His purpose is not to call forth all the arguments and counter-arguments that have been constructed by philosophers. Instead, he wants to know: What do believer really think about God and evil? What do they really feel about it?
Hallquist doesn’t say that suffering is a decisive disproof of God. Rather, he just doesn’t get how some people can think the following thought:
An all powerful God who loves us all might well have allowed a five-year-old girl to be raped, beaten, and strangled to death.
Or think of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed and slowly murdered over the course of more than 30 minutes. Her neighbors watched and listened to her screams. None of them intervened, and none of them even called the police until the very end. We do not excuse these bystanders by saying that if they intervened they would have interfered with the attacker’s free will. And yet believers think God acts just as these bystanders did, thousands of times a day all around the world. And yet God is supposed to be the paragon of morality.
Hallquist is not looking for a debate. He just wants to understand. He’s heard the usual responses, but they don’t make any sense to him.
Hallquist wants to know: How could anyone believe that an all-powerful God who loves everyone would allow a five year old girl to be raped, beaten, and strangled to death?
Or, more clearly:
When you ask yourself ‘Would an all-powerful, loving God have prevented the murder of the little girl described in the example above?’ is your first inclination to say ‘yes’? If so, do you think ‘yes’ is ultimately the right answer, or do you change your mind and say ‘no’ on reflection? If the latter, why is it that you change your mind?
Perhaps believers are inclined to think that an all-powerful, perfectly loving God would not allow a little girl to be raped and killed. But then they realize this means an all-powerful, perfectly loving God doesn’t exist. But they have independent reasons to think such a God exists, and so they conclude that their moral judgment of the situation is wrong. It really is good for God to be a bystander to so many horrors, and we just don’t have the perspective to see why it is good for him to do so.
Or perhaps there is some other kind of reasoning.
Well, I’m curious as well. So for the moment let’s put away our Plantingan apologetics and take a look at how believers really think about the problem of God and evil. How does it work for you? How do you approach the issue? What makes sense to you?