The Problem of Evil

According to Millard Erickson’s massive volume, “Christian Theology,” the problem of evil in the world with respect to God’s benevolence, can be summarized by various themes (theodicies).

A popular pulpit answer to the existence of evil in the world is the theme of “Evil in General as the Result of Sin in General.”[1] In other words, there is evil in this world because this is a fallen world. Who has not heard this answer from a Christian at some time or another? Humans are not living in the same world that God originally created. Evil entered in and subsequently, tainted every aspect of it. What was once perfect is now imperfect. Even Paul tells us that nature itself waits in eager expectation for things to be put back as God created it (Romans 8:19). Therefore, suffering, pain, and evil are all inevitable consequences of living in such a broken world.

However, the theodicy that best attempts to rectify the dilemma of “God’s power, God’s goodness, and the presence of evil in the world”[2] (particularly as it involves those who are critical of the Christian faith) is; “Evil as a Necessary Accompaniment of the Creation of Humanity.”[3] This theme supersedes the previous one. In order for the world to be fallen, man had to sin. God created the perfect environment and then man sinned. As man was made impure, so was his environment.

The logical question then is: Why did God allow man to sin in the first place?

Erickson says, “For God to prevent evil, he would have had to make humanity other than it is.”[4] Other than it is—would be humanity without free will. Free will is a critical dimension of the human makeup. If God so chose, He could have made humans without free will. Yet the fact that man does have free will, shows that the way humans were made is perfect.

If God had denied man the option of personal choice, then man would cease to be man and would be… a robot; programmed to do this activity and to avoid that activity. As Erickson puts it, “For humans to be genuinely free, there has to be an option.”[5] Of course when there is an option, there is the possibility of error. With humans the possibility of error seems exponentially high.

Ultimately, a combination of various themes would most likely be the most beneficial in answering this dilemma. Is that cheating? Well, even Erickson concedes that a solution to this problem is “beyond human ability.”[6] He remarks that smartypantses* since the beginning of time have tried to crack this theological nut to no avail. Erickson notes, “We should not set our expectations too high in endeavoring to deal with the problem of evil.”[7]

* Erickson may not have used the term, “smartypantses”** per se. What he may have said was, “scholars,” but you get my drift.

** Smartypants is usually not in the plural, so I had to improvise.

[1] Millard L. Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013), 397.

[2] Ibid., 384.

[3] Ibid., 394.

[4] Ibid., 395.

[5] Ibid., 399.

[6] Ibid., 394.

[7] Ibid., 386.


Erickson, Millard J., Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.


Submitted to Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion of the course THEO 525: Systematic Theology.

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