If God is good, why does He allow suffering? And if He is all-powerful, why does He not put an end to sinful actions and natural catastrophes? Thinking Christians face these troubling questions. And many opponents of Christianity also challenge believers with these queries.
Well-known author Geisler deals with this problem of evil in a profound, thorough, and concise way. After the introductory chapter on three views of evil (pantheism, atheism, and theism), Geisler devotes one chapter to each of these topics: the nature of evil, the origin of evil, the persistence of evil, the purpose of evil, the avoidability of evil, the problem of physical evil, miracles and evil, the problem of eternal evil (hell), and the fate of those who have never heard the gospel.
In typical Geisler fashion he argues against false views and supports his views by using syllogisms. An example is on page 46: (1) An all-good God must have a good purpose for everything. (2) But there is no good purpose for some suffering. (3) Hence there cannot be an all-good God. Geisler acknowledges that the second premise seems to be a problem for theism. Yet the fact that people do not know the purpose(s) for evil does not mean there is no purpose (pp. 46–47).
In responding to the “better-world” argument, Geisler notes that “God is not producing or promoting evil . . . to attain a good end. He is permitting” evil (p. 69).
In chapter 7 Geisler gives ten responses to the problem of physical evil: (1) Some physical evil is directly self-inflicted. (2) Some physical evil is an indirect result of free choice. (3) Some physical evil is the direct result of the free choices of others. (4) Some physical evil is the indirect result of the free choices of others. (5) Some physical evil is the byproduct of a good process. (6) Some physical evil is necessary for the greater physical good. (7) Some physical evil is needed for a greater moral good. (8) Some physical evil may be inflicted by God’s justice in punishing evil actions. (9) Some physical evil is a result of Adam’s free choice. (10) Some physical evil is a result of evil spirit beings.
Chapter 8 gives an excellent discussion on why God does not miraculously intervene more often. Chapter 10 asks, “How can God be all-loving if He condemns people to eternal hell who have not even had a chance to hear the plan of salvation?” (p. 118). He gives four answers: (1) Everyone has general revelation in nature. (2) No one can be saved apart from Christ. (3) Everyone who seeks God finds God. (4) God has many ways to get the message to those who seek Him (pp. 118–21).
In the second of three appendixes Geisler discusses evidences for the existence of God. And appendix 3 is an insightful critique of the popular book The Shack, by William P. Young (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2008), in which Geisler points out fourteen doctrinal errors in the book.
This concise but thorough book gives succinct, provocative answers by an outstanding apologist to one of the most disturbing questions faced by both Christians and non-Christians.