Editor’s Note: Three questions were submitted that are closely related to one another:
- How can evil exist when God is all powerful, all loving, all knowing?
- Why does God allow so much evil in our world?
- What’s the point of all this suffering?
These questions — and others like them — are the subject of a branch of theology called theodicy, which roughly means the effort to defend God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil.
The necessity of that effort grows, in large part, from the belief in God’s omnipotence — i.e., that God is all-powerful. If, indeed, God is all powerful, all loving, all knowing, then the presence of evil or suffering is perplexing and troubling. And the anguished cry of humans is likely to be something like: “God, why are you allowing this?”
But many theologians have suggested perhaps God is not all powerful in the sense of having all the power. Perhaps God’s creatures have some power and the freedom to exercise that power.
It could be, these theologians have proposed, that God seeks to guide and persuade God’s creatures to behave in a certain way, to make actual God’s will for them. But the creatures possess some power and some freedom. In a misuse of their freedom, the creatures to some degree or another reject God’s guidance. When the divine guidance is rejected to some degree or another, the result often takes the form of the suffering and the evil that we see in the world.
I have found this understanding of the relation of God to God’s creatures to be helpful. It preserves the belief in God’s power and love; it serves as a vindication of God’s justice; and it acknowledges the freedom of God’s creatures. It also provides a deeper and more profound meaning to the admonition to pray, “not my will, but thine be done.”
For a fuller and more systematic exploration of the concept of “divine persuasion,” you might try reading this book by Lewis Ford. It’s available online at: https://www.religion-online.org/book/the-lure-of-god-a-biblical-background-for-process-theism/