In considering that the principles of a religion are generally founded within a god or entity that created everything, is responsible for everything, and is capable of everything, it is easy to believe that this god would either not allow evil or also be responsible for its presence. After all, according to Seeskin (1982) followers are taught that nothing can happen without it being in accordance with the plan of a god. More specifically, for the purpose of this research, this author will address the existence of God in the Christian sense who is considered to be an omniscient power who knows all, sees all, and anticipates all.
Therefore, it is assumed that God not only allows evil but also, to some extent, controls it. However, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, there are various ways that the presence of evil has been explained without laying direct or indirect blame on God for this presence. As the opinions of scholars and theologies vary greatly on this matter, it is important to look at the presence of evil in a good God’s world through the lenses of both the possibility that evil is a separate entity and that God allows a evil through the establishment of free will.
The first thing that is important to establish in relation to the presence of evil in a godly world is the definition of gods as it applies to a multitude of religions. According to Teehan (2013), gods are supernatural beings that impact the morals of humanity. However, it is noted that not all of these impacts are necessarily for the betterment of what is traditionally considered to be moral. Teehan (2013) specifically notes that “given this definition, even malicious spirits can be morally-relevant” (pg. 327). This means that, it is possible that an evil or malicious supernatural being could impact the morals of humanity and would therefore be defined as a god or at the very least, a separate entity from what is traditionally considered to be a god of morals.
However, in a more monotheist approach to God, scholars and followers alike recognize that “God is responsible for everything which happens because nothing can happen without His consent” (Seeskin, 1982, pg. 202). Therefore, there is the question as to how evil can exist without God’s consent and, if He does consent to this existence, what is the reasons behind this in an otherwise good God. In other words, why does God allow evil and did He create this presence as well? According to Williams (2013) the answers to these questions can be simplified through the gift of free will that was granted to humanity by God. Through free will, it is meant that people, although demanded of God to act in a way that is moral, have the right to decide whether or not they will meet this demand based on their own choices in life. This shows that God does not specifically allow evil but rather, as a gift which was meant to represent freedom and compassion, God allows individuals to choose to be evil.
However, this appears to be a situation whereas God allows evil but the followers forgive him through placing the blame of these acts of evil on the individuals through their own free will. Critics of religion question how God can simply allow evil and not prevent these acts since He is in control of everything. Williams (2013) explains free will even further in order to explain this scenario. First, Williams (2013) gives the account of St. Augustine who suggest that “evil is not a force on its own with an independent existence, but that it is a parasite living off of the good” (pg. 13). Williams (2013) then explained that, without free will, people could only think about what it is to be good rather than to actually act upon the notion. The same is true of evil. The only way to allow people to do good without simply floating through life was to offer free will. Unfortunately, free will also allows the decision to perform acts of evil. This left God to decide whether or not to allow evil as a possibility in order to allow for goodness in the general population of humanity.
Granted, it could be said that God could simply stop all acts of evil. God could manage to foresee these acts and place hindrances in the pathway of evil in order to save the suffering of the rest of humanity who is utilizing their gift of free will in order to do acts of kindness and follow the demands of God. Seeskin (1982) states that this question comes from mankind’s need to see religion through the eyes of a theological standpoint using words such as omnipotence but reminds the readers that the Bible was not established using modern words nor modern concepts. God created everything as is established in the Bible, but it does not specifically state that it is in His wishes to control everything. Mankind needs to feel that someone or something else is in complete control of everything. However, this is not the same thing as being a part of everything. God is a part of evil as He chose to give mankind free will and He is a part of the healing process when acts of evil cause the suffering of His people. Yet, God cannot prevent evil without also preventing acts of goodness in a world that could use so much more of these acts.