It seems that ordinary people and philosophers are never able to understand how evil can exist in a world created by God. God is love in most people’s minds. He is a figure that exists to promote life in every way. That God would allow evil to exist, then, makes no sense to many. Philosophers like John Hick sometimes provide an answer, however. Hick’s belief is that evil is a part of God’s greater plan. Through evil and by how people react to it, there are then opportunities for goodness to arise. In Hick’s thinking, evil is a tool people may use to develop moral qualities. Evil then has a purpose in the design of God.
The problem with this thinking is that it attaches a human quality to God. It gives God an agenda that human beings can understand because it is a plan that makes sense in human terms. This is the real issue at the heart of any discussion about evil and God coexisting. More exactly, those who struggle with it are unable or unwilling to accept the larger reality that God is beyond our powers of comprehension. It is strange, in fact, that the same people who see God as all-powerful and capable of anything still seek to view Him in strictly human terms. This is understandable in a sense. We can only consider what it is we are capable of conceiving. Then, there is a great reliance on the Bible, which presents a God who moves and speaks in very human ways. It seems that humanity has made God in its own image, not to be disrespectful, but to be able to accept the idea of Him. However, this is where human beings must get lost, because there can be no way of knowing the designs of anything that is so obviously beyond us. Viewing God in human terms is helpful in small ways. It allows for making ethical choices based on a simple idea of the good God wants humans to express and be. To carry this into questioning the nature of evil itself, however, is mankind going far beyond its abilities. The God who is seen as somehow human is then revealed as the God who cannot be, because even He then contradicts the messages believed of Him.
Hick’s ideas are not wrong in any moral sense. The problem with them is that they place God in the position of being something of a “boss” or teacher. They “create” a God who completely fits into human reasoning. He allows evil to exist and human beings become good by fighting it. This then inverts the reality. In plain terms, there can be no way for any human being to comprehend the will of God beyond the basic instructions passed down through the ages and accepted as Christian values. We can only do what we can, and this is not an excuse to ignore evil. Rather, it means that we must accept God as having reasons or power we can never comprehend. In accepting this, then, we actually accept the totality of God. It is interesting, again, that those who most insist on the omnipotence of God are often those who most insist on its being an omnipotence that makes sense to us.
There can be, then, no contradiction between the existence of evil and God when this reality is accepted. We may think we know what evil is, as we believe we are right to fight it, and we have good reason to feel and act this way. Evil is harmful, and Christians operate from a desire to prevent harm and pain. What God wants, however, is simply not for us to say. The nature of the unknowable is exactly that, and God is unknowable. It may be that He does allow evil to test or develop us, and that is not a bad way to live. At the same time, His will may be operating from a different concept no human can possibly appreciate, and this is the most likely answer when we are dealing with the creator of the universe and all of life.