The problem of evil (POE) is not just a problem for Christians; it is a problem for everyone. I do not mean by this that every worldview needs to reconcile the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful God and evil. Rather, I mean that everyone, regardless of their worldview, must give an account for the existence of pain and suffering. This is not an attempt to dodge the objection. It is simply a point of fact that each person should be able to give some explanation of pain and suffering from within their respective worldview.
Therefore, looking at the problem of evil from a worldview perspective we can frame the discussion by means of two questions:
1. Which worldview best accounts for the existence of evil?
2. Which worldview offers the best solution to evil?
It is when we begin to compare and contrast Christianity with other belief systems in light of these questions that the superiority of the Christian worldview becomes evident.
For example, what can atheistic materialism say in response to the existence of pain and suffering? More specifically, can atheistic materialism offer a better account for the existence of evil, as well as a solution, when compared with Christian theism? These questions seem to be relevant given that atheists and skeptics are those most often complaining about the POE.
Regarding the origin of evil, it seems all the atheist can say is “Evil just is.” Nature is red in tooth and claw. Evil is nothing but matter in motion, the same as goodness. How do objective moral values, good and evil, arise from matter, chance, and time? While Christians need to reconcile God and evil, the atheist must not only deal with their own problem of evil but also the problem of goodness, i.e., reconciling the existence of objective moral values with a materialistic universe. Richard Dawkins has stated,
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.
If atheistic materialism is true, it seems all the atheist can say is that life is filled with gratuitous and unredeemable suffering…and then you die. There is no ultimate justice, let alone ultimate meaning, purpose, or value in life. But this can hardly be considered a solution of any sort. In terms of worldview thinking, it is difficult to see how atheistic materialism can offer any consolation in the face of pain and suffering.
As another example, how do Eastern religions deal with pain and suffering? For Hindus evil is maya, an illusion. Evil is not real. People suffer because of injustices performed in past lives (karmic debt). Therefore, suffering should not be alleviated since this would interfere with the karmic cycle and bring bad karma on the one attempting to aid the sufferer. This position prevents compassion and morally obligatory action in the face of horrendous evil.
What about Christianity? Christianity does not conclude that “evil just is” nor that evil is an illusion. As Augustine argued, evil can be explained in part as the deprivation (or privation) of good. Evil is what ought not to be. Christian theism can account for both the origin and existence of evil since it teaches there is a part of reality which is non-physical. Furthermore, since evil is not some “thing” but rather the privation of good, God is not the direct creator of evil. Rather, evil came as a result of free beings using their free will badly. Christian philosophers and theologians throughout the centuries have offered numerous defenses in light of the problem of evil, arguing that God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing the pain and suffering that He does. Some of these defenses include the free will defense and the soul-building theodicy.
In short, an all-loving, all-powerful God can allow evil so long as He has a morally sufficient reason for doing so. While Christians may not be able to answer why God allows each and every particular instance of pain and suffering, there is no logical contradiction between the existence of evil and an all-loving, all-powerful God. Furthermore, the Christian message of God incarnate entering His creation and suffering in our place so we may have the hope of eternity makes these slight and momentary afflictions of no comparison to the eternal weight of glory that awaits us (2 Cor. 4:17). Those who reject God because of evil are rejecting the only One who can redeem evil and suffering for good. Randy Alcorn summarizes the Christian position this way:
The Bible never sugarcoats evil…The Christian worldview concerning this central problem is utterly unique. When compared to other belief systems, it is singularly profound, satisfying, and comforting….I’m convinced that Christianity’s explanation of why evil and suffering exist beats that of any worldview. Its explanation of why we can expect God to forever deliver His redeemed people from evil and suffering is better still. The answers revealed in Scripture not only account for how the world is, they offer the greatest hope for where the world is headed.
 Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), 133 (my italics).
 Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 246.
 Randy Alcorn, If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2009), 21, 35.