Tuesday, January 12, 2021

High School Youth Group, January 10th -- The Catholic Response to Atheism, Session 9 -- The Problem of Evil or the Problem of Good (Father Ryan Erlenbush, Corpus Christi Parish)

One of the common objections to the existence of God is that, if there were a good God then he would not allow so much evil in the world.  The Catholic response is that God only allows evil to bring good out of it. Indeed, the real question is not "why is there evil in the world?" but "why is there so much good?" - and the answer is, God.

Listen online [here]!


High School Youth Group – Fall 2020 – The Catholic Response to Atheism

January 10th  - Session 9 – Creation and Evolution

“The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God.”  -Psalm 13:1



I. Calendar: Classes continue until May 2nd. No class on March 7th, 28th, and April 8th.


II.  Review of where we are in our course

A. We discussed the “proofs for God’s existence”

B. Replied to the “God of the Gaps” objection – coming from modern science

C. Now, we will look to the problem of evil, and then in mid-February will discuss the Trinity.



III. The Problem of Evil

A. The objection: “It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word "God" means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.”  (Objection in Summa Theologica I, q.2, a.3)


B. The reply: “As Augustine says (Enchiridion xi): "Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil." This is part of the infinite goodness of God, that He should allow evil to exist, and out of it produce good.”  (Reply in ST I, q.2, a.3 ad 1)



IV. Bad Answers to the Problem of Evil

A. “God could not have made the world better than it is!”  Obviously, the world could be better than it is. There are only three things that could not be better than they are: The Incarnation of God the Son, the Joy of Heaven, the Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Everything else could have been better, and in many ways.


B. “God had to allow evil in order for man to be free!” This mistaken idea the God had to allow Adam and Eve to have the option to sin in order for them to be free. But is not God perfectly free? And yet sin is impossible to him!  Or, again, the saints in heaven cannot sin – are they less free than we?  No, rather, sin is a limiting of freedom (Who sins is a slave of sin) – God could have made the world in such a way that there was no sin among men or angels.


C. “God doesn’t have control over the evil that comes into the world because of human and angelic choice, so he can’t be blamed for what is outside of his control!”  No! God is the cause of all that exists – nothing exists unless God wills it and keeps it in existence.  While God is not the cause of evil, it is simply incorrect to think that evil is outside of his plan or beyond his providence.


D. “We are merely sinners in the hand of an angry God, if he causes evil in the world it is permissible because his ways are beyond our comprehension.”   This is something of the Jonathan Edwards approach in 1741 – sinners in the hands of an angry God, the most famous sermon ever preached in America (which was a main part of the spiritual revival known as The Great Awakening).  “The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire ... you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours.”  And again, “The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.”   [This sermon is truly the demon, disguised as an angel of light]



V. The best answer

A. We see often how God brings good out of evil – so that evil does not triumph but is completely overcome by good.

B. God does not permit as much evil to exist as we deserve, but always shows mercy. Furthermore, it is in many ways more difficult to explain the good in the world without God than to explain why there is evil with God.


C. In Christ Jesus, God has come to suffer with us the evils that proceed from sin. In this, Jesus redeems our suffering and gives it meaning.  Though we do not fully understand, the Lord desires to be with us as we bear the evils of the world, and as he bears them with us.  There is a redemptive value to suffering, which was shown on the Cross and is active in the lives of all the faithful.


D. This is one area where the Catholic Church is able to provide an answer which could never be derived from Protestant theology which denies merit and true cooperation with grace.




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