Of course everybody’s life contains suffering. At least everybody who has gotten to be my age has undergone suffering in their lives at one time or another. Among the things that have most shown evil to me in its hideous face, the most important one is the holocaust. I was 9 years old when World War II started. It gradually started coming out what had been going on with the Nazis. Even though some thought Germany was the most cultured country in the world – leading in music, science, literature, and more – here they were doing this absolutely appalling thing. They were attempting to destroy a whole race of people in very cruel, astonishing, miserable, and nasty ways. This was one of the first things that struck me with the sheer depth of evil that the world does in fact contain. Our lives are full of suffering of one kind or another – people mistreating each other, and so on. It is a very striking feature of our world.
When I first started thinking about this, reading about it, and studying it – in those days – the main argument that people brought against Christian beliefs in light of evil was that there was a straightforward contradiction. They said it is not logically possible that there be both God and evil. It was in response to that claim that I developed the freewill defense which I think conclusively shows there is no contradiction there. But as I say, the freewill defense still does not really deal with the problem.
I think what helped me personally to think about evil – what seems to me to be the right way to deal with it as a Christian –is what I say about the book of Job. The book of Job shows us that we do not have to know why God permits evil in order to rest easy in the thought that God is a being of such a kind that if he does permit evil, he has good reason. We do not know what the reason is, and cannot figure it out. Maybe it is the old felix culpa theodicy; maybe it is not. But he has a reason of one kind or another, and it is a very good reason.