Training for a Christian Counselor: Counseling Against the Problem of Evil
How does a counselor answer the question of a mother who lost her child or explain the horrors of the Holocaust? How can a counselor explain the explicit existence of evil in the world and at the same time speak of God’s will? How can a counselor explain that a good and all powerful God would ever allow evil to take place?
These are all probing questions that test one’s faith and also provide a striking point for non-believers to assault theism. However, the “problem” of the existence of evil is merely lack of understanding than a true problem.
So instead of answering these questions with pithy cliches such as “its God’s will” or “who can understand the nature of God”, I suggest philosophically answering these challenges on why a good God allows evil to exist.
The Theodicy is the philosophical study on the question of evil. St. Augustine philosophically answered the questions of evil and found peace and balance on how a good God can co-exist in an evil world. St. Augustine initially had fallen victim to a scandalous and heretical cult that proclaimed good and evil were the results of two clashing divine beings. Through the prayers of his mother, Monica, he later became a great Church father and tackled the idea of evil from a Christian perspective. St. Augustine taught that evil was not the result or will of God but a deficiency found in creation. As darkness is to light, evil was a negation of what God’s goodness. This deficiency was found in all sentient beings because God created man and angels in his image and likeness. Part of being a rational creation is the ability to reason and form decisions. Free will enabled man and angels as beings to fully reflect the image of the creator.
This gift, however, came with a huge gamble; that man and the angels could choose evil. God in fact knew this and still bestowed this gift to man and angels despite the eventual outcome. How important and precious is free will then to our nature? It is so important than God permitted the chance of evil to enter into the world at its expense. First by Lucifer and his band of followers and then later by Adam and Eve would free will bring death and suffering to mankind.
Yet, despite the evils that were byproducts of bad decisions, God also saw the beauty and goodness that free will would give angels and men to fight evil and do good. An act of charity, worship of God or rational thought could never be uttered by simple nature, but only by sentient creatures bestowed with God’s gift of free will. To be able to partake in the divine, we needed choice and through choice came both goodness and evil.
This evil that exists in the world while overbearing also gave man the chance to rise beyond the ashes, do good, and find merit via suffering and good works for the next life.
While some would contend evil mars God’s goodness and omnipotence, I would contend the gift of free outweighs the consequences of those who choose badly. Through love of God, which is free choice, one can love God and share in his life. And yet despite this, God still did not allow us to suffer the consequences of evil alone, instead he took upon human flesh and defeated evil on the cross, carrying our sins and teaching us how to suffer.
With such thoughts, pithy sayings while possibly true are not needed. Nor are there long books about the problem of evil because ultimately the only problem is those who choose wrongly.
If you are interested in Christian Counseling Education, please review the program. If you are interested in training for a Christian Counselor, then this program can help.
Mark Moran, MA, GC-C, SCC-C