By Elias Ayala (MDiv & M.A.T.)
This particular question is in some way a re-hashing of the philosophical problem of evil. The argument basically tries to demonstrate that the existence of evil and suffering are inconsistent with the existence of an all-loving and all-powerful God. This form of the argument is potent if successful since if the concept of God is logically incoherent than it follows that such a conception of God is false. It is important for the Christian apologist to be able to demonstrate that there is in fact no logical contradiction between an all-loving and all-powerful God, and the existence of evil and suffering, of which “starvation” is an instance.
First, I want to make a differentiation between the logical problem put forth in this question and the emotional problem out of which this question often arises. There is no doubt an “emotional” problem of evil and suffering inherent in this question. To that, both the Christian and the skeptic can agree. It is indeed troubling to believers and unbelievers that there are horrible instances of starvation all around the world, along with many other evils that we observe. It needs to be pointed out however, that the reality of an “emotional problem” does not touch on the issue of the truth or falsity of the existence of God. An emotional problem is just that, an emotional problem.
The difficulty is however, that folks often are swayed and convinced by emotional appeals and so forth. However, we need to approach this issue from a logical perspective. This is not to say that the emotional element is not important; it most definitely is, it is just that the emotional element has no bearing on the truth element.
Is there then, a logical contradiction between the existence of an all-loving and all-powerful God, and the existence of evil, suffering, and starvation? Not that I can see. To say that an all-loving and all-powerful God exists while at the same time acknowledging the existence of evil and suffering, of which “starvation” is a stated example, does not violate any of the rules of logic. These statements do not contradict each other.
However, if the existence of an all-loving and all-powerful God is logically consistent with the existence of evil, suffering and starvation, then how can we reconcile these ideas. Indeed, this is a different but important question. The statements:
- An all-loving and all-powerful God exists
- Evil, suffering, and starvation exist
are not contradictory, but then how are we to understand “how” they can both co-exist? Well, the Christian can give a number of responses here. Let us consider some basic facts. As of 2014, the world was producing enough food to feed 10 billion people.1 It is not the case that the world lacks the sufficient food supply to feed people. Interestingly enough, the lack of food in various places is due often to wars, or governments and rebel forces not permitting food, supplies, and various other aids to reach the people in those regions who are in need. Hence, we have good examples that such evils like “starvation” is not rooted in the cruelty of God, but rather, the cruelty of man, who refuses to obey God. In Mark 12:31 we are told to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Furthermore, we are told in Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others.” Hence, it is safe to say that if man obeyed God’s rules, the world would be much better off in that people would think of others instead of their own personal gain.
The skeptic however will still be keen to point out though, that if God is all-loving and all-powerful, then why would he create a world with such evils in the first place. To this question, the believer can give any number of responses, but one that comes to mind is that God, who is all-loving and all-powerful, has morally sufficient reasons for creating a world in which such evils are permitted. Even if one could not explain fully why God would allow such evils, it does not logically follow that God could not have such morally sufficient reasons for allowing the evil he in fact allows.
1. Eric Holt Gimenez, “We Already Grow Enough Food for 10 Billion People-and Still Can’t End Hunger, “Huffington Post, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/eric-holt-gimenez/world-hunger-b-1463429.html, December 18, 2014.