The Problem of Evil and the Power of God

The problem of evil can be defined theoretically as the apparent inconsistency between, on the one hand, belief in the existence of a perfectly good and omnipotent God and, on the other hand, the existence of evil. This book discusses four different solutions to this problem, provided by Richard Swinburne, Keith Ward, David Griffin and Johan Hygen, with the goal of finding the most coherent solution. The author makes several suggestions for improvement and concludes that there is a coherent answer to the problem of evil. While the focus is on Christian approaches to the problem, many of the approaches and solutions are applicable to other religions as well.

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Atle Ottesen Søvik, PhD (2009) in systematic theology, is a postdoctoral fellow at MF Norwegian School of Theology, working on a project on free will and naturalism. He has published various articles on the problem of evil and other subjects.
Atle Ottesen Søvik deftly maneuvers through major options in theodicy, pointing out strengths and weaknesses in each. Time and again, issues of God’s power take center stage in his exploration. Readers would be wise to join Søvik in assessing significant ways of envisioning God’s power, while moving toward a conscientious response to the problem of evil. This book forces us to think more deeply than we are typically accustomed to thinking! - Thomas Jay Oord, Ph.D., Northwest Nazarene University, Author of Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement

“Søvik’s The Problem of Evil and the Power of God is an important contribution to research within philosophy of religion and theology. It holds a high international level and must be considered to be an outstanding work.” - Mikael Stenmark, University of Upsala.

The author considers four modern attempts to deal philosophically with the problem of evil. He does so helpfully and clearly, and adds relevant comments of his own. This, in my view, is an excellent creative treatment of the problem which will be very helpful for students as well as for the general reader. - Keith Ward, Christ Church College Oxford, UK.

The Problem of Evil and the Power of God is a brilliant and very well argued analysis of some of the most important modern Christian theodices. In particular, the author has developed a careful analysis of philosophers like Swinburne, Ward, and Griffin. The book is one of the best accounts of the challenges of modern theodices that presently exists. It is also highly readable. - Professor Nils Gilje, University of Bergen.


1. Introduction ... 1
The Problem of Evil ... 1
Responses to the Problem of Evil not Discussed in this Book .... 5
Material ...13
Method and Outline ...16


2. Richard Swinburne’s Theodicy ... 23
Greater Goods ... 25
Necessary Evils ... 27
Swinburne’s Theodicy ... 31

3. Keith Ward’s Theodicy ... 34
Concept of God ... 35
Goals for Creation ... 38
Ward’s Theodicy ... 3

4. David R. Griffin’s Theodicy ... 47
Critique of Traditional Th eism ... 49
Introduction to Process Theism ... 52
Griffin’s Theodicy ... 57

5. Johan B. Hygen’s Theodicy ... 61
The Problem of Evil ... 61
The Concept of Almightiness ... 66
Hygen’s Theodicy ... 69


6. First Criterion: Coherence ... 81
Puntel on Coherence ... 81
Theory of Truth ... 85
Value Judgments ... 89

7. Second Criterion: Authenticity ... 95
Pannenberg on Systematic Theology ... 98
The Philosophical Idea of God ... 106
The Problem of Evil ... 108

8) Terminology ... 112
‘Evil’ ... 116
‘The Problem of Evil’ ... 119
‘God’ as Concept ... 121
God as a Perfectly Good Moral Actor in the World ... 126
God as Personal ... 128
God as Immutable, Impassible, Timeless and Omniscient ... 129
God as Trinitarian ... 134
God as Necessary ... 136
God as Infi nite ... 146
God as Creator ... 150
God’s Power ... 152


9) Swinburne ... 161
Some Evils do not Lead to Greater Goods ... 163
God Ought not to Use Evils as a Means ... 173
There are Better Ways to Reach God’s Goals ... 176
Some Evils are not Outweighed ... 185

10) Ward ... 196
God Ought not to Allow Genuine Evils ... 197
Independence does not Require Suffering ... 202
Independence is not Worth the Suffering ... 213
Less Independent Beings would be Better ... 218

11) Griffin ... 220
God’s Non-Coercion is Incoherent ... 221
God’s Non-Coercion is Inauthentic ... 229

12) Hygen ... 240
Hygen’s God is not Praiseworthy ... 241
Why does God only Perform Miracles Sometimes? ... 243
There are no Supernatural Evil Powers ... 245
God’s Fight is not Genuine ... 24

13) Conclusion ... 252
Constructive Proposals ... 252
Final Conclusion ... 260

Bibliography ... 265
Index ... 269
Scholars and laypeople interested in the problem of evil.