Pain and suffering are universal conditions of human experience. To be human is to be one who encounters pain and experiences suffering; such distressing and agonizing elements of human life are, unfortunately, intrinsic to the human condition.
It has been said, following the logical progression of David Hume, that the “problem of evil” is the “rock of atheism.” There have been many thoughtful people who have rejected the idea of God on the basis of both moral evil (pain and suffering that is caused by human beings) and natural evil (pain and suffering that is caused through natural processes—including natural disasters, illnesses and diseases, and violence and hostility within the animal kingdom). This is exemplified in modern writers like Dostoevsky and Camus. The initial development and early iterations of the “death of God” movement, which became prominent and reached its mature form in the 1960s, were largely spawned out of the pain and suffering of two world wars and the horrendous evils associated with the holocaust.
In some sense, the problem of evil, at least in its philosophical form, is a more “modern problem” that is linked with the modern development of atheism, though there are certainly strands of it found throughout the history of human thought. The existential, human experience of pain and suffering, however, is a universal-historical issue common to all human beings in all times and places. It is a problem that has touched and shaped us all in one way or another. This shared human experience may move one away from God or it may move one towards God. We can speak, then, of both an atheistic response to the problem of evil and a theistic response. In either case, our response to the problem is always a matter of our freedom in thought and action.
Many Christian thinkers have reflected upon the deeply personal issue of pain and suffering in human experience and have also thoughtfully grappled with the conundrums expressed within the philosophical problem of evil. The following bibliography represents a list of books selectively chosen to introduce the reader to a theistic and, more specifically, Christian response to both the existential problem and the philosophical problem of evil. I hope that this bibliography will be of some benefit to the reader, helping you to navigate and think through a very challenging, difficult topic.
C.S. Lewis. A Grief Observed. HarperOne: 2001.
Suffering and the Goodness of God. Editors: Christopher W. Morgan & Robert A. Peterson. Crossway: 2017.
Henri Blocher. Evil and the Cross: Christian Thought and the Problem of Evil. Kregel Publications: 2004.
The Problem of Evil (Oxford Readings in Philosophy). Editors: Marilyn McCord Adams & Robert Merrihew Adams. Oxford University Press: 1991.
Jurgen Moltmann. The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. Fortress Press: 1993.
William Hasker. The Triumph of God Over Evil: Theodicy for a World of Suffering. IVP Academic: 2008.
John S. Feinberg. The Many Faces of Evil (Revised and Expanded Edition): Theological Systems and the Problems of Evil. Crossway: 2004.
God and the Problem of Evil: Five Views. Editors: Chad Meister & James K. Dew Jr. IVP Academic: 2017.
Ryan Ragozine is the Director of Thinker Sensitive. He is passionate about both ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue. Ryan holds a B.A. in Theology from Southwestern Assemblies of God University and an M.A. in Theology from Asbury Theological Seminary. He and his wife are big on Christian hospitality, and they currently run a house church ministry that welcomes people from all different backgrounds and belief systems.