The Problem of Pleasure

Why is there so much good in the world? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We have all seen the problem of evil trotted out. Why would there be evil in the world if God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good? This is a good question and I have addressed it many other times before, but let us consider something else.

If evil counts as evidence of the existing of God, shouldn’t it also go the other way? If all the evil counts as evidence against God, then could we not say “If the world is a random accident with no intentional cause whatsoever, why is there so much good in the world?” This isn’t a question original with me. It’s one that was asked by G.K. Chesterton.

Chesterton said that we all know that we have to eat in order to survive, but that doesn’t mean food had to be tasty. We have to drink to survive, but that doesn’t mean that water had to be refreshing. We have to reproduce in order to survive, but the intense pleasure that comes from sexual reproduction didn’t have to be there.

The world could also exist in black and white and odds are it would have worked just fine. However, there is a huge multiplicity of colors. As a gamer, I remember when the Super Nintendo was being advertised that it was said to have 32,000 colors. It was impressive for many of us when we got a Crayola box of crayons that had 64 colors. This is 500 times that.

What we have to ask is if the world is mostly evil with some bits of good popping up every now and then, or is it mostly good, with evil being the interruption to it. There is suffering in every life and I know this firsthand with a lot that I have gone through, major surgery, intense depression, and divorce, but overall, I am convinced the world is mostly good. This is my Father’s world.

Ah, but I live in America and I have food and shelter and technology and so many other blessings. What about the rest of the world? However, what is said about the rest of the world often is those people often take their faith far more seriously and have a lot more joy than we do. There’s a reason there’s such a joke about first-world problems.

There are Christians in Iran who are getting baptized and doing so knowing that that can lead to their execution. When I read Craig Keener’s Impossible Love, I remember reading about the attitude of Keener’s father-in-law and thinking that I wish I had the courage that he had. He was definitely facing realities that I had never faced, such as being on medication and having to escape from a civil war and being forced to eat rats when there was nothing else.

So again, what’s the point in all of this? If evil counts as evidence against God, shouldn’t the opposite be true? Shouldn’t good count as evidence for God? After all, if you are looking at data, you have to look at all data. If the universe has no intent behind it and no purpose, why should I think good would just happen? Why should food taste good or sex be incredible?

As a Christian also, I should give thanks for the good in the world more often and not take it for granted. I should enjoy time with good family and friends and appreciate the little things as well. Actually, that would be good advice for all of us, and if Lewis is correct, the more we enjoy true pleasure for the sake of that pleasure alone, we are more prone to come to God anyway. Perhaps if you focus on evil, you will be further drawn away.

So if you’re an atheist now, here’s something to think about. How do you address the problem of pleasure? Is there more good or evil in the world?

I leave that to you.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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