Just heard a helpful reply to this very difficult question. It was by Ravi Zacharias:
It is a very difficult question to answer, not just the fact of evil, but the size of it, the volume of it. You know people think we don’t actually think about these things as Christian apologists. The first thing I would say is that the question does not actually dislodge God. If anything it should prove that God actually exists, otherwise value and the question disintegrates. You don’t ask the question unless you believe in an absolute moral law. And you don’t believe in absolute moral law unless there is an absolute moral lawgiver. So God is in the paradigm not outside of the paradigm.
The second thing I would say is that the ultimate ethic in life is love. That is the supreme ethic. There is no ethic more supreme than love. But necessary to love is the component of the will. You cannot have love without the freedom to not love. Otherwise you have conformity, compliance; you really don’t have love. So if love is the supreme ethic and the freedom of the will is indispensable to love and the question must keep God in the paradigm then what I would say is the greatest gift of God is the gift of the freedom of our will in order that we can love, but with the greatest gift comes the greatest possible calamity when you violate that love, the entailments actually follow, and so both good is real and evil is real and the human heart must be able to recognise this and choose that which is good otherwise you live in a world of non-concrete expressions where you can choose bad with no consequences. Nobody would believe bad is bad if there were no consequences to it. So in the supreme effort of God to bring you, me to himself he gives us the example of love. He has made us for himself and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him.
One other footnote. If I were to take a life something tragic has happened because I cannot restore that life. But if God allows that to happen he can still restore that life, and the component of eternity does spell the possibility of an explanation. Without eternity the problem of evil remains totally unsolved. In fact the question remains indefensible. So God is able to restore life, eternity is able to bring ultimate justice and we leave those two components in his hands.
If you are hungry for more clear thinking then here is Ravi’s reply to a Wall Street Journal article by atheist Richard Dawkins and comparative religion scholar Karen Armstrong:
Dawkins says: “What is so special about life? It never violates the laws of physics.” Let’s grant him that for the moment. But the fact of physics is that however you section physical concrete reality, you end up with a state that does not explain its own existence. Moreover, since the universe does have a beginning and nothing physical can explain its own existence, is it that irrational a position to think that the first cause would have to be something non-physical?
More can be said, but for the sake of brevity may I ask one more question?
The position that both Armstrong and Dawkins would be compelled to concede is that moral categories do exist for us as persons. It is implicit in their writings. So I ask, if personhood is of value and if our personal questions on moral values are of value, then must we not also concede that the value-laden question about intrinsic value for humanity can only be meaningful if humanity is the creation of a person who is of infinite worth to bequeath that value to us as persons?
In other words, our assumptions about our worth and the worthiness of our questions of good and evil cannot be the offspring of Naturalism.
But these are the gaps atheists conveniently ignore. They value their Physics but devalue their Physicist. They are quick to blame a person for evil but are loathe to attribute goodness to the ultimate person.
That is, either our questions are rooted in personal worth or not. If they are, then God must exist. If they are not, then our questions are self-defeating.
That is why G.K. Chesterton said: When belief in God becomes difficult, the tendency is to turn away from him. But in heaven’s name to what? Dawkins and Armstrong are brilliant examples of making something out of nothing but it shows they are borrowing from something that they deny exists.
A spiritual, moral first cause is a reasonable position much more than the questions that smuggle in such realities without admitting it.
Maybe that’s why two brilliant minds, Anthony Flew and more recently A.N. Wilson*, left the atheistic fold. They saw the hollow word-games that flew in the face of reality as we also intuitively know it.