In God in the Shadows, Dr. Morley (Professor TMC), considers the problem of evil in light of the goodness and sovereignty of God. He sets up the problem as follows:
If God is good, He would want to eliminate evil.
If God is all powerful, He would be able to eliminate evil.
There does not exist a God who is both good and all powerful.
Morely first works through the potential responses:
Atheism: Deny the existence of God. This seems to avoid the problem of the argument above, but at what cost? First, denying the existence of God does not come without a series of logical and factual problems of its own (See Romans 1-2; Acts 17).
Second, atheism comes at an enormous psychological/spiritual cost. Thomas Hardy summarized the pain of atheism as well as anyone ever has done:
IF but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!”
Then would I bear, and clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited;
Half-eased, too, that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and meted me the tears I shed.
But not so. How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
–Crass Casualty obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan….
These purblind Doomsters had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.
Pain and suffering are terrible enough. Atheism adds to the burden by making the pain meaningless. A great deal of suffering comes through one’s understanding of the event – often the understanding makes the pain far worse than the actual event itself. Atheism compounds the problem by seeking to maximize the suffering on the ground that any suffering proves that suffering is meaningless (this is not what is typically articulated; but the argument reduces to such a structure).
Buddhism is a religion which (in some form) seeks to work through the problem caused by atheism. Denying the existence of any personal god, Buddhism seeks to eliminate suffering by the elimination of any desire of this life. Thus, by giving up joy and hope one may seek to avoid suffering – which is a cure worse than the disease.
Pantheism: Seeks to solve the problem by making evil an inherent and necessary aspect of creation. Evil is no less part of what is than good – it eventually resolves into no resolution: There is no difference between good and evil. Thus, evil is eliminated by the elimination of reason and logic. This argument challenges premise three of the syllogism.
Idealism: Evil is merely an illusion, as in Christian Science of some branches of Hinduism (Hinduism also can be present pantheism). This also challenges premise three of the syllogism.
Dualism: Both good and evil are necessary and must be kept in balance. The Chinese have developed this concept at some depth (ying and yang). The Zoasterians posit a pair of opposite gods. Some strains of Gnosticism also advance this argument. This argument challenges the first two premises, denying the existence of any god who is powerful enough to remove evil.
God is not all powerful: Rabbi Kushner’s When Bad things Happen to Good People is the most famous example of this particular argument (as advanced in recent N. American history). However the argument also plays in process theology (god/God is in the process of becoming); Mormonism is has a limited god who cannot eliminate all evil.
God is not good: Elie Wiesel’s Night (discussing the concentration camp) is the most crushingly powerful statement imaginable:
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
Orthodoxy: God is good and powerful and evil does exist. However, “God … has sufficient reasons for allowing evil” (33). The remainder of the book lays out that answer. The book in some ways runs in the vein of Plantinga’s response to the logical problem of evil, “”It is possible that God, even being omnipotent, could not create a world with free creatures who never choose evil. Furthermore, it is possible that God, even being omnibenevolent, would desire to create a world which contains evil if moral goodness requires free moral creatures.” Morely goes well beyond arguing for the moral freedom of human beings by addressing various aspect of evil as the “cost” of better ends.
You can find Dr. Morely’s writing at http://www.faithandreasonforum.com/index.asp?PageID=5