What is the ‘problem of evil’? For many theologians, this problem has exclusively to do with the question: How can or should Christians cope with evil and suffering? Sometimes it is said: ‘The problem of evil is not how to understand evil, but how to stand against evil, not “verstehen” but “bestehen”.’ I do not agree with this proposal. At least in a theistic context, the problem of evil is not only the problem how to cope with suffering or how to fight evil, or how to stand against it. The problem of evil is the problem of theodicy, and that is a theoretical or conceptual problem; the other ones are practical problems. I do not want to decide which kind of problems are the more important ones. And I am not even sure whether this distinction is really tenable, because what we believe and the way we deal with our beliefs seem to be rather practical affairs. Nevertheless, the problem of theodicy consists in an obvious incoherence between certain propositions:
On the one hand, there is the proposition that there is a God, who is omnipotent and benevolent, who created this universe ex nihilo. That means God is ultimately responsible for the existence and basic nature of the universe. An omnipotent God is, by definition, also responsible for everything that happens in the world, because s/he either permits or causes what is happening.