Moral Truth and the Problem of Evil

A video lecture series exploring the reality of God in the presence of evil and suffering

Curated from a Lecture Series by Timothy Paul Jones

Course Introduction

About the Course

This course is a 5-part video lecture series provided freely by The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as an excerpt of a larger course on Apologetics. In this course, Dr. Timothy Paul Jones explains the logical, evidential, and existential problems of evil and suffering, and he offers a defense against the major belief systems that emerge as a response to the problem of evil. Jones also argues for apologetics with a joyful, gospel-centered attitude. Each lecture is an average of 25 minutes long.

About Timothy Paul Jones

Timothy Paul Jones is the Vice President for doctoral studies; Chair for the department of Apologetics, Ethics, and Philosophy; and he is the C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Family Ministry (2007) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jones’ education includes a B.A. from Manhattan Christian College; an M.Div. from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Jones oversees doctoral studies while also teaching in the areas of apologetics and family ministry. Before coming to Southern, he led churches in Missouri and Oklahoma as pastor and associate pastor. Jones has authored or edited more than a dozen books, including The God Who Goes Before You; Perspectives on Family Ministry; and Christian History Made Easy. In 2016, the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association awarded Dr. Jones a Gold Medallion book of the year award for his book How We Got the Bible. Dr. Jones also serves as one of the teaching pastors at the Midtown congregation of Sojourn Collective.

Course curated by Mary Allison Anderson

The Logical Problem of Evil

Reflection Questions
  • What is one of the most commonly raised objections to the Christian faith?
  • Is this merely an intellectual issue?
  • What might be some of the ramifications for dealing poorly with the problem of evil?
  • What two types of evil exist?
  • What are the three types of “problems of evil”?
  • Many people might throw around the term “inconsistency” for dealing with this issue. What are the three types of inconsistencies as defined by Alvin Plantinga?
  • What trilemma exists at the heart of this discussion
  • What is a necessary claim? How does a necessary claim affect the existence of an implicit inconsistency?
  • What can we conclude about using the term “inconsistent” in regard to the trilemma?
  • What does it look like to live holding these three truths in tension and knowing they do not logically contradict?

Reading Assignment

How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, pages 15–82.

The Evidential Problem of Evil

Reflection Questions
  • What does the evidential problem of evil mean?
  • What are the three main problems with this argument?
  •  Is it possible to quantify evil? Why or why not?
  • What does a life spent counting evil and suffering look like?
  • Why does this not disqualify the existence of God?
  • What books of the Old Testament offer wisdom on the problem of evil and suffering?

Reading Assignment

How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, pages 83–134.

The Existential Problem of Evil

Reflection Questions
  • What is the primary point of the book of Job
  • When we reflect on Job’s sufferings, how are we reminded of Jesus? How are their situations and responses different?
  • How does it change the reality of our situation knowing that God has taken our sufferings into his very character in the person of Jesus?
  • What does it mean that Jesus is able to identify with our sufferings?
  • How does this view of Jesus shape the way we think of apologetics?
  • Is there a difference in what God permits and what He decrees?
  • Is there a limit to our human knowledge? Do I act like it?
  • Does God always give answers? If not, what does He always give? Is this sufficient for us?

Reading Assignment

How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, pages 135–226.

A Defense Against Universalism

Reflection Questions
  • What is exclusivism?
  • What is inclusivism?
  • What is pluralism?
  • What is universalism?
  • How do understanding the different scopes and sources of these four categories help identify their differences?
  • Which of these has the most emphasis on Jesus Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life” Jn 14:6?
  • What is conditional Christian universalism? Why might we be tempted to think this way?
  • Does Scripture offer any grounds for this assumption?
  • What does faith require intellectually? How does this conflict with the universalist view?
  • What are the grounds of our condemnation before God?
  • How long will this condemnation last?
  • How does this make the gospel the good news?
  • In what ways does it make Christ the only means of salvation?

Reading Assignment

The Intolerance of Tolerance, pages 1–96.

The Heart of an Apologist

Reflection Questions
  • What do I love? What do I desire?
  • Do I value the local church as the body for whom Christ died?
  • Do I see apologetics as the ongoing work of the local church?
  • Do I feel outrage at the differing views of others? Am I joyful because of the gospel and thus for the opportunity to share it?
  • Do I value people more than ideas? Am I more comfortable retreating into ideas?
  • Do I make a practice of noticing the beauty of creation?
  • Do I take the time to listen and learn from others? Or am I deaf to differing worldviews? How might this limit my ability to be a good apologist?
  • Do I love my method more than the message of Jesus?
  • Am I proclaiming the gospel because of love?
  • Am I more interested in winning the argument or winning people?
  • What emotions do I feel in my discussions with others about apologetics?
  • What habits or liturgies of life can I build to help me desire Jesus?

Reading Assignment

The Intolerance of Tolerance, pages 97–176.