Albert Einstein and the Problem of Evil/God’s Existence

5 November 2009 by Wes Bredenhof


This video was recently making the rounds.  Actually, before the video, there was an e-mail version of it as well.  I think I first saw it about ten years ago.  Anyway, I wanted to make some comments on it.

First of all, note that the professor’s argument is not that God does not exist.  Rather, because there is evil, if there is a God, either he did not create everything or he is evil.  Certainly that is an argument against the existence of the God of the Bible, but not necessarily an argument against every form of theism.  In fact, I’ve encountered people who believed in some divine being but either believed that he was not the creator of all things or that he is evil.

But given that the argument seems intended to function as a polemic specifically against biblical theism, what about the alleged response of Albert Einstein?  First of all, let’s dispose of the myth that this actually happened. The whole event is a sort of urban legend – it never happened!

Second, the counter-argument states that “evil does not exist.”  This is not a biblical position.  The Bible teaches that evil (or sin) does exist and that it is a very real thing.  It was introduced into this world and it is actively set against God.  Evil cannot be compared to darkness or cold.  The video has Einstein state that “evil is what results when man does not have God’s love present in his heart.”  However, that does not account for Satan and his evil character.  This also runs into problems with the fact that the Holy Spirit dwells in every believer, yet believers still commit evil.  Sin and evil are not the absence of God, but rebellion against God and before God.  Nevertheless, I will grant that the theodicy the video is reaching for is along the right trajectory:  God cannot be blamed for the evil in this world.  There is a God who created everything good and who is himself good.

While the approach in this video may be persuasive to some, there are better ways to formulate resolutions to the problem of evil.   I’ve suggested one way in an article published in Outreach magazine in 2001 — it’s available online here.  There’s another way that I’ve suggested in these articles published recently in Clarion.