The problem of evil in the world has been a topic many scholars have attempted to use to either prove or disprove the existence of God/god(s). It is also one of the few topics all worldviews and religions must deal with and as Norman Geisler reveals, “Of the three major worldviews, Atheism affirms the reality of evil and denies the reality of God. Pantheism affirms the reality of God but denies the reality of evil. And Theism affirms the reality of both God and evil. Herein lies the problem.” From this paradox, Hanson sets out to show how evil can exist with a God that is both omnipotent and benevolent. By reviewing three ontological solutions, Hanson proposes the Neo-Ontological solution to define evil and suffering within a complex structure of being that is analyzed from the standpoints of experience and practice. The purpose of this critique is to assess Jim Hanson’s Neo-Ontological Solution to the problem of evil.
Hanson acknowledges and describes how evil takes many forms and recognizes, “the existence of evil and suffering presents the problem of believing in the existence of a God that is both able (omnipotent) and willing (benevolent) – namely the theistic God of Christianity.” First, Hanson interacts with David Hume, who used an early argument proposed by Epicurus:
If God is willing to prevent evil but not able, then he is impotent.
If God is able but not willing, then he is malevolent.
If God is both able and willing, then whence come evil?
If he neither able nor willing, then why call him God?
Hanson then raises an important question, “Why would a perfect God create, cause or design an imperfect product, a product that included or tolerated evil?” The substance of this journal article approaches the challenge theists and deists face, which is acknowledging the existence of evil, while also explaining how God can still be omnipotent and benevolent. The first solution Hanson analyzes is the Traditionalist and Modernist Ontological Solution, which include the denial that evil exists or that evil originated from divine human agencies. The second solution Hanson explores is the Postmodernist Ontological Solution, which views humans as being made imperfect, finite, and denied the authenticity of their being. This view displays evil thriving at the heart of being. However, Douglas Groothuis illustrates, “The inconsistencies of postmodernism pose a direct challenge, since the irresolvable diversity of truth claims has no reliable criteria to test these claims against.” The final solution Hanson favors is the Neo-Ontological Solution and Experience. Analogically, this means, “The God experienced through being as the ultimate referent becomes constructed experienced as essence.”
Hanson presents three ontological solutions to the problem of evil and for each view, adequate pros and cons are presented and there does not appear to be any biasness or presuppositions in his approach. In fact, when discussing the traditional, the modernist, and postmodernist views, more information is provided than the Neo-Ontological Solution Hanson favors. For each field, Hanson used quality sources and cited leaders/pioneers behind each worldview. There is not a great deal of biblical content in this piece, except the mention of Adam’s test and the suggestion that, “This evil-originating, divine-human relationship suggests that God attends to the transgression, suffering, and evil of original sin from which arguably results the historical record of massive suffering and evil.” Answering the question, “If God is good and powerful, why does He allow evil to exist?” would have strengthened Hanson’s article. Mankind is in desperate need to be reconciled with God, and this only happens through a relationship with Jesus Christ, who suffered substitutionary atonement for the sins of mankind. Köstenberger further illustrates, “The challenge is therefore not to explain evil but rather to accept its reality and to resist it whenever possible.” Hanson rightly shows the problem of evil is better explained by being rather than by gods or humankind, so in a modern-day context, one can apply this principle when speaking with someone who has experienced evil, suffering or tragedy.
Hanson adequately evaluates three solutions to the problem of evil, but he never mentions free will, the fallen state of man, or the redemption that happens when Christ becomes Lord and Savior of one’s life. Geisler best explains, “The ultimate goal of a perfect world with free creatures will have been achieved, but the way to get there requires that those who abuse their freedom be cast out.” So to justify the existence of evil with an all-powerful and all-good God, one must not only understand the topics Hanson covered, but he or she must also have faith that:
- If God is all-good, He will defeat evil.
- If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil.
- Evil is not yet defeated.
- Therefore, evil still serves a purpose and God can and will defeat evil.
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Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.
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Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.
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Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.
 Norman L. Geisler, “The Problem of Evil,” Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999), 219.
 Jim Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” Theology Today 68, no. 4 (January 2012): 478.
 David Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, ed. Henry D. Aiken (New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 ), Part X.
 Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 479.
 Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011), 130.
 Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 484.
 Hanson, “A Neo-Ontological Solution to the Problem of Evil,” 480.
 Andreas Köstenberger, Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013), 119.
 Norman L. Geisler and Ronald M. Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990), 59-60.
 Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 38.