Is God Unable to Prevent Evil? Is He Not Willing to Do So?


How would you answer this question by the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 BC-270BC) Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

—F, world


Dear F.,
This is not only a question of Epicurus, but a perplexity which many thinking people have had. How can a good God allow all that suffering? Is He unable to stop it? Or does He want evil? Did He even create evil? What kind of God is that?

The thing is that, as human beings, we have a too narrow vision. Everything from our eyes seems a puzzle. Only saints who have transcended the tiny human vision, like Yogananda for example, have a bigger vision, and they give us the answers.

In the Autobiography of a Yogi we read: “The confusion of benign and terrible aspects in nature, as symbolized by Kali, has puzzled wiser heads than mine!”
“Few there be who solve her mystery! Good and evil is the challenging riddle which life places sphinxlike before every intelligence. Attempting no solution, most men pay forfeit with their lives, penalty now even as in the days of Thebes. Here and there, a towering lonely figure never cries defeat. From the maya (illusion) of duality he plucks the cleaveless truth of unity.”

Let me explain it a little better, in the way Yogananda did: God created the world as a big show of light and darkness, of duality. It is like a huge theatre play, or a cosmic cinema film. It is a very intricate plot which from a human standpoint can’t be deciphered. We, the souls, are all actors in this great play, and are given free will. The evil in that story has just one purpose: to help us love and chose the good. Finally each soul emerges victorious in an amazing happy end. All saints who have reached “the final chapter”, have exclaimed, “well done, Lord.” None has said, “that was a miserable plot.” It is all perfect, all divine, all wanted. The final chapter is union in bliss.

No book or film would be enjoyable if there weren’t adversities, tensions, tragedies. But then…. the happy end is great.

But from our tiny human and rational standpoint, God’s creation, with evil being so evident, is just bewildering. Epicurus was a great philosopher, but he wasn’t a great enlightened yogi. Otherwise he wouldn’t have asked the questions he asked.

So it’s best to meditate. The rational mind will never be able to fully understand. Meditation on the other hand develops our inner understanding, a subtle vision, a deeper intuition. Equipped with these we can finally know by ourselves who God is and why He does what He does, and that all evil in the end isn’t evil, but a friend, a helping hand for our personal evolution.

All the best, Jayadev