Seeking fellowship with God is a great good (especially in the context of eternity). [Full article.]
• …the Bible says it is good
• …intuitively, it is good
• …seeking the Good is good
• …it is instrumentally good
• …eternal fellowship w/ God is good
• “Religiosity declines as worldly prosperity of individuals rises.” [2005 WIN-Gallup International poll]1
• Studies confirm that Christianity grows most rapidly during hardships.2
• It is intuitively clear that suffering would lead us to turn to God.3
• Eleonore Stump (Philosophy professor at Saint Louis): “Natural evil—the pain of disease, the intermittent and unpredictable destruction of natural disasters, the decay of old age, the imminence of death—takes away a person's satisfaction with himself. It tends to humble him, show him his frailty, make him reﬂect on the transience of temporal goods, and turn his affections towards other-worldly things, away from the things of this world.” [“The Problem of Evil” Faith and Philosophy, 2 (1985): 409.]
It is good for us to make free choices which result in deliberate courses of action, courses that really matter for ourselves and others (especially in the context of eternity). [Full article].
• …our intuition says it is good
• …our being in the image of God is good
• …free will by itself is good
• …it is instrumentally good
So what if a moral arena is good? Maybe humans could be created who would always freely choose the right? [See Response]3
Michael Murray (Philosophy professor at Franklin and Marshall): “I intend to pull the trigger to shoot you but suddenly find that my finger is paralyzed, or that the bullets have all vaporized, or … I intend to steal the car but when I rear back to throw the brick at the car window to gain entry I suddenly fall asleep, or I find that windows are unbreakable when struck during attempts at theft, etc. Would this suffice? In one sense it would. Were the world so configured, I would not be able to bring about any evil beyond my evil choices. But it is further true that in such a world I would not be able to make evil choices at all since the totality of my experiences will make it evident that doing evil is impossible.” [Nature: Red in Tooth and Claw (Oxford, 2008), 137.]
Richard Swinburne (Philosophy professor at Oxford): “the more freedom and responsibility we have, of logical necessity the more and more significant are the bad consequences which will result (not prevented by God) from our bad choices; and so the more probable it is that many such will result. Every slight addition to our freedom and responsibility increases slightly the probability of sadness and pain; every slight diminution of the probability of sadness and pain resulting from human actions diminishes slightly our freedom and responsibility.” [Providence and the Problem of Evil (Oxford, 1998), 165.]
The cultivating of our own morally significant character is good (especially in the context of eternity). [Full article].
• …intuitively, it is intrinsically good
• …carefully forming your own “eternal choice” is good
James 1:2-4 -- “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”2
God's loving incarnation-atonement for sinners is a great good, especially in the context of eternity. [Full article].
• …Great and honorable acts are good
• …True evil-conquering stories are a great good
• …Love-bonds forged in suffering are a great good
Certain relationships (of forgiveness, of empathy, etc.) are a great good, especially in the context of eternity. [Full article].
• …relationships in general are good
• …trial-dependent relationships are better
• …trial-dependent relationship with God is good
Intimately knowing Christ in suffering (as mutual empathizers) is good. [Full article].
• …it is good to know God in general
Laura Ekstrom (Philosophy professor at William & Mary): “suffering itself is an experience that one shares with the divine agent, and so it may serve as an avenue to knowledge of, and intimacy with, God. Viewed in this light, human suffering might be taken to be a kind of privilege in that it allows one to share in some of the experience of God, thus giving one a window into understanding his nature. For the Christian, in particular, occasions of enduring rejection, pain and loss can be opportunities for identification with the person of Jesus Christ. Intimacy with Christ gained through suffering provides deeper appreciation of his passion. I understand the notion of intimacy or identification with Christ in a sympathetic rather than a mystical sense.” [“A Christian Theodicy,” in The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (Blackwell, 2013), 279.]
Certain true stories which essentially involve evil are great goods, especially in the context of eternity).1 [Full article].
• …such stories are intuitively good.
• …such stories are especially pedagogical.
• …such stories are heart-transforming.
• …such stories are world-honoring.
• …such stories are person-honoring.
But so what…
…• fictional stories would be just as effective. (See response.)2
A Universe evolving through time in a regular/predictable/intelligible way is good, especially in the context of eternity. [Full article].
• …intuitively, it is seen as intrinsically good.
• …accentuating the moral arena is good.
• …the enterprise of science is good.
But wait, couldn't God maintain the elegance and simply “cancel” all nature-caused horrors by constant miraculous interventions? [See response.]2
Sacrificing (dying, donating, etc.) for a good cause is good.1 This theodicy is relevant for two reasons: because sacrifices can involve suffering (emotionally and physically) and the greatness of many of our would-be acts depends on how much we sacrifice and how much better we made things, especially how much suffering we prevent with our sacrifice.
Helping and being of use to others in need is good.1 This theodicy is relevant because we are of most use to others when others most need our help (emotionally and physically), and others most need our help in the midst of suffering or a real danger of it.
Appreciating (or more appreciating) the absence and elimination of evil and suffering is a great good (especially in the context of eternity).1 This theodicy is relevant because we can only become acquainted as we are with suffering and its elimination if such suffering occurs.2
Justin McBryer: “And there is something plausible about the principle: it is very hard to see how we would ever fully appreciate health without illness, wealth without poverty, love without hate.” [“Counterpart and Appreciation Theodicies,” in The Blackwell Companion to the Problem of Evil (Blackwell, 2013), 202.]