How to respond to arguments based on the problem of (natural) evil?

How does one respond to arguments based on the problem of (natural) evil?

In responding to Stephen Fry, here, Robert Barron makes various (relevant, good) points.

Yet, I think any response misses the point if it doesn’t start with this. Namely, a personal, experienced relationship with God.

If you have that – an experience of providence (including non-chance coincidences) attributable to God, of the indwelling Holy Spirit (‘grace’) as a transformative agent, or the ‘Divine Presence’, and so on – then the problem of natural evil becomes a problem, because one feels one knows there is something like God, and that this being’s essence is to be Good. This problem can be investigated and perhaps resolved.

If you don’t have a living relationship as a starting point, then it doesn’t seem like there is actually a problem, Rather, there’s just a theological exercise.

So, if the basis of Christianity is a lived (experiential) relationship with God, and someone doesn’t have that, then it’s mostly just logic chopping debating theological issues. Therefore, my response to someone like Fry would be, first seek a (lived, experiential) relationship with the Christian God. Once you have some of the experiences that many Christians have (which may or may not happen, of course), then it makes sense to start talking about things like the problem of (natural) evil. Until then, I don’t think you actually have a problem of (natural) evil, but rather just an observation – which of course anyone would be aware of from the beginnings of Christianity (indeed, probably moreso).

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