This is an ancient paradox for philosophers, particularly Muslim, Christian and Jewish philosophers.

Begin with the following four assumptions:

  • God is omnicient.
  • God is omnipotent.
  • God is omnibenevolent.
  • Bad things happen to good people.
What's the paradox? If God is omnicient (he knows about the problem), and God is omnipotent (he could do something about the problem), and God is omnibenevolent (he wants to do something about the problem), then WHY IS THERE A PROBLEM?!?!?

C.S. Lewis proposes one possible solution that a world without pain is logically impossible. If God's overriding goal is to give human beings free will, then we must have an environment where free will is possible and anytime there is free will, a) some people will choose to make bad stuff happen and b) sometimes bad stuff happens by accident because if God intervened all the time, free will would be meaningless.

Martin Luther proposed a solution. Pain is good for human beings. We are naturally sinful creatures. By sufficient pain and suffering, we are trained not to do sinful things. Eventually God's grace will cover us. "As snow covers shit." is a rough translation of Luther's statement in German.

Of course, there are philosophers who have backed away from the assumptions, arguing the full range from "God therefore doesn't exist" all the way to "God is malevolent".