What Is the Pantheist Answer to Evil?

The universal human experience of evil is a problem for all worldviews, not just Christianity. Philosopher Norm Geisler, in his book If God, Why Evil?: A New Way to Think About the Questionexplains that there are three main views on evil that come from the “big three” worldviews of pantheism, atheism, theism.

Pantheism affirms God and denies evil.

Atheism affirms evil and denies God.

Theism affirms both God and evil.

In a previous blog post, I explained why the existence of objective evil is a devastating problem for the atheist worldview, but why is the pantheist answer to evil also problematic? Geisler explains:

In general, pantheists believe God exists but deny the existence of evil. They believe God is good, God is All, and hence there is no evil. Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, held this view, maintaining that “evil is an error of [the] moral mind.”

Most people, however, find it difficult to accept this answer. The old limerick summarizes their conundrum well:

“There was a Faith Healer of deal

Who said ‘Although pain isn’t real,

If I sit upon a pin,

And it punctures my skin,

I dislike what I fancy I feel!'”

So why is this a problem for the pantheist view?

In short, if evil is not real, then why does it hurt so badly? If pain, suffering, and death are not real, then how do we explain where the illusion came from? And why does everyone have it? Further, why is the illusion so persistent? Why can’t we make it go away?

When we wonder whether we are dreaming or awake, we can pinch ourselves. We know we have been dreaming because we wake up. But we don’t wake up from suffering, which always surrounds us and often invades us. We can tell an illusion because there is always a backdrop of reality by which we know it is an illusion. But evil is part of the backdrop of life itself. How then can it be illusory?

The pantheist is then left with claiming that the pervasive, universal phenomena of human suffering is unreal, an illusion. Rather than explaining what evil is, the pantheist has simply denied its existence. On top of that, I can guarantee that every person that claims evil and suffering are illusions, act every day as if they are real. The pantheist view of evil is simply unlivable and incoherent.