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Abstract (For book reviews see instructions below)

Many Christians experience severe cognitive dissonance when they try to reconcile belief that God is wholly good (omnibenevolent) and all-powerful (omnipotent) with the suffering and evil in this world. Would not anyone who is loving and kind and who is powerful enough to do so, act to prevent the horrible suffering in this world? This article attempts to address such cognitive dissonance by offering a rules-of-engagement framework for thinking about the problem of evil and the related issues of providence and prayer. Regarding providence, many ask why God does not act to prevent evils more often, or does so some times but not others? Regarding prayer, many wonder whether it makes sense to pray and petition an entirely good and loving God to intervene in some specific way. If God is entirely good and all-powerful, would he not act in the best way regardless of whether we ask him to do so? These issues relative to providence and prayer may cause further cognitive dissonance when juxtaposed with the many biblical accounts of God miraculously intervening, sometimes in response to petitionary prayer. If God can do so in some cases, why do there appear to be so many cases where God does not do so? I want to be very careful to make it clear that my aim in this brief article is not to justify evil or suffering or to downplay or trivialize the real sufferings that people have experienced and continue to experience. For this reason, I will avoid using real-life examples of people’s suffering as anecdotes. In my view, the problem of suffering and evil can only be ultimately resolved by God himself, and I believe God will finally put an end to evil and suffering. The modest aim of this article is to explore a conceptual framework within which one might make sense of how there could be an all-powerful and entirely good and loving God, despite the kind and amount of horrendous evil in this world—without in any way justifying such evil—and to ask how this framework might help us address a couple of common conceptual problems that cause cognitive dissonance relative to divine providence and petitionary prayer.