King delivered a version of this sermon to his Dexter congregation a few days after the MIA voted to boycott city buses indefinitely.1 He draws upon a Crozer paper, “Religion’s Answer to the Problem of Evil,” to construct this handwritten outline.2 King readily acknowledges the existence of evil as a force in the world and its deleterious effect on Christian faith but concludes by offering various rationales for belief in God despite the reality of evil.
In the midst of all of this we are prone to ask where is God. How can we reconcile an all-good and all-powerful God with the glaring facts of evil. This is the question the men have struggled to answered in every generation. The answered to this problem can be broken down to about four.
Now the real question is Why do we believe in a good God in the midst of glaring evil.
1. On 12 January, the MIA elected to continue the bus boycott after the city rejected their most recent proposal “to assure all passengers equal treatment” (To the Commissioners of the City of Montgomery, 9 January 1956, in Papers 3:97-98). Dexter's program for 15 January 1956 indicates King preached this sermon.
2. King, “Religion's Answer to the Problem of Evil,” 27 April 1951, in Papers 1:416-433.
3. Sophocles (ca. 496-406 BCE) was one of classical Athens's three great tragic playwrights, along with Aeschylus and Euripides.
4. King cites lines from Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resatus (1836), p. 163.
5. Mill, Three Essays on Religion (1874), pp. 28-29: “In sober truth, nearly all the things which men are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another, are nature's every day performances ... Nature impales men, breaks them as if on the wheel, casts them to be devoured by wild beasts, burns them to death, crushes them with stones like the first Christian martyr, starves them with hunger, freezes them with cold, poisons them by the quick or slow venom of her exhalations.” King used this paraphrase of Mill's quote in a 27 April 1951 paper for Davis (see note 1 to “Religion’s Answer to the Problem of Evil,” in Papers 1:416).
6. Cf. Matthew 5:45.
7. King, “Religion’s Answer to the Problem of Evil,” in Papers 1:418: “A second view explains physical evils as a punishment for moral evils. Such a view rests in the principle of retribution. This view goes back to the old Deuteronomic idea that prosperity follows piety and righteous.”
8. King, “Religion’s Answer to the Problem of Evil,” in Papers 1:420: “There is a fourth position which explains evil as incomplete good. Absolute idealists like Hegel and his followers have been strong proponents of this view.”
9. The Church of Christ, Scientist teaches that sickness, evil, and sin are all merely illusions, with no basis in reality. The Church's founder, Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910), espoused the benefits of spiritual healing through prayer over the practices of medical science.
10. King, “Religion’s Answer to the Problem of Evil,” in Papers 1:419: “A third view explains nonmoral evils as disciplinary rather than penal. Here the purpose of evil is to reform or to test rather than to punish. ... Character often develops out of hardship.”
CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands: Sermon file, folder 70, “Christ the Center of our Faith” / “How to Believe in a Good God in the Midst of Glaring Evil.”