Tolkien Solves the Problem of Evil
“Thus it came to pass that of the Ainur some abode still with Illúvatar beyond the confines of the World; but others, and among them many of the greatest and most fair, took the leave of Illúvatar and descended into it. But this condition Illúvatar made, or it is the necessity of their love, that their power should thenceforward be contained and bounded in the World, to be within it for ever, until it is complete, so that they are its life and it is theirs. And therefore they are named the Valar, the Powers of the World.” -The Silmarillion, Ainulindalë
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” -Ephesians 6:2
The logical problem of evil hinges primarily on three of God’s divine attributes: his omnipotence, his moral perfection, and his omniscience.
If God is all-powerful, he could prevent all the evil and suffering in the world.
If God is omniscient (or, as an open theist might say, an infinitely intelligent Chess Master), he would know about evil, and would know how to stop or destroy it.
And if God is perfectly good, he would want to stop evil from occurring.
Now, philosophers and theologians have offered plenty of credible solutions to the problem of evil. There’s the free will defense, but that says nothing about natural evil. Then there’s the credible if emotionally unsatisfying “God’s game, God’s rules” solution proposed by the esteemed creator of Castalia House.
However, I think Tolkien has provided us with a more interesting alternative: the idea of a magical talisman. A trope common in fantasy and mythology, but seems to have escaped the musings of the philosophers (so far as I can tell).
Here’s how it works.
In the Silmarillion, all evil can be sourced to the discord that Morgoth introduced into the music and his Marring of the world. Therefore, all evil has its source in a single supernatural being.
Per the quoted passage above, the life and power of this supernatural being is tied to Arda in such a way that to destroy Morgoth would be to destroy the world. In the same fashion that Sauron’s ring was tied to its maker, the world is so connected with Morgoth that the the world is Morgoth ring. Evil can never be defeated until the world is shattered and renewed.
Thus, it would seem that a good God cannot annihilate evil without simultaneously annihilating the creatures and the world that he so loves.
Unless God somehow entered into this world, and become tied up with in such a fashion that through his death evil was destroyed, and in the raising of his life the world would be made new…
“ [T]hey say that the One will himself enter into Arda, and heal Men and all the Marring from the beginning to the end’.” — The Marring of Men (The Debate of Finrod and Andreth)