Since evil exists, it seems that it must be the case that either God is able to eliminate it but doesn't want to or that He wants to eliminate it but is not able to do so.Bell never really answered the question which made it seem, perhaps, as if there is no answer to it, but there is. Philosophers have long pointed out that there's an obvious third possibility, i.e. God both wants to eliminate evil and is able to eliminate evil, but has good reason for not eliminating evil.
Of course, although the answer deflects the logical force of the dilemma, it raises the further question of what possible reason God could have for not doing something that any parent who sees his child suffer would do if he could. If human parents would alleviate their child's suffering, the question goes, why doesn't God?
Most philosophers prefer to break this question into two parts. They make a distinction between two kinds of evil, moral and natural. Moral evil is evil (or suffering) that results from human volition. Natural evil is evil that results from natural forces like, drought, disease, tsunami, earthquake, etc.
So the question bifurcates into why doesn't God prevent evil like the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck Japan recently, and why doesn't God prevent the kind of evil in which one person treats another cruelly?
One possible answer to the latter question goes back to Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) and is called the Free Will defense. It says essentially that God desires to end evil and is able to end it, but the cost of doing so would be to override or strip us of our freedom to make our own choices.
Well, why doesn't God do that? What good is free will if so much misery results from it? The answer to that question goes, perhaps, to the reason He created us in the first place.
God created human beings to live in a love relationship with Him. Such a relationship, in order to be satisfying and meaningful, requires that both parties be free to choose to requite the love of the other. Thus God invested us with free will to enable us to choose to love Him or not. It is that freedom, the existentialists remind us, which makes us significant, which makes us different from everything else in the world. It's also that freedom that people abuse when they exercise it for the purpose of hurting others.
God could strip us of our freedom and compel us to love Him, but not only would that defeat the purpose of a loving relationship, it would essentially dehumanize us. It would make us less than human and it would drain God's relationship with us of any real significance. This is, in God's mind, apparently too high a price to pay.
Thus He tolerates evil in order to preserve His romance with His creatures.
There's much more to this question than what I've outlined in this short post, but this is at least a start of an anaswer. What, though, of natural evil? Why doesn't God prevent that? We'll take a stab at that question in a day or so.