The Problem of Evil

Jason Edwards-Suarez
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Jason Edwards-Suarez
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The Problem of Evil
  1. First coined by Epicurus, The problem of evil is an argument against God by questioning whether both God and Evil can exist in our world
    1. The most powerful counterargument to almost all arguments for the existence of God
      1. Statement 1: Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
        1. Statement 2: Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
          1. Statement 3: Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
            1. Statement 4: Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?
              1. If God isn't omnipotent nor is he omnibenevolent then why should we call him God if he doesnt fit the definition of God. This is essentially saying that if he has neither of these properties he is not God and thus God doesn't exist
              2. If he were both willing and able to prevent evil then surely evil wouldn't exist as he would have both means and motive to prevent it
              3. If he is not willing then to prevent evil but he can then he can't be omnibenevolent as an omnibenevolent God would act upon this benevolence and prevent such evils from happening. Since he does not prevent these evils then he can be called malevolent (mean)
              4. By definition being omnipotent means they have unlimited ability. If he is not able then he is not omnipotent
            2. Criticisms of the problem of evil/defences of religion
              1. The Free-will defense
                1. Much of the evil in the world occurs only because we choose to create it. The greatest evils in the world are those inflicted by man upon man. In making the world, God faced a choice: he could create free agents like us, or he could create automata, robots, without the ability to make choices of their own. God chose to create free agents, and he made the right choice; a world containing free agents is clearly more valuable than a world of robots. The pay-off for this is the abuse of freedom that we see around us. Free agents sometimes choose to abuse their freedom, to do wrong. The wrong that we do, though, the suffering that we cause, great though it may be, is a price worth paying for something that is profoundly valuable: genuine freedom. Though God could have prevented evil by creating a world of automata, it is a good thing that he did not.
                  1. Response to the Free-will defense
                    1. Not all evil, however, can be explained in this way. There is much evil that is not inflicted by man. Natural disasters, for example, cause great destruction, but there is nothing that we have done that causes them and there is often nothing that we could have done to prevent them.
                      1. John Leslie Mackie wrote in his book, Evil and Omnipotence, "If God has made men such that in their free choices they sometimes prefer what is good and sometimes what is evil, why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good ? If there is no logical impossibility in a man's freely choosing the good on one, or on several, occasions, there cannot be a logical impossibility in his freely choosing the good on every occasion. God was not, then, faced with a choice between making innocent automata and making beings who, in acting freely, would sometimes go wrong: there was open to him the obviously better possibility of making beings who would act freely but always go right. Clearly, his failure to avail himself of this possibility is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good. "
                  2. Evil is necessary for good
                    1. In order for us to percieve good in our world we must have an evil to compare it to. It is impossible to think that there could exist light without dark because if there was only light then we would have no concept of light and thus we would not be able to comprehend light as being something which is valuable. Bravery, too, is a virtue, but only if we sometimes face danger.
                      1. FUN FACT THING: This is the same concept as that which the yin-yang originiated from. It shows how two complete opposites which may appear on the surface to be opposite are actually complementary.
                        1. Response to Evil is necessary for good
                          1. While the existence of some evils can be justified in this manner, it could be argued that not all evils can. For example danger is necessary for bravery to exist however is there any reason for diseases such as malaria which inflict such agony upon people who have done nothing to deserve it.
                      2. "The lord is testing us"
                        1. This argument is derived from the book of Job in the Bible. In this section of the Bible, God takes on a wager with Satan that Job, a good man who is good at everything with a beautiful family who still remains humble, would not forsake God no matter what happened. Satan kills everyone Job holds dear and destroys everything Job owns but in the end Job still did not forsake God. As a reward for his loyalty Job had his family and friends returned to him and he continued to worship God. Some people argue that all these evils which we are experiencing are all just a test of faith and in the end God will reward us for our loyalty and faith in him
                      3. Theodicies (Arguments despite the problem of evil)
                        1. Augustine
                          1. God is perfect. The world he created reflects that perfection. Humans were created with free will. Sin and death entered the world through Adam and Eve, and their disobedience. Adam and Eve’s disobedience brought about ‘disharmony’ in both humanity and Creation. The whole of humanity experiences this disharmony because we were all ‘seminally’ present in the loins of Adam. Natural evil is consequence of this disharmony of nature brought about by the Fall. God is justified in not intervening because the suffering is a consequence of human action.
                            1. "Seminally present"
                              1. They are "present within us" as our ancestors
                              2. The fall
                                1. The biblical story of adam and eve eating from the tree of knowledge of good and bad thus resulting in evil
                              3. Criticisms
                                1. Why should all humans be held responsible for the mistakes made by Adam and Eve
                                  1. If all evils are caused by the fall then why do these evils exist in nature
                                    1. E.G a mother and her cubs being eaten by predators
                                    2. Augustine talks about hell a lot as a part of creation. However creation came before the fall so did God forsee the need for punishment? If so why would God knowingly make us in such a way as he would have to punish us.
                                  2. Irenaeus
                                    1. Humans were created in the image and likeness of God. We are in an immature moral state, though we have the potential for moral perfection. Throughout our lives we change from being human animals to ‘children of God’. This is a choice made after struggle and experience, as we choose God rather than our baser instinct. There are no angels or external forces at work here. God brings in suffering for the benefit of humanity. From it we learn positive values, and about the world around us.
                                      1. Essentially, evil is a type of tough love. We need to learn from our mistakes and the dangers we face in order to improve ourselves
                                      2. Criticisms
                                        1. Irenaeus argued that everyone goes to heaven. This would appear unjust, in that evil goes unpunished. Morality becomes pointless. This is not orthodox Christianity. It denies the fall, and Jesus’ role is reduced to that of moral example
                                          1. Can suffering ever be justified on the grounds of motive? Suffering does not sit easily with the concept of a loving God. It seems difficult to justify something like the Holocaust with the concept of ‘soul making’.
                                            1. Why should ‘soul making’ involve suffering? The ‘suffering is good for you’ argument seems unjust, especially in the suffering of innocents. Hume was critical: ‘Could not our world be a little more hospitable and still teach us what we need to know? Could we not learn through pleasure as well as pain?’
                                            2. Irenaean theodicy is ‘soul making’. His theodicy is more concerned with the development of humanity.
                                          2. John Hick
                                            1. Published Evil and the God of Love in 1966, in which he developed a theodicy based on the work of Irenaeus.
                                              1. Hick instead argued that humans are still in the process of creation. He interpreted the fall of man, described in the book of Genesis, as a mythological description of the current state of humans.
                                                1. Hick used Irenaeus' notion of two-stage creation and supported the belief that the second stage, being created into the likeness of God, is still in progress. He argued that to be created in the image of God means to have the potential for knowledge of and a relationship with God; this is fulfilled when creation in the likeness of God is complete. Hick proposed that human morality is developed through the experience of evil and argued that it is possible for humans to know God, but only if they choose to out of their own free will. Hick acknowledges that some suffering seems to serve no constructive purpose and instead just damages the individual. Hick justifies this by appealing to the concept of mystery. He argues that, if suffering was always beneficial to humans, it would be impossible for humans to develop compassion or sympathy because we would know that someone who is suffering
                                                  1. He argues that, if suffering was always beneficial to humans, it would be impossible for humans to develop compassion or sympathy because we would know that someone who is suffering will certainly benefit from it. However, if there is an element of mystery to suffering, to the effect that some people suffer without benefit, it allows feelings of compassion and sympathy to emerge.
                                                2. Mackie
                                                  1. Adequate solutions
                                                    1. Mackie agrees that the problem for the theologian can be solved by giving up one of the three principles with which we began: we can deny that God is omnipotent or all good, or we can deny that there is any evil in the world.
                                                    2. "Fallacious solutions"
                                                      1. Fallacious solutions are solutions which, even though the may seem plausible at first, in fact do not amount to the rejection of any principle which gave rise to the contradiction. For this reason, Mackie does not think that they are of any help to the theologian trying to respond to the problem of evil. His discussion of each is intended to make clear the reasons for which they fail to address the real problem.
                                                    3. The Karamazov brothers
                                                      1. "Any God that would allow such suffering, he says, does not love mankind. He recites a poem he has written called “The Grand Inquisitor,” in which he accuses Christ of placing an intolerable burden upon humanity by guaranteeing that people have free will and the ability to choose whether or not to believe in God."
                                                        1. http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/brothersk/summary.html
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