Arguments relating to the existence of God - Problem of Evil

  • Created by: Ben123S
  • Created on: 29-04-19 21:32

Problem of Evil

Natural Evil: Suffering caused by natural events (occurs independently of human actions)

  • E.g. Tsunamis, earthquakes, diseases etc.

Moral Evil: Suffering caused by humans

  • E.g. Murder, 9/11, holocaust etc.

Theodicy: Technical Term given to an attempt to justify God's existence in the face of Evil


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Epicurus earliest form of the Problem of Evil

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. 

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. 

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? 

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”

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Logical vs. Evidential problem of evil

The logical problem of evil: 

An a priori argument put forward by atheists to show that the belief in God is false because it involves holding a set of contradictory beliefs 

The evidential problem of evil: 

An a posteriori argument proposed by atheists to show that the existence of evil makes it less likely that God exists   

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Inconsistent Triad - J.L Mackie

The logical problem of evil example 

1. God is omnibenevolent 

  • God is willing to get rid off evil 

2. God is all powerful 

  • God is able to get rid off evil 

3. Evil exists 

  • But yet 

3 statements that cannot logically be the same tie without leading to a contradiction 

Therefore, God cannot exist whilst all 3 statements remain true 

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Logical problem of evil

P1: Evil and suffering exists 

P2: God is omnibenevolent and omnipotent

P3: An omnibenevolent and omnipotent God, if He existed would remove evil and suffering 

C: God does not exist 

Also, God is omniscient is a condition that is often included 

If premises are true then the conclusion is true - deductive 

If one premise is false then the argument becomes invalid 

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Soul-Making Defence

  • God does exist and is omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent but we should realise that the enormity of pain and suffering actually leads to an even greater good - namely humans fulfilling their potential 
  • Irenaeus' Theodicy 
  • John Hick's Soul-Making expansion 
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Irenaeus' Theodicy

  • Humans are created in the image of God - we are intelligent, conscious beings with a moral nature 
  • Humans must grow into the likeness of God - developing our moral natures to be like God
  • Humans are not made ready-made perfect because morality developed through hard work is more valuable than pre-programmed robotic morality 
  • Irenaeus does not think humans were made perfect and he does not think that the world was made perfect because genuine moral development is only possible in a world where pain and suffering are real 
  • A world without problems, difficulties and hardships would be morally static. For moral and spiritual growth comes through response to challenges: and in a paradise, there would be no challenges 
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John Hick's Soul Making Defence

  • Soul-making to describe the process of moral growth
  • If God intervened this would undermine human freedom 
  • God created us with an epistemic distance - God deliberately makes existence uncertain - if we knew for certain God was always watching we would behave out fear and not virtue 
  • God allows suffering in order to lead to the higher goal of moral development 
  • However, suffering can lead some people to moral degradation 
  • In order for suffering to be morally justified everyone mus attain perfection ...
  • ...So everyone must make it to heaven - Hick was a universalist 
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Criticisms of soul making defence

1. Is suffering the only way to moral growth

  • For example, team building exercises/sports 

2. Do the end justify the means i.e. two wrongs don't make a right 

  • If it is not acceptable to do something bad to achieve something good then why is it okay for God to deliberately create an imperfect world for a higher goal 

3. Is universal salvation fair 

  • If everyone makes it to heaven, what is the motivation to be moral?
  • Do my actions really then have any consequences? 

4. Does all suffering result in moral growth

  • Some people do not morally develop because of suffering. But instead, morally degrade. 
  • Can indiscriminate suffering lead to moral growth - e.g. school shooting 
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Alvin Plantinga's Free Will Defence

P1: A world with creatures that are free is more valuable than a word containing no free creatures at all

P2: God can create free creatures, but He cannot (without removing their freedom) cause them to what is morally right

C1: So God created a world with free creatures capable of doing both what is morally right and what is morally evil

C2: Humans then are the source of moral evil  

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Objection 1 to the free will defence - natural evi

  • It does not take into account natural evil 
  • For example, how does humans having free will explain why there are tsunamis killing thousands of lives of innocent babies, children and families 
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Swinburne's response to Objection 1

A world without death is better than a world without it 

1. A limited life focuses the attention of people

2.  Prevents the old from dominating the young 

3. It limits the suffering one person can take 

However, does this address the underlying issue of the severity of suffering created from natural evil 

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Objection 2 to the free will defence - Mackie

Mackie questions whether there are only 2 possible worlds that God could have created 

1. Max. Pleasure no pain - humans only make the correct moral choices - robots

2. Pain and suffering is the price for free will 

However, Mackie suggests 3 option than an omnipotent being has

3. Genuine freedom and free will 

If God can make someone who has genuine free will on at least one occasion do the morally correct action then why cannot God create humans who did this every single time - not logically impossible

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Response to Objection 2

It is logically impossible to create beings who freely choose to do good every single time 

They would not be truly free 

It is a logical paradox 

But Mackie can respond by saying that this simply is not true - if God can create humans who sometimes good and free will it is logically possible that humans can have free will but happen to do good every time. 

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