Evil and Suffering


AO1- Introduction

  • The problem of Evil and Suffering highlights the contradiction between the existence of God and the existence of evil and suffering.
  • Evil- the complete absence of good.
  • Suffering- is the result of evil
  • Moral evil- done by humans - e.g. murder or 911
  • Natural evil- the malfunctioning of the natural world- e.g. earthquakes or hurricanes 
  • Quote- David Hume- the problem of evil and suffering is 'the rock of atheism'. 
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AO1- God of Classical Theism

  • Omnibenevolent (All loving) - if he was all loving he would stop us suffering
  • Omnipotent (All Powerful) - if he is all powerful he should have the power to stop E+S
  • Omniscient (All Knowing) - if he is all knowing he must know that E+S is happening so he should want to stop it 
  • Evil and Suffering does exist so God isn't the God of Classical Theism 
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AO1- Inconsistent Triad


  • JL Mackie created it 
  • Highlights the contradictions between God's characteristics and E+S
  • We have to accept that evil exists 
  • A theist is compelled to acept the 'full force of the problem' 
  • They can't reject any of the angles 
  • Whilst all 3 angles remain there is a logical inconsistency 
  • This inconsistency must be ressolved 
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AO1- Augustine 1

  • A theodicy is a solution which attempts to justify the existence of God with the existence of E+S
  • Universe was created by God for a good purpose
  • Genesis 1:31 'God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.'
  • Universe was perfect and free from defect - so no E+S
  • God didn't create evil
  • It's not a thing or a substance but a privation of good- good going wrong
  • Free will- Angels and Humans turned their backs on God and settled for lesser goods 
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AO1- Augustine 2

  • 'The Fall'- Adam + Eve - represents disobedience of humanity
  • We were sminally present in Adam
  • Paridise was ruined by them
  • As a result humans are born with original sin 
  • Natural evil is punishment for our sins
  • due to moral evil and a loss of order in nature 
  • so natural evil is restoring a balance 
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AO1- Augustine Conclusion

  • God is right to not intervine
  • Followers of God will get eternal life
  • Those who havent followed will get eternal tourment 
  • Therefore God is a just God - because he saves some people through Christ 
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AO1- Irenaeus 1

  • God had a plan - to give humans the chance to become perfect
  • 2 stages to the creation of human beings - IMAGE of God - intelligence but lack maturity.
  • LIKENESS of God- over time we have to be like God - humans do have the capacity to for moral and spiritual perfection.
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AO1- Irenaeus 2

  • God could not have made humans perfect 
  • To be perfect - we have to show cooperation - so it is meaningful 
  • God HAD to give humans free will - it's the only way humans could act freely
  • Evil played a valuable part in God's plan
  • Humans need evil in order to sevelop into perfetion 
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AO1- Irenaeus Conclusion

  • Eventually E+S will be overcome in heaven  
  • Where will acheive moral and spiritual perfection 
  • God's plan will be complete 
  • Hick- said we would all be robots without free will - this stresses the importance of free will
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AO2- Augustine


  • Evil is not originally part of God's creative work, so evil isn't God's fault 
  • It Stresses the value of free will as the best choice God could have made for mankind 
  • God is therfore not responsible for man's evil choices- humans are!


  • John Hick- 'a flawless creation would never go wrong and that if the creation does it would in fact go wrong with, the ultimate responsibility must be with the creator. - God is responsible and to blame
  • God could have created free beings who always choose what is morally right 
  • Hell appears to be built into the design of the universe, so it would seem that God was exoecting things to go wrong but chose to so nothing about it. 
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AO2- Irenaeus


  • Values free will as it means man develops morally and spiritually. Swinburne- best possible choice to create  a world that includes suffering as this means that humans can meaningfully contribute through their free will responces.
  • Avoids Augustine's spontaneous apperance of evil- as Irenaeus says it was part of a plan
  • Allows for the modern concept of evolution - as it isn't based on 'The Fall'


  • Suggests God's creative work was imperfect - because evil is included which isn't perfect
  • Heaven for all seems unfair and it makes moral behaviour pointless and contradicts holy texts - makes our own life actions seem pointless. 
  • It is acceptable that some evil and suffering are necessary for God's purpose but is so muxh and such grave suffering necessary? D.Z Phillips argued that love can never be expressed by allowing suffering to happen, but to be done for a purpose planned for eternity- that is the deepest evil. If God is this kind of agent, he cannot justify his actions and his evil nature is revealed. 
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AO2- Conclusion

Irenaeus is more convincing than Augustine because:

  • He highly regards humans and we really do need evil because we have to make a choice - free will
  • It is quite accessible because it doesn't rely on the Bible or the Fall. 
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