Problem of Evil

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"Either God cannot abolish evil, or he will not; if he cannot, then he is not all powerful and if he will not, then he is not all good" - Augustine

There is a contradiction and the logical reasoning suggests that one of the premises is wrong - this would deny classical theism. The problem however, only seems to be a problem for believers.

  • All good implies God opposes evil and will wish to remove it
  • God cannot do the logically impossible

Dostoevsky said that when you see evil, on a large or small scale, you feel something towards it.
Effected Holocaust victims - look at the scales intensity, duration and distribution - most feel something towards this and question God.

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Natural and Moral Evil

Natural Evil - events which cause suffering in which humans have no control e.g. earthquakes or tsunamis
Moral Evil - events which are at the hands of humans e.g. **** or murder

Moral and Natural Evil presents problems in believing in God. Some make further groupings such as physical and metaphysical .

"Nearly all the things which men are hanged for ... are Nature's everyday performances" - John Stuart Mill.

For many people, the depth and extent of human suffering, together with the selfishness and greed, makes the idea of a loving creator seem implausible. Rather than attempt to define evil in terms of some theological theory, it seems better to define it ostensively.

Only a perfect being could be worthy of worship - this is held as a part of God's perfection.

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  • Creation is good + Humans were created perfect: they were angels and free agents
  • Humans have free will but humans used their free will to turn away from God. God makes possible repentance and salvation

There is an emphasis on soul deciding: those who turn back to God are condemned to hell. Our response to evil determines what happens to us when we die.
All evil, to Augustine, is either the result of sin or the punishment of sin. We are all punished because we are condemned to the loins of Adam. However, God does not cease to love us. J.L Mackie - some people have free will and yet we known by their character that they will always do the right thing.


  • Modern science rejects the idea of humanity's fall from perfection
  • If everything depends on God, then why do we have free will?
  • If God is ominbenevolent, then can hell exist?
  • Should God reward and punish
  • Why should we not see God as a part of the problem: surely he foresaw evil?
  • Evil is a by product of a lack of good
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Humans were not created perfect but were developing towards perfection. He made a distinction between the image and the likeness of God - Adam had the form of God but not the content. The fall of humanity is seen as an inevitable part of growing up and maturity.

Irenaeus never developed a fully philosophy but it has been extended by Hick. Hick sees the 1st page of God as the culmination of the evolutionary process. The 2nd phase involves making moral, responsible choices - a necessary pilgrimage.

A world without challenge means that we cannot morally grow - Hick's justification for God making the world in the way that he has.


  • If the end result is guaranteed by God, why do we have free will to refuse to mature?
  • Can the greater goods be gained without evil and suffering?
  • Atonement seems unnecessary
  • How does the Holocaust fit with the design of human's progress
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