Problem of Evil

  • Created by: LaurenLau
  • Created on: 05-05-17 13:43


The monotheistic God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam assumes the divine qualities of omnipotence, omniscience and omni-benevolence. 

However, the existence of evil and suffering in the world provides a challenge to the loving God of classical theism.

John Hick defined evil as “physical pain, mental suffering and moral wickedness" 

For Hick, the consequence of evil is suffering

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Moral Evil

Result of human action which is morally wrong

Humans doing "what they ought not to do"

Human negligence to do the right thing

Examples: the holocaust, 9/11, 7/7, wars

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Natural Evil

The apparent malfunctioning of the world 

"Evil originates independently of Human actions" -Hick

Examples: disease, famine, earthquakes, tsunami

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The state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.

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Inconsistent Triad

God is Omni-benevolent

God is Omni-scient

God is Omni-potent

God is all of this but still Evil exists

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Is an attempt to reconcile the existence of God

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Augustine's Theodicy

 Evil is not created by God and therefore God and evil can exist simoultaneoulsy

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Strengths of A.T

  • Augustine defined evil as the privation of goodness, just as blindness is a privation of sight. Since evil is not an entity in itself, just like blindness is not an entity in itself, God could not have created it.
  • Natural Evil: Occurred because of the loss of order in nature, defined by Augustine as the 'penal consequences of sin'
  • Moral Evil: Derived from human free will and disobedience
  • Based on the narratives of Genesis 1-3, Augustine's theodicy argues that God created the world and it was perfect, without the existence of evil or suffering. - Genesis 1:31: “God saw all that he had made and saw that it was very good"
  • God gave humanity free will out of his lovingness
  • It explains natural and moral evil with the help of the story of Adam and Eve. 
  • The existence of evil originates from free will possessed by angels and humans.They turned their back on God and settled for a lesser form of goodness thus creating a privation of goodness as the narrative of 'the fall' in Genesis 3 tries to explain. As a result the state of perfection was ruined by sin.
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Strengths Continued

  • The existence of evil originates from free will possessed by angels and humans.They turned their back on God and settled for a lesser form of goodness thus creating a privation of goodness as the narrative of 'the fall' in Genesis 3 tries to explain. As a result the state of perfection was ruined by sin.
  • Augustine reasoned that all humans are worthy of the punishment of evil and suffering because we are “seminally present in the loins of Adam"' deserving of the punishment for original sin.
  • God has the right not to intervene and put a stop to evil and suffering since he is a just God and we are worthy of punishment. God has the right not to intervene and put a stop to evil and suffering since he is a just God and we are worthy of punishment. 
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Weaknesses of A.T

  • Augustine's view that every human in seminally present in the loins Adam is biologically inaccurate and the question can be raised; is God really justified in allowing punishment of one human being for the sin of another human being?
  • Augustine's view is also inconsistent with the theory of evolution which asserts that the universe began in chaos and is continually developing, not diminishing over time.
  • It relies on outdated narratives therefore it is not applicable to the modern world. 
  • If the world was perfect and there was no knowledge of good and evil, how could Adam and Eve have the freedom to disobey God if goodness and evil were as yet unknown? The disobedience of Adam and Eve and the angels implies that there already was knowledge of good and evil. Augustine's interpretation of the tree of knowledge therefore is questionable.
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Weaknesses Continued

  • If God is so loving, why is salvation only offered through Christ? 
  • An omniscient God would know what we would do with the gift of free will. Evil cannot have just occurred.
  • Schleiermacher argued that it was a logical contradiction to make the claim that a perfectly created world went wrong since this implies that evil created itself ex nihilno which is a logical contradiction. Either the world was not perfect to start with or God made it go wrong – if this is the case it is God and not humans who are to blame and the existence of evil is not justified.
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Conclusion of A.T

If evil was not created by God, it was created by free will which was given to us by God.

Therefore He has passively created evil and it does not fit with the inconsistent triad.

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Irenaeus' theodicy

God created an imperfect world so that humanity could develop perfection.

God gave us free will so that we could freely move towards God.

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Strengths of I.T

  • Avoids the issue of a perfect creation turning away from God whilst allowing for God's omni-characteristics.
  • He has graciously given us free will.
  • It explains and justifies the presence of evil -we strive to meet challenges through suffering in order to gain perfection. 
  • Allows humanity to recognise the value of a relationship with God.
  • Provides recognisable and achievable goal for humanity that stresses value of life on Earth
  • Takes responsibility off humans making God responsible for evil.
  • Many suffer badly through life so only a supreme life in heaven can justify the present suffering
  • Vale of soul making is the "best possible universe" because a world without error would be one without free will.
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Weaknesses of I.T

  • D.Z. Phillips - What is the necessity in extensive suffering in order for God to make a point? Why did 6 million Jews have to die in the Holocaust and not 2 million? Does it really have to be so extreme before someone does something?
  • Would it not be easier for God to give us longer earthly lives if we need an afterlife to achieve perfection?
  • Suffering does not always lead to faith but alternatively atheism.
  • If God created an imperfect world, then he is partly responsible for the existance of evil. 
  • It is argued the theodicy trivialises evil as it is not a sufficient explanation of evil to say that it will benefit us in the afterlife.
  • How can God be just if everyone attains salvation?
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Weaknesses Continued

  • Does not explain why a supposedly perfect God allows innocent people to suffer evil
  • There would be nothing to stop people committing crimes such as **** and murder if they knew they would get away with it and go to Heaven.
  • Challenges of this world do not always result in genuine human development, but normally bring nothing but great misery and suffering.
  • Many apparently evil people are mentally disturbed and cannot be held totally responsible for their actions.
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Hick's Reformation of the Irenaeus' theodicy

It is important that  God allows humans to develop themselves.

 He reasoned that if God made us perfect, then we would have the goodness of robots, which would love God automatically without any further deliberation. 

If God interfered or became to close, humans would be unable to make a free choice and thus would not benefit from the developmental process. 

 This is known as the counterfactual hypothesis.

Therefore God created humans at an epistemic distance from himself, a distance of knowledge.

God wants humans to be genuinely loving and therefore gives them free will.

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Conclusion of I.T

His theory suggests that  we would all go to heaven, so why be good at all? Does it really justify both the existence of evil and God simultaneously?

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Free Will Defence

The free-will defence is based on the premise that moral evil stems from moral agents, and free agency is a necessary condition for human development.

The goodness of free agency outweighs the evil derived from free moral agents.

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Strengths of the F.W.D

  • Divine intervention would compromise human freedom thus preventing human development.
  • Swinburne used the example of death – death brings about suffering but is necessary to ensure humans take their responsibilities seriously.
  • 'If there is always a second chance there is no risk.'
  • Hick argued that is such a case humans would not be truly free since their actions would have been decided before they came into existence, even if they were under the illusion that they were acting freely (links to point 2 in weaknesses).
  • Hick argued that either we demand a world free of evil and suffering in which there would be no free-will or we accept the world as it is now. If we say that some evils are too great then we begin to go down a scale of evils until even the slightest evil becomes too great e.g. if we say cancer is too severe, what about heart disease, flu or even a headache. (links to point 3 in weaknesses).
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Weaknesses of the F.W.D

  • If I had the chance to prevent a murder from happening but chose to let it happen I could not use the free-will defence to justify my inaction. It would be unacceptable for a human being to argue that they were right in not preventing the murder, even if they were able to, simply because they wanted to preserve the free-will of the murderer. So why should this justification be more acceptable coming from God?
  • Some argue that God could have created free agents without risking bringing evil and suffering into the world - there is nothing logically inconsistent about a free agent that always chooses goodness over evil. (links to point 4 in strengths)
  • Is the magnitude of suffering really necessary for human development? (links to point 5 in strengths)
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Antony Flew

Flew wrote that the biggest challenge to the believer is accepting that the existence of evil and suffering is a major problem that demands an adequate response. 

The problem faced by monotheists demands a solution, not of qualification; in which the nature of God is arbitrarily changed to suit different circumstances.

This concept of God 'dies the death of a thousand qualifications,' but by the rational justification of God's right to allow evil and suffering to continue despite his ability to stop it.

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David Hume

As an atheist, he argued that only three possibilities exist:

I. God is not omnipotent
II. God is not omni-benevolent
III. Evil does not exist

Since we have sufficient direct experience to support the existence of evil, if God exists he is either an impotent God or a malicious God; not the God of classical theism. Hume concluded that God therefore does not exist.

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For some reason, on the card 'Weaknesses continued' for the Irenaeus' theodicy the word '****' has been censored so that it is what it says.



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