Problem of Evil

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The problem of evil

When outlining the problem of evil say as many scholars and if it does not ask specifically in question about problem, put it in the intro

  • Augustine - "Either God cannot abloish evil or he will not: if he cannot then he is not all powerful, if he will not, then he is not all good" - he thinks that you have to compromise one of the characteristics.
  • Aquinas - 'If one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be all together destroyed, but the name God means that he is infinite goodness. If therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world; therefore God does not exist.'
  • Swinburne - 'there is a problem about why God allows evil, and if the theist does not have a satisfactory answer to it, then his belief in God is less than rational, and there is no reason to why the atheist should share it' - a theist has to have a solution to why evil exists otherwise they are irrational.
  • Hume - because the qualities of omnipotence, omnibenevolence and evil cannot exist simultaneously but evil does exist, then the God of classical theism cannot exist
  • Mackie - presented the promblem of evil as an inconsistent triad.
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The Augustinian Theodicy

  •  Augustine argued that the universe is good, that it is the creation of a good God for a good purpose.

What evil is?

  • Augustine believed that there were higher and lower goods, in huge number and variety, but that everything was, in its own way, good. Evil itself is not a thing or a substance and God did not create it. Evil is the going wrong of something that is, in itself, good. Augustine called evil a privation of good.

Where it comes from/purpose

  • Augustine believed that evil did not come from God, nor did it exist in its own right. Evil comes when those beings that had freewill, angels and humans, turned their back on God, the surpeme good, and settled for lesser goods. Humans and angels ceased to be what they were created to be. This caused the fall - the biblical narrative of Adam and Eve. highlights this disobedience and the concequences.
  • as a concesquence of the fall, the state of perfection was ruined by human sin and the delicate balance of the world was destroyed. natural evil came through the loss of order in nature and moral evil came from knowldge of good and evil that humanity had.
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The Augustinian Theodicy

Gods justification

  • Augustine believed that God is right not to intervene to put a stop to suffering, because the punishment is justive for human sin and God is a just God, at the end of time, those who have followed God would have eternal life and those who rejected God would suffer eternal torment.
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The Irenaean Theodicy

What evil is? (usually put Augustinian by himself in this theme)

  • Irenaeus argued that the world was the way it was because God had a plan and a purpose to provide humanity with the opportunity to develop the qualities to become perfect


  • according to Irenaus there were two stages in the creation of the human race. Firstly, humans were made in the 'image of God' i.e brought into existance as intelligent but immature beings with the capacity or moral and spiritual perfection. Secondly, humans would grow into the 'likeness of God' by developing, over a long period of time, into perfect moral and spiritual beings
  • Irenaus maintained that God could not have created humans in complete perfection, because attaining the likeness of God needed the willing co-operation of humans, this meant God had to give them freewill. Therefore, God did not make a perfect world because evil has a valuable part to play in God's plans for humanity. Freedom requires the possibility of choosing good instead of evil, and therefore God has to allow evil and suffering to occur.
  • humanity is given evil in order to enable them to develop the characteristics needed for perfection such as courage, generosity, kindness and love 
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The Irenaean Theodicy


  • God created the natural order to include the possibility of good as well as evil and suffering, he then stood back to allow humans to use their free will for good or evil. He cannot intervene or that freedom is lost, humans have to make responsible choices in real situatitons. Irenaus concluded by suggesting that, eventually, evil and suffering will be overcome and humanity will develop into God's perfect likeness and will live in heaven, where all suffering will end forever and God's plan will be complete.
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Hick's reformulation of Irenaus


  • he suggested that if God had made humanity perfectly, then this would have been the goodness of robots, which would automatically love God without question, such love would be valueless. If God wanted humans to be genuinly loving he was right to let them have the freedom to do this.
  • The value of the world was to be judged, not primarily by the quantity of pleasure and pain occuring in it as any particular moment, but by its fitness for its primary purpose 'the purpose of soul-making'
  • for God to achieve this he had to create humans at an epistemic distance from himself. This means that God must not be so close that humans would have no choice but to believe and obey him
  • the world has to be imperfect because if it were a paradise in which there were no evil and suffeing, humans would not be free to choose as only good could actually happen


  • God cannot intervene because humans would not develop, if God changed the laws of nature all the time we wouldn't realise the concequences of our actions.
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