The nature of evil and suffering
John Hick's definition of evil and suffering: 'physical pain, mental suffering and moral wickedness'. The last one is a cause of the first two.
Types of evil
> Natural evil: in the natural world out of our control e.g. earthquakes, floods, volcanoes etc.
> Moral evil: arises from humans' actions which are morally wrong and go against humanity such as war, cruelty and murder. Consequence of humans abusing their freewill.
> Physical evil: broken arm
> Metaphysical: hell
What does the Bible say about suffering?
The bible tells us of a mixture of good and evil from human experience by recording sorrow, suffering and wickedness. Evil and suffering is not underestimated in the bible and the Psalmist writes in graphic detail of suffering e.g. Jesus dying on the cross.
The challenge of evil
Theism: the belief in a loving and powerful God.
~ If God is all knowing and all perfectly loving he must have the knowledge and determination to abolish all evil and suffering. However this continues to exist and therefore God cannot be all knowing and all perfectly loving.
The inconsistent triad:
Each corner of the triangle is a belief that religious people accept and claim.
However for the two to be true, the third is contradicted.
1) If God was omnipotent and evil exists, God is not benevolent.
2) God is benevolent and evil exsists, God is not omnipotent.
The nature of God
> 'God is not perfectly good'
The problem of evil may lead some people to believe God is not perfectly good but is in fact morally imperfect. People of this view may also argue that due to this, God is not worthy of worship or worthy of the title 'God' which holds great power and recognition separating him apart from the rest of the human race.
> 'God is not all powerful'
God is incapable of destroying all evil because he lacks the power to do so. However some people believe he cannot control events or nature which can cause evil and afflict suffering although, he can lead them towards good by using his power to help people the best they can be as a result.
> 'God is not all loving'
To a non-religious believer they are aware there is no event where a religious believer would admit that God does not really love them despite him not intervening with immoral situations.
the Bible and the problem of evil
Some people see evil and suffering as a way of punishment sent from God for not doing as he asks.
The bible supports this to an extent: 'The Lord will send on your curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the eveil you have done in forsaking him'.
The Bible also has passages which demonstrate the view that people seem to suffer although they have done no wrong action e.g. Story of Job, and that God love's everybody good or bad, 'he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good'.
God may afflict suffering upon somebody as a test as well as a form of punishment.
Thus is to test your faith, human qualities, love and courage. This may bring the person closer to God and teaches them moral ways. Other religious believers may suggest otherwise.
^^ Story of Job ^^
How does it solve the problem?
> God made everything perfect and all good - Bible shows God created a world free from sin
> We have evil and suffering due to us abusing our freewill
Example: Adam and Eve rebelled against God in Garden of Eden - original sin
> State of perfection was ruined by humanity, first from Adam and Eve
> Original sin is passed through generations and is the cause of us sinning
> God not intervening is serving punishment as justice from human sin
> Higher and lower goods - evil occurs when people set for lesser goods - God didn't create it therefore he is not responsible
> Suggests evil is the going wrong of something that is in actual fact good
Example: sickness (physical evil) is a physical lack of good health - privation of good
> God is still benevolent - sent Jesus Christ to die so that those people who believe and stayed faithful to God could live eternally and peacefully.
Augustinian Theodicy Evaluation
> Freidrich Schleiermacher book, The Christian Faith: if God was powerful by nature he must have created the world as he wanted it. God wouldn't have created angels (for the fallen angel aka devil to come about) or any humanity with evil if he didn't want it for a bigger purpose.
> If the world was perfect and there was no knowledge of good and evil, how could there be the freedom to obey or disobey God, because good and evil were unknown? The knowledge must have previously existed
> Contradicts science - theory of evolution - evidence of humans developing from lower forms of life where we only had limited awareness.
Science - teaches suffering is essential to survive
> Hell: if he was benevolent why would he create a place of eternal punishment never mind allowinge evil and suffering in the first place?
> If God created all things, he must have created metaphysical evil - he is also the source of evil
> God must have known his 'perfect' world would be destroyed - why give us freewill?
> Suggests he is an angry and malicious figure with no intention of good
> Traditional response - takes responsibility away from God
How does it solve the problem of evil and suffering?
John Hick: 'In Evil and the God of Love': 'to be judged not primarily by the quantity but by its fitness for its primary purpose, the purpose of soul making'.
> God had a plan and purpose to provide humanity with the opportunity to develop the qualities necessary to become perfect
> Two stages:
1) God created us all in his image (Book of Genesis)
2) Us developing into the 'likeness of God' - growing into perfect and spiritual beings
> God could not have created us in his perfect likeness first - needed to willingly cooperate - thus why we have freewill
> Evil therefore plays a valuable part in his plans for humanity
We are given evil in order to enable ourselves to develop the characteristics needed for perfection such as courage, generosity, kindness and love
> Bible, Paul: 'we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; and perseverance, character and hope'
> Evil and suffering with eventually be overcome - we will develop into God's perfect likeness - live in heaven - all suffering will end forever - God's plans for humanity will be complete
Irenaen Theodicy Evaluation
> Evil and suffering doesn't always bring out the best in people.
Example: somebody going through a tough time may turn to drug and alcohol abuse
> May question whether the world needs such extremes of suffering and evil such as the Holocaust to produce good?
> Ignores that many people develop qualities without experiencing any suffering or evil and some who do experience this may worsen their qualities
> How long is God planning for evil and suffering to take place?
> Why is the development taking so long and why can't God speed up the process to prevent any more suffering?
> Takes into account scientific evidence: allows room for evolution to be explained
> Avoids the theory that evil comes from nowhere
> Ensures something good will come out of something bad - reassuring theodicy
> Arose from views of A.N. Whitehead - developed by David Griffin in book: God, Power and Evil: A Process Theodicy
> God is not omnipotent - cannot control evil and suffering
> God did not crete the universe
> Against Bible teachings of how world was made and God's nature
> Frees God from being responsible of evil, whilst allowing him to be involved with the world and human activity
> God's role: to start off evolutionary process - led to development of humans
> God does not have power to change natural processes
> God is part of a natural process - like us - he is too developing
> God is 'dipolar': he has two 'poles':
2) physical: the world which is God's 'body', God suffers when we do
Process Theodicy Evaluation
> Doesn't accept God's nature: denying he is omnipotent: presents him with a lack of benevolence
> He allows the majority to suffer at the expense of the minority
> Makes people question whether such a limited God is worthy of worship
Freewill defences: the belief that humans can only develop if we are free to choose how to act and this is seen as a crucial key to solving the problem of evil.
Freewill = necessary - provides an opportunity to make our own choices and produce good and evil
Richard Swinburne: God allows us to have freewill and does not intervene with evil and suffering because to do so would limit human freedom and take away our need to be responsible.
Argues death is also necessary because we need to take responsibility seriously - if we were immortal we would have infinite chances = humanity would therefore never develop
Suffering remains a problem for religious belief
> Process theodicy: suggests remains a problem for religious belief: question's Gods nature, goes against Bible, agrees with science = while claiming there is a God
> Explain what the process theodicy is, who it was developed by, strengths and weaknesses
> A religious believer may question God in their time of suffering
> Hard for a believer to explain their belief in solutions when there are so many contradictions
Example: when one problem is solved another is raised (link to inconsistent triad)
> (Above) therefore endless cycle = remaining a problem
> Issues raised by innocent suffering
> How long do you think it will remain a problem???