The Problem of Evil and Suffering

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  • Created by: Fran99
  • Created on: 12-01-16 12:28


Natural Evil: Problem in the natural world such as tsunamis, earthquakes and famines.

Moral Evil: The result of human actions such as murder or theft.

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The Inconsistent Triad

Omnipotent: All Powerful. Therefore God should be able to stop evil happening.

Omniscient: All Knowing. Therefore God should know that evil is happening.

Omnibenevolent: All Loving. Therfore God should want to stop evil.

However evil and suffering still exist, this means he cannot be one of the three, meaning he can therefore not exist. 

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Solutions to the Problem

  • Mary Baker Eddy: God was completely good and that only goodness was real. Evil and suffering are simply the failure to understanding the loving nature of God.
  • Perspective. If no one is in danger, then a volcano erupting can be seen as a beauty of nature. However, if lives are lost then it becomes a natural disaster.
  • A test of faith. God may allow suffering in a person's life in order to test and stregthen their faith.
  • God's Plan. God may be all-loving and all-powerful, yet allows evil to exist as part of his preater plan of love. 
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Augustinian's Theodicy

  • All suffering is therfore a consequence of this abuse of free will.
  • Evil is a privation, (it is the absence of God), so it was not created by God.
  • Therfore because he did not create it, he does not need to stop it.
  • God is not all bad, he sent Jesus to reaffirm the covenant and created heaven, therfore God is all-loving.
  • Genesis 1:31 "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."

(Actual theodicy summarised in flow chart.)

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Criticisms of Augustinian's Theodicy

  • If God had created a perfectly good world then it could never go wrong.
  • God cannot be all-knowing becasue otherwise he would have known what Eve was going to do and therfore would have created a situation where Eve would have not sinned.
  • If humans were able to choose evil, then evil must have existed in the first place.
  • If the world was not perfect to start with then God is to blame for evil and suffering.
  • In nature suffering is vital for survival; things must die so that others might eat and live. God must have made the world this way.
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Irenaean Theodicy

1. God allows evil: This is so we can develop and grow as human beings into having a mature and free relationship with God.

2. Evil is necessary to know what is good: there has to be evil in order to appreciate good.

3. Suffering leads to growth: "That which does not kill me, makes me stronger." Friedrich Nietzsche. 

4. God did not make us to be puppets: If we did not have free will, we could not make our own decisions, so God would not love us, because he wants us to be free and choose. God had to premit evil and suffering to occur otherwise we would not truely have free will. 

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Criticisms of Irenaean's Theodicy

  • Suffering does not always result in positive human development.
  • Suffering can produce nothing but misery and suffering.
  • Why are there such extremes of suffering and do such happenings really produce good?
  • D.Z. Philips: Love can never be expressed by allowingsuffering to happen."
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John Hick's Version

  • If God wanted man to be genuinely loving and not like robots he needed to allow them to develop autonomy (free will) as this gives love value.

Two Results:

1. There is an epistemic distance between us and god. Epistemic Distance=This is a distance between us and god so God would not be so close to us that we would not be overwheled by him and have no choice but to believe. Humans are not born with the innate knowledge of God's existence and have to seek God through faith. "Humanity is created at an epistemic distance from god in order to come freely to know and love their maker; and that they are the same time created.

2. Persons are morally deficient. "We are born as immative creatures living in a challenging and therfore person-making world." Hick concludes that God's existence is hidden at a distance from our capacity to know.

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Counter-factual Hypothesis

Definition: A method of enquiry that examine what might happen if a situation had been brought about in a different way to what it is in fact.

  • Hick siad that the world is a place where huamns have to face challenges in order to gain perfection. He said that the world is: "rather well adapted to the quite different purpose of 'soul-making."
  • God's purpose would not be possible in a world completely free from suffering and evil. There cannot be a world without suffering.
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Peter Vardy- The King and the Peasant Girl

  • A king falls in love with a peasant girl, he has the power to force her to marry him, but instead he chooses to win her around of her own accord since love cannot be created by compulsion.
  • in the same way God had to allow humans to develop for themselves if their love of God was to be genuine.
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The Free Will Defence


  • This world is the logically necessary environment for humans to develop.
  • It provides freedom to make choices, both good and evil.
  • Without such choices, people would not be free.
  • God cannot intervene because to do so would interfere with human freedom.
  • "The less he allows men to bring about large-scale horros, the less freedom and responsibility he gives them."
  • The world has natural laws that can cause sufffereing. Swinburn: "If men are to have knowledge of the evil which will result from their action or negligence, laws of nature must operate reguarly and that means that there will be victims of the system." 

Kierkegaard: Freedom is essential to the relationship Christians believe they have with God, it must have been freely chosen.

Criticisms: It does not sound like the plan of an all-loving God.

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