The Problem of Evil Exam Questions

  • Created by: Elena.S
  • Created on: 10-05-17 20:35

Types of evil (2)

1) natural evil - natural disasters i.e hurricanes, earthquakes etc
2) moral evil - bad things that happen done by humans to humans i.e cruelty

1 of 20

Inconsistent triad (5)

1) God is omnipotent
2) Evil exists
3) God is omnibenevolent

If God has these traits, why does evil continue to exist?

2 of 20

Define theodicy (2)

An attempt to answer the questions, "why does God allow evil?"

3 of 20

Define defence (2)

An attempt to show that God's existence is logically compatible with the presence of evil

4 of 20

Logical problem of evil (5)

  • key thinker: Mackie
  • mere existence of evil is logically incompatible with existence of God
  • deductive therefore stronger
    P1 - God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent
    P2 - evil exists
    P3 - a good being eliminates evil as far as it can
    P4 - there are no limits to what omnipotent can do
    P5 - religious believers accept all of the above
    C - Mackie: these cannot be true simultaneously
5 of 20

Evidential problem of evil (5)

  • key thinker: Rowe
  • amount + distribution of evil that exists is good enough evidence that God doesn't exist
  • inductive therefore weaker
    P1: there are instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent and omniscient being could have prevented without losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally as bad or worse
    P2: an omniscient, wholly good being would prevent occurrences of any intense suffering it could unless it could not do so without losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse
    C: therefore an omni God doesn't exist
6 of 20

Criticisms of Mackie's logical problem (7) (1/2)

1) "There can be no good without some evil"
if it is logically impossible for good to exist without evil, then God can't create a world in which good can exist without evil and evil doesn't oppose good but is necessary for it
but is this true?
contrast effect - everything could be red and we wouldn't notice notice. How we think and talk isn't restriction on what is possible for God. So why can't everything be good even if we didn't notice it?

2) "The world is better with some evil in it"
therefore a universe with both second (results of wickedness i.e malevolence) and first order evils (wickedness) is a better universe than one without both
what about second order evils? Couldn't we just have them?

7 of 20

Criticisms of Mackie's logical problem (7) (1/2)

"Evil is due to free will"
second order evils are result of free will but free will is so valuable that it outweighs these evils
why doesn't God make us choose good?
logically impossible bc no free will in determinism,
P1 - God could eliminate evil that is not necessary for the greater good
P2 - extra evil is not necessary for greater good
P3 - Extra evil exists
C - therefore God doesn't not exist

8 of 20

Augustine's view on the problem of evil (5)

  • God created world as perfect without evil or suffering
  • Evil as absence of good so God didn't create it
  • Evil from free will of angels and humans who looked for lesser form of goodness (privation) therefore state of perfection ruined by sin
  • Natural evil - loss of order
  • Moral evil - human disobedience
  • All humans worthy of punishment of evil bc all present in Adam
  • God has right not to intervene bc he is just God and we are worthy of punishment, but by grace and infinite love we are able to accept his offer of salvation and eternal life in heaven
9 of 20

Criticisms of Augustine's view (5)

  • logically contradictoary to claim that perfectly created world went wrong, evil came from nothing in perfect world so either 1) God created imperfect world, 2) God didn't know free will would result in sin, 3) God made it go wrong
  • God is responsible for good and bad in universe which is a closed system so how did evil get into it?
  • God would know entire history of universe and would be able to see the consequences of his decisions
10 of 20

Plantinga's free will defence (7)

P1 - a world with free creatures is better than world without free creatures
P2 - God created significantly free creatures who can choose to be morally good or morally bad in realm of moral freedom
P3 - bc of this, God cannot make these creatures do good without taking away free will
P4 - God can only eliminate moral evil done by significantly free creatures by eliminating greater good of significantly free creatures (possible > true)
C - therefore evil is the price of free will and humans are cause of moral evil

  • God is omnipotent (created a world with free creatures) + omnibenevolent (creating such a world for us)
  • Natural evil - first order natural evils necessary for second order virtues OR natural evil as consequence of moral evil and moral evil is necessary for free will
  • theodicy is defence in attempting to demonstrate logically incompatibility
11 of 20

Issues with Plantinga's free will (5)

1) doesn't account for natural evil + moral evil causes suffering for animals
Augustine: natural evil caused by moral evil (literal understanding of Bible)

2) Flew: free will refers to actions whose causes are within the person; God could've created good-natured humans who chose to be good using free will

  • no difference between "naturally good" people + automata designed to be good; "naturally good" people could be manipulated; is God unworthy of worship?

3) Mackie's possible worlds
P1 - logically possible for me to choose to do good on any one occasion
P2 - logically possible for me to choose to do good on every occasion
P3 - logically possible for any indiv. to choose to do good throughout life
P4 - God is omnipotentnt and can create any logically possible world
P5 - God could've created world with free will where we all chose to do good
P6 - God didn't so he must not be either omnipotent or omnibenevolent
Plantinga: God can only make logically possible worlds; potential for corruption

12 of 20

Irenaeus's soul-making theodicy (7)

P1 - humans were created in both the image + likeness of God
P2 - we are in an immature moral state, but have the potential for moral perfection (image but not yet likeness)
P3 - over time we should develop from being human animals to ‘children of God’
P4 - this is a choice made after experience, as we choose God rather than our baser instinct
P5 - there are no external forces at work here – we choose for ourselves
C - therefore God allows suffering for our own good because we learn and develop positive values in response

13 of 20

Criticisms of the soul-making theodicy (7)

1) Irenaeus argued that everyone goes to heaven. Is this really fair? Should evil be punished? This view denies the importance of the Fall, and Jesus’ role is reduced to that of moral example so consequences
2) why should ‘soul making’ involve suffering? The ‘suffering is good for you’ argument seems unjust, especially in the suffering of innocents; Hume: ‘Could not our world be a little more hospitable and still teach us what we need to know? Could we not learn through pleasure as well as pain?’ + Voltaire questioned how much evil was really necessary for us to appreciate the good in the world
Swinburne: our suffering is limited, by our own capacity to feel pain, and by our lifespan
3) can suffering ever be justified on the grounds of motive? Suffering does not sit easily with the concept of a loving God. It seems difficult to justify something like the Holocaust with the concept of ‘soul making’

14 of 20

Hick's development of soul-making (7)

  • we are unfinished creations
  • stage 1: evolution of creatures capable of a relationship with God
  • stage 2: individual development towards virtue (God can create creatures with ‘ready-made’ virtues but those as result of challenges, discipline, and overcoming temptation are ‘good in a richer and more valuable sense’ and relationship with God (God cannot create beings that respond to him in authentic faith + love without free will)
  • such virtuous development is impossible unless there is evil (both natural and moral) to respond to and correct
  • therefore God does not seek to minimise pain, because he wishes to enable us to develop

Key beliefs (+ Augustine)
1) free will is central to explanations as to existence of evil
2) God bears ultimate responsibly for existence of evil
3) greater good emerges from evil that would increase if God intervened to remove it
4) God can't create beings with free will who automatically do good

15 of 20

Criticisms of Hick (7) (1/2)

1) What about animal suffering?

Animals don’t grow spiritually, so how is the natural evil that they suffer justified?


Hick: animals live in the present without fear of death or of future pains or dangers but to be alive means to be subject to pain (much of our suffering they don’t share, e.g. self-pity)


Wouldn’t a world without animals and their pain be better?


In such a world, we would lose our ‘cognitive freedom’; to respond to God freely, we need to be able to understand the world as one in which God doesn’t exist and animals provide such an account of our existence therefore animals are necessary for our development

16 of 20

Criticisms of Hick (7) (1/2)

2) Is it plausible that terrible evils are really necessary for our moral and spiritual growth?

  • terrible evils are terrible in contrast to more ‘ordinary’ evils
  • if we remove the terrible ones, the next-to-terrible ones will seem exceptional and we will wonder why those are permitted
  • if we remove more evils, the world with little evil is also a world with little human freedom, responsibility and development

3) A great deal of evil doesn’t (appear to) contribute to spiritual growth + cannot be rationalised

  • existence of such irrational evils is part of the process of soul-making, imagine such a world in which we knew, on every occasion when someone suffered, that it was for the best, we would lack deep sympathy, faith and hope so it must look like evil is unjustified for human development

4) life after death

  • unless evil does lead to development, it is unjustified so therefore there must be life after death, since many do not achieve virtue before death - in fact, there must be universal salvation.
17 of 20

Leibniz's soul-making theodicy (5)

P1 - God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent

P2 - He could have chosen any universe to create, and He’s created this one

P3 - Pain and suffering in this universe must be important and necessary somehow

C - They are so necessary in fact as to be better than every alternative universe

18 of 20

Afterlife defence (5)

Hick: omnipotent + eternal God wouldn't allow humans to die without fulfilling potentially; limited suffering to fulfil potential for unlimited happiness in heaven

19 of 20

Criticisms of afterlife defence (5)

  • existence of hel defers/amplifies problem of evil to next life
  • Questions omnibenevolence of God
20 of 20


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Evil resources »