The Problem of Evil and Suffering

  • Created by: Courtney
  • Created on: 05-10-13 12:18

The problem of Evil and Suffering

  • The problem of Evil and Suffering arises because the of existence of both God and Evil
  • It is explained by J.L Mackie's Inconsistent Triad, 1955. This led to David Hume's conclusion that; as the qualities of omnipotence, omnibenevolence and evil exist, the God of clasical theism cannot exist
  • John Hick defined evil and suffering in Philosophy of Religion 1999 as 'physical pain, mental suffering and moral wickedness'. For Hick suffering is the consequence of evil
  • 18th century atheist David Hume called the Problem of evil and suffering 'the rock of atheism'
  • Theodicies are attempts to justify the existence of evil
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The Augustinian Theodicy

  • Augustine (354-430 AD); The God of Love and Confessions
  • God created the world perfect, supported by Genesis 3; 'God saw all that he made and it was very good'
  • Evil is not a substance, simply the going wrong of something good, described as a privation eg. blindness is the absence of sight
  • Evil caused by the Fall in Genesis 3 which is the result of human freedom
  • God is just to allow suffering as a form of punishment for the original sin passed onto humans who were 'seminally present' Romans 5:12 supports this as it states 'death came to all men, because all sinned'
  • 'The penalty of sin corrects the dishonour of sin'
  • Natural evil came through the loss of order in nature and moral evil originated from the fall of angelic and human beings
  • God sent 'the great redeemer' Jesus as salvation on earth and to attone for sin (Romans 5:14,21) this shows God's irresistable grace
  • Soul deciding theodicy as decisions and relationships in this life determine whether you go to heaven or hell. Can be seen as a 'Happy fault' as it allows for soul deciding 
  • Evil is part of an atheistic pattern 
  • God still has his 3 main attributes of omnipotence, omnbelevolence and omniscience. 'since there is happiness for those who do not sin, the universe is perfect'- benevolent
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Criticisms of Augustine's Theodicy

  • Schleiermacher (1768-1834) argues in his book The Christian Faith, 1999, that it was a logical contradiction to say that a perfectly created world had gone wrong, this would mean evil had come out of nothing
  • If God created the universe with absolute power then the angels and humans would have no trace of evil in them and because they exist in a perfect world, would not have used their freewill to choose evil, just as Jesus chose to always do good
  • From modern knowledge it isn't realistic to think of human species once being morally and spiritually perfect as the theory of evolution suggests that humans have evolved from lower life forms with limited moral awareness
  • Furthermore we now know disease and earthquakes existed long before human beings existed and so it is not possible to regard natural evils as consequences of the Fall (Genesis 3)
  • The existence of Hell as a place of eternal punishment seems to contradict the existence of an all-loving God. CF.Calvin argues this as such punishment serves no purpose
  • If Hell was part of God's design of the universe then he must have known the world would go wrong and allowed it to happen, this indicates a malicous God who knows what people are going to do and then punishes them, this further questions if humans actually have free will
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The Irenaean Theodicy

  • St Irenaeus (130-202 CE); Against Heresies, 1992
  • God did not create a perfect world
  • He made humans in the 'Image of God' (Genesis 1:26) with the ability to develop into the 'Likeness' of God
  • Development comes with evil and suffering and helps humans change from 'human animals' into the 'children of God'
  • Peter Cole observed 'The presence of evil helps people to grow and develop' in his book Philosophy of Religion, 1999
  • We are allowed to suffer to develop characteristics such as courage, generousity, kindness and love. This has support of Paul in Romans 5:3 who taught 'rejoice in our suffering'
  • God does not intervene otherwise human freedom to choose good or evil would be lost
  • Suggests utilitarism, once we have developed into God's perfect likeness we all live in heaven 
  • Theodicy developed by John Hick in Evil and the God of love, 1966
  • Hick observed that God created us at an epistemic distance, this allows humans to be fully free as God isn't overwhelmingly evident
  • The world is a 'vale of soul making' and this can be supported by the counterfactual hypothesis, as if the world was a paradise humans would have no opportunity to experience the benefits of their freedom to choose good, CS Lewis agrees with this
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Criticisms of the Irenaean Theodicy

  • The idea that everyone goes to heaven (utilitarism) is not just and is inconsistent with orthodox christianity and the Fall of Genesis 3
  • Is the magnitude of suffering really necessary for soul making? for example the Holocaust which caused a great extent of human suffering and did not appear to result in genuine human development
  • D.Z Philips in 'The Concept of Prayer' argued that the constitution of evil and suffering is not a demonstration of love from an omnibenevolent God
  • Some 'evil people' cannot be held responsible for their actions as they are mentally disturbed
  • The fact that some people suffer more than others leads us to question if God made some humans closer to perfection than other, how is that a benevolent God?
  • Some people claim to live moral lives without having suffered, many people are diminished by suffering and do not appear to develop.
  • Questions why Jesus tries to eliminate suffering (Luke 4:18) if suffering is good and for growth 
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Evaluative comments

  • Both solutions emphasise the importance of free will, however Flew and Mackie argue that if God was able to do the logically impossible, he could have made it so that humans can only freely choose to do good
  • The two theodicies suggest evil and suffering have a purpose but Rover's fawn alalogy shows a fawn which did no wrong and no good came out of its suffering and therefore argues that suffering serves no purpose
  • The Irenaean theodicy is better than Augustine's as the idea of growth and development to achieve moral virtue is supported by the facts of evolution
  • The Irenaean theodicy avoids some problems associated with the Augustinian theodicy particularly the notation that evil seemed to come from nowhere
  • The solutions allow for the co-existence of evil and suffering and God this in itself is a strength
  • As there is no fully successful solution to the problem this supports David Hume's description of it being 'the rock of atheism'
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I think there may be a slight mistake in page 1 of 7 because you said J.L Mackie's inconsistent triad theory from 1955 is what led to David Hume's conclusion, however, you state that Hume is an 18th century philosopher, and therefore his conclusion would've existed before Mackie's theory came about.

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