The Problem Of Evil

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  • Created by: jess
  • Created on: 03-01-13 13:39

The problem

Epicurus's famous definition of the problem of evil written about 2,000 years ago:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able to? Then he is not omnipotent.

 Is God able to prevent evil, but not willing to? Then he is malevoelent (evil).

 Is God able to prevent evil and willing to? Then why is there evil?"

The POE challenges God's omnipotence, goodness and omniscience.

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Why the existence of evil challenges belief in God

1) If God is all-powerful why does God not prevent evil?
Logical problem. J.L.Mackie argues if God is really omnipotent, that must mean He has power over 'casual laws' - physical laws of the universe. 
This raises the challenge: why does God not stop evil events hapening if God has the power to stop evil and it costs God nothing to stop it?

2) Sheer amount of evil in the world challenges the goodness of creation.
We have the capacity to inflict great evil/ suffering on one another, e.g. millions of people were killed by the Nazis in the Second WW, tens of thousands of people were ***** and killed in the genocide in Rwanda during the 1990s.

Such acts of sheer cruelty challenge the omnipotence of God.

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Why the existence of evil challenges belief in God

3) Dostoevsky: 'The Brothers Karamazov'
Arguments against God that focus on the problem of evil, some of which based on incidents recorded in 19th century newspapers in Russia. One questioned soldiers throwing babies in the air and killing them with their bayonets - how can free will be worth the price of innocent people suffering. How can anyone believe in the existence of a good, omnipotent God when suffering like this happens? 

Mackie - price of having free will is that sometimes humans commit appallingly evil acts. If God is really omnipotent, could He not have made human beings so that they always choose freely what is good?
Theists have replied: what sort of a free choice do you have if you are incapable of choosing what is bad? Answer partly depends on how you define free will.

4) Huge amount of suffering within nature
Richard Dawkins - even without human beings, the amount of suffering in the animal kingdom is immense. These ideas do not fit with the idea of creation being good and having been made by God.

All that matters in nature is the passing on of genes, there is no good or evil about it.

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Why the existence of evil challenges belief in God

Some argue that a child learns by making mistakes and sometimes mistakes cause suffering, e.g. learning not to touch hot things because they burn you.

BUT - this does not mean we need illnesses and wicked acts that occur in the world

For others, the problem is that evil and suffering seem to be indictiminate - both good and bad people can be affected by it. 

How does this fit in the belief in a good God who is meant to be just?

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Used by believers for their explanations of how belief in a good, omnipotent God can be maintained in the face of all the evil and suffering present in the world.

Comes from theos in greek meaning God and dikaios, meaning justification.

Theodicy, therefore, is a justification for the belief in God even though evil and suffering exist.

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Types of evil

Moral Evil:    Evil events/acts caused by humans as a result of free will.

                   In philosophical terms: an agents caused the act freely.

Natural Evil:  Events with evil/bad consequences when experienced by humans. 

                   E.g. a hurricane (Katrina) stiking a city causing death and destruction. This is a                    result of the way in which nature works.

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Evil: A problem to be solved or endured?

Epicurus said the problem of evil could be solved in the following ways:

1) Evil is caused by creatures using their free will.

2) Evil is necessary as a means for people to develop some valuable moral qualities .e.g compassion.

3) Developing a different understanding of the nature of God.

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Augustine's Theodicy: Key Ideas

Interpretted Genesis literally. Free will defence.

1) God: God the Creator is omnipotent and all good.
2) Harmonious creation: Creation is good and in the beginning was harmonious.
3) Hierarchy of beings: Angels, humans, animals.
4) Privation: Evil is a privation/lack of goodness in something.
5) The Fall: Angels and humans fall through their own free choices, giving into temptation. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve.
6) Natural evil: Disharmony in the world follows the fall of angels leading to natural evil.
7) Free will: Free will is valuable so God sustains a world within which moral and natural       evil  occurs.
8) Aesthetic value: The existence of evil highlights the goodness of creation because of the contrast between good and evil. 

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Criticisms of Augustine's theodicy

1) Plausibility - Existence of scientific evidence for evolution seems to disprove the creation   story as suggested in Genesis, which Augustine took literally. 

2) Science - Earth evolved over 400 billion years ago. Evolution suggets a need for change -   therefore, the world was not created perfectly like Augustine believed. Life has developed through natural selection. Believed we inherit Adam's sin - but every person is a unique individual who inherits hal their DNA from mother, other half from father.

3) How could the perfect world go wrong? - Schleiermacher questioned this. If angels were   created to live in the presence of God, why would they turn away from him?

4) God's responsility for natural evils - Augustine believes that God is responsible for everything in the world. Suffering is a punsihment for the sin of Adam. Doesn't fit with the idea of a loving and merciful God. Why did God not create a world with less suffering?

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Iranaean theodicy: Key Ideas

Literal interpretation. Humans stray from God, the serpent is to blame. Universal salvation.
Jesus is the new Adam who obeys God and dies on the cross (the tree) and thus undoes the fault of Adam who took forbidden fruit from the tree. 

1) God: God the creator is omnipotent and all-good.
2) Creation is embryonic: The universe and earth develop over time.
3) Human beings are created in an imperfect state: We evovle from the 'image' of God into the likeness of God.
4) Soul-making world: World is an environment in which people grow and develop into the likeness of God. Hence, natural evil is present in it.
5) Epistemic distance: There is an episemic distance between God and people so that human beings have the chance to choose freely to grow into relationship with God.
6) Eschatological aspect: All will come to be in the likeness of God eventually, but this will not be in physical life.
7) Free will: Free will is valuable, so God sustains a world within which moral and natural evil occur.

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Criticisms of Hick's theodicy

1) Plausibility - eschatological and other aspects are inplausible. 

2) Injustice - Christians see universal salvation as unjust.

3) Is suffering a price worth paying? Is so much suffering necessary? - Even one life lost for someone's evil act seems to be one too many, let alone the illions lost in Nazi Germany, Vietnam and Rwanda.

4) Do the ends justify the means? - philosophers question wether it is right to justify the existence of evil so that we live in a world in which we can develop into the likeness of God.

5) The epistemic distance - Why is God not more clearly visible? 

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