The Problem of Evil

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Epicurus set out a dilemma

  • Either God can not prevent evil but he wants to- which shows a lack of omnipotence
  • He can but does not want to- shows he is manivolent
  • He can and is willing- then why is there evil?

Moral evil

  • Evil causes by humans through free will
  • Theodicy- an explanation to how an omni-god exists in an evil world

Natural Evil

  • Events that have bad consequences when explained by humans
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Augustinian Theodicy- privation & lack

Augustinian theodicy was greatly influenced by creation stories found in Genesis 1 to 3. Augustine interprets Genesis literally and holds a traditional view of God.

Privation of evil- evil is a privation of good.

  • Words like 'bad' or 'evil' do not reach the expections on what nature should be like. 
  • They lack quality .
  • Evil is not a force that undermines God.

Absense & Lack

  • Privation applies when you lack something you should have.
  • Evil comes from moral choices in Augustine's opinion. Robbing a bank means you dont have the quality of respecting other peoples property 

'Evil comes from God' 

  • God causes everything
  • Evil is not a thing but something missing. So an evil person lacks the quality of goodness.
  • God causes evil to exist because of free will. Everyone has goodness in them


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The fall

  • In the first genesis story creation is good and humans are in the likelyness of God.
  • We are rational creatures.
  • The Garden of Eden is in harmony.
  • The fall marks disharmony.
  • The serpent tempted Eve to use her free will
  • A&E chose not to be in harmony with God. All humans are 'seminally' present in A's sin
  • All future people wil live in a disharmonious world

So, why did God give us free will if he knew we would sin?

  • Free will is more valuable than robots
  • Allowing evil to happen is a price worth paying
  • The contrast between good and bad highlights the beauty of goodness
  • This is the aesthetic principle which is a contrast between what is good and lacks goodness

Criticsms of the Augustinian theodicy

  • Plausibility- Genesis can not be seen as literally true
  • Alvin Plantinga- where is the proof?
  • Science
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Irenean Theodicy

Interpreted literally by Ireneaus

  • Places plame for sin on the serpent of the story although Adam and Eve are not blameless
  • If God did not save humanity then the serpent would have triumphed over God and humanity would be abandoned
  • Adam and Eve are like children (make a mistake=punishment) and God saves them and their descendents
  • They are not rebels, God does not curse Adam and Eve but the ground they walk on and the serpent
  • Ireneaus says punishment had to be given so Adam and Eve would not despise God. So they develop a sense of morality on their own
  • The harshness of the world is how we come to know God
  • Testament points to the God and and Jesus incarnation.
  • Jesus is our saviour who takes human sin
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Modern Irenean Theodicy

John Hick suggests Adam and Eve is a myth. The role of mythology is to examine the  greatest mysteries of human existence- like evil by using striking imagery.

  • Human beings develop in image- we are developed in the image of God.
  • Evolution for us was a struggle to survive- we are spirtiually immature and through our struggle we become spiritually mature
  • 'Likeliness' is when we begin to develop a relationship with God
  • The 'fall' is not as significant as Augustine's theodicy as the fall marks how apart we are from God
  • We were not connected in the presence because if we were- all free will would be gone because we would be overpowered by God's presence and not be able to make a choice
  • This is the EPISTEMIC distance- distance wheich is in cognitive dimension
  • Soul making- we live in a world in which we can make decisions on how to act
  • E.g. compassion is only present in a suffering world
  • Developing conscience is important in this
  • Natural Disasters- are stimulants for human intellectual development
  • Everything else is the eschatological aspect- all will be known in heaven
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Injustice- saving everything is injust as it permits a life of sin and we are safe if we all just realise our mistakes

Traditional christians say human beings are responsible for their own actions

Suffering- idea contrasts with omnibenevolent God

Ends justify means- Should evil exist and be inficted on others just so we develop like God?

Epistemic distance- Why is God so far from humanity?

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