The Problem of Evil

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The Problem of Evil

Key words & concepts:

  • Theodicy – an attempt to justify God in the face of evil
  • Eschatological verification – when a statement can be verifiable if true but not falsifiable if false
  • Dysteleological suffering – pointless/purposeless suffering
  • Omniscience
  • Omnipotence
  • Omnipresence
  • Omnibenevolence 

 <- J. L. Mackie's inconsistent triad 

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The Problem:

  • God has the above characteristics but evil and suffering exist
  • If God is perfectly good, He/She must want to abolish all evil. If God is ultimately powerful, He/She must be able to abolish evil. But evil does exist therefore either God is not perfectly good or He/She is not ultimately powerful
  • Theodicies were created because theists refused to accept that God was not all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere
  • For atheists, there is no problem because there is no God 
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The Augustinian Theodicy:

  • Soul-deciding
  • Man is created in the perfect likeness of God (Genesis 1) - all creation is good
  • Man is created with true moral autonomy – freedom to make choices
  • This freedom leads to man’s fall from grace and perfection
  • Augustine sees the Fall of man in Genesis 3 as a disaster and the first evidence of man’s faults
  • God foresaw man’s fall and predestined some for salvation and others for condemnation
  • There is a hierarchy of beings (Principle of Plenitude)
  • Leaving the hierarchy will lead to evil as it is turning away from God (pride)
  • Evil is a privation of good (privatio boni)
  • Evil is not God’s fault. The misuse of free will leads to sin and its consequences of evil and suffering
  • Natural evil is caused by Satan and his works
  • Man can only be redeemed through Jesus
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  • Biblically based – appeals to conservative beliefs in creation and the Fall
  • Values free well as the best choice God could have made for mankind
  • God is not responsible for man’s evil choices
  • Evil is not originally part of God’s creative work 
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  • May be considered outdated by an evolutionary view of man’s development
  • Begs the question whether God could have created free beings who always choose what is morally right
  • Salvation is only reserved for the few who accept Jesus
  • If God foresaw man’s fall, He should have prevented it
  • Lacks optimism 
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The Irenaean Theodicy:

  • Originally created by Irenaeus but expanded upon by John Hick
  • Soul-making
  • Hick uses eschatological verification to say that certain ideas may be explained after death, thus supporting the idea that soul making continues in the afterlife
  • Man is created imperfectly in an infantile state
  • We are made in the image but not the likeness of God – ‘imago dei
  • Man is created with true moral autonomy – freedom to make choices
  • Freedom gives man the potential to grow into the likeness of God through responsible choices 
  • The Fall in Genesis 3 is our first childish mistake
  • Free will enables us to make a difference to our environment
  • God remains at an ‘epistemic distance’ so as to not be overwhelmingly obvious to man as we make our own choices
  • Evil can lead to good or redemption
  • Evil and suffering are necessary to learn virtue and grow in knowledge, freedom and power
  • The work of Jesus on the cross does not facilitate man’s redemption 
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  • Evolutionary rather than dependant on conservative Biblical views of humanity
  • Values free will as the means by which man develops morally and spiritually
  • Evil is teleological – it facilitates growth
  • God is not responsible for man’s evil choices
  • Epistemic distance explains God’s absence 
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  • Suggests God’s creative work was imperfect
  • Man’s free choices do not always lead to growth in power, freedom or knowledge
  • Salvation is universal and based on man’s own striving
  • Why face trials in this life is the completions of man’s soul is after death?
  • Does the end justify the means? The theodicy does not justify dysteleological suffering
  • Can suffering experienced be justified by ultimate joy? E.g. the Holocaust
  • Quantity of suffering – is God just?
  • If we are going to be rewarded in Heaven, where is the incentive to achieve God’s likeness?   
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