The Problem of Evil


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  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 18-05-12 14:01

As a response to the argument from design, it had been suggested, notably by John Stuart Mill, that the world is so imperfect, that it is illogical to suppose that it was created by a divine being.

There is, for example, considerable suffering and evil in the world.

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The Nature of Evil

Moral Evil = transgression of the moral law. when a human being can be blamed for the suffering that is caused. (****, murder, assault, etc)

Natural evils: ills which do no proceed directly from human sin (e.g. earthquakes, famine or disease)

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Explanation of evil

Even if we accept the view that evil is negative, we still have to explain how it can occur in world created by an omnipotent, benevolent and holy God.

Denial that God is omnipotent: he is limited, if not in wisdom, then in power; to let evil exist. However, it could be said that God is not omnipotent in the sense that he can do anything, but he is omnipotent in the sense that he controls all things by his creative word.

Some have taken refuge in the contrast between God's "absolute" will and his "permissive" will. Go does not will evil absolutely (by a direct epression of his nature), as he wills good. He merely permits it for a higher end.

If we say that he merely "permits" evil, we must add that his will in permitting it is absolute. 

However, in any case, this leaves us with the question "if God is omnipotent and benevolent, why does he permit it"?

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Free Will Defence

God did not want to create a race of automata who would always act in the correct way. Instead, he created self-directing agents who are responsible for their own decisions, and this means that humans are free to act wrongly as well as rightly.

God's position is defended like this:

  • If you are free to choose to do good, then it must be possible for you to choose to do evil
  • If moral evil were made impossible, then it makes no sense to speak of having a free moral choice
  • BUT having free will is an essential condition of moral life
  • Therefore there needs to be the possibility of moral evil in order for people to have free will and to live morally
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This argument has been presently by Richard Swinburne. He points out that, for moral choice to be real, you need depravity.

You need to want what is wrong and then decide to reject it. 

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