The Problem of Evil notes


Key Terms

  • Moral Evil - Evil as a result of human choices
  • Non-moral Evil - Evil such as found in nature, owes nothing to human choice
  • Suffering - the state of undergoing pain, distress, or hardship.
  • Natural Evil - Any that arises in nature without reference to human agency (e.g. hurricanes)
  • Deism - the belief there is a God who created the universe but had no further interest in or connection with its affairs.
  • Inconsistent Triad - [Propsed by Epicurus and Hume]. God is all-powerful, so he could prevent evil. 
  • Theodicy - An attempt to justify the goodness of God given the fact of evil and their co-existence. 
  • Heresy - An opinion/viewpoint at variance with established teaching, particularly of a religion
  • Omnipotence - 'All-powerful'. Understood to mean his ability to perform any possible action
  • Omniscient - 'all-knowing'
  • Omnibenevolent - 'all-loving'
  • Original Sin - The disobedience of Adam and Eve that resulted from their awareness of nakedness and sexuality, which to flawed humanity. Contemporarily used as reference to human tendency to commit evil
  • Dysteloelogical - Something that serves no purpose
  • Theos - God
  • Dike - righteous
  • Dikaios - justification

Evil & it's meaning 

Logical problem of Evil: (For theists) The logical form of the argument tries to show a logical impossibility in the coexistence of God and evil.

If God were all-knowing, it seems that God would know about all of the horrible things that happen in our world. If God were all-powerful, God would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. Furthermore, if God were morally perfect, then surely God would want to do something about it. And yet we find that our world is filled with countless instances of evil and suffering.  These facts about evil and suffering seem to conflict with the orthodox theist claim that there exists a perfectly good God.

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Evidential problem of Evil: 

Evil is a problem for all; theists, atheists and agnostics. People offer "qualifications" for the evil in the world - ex: "God moves in mysterious ways".

Purpose of Evil

- What purpose does it serve?

- Distribution of Evil is highly disproportionate - ex: Developing World

- 'Problem' infers singularity. Evil is not one homogeneous issue and cannot be 'lumped' together.

Suffering v. Evil (Brian Hebblethwaite)

Makes a distinction between suffering (pain, illness etc) and evil (human wickedness). Natural evil is non-existent, just suffering. 

(Alvin Plantinga) Natural evil is the work of Satan. 'Moral and non-natural evil is intentional work.

The Free Will defence

God maximed the goodness in the world by creating free beings. Therefore, 'freedom' means that we have the choice to do evil acts. God does not create evil, but it cannot be avoided without removing humankind's free will. This issue only addresses moral evil.


Augustine's theodicy

- A "soul deciding" theodicy. 

  • Follows a traditional view of God.
  • Interpreted the Bible literally
  • Free will is given to us, which we are free to use to commit evil acts. 
  • God is ulimately responsible for evil


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