The problem of evil

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  • Created by: Abitracey
  • Created on: 14-04-12 15:40

John Hick defined evil as “physical pain, mental suffering and moral wickedness” For Hick, the consequence of evil is suffering

The apparent malfunctioning of the natural world e.g. diseases and natural disasters

The result of human immorality e.g. genocide

The monotheistic God of Christianity, Judaism and Islam assumes the divine qualities of omnipotence, omniscience and omni benevolence. However, the existence of evil and suffering in the world provides a challenge to the loving God of classical theism.

Augustine, in his book ‘Confessions,’ recognised this problem:

“Either God is not able to abolish evil or not willing; if he is not able then he is not all-powerful, if he is not willing then he is not all-good.”

The problem of evil can be viewed as an inconsistent triad:
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The three are logically inconsistent. If God is omnipotent, he is aware of the existing evil and suffering and knows how to put a stop to it. If God is omni benevolent he will want to put a stop to it. Yet evil and suffering does exist.

The atheist David Hume argued that only three possibilities exist:
I. God is not omnipotent
II. God is not omni benevolent
III. Evil does not exist

Since we have sufficient direct experience to support the existence of evil, if God exists he is either an impotent God or a malicious God; not the God of classical theism. Hume concluded that God therefore does not exist.

Antony Flew wrote that the biggest challenge to the believer is accepting that the existence of evil and suffering is a major problem that demands an adequate response. The problem faced by monotheists demands a solution, not of qualification; in which the nature of God is arbitrarily changed to suit different circumstances – this concept of God ‘dies the death of a thousand qualifications,’ but by the rational justification of God’s right to allow evil and suffering to continue despite his ability to stop it.

Aquinas argued that God’s goodness is infinitely different to human goodness (although he does maintain that both have points of correspondence). Therefore, it is conceivable that God allows evil and suffering to exist as a part of his greater plan of love. Different theodicies have thus developed – logical theories that justify the existence of evil and suffering usually on the basis that they are a necessary condition of God’s greater plan.

Based on the narratives of Genesis 1-3, Augustine’s theodicy argues that God created the world and it was perfect, without the existence of evil or suffering.

Genesis 1:31: “God saw all that he had made and saw that it was very good”

Augustine defined evil as the privation of goodness, just as blindness is a privation of sight. Since evil is not an entity in itself, just like blindness is not an entity in itself, God could not have created…



Extremely useful. Thank you.

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