A mid-week feature where we follow up on the previous week’s sermon and highlight some of the Q&A. This week we expand upon the Problem of Evil and the answers given in the Philosophical and Theological tradition.
Listen to the previous week’s sermon as background. Leave your questions in the comments.
Outline for the Problem of Evil
Why does God allow evil in the world?
1. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent
2. Evil exists
3. If evil exists and God exists, then either:
a. God doesn’t have power to stop all evil
b. God doesn’t have sufficient knowledge of the evil to stop it
c. God isn’t good
d. God doesn’t exist
ii. Easiest to defeat because you just have to prove that the existence any evil whatsoever produces a greater good, i.e. one instance of God allowing evil and still being good. If I can show why any evil at all is allowed to exist the argument fails because if we, in our limited capacity, can conceive of an evil that would be wise to allow to exist, then there is a possibility that God, who is All-Wise, can conceive of a reason for every evil to exist.
1. Can we conceive of one instance where greater good can come from evil?
a. Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
1. I observe evils in the world that I think God should not allow
a. Gratuitous evils
i. Like the suffering of innocent children
2. Therefore, an OmniGod is unlikely to exist (or I do not want to believe in that God)
ii. This is much harder to defeat because you don’t just have to show that there is one instance of God allowing evil, but you have to show why God allows gratuitous evil.
1. We have to find a moral system (not a moral code, but a system or web of possibilities) where the allowance of gratuitous evil could lead to a greater good.
2. I cannot conceive of such a system
3. Christianity supposes that God is not just omniscient, but God is All-Wise, possessing infinite wisdom
4. If God is infinite in knowledge, wisdom, and power, perhaps he can conceive of such a system.
5. And perhaps he does prevent many gratuitous evils that we are not aware of
a. The mere existence of the question “why does God allow evil, or why does God not prevent evil,” supposes that God might prevent evil. If God did prevent evil things from happening, how would we know? Therefore we have to suppose that God does prevent some evil things from happening
b. The Bible teaches this:
i. Compare Genesis 6:5 to 8:21
ii. ESV Ps. 91:10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.
iii. ESV Ps. 105:14 he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account,
iv. ESV Matt. 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
6. If the possibility of the conception of such a system exists, then the argument fails logically.
iii. Other considerations
1. God will destroy all evil and make all things right
2. God will bring justice and punish all evil
3. In the Christian conception, our mortal lives are very short compared to eternity and our suffering here does not compare to the eternal joy that is possible.
4. What if God prevented all evil and suffering for innocent children? Where would the cutoff be? At a certain age would children start getting sick and suffering violence? At 16? How does this work?
a. In reality, the supposition that God would prevent all of a certain kind of evil logically leads to the conclusion that he would not allow any evil at all.
5. Free will necessitates evil choices in the world (Alvin Plantiga)
Stephen Fry interview: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/feb/01/stephen-fry-god-evil-maniac-irish-tv
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Problem of Evil
Augustine’s Disputation with Fortunatus, the Manachaean
Augustine’s treatment of the Problem of Evil in Confessions, VII:1
Alvin Plantiga’s Free Will Defense – Wikipedia
John Calvin’s argument for the source of evil: Institutes II:1, especially sections 5 and 6