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The Philosophical Problem of Evil


The Philosophical Problem of Evil The only effective argument against the existence of a maximally perfect God is rooted in the existence of evil. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Philosophical Problem of Evil

The Philosophical Problem of Evil
  • The only effective argument against the existence
    of a maximally perfect God is rooted in the
    existence of evil.
  • The existence of evil is thought by some to
  • Be logically inconsistent with the existence of
    a maximally perfect God. (The Logical Problem of
  • Constitute conclusive evidence against the
    existence of a maximally perfect God. (The
    Evidential Problem of Evil)

  • Logical Problem of Evil
  • Some believe the claims A maximally perfect God
    exists and Evil exists canNOT both be true in
    the same reality.
  • Some believe these two claims cannot both be true
    in the same reality just as the claims All the
    students in Mrs. Smiths class are girls and
    The best student is Mrs. Smiths class is a boy
    cannot both be true in the same reality.

  • The reason some believe these two claims cannot
    both be true in the same reality is succinctly
    stated by St. Thomas Aquinas
  • If one of two contraries be infinite, the
    other would be altogether destroyed. But, the
    word God means that He is infinite goodness.
    If, therefore, God existed, there would be no
    evil . . . .
  • Summa Theologica, I, 3, iii (obj. 1)

  • Rebutting the Logical Problem of Evil
  • (The Free Will Defense)
  • A defense of X . . . need show only the
    possibility that, given what we definitely know,
    X is not ruled out. Thus, unlike a traditional
    theodicy purporting to explain evil, a defense of
    God in the face of evil purports to show only
    that it is possible that God be real and there be
    the evil there is. If it can be shown the
    supposition that

  • God is real is not strictly ruled out by the
    evil we perceive, the the reality of God is shown
    compatible with the evil we perceive . . . . A
    defense need not be likely, need not be supported
    by evidence so that we ought to believe it. A
    defense can be imaginative, indeed wildly
    imaginative, so long as it is conceivable given
    what we know.
  • Stephen H. Phillips, Phillips Anthology, pp.

  • How to show that the two claims (A maximally
    perfect God exists and Evil exists) are not
    logically inconsistent
  • Show there is a possible reality in which both
    claims are true.
  • This reality need not be actual, nor even
  • The reality need only be possible and be one in
    which both A maximally perfect God exists and
    Evil exists are both true.

  • The Absorption Principle
  • Since God is the Highest Good, He would not
    allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His
    Omnipotence and Goodness were such as to bring
    good even out of evil.
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo, Enchiridion
  • If God exists, then any evil that exists is the
    logically unavoidable side-effect(s) of the
    production of greater good(s).

  • Plantagina
  • A possible reality in which A maximally perfect
    God exists and Evil exists are both true.
  • All the evil that exits in Plantagina results
    from the free, but immoral, choices of moral
  • Evils such as murders, thefts, and rapes result
    from the free, but immoral, choices of creatures
    like you and me.

  • Evils such as sickness, earthquakes, and
    hurricanes result from the free, but immoral,
    choices of fallen angels (demons).
  • God cannot force any of the free creatures in
    Plantagina to choose good.
  • A forced, free choice is a logical
    impossibility, just like a square circle.
    Thus, Gods inability to bring either about is
    not a blow against His omnipotence.

  • In Plantagina, all the evil produced by the
    free, but immoral, choices of moral creatures is
    outweighed by the goodness of the creatures
    ability to make free and moral choices.
  • The moral creatures in Plantagina cannot make
    free and moral choices unless they can also make
    free, but immoral, choices.
  • Plantagina is a possible reality and, in it, A
    maximally perfect God exists and Evil exists
    are both true.

  • Consequentially, these two claims are NOT
    logically inconsistent.
  • Whats more its conceivable, if not plausible,
    that Plantagina is the actual world.
  • Thus, the Free Will Defense succeeds.
  • A Possible Fly in the Ointment
  • While the Free Will Defense succeeds in
    establishing that Gods maximal perfection is
    logically consistent with the existence of evil,
    does it do this at the cost of sacrificing Gods
    sovereignty over His creation?

  • Gods Sovereignty God, the Divine Artisan,
    freely and knowingly plans, orders, and provides
    for all the effects that constitute His artifact,
    the created universe with its entire history, and
    executes His chosen plan by playing an active
    causal role sufficient to ensure its exact
    realization . . . . Whatever occurs is properly
    said to be specifically degreed by God more
    precisely each effect . . .

  • is either specifically and knowingly intended by
    Him or, in concession to creaturely
    defectiveness, specifically and knowingly
    permitted by Him, only to be then ordered toward
    some appropriate good
  • Alfred J. Freddoso, Introduction to Luis de
    Molinas On Divine Foreknowledge
  • But, asks the critic, how can creatures be truly
    free, if God is thus sovereign, or how can God be
    thus sovereign, if creature are truly free?

  • Prescinding from the Question of Implications for
    Gods Sovereignty, our Conclusion can be
  • The Logical Problem of Evil is easily rebutted
    because it overreaches.
  • It tries, as it were, to hit a grand slam
    against theism.
  • As a result it can be struck out by a story as
    facile as Plantagina.

  • Evidential Problem of Evil
  • Even though it is conceivable that Plantagina is
    the actual world, given the amount and type of
    evil that exists in the actual world, isnt it
    highly unlikely that a maximally perfect God
    actually exists?
  • If it is highly unlikely that a maximally perfect
    God exists, then it is irrational to believe that
    such God exists.
  • In other words the amount and type of evil that
    actually exists counts as conclusive evidence, if
    not logical proof, against the actual existence
    of a maximally perfect God.

  • A Theist must admit that evil does count as
    evidence against the existence of a maximally
    perfect God, otherwise theistic claims become
  • A tornado destroys part of a community and the
    qualification process begins Our church and
    our parishioners remained untouched, witnessing
    to Gods protection of the faithful The
    tornado destroyed our church and killed several
    of our parishioners,

  • displaying that Gods inscrutable plan
    requires at times even the suffering of the
    suffering of the faithful God has a plan but .
    . . . Any statement that is compatible with
    every conceivable situation does not assert
    anything about any particular situation and is,
    therefore, not even in theory falsifiable. And,
    if a statement cannot, even in principle be shown
    to be false, then it cannot be shown to be true
    either, which means that it has no truth value
    at all, which means it has no cognitive value
    at all . . . .
  • Ed L. Miller, God and Reason, p. 224

  • A theist must concede that the existence of
    gratuitous evil, i.e. evil that is not the
    logically unavoidable side-effects of greater
    good(s), would falsify the claim A maximally
    perfect God exists.
  • Whats more, a theist must admit that much of the
    evil that exists in the actual world appears, at
    least on the surface, to be gratuitous.
  • The theist, however, maintains that appearances
    are often deceiving.

  • The believer does recognize the fact of
    pain as counting against Christian doctrine.
    But, it is true that he will not allow it or
    anything else to count decisively against it
    for he is committed by his faith to trust in God.
    His attitude is not that of the detached
    observer, but of the committed believer.
    Perhaps this can be brought out by yet another
    parable. In time of war in an occupied country,

  • a member of the resistance meets one night a
    stranger who deeply impresses him. They spend
    that night together in conversation. The
    Stranger tells the partisan that he himself is on
    the side of the resistance--indeed that he is in
    command of it, and urges the partisan to have
    faith in him no matter what happens. The
    partisan is utterly convinced at that meeting of
    the Strangers sincerity and constancy

  • and undertakes to trust him. They never meet
    in conditions of intimacy again. But, sometimes
    the Stranger is seen helping members of the
    resistance, and the partisan is grateful and says
    to his friends, He is on our side. Sometimes
    he is seen in the uniform of the police handing
    over patriots to the occupying power. On these
    occasions his friends murmur against him But,
    the partisan still says, He is on our side.

  • He still believes that, in spite of
    appearances, the Stranger did not deceive him.
    Sometimes he asks the Stranger for help and
    receives it. He is then thankful. Sometimes he
    asks and does not receive it. Then, he says,
    The Stranger knows best. Sometimes his friends,
    in exasperation, say Well, what would he have to
    do for you to admit that you were wrong and that
    he is not on our side ?

  • But, the partisan refuses to answer. He will
    not consent to put the Stranger to the test. The
    partisan of the parable does not allow anything
    to count decisively against the proposition The
    Stranger is on our side. This is because he has
    committed himself to trust the Stranger. But,
    he, of course, recognizes that the Stranger's
    ambiguous behaviour does count against what he
    believes about him. It is precisely this
    situation which constitutes the trial of his
  • Basil Mitchell, University Discussion in New
    Essays in Philosophical Theology ed. by Antony
    Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre

  • Still, lest his claims become what Mitchell calls
    vacuous formulae . . . to which experience makes
    no difference and which make no difference to
    life, a theist must have some plausible response
    to the appearance of gratuity possessed by many
    of the evils that actually exist, i.e. some
    plausible response to the Evidential Problem of

  • Responses to the Evidential Problem of Evil
  • Direct Theodicy
  • A plausible explanation, consistent with
    theistic suppositions, for all the evil that
    actually exists.
  • Evil is the Privation (Corruption) of Goodness
  • At root, goodness and being are the same.
  • To lack goodness is, to some degree, to lack

  • To be evil is NOT to BE as one ought.
  • For example, a hammer without a head is a bad
    hammer because it lacks (suffers from a
    privation) of what it should have.
  • All created beings, by the very fact they are
    created, lack some degree of being and,
    therefore, of goodness.

  • If God cannot do what is logically impossible,
    then He cannot create something that possesses
    the full power of being the He Himself possesses,
    for anything that God creates is by its
    conception dependent upon God for its being . .
    . . Since the being of creation is only
    limited, not absolute, it is lacking also in
    complete goodness in other words, it is

  • This metaphysical evil is, then, necessarily
    attendant upon creatures and is the ultimate
    source of all natural and moral evil.
  • Ed. L Miller, God and Reason, p. 164
  • From the very fact that creatures are creatures,
    they are limited in both being and goodness.
  • In other words, by their very natures, creatures
    are incomplete.
  • The fulfillment and completion of creatures lie
    outside themselves

  • St. Augustine, like all theists, maintained that
    the fulfillment and completion of creatures lie
    in God.
  • Our hearts, O Lord, are restless until they
    rest in Thee. (The Confessions)
  • Given their limitations in knowledge, creatures
    may seek fulfillment and completion in something
    other than their true fulfillment and completion

  • The will . . . commits sin when it turns away
    from God toward its private good or toward
    something external to itself or lower than
    itself. It turns toward to its own private good
    when it desires to be its own master it turns to
    external goods when it busies itself with the
    private affairs of others or with whatever is
    none of its concern it turns to goods lower than

  • when it loves the pleasures of the body. Thus,
    a man becomes proud, meddlesome, and lustful.
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo, On Free Choice of the
  • Take as an extreme example Satan.
  • In Christian theology, Satan started out as the
    archangel Lucifer.

  • Instead of seeking his fulfillment and
    completion in serving God, Satan chose to corrupt
    himself in the first of St. Augustines three
    ways He surrendered to pride and sought to
    become his own Master.
  • In the words that John Milton put on the lips
    of Satan in Paradise Lost, Better to reign in
    Hell than serve in Heaven.

  • Despite what Satan might have thought (or
    thinks), says St. Augustine, he cannot find
    fulfillment and completion by ruling in Hell.
  • He could only find fulfillment and completion by
    serving in Heaven.
  • It is not Satans bare existence which is evil,
    but the bareness of his existence . . . . Instead
    of fulfilling the being God had given him, he, in
    a sense, vacated that being, emptied it of all of
    its once scintillating possibilities.

  • There is an enormous emptiness residing at the
    very core of Satans being, a huge and tragic
    lack of what-could-have-been, of what
    should-have-been. He is evil, not for what he
    is, but for what he is not.
  • D. Q. McInerny, Evil in Perennial Wisdom for
    Daily Life
  • Augustine claims it is this tragic lack of what
    should-have-been at the core of Satan that causes
    him to inflict suffering on others.

  • The only happiness Satan can available to
    Satan is to drag down into damnation with him as
    many others as he can.
  • This is the true origin of the old adage Misery
    loves company.
  • The Cosmic Effects of Original Sin
  • As a consequence of the original rebellion of
    Adam against God, all of creation is fallen, i.e.
    less perfect than it would have been.

  • St. Augustine ultimately bases this claim on the
    authority of Christian revelation, e.g. Romans
    512 Wherefore as by one man sin entered into
    this world, and by sin death and so death passed
    upon all men, in whom all have sinned.
    (Douay-Rheims Version)
  • Miller points out than more modern versions of
    the New Testament dissent from this traditional

  • Still, the traditional translation captures the
    meaning of the verse as interpreted by
    traditional Christianity in its Catholic,
    Protestant, and Orthodox forms.
  • The Fall extends to all of creation For
    creation awaits with eager expectation the
    revelation of the children of God for creation
    was made subject to futility, not of its own

  • but because of the one who subjected it, in hope
    creation itself would be set free from slavery to
    corruption and share in the glorious freedom of
    the children of God. We know that all creation
    is groaning in labor pains even until now . . . .
    (Romans 819-22)
  • The generation and corruption of the created
    order are now experienced by fallen creatures in
    the form of suffering Plagues, famines,
    disease, accidents, and hardships in general

  • Thus, God says to the fallen Adam that its by
    the sweat of his brow that he shall eat, and to
    the Fallen Eve that she will have pain in
    childbearing (Gen. 316 19). Quae causa
    infirmitatis nisi iniquitas? What is the cause
    of . . . infirmity but iniquity?
  • Ed L. Miller, God and Reason, p. 168
  • Humans are incapable of repairing the damage of
    Original Sin.

  • Humans can attain sanctity only by
    participating, through Grace, in the saving death
    and resurrection of Christ.
  • The crucifixion of Gods Son was at once both
    the epitome of evil and the occasion of Gods
    greatest blessing. Even the Fall turns out to be
    something over which the believer may exult O
    felix culpa! O happy fault!
  • Ed L. Miller, God and Reason, pp. 168-69

  • The phrase O, happy fault! comes from an
    ancient Easter hymn, The Exultet
  • O wondrous condescension of Thy mercy . . . ! O
    inestimable affection of love! That Thou
    mightest redeem a slave, Thou didst deliverer up
    Thy Son! O happy fault! O truly needful sin of
    Adam that won for man so great a Redeemer!

  • In the crucifixion, God suffers with and for
    humans, instead of standing off aloof.
  • He was despised and rejected by men a man of
    sorrows, and acquainted with grief and as one
    from whom men hide their faces he was despised,
    and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our
    griefs and carried our sorrows yet we esteemed
    him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

  • But, he was wounded for our transgressions, he
    was bruised for our iniquities upon him was the
    chastisement that made us whole, and with his
    stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have
    gone astray we have turned every one to his own
    way and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of
    us all.
  • (Isaiah 533-6)

  • Evaluation of St. Augustines Evil as the
    Privation (Corruption) of Goodness Theodicy
  • It is plausible to Millers contemporary,
    non-biblically oriented person?
  • Is it fair that in Adams Fall fell we all,
    i.e. that all of Adams descendents suffer for
    his rebellion against God?

  • St. Augustine maintains that Adams sin brought
    about an ontological change in, an essential
    lessening of, the human race.
  • Adam fell from the state of blessedness and
    became subject to suffering and death.
  • Thus, every descendent of Adam, perforce,
    inherits those liabilities, much as person with a
    genetic disorder passes that disorder on to
    his/her children.

  • St. Augustines Theodicy contradicts modern,
    scientific evolutionary theory.
  • When we examined the teleological argument, we
    saw many contemporary scientists have called into
    question the explanatory adequacy of purely
    naturalistic evolution.
  • Is it entirely unreasonable to belief that God
    directly intervened in natural history to create
    the first genuine humans?

  • Perhaps God intervened in a way not dissimilar
    from the mysterious supernatural intelligence in
    2001 A Space Odyssey.
  • If it is plausible that God directly intervened
    in natural history to create the first genuine
    humans, then isnt it also plausible that the
    original humans enjoyed a state of blessedness
    that their descendents do not because of the
    original humans rebellion against God?

  • Also, is it unreasonable to believe that the
    effects of this original rebellion extend to all
    of creation?
  • After all, human wars often have disastrous
    effects on the environment, sometime even
    creating new diseases.
  • If this is true when humans make war on each
    other, is it unreasonable to believe its even
    more true when humans seek to make war against

  • St. Augustine, following the scriptures,
    maintains that the original harmony within
    creation will eventually be restored.
  • The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the
    leopard shall lie down with the kid and the calf
    and the young lion and the fatling together and
    a little child shall lead them. And, the cow and
    the bear shall feed their young ones shall lie
    down together.

  • And, the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And,
    the sucking child shall play on the hole of the
    asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on
    the cockatrices den. They shall not hurt nor
    destroy in all my holy mountain For the earth
    shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as
    the waters cover the sea.
  • (Isaiah 116-9)

  • Perhaps the greatest challenge posed by St.
    Augustines Theodicy to the contemporary,
    non-biblically oriented person is the remedy he
    proposes for the Fall the death and
    resurrection of Christ.
  • From the very beginning of Christianity, many
    have been scandalized by the thought that
    redemption lies in participating in the death and
    resurrection of Christ.

  • But, we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a
    stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.
    But, unto them which are called, both Jews and
    Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom
    of God. (I Corth. 123-24)
  • Perhaps the very negative reactions of some to
    Mel Gibsons new movie, The Passion of the
    Christ, are but a contemporary manifestation of
    this ancient scandal.

  • As the quote from First Corinthians indicates,
    the acceptance of St. Augustines Theodicy
    ultimately rests on faith.
  • Still, one may ask Is such an act of faith
  • To borrow a phrase We report, you decide.
  • But to help one decide perhaps it is well to pose
    another question Where does the deeper
    irrationality lie, in the act of faith or in the
    skeptical mind that has always been uneasy with

  • Indirect Theodicy (The G. E. Moore Shift)
  • G. E. Moore was a 19th Century British
    Philosopher whose work with Ethics has inspired a
    response to the Evidential Problem of Evil.
  • How it works.
  • Gratuitous Evil Evil that is not the logically
    unavoidable side effects of greater goods.

  • Both theists and atheists agree that this
    material implication is true
  • If gratuitous evil exists, then a maximally
    perfect God does not exist.
  • Atheists maintain that its more reasonable to
    argue this way.
  • If gratuitous evil exists, then a maximally
    perfect God does not exist. Gratuitous evil
    exists. Therefore, a maximally perfect God does
    not exist.

  • Theists maintain its more reasonable to argue
    this way
  • If gratuitous evil exists, then a maximally
    perfect God does not exist. A maximally perfect
    God does exist. Therefore, gratuitous evil does
    not exist.
  • Both of these arguments are valid, but only one
    can be sound.

  • Atheists say its more reasonable to believe in
    the existence of gratuitous evil than it is to
    believe in the existence of a maximally perfect
  • Theists say, given all the evidence (for example,
    the theistic proofs weve looked at) its more
    reasonable to believe in the existence of a
    maximally perfect God than to believe in the
    existence of gratuitous evil.

  • Both the atheistic and theistic views seem
  • It, therefore, in the end, once again becomes a
    matter of faith.
  • This leads us to the Existential Problem of Evil.