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The problem of evil is a philosophical question about how evil's existence can be reconciled with the existence of a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Suffering and evil, according to John Stott, are the greatest challenges to Christians' faith. There is no greater impediment to faith than the world's suffering. The problem of evil arises from the definition of a perfect God, which is traditionally depicted as a perfectly good God. If God is both omnipotent and good, he is capable of eliminating or eliminating all evil. But, if God wishes to eliminate evil and is capable of doing so, why does it persist? The The aim of this essay is to provide a detailed account of the problem of evil as viewed in philosophy by analyzing the two forms of evil, that is, evidential problem of evil and logical problem of evil. Additionally, one theodicy will be discussed.
Problem of Evil
Lee Strobel a best-selling author and journalism decided to conduct a national survey in the US. The survey comprised of the question “If you had a chance to ask God strictly one question and you are aware he will answer, what would you ask?” Seventeen percent of the respondents said they will ask God, “Why is there suffering and pain in the world?” (Van Inwagen 6) Many believers have encountered different problems that made them stop believing in God. Examples of sufferings and evils people encounter include rape, accidents, murder, earthquakes, floods, et cetera. Numerous responses (theodicies) to the problem of evil include free will response and consequence of evil. The problem of evil can be interpreted in two forms as follow.
Logical Problem of Evil
The belief that a perfect God exists yet there is still suffering and evil poses a lot of serious challenges. The logical problem of evil affirms that the existence of evil is not compatible logically with the existence of God. Majority of philosophers focus their debate on the non-existence of God because if such a God existed he would have prevented all evil. Theism defenders, on the other hand, argue that God exists and allows evil to attain a greater good (Van Inwagen 18). Plantinga, for example, uses the free will defense as one of the greater good of evil. His argument is divided into two sections, the first one is the defense for moral evil as a consequence of free human action and behavior. The second argument is a logical possibility of an existence of a mighty non-human spirit like Satan accountable for natural evils such as virulent diseases, floods, and earthquakes (Plantinga 63). Some philosophers agree with Plantinga's solution to the logical problem of evil while some are against it.
Evidential Problem of Evil
The evidential problem of evil also defined as inductive or probabilistic version attempts to show that though the existence of evil is logically compatible with God’s existence lowers the probability of theism truth. The argument offered by Plantinga that there is a mighty non-human spirit that causes evil is unconvincing due to lack of scientific knowledge. Based on the evidential problem the distribution and amount of existing evil are a good prove that an omnipotent, good, and omnibenevolent God is not existent (Phillips 68). It provides an inductive reasoning in that the existence of evil proves that God does not exist. An example offered is how animals suffer under natural calamities such as droughts.
A theodicy refers to a response to the problem of evil that tries to give a morally reasonable justification for evil’s existence and thus refute the evidential version of evil. The most common theodicies include the free will defense and consequence of evil.
Free will defense is the most prominent theodicy. The free will theodicy argues that evil exists because of our free will. God gave us free will which gave us freedom. If God eliminated suffering and evil, the greater good of having free will also be eliminated. Thus, this theodicy substantiates God permitting the existence of evil. Some researchers are of the view that it is better to have a free will than none. Moral evils such as murder, robbery, and rape are as a result of our free will (Peterson 21). Natural evils, on the other hand, are caused by Satan or demons, theism describes that Satan was once an angel of God, and due to his disobedience he was thrown to earth. The natural evils such as floods and earthquakes are as a result of his free will to cause harm to the world.
Consequence of Sin
Another potential response to the problem of evil is the level of sin in the world. For instance, in Genesis, Adam and Eve sinned against God thus leading to them being chased out of the Garden of Eden. As a result of their sins God cursed man that for him to eat he must toil and for a woman, she will experience labor during childbirth. The consequences of their sins brought suffering to humankind (Peterson 23). Evil and suffering, therefore, exist because the world has fallen and people do questionable things in the eyes of God for example murder and adultery. In summary, this response is established on the grounds that it is evil due to evils we have committed ourselves or those committed by our ancestors. Some people also try to argue that God could have created beings who cannot sin.
In conclusion, the problem of evil arises due to the fact that there is an all-knowing, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent God yet there are a lot of evils and suffering in the world. The problem of evil is described in two forms, that is, evidential and logical problem. Different philosophers and researchers have established different theodicies such as free will defense and consequence of sin. The arguments that support evil as logically compatible with God’s existence believe that we cannot appreciate the good things in life if we do not experience evil to compare with.
Peterson, Michael L. "The problem of evil." (1997), pp. 1-29.
Phillips, Dewi Zephaniah. "The problem of evil and the problem of God." (2004).
Plantinga, Alvin. God, freedom, and evil. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1974.
Van Inwagen, Peter. The problem of evil. Oxford University Press on Demand, 2008, pp.1-20.
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