Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil

  • Distinction should initially be observed between the world of moral evil and the world of natural evil.
  • Moral evil is epitomised by mans injustice to man and can be said to be caused by various cruelties, ignorance or anything that may cause an adverse affect as a direct result of human action.
  • Natural evil is the “malfunctioning of the natural world” and is encompassed by natural disasters and things.
  • It is important to note that the main belief is that suffering in its widest scope (mental as well as physical anguish) is the main consequence of evil doing, and this suffering does not discriminate against who it affects.

The Problem of Evil

  • The “problem of evil” for believers is the confusion felt by knowing that an all loving, all powerful, omnipresent being knows about suffering and is capable of stopping it, but does not. It is often sited that, as a result of this, there is no God or that He is not a God worth worshipping.
  • This problem only really exists for believers in the “God of classical theism”, as believers in polytheism or more modern religions, or even Buddhism, do not need the idea of suffering to be dispelled. In polytheism, suffering arises as a result of Godly strife, in Gaian theology suffering on a global scale is only our own fault and Buddhism realises that “all life is suffering”.
  • So, here are the main problems:
  • If God is so powerful, a world creating God with complete omnipotence then surely it would be within his power to create a world free from suffering in the first place, or, if it did come about, he should be able to rectify the problem.
  • If God knows everything, he knows how to end suffering. If he was all loving too then surely he would want to end suffering? (This could, however, be likened unto a parent letting an infant touch something hot, so that they can learn on a personal level, but this is addressed later).
  • David Hume, bless him, recognises that only 2 of the three apparent things here really exist. God is not omnipotent, he is not omnibenevolent or there is no such thing as evil.
    Admittedly, some people have refuted evil in the past, Hume feels its effects are felt too widely to be dismissible. Seeing as Hume considered evil to be readily present in life, either God is “impotent or malicious” and either signals that the God of classical theism is non-existent.
  • Aquinas says the same!
  • “It seems that God does not exist: because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the name of God means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.”
  • Y’see, as Aquinas believed God’s infinite goodness to be an integral part of God, anything that can refute this will mean that God does not exist.
  • However, this did not sit well with Aquinas. He argued that when we talk about the “goodness” of God, we are actually referring to human goodness, something incomparable to Gods goodness, so, evil may exist as part of “God’s Plan”, and there are several theodicies which talk about it’s nature in this way.

Augustine’s Theodicy

  • God is perfect; he made a world without flaw.
  • He cannot be blamed for creating evil since is not a substance, but a lack thereof, and it would make no sense to say that God created a lack of something. Augustine used the example of sight in saying that blindness is the “privation of good” of sight.
  • Evil comes from angels and humans who turn away from God, as they are agents of free will, capable of doing this!
  • The chance of evil is necessary, as only God is perfect and insusceptible to change.
  • Everyone is guilty, as all were present within Adam.
  • Everyone deserves punishment.
  • Natural evil is a fine punishment because human action destroyed the original natural order. In a world where natural evil has destroyed the balance of Good, there is a chance for moral evil to flourish.
  • God is right not to intervene.
  • That God saves people through belief shows he is merciful and sufficiently just.
  • Brian Davies supports the idea the evil cannot be a substance, rather it is “a gap between what there is and what there ought to be”.
  • The argument from free will works too, as, in being given completely free will, it certainly necessitates a possibility for evil. Plantinga argues that if God had made us able to only choose good above all else then we would not have a real freedom of choice at all.
  • Augustine believes that free will is so valuable that it justifies the risk of evil.
  • However, it has been argued that Augustine’s argument contains:
  • Logical errors
  • Scientific errors and
  • Moral errors.
  • Scleiermacher argued there is a logical dilemma in considering that a perfect world can possibly go wrong, being illogical in itself, and also considering that evil has created itself which is impossible, or an attributed only to God. So, evil must be attributed to God.
  • As well as this, if a perfect world is created without knowledge of good or evil (as that is what a perfect world dictates that only good is known) then surely there is no capacity to disobey God. The fact that we are capable of this implies we must have known evil already, and thus it must have come from God.
  • Augustine’s ideas also contradict nearly all of known science. His reliance on the story of genesis belittles the whole of evolution and the selfishness which has caused man to flourish.
  • On scientific grounds, nor can we be held responsible for Adam’s sin, as it is biologically daft. So, there is no reason for God to cause us to suffer for Adam’s sin.
  • As well as this, Augustine seems to feel that Hell was a part of God’s universe, meaning he must have known that things would have gone wrong and already accepted it. Not to mention his choice in taking people to heaven seems largely inconsistent with a loving God.

Irenaus’ Theodicy

  • God’s aim was to create humans without flaw, truly, in His likeness.
  • Genuine perfection cannot be ready made, but must be cultivated through freedom of choice.
  • As we were given free choice, we were also, necessarily, given the opportunity to disobey him.
  • Without evil, there would be no potential. If we were already perfect and lived in a monitored garden then free will would be a thing of myth.
  • So, there has to be room for freedom and evil, and God has to stand back from creation to allow perfection to develop.
  • Because we disobey God, we cause suffering.
  • Eventually, everyone overcomes evil and lives in God’s likeness in Heaven.
  • His developmental argument stems from Genesis 1:26, “let us make man in our image, after our likeness”. First we are created into an image, a projection, if you will, and only later will we develop unto godliness. Evil, he claimed, was an essential part of the metamorphosis.
  • The biggest problem Irenaus had to face was answering the “why”s surrounding his ideas. His main claim was that development into something more godly involved the “willing cooperation of human individuals.” He says that this cooperation endows us also with genuine freedom, that freedom cannot be brought about by being forced into doing it.
  • He also, despite its horrors, says that evil is beneficial as it allows us to comprehend what is good.
  • He claims that in arguing that God should take away evil, God should take away our innate humanity, as divine intervention when evil threatens is no kind of freedom.
  • John Hick and peter Vardy like this! Vardy comes up with the analogy of a king wanting to marry a peasant girl. Sure, he can decree she marry him, but where would be the love in that? So, he offers her time to get to know him and develop a relationship and love would grow. Distance, from God, is thus a necessity! Hick called this the “epistemic distance”.
  • This makes other points, saying that man was created imperfect, far from God in a world less paradisiacal. A world where God watched us would be no free world, and a paradise would have no concept of right and wrong, good and evil, as all of our acts would be without consequence.
  • As well as this, heaven makes sense! As often, life is just horrible suffering and no attainment is achieved. In having an afterlife to develop in, things become far easier.
  • The fact that heaven is available for all seems very counterintuitive to the history of Christian argument, and seems rather unjust! All those who have done terrible things get a fine afterlife anyway! It calls God’s own sense of justice into serious question. Not only that, but it refutes moral behaviour! Without any afterlife judgement based on this, we can do as we please and get away, perhaps literally, with murder. Thus, we have no incentive to make the decisions that allow us closer to God that he originally wanted us to make in the first place. Surely God is incapable of such blunders?

Good Old Richard-ie Swinburne

  • Why does God allow the horror that was the holocaust? I’ll tell you why! Because doing so would compromise his gift of freedom! Knowing that God would intervene when things got really bad, governments may escalate small scale disaster just so God would come in and make things all better!
  • Death, despite being ‘orrible, is essential to free will. It means that the chances taken in life, and life itself, are limited. This is important as, only in a lifespan of limit can our actions truly have weight and responsibility.
  • Determinists could argue that this freedom does not exist though, and thus, it cannot ever justify suffering.
  • If God has predetermined the course of history then the holocaust would have been planned, but if we were truly free then God’s omnipotence and omniscience would be detracted from.

Process Theodicy

  • This accepts the view of Hume in saying evil is incompatible with the existence of God. It starts with the concept that god is not omnipotent! Crikey! Instead it says that he did not create the universe but is part of the set of an “uncreated universe which includes the deity”.
  • His role in creation was starting off the process of evolution. As we exert our own control on the world, we can ignore God. As a result, we have very little idea of God’s will, as we were not necessary created in his likeness.
  • As God is part of the world, he suffers when evils are committed, but is unable to intervene. He is the “fellow sufferer who understands”.
  • He does share some responsibility for it, as he started the process and knew he would be unable to control it after a certain point.
  • He took such a risk, it is thought, as the good produced in the universe is sufficient in amount and quality to outweigh the evil.
  • This whole idea denies the Classic God, and is thus not a theodicy at all, in truth!
  • The idea that life is not predetermined, with not heaven, no hell, no REAL God seems to disparage human effort!
  • The idea of good outweighing evil can probably never comfort those involved in the suffering, seeing as they will never be compensated in heaven.

No comments: