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Caitlin McDonnell

The Existence of God and the Problem of Evil

Introduction to Philosophy

If God exists, why does he allow evil in the world?

Perhaps one of the biggest arguments with the existence of God is the problem of evil.

The problem of evil can best be described by saying, If God can prevent the suffering of the

innocent, yet chooses not to, He is not good. If God chooses to prevent the suffering, but cannot,

He is not omnipotent. If God cannot recognize the suffering of the innocent, He is not wise

(Soccio 239). This statement is suggesting that if God exists, then why does he not prevent

suffering if he is the creator of it and is able to? St. Thomas Aquinas, among other philosophers

have written articles to support Gods existence and to disclaim it. However, all these questions

do not disprove the claim that God truly exists.

The best way to begin to answer the question of the problem of evil, is to first prove the

existence of God. Matt Slick wrote an article called Is belief in God rational? In this article, he

claims Ultimately, if God exists then belief in him is ration. If he does not exist, then it isnt.

Likewise, if he does not exist then not believing in him is supremely irrational. So, it comes

down to whether or not God exists. Does he? Of course he does. One person who's claims

would be able to support this statement is St. Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas Aquinas was an

Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest who was an immensely influential philosopher and

theologian. He combined the theological principles of faith with the philosophical principles of

reason and was ranked one of the most influential thinkers of the medieval Scholasticism. St.

Thomas believed in God, however he also though Gods existence could be demonstrated by

natural reason (230). He created five proofs for the existence of God which all follow a basic

pattern. The Five Ways are cause-effect arguments, beginning with our experience of effects

and moving toward their cause, God (230).

The First Way in the Five Ways is the argument from motion meaning both linear motion

and more complex life-motion, animating motion. The argument of motion is an attempt to

prove the existence of God based on the reasoning that to avoid an infinite regress, there must be

an Unmoved Mover capable of imparting motion to all other things Aristotelian argument that

forms the basis for the first of Thomas Aquinass Five Ways (230). As a result of things already

being in motion, we know that something had to cause this object that was not yet in motion to

become and object in motion. St. Thomas reasoned that some first mover had to exist outside

the series of becoming and suggests that God is an Unmoved Mover.

The Second Way is cause which is based on the Aristotelian concept of cause which talks

about the initial cause of the existence of the universe. The cosmological argument is from the

Greek word cosmos, meaning world, universe, or orderly structure; argument for the

existence of God that because it is impossible for any natural thing to be the complete and

sufficient source of its own existence, there must be an Uncaused Cause capable of imparting

existence to all other things; Aristotelian argument that forms the basis for the second of

Aquinass Five Ways (232). This suggests that it is impossible for anything to exist with out a

previous cause. In order to cause itself, a thing would have t pride itself. However, God always

was, is and will be. This is a way to state that God was the first efficient cause, that nothing

existed before him and that he just is and was.

The Third Way is necessity. The argument of necessity is the argument for the

existence of God based on the idea that if nothing had ever existed, nothing would always exist;

there fore, there is something whose existence is necessary (an eternal something) (233).

Humans exist given the particular history of the world. Our existence is contingent on something

else. As a result of this Thomas said that If nothing had ever existed, nothing would always

exist. God existed to cause others their necessity.

The Forth Way is degree. Degree also comes into play when explaining the existence of a

good and loving being thus relating to the problem of evil. The argument of gradation is based on

a metaphysical concept of a hierarchy of souls. It is based on the idea that being progresses

from inanimate objects to increasingly complex animated creatures, culminating in a

qualitatively uniq God: (234). Thomas bases this off of the great chain of being which was

created by a philosopher named Arthur O. Lovejoy. Thomas though it was reflected in the

properties of individual things, as well as in the kinds of things that exists. It ranges from

complete lack goodness or evil and goes all the way to pure goodness which is God. God is the

cause of all our being, goodness and every other perfection therefore, he is the greatest in truth

and the greatest in being.

The final way is The Fifth Way which is design (also known as teleological argument). It

is a widely known argument for the existence of God claims that the universe manifests order

and purpose that can only be result of a conscious intelligence (God) (236). Thomas argued that

order implies intelligence, purpose and plan; starting with the common observations and

searching for principles to explain them. The world exhibits evidence of design, it follows

logically that there must be a designer. Thomas suggested that if something lacks knowledge, it

cannot move towards and end unless it is directed by some being with knowledge and

intelligence and this being is God.

To me, St. Thomas offers a clear, concise explanation for the existence of God. However,

none of these ways truly explain why there is an existence of evil if God is so great. B.C Johnson

wrote and essay asking why God does not intervene to prevent evil. As a Catholic, it was rather

hard for me to get through is essay, although I did agree with some of his statements. Johnson

began with an example of an infant in a burning building asking why God did not intervene to

save that child. Johnson said that every action successfully performed must in the end be good

and therefore the right thing to do, other wise God would not have allowed it to happen.

However, he goes on to say that this argument does not explain why God allowed the child to

burn to death.

From Johnsons writings, it seems to me that the only way to prove God exists is for him

to eliminate the evil in this world and to be able to intervene when such evil happens. Every

excuse we could provide to make the world consistent with a good God can be paralleled by an

excuse to make the world consistent with an evil God. This is so because the world is a mixture

of both good and bad (Johnson). However, what he fails to mention, that John Hick does is, His

only son suffered. The climax of this history of evil is the crucifixion of Jesus, which is

presented not only as a case of utterly unjust suffering, but as the violent and murderous rejection

of Gods Messiah (Hicks). The Bible does not really drop many hints as to why God allowed

this to happen, except that Jesus died to save us from our sins. God willed and ordained the

weakness of the cross of Christ from all eternity as a demonstration of His goodness, love, and

mercy. Evil has not been set there by God, but represents the distortion of something that is

inherently valuable Evil is essentially parasitic upon good, being disorder and perversion in a

fundamentally good creation (Hicks).

There is no greater demonstration of God's love! (1 John 4:9-10). God shares each and all

of our sufferings. Rather than looking at someone dying as a bad thing, we could look at it as a

beautiful thing. Perhaps they are at peace now and are going on to the afterlife. In relation to the

crucifixion of Christ, At the cross of Christ, God's greatness, God's goodness, and the reality of

evil co-exist without diminishing or modifying any one of these truths. God sovereignly ordains

and overrules all events surrounding the cross; God reveals His love, mercy and goodness

through the cross; all the while, Christ's crucifixion remains a result of real human evil and

injustice (Vincent). Richard Vincent is saying that although there are these harsh evils in the

world, they are actually an act of Gods love. Some might argue that mass shootings and natural

disasters are not a result of Gods love. John Hicks offers a suggestion to this saying For we can

never provide a complete casual explanation of a free act; if we could, it would not be a free act.

The origin of moral evil lies forever concealed within the mystery of human freedom.

As a result of the arguments that people present about the problem of evil and presenting

the question of If there is evil, how can you prove God exists?, I feel as though a combination

of St. Thomas Aquinass Five Ways and John Hicks article do a great job of elaborating on how

God can exist and give reasoning behind the problem of evil. It is clear that God truly exists and

that as a result of him creating us with free will, there is evil in the world. One of John Hicks

final quotations is Man has been made as a person in the image of God but has not yet been

brought as a free and responsible agent into the finite likeness of God, which is revealed through


Works Cited

"" The Problem of Evil. Unknown, 2004. Web. 27 June 2015.

Hick, John. "There Is a Reason Why God Allows Evil." Philosophy of Religion (1963): n. pag.


Johnson, B.C. "Why Doesn't God Intervene to Prevent Evil?" The Atheist Debater's Handbook

(1981): n. pag. Web.


Matt, Slick. "Is Belief in God Rational?" CARM. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry,

n.d. Web. 27 June 2015.

Soccio, Douglas. "Chapter 8: Thomas Aquinas." Archetypes of Wisdom. 8th ed. Boston:

Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, 2013. N. pag. Print.

Vincent, Richard. "The Problem of Evil and the Cross of Christ." Suffering. Unknown, 1 Sept.

2000. Web. 27 June 2015.