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Philosophy 3 – Study Paper

2007

Brendan Moar

Thinking About God and Evil
Paper by Brendan Moar

1 Introduction
Definition of Evil: Minimum: serious unjustified harm inflicted on sentient beings [humans or animals] (Kekes) Maximum: all of life's minuses (Adams) Our world-view will shape our position on what we see as evil; evil will be the opposite of whatever we perceive as 'the good'. Our own desires and loves will also shape our concept of what is evil.

2 Evils Defined
2.1 Natural Evil
This is the suffering imposed on humans (or animals) by the processes of the natural world, independently of the free actions of any human agent.

2.2 Moral Evil
This is unnecessary suffering caused by the free actions of rational men and women. (The word unnecessary is important – e.g. the Holocaust, etc.)

3 Responses to Evil
Philosophical: a general theoretical objection to belief in God. (Ganssle) Existential: a personal difficulty precluding belief. (Ganssle) A combination of the two: Feelingful. (AJC)

4 The Problem of Evil
The existence of evil is not as big a problem for non-monotheists: • The Atheist: evil is just a by-product of how the universe turned out. The existence of evil is described as the 'rock of atheism' (Büchner). • The Polytheist: conflict between the gods is a likely story. • The Dualist: you cannot have good without evil. • The Pantheist or Panentheist: Evil is just a part of God. • The Deist: Maybe evil came after God set the universe into motion and left it to its own designs. That's highly likely. The theist's problem is this: • God is all powerful: therefore God could prevent evil's arrival/ survival • God is all good: therefore God would want to prevent evil's arrival • God is all wise: therefore God would know how to prevent evil's arrival However, evil has arrived. Does this mean that God is not all powerful, or all good?

The Existence of Evil

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Philosophy 3 – Study Paper

2007

Brendan Moar

If we want to uphold the notion that God is not responsible for evil, then we have two options: 1) deny the problem or 2) defend God.

5 Denying the Problem
Three common ways of denying the problem are: Radicalising God's Freedom: God has infinite liberty of will and character God is under no obligations to give account for his moral actions. It's his world and he can do what he likes: "But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?" [Rom 9:20] Descartes postulated that since God is above logical constraint, he has no problem with the logical dilemma presented by the existence of evil. Redefining God's Attributes: qualify the 'omni' of God's attributes God knows everything that is logical to know, but is unable to know what a free agent might do if it is not necessary. Therefore is unable to know future acts of evil perpetrated by free agents. God has therefore not allowed evils that he knows will occur. Abandoning God's Attributes God is not all powerful. Experience reveals that persons are limited. The existence of evil in the world would seem to suggest that God is not able to stop it. By analogy then, the person of God is limited. Therefore, God is not all powerful. Process theology. E.g. Charles Hartshorne (note: other proponents explain this view differently) teaches that God has infinite power, but cannot use it. The laws of nature set up by God, and his desire for his creatures to have free will, preclude him from intervening. God is not all good is a possibility, but one that is not frequently argued.

6 Defending God: Theodicy
6.1 Augustine
Augustine is in the background of a lot of the discussions on the problem of Evil. Augustine is working in opposition to the dualism of Manicheism. His early view: Evil as a privation of God's good (very Neoplatonic) He argued that good things become corrupt and the good drains away. The more outof-sync with the divine order something is, the more corrupt it has become.

The Existence of Evil

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Philosophy 3 – Study Paper

2007

Brendan Moar

His later view: my 'loves' gone wonky (the Bible is impacting him more) This is a deepening of the earlier view: the 'out-of-sync'ness or what Augustine calls disorder is now seen to be not in the cosmos, but in human beings. We love things. God has made every thing good. When we love some things too much, we fail to see what is more important, and "drive to make ourselves the centre of our world…[and] to dominate and posses the things which surround us." (Charles Taylor) The arrival of evil is explained by the fall of once perfect angels who misused free will and became proud. Humanity, also created perfect, followed the angels and succumbed to pride in the garden, the love of a lesser good. Natural evil on this view results from sin or its punishment.

6.1.1 Criticism of Augustine
1) How do perfect beings go bad? 2) How does a once-perfect creation fit with evolution? 3) How does hell resolve the problem when evil continues to exist?

6.2 Irenaeus
Irenaeus battled the Gnostics. The basis for his thought was eschatological: all things will be perfected in Christ. Creation was 'good' (less than perfect), the new creation will be 'perfect'. The incarnation was a preview of perfected humankind. He had a concept of soul making. Man has freewill: the ability to discern good and evil. God uses evil to discipline his children and train them in righteousness: this is how we grow to maturity. Maturity is the ability to make right choices between good and evil. Moral evil results from bad choices. Natural evil results from bad angels.

6.2.1 Criticism of Irenaeus
The notion of the 'good'=perfect in Hellenistic though. If the creation was good, then it must have been perfect. (I don’t see how this is problem to anyone but a Hellenist with a perfect notion of the 'good'?) The cost of free-will is exceptional: is it worth the Holocaust?

7 Some Biblical Considerations for the Problem of Evil
Gen 3:1 The serpent is made by God (part of the goodness of creation). He speaks—like God—but his words distort the good (as spoken by God). Rev 12:7 seems to intimate the occurrence of a war in the heavens where angels— created by God—rebel against him and attack the world. Their great power is the power to distort the good.

The Existence of Evil

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Philosophy 3 – Study Paper Jude 6 speaks of angelic insurrection.

2007

Brendan Moar

Eph 3:10 God's true power will be revealed to the heavenly powers and principalities. Isa 14:12-15 could be about the origin of the Devil. Ps 13:1 shows that it is ok for us to express our pain and puzzlement at the evil that affects us. Job teaches that we can't look for a simple solution. The answers just aren't there: We have limited knowledge and just need to trust that when God say he is in control and works for our good, that he is and he does.

8 Christological Alleviation
Through the incarnation and the passion, God enters into the realm of evil and sin and conquers it. All questions about evil must be understood in the light of the cross event. Ultimate alleviation comes in the eschatological resolution. We shall groan under the rod of evil until Jesus comes back and leads us to paradise. A key consideration for thinking about the problem of evil is the question: is God trustworthy? The cross would say yes; then we have hope of eschatological freedom from evil.

The Existence of Evil

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