Objections Arising from Evil in the World Essay
Objections Arising from Evil in the World
The word evil is a word which can be used very loosely, usually used to describe something we think to be morally wrong, something that when in inflicted on a person causes pain and suffering. However, if an ‘evil’ act is committed by someone who has been in all other aspects good, does this act make this person ‘evil’? There are many different situations where evil acts could be done all with different circumstances and consequences. For example; at Auschwitz, so many guards were involved in the slaughter of massive amounts of Jews but it seems unlikely that all of them were evil. The actions may be considered evil but they were normalised by the sense of responsibility felt by the guards. In their eyes, they were carrying out a duty so the question of whether they are to be labelled evil is indefinite.
There are two recognised categories which evil can fall under: Moral evil and Natural evil. Richard Swimburne, a modern day philosopher describes moral evil as ‘including all evil caused deliberately by humans doing what they ought not to do, and also the evil constituted by such deliberate acts or negligent failure’. It is the result of a human action which is morally wrong, such as murder or war. Natural evil is the result of apparent malfunctioning in the natural world, it is according to John Hick ‘the evil that originates independently of human actions. It is in disease, in bacilli, in earthquakes, in storms, and in droughts.’
The fact that evil, or suffering is an undeniable factor in our lives presents an array of problems in today’s world where there is a strong belief by many of a higher power which should in theory, be able to eradicate it from the world or in fact never have let it come to exist in the first place. For believers in the God of Classical Theism, this ‘problem of evil’ as it is often referred to, creates a serious dilemma.
Moral evil is an easier problem to tackle for a theist than that of Natural evil, as it can be said that it occurs from the misuse of freewill, but they are still faced with justifying the existence of Natural evil. If God created the world from nothing, then there is nothing beyond His control so for whatever reason, God must be the creator of evil and suffering. A theist can sometimes be faced with justifying both types of evil as natural evils like tsunamis and hurricanes are often the cause of people committing moral evils like looting.
The problem is not easily justifiable and is illustrated in ‘The Inconsistent Triad’, which states the points: God is omnipotent and omniscient (A), God is all-loving (B), and evil exists (C). These three statements cannot all be true so it would seem that one of them is false, but since we know evil and suffering exist the inconsistency must lie in one of the other 2 points.
The conclusions drawn from this are that either God is not omnipotent and cannot stop evil from existing, or that God is not all-loving and chooses not to stop evil existing, or that in fact God does not exist. This can be used as an argument for the non-existence of God. A quote from Swimburne on the Problem of Evil, ‘There is a problem about why God allows evil, and if the theist doesn’t have (in a cool moment) a satisfactory answer to it, then his belief in God is less than rational and there is no reason why the atheist should share it.’ An example of the problem being used in this way is in Hume’s combat of Thomas Aquinas’ Design Argument (Summa Thelogica) where he labels the Problem of Evil as ‘The Rock of Atheism’.
However, whilst being a problem for theists in that it challenges the nature of God, it also poses problems in other ways. It presents itself as a philosophical problem as it compels the believer to accept conflicting claims that are logically impossible to reconcile. It is also a diverse problem; evil manifests itself in many different ways, demanding separate explanations. The problem of evil has proved itself to be a challenging problem, as it is not just going to disappear, evil and suffering are objective realities which are almost impossible to deny.
B) Unpack two theodicies and analyse which how successful these are
As I said, the justification of God’s allowance for the existence of evil is not easy, but there are many theodicies which have developed that provide strong arguments. A theodicy is a theory that justifies why God allows evil without qualifying the attributes of the God of Classical Theism. Two of which are those of Augustine and Irenaeus.
Augustine’s theodicy has had considerable influence over many scholars since it was developed and attempts to provide justification for both moral and natural evil. According to Augustine, the perfect God created a flawless world where evil and suffering did not exist, and that God is not responsible for the existence of evil as it is not a substance, but in fact a deprivation of good. He uses an analogy of blindness to illustrate his meaning, as blindness itself is not an entity but an absence of sight. Augustine claims that evil comes from angels and humans who have deliberately turned against God and abused his gift of freewill. He states that evil is necessary in a created world as only the uncreated creator can be perfect, his creations are susceptible to change.
Augustine’s idea on the existence of Natural evil is that it exists as a punishment for the Original Sin, which we are all guilty of as we were all seminally present in Adam at the time it was committed. Natural evil punishes us for the destruction of the natural order by human action. For these reasons God is right not to intervene and the fact that he does save some through Christ emphasises His mercy. God would be justified in sending everyone to hell for being guilty of the Original Sin, the fact that some go to heaven shows God’s goodness.
Augustine’s theodicy has some substantial strengths, as is proved by its popularity. Brian Davies is an example of a scholar who supports his claim that evil is only a deprivation of good rather than having a proper existence, he said it is ‘a gap between what there is and what there ought to be’. To criticise would be to say that God should have created more than he did which doesn’t make sense; how is anyone to know how much more should have been created. Augustine’s views on evil being a product of freewill have also been upheld.
Despite it’s strengths, Augustine’s theodicy has many holes in it to be addressed, it contains logical, scientific, and moral difficulties. Augustine’s concept of Hell comes under scrutiny; Hell is part of God’s design of the universe, so it was created before the world’s flaws began to appear, which means that God must have anticipated and accepted that the world would go wrong.
F.D.E Schleiermacher expresses his logical contradiction to Augustine’s views on the origin of evil and a perfect world going wrong, Schleiermacher informs us that whether evil is a deprivation or not it is still real and it is therefore logically impossible for it to just come out of nothing. This means that evil must be connected to God and he either never created the world perfect or he made it so it was able to falter. Another logical difficulty of this theodicy comes of the capacity to do evil in a ‘perfect’ world and disobey God, as in a perfect world no knowledge of good and evil should exist. The knowledge of them could only come from God.
Scientific difficulties stem from the modern world’s concept of evolution; the idea of a perfect world being damaged by humans does not allow for evolution. Moreover, Augustine refers to the Garden of Eden in his theodicy, and this paradise is hard to accept on the basis of evolution. A final difficulty lies with the concept of us all being seminally present in Adam’s loins, this is biologically impossible so we cannot all be responsible for the Original Sin. From comparing the strengths with the criticisms we can see that Augustine’s theodicy ultimately fails.
The theodicy of Irenaeus is another which provides a formidable answer to the question of why God allows evil’s existence. As said by Irenaeus, Gods aim when creating the world was to make humans in his likeness, but to do this, humans could not be made perfect but had to develop through free will. It was therefore necessary for God to give us free will and therefore necessary to give us the potential to turn against him. If he didn’t enable this, we could never attain God’s likeness as according to Ireneaus it requires willing co-operation.
The natural order had to be designed in a way where humans could cause harm, which they did resulting in suffering, but God still cannot compromise our freedom by removing evil. Ireneaus claims that the evil and suffering will eventually be overcome and everyone will attain God’s likeness and reside in Heaven. This justifies temporary evil, which if complying with Ireneaus’ thought enables the understanding of good.
Many philosophers have added to Ireneaus’ theodicy including John Hick (who claims that good developed from free will is better than ready-made goodness), and Peter Vardy who used an analogy of a king to illustrate this – where a king falls in love with a peasant girl but rather than imposing his power on her and forcing him to marry her, he wins her over. They both believe that without development our goodness would be without value, we would be automatons.
According to this theodicy, humans had to be created imperfect to be able to go against God, and they had to be created at a distance from God so they could decide for themselves to believe in him. If we were sure he was there, there would be no free will, John Hick called this the ‘epistemic distance’. If God wasn’t separated from humans we would know he was real and would live a good, moral life because we would know that it is in our best interests, it wouldn’t be real goodness. Humans also couldn’t be created in a paradise or else qualities such as courage would not be attainable and there would be no development as good and evil would be indistinguishable.
The theodicy justifies natural evil as it makes the world well adapted to ‘soul making’ (John Hick). The Modern Additions to this theodicy claim that heaven is the eventual goal for everyone for three reasons; a future in heaven is the only justification for the suffering of the world. Secondly, if life were to end in death God’s purpose would be unfulfilled since we would not be reaching our goal of becoming God’s likeness. Lastly, nobody can be overlooked as evil acts are carried out in different circumstances for different people. For example, someone who was abused while being raised is much more likely to be abusive as an adult, it is something they are used to and have become desensitised to.
There are solid criticisms of Irenaeus’ theodicy as well as Augustine’s: For example, everyone going to heaven defies religious texts as well as making it pointless to live a moral life, why bother if you are going to heaven anyway? It also takes away the incentive to develop into God’s likeness which Irenaeus regarded of utmost importance. Another critique is of the level of suffering needed to make the world adapted for ‘soul making, e.g. Was the Holocaust really necessary? Finally, it can be said that love can never be expressed through suffering, supported by D.Z Philips who said it is not justifiable to hurt someone to help them.
To conclude, neither of these theodicies can be considered perfect by any means, but Ireneaus is the stronger of the two. Where Augustine fails to provide room for belief in evolution, Ireneaus manages it and while Augustine cannot provide a logical explanation for the origin of evil, Irenaeus provides a stable reason for it. It is also popular, like Augustine’s for its views on free will.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 17 September 2017
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