Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Conversations with Angie: The problem of evil stated

Angie,

Okily dokily, this is the next part of your email I'm going to respond to:

"And, I find myself unable to believe that a truly good God would let the world be as it is. I know exactly what most Christians would say in response to it."

First, I'm curious to know what you think most Christians would say. I mean I'm a Christian, and I'm not even sure I know what most Christians would say. But I guess since you have more of a church background than I do, you'd be in a better position to know. Second, I'm curious to know if my response turns out to be what you think most Christians would say.

Before I respond, I want to mirror back to you what I take your reasoning to be. The world, as it is, contains a lot of evil and suffering. But God is good. If God is good, he would not want there to be evil. If he's powerful, he is able to rid the world of evil. If he's intelligent, he knows how to rid the world of evil. But since there's still evil in the world, either God doesn't exist, God isn't all good, God isn't all powerful, or God isn't all knowing.

This is the most popular argument in the history of philosphy against the Christian idea of God. It's called the problem of evil. It's usually formulated something like this:

1. If God exists, evil does not exist.
2. Evil exists.
3. Therefore, God does not exist.

In this argument, "God" is understood in the Christian sense, having omniscience (all knowing), omnipotence (all powerful), and omnibenevolence (all good).

Basically, the whole crux of the argument is that there's some contradiction between the claim that "God exists" and the claim that "Evil exists." That's basically what the first premise implies. God and evil cannot coexist. If there's evil, then there's no God. If there's God, then there's no evil. But since it's obvious that evil does exist, it follows that God does not.

Evil is understood in the broadest possible way. Traditionally, there are two kinds of evil--natural evil and moral evil. Moral evil is basically the sort of evil that results in human decision. Natural evil consists of things like hurricanes, volcanoes, and basically acts of nature that cause people to suffer. I guess even accidents would fall under natural evil.

to be continued...

Conversations with Angie: The free will theodicy

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