evil, problem of

evil, problem of
   The problem of evil occurs in many forms. Philosophical discussion has eschewed the practical and pastoral problems of evil, and concentrated on the logical and evidential/probabilistic problems. The logical problem of evil is the problem that it appears that the proposition that evil exists logically implies the proposition that God does not exist. The argument goes roughly thus:
   1. Evil exists.
   2. If God exists then he will prevent all evil that he can prevent and knows about, thanks to his perfect goodness.
   3. If God exists then he can prevent all evil that he knows about, thanks to his omnipotence.
   4. If God exists then he knows about all evil that exists, thanks to his omniscience.
   5. God does not exist.
   Many Christian philosophers have striven to show that appearances deceive here, and that the argument is not logically sound. There are two broad defences against the argument, both denying (2): the free-will defence and the greater-good defence. The free-will defence takes its lead from Augustine's early works. Its leading contemporary exponent is Alvin Plantinga, who claims that, for all we know, God cannot create a world in which everybody freely refrains from evil. Moreover, a world in which some people freely do good and some do evil may well be better than one in which everybody is forced to do good. The greater-good defence takes its lead from Irenaeus. Its leading contemporary exponent is John Hick, who claims that suffering evil is necessary to make our souls adult souls rather than childish, immature souls. In other words, we should be spiritually impoverished if we did not have the experience of struggling through adversity. The evidential or probabilistic problem of evil is the problem that the proposition that evil exists makes more likely the proposition that God does not exist. Debate has ranged furiously over the past thirty years or so over who bears the burden of proof: the Christian philosopher to explain why it's quite likely that God permits evil or the atheist to explain why it isn't likely. There are various refined versions of the problem of evil, such as the problem of natural evil (suffering not inflicted by humans), the problem of horrendous evils (addressed in particular by Marilyn McCord Adams), and the problem of why God allowed the fall (that is, the first sin of his creatures).
   Further reading: Adams, Marilyn McCord 1999; Hick 1977; Lewis, C. S. 1940; Plantinga 1974a; Rowe 2001; Swinburne 1998; Whitney 1998

Christian Philosophy . . 2015.

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