Does the existence of evil in our world
disprove God’s existence?
March 23, 2011
The argument of the problem of evil contends that the existence of an omniscient, omnibenevolent, and omnipotent God is incompatible with the existence of evil in the world, which can be observed in war, genocide, and human suffering. One could respond to this argument by stating that human evil is a result of free will, which is the God-given ability to make decisions which are either good or evil. In this way, God does not directly cause evil but rather creates the possibility for evil to occur as a natural consequence of human free will. The occurence of natural disasters; such as floods, or excessive pain and suffering brought about by natural disease or hunger, stands in the way of the view that God does not directly cause evil. One could respond to this objection with the claim that these natural evils are “a necessary condition for the highest moral virtue,” (Campbell 287) and that without these evils, virtues such as compassion and bravery are impossible. As a result, it can be concluded that not only is the existence of evil compatible with the idea of an all-loving God, but evil is in fact necessary for moral perfection; which consists in doing “God’s will which always embraces the intrinsically good”(Lewis 88).
The definition of free will according to John Hick is that, “God’s purpose in creating this world was to provide the logically necessary environment in which human persons could respond freely to His infinite love and freely accept a God-centered rather than a self-centered life” (Hick 293). Thus in order for the environment which is necessary for this response to allow for true freedom, God could not simply entice or only present the ‘good’ outcome; despite the fact that he “…always embraces the intrinsically good”(Lewis 88). God must also provide an alternative; evil, which according to Aquinas, “does not exist in its own right, but is merely the privation of good, and therefore is not something that was created”(Ia, q.48 ) in the same way that blindness is merely a lack or privation of sight. As God provides the free agent with this environment, he puts the ball in their court. Thus man then has the choice and may decide to choose evil. As a result, the possibility of evil then enters our world, when man’s desire becomes more important than what is right and he fails to see the “wisdom which…always embraces the intrinsically good.” (Lewis 88) Although God desires man to do good, he allows evil to exist because he knows that, “such a world is better than a world without evil, or a world with less evil but with morally determined beings” (Hick 293). For it is by our choices and the results of those choices that we as humans learn right from wrong, good from evil. With this option we are in control, through the fact that we have the freedom “to respond to God as free persons and not as automata logically supposes an element of unpredictability” (Hick 297). God in his goodness has given us this ability, knowing full well that it is the only way in which humans would be able to respond to his love freely, despite there being an evil option. He understands the implications that this creates, in which His world; which was all good, now has the potential to be corrupted. This potential is often realized through countless decisions that man has continued to make. Man has chosen to cut down trees and use them for harvesting paper and wood. This choice is not in and of itself evil, but when man decides that he wants to cut down an entire forest in order to supply the demand for lumber, he has made a selfish choice. He knows that trees are vital for providing oxygen; an essential part of human life, yet he has made a moral decision, the result of which is his desire for profit, which then creates the vice of greed. Once he notices that he can repeat this act over and over and continually reap the rewards, and be faced with...
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