Freedom, Evil, and the Illusion of Omnipotence
“Is he an omnipotent and wholly benevolent being willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is Evil?” -Hume
In the world we live in today, there is undoubtedly the existence of evil. Such a presence of moral wrongdoing seems confusing in a world where such a significant portion of the population believes in the existence of a God. This belief in God is set in conditional terms nevertheless, and lies in the idea that while “God is omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good,” evil is still allowed to exist (Plantinga, God, Evil, and the Metaphysics of Freedom). Theists believe that these requirements of God are not shaken by the presence of evil in the world; God can maintain these universal terms while there are evils occurring throughout our planet. However, it seems irrational to allow these two propositions to coexist with each other without challenging either the existence of evil or the powers theists have bestowed upon God. Some theists operate under the belief that evil serves as the counterpart to good (Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence). This contradicts the belief that a moral good will always eliminate a moral evil, which theists also hold. However, for the two to act as counterparts, then they must exist equally with each other. If good eliminates evil as the theist idea of God is supposed to, how can they continuously work alongside each other? J.J. Mackie likens the supposed partnership between the two qualities of good and evil to the discrepancies between great and small. For greatness to exist, there must be something smaller to which it can be compared. The two are actual counterparts, as one cannot exist without the presence of the other. An image to help demonstrate this point can be found by examining the differences between great and small mountains. Surely Mount Everest would not be regarded so greatly if every mountain in the world were nearly just as big. It is only because of the existence of smaller mountains that leads to our categorization of Everest as something separate. The problem with this relationship is that greatness and smallness are not qualities in the sense that good and evil are. What this implies is that it would be ridiculous to think of people opposing greatness in favor of smallness or vice versa (Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence). On the other hand, there is indeed a theoretical movement against evil, or even against good, which makes the comparison useless. Good and evil are supposed to be necessary counterparts as well as mutually opposed forces, where great and small lack these requirements. The real justification of evil as a potential counterpart for good is in the fact that we are aware of the idea of evil itself. “If everything were red we should not notice redness, and so we should have no word ‘red’; we observe and give names to qualities only if they have real opposites.” (Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence). Mackie is noting the fact that if we do not notice an “other” quality opposed to its apparent opposite, there is no need or justification for distinguishing the two. The only reason that we are aware of our own goodness is because of the evidence of others’ evil. Mackie even accounts for this by stating “God might have made everything good, though we should not have noticed if he had.” (Mackie, Evil and Omnipotence). If God had made the world wholly good as he is also supposed to be, we would not even realize it, because we were not subjected to anything other than goodness. To have this distinction between the two ideas of good and evil does still does not justify their relationship as counterparts to each other. The idea that because of evil we are aware of good lies in the fact that only a small amount of evil is required to notice goodness. If one person was wronged in the most mundane way,...
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