Why God Allows Evil
Swinburne defends the view that the existence of evil in the world is consistent with the existence of an omnipotent, perfectly good God. Not only are they consistent, he argues, but the amount of good in the world requires the possibility of substantial evil. He begins his argument by distinguishing moral evil (which comes from humans acting in morally bad ways) from natural evil (pain and suffering that comes from anything other than human action with predictable outcome), both of which are necessary for the world's good. To understand why moral evil is necessary, Swinburne asks us to consider what sorts of goods a generous god would give to humans. In addition to pleasure and contentment, he suggests that such a god would "give us great responsibility for ourselves, each other, and the world, and thus a share in his own creative activity of determining what sort of world it is to be." This kind of responsibility requires that humans have free will, for we are not responsible for our actions absent the freedom to choose other actions. Moreover, it is incompatible with God's intervention when humans commit bad acts. That is, to have genuine responsibility for something, one must have the opportunity to harm that thing as well as benefit it. Further, he argues that humans must have some inherent inclination to act badly in order for us to have a real choice between doing good and doing evil. If we only had an inclination to act rightly, then doing so would be a foregone conclusion. Thus, in order to make the choice between good actions and evil actions meaningful, Swinburne argues that God would have made humans inclined to act wrongly in order to facilitate the responsibility necessary for a good life. Swinburne accounts for the presence of natural evil in much the same way. On his account natural evil provides opportunity for humans to have the complex responsibility necessary for good lives. It does so in two ways. First, the natural...
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