Daily Archives: November 18, 2008

The problem of evil? Part 2…

Please read part 1 to get the general idea of the “problem of evil.”  Various philosophers/theologians have offered different “solutions” to the “problem” of evil.  In this part, I’m going to explore various proposed solutions…saving Augustin’s view, and free will for a bit later.

I want to say right off that I don’t agree with all of these positions, but will try to remember when to point that out, and/or provide my readers with scripture that backs up or rejects these ideas.  Also, I’m not covering every single proposed “solution” here, nor am I including a lot of detail.  I’m simply giving a very brief overview of some of the more “miscellaneous” proposed solutions, and will cover the “major” ones a bit later.

First, there is a “catch-all” idea; God is transcendent, His ways are inscrutable.  God is not bound by space and time, and He is the sum of all perfections…therefore, we can’t understand with our limited human brains and experience how God can be both all powerful and all loving and not instantly do away with all evil, pain, suffering, etc…

This “solution” has it’s good parts, and it’s holes.  Yes, God is indeed light years beyond us as far as power, understanding, knowledge, etc…  There is no doubt about it, even by sheer definition.  Scripture backs this up as well.

Isaiah 55: 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

And there is the “litany of questions” God demands of Job to highlight God as being far beyond humans, here is a small sample; Job 38:1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, 2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

So, yes, God’s ways are not to be judged by us, nor can they be fully comprehended.  However, that misses the point that God has indeed revealed certain aspects of existence to us…He has taught us, like we would teach children (or dogs ;) ).  He has taught us about our world, about ourselves, about the world to come, and about His nature.  Within this sharing of knowledge, He has also taught us about evil, and where suffering comes from, so I do not find the “solution” of God’s ways being inscrutable to completely answer the problem of evil within a Christian framework, though I can see where it could cover it from a general POV.

Second, there is a “solution” that says to look to the overall goodness.  That the totality of existence is weighted to the the good, not to evil.  Well, I can see this if the future is included from a Christian perspective, and there is a small piece of truth to the idea.  However, if I was approaching this from a general perspective, this “solution” wouldn’t convince me.

There is too much evil and suffering in this world for the “goodness of the totality” argument to really be effective.  All of us humans have gone through horrible, miserable, and painful times.  We’ve also been the cause of horrible, miserable, and painful times.  That kind of personal experience with evil shows us that it is indeed a problem, even if goodness outweighs it…we still want to know “why?” and where evil comes from.

The third idea is that it is logically impossible to have a world without evil, since God’s own character is being defined as “without evil.”  His creation, so this “solution” goes, would have to be lesser; therefore, a world without evil is logically impossible because of God’s own definition.  This one I personally don’t buy at all.  Why?  Because it is true that God is utterly Righteous, but that does not preclude His creation having that righteousness as well.

That aspect of God is only one of the aspects that makes Him, or defines His as…God.  We Christians believe we “participate” in God’s righteousness through Christ, but that does not make me, a mere created being, equal with God, nor would it make a created world without evil on par with God.  In short, I don’t see the logic in this proposed “solution.”

And finally, there is one “solution” that says that all evil is simply a by-product of nature.  There are some (I repeat some) theistic evolutionists that tend toward this solution (by no means do I mean to imply all theistic evolutionists do; there’s so many different beliefs under that umbrella).

The idea here that “evil” is a necessary by-product of nature, that laws such as gravity are set up and through natural processes, that evil will happen.  Again, this idea could be worked into a Deist position, or a theistic evolutionary position.  If God did indeed use evolution as the tool to create mankind, then it follows that the death, disease, and suffering that drives evolution would be a by-product.  So too would moral evil, since the physicality of humans, and our inherent weaknesses would be a logical outcome of this approach.

I don’t buy this explanation either.  Yes, once the fall of mankind happened, then natural laws do have a very real effect on us…for example, if we trip and fall, gravity pulls us down and we can indeed become hurt.  However, I do not believe this would satisfy the skeptics would tout the “problem of evil” as a real problem.  It simply begs the question; why did God choose evolution as the tool of creation?

More on the problem of evil later.

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