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An all-powerful God who can, but does not, prevent the evil in the world, cannot be loving; A loving God who wills to, but does not prevent the evil in.

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Presentation on theme: "An all-powerful God who can, but does not, prevent the evil in the world, cannot be loving; A loving God who wills to, but does not prevent the evil in."— Presentation transcript:

1 An all-powerful God who can, but does not, prevent the evil in the world, cannot be loving; A loving God who wills to, but does not prevent the evil in the world, cannot be all-powerful.

2 Major Topics Introduction – What’s the problem? Historical Responses Objections to Hume’s Premises Biblical Perspective Summary

3 Problem for Monotheistic Religions All major religions address the problems of evil suffering death Mainly a problem for the monotheistic religions: Judaism Islam Christianity Assert an all-loving, all powerful God (unity) Major argument against an all-loving, omnipotent God

4 David Hume’s Formulation 1. Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. 2. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. 3. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

5 Types of Evil Two forms: Moral evil: human evil acts Natural evil: non-human: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods or fire. Theodicy must account for both types of evil. Most theodicies tend to: Deny the reality of evil Redefine the goodness of God Limit God’s omnipotence

6 Historical Responses Irenaeus Augustine Leibniz Process Theology

7 Irenaeus (130 AD – 202 AD) Evil is a means for growth in human character Has a valuable role to play in God’s plans We are created incomplete We make free choices in the face of evil in order to obtain completeness Perfection must be developed through our choices Necessarily entails risk of making wrong choices An experience of evil is necessary in order to understand and appreciate the good Evil may seem real to us but it is not ultimately Is pain evil? Avoid further damage and thus pain Provides us with a warning signal. Denial of the full reality of evil

8 Evil can have a good purpose God can use evil for good purposes. e.g. Joseph (Genesis 50:20) Jesus delivered in accordance with God’s plan (Acts 2:23). Irenaeus’ view provides an explanation of how God can be loving and yet allow evil Irenaeus had unbiblical teachings: Universalism Christ’s atonement was an example rather than objective salvation Yet basic argument still seems to have a great deal of merit Argument from pain is incomplete: Torture pain serves no functional purpose Not necessary to infer that evil is not real from Irenaeus’ argument

9 St Augustine ( AD) Free Will Defence God’s creation was good God gave free will to both angelic beings and humanity Some angelic beings rebelled against God and chose evil They tempted Adam and Eve Moral evil is the result of our choices Natural evil is the punishment for moral evil Evil is the privation of good God could not have created evil

10 Free will defence Objection to Hume’s first premise: “If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able, then is he impotent”. Unreasonable to claim that God is impotent if he cannot perform the logically impossible, e.g. a square circle God decided it is better to create creatures with free-will rather than creatures whose behaviour is determined Logically impossible to give creatures free will without preventing the possibility of these creatures from choosing evil Evil is an unavoidable consequence of free will Places limitations on God’s power

11 What is Free Will? Some natural evils are preventable (choosing where we live) No place is absolutely safe -> trust in God In what sense are our wills free? Human choices can be quite predictable We are not being forced by an external agent Choices are substantially determined by our character Our choices also shape our character Our wills have been affected by the fall Predisposed to rebel against God.

12 Limitations of Free will argument World would be a better place without bad human choices but... Free will does not obviously account for natural evil Will heavenly creatures have free-will? Can evil be re-introduced into heaven? Perhaps we will be like Christ Bible assumes human responsibility Barely any mention of free will (free will offerings) Why appeal to a philosophical category that is basically missing?

13 Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz ( ) Best of all Possible Worlds We are in best of all possible worlds “The present state of the universe exists because it follows from the nature of God that he should prefer the most perfect” Limits God’s power

14 François-Marie Arouet de Voltaire ( ) Candide Refuted by Voltaire in Candide (satire) Fictional sequence of tragedies for Candide Candide survives and Dr Pangloss (Liebniz) concludes: “There is a concatenation of all events in the best of possible worlds; for, in short, had you not been kicked out of a fine castle for the love of Miss Cunegund; had you not been put into the Inquisition; had you not travelled over America on foot; had you not run the Baron through the body; and had you not lost all your sheep, which you brought from the good country of El Dorado, you would not have been here to eat preserved citrons and pistachio nuts” (Voltaire 1759). Were all these circumstances really necessary? Notion appears ridiculous How could this be the best of all possible worlds? Pastorally insensitive and unhelpful

15 Discussion Some support from a scientific perspective Movement of tectonic plates results in earthquakes and volcanoes Necessary to replenish the gaseous state of the atmosphere and so support life God’s hands may be tied Implausible from a Biblical perspective What about heaven? Will that be constrained such that evil is still present?

16 Process Theodicy God is not fixed but is undergoing development Presence of evil is due to the fact that God has not yet got things sorted out Denial of the power and omnipotence of God Does not reflect the Biblical God God knows the end from the beginning

17 Objections to Hume’s 2 nd Premise How do we know whether God does not have some good reason for allowing (ordaining?) suffering? Parents may allow their child to suffer the consequence of their actions in order to learn punish their child for their better good How do we know whether this is not the case for all forms of human suffering? A greater good may emerge from suffering We cannot be certain that any suffering is pointless or does not have a higher purpose Impossible to prove that any instance of suffering or evil is pointless The onus of proof is on the anti-theist Constitutes a reinterpretation of the goodness of God

18 Plausibility Some instances of evil appear to be pointless and inexplicable Japanese tsunami (11 March 2011): Thousands were killed Humanitarian response was encouraging, but Result for those killed seems somewhat final The problem of hell: The way is narrow The majority are destined for eternal suffering What benefit can come from eternal suffering? Why is there infinite suffering for a finite offence? God gives us the dignity to make choices that have eternal consequences Perhaps our choices are only meaningful if they do have eternal consequences

19 God’s Fatherhood and Parenting Our children are born with wills of their own Would we have it any other way? Entails risk and sometimes our children disappoint us Preferable to the deterministic alternative A good parent will sometimes cause pain Just or is for their long term good Imagine harmless happiness drug -> perpetual happiness Would we as parents want our children to take it? Greater good to grow through making choices

20 Biblical Perspective The Origin of Evil God as Judge The Book of Job Jesus and the Purpose of Evil The Atonement Election Christian Suffering Explanatory Biblical Doctrines

21 The Origin of Evil God created a world that was good (Genesis 1) God placed the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden Adam and Eve were tempted Sin and death came through one man (Romans 5:12-15 ) Evil existed, in some way, prior to the fall, but its origin is not explained When Adam sinned did God say, “Oops”? The lamb was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8) The origin of evil is somehow incorporated within the plan of God

22 God as Judge Old Testament clearly depicts God as judge: The flood Sodom and Gomorrah Plagues against Egypt Eviction of the Canaanites Numerous judgements against the nations Was God converted from sternness to love in NT? The wrath of God is still being revealed Judgements and plagues are prophesied (Revelation) God is not afraid to punish evildoers, and he says so repeatedly

23 The Book of Job Extensive treatment of the problem of evil and suffering Satan claims that Job is only good because God blesses him (Chapters 1 & 2) Job’s suffering is to test Job’s sincerity Job’s friends propose various unsatisfactory rationales God provides no explanation (where were you?) No reference back to Satan God does not use Satan as an excuse God’s knowledge goes beyond Job’s understanding Job met God - this experience is a total answer Job never received an answer to his questions God rewarded him and compensated for his sufferings

24 Jesus and the Purpose of Evil Several instances in the New Testament where Jesus had the opportunity for explaining the purpose of evil Man was born blind: not because of anyone’s sin but “that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (John 9:1-3). This explanation cannot be generalised Galileans who Pilate slaughtered and the eighteen who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them were not unusually sinful but “unless you repent, you will likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5). Jesus still provides no explanation

25 The Atonement Provides a solution to the problem of evil Jesus’ death bore the punishment due to our sin Laid the foundation for: the ultimate destruction of all evil creation of the new heaven and the new earth An emotional solution to the problem of evil: God so loved the world The son shared in our condition God has done something about the problem of evil that was enormously costly Does not provide a rational explanation of why God allowed evil into the world in the first place

26 Doctrine of Election Creates a problem for theodicy Controversial but plainly taught within scripture. No-one comes to the son unless the father draws him (John 6:44) All that are given to the son will come to him (John 6:37). Purpose is to teach us that our salvation is entirely of grace rather than due to merit in our choice What about those who are not chosen? Those whom God has not chosen “he reprobates” (Calvin) Why damn those who cannot respond? The reprobate still makes a deliberate choice Many Christians rationalise election to diminish its force

27 Christian Suffering Universal suffering is difficult to explain Christian suffering is more explicable We are to arm ourselves to suffer as Christ suffered and to follow in his steps (1 Peter 4:1) We are to fill up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions (Colossians 1:24) (weird?). Righteous suffering is not just inevitable; it also has a redemptive purpose Suffering is not just permitted by God; it is ordained

28 Explanatory Biblical Doctrines God’s goals: Not happiness Not utilitarianism Knowledge of God Grow into image of Christ Entails suffering. Man is in rebellion against God - evil that we observe in the world is not unexpected. God’s purpose is not restricted to this life Purpose is completed in the next life. Earthly existence may seem unfair God will administer true justice at the judgement. Knowledge of God is an incommensurable good - not worth comparing with our earthly sufferings (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).

29 Summary Not a problem for the atheist Natural evils are just bad luck Human selfishness is simply a by product of the survival of the fittest If only argument considered - simpler to conclude that God did not exist. A number of theodicies have been considered for how God can be omnipotent and omni-benevolent and yet allow evil: God can use evil for good purposes The pain or suffering that we experience can have educational or redemptive purposes Much of our suffering is also due to our choices May be inevitable considering the nature of our choice faculty Neither of Hume's premises are necessarily true Elements of truth in most of these theodicies Open up possible explanations but do not provide definitive solutions

30 Justice of God Bible does not provide an explanation for the origin of evil It does not resort to a free will defence It does not provide an explanation of how God can have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil. God does not justify himself to us. Biblical writers maintain that God is just, merciful and righteous altogether God knows the end from the beginning. Final judgement God will be revealed as being just in all of his acts and decisions

31 The Final Revelation God will be revealed as being just: ‘After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments”’ (Revelation 19:1-2). “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:24) It is implied that he will Faith but not a blind faith Based on what we know about God from Special revelation Our own experience We believe God can resolve things in a loving and just manner We currently cannot understand all of the details He is omniscient, but we are not This world is not the best of all possible worlds but it may be the best way to the best of all possible worlds

32 Bibliography Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3 rd edition (Crossway: Wheaton, Illinois, 2008) Craig, W.L. On Guard: Defending your faith with Reason and Precision, 1 st edition (Crossway: Wheaton, Illinois, 2010) God, Reason and Religion Manual (Tabor College Adelaide). Hume, D. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, first published Leibniz, G. W. The Philosophical Works of Leibniz, ed. G. Duncan (London, 1890), 101. McGrath, A.E. Christian Theology: An Introduction, 4 th edition (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007). Voltaire, Candide, first published in 1759 (New York: Random House, 1956), 188f.


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