Presentation on theme: "The Philosophical Problem of Evil The only effective argument against the existence of a maximally perfect God is rooted in the existence of evil. The."— Presentation transcript:
The Philosophical Problem of Evil The only effective argument against the existence of a maximally perfect God is rooted in the existence of evil. The existence of evil is thought by some to: – Be logically inconsistent with the existence of a maximally perfect God. (The Logical Problem of Evil) – Constitute conclusive evidence against the existence of a maximally perfect God. (The Evidential Problem of Evil)
Logical Problem of Evil Some believe the claims ‘A maximally perfect God exists’ and ‘Evil exists’ canNOT both be true in the same reality. Some believe these two claims cannot both be true in the same reality just as the claims ‘All the students in Mrs. Smith’s class are girls’ and ‘The best student is Mrs. Smith’s class is a boy’ cannot both be true in the same reality.
The reason some believe these two claims cannot both be true in the same reality is succinctly stated by St. Thomas Aquinas: – “[I]f one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But, the word ‘God’ means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil....” Summa Theologica, I, 3, iii (obj. 1)
Rebutting the Logical Problem of Evil (The Free Will Defense) “A defense of X... need show only [the] possibility that, given what we definitely know, X is not ruled out. Thus, unlike a traditional theodicy purporting to explain evil, a defense of God in the face of evil purports to show only that it is possible that God be real and there be the evil there is. If it can be shown the supposition that
“God is real is not strictly ruled out by the evil we perceive, the the reality of God is shown compatible with the evil we perceive.... A defense need not be likely, need not be supported by evidence so that we ought to believe it. A defense can be imaginative, indeed wildly imaginative, so long as it is conceivable given what we know.” Stephen H. Phillips, Phillips Anthology, pp. 260- 261
How to show that the two claims (‘A maximally perfect God exists’ and ‘Evil exists’) are not logically inconsistent: – Show there is a possible reality in which both claims are true. – This reality need not be actual, nor even plausible. – The reality need only be possible and be one in which both ‘A maximally perfect God exists’ and ‘Evil exists’ are both true.
The Absorption Principle – “Since God is the Highest Good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His Omnipotence and Goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.” Saint Augustine of Hippo, Enchiridion – If God exists, then any evil that exists is the logically unavoidable side- effect(s) of the production of greater good(s).
Plantagina – A possible reality in which ‘A maximally perfect God exists’ and ‘Evil exists’ are both true. – All the evil that exits in Plantagina results from the free, but immoral, choices of moral creatures. – Evils such as murders, thefts, and rapes result from the free, but immoral, choices of creatures like you and me.
– Evils such as sickness, earthquakes, and hurricanes result from the free, but immoral, choices of fallen angels (demons). – God cannot force any of the free creatures in Plantagina to choose good. A “forced, free choice” is a logical impossibility, just like a “square circle.” Thus, God’s “inability” to bring either about is not a blow against His omnipotence.
– In Plantagina, all the evil produced by the free, but immoral, choices of moral creatures is outweighed by the goodness of the creatures’ ability to make free and moral choices. The moral creatures in Plantagina cannot make free and moral choices unless they can also make free, but immoral, choices. – Plantagina is a possible reality and, in it, ‘A maximally perfect God exists’ and ‘Evil exists’ are both true.
– Consequentially, these two claims are NOT logically inconsistent. – What’s more it’s conceivable, if not plausible, that Plantagina is the actual world. – Thus, the Free Will Defense succeeds. – A Possible Fly in the Ointment While the Free Will Defense succeeds in establishing that God’s maximal perfection is logically consistent with the existence of evil, does it do this at the cost of sacrificing God’s sovereignty over His creation?
God’s Sovereignty: “God, the Divine Artisan, freely and knowingly plans, orders, and provides for all the effects that constitute His artifact, the created universe with its entire history, and executes His chosen plan by playing an active causal role sufficient to ensure its exact realization.... [W]hatever occurs is properly said to be specifically degreed by God; more precisely each effect...
“is either specifically and knowingly intended by Him or, in concession to creaturely defectiveness, specifically and knowingly permitted by Him, only to be then ordered toward some appropriate good” Alfred J. Freddoso, Introduction to Luis de Molina’s On Divine Foreknowledge But, asks the critic, how can creatures be truly free, if God is thus sovereign, or how can God be thus sovereign, if creature are truly free?
Prescinding from the Question of Implications for God’s Sovereignty, our Conclusion can be: – The Logical Problem of Evil is easily rebutted because it overreaches. – It tries, as it were, to hit a grand slam against theism. – As a result it can be struck out by a story as facile as Plantagina.
Evidential Problem of Evil Even though it is conceivable that Plantagina is the actual world, given the amount and type of evil that exists in the actual world, isn’t it highly unlikely that a maximally perfect God actually exists? If it is highly unlikely that a maximally perfect God exists, then it is irrational to believe that such God exists. In other words the amount and type of evil that actually exists counts as conclusive evidence, if not logical proof, against the actual existence of a maximally perfect God.
A Theist must admit that evil does count as evidence against the existence of a maximally perfect God, otherwise theistic claims become vacuous. – “A tornado destroys part of a community and the qualification process begins: ‘Our church and our parishioners remained untouched, witnessing to God’s protection of the faithful;’ ‘The tornado destroyed our church and killed several of our parishioners,
– “‘displaying that God’s inscrutable plan requires at times even the suffering of the suffering of the faithful;’ ‘God has a plan but....’ Any statement that is compatible with every conceivable situation does not assert anything about any particular situation and is, therefore, not even in theory falsifiable. And, if a statement cannot, even in principle be shown to be false, then it cannot be shown to be true either, which means that it has no [truth value at all], which means it has no cognitive value [at all]....” Ed L. Miller, God and Reason, p. 224
A theist must concede that the existence of gratuitous evil, i.e. evil that is not the logically unavoidable side- effects of greater good(s), would falsify the claim ‘A maximally perfect God exists.’ What’s more, a theist must admit that much of the evil that exists in the actual world appears, at least on the surface, to be gratuitous. The theist, however, maintains that appearances are often deceiving.
– “[T]he [believer] does recognize the fact of pain as counting against Christian doctrine. But, it is true that he will not allow it – or anything [else] – to count decisively against it; for he is committed by his faith to trust in God. His attitude is not that of the detached observer, but of the [committed] believer. Perhaps this can be brought out by yet another parable. In time of war in an occupied country,
– “a member of the resistance meets one night a stranger who deeply impresses him. They spend that night together in conversation. The Stranger tells the partisan that he himself is on the side of the resistance--indeed that he is in command of it, and urges the partisan to have faith in him no matter what happens. The partisan is utterly convinced at that meeting of the Stranger’s sincerity and constancy
– “and undertakes to trust him. They never meet in conditions of intimacy again. But, sometimes the Stranger is seen helping members of the resistance, and the partisan is grateful and says to his friends, ‘He is on our side.’ Sometimes he is seen in the uniform of the police handing over patriots to the occupying power. On these occasions his friends murmur against him: But, the partisan still says, ‘He is on our side.’
– “He still believes that, in spite of appearances, the Stranger did not deceive him. Sometimes he asks the Stranger for help and receives it. He is then thankful. Sometimes he asks and does not receive it. Then, he says, ‘The Stranger knows best.’ Sometimes his friends, in exasperation, say ‘Well, what would he have to do for you to admit that you were wrong and that he is not on our side ?’
– “But, the partisan refuses to answer. He will not consent to put the Stranger to the test. The partisan of the parable does not allow anything to count decisively against the proposition ‘The Stranger is on our side.’ This is because he has committed himself to trust the Stranger. But, he, of course, recognizes that the Stranger's ambiguous behaviour does count against what he believes about him. It is precisely this situation which constitutes the trial of his faith.” Basil Mitchell, “University Discussion” in New Essays in Philosophical Theology ed. by Antony Flew and Alasdair MacIntyre
Still, lest his claims become what Mitchell calls “vacuous formulae... to which experience makes no difference and which make no difference to life,” a theist must have some plausible response to the appearance of gratuity possessed by many of the evils that actually exist, i.e. some plausible response to the Evidential Problem of Evil.
Responses to the Evidential Problem of Evil Direct Theodicy – A plausible explanation, consistent with theistic suppositions, for all the evil that actually exists. – Evil is the Privation (Corruption) of Goodness At root, goodness and being are the same. To lack goodness is, to some degree, to lack being.
To be evil is NOT to BE as one ought. For example, a hammer without a head is a bad hammer because it lacks (suffers from a privation) of what it should have. All created beings, by the very fact they are created, lack some degree of being and, therefore, of goodness.
“If God cannot do what is logically impossible, then He cannot create something that possesses the full power of being the He Himself possesses, for anything that God creates is by its conception dependent [upon God] for its being.... [S]ince the being of creation is only [limited], not absolute, it is lacking also in complete goodness; in other words, it is imperfect.
“This ‘metaphysical’ evil is, then, necessarily attendant upon [creatures] and is the ultimate source of all natural and moral evil.” Ed. L Miller, God and Reason, p. 164 From the very fact that creatures are creatures, they are limited in both being and goodness. In other words, by their very natures, creatures are incomplete. The fulfillment and completion of creatures lie outside themselves
St. Augustine, like all theists, maintained that the fulfillment and completion of creatures lie in God. – “Our hearts, O Lord, are restless until they rest in Thee.” (The Confessions) Given their limitations in knowledge, creatures may seek fulfillment and completion in something other than their true fulfillment and completion – God.
– “The will... commits sin when it turns away from [God] toward its private good [or toward] something external to itself or lower than itself. It turns toward to its own private good when it desires to be its own master; it turns to external goods when it busies itself with the private affairs of others or with whatever is none of its concern; it turns to goods lower than itself
– “when it loves the pleasures of the body. Thus, a man becomes proud, meddlesome, and lustful.” Saint Augustine of Hippo, On Free Choice of the Will Take as an extreme example Satan. – In Christian theology, Satan started out as the archangel Lucifer.
– Instead of seeking his fulfillment and completion in serving God, Satan chose to corrupt himself in the first of St. Augustine’s three ways: He surrendered to pride and sought to become his own Master. – In the words that John Milton put on the lips of Satan in Paradise Lost, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”
– Despite what Satan might have thought (or thinks), says St. Augustine, he cannot find fulfillment and completion by ruling in Hell. – He could only find fulfillment and completion by serving in Heaven. – “It is not Satan’s bare existence which is evil, but the bareness of his existence.... Instead of fulfilling the being God had given him, he, in a sense, vacated that being, emptied it of all of its once scintillating possibilities.
– “There is an enormous emptiness residing at the very core of Satan’s being, a huge and tragic lack of what-could-have-been, of what should-have-been. He is evil, not for what he is, but for what he is not.” D. Q. McInerny, “Evil” in Perennial Wisdom for Daily Life – Augustine claims it is this tragic lack of what should-have-been at the core of Satan that causes him to inflict suffering on others.
» The only “happiness” Satan can available to Satan is to drag down into damnation with him as many others as he can. » This is the true origin of the old adage “Misery loves company.” The Cosmic Effects of Original Sin – As a consequence of the original rebellion of Adam against God, all of creation is fallen, i.e. less perfect than it would have been.
– St. Augustine ultimately bases this claim on the authority of Christian revelation, e.g. Romans 5:12 – Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned. (Douay-Rheims Version) » Miller points out than more modern versions of the New Testament dissent from this traditional translation.
» Still, the traditional translation captures the meaning of the verse as interpreted by traditional Christianity in its Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox forms. – The Fall extends to all of creation: For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord
– but because of the one who subjected it, in hope creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now.... (Romans 8:19-22) – “The generation and corruption of the created order are now experienced by fallen creatures in the form of suffering: Plagues, famines, disease, accidents, and hardships in general
– “Thus, God says to the fallen Adam that its by the sweat of his brow that he shall eat, and to the Fallen Eve that she will have pain in childbearing (Gen. 3:16 & 19). Quae causa infirmitatis nisi iniquitas? ‘What is the cause of... infirmity but iniquity?” Ed L. Miller, God and Reason, p. 168 – Humans are incapable of repairing the damage of Original Sin.
– Humans can attain sanctity only by participating, through Grace, in the saving death and resurrection of Christ. – “The crucifixion of God’s Son was at once both the epitome of evil and the occasion of God’s greatest blessing. Even the Fall turns out to be something over which the believer may exult: O felix culpa! ‘O happy fault!’ Ed L. Miller, God and Reason, pp. 168-69
– The phrase “O, happy fault!” comes from an ancient Easter hymn, “The Exultet”: » O wondrous condescension of Thy mercy... ! O inestimable affection of love! That Thou mightest redeem a slave, Thou didst deliverer up Thy Son! O happy fault! O truly needful sin of Adam that won for man so great a Redeemer!
– In the crucifixion, God suffers with and for humans, instead of standing off aloof. » He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
» But, he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6)
– Evaluation of St. Augustine’s “Evil as the Privation (Corruption) of Goodness” Theodicy It is plausible to Miller’s “contemporary, non-biblically oriented person?” Is it fair that “in Adam’s Fall fell we all,” i.e. that all of Adam’s descendents suffer for his rebellion against God?
– St. Augustine maintains that Adam’s sin brought about an ontological change in, an essential lessening of, the human race. – Adam fell from the state of blessedness and became subject to suffering and death. – Thus, every descendent of Adam, perforce, inherits those liabilities, much as person with a genetic disorder passes that disorder on to his/her children.
St. Augustine’s Theodicy contradicts modern, scientific evolutionary theory. – When we examined the teleological argument, we saw many contemporary scientists have called into question the explanatory adequacy of purely naturalistic evolution. – Is it entirely unreasonable to belief that God directly intervened in natural history to create the first genuine humans?
– Perhaps God intervened in a way not dissimilar from the mysterious supernatural intelligence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. – If it is plausible that God directly intervened in natural history to create the first genuine humans, then isn’t it also plausible that the original humans enjoyed a state of blessedness that their descendents do not because of the original humans’ rebellion against God?
– Also, is it unreasonable to believe that the effects of this original rebellion extend to all of creation? – After all, human wars often have disastrous effects on the environment, sometime even creating new diseases. – If this is true when humans make war on each other, is it unreasonable to believe it’s even more true when humans seek to make war against God?
– St. Augustine, following the scriptures, maintains that the original harmony within creation will eventually be restored. » The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And, the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together.
» And, the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And, the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
Perhaps the greatest challenge posed by St. Augustine’s Theodicy to the “contemporary, non-biblically oriented person” is the remedy he proposes for the Fall – the death and resurrection of Christ. – From the very beginning of Christianity, many have been scandalized by the thought that redemption lies in participating in the death and resurrection of Christ.
– But, we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. But, unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. (I Corth. 1:23-24) – Perhaps the very negative reactions of some to Mel Gibson’s new movie, The Passion of the Christ, are but a contemporary manifestation of this ancient scandal.
As the quote from First Corinthians indicates, the acceptance of St. Augustine’s Theodicy ultimately rests on faith. Still, one may ask: Is such an act of faith irrational? To borrow a phrase: “We report, you decide.” But to help one decide perhaps it is well to pose another question: Where does the deeper irrationality lie, in the act of faith or in the skeptical mind that has always been uneasy with it?
Indirect Theodicy (The G. E. Moore Shift) – G. E. Moore was a 19 th Century British Philosopher whose work with Ethics has inspired a response to the Evidential Problem of Evil. – How it works. Gratuitous Evil: Evil that is not the logically unavoidable side effects of greater goods.
Both theists and atheists agree that this material implication is true: – If gratuitous evil exists, then a maximally perfect God does not exist. Atheists maintain that it’s more reasonable to argue this way. – If gratuitous evil exists, then a maximally perfect God does not exist. Gratuitous evil exists. Therefore, a maximally perfect God does not exist.
Theists maintain its more reasonable to argue this way: – If gratuitous evil exists, then a maximally perfect God does not exist. A maximally perfect God does exist. Therefore, gratuitous evil does not exist. Both of these arguments are valid, but only one can be sound.
Atheists say it’s more reasonable to believe in the existence of gratuitous evil than it is to believe in the existence of a maximally perfect God. Theists say, given all the evidence (for example, the theistic proofs we’ve looked at) it’s more reasonable to believe in the existence of a maximally perfect God than to believe in the existence of gratuitous evil.
Both the atheistic and theistic views seem reasonable. It, therefore, in the end, once again becomes a matter of faith. This leads us to the Existential Problem of Evil.