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Evil and the Paradox of Omnipotence Essay

John Leslie Mackie, in his article “Evil and Omnipotence” states that the problem of evil is clearly stated using three essential parts of most theological positions, namely (a) that God is omnipotent, (b) that God is wholly good; and (c) that evil exists. Mackie also stated two additional principles that are commonly assumed in debating the problem of evil. They include (a) “that good is opposed to evil, in such a way that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can” and (b) “that there are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do” (Mackie 90).

Mackie explained that accepting the propositions stated above leads to the problem of evil. The propositions are contradictory to each other. Given the arguments above, a good and omnipotent being will eliminate evil completely. The existence of a good and omnipotent being and the existence of evil are absolutely contradictory. An adequate solution to the problem would be to accept that at least one of these propositions is false.

Mackie explained that some solutions being offered are inadequate or fallacious in that they explicitly maintain all, but implicitly reject at least one of the constituent propositions—that is, at least one of the propositions appears to have been given up but is actually retained in such a way that it is reasserted in another context without further qualification. One of these fallacious solutions state that “good cannot exits without evil” or that “evil is necessary as a counterpart to good. ” This solution sets a limit to the purported God’s omnipotence in that it implies that God could not create “good” without necessarily creating “evil.

” This claim also implicitly states that good and evil exists side by side with each other and therefore contradicts the claim that good always eliminates evil. The problem presents further complications in that it proposes that goodness is an ontological principle from which an opposite must exist in order to be noticed by human perception. Mackie explained that “God might have made everything good, though we should not have noticed it if he had” if there were no concept of evil of some kind.

Another fallacious solution states that “evil is necessary as a means to good. ” However, it sets a limit to God’s omnipotence and presents complications in much the same way as the first fallacious solution does. A third solution stating that “the universe is better with some evil in it than it could be if there were no evil” is just a restatement of the first two fallacious solutions. The third solution is, however, more complex than the first two as it introduces concepts from which there arises degrees of good and evil, i.

e. first-order, second-order and third-order. The problem lies in that some form of goodness have merely a derivative value, that God is concerned only with promoting good and not necessarily with eliminating evil, or that goodness of any degree still could not totally eliminate the existence of evil—problems that still contradict the claims of what “omnipotence” and “good” are. The fourth solution stating that “evil is due to human free will” still begs the question of God being omnipotent and wholly good.

Theists argue that God has given humans free will to choose between good and evil and that the existence of evil could not be blamed to God. Free will leaves the possibility that humans may choose to do “evil. ” Mackie however argue that if there is no logical impossibility that humans could choose freely to do good in one or several occasions, there is also no logical impossibility that they could choose to do good in “all” occasions. God’s failure to do this questions his omnipotence or his being wholly good.

On the other hand, if God had truly created humans with a totally free will, it follows that God will not be able to control them in any and all circumstances, and therefore he is no longer omnipotent. This is what Mackie would like to call the “Paradox of Omnipotence. ” Objections are made that states that while God has truly created humans with a totally free will, it does not necessarily mean he could no longer control them but instead, refrains from doing so. But then again, Mackie argues that there is nothing that stops God from intervening when he sees humans about to choose wrongly and begs the question of his being wholly good.

Theists argue that the value of freedom to choose far outweighs the wrongness of choosing to do evil. Mackie replied by stating that this is in contrast to what the theists say about sin in other contexts and the only logical solution would be to maintain that God has created humans totally free in such a way that he could not control their wills. Mackie and Swiburne have different opinions on the free-will defense in that while Swiburne held that it is the perfect explanation why evil exists, Mackie held that it poses the Paradox of Omnipotence.

Both are sound in their arguments. However, as Swiburne states that to say that God has given humans free will but yet would intervene once they choose to do wrong would be illogical—that is, if this will be the case, humans are not truly be free—Swiburne’s argument is more compelling. Mackie has not provided any real argument that could deny God being wholly good while still allowing evil to persist because of human free will, hence Swiburne’s argument also hold to be the stronger.


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