Evil and Suffering Essay
Evil and Suffering
The problem of evil and suffering is perhaps the greatest of all challenges to religious belief. It is the difficulty of reconciling the existence of wickedness in the world with the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God. It is best explained in the inconsistent triad; a vertex dating from Epicurus and Augustine that acknowledges the main problem believers face; how can there be a deity that is all good, powerful and knowing if evil exists, as the problem of evil itself is a contradiction within the idea of a deity.
The problem of evil is an extensive problem. Whether malum culpae; moral evils we inflict upon one another (murder), or malum poenae; evil caused by natural occurrences (earthquakes) it is the direct cause of the suffering we endure each day.
Different religious perspectives require different answers; the ‘problem of evil’, which in itself has numerous debatable aspects, is therefore interpreted in different ways by atheists, agnostics and theists. To theists particularly, the existence of evil in our world poses more than a merely philosophical or apologetic problem; it creates a very personal religious one, as although our painful experience may not challenge our belief that God exists, what may be at risk is our confidence in a God we can freely worship and love, and in whose love we can feel secure.
Some suggest that evil is merely the name we give to inexplicable, nonsensical occurrences that defy explanation; that is why they are evil. However, some believe that evil is necessary, as it is merely a deprivation of good that provides contrast and allows us to appreciate the good God has given us.
Give an account of two solutions and consider the view that they fail to solve the problem of suffering. 
The problem of evil has been reconsidered and reformulated many times since the time of Epicurus; the main theodicies stemming from the Free Will Defence, which states that evil is necessary to defend man’s free will.
Augustine based his theodicy on the teachings in Genesis, primarily believing that every God made organism is ‘good’. He did not believe it an illusion like Mary Baker Eddy, but alike Aquinas, views it as a ‘privatio boni’; a deprivation of good, originating from Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden. He held that we deserved punishment through natural evil, and it was this that produced a distance from God where moral evil could flourish. He believed that God is justified in allowing evil to stay, as He will then be merciful and save some in Christ, as well as gaining justice through condemning some to hell.
However, the challenge of evolutionary theory opposes Genesis on two points. Firstly, it hints to an instant creation rather than a process of evolution; stating that the world began perfectly, which completely contradicts all evolutionary theories and evidence modern scientists have gathered that support an earthly progression from simplicity to complexity. Secondly, Darwin’s theory of the Selfish Gene, that every creature, in the long run, acts to maximize the number of its descendants, challenges his theory of original perfection.
There is also a logical error, as according to Augustine, evil seems to have created itself out of nothing! If the origin of evil is Adam, and God is the creator of Adam, is God not then the origin of evil? Also, the appeal to free will as the source of evil is illogical in a world where there was no knowledge of good and evil. If the creatures chose to disobey they must have known evil, which means it must come from God. Finally, hell appears to be a part of the design of the universe, implying that God anticipated that evil would enter, which adds a very controversial aspect of theist understandings of God.
A well-known view is the Irenaean theodicy, revived by Hick in his book Evil and the God of Love in 1966. In contrast to Augustine’s theodicy, the key idea of the Irenaean works is that the human race was not created in a state of perfection but in a state of imperfection but leading to a state of perfection. The basis of this theory stems from the biblical teachings in Genesis 1, stating that first of all ‘God created man in His own image’, aiming also to make men in his likeness in the second stage of life.
The means to attain this ‘likeness’ is through free choice, which in turn implied the potential to disobey. This is commonly known as the Vale of Soul making; condensed by Hick into the epistemic distance (a distance that allows us to be responsible and to have the free choice to make that leap of faith to be with God). This is pictured by Michelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’, in which Adam is viewed very much in imago dei. Kierkegaard also illustrated the act of attaining true love rather than merely being compliant through the parable of the king and the peasant girl.
Scholars such as John Mackie have challenged this theory logically, as surely if there is an opposite evil for all good, then God himself must face equal evils at the end of the cycle. He also conjured up the Paradox of Omnipotence; based on the question that can God create rules, which bind himself?; and also, the thought that suffering (such as innocent children dying), can never be an expression of God’s love. Many theists would, however, support that evil is merely there to test our faith, but D Z Phillips contradicts this point, saying that ‘It is never justifiable to hurt someone in order to help them.’
Many follow Irenaeas’ theory, as it is a universalised concept of heaven, however that feature in itself makes it unjust. There is, therefore, no incentive for this ‘Vale of Soul Making’, as it questions God’s justice; denying genuine freedom and removing any point of moral effort.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 10 September 2017
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