God has all power to bring about His purposes. God has the power to bring about any situation or thing consistent with the natures of eternal existences.
So what could those eternal principles and laws regarding eternal existences be? What if something inside of us that was a main component to our moral agency was eternally existent? Consider that God put this eternal moral agent, likely what most refer to as a spirit, into our bodies which were formed by natural processes. Here is what one man of God has said about this possibility: “Who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles [of eternality as God]? Man does exist upon the same principles. God made a tabernacle and put a spirit into it and it became a living soul…How does it read in the Hebrew? It does not say in the Hebrew that God created the spirit of man. It says ‘God made man out of the earth and put into him Adam’s spirit and so became a living body.’ The mind…which man possesses is coeternal with God himself.”
The implications of this statement are larger than the scope of the logical problem of evil, but this Christian thinker at least makes the case that his point of view fits within the given Judeo-Christian umbrella, albeit not traditional. If we assume that people are actually agents in and of themselves from an eternal perspective, and that God works in all-power consistent with the natures of eternal existences, we have the framework to solve the logical problem of evil.
I cite the following, written by an ancient Jew, “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” He explains that, in order to attain this joy, there must be “an opposition in all things. If not so…righteousness…could not be brought to pass neither wickedness nor holiness…neither good nor bad…neither happiness nor misery.” He goes on to state that “to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man…the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other [good or bad].”
Thus, if we are allowed to be moral agents, to choose between good and bad (obviously influenced by the biological make-up of our bodies and our experiences) then that agency would be destroyed if one of the choices were removed; we could only choose good things. In other words, truly free agents could not exist in a world without bad, because if limits were imposed on the experiences of moral agents, they would no longer have agency.
I believe that we are moral agents. I believe that we are seriously influenced by our environments, biochemical makeup, neural physiology, and psychological constructs, but that there is an underlying moral agency, spirit, whatever you want to call it, that says, “You can be more than you currently are. You are not defined by your biology: you are defined by your moral capacity. You are defined by your agency. And you can become something more through God.” Instead of being a bag of meat with a name and some pre-programmed responses, we become an individual with potential.
There will likely be more discussion on agency later, but for the present, we will assume that people’s internal moral compass, however influenced by our experiences, is at least some part uncreated—eternal. We will also recognize that in order to have a moral compass, there must be an opposition, opportunities to experience badness, or else we would be pointing north no matter what direction we were facing.
To add to these points we have the commonly held notion that we will live after this life, and somehow this suffering will help us get there. These thoughts were addressed by an earlier reader, who mentioned an analogy about intentionally burning a forest (pain) to allow newer, greater growth (reward). Another reader commented, referring to an afterlife, “As bad as things can get here, perhaps there is something valuable to be gained from the experience.” This has been called by some philosophers as a “soul-making” theodicy; our souls are being made into something better through our painful experiences. This is the final point of my conclusion of the logical problem of evil.
Paulsen, a philosopher with whom I personally resonate organizes a solution to the Logical Problem of Evil, as follows:
- God exists. He is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly loving, and created (or organized) our world employing eternally existing entities and structures
- evils occur
- A perfectly loving being prevents all the evil he can without thereby preventing some greater good or causing some greater evil
- an omnipotent being can do anything consistent with the natures of eternal existences
- Thus, given the natures of eternal existences, whatever evils occur are either:
a) unpreventable absolutely,
b) unpreventable by God, but not absolutely (ie, unpreventable by God because He will not remove our agency, but those who have the agency could prevent them), or
c) unpreventable by God without thereby preventing some greater good or causing some greater evil.
Now, I recognize that this isn’t necessarily the most comforting solution. There are still a lot of questions to be asked about “why must I suffer at all?” There are many instances where merely solving the Logical problem of evil doesn’t seem helpful. This treatise may not heal the wounded heart, but it hopefully gives breath to the troubled intellect. I hope eventually that I have something to console those who have experienced poignant pain; for I do believe that there are answers in spiritual belief systems for many questions. All I have done with this is shown that an all-loving God is not logically incompatible with the evils of this world.
There are likely believing readers who will not agree with some of the declarations I make, distancing myself from various forms of Greek metaphysics, passed-on through theologies. I allow all men to continue to worship and draw closer to God in their own respective ways, and only offer my views as an opportunity to think about things in a slightly different way.
There are likely readers who feel that I have overlooked some detail, since thinkers have been struggling with the Logical Problem of Evil since at least the time of Epicurus. However, the parts of the Western thought tradition, stemming from our Greek ancestors, that are troublesome are ones I have never had personal reason to believe; hence, their elimination provides for a cogent argument. Whether or not one accepts the principles as I’ve laid out here is another matter. I have read other explanations on the matter that are not satisfying to me, but this does not mean they are not satisfying to others or in general. Though I may not fit the stereotype for many believers in God, I hope I’ve presented the case that there are at least some who do have a cogent conclusion to the logical problem of evil.
The pragmatic problem of evil, however, is sometimes more difficult to answer. The pragmatic problem of evil asks, “But why doesn’t God stop this particular suffering, since it doesn’t seem to be helping me grow. It seems useless and inane.” I will post some thoughts on this topic, but I hope as I progress this blog, more answers come out of the woodwork. I can’t possibly answer all the instances of suffering, but I will try to provide comfort to those who believe in a loving God in the face of the evils and pains of the world.