The fact that this world is full of pain and suffering has probably elicited more distrust of Deity than anything else I can presently think of. One only needs to read Wiesel’s Night to glimpse some of the horrifyingly powerful injustice that occurs. Wiesel’s holocaustic journey takes him beyond his threshold of belief in God because of human suffering. Surely there are many reasons for struggling with the problem of evil. Wiesel has resolved these seemingly insurmountable issues for himself and continues believing. But for others, these issues are left unanswered. I do not presume to have the panacea for all questions of injustice in our short lives. Some answers would appeal to some and some to others. I want to address one problem of evil in specific: the Logical Problem of Evil.
The Logical Problem of Evil claims that an All-Loving God and the fact that evil, pain, etc. exist are mutually incompatible: if God is claimed to be all-loving and omnipotent, then He is impossible. There is plenty of material on this train of thought. Many who are “ex-believers” or people who feel betrayed by God, spend much effort trying to destroy the belief systems of others. I hope that I don’t come across as destroying the belief systems of others, but I would like to explain how my understanding of God removes the seeming impossibility of His perfect benevolence.
In order to produce a meaningful explanation, I need to take the best arguments I can against this logical problem. I have nothing to hide, for the rhetoric is available to everyone. There were many great minds that contemplated this question. If I took the skeptics’ understanding of God, I would likely come to the same conclusion. But I hope to help people understand, as I do, that God is a God of love and that this is not illogical.
The following are arguments for the problem of evil coming from David Hume. Hume was perhaps the most noteworthy skeptic from the enlightenment. This was his argument:
“Is [evil] from the intention of the deity? but he is perfectly benevolent. Is it contrary to his intention? But he is almighty. Nothing can shake the solidity of this reasoning, so short, so clear, so decisive.” (From Dialogues concerning Natural Religion)
Some tried to find exception to Hume’s argument, so one of the foremost atheist thinkers of the 20th century, Antony Flew, clarified the statement even further. His philosophies has evolved over the years (as every good learner should), but he still holds to this argument, which is accepted and used by the current skeptic community (whether or not they recognize it). His argument is the following:
“We cannot say that [God] would like to help but cannot: God is omnipotent. We cannot say that he would help if he only knew: God is omniscient. We cannot say that he is not responsible for the wickedness of others: God creates those others. Indeed an omnipotent, omniscient God must be an accessory before and during the fact to every human misdeed; as well as being responsible for every non-moral defect in the universe.” (From New essays in Philosophical Theology)
So the outline is as follows:
- God is omnipotent, omniscient, created all things ex nihilo, and all-loving.
- Evils occur.
- An all-loving being prevents all the evil that it can.
- An omnipotent ex nihilo creator can prevent all evils.
- God prevents all evils.
It is obvious from this explanation that points 2 and 5 are perfectly contradictory: one says “God prevents all evils” the other is “Evils occur.” This is the logical problem of evil stated by those who espouse it.
My subsequent posts will address this problem, explaining why this seemingly blatant contradiction is mutually incompatible with what I understand about God. I hope to show that God and perfect love are not logically contradictory.