Section 6.2When Bad Things Happento Good People God as Troublemaker
Thought Experiment: Rowe’s Fawn • Suppose that in a distant forest, lightning strikes a tree, causes a forest fire, and burns a fawn to death. • How can an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being allow such unnecessary suffering?
The Argument from Evil • There is unnecessary evil in the world. • If there were an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, there would be no unnecessary evil in the world. • Therefore, there is no all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being.
Theodicy • A theory that seeks to justify belief in God in the face of all the evil in the world is known as a theodicy. • Many different theodicies have been proposed over the years, and all seek to defend the claim that the evil in the world is necessary.
The Ontological Defense • According to the ontological defense, goodness cannot exist without evil, so it’s impossible for God to make a good world that didn’t contain evil. • Objection: This would be true if goodness were a type of evil, but it isn’t. • Just as redness can exist without other colors, goodness can exist without evil.
The Knowledge Defense • According to the knowledge defense, evil must exist in order for us to know good. • Objections: • It’s possible to know evil without experiencing it, for example, Adam and Eve. • There is far more evil in the world than is necessary to give us a knowledge of it.
Thought Probe:Adam and Eve • The forbidden apple contained the knowledge of right and wrong. So before Adam and Eve ate the apple, they couldn’t have known it was wrong to eat the apple. • But if they didn’t know it was wrong, was it right to punish them? • Even if it was right to punish them, was it right to punish all of mankind throughout eternity for what they did?
The Free Will Defense • According to the free will defense, evil is necessary for free will. • Objections: • It’s possible to have free will and not choose evil, e. g., God, Mary, Jesus. • The evil caused by humans (moral evil) is only one sort of evil. There is also evil caused by nature (natural evil).
Thought Probe:Wrath of God • One of the most poignant examples of natural evil is the tsunami (tidal wave) that occurred in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, killing more than 200,000 people. • Some see this as evidence of God’s wrath. • Would an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful being allow 200,000 of his children to die in such a manner just to express his anger or teach people a lesson?
Thought Probe: Is There Free Will in Heaven? • Heaven is supposed to be a place where there is no sin and thus no evil. • But according to the free will defense, there cannot be free will without evil. • So can there be free will in heaven?
The Ideal Humanity Defense • According to the ideal-humanity defense, evil is necessary to improve the human race. • Objections: • There is little evidence that humanity has improved. • This conflicts with the principle that humans are infinitely valuable and thus should not be used as means to an end.
The Soul-Building Defense • According to the soul-building defense, evil is necessary to make us better people. • Objections: • Suffering often does not necessarily improve one’s character. • Forcing others to do something against their will, even if it will benefit them, is a violation of their rights. • There is much more evil than necessary.
Thought Probe: Karma • According to the law of Karma, whatever evil we do in this life will come back to us in another life. • Hindus claim that Karma can explain natural evil—those who suffer evil at the hands of nature had it coming to them. • Is this a better solution to the problem of evil than those offered by Christians?
The Finite God Defense • According to the finite God defense, evil exists because God lacks one of the traditional properties associated with Him such as being all-powerful or all-good. • Objections: • If God is not all-powerful, He cannot perform miracles. • If God is not all-powerful, He may not be worthy of worship.
Thought Probe: God’s Goodness • American revolutionary patriot Thomas Paine claims that the Bible is so filled with cruel and vindictive acts, “it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon rather than the Word of God.” • Is Paine’s assessment a fair one?