Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil Overview

  • The Problem of Evil is a significant argument against the existence of an omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and benevolent (all-good) God.
  • If such God exists, it is expected that the world would be devoid of evil and suffering.
  • The presence of evil and suffering, therefore, raises questions about God’s existence, benevolence, omnipotence, or omniscience.
  • The Problem of Evil is traditionally divided into the Logical Problem of Evil and the Evidential Problem of Evil.

Logical Problem of Evil

  • The Logical Problem of Evil postulates that the existence of evil is logically incompatible with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent God.
  • The argument typically borrows from Epicurus’ trilemma: If God is able to prevent evil but unwilling, He isn’t benevolent; if He’s willing but unable, He isn’t omnipotent; if He is both able and willing, then where does evil come from?
  • Theists typically respond to this problem by proposing a greater-good defense, asserting that God allows evil for the sake of a greater moral or spiritual good.

Evidential Problem of Evil

  • The Evidential Problem of Evil argues that even if God and evil are not logically incompatible (God could have morally sufficient reasons for allowing evil), the sheer amount and types of suffering in the world make the existence of a good and powerful God unlikely.
  • This argument, unlike the Logical Problem of Evil, does not aim to demonstrate a contradiction but to provide evidence against God’s existence based on the scope and nature of suffering in the world.
  • The evidential argument is largely associated with philosopher William Rowe.

Theodicy and Defence

  • Theodicy, in response to the Problem of Evil, tries to explain why God allows evil to exist while maintaining His goodness and omnipotence.
  • Different types of theodicy include: Soul-making (John Hick), which posits evil as a necessary element for the development of human souls and moral character; Free Will Defense (Alvin Plantinga), which argues that moral evil is a result of misuse of free will by humans; Punishment Theodicy, which argues that evil is a God-inflicted punishment for sin; and Process Theodicy, which asserts that God isn’t omnipotent in the traditional sense, and hence can’t prevent evil.
  • These theodicies provide counterarguments to both the Logical and Evidential Problems of Evil by offering rationales for the co-existence of God and evil.