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The Christian Philosophy’s Stance on the Problem of Evil

The Problem of Evil

Doctor Ed Martin is the co-chair of the department of Philosophy at Liberty University and he’s an expert in the specific area of the problem of evil. There is one major argument against God’s existence that’s been raised really from the beginning throughout the history of Philosophy, and that is the problem of evil, if there’s evil than why is there a God. If there is a good God, why doesn’t he do something about evil, and why does all this evil around in the world still exist? Some people in the history of Christianity, in the history of religions have thought that you could define evil. Saint Augustine, a famous church father thought it’s very difficult even to define good and evil, and that good and evil are ethical primitives, they’re like atomic building blocks. You can define other ethical terms of the basis of the building blocks of good and evil.

The ethical notion of right might be defined as, say, a maximization, and an action is right if it maximizes the good. Some things we have moral and intellectual knowledge of good and evil but to actually put it in words, its not possible or it is very difficult. For a theologian good would be defined as something like an action, an attitude, a state of affairs attitude, or actions would be that sort of thing which is opposed in some sort of way to God’s will or nature or purposes. Most theologians and philosophers have been satisfied with Augustine’s notion of evil. Somehow evil is a privation of good and then just sort of leave God as a standard of good. We can define evil in Augustine’s way or just maybe by looking at a particular action, and you can say well, I know what that is, I can see that as being evil. The problem of evil arises because of our theological commitment, because of our doctrine of the divine being, God, and because we don’t say that God is good, we say that he’s all good, morally perfect, holy and righteous in the upmost sense. God is perceived in Excellus, in the highest conceivable way.

Though God is omnipotent, he has all ability to do all possible things, so long as they also belong as they are in line with his other essential attributes. For example, although it’s possible for you and I to break a promise, for God it is impossible according to Hebrews 6 “for it’s impossible for him to lie.” Because of his essential moral perfection. God is thought of as omniscient; he knows all thing as so Aquarius an old ancient philosopher about 300 yeas before Christ basically put it something along this line that if God is omniscient he has the ability to eradicate all evils. According to Aquarius, God is all good, so he would have the desire to eradicate all evils, and we might add God is omniscient, so he knows about all evils and thus Aquarius questions the existence of evil. We have the idea of free will. Free will has always been used to one degree or another by different Christian theologians and philosopher for centuries. You have Adam, and Adam being made in the image of God, to be a person like God; God is the originative person, the originative good. We have worth in value and goodness only because we have derivative goodness and in worth in value, because we’re in God’s image and likeness. The idea that Adam is made in the image of God, and therefore Adam is a person and has freedom of choice at least with respect to some of his actions, and thus he can be praised if he does well and blamed if he uses his freedom that God has given, in an immoral way.

Free will is usually used by theists and Christian philosophers and so forth to bear some of the way, sometimes a good bid of the way as to why evil, both moral and natural evil which is a common distinction in types of evil. God allows some types of evils because of the misuse of free will. Some people have thought, well, God allows evil for soul-making. The soul-making theodicy says that similar to Romans, this idea that and God allows suffering because suffering produces all these other very important attributes that you may not be able to get without suffering. Suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance character, character hope, and hope does not disappoint us. God wants us to be hopeful people, but he also has put is in a world of natural laws and regular types of laws for other reasons in order for us to toward perfection in a moral and spiritual way, to become mature in that way. The regularity of natural law is very important; God wants us to be scientists, He wants us to have an environment within which we can become morally and spiritually mature, relatively speaking from a relative amount of immaturity morally and spiritually speaking, and in order to do that you got to have a law-like regularity, you have to know how things are going to react, and because in our moral situations.

The moral situation for us to relate to each other and to grow in moral relationships assumes that everything around us is going to be pretty predictable. Free will, soul-making, Laws of Nature, all of these are good ways to explain that they don’t necessarily require evil to occur, but they do allow at least for the possibility that evil may occur; and of course, if you allow for the possibility of it, it’s going to happen. Gratuitous evil are the really tough evils. Gratuitous evil is an evil for which when we examine it and we think about it, meditate about it, pray about it, we can’t see. Gratuitous evils are the ones that we are not sure how God can have a morally sufficient reason in order to allow those evils. God’s knowledge greatly outstrips our own; in order to make sense, often in this life it’s not given to us and we see through a glass darkly. God hasn’t given us all the reasons as to why allows gratuitous evils. The depths of God’s omnipotence is so far beyond us; we know for sure that we can’t simply have a conception of all the goods, all the possible goods that he may have in mind. God reveals certain things in many of them, but sometimes it is simply given to us to know that.

For the Christian, there is a special kind of holding promise, and that is the person, the life, the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the great shepherd to enter into his glory as an incarnated human being had to first suffer and then reach glory, and he seems to put a pattern for us, and in effect God doesn’t just sit coldly, idly by. God acknowledges that life is going to be tough, that there’s going to be times where he seems hidden and distant, but that he will not give the reason as to why yet; he does have a reason, sometimes which can be understood that its hidden for certain. Sometimes the reasons for the existence of evil is hidden because of our sinfulness. We can look to Christ and we can see someone who basically made the patter that allowed us to find the hope in him; that is to say even though he was sinless he didn’t deserve any suffering what so ever, and yet he suffered and found it well worthwhile. Christ played the man, he played by our game rules, he entered in, he lived in poverty, he had all the restrictions of life in a small little town; as a stone worker or roof carpenter at that point and time, and he died in disgrace and found it all worthwhile, and thus he set the pattern for us. The fact that we do know that we have Jesus Christ that rose from the dead and conquered death and evil tells us that we too can put our hope in that as well, even though e might have some unanswered questions, there’s no reason to believe that the existence of evil should discount for us and our beliefs in God.

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