Ep60-What We Learn From The Problem of Evil (Pt 1) - Vol 4

Topics Discussed:
•  The Problem of Evil: The Argument
• Human Cognitive Limitations
• The Problem of Moral Quietude for Skeptical Theism
•  The Problem of Moral Quietude and Meticulous Providence
• The No Minimum Evil Defense

                  (pictured is Job)

Show Notes:


Explain radical evil and give a couple examples

Radical evils are such that they appear to us, for all that we can grasp, to not be justifiable because they destroy the very humanity of the victims and we cannot fathom any greater good to which they are necessary.

 The Problem of Evil: The Argument

So do these events demonstrate that God doesn’t or cannot exist? Here is the argument:

1. Necessarily, any being that is God is a perfect being.
2. Necessarily, a perfect being is omnipotent.
3. Necessarily, an omnipotent being could unilaterally prevent any instance of evil of which it is aware.
4. Necessarily, a perfect being is omniscient.
5. Necessarily, an omniscient being is aware of all events that have, are now or will occur.
6. Necessarily, a perfect being is morally perfect.
7. Necessarily, a morally perfect being would prevent all evils that it could of which it is aware.
8. Therefore, if there is any evil in the world, then there is no perfect being. (From 1-7)
9. There is evil in the world.
10. Therefore, there is no perfect being. (From 8 and 9)
11. Therefore, there is no God. (From 1 and 10)

Premise 9 is, at best, a value judgment that can only be assessed based on the evidence available to us coupled with a sound moral judgment. For all we know, all evils are justified by some greater good.

Immunization example

 I suggest that there are at least three conditions that must be met for the ―greater goods to count as justifying goods in response to the argument from the problem of evil:

(JG) In order to constitute a Justifying Good, the benefit derived from allowing an evil must be such that it: (a) outweighs the magnitude of the evil; (b) is necessary to achieve the benefit in question; and (c) furthers the interests of the victim of the evil not merely as a means to achieve the benefit, but also as a Thou whose own interests are also furthered

An unjustified evil (UE) is such that: (a) its magnitude of dis-value outweighs the value of any possible good to which the evil is necessary to achieve; or (b) is not necessary to realizing the value of any outweighing good; or (c) its occurrence cannot result in some benefit to the victim of the evil sufficient to justify its dehumanizing effects.

Example: little girls murder. Attempted justification: free will of murderer. But no one would fault any person who interfered with the freedom of Rachel’s murderer to prevent him from carrying it out. While freedom is valuable, her murderer’s freedom to carry out his reprehensible acts just doesn’t count in the moral considerations we take into account to determine whether to allow such events to occur.

Attempted justification 2: soul building. no one would not stop the murder just so that somebody else might learn something from it.

It seems to me that unless we make God the exception to all moral rules that apply to us such that everything we know about good and evil and moral obligation does not apply to God, then we must admit that there is nothing we know of that is both necessary and sufficiently good that it would justify God in not intervening in the ways I have suggested, among many others, to stop these events from occurring.

Human Cognitive Limitations

It seems to me that at least three observations must be admitted with respect to the challenge to God’s existence from evil: (a) We cannot be expected to know what God’s actual purposes in allowing these particular evils in fact are (absent particular revelation); (b) we are often not in a very good cognitive position to make decisions about ―all things considered‖ judgments; and (c) God’s glory and vast knowledge are such that his possible reasons for allowing particular events may very well be beyond our ability to grasp.

I suggest that the problem of evil arises not from what is beyond our cognitive grasp, but from what is within our grasp to assess. We can see that we ourselves have acted to prevent specific instances of evil and what the consequences of doing so have been.

I suggest a principle that I shall dub the Principle of Relevant Similarity:
(PRS) If humans have successfully prevented events from occurring that are relevantly similar to other events that have occurred that could have been prevented by an omni-god (if it exists), and one rationally believes that preventing those events did not deprive the world of some greater good (because the omni-god, if it exists, allowed us to prevent them from occurring), then we also have strong reason to believe that preventing the events that actually occur would not deprive the world of some greater good.

 Smallpox/AIDS example

theodicy, or reasonable explanation of how God possibly could be justified in allowing the radical evils and intransigent evils that occur to maintain rationality of belief in God.

The Problem of Moral Quietude for Skeptical Theism

 It seems to me that if we really believe that the omni-god exists, so that there are no unjustified evils, then we are justified in moral quietude – in believing that no matter what we do, the particular events of so-called evils that we confront are in reality justified because they are necessary to the realization of some greater good that may well be beyond our cognitive capacity to grasp.

 The Problem of Moral Quietude and Meticulous Providence

we may call the view that every event is the direct result of the omni-god’s choices ―meticulous providence. However, for open theists and panentheists, God does not know what will result from any given circumstance and must wait on the free acts of agents to know what will be chosen and how others will freely choose to respond to those free choices.

(GE) A genuine evil is any event or choice that God must allow in order to have the possibility of realizing the purposes for the world-type he created, but in which the actual world is not better, all things considered, that such particular choice or event occurs.

 The point of a genuine evil is that not every particular event that occurs must be necessary for a greater good. What is necessary for a greater good is that the world-type makes achieving the greatest good a possibility.

Molinism: (Ca) Every event that occurs is necessary to the realization of a greater good even if what the good is or how it is necessary is beyond our cognitive grasp. (Assumption Skeptical Theism)
(Cb) It is always morally permissible for us (human beings) to bring about the greater good whenever it is in our power to do so (even if we don’t know what the greater good is).
(Cc) Any act that we actually do is necessary to realization of a greater good. (From Ca and Cb) (Cd) Therefore, any act that we actually do is morally permissible. (From Ca and Cc)

Tribesman surgeon analogy

The No Minimum Evil Defense

'' But what of the hundreds of millions (at least) of instances of [horrendous suffering] that have occurred during the long history of life? Well, I concede, God could have prevented any one of them, or any two of them, or any three of them . . . without thwarting any significant good or permitting any significant evil. But could He have prevented all of them? No, not without causing the world to be massively irregular. And of course there is no sharp cutoff point between a world that is massively irregular and a world that is not. . . . There is, therefore, no minimum number of cases of intense suffering that God could allow without forfeiting the good of a world that is not massively irregular."

Van Inwagen argues:

'' He [God] cannot remove all the horrors from the world, for that would frustrate his plan for reuniting human beings with himself. And if he prevents only some horrors, how shall he decide which ones to prevent? Where shall he draw the line?—the line between threatened horrors that are prevented and threatened horrors that are allowed to occur? I suggest that wherever he draws the line, it will be an arbitrary line. ''

John Hick points out that a world without any evil at all cannot function as a world where soul-building is possible. A world where soul-building is possible cannot be an ―hedonic paradise‖ with no real challenges. For the world to function as an arena for personal growth into mature personhood, it must appear that, for all we can see, there are evils that should be eliminated. It must appear that there are unjustified evils that can function to motivate us to prevent evils and to confront them head-on as a means of developing character traits such as courage, compassion, virtue and so forth. In this sense, the no minimum evil thesis works,

That said, I don’t see any reason why the omni-god must create immature creatures who require such challenges to grow to become morally response-able agents when it had the choice of creating virtually omniscient agents who would go wrong much less than we do. It is necessary to allow my children to confront these challenges because of their nature as immature humans who are unformed and not yet capable of fully responsible decisions. Their brains must undergo a process of development before they can engage in critical reasoning and sound judgment. However, the same limitations don’t confront the omni-god. There is no reason that such an omni-god couldn’t have created only persons with capacity for adept moral reasoning and virtual omniscience to assess the best interests.


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