Theism And The Problem Of Evil; A Critical Study
The presence of evil in a world said to be created by a “Being” who is not only omnipotent, omniscience and perfectly good is problematic. It is a problem that has perturbed man for ages and coupled with various natural disaster still make the concept problematic one. How can there be a loving God, all-powerful and all-knowing God and still face the problem of evil, if really he is perfectly good and created everything then where does evil originated from?
Atheist or agnostics base their case on the lack of evidence for God existence, however atheist have at least one very powerful positive argument for their position that there cannot be a living, all-loving, all-powerful God because there is so much evil and suffering in the world. Atheist raise questions like this: If you were a parent wouldn’t you do everything in your power to prevent your children from needless suffering? Many innocent children suffer from painful diseases, with this kind of problem how can we affirm for a loving and all-powerful God in the world.
In this study, we are going to look through the lenses of philosopher who talk about the problem of evil and God’s existence. Our main focus on this work is theism and the problem of evil which will be dwell on chapter four of this work. Before going to the main work, we will first look at the problem which is evil, the different types of evil and different explanation (philosophical and religious explanation) of evil.
We will talk more on chapter four that deal with the problem Theism and the problem of Evil.
According to Augustine, evil is not a being, it is a result of privation of good, so it was not and cannot be created, evil cannot exist on it’s own. John Hick on his analysis gave some point why there is evil in the world. On his Greater Good Defence: God himself could not achieve certain result without allowing us to struggle against evil and to endure suffering some evil are necessary in achieving certain good end. The good that is achieved outweighs the evil and the same or a greater amount of good could not have been attained by any means that did not involve the presence of those evils.
The idea of God and the problem of evil is one of the most controversial themes in philosophy. Various arguments have been advanced down the ages by philosophers and theologians on this very problem of Evil and God and there has been no definite answer to this problem. The theist gave reasons why evil persist in the world created by a loving God, who they also believed that he is omnipotent, omniscience and all-merciful. There seems to be conflict between the theist and atheist on this very problem of God and Evil. The atheist used this as a fertile ground to prove that there is no God as claimed by the theist.
John Hick on “Gender Good Defence” is of the view that when God initially created humanity, there was still some work to be done in making us a completed product. However, this remaining work could not be accomplished by God alone, we have to contribute to the process. Using the Greater Good Defence, Hick argues that even God himself could not achieve certain results without allowing us to struggle against evil and to endure suffering.
Furthermore, the first chapter will concentrate on the statement of the problem, theism and the problem of evil. A method of research, purpose and the significant of this work will be discussed.
The second chapter will dwell on the meaning of theism, the idea of God and the various argument for the existence of God (prove of God’s existence).
The third chapter will be on the concept of evil as the problem, the meaning of evil and the different philosophical explanation of evil and finally the different types of evil in the world.
Chapter four will dwell on the problem (Theism and the problem of evil). We will first look and examine evil as the problem and different ways of explanation given by theist concerning this very problem of evil and God.
Finally, chapter five will be the summary of this work, reflecting what has been infer from chapter four then evaluate and conclude the work.
1.1 Statement of the Problem
The existence of God and the problem of evil has been a problem for long that men have searched for the reason why evil persist in a world claimed to be created by God who is omnipotent, omniscience and all-merciful. Man has tried to find out the causes of evil, why man created by God involved in bad action or why man carry out bad action on their fellow man and why there is so much evil in the world especially natural evil.
Theist are faced with the problem of evil and this lead to their search of what is evil and causes of it, if it is a thing and also what and who is responsible for evil in the world. Different theists have given different views of evil. The Manicheans claimed to have the answer to the problem of evil, according to them, there are two ultimate principles and all sources of all things namely, Ormued (The Principle of Good) and Ahriman (The Principle of Evil). The Ahriman is the source of evil, darkness and all material things.
Men soul came from Ormuzd (the principle of good) while the body from Ahriman. These two ultimate principle according to them, are eternal and in perpetual conflict with each other and this conflict is reflected in the things that come from them.
Hence light and darkness, spirit and matter, good and evil are also in perpetual conflict. Christian theologians believe that evil is the wrath of God meted out on disobedient children. Augustine hold that evil is the negation or a privation of being. Evil is not a thing according to Augustine and therefore was not and cannot be created. Everything that is created is good and everything that is substance is good, but evil the origin of which I was trying find out is not a substance and was not created, therefore the question or the problem of evil should not arise because it does not make sense to ask about what is not a thing (substance). Evil cannot exist on it’s own but Good can exist on it’s own.
1.2 Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this work is to bring out the work of different theist and their different explanation on the problem of evil and the existence of God and most importantly on how they tried to find solution or answers to this very problem of evil and existence of God.
Before showing why evil persist in this world created by God who is omnipotent, omniscience and all-loving (which is the major aim of this work), if it is a thing or not, then if it is a thing, who created it? What causes it?
Why evil persist in this world created by God who is omnipotent, omniscience and all-loving. And also a critical study of different theist who try to solve or who gave their explanation and meaning to the very problem (Theism and the problem of evil) at hand.
1.3 Significance of Study
The importance of this study is to show why evil exist in the world created by God who is all-loving, omnipotent and omniscience. The important of this work is to bring out the different explanation of the very problem at hand, the different meaning of evil and different ways theist try in solving the problem. Most atheists or agnostics based their case on the lack of evidence for God’s existence, they argue that we cannot claimed to have a loving God, all-powerful and all-merciful and still allow evil in the world, why a loving-God will allow suffering in this world.
The most importance of the study is the explanation by theist why evil persist in the world. Some theist claimed that evil exist because of what is known as Greater Good Defence, it explains that some evil are necessary in achieving certain good end. The good that is achieved out-weighs the evil and the same or a greater amount of good could not have been attained by any means that did not involved the presence of those evils.
1.4 Scope of the Study
The scope of this work is such that it would further strengthen on the fact that evil is opposed to good, which is the integrity or perfection of being. The problem of evil is sometimes abstracted to designate the ill affecting subject. The existence of evil in the world would all times be the greater of all the problems which the mind encounter when it reflects on God and its relation to the world.
The problem of evil does not disprove the existence of God, evil exist, yes, according to some theist, evil exist but because man misuse his free will, according to Telhard De Chardin a Jesuit intellectual, consider the universe as an imperfect mechanism that is undergoing constant changes in terms of development, the universe we inhabit has not yet attain it’s perfect goal which it is gradually moving towards. According to him, the world is still in process of formation, therefore a world or the process of evolution is a world, which suffers labour and sins at every degree of evolution we find evil always and everywhere.
As would be expected of a research work of this nature, much of the information for this study shall be gathered from the primary sources such as book and other library materials. This work will be centred on a philosophical exposition of theism and the problem of evil.
This work will be done by analyzing the concept of theism, and the various arguments for the existence of God. And generally proceeds by looking at the concept of evil, the various kind of evil.
In comparism to the nature of evil, different philosophers have taken different views of the problems of evil and our evaluation of this work will be value of the entire work that is theism and the view of evil.
Evaluation and Conclusion
5.0 Evaluation of the Topic Theism and the Problem of Evil
Different theist gave different interpretation of the concept of evil. Firstly John Hick explain what he understood by evil and gave his explanation.
John Hicks developed what he calls “minority report” in the history of theology. This view is that when God initially created humanity, there was still some work to be done in making us a complete product. However, this remaining work could not be accomplished by God alone, we have to contribute to the process, using the greater good defence, Hick argues that even God himself could not achieve certain result without allowing us to struggle against evil and to endure suffering.
Atheistic writers almost invariably assumed a conception of the divine purpose which is contrary to the Christian conception. They assumed that the purpose of a living God must be to create a hedonistic paradise and therefore to the extent that the world is other than this, it proves to them that God is either not loving enough or not powerful enough to create such a world. They think of God’s relation to the earth on the model of a human being building a cage for a pet’s quarters as pleasant and healthful as he can, any respect in which the cage falls short of veterinarians’s idel, and contain possibilities of accident or disease, is evidence of either limited benevolence or limited means, or both. According to John Hick, those who use the problem of evil as an argument against believe in God almost invariably think of the world in this kind of way.
But if we are right in supposing that God’s purpose for man is to lead him from human Bios, or the biological life of man, to that quality of zoe, or the personal life of eternal worth, which we see in Christ then question that we have to ask is not, is this the kind of world that an all-powerful and infinitely loving being would create as an environment for his human pets or is the architecture of the world the most pleasant and convenient possible. The question that we have to ask is rather is this the kind of world that God might make as an environment in which moral beings may be fashioned, through their own free insight and responses, into “children of God”?
According to John Hick the best way a parent can show love to a child is to bring them up in the best environment, a parent who love his child will want them to become the best human beings that they are capable of becoming, does not treat pleasure as the sole and supreme value, certainly we seek pleasure for our children, and take great delight in obtaining it for them; but we do not desire for them unalloyed pleasure at the expense of their growth in such even greater values as moral integrity, unselfishness, compassion, courage, humour, research for the truth, and perhaps above all the capacity for love. We do not act on the premise that pleasure is the supreme end of life; and if the development of these other values sometimes clashes with the provision of pleasure, then we are willing to have our children miss a certain amount of this, rather than fall to care to possess and to be possessed by the finer and more precious qualities that are possible to the human personality.
According to him, a child brought up on the principle that the only or the supreme value is pleasure would not be likely to become ethically mature adult or an attractive or happy personality. And to most parents it seems more important to try to foster quality and strength of character in their lives at all times with the utmost possible degree of pleasure.
In conclusion, John Hick says that the purpose of loving and wise parent for their children is not just pleasures alone and absence of pain because it can not be the supreme and overriding end for which the world exist. Rather it must be a place of soul making. And if value is to be judged, not primarily by the quality of pleasure and pain occurring in it at any particular moment, but by his fitness for it’s primary purpose, the purpose of soul making. (1)
Augustine also gave different interpretation of the concept of evil. To him God is a perfect being, therefore anything evil should not be associated with him. As a result of his concept of God as a perfect being who has nothing to do with evil, Augustine came to team with the Manicheans who upheld two ultimate principles. These two principles are; the principle of good (ormuzd) and the principle of evil (Ahriman).
These two principles are the ultimate sources of all things. Ormuzd is spiritual things and light while Ahriman is the source of darkness and all material things.
For Plotinus, evil is not a positive things, it is not something positive but simply the negation of being, the lack of being which is also the same to Augustine. Augustine’s notion that God is all powerful, all knowing and also the creator of all things and at the same time not responsible for the evil in the universe is unquestionable because reason been that it is only God that has power to create, whatever exist traces its source of existence to God. Therefore, if evil been it moral or metaphysical) exist in any form must be traced to a being who is responsible for the creation of all things. If evil is the work of another being, it suggest that there are two beings responsible for the creation of the universe, which Augustine would definitely not agree with.
More so, since the world is created by a perfect being, it should not contain evil, it follows that God is the cause of evil in the universe because He is the creator of all things and all things were created by him, so definitely evil is created by Him. If God did not create all things, God would not be in existence and man would not have been committing evil. Therefore, God is the originator and cause of evil that befall on man. According to Father G.H. Joyce, he repudiated the notion of Augustine that evil is not seal and that God is not the cause of evil in the universe. But for Joyce, evil is real he says:
“The existence of evil in the world must all times be the greatest of all problems which the mind encounters when reflects on God and it’s relation to the world, if He is, indeed, all good and all powerful, how has evil any place in the world which he had made? Whence come evil? Why is it there? If all-powerful, why does he not deliver us from the burden? As like in the physical and moral order creation seems to generously marred that we find it hard to understand how it derive in it entirely from God?(2)”
In addition, Augustine held that man is the source of moral evil, which can only be traced to man misuse of his free will, man has the right to choose between good and evil, therefore, he is the source of moral evil”3. Augustine fail to answer who is the source of physical and metaphysical evil that are beyond human contact?
He illustrated the necessity of evil in the universe by using simply analogy of a good painter. A good painter uses both dull and bright colours to bring out the beauty of his work. He states also that a well organized city comprises of heroes, clowns, and servants. In order to appreciate what is perfect, there must be imperfection that is regarded as evil.
Following Augustine’s explanation of the problem of evil, it is both good and evil that can make the world look harmonious. For example, to appreciate good health one must poor health. The two analogies used by Augustine to illustrate the necessity of evil in the universe do not really portray, the pains natural and moral evil inflect on men.
Finally, Augustine, there fore succeeded in illustrating that a universe face of evil is a complete utopia. But he did not succeed in propounding solution to the problem of evil in the universe. He however enumerated God from been responsible for the problem of evil in the universe, yet He created the universe and everything in it. Augustine argument looks more of theodicy rather than being philosophical.
Finally, the problem of evil is a bifurcated one, it constitutes one of the great difficulties by both theologians and philosophers. However, it is clear that evil exist in the universe created by a perfect (being) since he is the creator of all things. The purpose of evil in the universe still remains abstract to man inspite of the various attempts made by intellectual of different school of thoughts to explain it, and none have given a definite and satisfactory solution to the problem of evil and this very problem of evil is still unsolved.
Many thinkers either rest the cause of evil on human free-will or as a part of the designed for nature to make good possible or to bring one up to be responsible in the universe. However, since no theologian or philosophers have given us definite explanation to the problem of evil in the universe, and no solution have been propounded, they have been busy explaining but no solution to the problem, it is very clear that the problem of evil will continue to be a problem to man since there is no solution to the problem. And finally, man will continue to face this problem until there is an answer to it. Only God knows when solutions will be found.
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