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Does the problem of evil show that God does not exist?
To answer yes, it must be shown that there is a logical incompatibility between God's omnibenevolence, and his other divine attributes, and the existence of suffering of any kind in the world. It will be possible to answer no only if it can be shown logically that there is a way that suffering of any kind can co-exist with an omnibenevolent, omnipotent God. Distinctions to be made:
1. man-made/natural evil;
3. deductive/inductive argument: either 'God exists' and 'evil exists' are incompatible, or the latter merely provides strong evidence that the former is false. Deductive PoE (Mackie in Davies p571): (a) (b) (c) (d)
Good is opposed to evil, in that a good thing always eliminates, or avoids creating evil to the best of its ability. There are no limits on the ability of an omnipotent being. An omnipotent, good being thus eliminates evil entirely - that is, to the best of its limitless ability. Thus the propositions 'a good omnipotent thing exists' and 'evil exists' are incompatible.
Very simplistic - (b) is vague, and requires clarification, and that clarification will force us to alter (c), since it may be that some evils are necessary for a chance at particular higher goods. Inductive PoE (Rowe in Davies, p572): (a)
There exist instances of intense or extreme suffering which an omnipotent being could have prevented without losing some greater good or permitting some worse evil. (b) An omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being would prevent the occurrence of such evil if it could, unless doing so would prevent some greater good, or permit some worse evil. (c) Thus this omnipotent being does not exist, since extreme suffering is not being prevented. Leftow's lectures - notes Basic problem of evil argument: 1) If God exists, he is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent. 2) If (1) is true, God has enough power and knowledge to prevent all evils, and wants to prevent all evils. 3) Thus if God exists, He prevents all evils. 4) If God prevents all evils, no evil exists. 5) Some evil does exist. 6) Thus, God does not exist. (2) is undeniable (unless there are some evils which are logically necessary, but even then - God could have prevented all evils by not creating!) (3) is the point that theists most often question, since it is arguable (3) ignores the fact that there are evils that there is good reason to allow. Moral maturity is something only gained by exercising choice in response to moral questions. Making the wrong choice in a situation pertaining to a minor wrongdoing is an evil, but the good of being morally mature is worth this evil. General conditions for God allowing some evil: the evil must be logically necessary for at least some chance at a good, and there must be no way that the good might be attained without the evil. The good must be great enough, and the chance great enough that it will follow the preceding evil. Obviously, what constitutes 'enough' is debatable.
So the theist apologist must say that : There are evils, and God has allowed them, and for every existing evil, God had a morally sufficient reason to permit such an evil - for each evil, there is a chance at a good for which the evil is logically necessary, and this good and the chance of its being attained are sufficient to justify this evil. Skeptical theism = The fact that we can't see what good some evils will serve is only reason to think there is no good for a particular evil only if we are confident that our perceptions and rationality are fully reliable and exhaustive, since only then would it be the case that if there were a good for a particular evil, we would definitely see it. Reasons exist to doubt this - our customary sense of morality, as a society, has shifted repeatedly throughout history, and there is no reason to suggest that this will not continue; even presently we do not have moral consensus upon almost every issue, to a greater or lesser degree. But, this apparently suggests that we should be loath to prevent evils, on the basis that some greater good that we cannot perceive would not come to be instantiated should the corresponding antecedent evil not occur. However, the most the skeptical theist is committed to is that if someone does suffer an evil, there is a compensating good to come. The skepticism of this position saves it here, since if I don't know that the consequences of allowing an evil will be good, that makes me responsible for preventing it. God does not prevent these evils because he can know that these evils will bear goods. Mackie p150 The paradox of omnipotence: Can God create beings that he cannot control?
Maybe the problem can be solved easily: 'things which an omnipotent being cannot control' is selfcontradictory, so to make such things is logically impossible, so God is not expected to do them. Although - isn't this rather question-begging? 'things an omnipotent being can't do' is on the same grounds selfcontradictory, so anything an omnipotent being can't do, he isn't required to be able to do to be omnipotent. First-order omnipotence: unlimited power to act Second-order omnipotence: unlimited power to determine what powers to act things should have (and so on with third-order if necessary) But: perhaps no being can have all orders of omnipotence at once, since if a God with second-order omnipotence creates a being that is free to act, this God no longer has first-order omnipotence. This, Mackie argues, is a mistake, since a God can have both orders, so long as he does not attempt to exercise his power of second-order omnipotence in any way that would limit his first-order omnipotence. How to answer in the affirmative? If a being with second-order omnipotence makes a being with the power to make choices uncontrolled, then to control these choices would be to control the choices of a being that an omnipotent being has made uncontrollable, and this is logically impossible. Thus a being with first-order omnipotence is unable to control this being, but this does not count against his omnipotence since such a being logically cannot fail to have uncontrolled power to choose, since an omnipotent being made it so. Is an omnipotent being omnificent? That is, is everything that happens his doing? If God can make it so that not-X, when it is so that X, is this not God's doing? It might be argued that there is a distinction between positive action and letting something happen, but this is only ever an example of the passage of action or force between agent and result, and we spare ourselves this if we allow something to happen, if we consider its happening not worth the effort to stop. As knowledge and power reach the levels at which God possesses them, this distinction vanishes. Mackie, then, argues that omnificence is entailed by omniscience and omnipotence - God, essentially, does everything. This implies, however, that God is the author of the sin that men do. Thus the
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