Posts Tagged ‘omnipotent’

The Problem of Evil

October 6, 2009

As classically understood,
(1) God is omnipotent [capable of doing anything];
(2) God is good [and it is assumed that good eradicates evil whenever possible]; and
(3) Evil exists.
As philosophers have pointed out for a very long time, however, you can’t hold all three of these beliefs at the same time without generating a contradiction:
If you hold (1) and (2) at the same time, then there can be no evil, for God wants to destroy evil and is completely capable of doing so. At most, evil is an illusion; God is enthroned in Heaven and all is right on Earth. Imagine a small child is about to pick up a rattlesnake—the parent does nothing, for there isn’t REALLY a rattlesnake there (and if you and I had enough faith, we would recognize the glorious truth).
If you hold (1) and (3) at the same time, God is not completely good, for God could eradicate evil but chooses not to do so. Human good is really too trivial a matter for Almighty God. Imagine a small child is about to pick up a rattlesnake—the child’s parent could stop it, but instead says, “My child needs to learn not to pick up snakes.”
If you hold (2) and (3) together, then God loves us and wants to protect us, but isn’t capable of doing so. God has limits just like everything else. Imagine a small child is about to pick up a rattlesnake—the parent watches in horror as the snake bites the child before the parent can get there.
Of course, one could just hold to any one of these positions and reject the other two or reject all three at the same time.
So which is it? Holding all three positions at the same time means rejecting rationality, but rejecting some or all of the propositions means abandoning classical religious positions. Claiming that the answer is a mystery is not far removed from the Fideist position.
Assuming that there is a God, my best answer is a variation of rejecting (1). If God made the universe, God mapped it out as a painfully rational place. Particularly at the macro level, physical laws are fairly evident and mostly understood. Things happen for a reason. Within our universe, then, it doesn’t make sense for God to violate the laws of nature or defy rationality. As long as God works within our universe, God has to abide by physical rules. Imagine you were playing a classic game of Monopoly with God. God rolls doubles once…twice…a third time in a row. Doesn’t God have to go to jail? Is there any way God can avoid going to jail? If God says, “the Almighty does NOT go to jail!” we have an old-fashioned name for that: cheating. I’m assuming God is above cheating at Monopoly and I will posit that God is not going to cheat in our physical universe, either. God can do those things that are physically and rationally possible, but no, God can’t and won’t generate a paradox by creating a rock so heavy God can’t lift it. Perhaps that protects us, as the physical laws of the universe might unwind under the tear of a contradiction.
So as for those evil things that happen every day, God weeps for the innocent, but God cannot be everywhere at once and do everything at once, for that is not rationally possible.