The existence of evil in the world stronglysuggests that God exists, and He is perfect. Atheists claim that, ifGod is all-powerful, why does He not do something about the miserypeople are facing in the world? Our world is filled with countlessinstances of suffering and evil. These facts about suffering and evilseem to contradict with the Orthodox claim that a good and a perfectGod exists. This paper will present arguments based on the phrase“existence of evil does not give us a good reason to doubt theexistence of the Omnipotent, Benevolent Deity”. The argumentspresented will be based on the logical understanding of evil, withsupport from philosophical arguments presented by Richard Swinburneand Roderick Chisholm. Also, the paper will draw practical examplesto justify the root cause of evil as manmade.
Roderick Chisholm (1964) uses Aristotle’sexample in physics that “A staff moves a stone, which is then movedby hand that is moved by hand” (Chisholm, 1964 p. 144). Naturally,the man causes an action to an inanimate or living object. TheLibertarian agent-causal theory that Chisholm developed, gives anexplanation of the agents of causal power, which make certain choiceswithout prior determination. These agents are free and can bemanipulated. If these agents are left to act freely they can beinclined. He explains that the agents act by factors such as desires,reason, and belief. To God, human are responsible agents. As humanbeings, we are vested with freedom, to act in ways which we deemcorrect based on our understanding of what is morally correct. Wehave the power to control our actions since we are the initiators andperformers of the Act (Chisholm, 1964). Going back to Aristotle’sexample, scientifically, a stone in a stationary position cannot moveby itself. It requires a force for it to move.
Chisholm (1964) gives an example of a man whofires a gun and shoots a man. He views this man in two differentways, one as a man who had the power within himself not to shoot theother person and instead do something else, and second, a man wastriggered by his beliefs and desires (Chisholm, 1964 p. 145). Therewould be no difference if the action were internal or external if thecause was not the responsibility if the man himself. Humans arespecial creatures. We can change the way we do things. A man who isviewed to be bad, or have an account of doing evil may transform anddo well. We possess the power to transform who we are, despite whatconspires in the inside. We all possess the power to change things.
Chisholm (1964) quotes A.I. Melden, when he differentiates between“making A happen” and “doing A” (Chisholm, 1964 p. 149).Therefore, if there is no man causing event A to happen, then thereis no event A. These are two different occurrences. Evil is alsomanifested in such ways. Chisholm (1964) also describes the issue oftemptation using Leibniz’s phrases, of “something incliningwithout necessitating” (Chisholm, 1964 p. 153). He says that whenone is presented with a choice, the external and internal motives,passions, dispositions, and impressions were taken together heremains in a contingent state where he is necessitated to make achoice, either a necessary one or a contingent one. Nothing can occurwithout a determining reason, and that a choice one takes resultsinto an action that could be necessary or contingent. All choicesdepend on the motive whether necessary or inclining. Based onChisholm (1964) argument, I can confidently suggest that evil iswithin our control. The agents that that necessitates us to do anevil action are solely within human control. We possess the freedomto influence our choices depending on the motives that we have. Forinstance, if the motive of a politician is to gain power, he wouldhave the liberties and the freedom to do what he can either byclaiming power himself or using others to do so.
The other argument on the problems of evil isthat is argued upon by atheist, and that which remains highlydefended is the issue of free-will. They claim that “God permitshumans to have good will despite the danger that they will bringabout evil rather than good because of the goodness of their havingfreedom” (Swinburne, 1978 p. 295). The issue with such defense isthat it could be just explaining why good God permits the moral evil.The moral evil is primarily caused by man and not those that arecaused by natural processes. Richard Swinburne (1978) defends thefree-will by saying that God does not permit the existence of moralevil, but the evil of every kind in the universe. He defends hisstatement by stating that God may have given humans free will thatpredetermined their actions, but would not allow them such free-willwithout allowing them to make significant differences in the world.He continues by saying that good God may give the free agents thepower to impart a change in the world, including changing the courseof history for years to come (Swinburne, 1978 p. 295).
Swinburne (1978) also states that God wouldhave given the power to benefit each other and not to cause harm toeach other and that he would have even given them the share of hiswork in planning and developing the world (Swinburne, 1978 p. 296).Swinburne’s arguments are valid to some extent. However, looking atthe practical universe that we are living, we notice that when humansascend into power, they use it benefit themselves, or to causesuffering to fellow humans. We have knowledge, power and the will tochange the world, and that is why people are making inventions everyday. In short, they are continuing the marvelous work of the Creator.In addition to that, if God intends all evil, why are there goodpeople in the society, for instance, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhiand other? We must realize that in addition to freedom, good Godgives us wisdom as humans to differentiate between Good and evil. Ifevil is plotted by God Himself, why does the Good always prosper overevil?
Swinburne (1978) also urges that natural evil,which is not brought about by man’s choice, is claimed by othertheists that it is brought by free agents other than men, forinstance, the fallen angles. To him, that explanation is notsubstantial enough, and that to some extent, natural evil disconfirmstheism. He proposes that the free-will works in the explanation thatthe reason why God permits evil, is because due to an existence of anatural evil, which allows humans to have knowledge of what they needto rebuke moral evil. He gives the example of a scientist collectinga vast amount of data to predict events, based on the occurrence ofthe past events. The accumulated data could be used to prove anexisting theory on a certain subject, which is then concluded to holdin the case of similar events. In addition, he describes that thepast events may shape one’s ideas about the future based onexperiences and knowledge gathered. In the cases where data is notsimilar, a theory is developed to generate predictions, as in thecase of astronomical data.
Inferences can also be used to draw conclusionsespecially if they were successful before, Swinburne (1978) claims.He explains that once humans have knowledge on what an action mightcause, and they do not prevent it from happening, then there islikely to be an adverse consequence. He adds that with practice,humans can make accurate predictions. He claims that when one isproximal to the activity, it gives them certain knowledge. Inaddition, he claims that “if we are to know the consequences of ouractions, things must behave in regular ways” (Swinburne, 1978 p.298). He claims that there is a first time for everything, includingthe first murder by cyanide poisoning or deliberate humiliation amongothers. He also claims that actions have short-term and long-termconsequences, which can only be known through past experiences. Whathappens to others that are very different from us, gives us littleknowledge about it.
To counter Swinburne (1978) argument, I usehis concluding remarks when he says that “by God giving maninductive knowledge of the bad consequences of their actions, can Godgive men substantial responsibility of their destiny” (Swinburne,1978 p. 301). It is natural that God, would not give man knowledge ifHe was not going to give him the responsibility of acting with thegiven knowledge. Unlike animals, as humans, we have extensivereasoning and intellectual capacities to absorb information and makethe judgement. Our desire for power triggers the morality in us, andwe lose the free will. Swinburne forgets that it is the sameknowledge that God grants humans through experience, which helps themcreate mitigation strategies for disasters. If natural disasterswould not occur, then our purpose as humans would not be inexistence. We would act like other creatures instead.
Inconclusion, the problem of evil does not give us adequate reason todoubt the existence of the Omnipresent and Benevolent God. Ourinterpretation of moral and natural evil is based on theunderstanding of our responsibilities as humans. The gift of freedomand liberation as discussed by Chisholm, gives us the overallresponsibility for our choices, considering that we have theintellectual reason to do so. The acts of freedom are limited byresponsibility. On the other hand, free-will, as discussed bySwinburne, should not direct us to doubt the existence of God butrather, help us realize our true purpose as humans with conscience,wisdom, responsibility and knowledge to turn the events of the futurefor our good.
Chisholm,R., 1964. Human freedom and the self. Kansas City.
Swinburne,R., 1978. Natural Evil. American Philosophical Quarterly, 15(4),pp.295-301.