Modern Developments concerning the nature of the problem

Read the three modern developments of the nature of the problem of evil, and discuss the extent to which you think these developments have raised more challenges to religious belief.

The problem of evil and suffering – Page - 3

J.L. Mackie

J.L. Mackie

W. Rowe

W. Rowe

Gregory S. Paul

Gregory S. Paul

J L Mackie – evil and omnipotence

Mackie focussed on the logical problem of evil. The logical problem arises because theists maintain that there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. However, Mackie claims that the only solution to the logical problem is to deny this and that all so called ‘solutions’ or ‘theodicies’ actually limit God’s power but misleadingly keep the term ‘omnipotence’. He argues that in the various theodicies:

  • God is bound by logical necessities. Hence not omnipotent since he cannot do what is logically impossible.
  • God is subject to causal laws which he made. Hence not omnipotent because he has to introduce evil as a means to good.
  • God makes things that he cannot control. Hence not omnipotent because he has created human wills that he cannot control.

Therefore, Mackie argues that the theodicies do not give a solution to the problem of evil since they have changed the premise (i.e. that God is omnipotent).

Rowe – intensity of human and animal suffering

William Rowe in his work: ‘The problem of evil and some varieties of atheism’ (1979) argued that, whilst it seemed reasonable for God to allow some limited suffering to enable humans to grow and develop, he could not accept God allowing what he called ’intense’ suffering’ Animal suffering also seemed pointless. Rowe used the example of a fawn caught in a forest fire as an example of pointless animal suffering. He argues:

  • an omnipotent and omniscient being would know when intense suffering was about to take place.
  • such a being could prevent the suffering from happening.
  • an all-loving being would probably prevent all evil and suffering that had no purpose and was pointless and avoidable.
  • such evil and suffering does happen.
  • therefore, probably God does not exist.

Gregory S Paul – premature deaths

Gregory Paul argues that the death of so many innocent children challenges the existence of God. He estimates that over 50 billion children have died naturally and some 300 billion human beings have died naturally but prenatally. He argues:

  • millions of innocent children suffer and die every year, from both natural and evil causes.
  • these children are too young to be able to make choices about God – they have no freewill.
  • no all-loving, all-powerful being would permit such suffering.
  • therefore God does not exist.