Two Arguments from Evil
Consider the following argument from evil:
1. If God exists, then He is all-good and all-loving.
2. If God is all-good and all-loving, then evil would be eliminated.
3. But evil exists.
4. So, God does not exist.
Premise 1 is non-negotiably true. Premise 3 invites certain questions as to the meaning of the predicate ‘exists’: does evil have positive existence, or is it rather the privation of existence? Either way, one can simply affirm that some things are propery called ‘evil’, even in the absence of an accout of what this means at the metaphysical level. The brunt of the argument, then, rests on premise 2. Here some disambiguation is in order. For what does it mean to say that ‘if God is all-good and all-loving, then evil would be eliminated’? Is God to eliminate evil eventually, or in the here and now? If the former, then the argument becomes invalid, so far as the Judeo-Christian tradition explicitly affirms that all evil will be eliminated at some future time. If the latter, then the argument has been significantly weakened, so far as the notion that God should eliminate all evil here and now is highly controversial.
Consider now the following argument:
1. If the Judeo-Christian God exists, then He is all-powerful and all-good.
2. If He is all-powerful and all-good, then there would be no unjustified/irredeemable evils.
3. But there are unjustified/irredeemable evils.
4. So, the Judeo-Christian God does not exist.
Response: how can anyone make a clear assessment as to whether some evil is ‘unjustified’ or ‘irredeemable’, whether in this life or the next? An evil may be contingent upon events in the past, just as it may be contingent upon events in the distant future. To be sure, we can certainly think of many horrendous evils for which it seems inconceivable that they could ever be redeemed or justified. But, as the saying goes, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Why should human beings, fallen and limited creatures that we are, presume to have epistemological access to God’s reasons for justifying most kinds of horrendous evils? And why suppose that our epistemological shortcomings should have any bearing upon what God is metaphysically able (or not) to do? This is all clearly above our pay grade.