Which evil is necessary?
Philosophical questions, answers, and counterarguments to the existence of evil in the world
Throughout the centuries, Christianity has spread the existence of a powerful, merciful God who rules above all. The divine attributes of God include being omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenevelont, omniscient, and omnitemporal. Various philosophers have tackled the existence of God, either to affirm or disprove it through arguments, paradoxes, and proofs based on logic and rationality. One such contradiciton to the existence of an Omni God is the problem of evil.
Evil includes all moral and natural evils. Contemporary philosopher Marcus Singer further defines this as the “worst possible term of opprobrium imaginable”. There is no denying that evil has always been and will continue to be very apparent in the world. When analyzed, the very presence of evil poses a contradiction to the existence of an Omni God. If God really is omniscient, then He already knows that certains evils are about to happen. If that is so, then His omnibenevolent character would have done something to prevent these evils from happening, given that He is omnipotent and has the power to do so.
Perhaps, it would be easier to negate the very existence of God. Many theisits, however, refuse to believe in a god other than One who completely exhibits each divine attribute. These theists then formulate theodicies, which attempt to validate God’s existence despite the presence of evil.
One of the most widely-acclaimed theodicy would be that of the Free Will Defense. It emphasizes that God, in His goodness, created a world maximizing the free will and freedom of each individual. This means that each infividual has the capability to behave and act the way he or she chooses to, regardless of whether or not his or her actions promote good or evil. Given that God blessed human beings with the gift of free will, evil could not be avoided because there are certain evils that stem from one’s choices. Similarly, if God were to deprive people of freedom, then the evil which comes from this kind of imprisonment also prevails.
The issue that the the Free Will Defense poses is that it only addresses moral evil, the evil commited by human beings. It does not, however, explain natural evil, the evil human beings are not responsible for. For example, thousands were killed during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan on 2011. Perhaps, many people could not comprehend why such a devastating catastrophe would happen. This is an example of natural evil.
A theodicy which attempts to resolve the presence of natural evil would be understanding that good would not be possible without the bad. In the same way, people would not have known “cold” from “hot” or “success” from “failure”, if they had not experienced one from the other. Another theodicy would be the Soul-Making theodicy proposed by John Hick, a theologian and a philosopher of religion. In this theodicy, Hick emphasized that God initially created people as incomplete beings and so He exposed them the harshness of the world to build strength and character.
The theodicies mentioned, however, only address the logical problem of evil. To delve deeper, there exists the evidential problem of evil which seeks answers as to why there is so much of evil present in the world. If God exposed us to evil for us to value and know what is good, then why would He expose us to what seems like so much more evil? A counterargument against this would be that the amount of evil which exists is directly proportional to the amout of good that has been or could potentially be.
Countless philosophers have contemplated on the problem of evil for centuries. Undoubtedly, many more will ponder the same through the years to come. At the end of it all, human beings must continually seek, argue, and take time to think of the world a little bit deeper.