Ugly apologetics

It’s a beaten up issue, I know, but I’m going to delve into the Problem of Evil. For purposes here, “evil” is synonymous with the objective evil theists believe exists.

This first set of premises comes from a friend, but I’m just going to copy them since they reflect what we all recognize as the form of this argument. (And, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were just taken from somewhere else for the sake of ease.)

1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
2. If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.
3. If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.
4. If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.
Evil exists.
5. If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn’t have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn’t know when evil exists, or doesn’t have the desire to eliminate all evil.
6. Therefore, God does not exist [as we know him]

This is an obvious problem for the Christian God (and other gods, but we’ll focus here). If God has all the listed properties and desires, then evil needs a special explanation. Of course, the most common response is that God has given us free will and that necessarily entails evil. But obvious problems arise from such a weak answer.

1. We’ve already agreed that God is all-knowing and all-powerful. This means he knows that the creation of free will is going to lead to evil. This is in conflict with the premise that God desires to eliminate all evil. That is, he has knowingly either created evil or created the potential for evil with the foresight that evil will actually happen. For the free will argument to work here, God cannot desire the elimination of evil.

1b. This argument assumes that free will is better than no free will. If, however, we agree that God chiefly desires the elimination of evil (and for him to be morally perfect, I think he must), then free will is not better than no free will.

2. Not all evil comes from human action. If we consider suffering to be evil, then Huntington’s Disease is evil, but we have no humans to blame. Whether we want to blame God or chance, God has allowed that evil to exist. That is, evil exists and free will cannot explain it.

3. Another argument, though less common, is that in order for good to exist, there must be evil. If this is true, then we must first look towards God. He is eternal and he is good. In order for this to be true, evil must also be eternal. If it isn’t eternal, but it is required for goodness, then God cannot be eternal. But God is the only thing that can be considered to be eternal. That doesn’t mean evil cannot exist; it must. It, however, can only exist as a property of God. If it isn’t a property of God, and good requires evil, then God has not been eternally good. That is, evil is a property of God by necessity of also making him good. But God is morally perfect; he can have no evil. If evil is necessary for good and God therefore has evil, God is not good. We’ve violated premise 1.

The fact is, there is no good answer to the problem of evil. This, however, unfortunately leads to the conclusion that if there is evil, God must not exist. But that isn’t the case. All this argument is saying is that God does not exist with the given properties. If, in order to exist in any form, one believes God must have those properties, then this argument does say he doesn’t exist. But if someone wanted to claim that God need not have all these properties, the Problem can be avoided. Or, if they say he need not obey human logic, then he can exist with or without evil all he wants. Of course, we can’t go any further in discussion since we’ve thrown logic out the window, and we have to admit that such a claim can be just as wrong as it can be right, but the Problem of Evil has been circumvented. (Naturally, it isn’t surprising that the best way the Christian God can work is with a lack of logic.)