The Logical Problem of Evil Is Still Very Much Alive!

Of course, this is nothing new to educated people, but I still read where Christians proclaim the logical problem of evil is dead. What gives? In the future if someone says such an ignorant thing, refer them here, and to the books listed below.

The Logical (Deductive) Problem of Evil
is an argument whereby it is claimed that there is a logical (or deductive) inconsistency with the existence of evil and God’s omnipotence, omnibenelovence, and/or omniscience. J.L. Mackie’s argument was that God is either not good, not omnipotent, or evil doesn’t exist. He argues: 1) a good being always eliminates evil as far as it can; and 2) there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. Therefore such a God cannot exist--it is a logically impossibility. He asks: 1) “Why couldn’t God have made people such that they always freely choose the good?” And, 2) “Why should God refrain from controlling evil wills?” [“Evil and Omnipotence” Mind, Vol. LXIV, No. 254, April 1955.]

Planting’s Free Will Defense seeks to answer this problem in his book, God Freedom, and Evil (Eerdmans, 1974). He argues that it is logically possible that there is a state of affairs in which humans are free and always do what is right. But he argues that God cannot bring about any possible world he wishes that contain these free agents with significant choice making capabilities. He introduces the concept of transworld depravity: it is logically possible that every free agent makes a wrong choice, and that everyone suffers from it. This is crucial for the free will defense to work. But the whole notion of free will has many problems. Plantinga also suggests that it is logically possible that fallen angels cause all of the natural evil in our world! According Richard Swinburne, such an explanation for natural evil is an “ad hoc hypothesis,” [The Existence of God (Oxford, 1979), p. 202], and as such, according to J.L. Mackie, “tends to disconfirm the hypothesis that there is a god.” [The Miracle of Theism (Oxford, 1982), p. 162)].

Most Christians claim the logical problem has been solved, but there are still versions of the logical problem of evil that have not been sufficiently answered. There are those written by Quentin Smith, “A Sound Logical Argument From Evil;” Hugh LaFollette, “Plantinga on the Free Will Defense;” Richard La Croix, “Unjustified Evil and God’s Choice” [all to be found in The Impossibility of God, eds. Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier (Prometheus Books, 2003)], Richard Gale’s On the Nature and Existence of God (Cambridge, 1991), pp. 98-178, and Graham Oppy’s book Arguing About Gods (Cambridge University Press, 2006), pp. 262-268, who argues at length for the thesis that Plantinga's treatment of the logical problem of evil is inconsistent in several respects. See also A.M. Weisberger’s critique of Plantinga’s free will defense in her book Suffering Belief (Peter Lang, 1999), pp. 163-184. Just because Plantinga answered Mackie's formulation, and just because Mackie admitted it, doesn't mean that all formulations have been answered, or that others agree with Mackie’s admission.

Christian people like to tout any successes they have since they have so few. But it’s propaganda, plain and simple, and based on out of date information. Besides, even if there is no logical disproof of the existence of God because of intense suffering in this world, that doesn’t say much at all. The reason is that there are very few, if any logical disproofs of anything.

Consider this deductive argument from Richard R. La Croix: “If God is the greatest possible good then if God had not created there would be nothing but the greatest possible good. And since God didn’t need to create at all, then the fact that he did create produced less than the greatest possible good.” “Perhaps God could not, for some perfectly plausible reason, create a world without evil, but then it would seem that he ought not to have created at all.” “Prior to creation God knew that if he created there would be evil, so being wholly good he ought not to have created.” [The Impossibility of God, pp.119-124]. After analyzing La Croix’s argument, A.M. Weisberger argued that “contrary to popular theistic opinion, the logical form of the argument is still alive and beating.” [Suffering Belief, 1999, p. 39].

Why did God create something in the first place? Theists will typically defend the goodness of God by arguing he could not have created a world without some suffering and evil. But what reason is there for creating anything at all? Theists typically respond by saying creation was an expression of God’s love. But wasn’t God already complete in love? If love must be expressed, then God needed to create, and that means he lacked something. Besides, a perfectly good God should not have created anything at all, if by creating something, anything, it also brought about so much intense suffering. By doing so he actually reduced the amount of total goodness there is, since God alone purportedly has absolute goodness.