PAPER NO. 7
THE PROBLEM OF EVIL
- The Problem of Evil is the deepest, most widespread objection to belief in God.
The Problem of Evil (POE) is: If God is all good and all powerful why is there evil (G · P · E)?
The POE is discussed in Philosophical Foundation (PF pp. 103-114).
- Responses: G · P · E is a contradiction, or an unknown, or may be easily knowable (ironic solution).
- Hume: Five solutions (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, parts 10-11) and response to each.
- The free-will solution and a four-fold response.
- The ironic solution: what is clear yet not seen; what we should expect but did not.
An application of Rational Presuppositionalism and the Principle of Clarity (PC) in answer to POE begins with agreement on definition of basic terms: the good, moral evil, and natural evil.
Part I: Basic Terms
The Good (the Highest Value, the End in Itself)
- The good for a being is according to the nature of that being.
- The good for man as a rational (thinking) being (using concepts, judgments and arguments / cognitive vs. non-cognitive) is the use of reason to the fullest.
Reason is used to understand the nature of things, which reveals the nature of God.
This assumes PC and the clarity of general revelation. Therefore, the good for man is the knowledge of God.
- The good for man as a rational being is cognitive, about understanding meaning (not a feeling: euphoria, ecstasy, bliss, joy or happiness. Happiness is the effect of possessing the good, and is itself not the good).
- The good is not the absence of natural evil; it is not a return to Eden or entry into Paradise, nor essentially a sensuous state of no pain or much pleasure.
- The good is not a beatific vision (a mystical, direct vision of God apart from creation and history), which is without cognitive content.
- The good for man as a rational being is the knowledge of God, revealed in creation and providence, known through the work of dominion given to all mankind as a corporate, cumulative and communal task, progressing from the Garden to the City of God (John 17:3; Isaiah 6:3, 11:9; Genesis 1:26; Revelation 21).
- Moral Evil
- Moral evil is an act which is contrary to the nature of man as a rational being.
- Evil is to neglect, avoid, resist or deny reason (NARD) vs. affirming the Principle of Clarity (PC): some things are clear; the basic things are clear; the basic things (about God and man and good and evil) are clear to reason. PC is opposed to skepticism and fideism, both of which lead to nihilism, the loss of all meaning.
- If there is no clarity, then there is no meaning and no morality. If there is no clarity, then there is no inexcusability. Full evil reaches to the denial of reason (Romans 1:20).
- Left to oneself, no one seeks God; no one understands; no one is righteous (Romans 3:10-11).
- Unbelief (worshiping the creation, e.g., the sun) is inexcusable (Psalm 19).
- If we know what is clear we can show what is clear. If we cannot show the inexcusability of unbelief, then we lack insight and therefore the authority to speak.
- The consequence of moral evil (NARD) is spiritual death: meaninglessness, boredom and guilt (which are inherent in sin; ontological, not imposed).
- Natural Evil
- Natural evil is suffering from circumstance, from outside of one’s own moral choice.
- Natural evil individually consists of toil and strife, and old age, sickness and physical death. Corporately it consists of war, famine and plague.
- Physical death is not original in creation—see the argument that God could–would–must–did create the world without natural evil vs. deism and theistic evolution (PF p. 135).
- Physical death is not inherent in moral evil.
- Physical death is imposed by God.
- Physical death is not arbitrarily imposed; it is imposed by God because of moral evil.
- Physical death, as imposed, is not punishment (penal/justice); spiritual death is justice.
Part II: Why is there Evil? Moral, Natural and Lasting Evil
- Why is there moral evil?
- Creation is God’s self-revelation: necessarily, intentionally and exclusively.
- Moral evil (unbelief) objectively deepens the revelation and subjectively obscures the revelation.
- If moral evil is removed abruptly the revelation is not deepened.
- If moral evil is not removed the revelation is not seen.
- Moral evil is removed gradually.
- Moral evil (unbelief) comes to full expression in world history in every kind and degree of admixture with belief.
- In a spiritual war, which is age-long and agonizing, good overcomes evil. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 11:9).
- Why is there natural evil?
- Natural evil is a call back from moral evil; it is a call to stop and think (vs. NARD).
Physical death is a call back from spiritual death.
- Natural evil is a silent, constant, inescapable, universal, and final call to stop and think; it is the last call back from the fullest degree of moral evil. After physical death there is no more call back; natural evil is removed when the call back ends.
- Natural evil serves to restrain, recall from and remove moral evil.
- Natural evil increases historically and corporately as moral evil increases.
- Natural evil as a call back is mercy. Natural evil as mercy requires special revelation (SR) from God to show how God can be both just and merciful at the same time to man in sin.
- Special revelation must be consistent with clear general revelation.
- Only Genesis 1-3 (creation–fall–redemption) is consistent with clear general revelation. Only what builds on Genesis 1-3 increases SR.
- Why is there lasting evil?
The popular concept of hell exacerbates the POE. There have been many attempts to mitigate the problem of lasting evil in the POE.
- Universalism claims that all are saved (including demons).
- Annihilation/soul sleep/pure consciousness/nirvana removes awareness of self and suffering.
- Purgatory/limbo/indulgences lessen the time and/or severity of suffering.
- Inclusivism includes all persons of good will, including explicit non-believers.
- Reincarnation continues innumerable times until enlightenment occurs.
- It is claimed there must be a second chance for those who never heard SR (or who heard a misrepresentation of it).
- Some desire no time limit for repentance. The door must always be open, regardless of any final judgment. Conversion, in this view, depends on man’s choice ultimately, not on God’s grace.
The biblical concept of sin and death transforms the problem of a final theodicy.
- In the day you eat you shall surely die; the wages of sin is death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23).
- There are two kinds of death, physical and spiritual death (Ephesian 2:1; John 11:25-26; Revelation 20:6, 14; 21:8).
- The wages of sin is spiritual death, not physical death, nor a literal lake of fire (maximal natural evil).
- Infinite/divine justice is ontological; it is present and inherent in sin, not future and imposed.
- There is no essential difference between spiritual death in this life and in the next life. In rational freedom there is never a conflict between want and can.
- The lake of fire is figurative for spiritual death. For man it is the second death. In general, it is destruction. Spiritual death for man is meaninglessness (darkness of mind), boredom (burning of desire), and guilt (torment of conscience—the worm that does not die), without end (the bottomless pit).
- Spiritual death deepens the revelation of God’s justice and mercy, forever.
Part III: The Ironic Solution
Man as a rational being in sin rejects the life of the light of reason (John 1:4-5). His understanding becomes darkened (the noetic effect). His thinking becomes increasingly meaningless and futile (Romans 1:20-22). He claims to know when he does not. Because he has shut his eyes he cannot see.
The ironic solution is clear. The problem is not resolved; rather, it is, ironically, dissolved:
- Because of all the evil in the world I cannot see how God is all good and all powerful.
- Because of all the unbelief in the world . . .
- Because of all the unbelief in me . . .
- Because I have neglected and avoided the use of reason . . .
- Because I have shut my eyes I cannot see what is clear about God.
© 2014 Logos Papers Press