Exploring the Problem of Evil (Pt. 4) – “Can God’s soveriegnty co-exist with man’s free will?”

I’m going to offer my syllogism for how God’s sovereignty and man’s free-will can co-exist. Now, this isn’t me trying to “philosophize” the issue, I’m simply taking my understanding of the Scripture (which is that both God is sovereign, knows the future, knows what actions we will do, but that we also have free will) and showing how my in my understanding God’s sovereignty and man’s free will don’t contradict each other. This is not an explanation of how I believe things work, because there is no possible way I can know how God functions outside of time, much less inside of time.

Continue reading


Exploring the Problem of Evil (Part 3) – How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

We now come to the point where we must explain why God would send people to Hell. Though we can see how it is logical that God is (a) wholly good, (b) omniscient, (c) omnipotent, (d) allows for free will, and yet (e) none of this is contradicted by evil, we can proceed onto the judgment of God.

Before doing so, we must explore (2) more fully. What does it mean to be good, much more, wholly good? In the classical understanding among both pagans and Christians (though Christians had a slightly different modification to “good”), moral goodness was defined as that which was just. Thus, justice was one of the highest virtues because within justice was goodness. Justice was defined as what kept things balanced, of what brought about positive results and what punished negative results.

Under the Christian view, “good” and “just” are those things that bring glory to God. Thus, if an action glorifies Him (most often by displaying love or pointing us back to Himself) then the action is good. Any action contrary to Him is evil, or “sin.” Thus, if God is good (2) and all powerful (1), and we accept good to mean:

(2’’) That which is good is whatever aligns with the character, nature, and will of God

Though this seems circular, it isn’t. The reason is that I view it as primarily basic. Every culture has a sense of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘evil’ and often those cultures have more overlap in their understandings than contradictions. Regardless, under the Christian definition ‘goodness’ is what proceeds forth from the nature of God and is in line with His nature.

Continue reading

Exploring the Problem of Evil (Pt. 2) – Why Does God Allow Evil to Exist?

Though I could point to Job and say, “God has His reasons,” this is my attempt to show logically how God does not contradict Himself in allowing evil. The previous post dealt with how a believe in a good God and evil do not contradict each other. This one will attempt to show how God can allow for evil without contradicting His nature.

We are then left with (7) in this topic, the latter part of (7), pondering what His good reason happens to be. Drawing off my response to (6), we can come up with (8):

(8) God, being good, will allow evil E to occur iff (if and only if) E will bring about good G

Of course, there is an underlying assumption under this, which we can pull from my explanation of (6) and say

(8’) Given that some evil E contains an outweighing good G it is not logically possible for God to eliminate E without likewise eliminating G, by proxy eliminating Himself.

My justification for the last part of (8’) is that if God is good any elimination of good is an elimination of Himself. My definition of goodness isn’t pantheistic, but instead that when we see a good action, we know that somewhere down the line God is behind that good action. Therefore, to eliminate the good action or prevent its actualization, God would have to prevent His own nature from intervening within the world.

Regardless, we see from both (8) and (8’) that God will allow E if He knows that it will produce G and that G will, at some point, outweigh E.

So we’re left with pondering about the cause of evil. Some would propose

(9) God authored evil – caused it – even in a simplest form in order to bring His plan about

On the surface, this might make sense, but is it necessarily true? For one, can both (9) and (2) coexist without contradicting each other? If God is wholly good, can He likewise cause evil?

I would submit that (9) and (2) are a necessary contradiction if we accept Augustine’s definition of evil, that is, “Evil is not a substance, but instead is the absence of a substance, namely Good.” If (2) is true and (2′) is likewise true, then (9) cannot also be true. God would have to cause the absence of Himself – though He can allow the absence of Himself, He cannot likewise be the cause of that absence.

If a Being B causes an absence A of event e with e being caused by B, then A forms a necessary contradiction between B and e. B would both be causing e and A to simultaneously occur, the problem is that e exists and A is the absence of e. B would, therefore, be causing both the existence and non-existence, or presence and non-presence of e, which violates the law of non-contradiction.

Thus, (9) is a contradiction to the syllogistic grouping if (2) and (2′) are both true. I am not necessarily arguing for the truth of (2) and (2′), but merely trying to show the logic of how both a good God and evil can exist in the same world. In light of this, (10) does not fit with the syllogism provided (likewise, given the above analysis, if one wanted to accept that (9) were true, one would have to do away with at least (2), changing the entire nature of the syllogism).

On a more theological note, (9) doesn’t work with the syllogism above and since it could be argued that syllogism A (composed of {(1), (2)(2′), (3), (4c), (5), (7)}) is Scripturally based, (10) would likewise seem to be a contradiction of Scripture as well.

We are still left wondering what caused the absence of good. This is where free will does come into play. If we accept (7) and (8)(8’) then we can come to

(10) A free agent must be allowed to cause evil

The agent must be allowed to have significantly free will, capable of making a significant moral action. In light of this, God’s creation of Lucifer and humanity, knowing they would fall, does not violate (1) or (2)(2’). Following the logic, we come to see that (10) is done in order to allow for (7), that because God has a plan and a good reason for allowing evil, we can allow for (10) without worry. So long as (8)(8’) is true, allowing (10) doesn’t negate God.

For a more detailed explanation of (10), please read my essay The Metaphysical Necessity of Evil.

Exploring the problem of evil (Part 1) – Can God and Evil Exist?

I was recently presented with Hume’s famous argument against God concerning evil. The following is my reply. I offer great apologies to Alvin Plantinga as the thought process, the exact wording of the syllogisms, and the argument come from his book God, Freedom, and Evil (though, to be fair, his arguments are really the analytical renderings of Augustine’s City of God). Here was my response to the person:

If God is willing to prevent evil, but not able, then he is not omnipotent.

If he is able, but not willing, then he is malevolent.

If he is both willing and able, then whence cometh evil?

If he is neither willing nor able, then why call him God?

If we grant the first and second premise, then we must deal with the third premise, which is:

(1) God is omnipotent

(2) God is wholly good

(3) Evil exists (why?)

The problem with your syllogism is that, taken prima facie, it’s not contradictory. There is no reason to assume that just because God is willing to stop evil that He will actualize His capability to stop evil. Rather, there are two other implied syllogisms in your argument:

(4) A good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can


(5) There are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do.

What do we mean when we say that God is omnipotent though? Does God’s omnipotence mean that He can create square holes, married bachelors, or worlds both do and do not exist? Or does it simply mean that He has unlimited power on all things that are within reason (given that reason is part of His nature)? That is, does it merely mean that He has all power within things that could actually exist? Most theologians would go with the latter understanding of omnipotence. If God wanted to create a unicorn or make it to where a rainbow turned into a pot of gold, then He certainly could because, though these things do not exist, it is not illogical for them to exist. He could not, however, create a world in which He doesn’t exist, or negate His own nature, due to the rationality present within His nature. In short, God follows His own nature, meaning He cannot contradict Himself. Thus, omnipotence merely means that there are no nonlogical limits to what God can do. Thus, our new proposition is:

(5) There are no nonlogical limits to what an omnipotent being can do.

Now, is it necessarily true that if a being is both willing and able to end an evil act that the being will always do so? In short, no. Assume that your friend John has capsized his boat in the Atlantic and doesn’t have a life preserver. He’ll probably only be able to stay afloat for thirty minutes. You have a boat that is fully fueled and you can have it out to John in less than 20 minutes. His plight is certainly an evil one, one that you are capable of eliminating and, if you knew about it, certainly willing to eliminate. But you don’t eliminate it. Does this make you evil? Continue reading