No God? No problem.

07 Dec, 2021

There are multiple suggestions that the presence of ‘evil’ in the world proves the absence of a good God. The logical problem of evil states:

Here, I will demonstrate the falsity of this argument and consider how the truth of these presuppositions would prove God’s existence via the moral argument.

The third premise begins with evil exists. This question states that evil must exist by necessity, for the problem to exist. Mackie writes, “someone who holds that nothing is really evil… may have difficulty in explaining the point of his use of the words 'good' and 'evil'” (151).

If evil doesn’t exist, then God would not have the power to eliminate all evil, would not know evil, and would not wish to eliminate all evil. In order for the problem of evil to be a problem, evil must exist. How might we account for the existence of evil apart from God?

While this is not an exhaustive list, there are three common approaches to establishing that evil is actually an objective truth:

(1) Evil is decided by the consensus or convention of a society

(2) Evil is defined in terms of our genetic inclinations.

(3) Evil is transcendent, that is independent of minds.

Position (1) assumes that morals are created by minds (they are a human convention). However, if morals can be democratically decided, we are left with anthropocentric relativism. In other words, whatever society says goes. But does society ever get morality incorrect? There were periods of time when slavery was considered morally good by consensus. If evil is determined by our society's opinions it would not have been objectively evil at the time. Furthermore, there can be no conception of moral progress, as morality does not progress, as in getting better, but simply changes. One day slavery is wrong, the next it is right. But nothing got better it just changed. Position (1) assumes that society is incapable of being incorrect about morality.

Does God allow evil if a position (1) conception of morality is adhered to? In this view, society can democratically vote that God allows evil, and can even vote that God’s good actions are in fact evil. Such an idea, that morals determined by people are greater than morals determined by God is absurd. Humans intrinsically recognize evils; society does not get to choose them. Chattel slavery is wrong both 500 years ago as much as it is today, independent of what society thinks.

This brings most people to consider type (2) objectivism. This presents evil as pre-existing and as not created but recognized. This is founded on the base ‘fact’ - all life wants to survive, minimize suffering, and maximize pleasure. The question that challenges this claim is: why? Why are these universal desires of life, the basis for good and evil?

One way to answer the skeptic is to simply just assert that our desires demand that we say that survival is good and suffering evil. We must assume good and evil by appealing to universal desires.

We debunk this claim by asking how we are supposed to justify which universal desires translate into moral claims. The idea that we can translate universal desires into morality is simply an unjustifiable assertion. Let’s consider a universal desire: most creatures desire vengeance when wronged. Can we simply assert that vengeance is good? Why am I wrong if I do so? After all, we are just translating desires into morals without any valid criterion.

What if we are thinking about this too deeply, is it not obvious that suffering is evil? Well while it may seem so, without external validation, this is just an arbitrary assertion. While popular opinion is that suffering is evil, just asserting it does not make it so. We must justify why exactly suffering is evil.

This brings us to consider the third way evil can objectively exist, proposition (3). This is a morality that we can surely condemn God by, is one that transcends the minds of humans. Since wrong and right universally apply to everything they would surely apply to God, and therefore would give us the existence of evil, making the Problem of Evil a problem.

If morality transcends human life, there are two possible explanations for its transcendence. Morality can be a construction of the physical universe, or it can be beyond the universe, that is to transcend matter, space, and time itself. We can conclude that It is unlikely that morality is physical, we have no evidence for the good gene, the evil particle, and justice space dust. Instead, it is far more likely that the existence of evil is explained by an entity that transcends the universe. What entity transcends the universe, is responsible for defining good and evil, is responsible for and powerful enough to enforce it upon all things including itself, and is the most transcendent thing conceivable? You guessed it, we arrive at the theist's definition of God.

God is the only one capable of defining evil, in such a way that the problem of evil exists, and this posits a problem for the problem of evil. We must presuppose the existence of God for God to behave immorally. In other words, the problem of evil fails unless one can prove that God not preventing suffering is evil according to God’s own conception of morality. The Christian conception of God is that he is incapable of doing evil, and must do good. Therefore, God permitting evil is in fact a good thing and the problem of evil is not a compelling argument against the Christian worldview.

So, we have seen that in order to say God permits evil we need objective morality. The moral argument suggests that objective transcendent evil suggests the existence of God rather than disproves him. This paradox claims that if transcendent evil exists, then God likely exists. If transcendent evil does not exist then neither does the problem of evil. As Rolf Gruner stated, “[A theist] would be wiser still if they not only admitted evil but emphasized it as crucial. For it is no overstatement to say that their… [belief in God]…depends on it” (157).