There are some topics on which people have been arguing for centuries and still cannot come to a consensus as there is no such evidence that no one would doubt. Some of those questions are God’s existence, the nature of evil, and the human soul. William Rowe and John Hick were philosophers and professors of religion and theology, and their ideas still excite the most inquiring minds. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the concept of suffering that results in achieving the best and the soul-making process.
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There is a statement that intense animal and human suffering always leads to greater goods. Rowe does not agree with this belief and discusses this and the idea of God in his book. To begin with, it is best to concentrate on a clear case of evil that is “intense human and animal suffering” as it constantly appears all over the world (Rowe, 2017, p. 54). “There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse” (Rowe, 2017, p. 57).
So, if God existed and cared about people’s well-being, he would undoubtedly stop and prevent any intense suffering. That is the main reason why the philosopher states that God does not exist and doubts that suffering always leads to greater goods.
I support Rowe because, for me, it seems unlikely that intense suffering, for example, the death of a child, may lead to something good. If the statement is true and pain does lead to greater goods, I still do not believe that God “could not have achieved at least some of those goods without permitting the instances of intense suffering that are supposedly related to them” (Rowe, 2017, p. 55). Of course, sometimes misery and pain can be like a test of a person’s endurance. However, I suppose that some goods may be achieved without suffering and sacrifices.
Hick believes that there are two kinds of evil: the moral and the nonmoral. Moral evil is a consequence of free will; nonmoral evil’s existence is an essential condition for the process of soul-making. According to Hick (2016), the soul-making process is the theory that people can develop their souls by living, becoming, and choosing good only if bad exists. So, God allows suffering and evil to develop people into pure and honest creatures capable of following his will, and the soul-making process is of such great value that it approves all the animal and human suffering involved in it.
I believe that Rowe’s criticism of the soul-making theory is rather convincing. He says that the strength and the amount of suffering and evil exceed what is needed for the soul-making process (Rowe, 2017). Also, nowadays, evil is some kind of fashion that is not related to people’s stage of development. Soul-making may happen without any bad experience; for instance, by learning from noble people, a person develops his or her moral qualities.
It is hard to disagree that all people strive for world without suffering. However, Hick (2016) states that personal growth is impossible in a place where people experience “a maximum of pleasure and a minimum of pain” (p. 308). The best human personality characteristics only appear provided that “there are obstacles to be overcome, tasks to be performed, goals to be achieved, problems to be solved, and dangers to be met” (Hick, 2016, p. 362).
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As for me, I can imagine a world with less pain and suffering, yet in which the soul-making process takes place. The reason for me to believe in it is that less suffering does not mean no suffering at all, so there still will be evil that is necessary for people’s development. Of course, humans are not able to stop suffering from death and natural disasters, but they can at least give up on causing each other’s pain and hurting the world around them. It will immediately reduce the suffering people experience but will not stop the soul-making process.
Hick, J. (2016). Evil and the God of love. Berlin, Germany: Springer.
Rowe, W. L. (2017). William L. Rowe on philosophy of religion: Selected writings. N. Trakakis (Ed.). Abingdon, England: Routledge.