Biblical Christianity represents God as a figure who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and inherently benevolent. However, people also cannot deny that evil is a part of this world, and harmful events happen every day to millions of children and adults. Thus, atheists and believers continue to debate the reality of such an omnipotent and omnibenevolent being overseeing the world and his answer to evil. The main argument that aims to disprove the existence of God by questioning his omnipotent capabilities and omnibenevolent personality is viable in the sense of traditional Christian thought, although it does not entirely disprove all theological principles rooted in spirituality.
The Logical Problem
One of the common arguments that are used by the critics of Christian faith is the concept of evil. Here, evil incorporates both individual problems such as diseases, death, pain, and loss, and population or world problems such as slavery, crime, and hatred. The chain of arguments poses the qualities of God against harmful events. For example, one may ask if God has all knowledge and power in the world and can do no evil, why he would allow people to live through decades of persecution and discrimination.
While describing the atheistic point of view, Petrik mentions a question, “if an imperfect and vulnerable human being is capable of risking his very life to prevent evil, how can we possibly excuse a being without any vulnerabilities for not intervening” (4). Analyzing the ideas of Christianity that state that God does not have any flaws, one may see a contradiction in his coexistence with evil. Thus, it can be suggested that the logical problem poses a viable argument for dismantling theological thought.
The Free Will Defense
One of the religious counterarguments that attempt to explain the existence of God and evil is the free will defense. For example, Vardy mentions the Augustinian tradition that removes all responsibility from God and states that people with free will are accountable for all wrong decisions and actions that cause pain and destruction (15). Moreover, such believers also say that the current world is imperfect because people corrupted it, but God has created it to be perfect in the beginning.
This point of view, however, fails to acknowledge the supposed omnibenevolent nature of God, thus not explaining God’s actions after the humans have exercised their free will. According to Petrik, the limits of God’s omnipotence are tested by this defense (10). If God allows people to choose for themselves, it can be said that he also makes a decision not to employ his powers over them.
Here, nevertheless, another trait comes into question – God’s omnibenevolence should move him to respond to the problems of the world he has designed. Moreover, as God knows everything, this means that all problems of the past and the future have been perceived and recognized by God as permissible. Therefore, God not only chooses to give people the ability to make wrong choices but also does not attempt to improve the situation in any way. The main trait that is being questioned in these examples is benevolence – God may have the knowledge and the power but not use them if he is not omnibenevolent. Here, the acceptance that God’s intentions are clear to people creates the main problem of religious thought.
The argument of the logical problem presents a dilemma that both atheist and theological scholars debate to this day. It addresses the core belief of Christianity and provides real-life examples of tragedies that the human mind cannot explain through religion without accepting some contradictions. The central part of the Christian thought that comes into question is God’s absolute benevolence. In theory, the desire to eliminate evil, supported by omnipotence and omniscience, should lead to success. If one fully accepts this notion, then the idea of Christianity becomes filled with inconsistencies.
Petrik, James. Evil Beyond Belief. Routledge, 2016.
Vardy, Peter. The Puzzle of Evil. Routledge, 2015.