The issue of whether an omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent God exists amidst all the evil that is being experienced in the world has remained to be one of the highly debatable issues among various stakeholders of religious based education. Some people may argue that such a God would logically be incompatible with the world and, therefore, he does not exist. This argument is supported by the fact that such a God would prevent evil if indeed, he existed.
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This is identified as the logical problem of evil. There also exists the evidential problem of evil where proponents argue that there exists a lot of scientific evidence of evil, while the existence of God can only be explained by the assumption that greater good permits some evil while at the same time reducing the evil and suffering in the world, but then there is no evidence of the existence of such a greater good or a supernatural being with such a character hence there is no God1.
There is also the argument that perceiving existence through logic or evidence is an assumption, and one should identify the existence of evil and that of God by making as few assumptions as possible. This is because the assumption that for something to exist, some evidence must be available negates the hypothesis that there is the existence of powers that are above human comprehension. This is seen where evil is identified to occur naturally and evidence of its cause does not exist while the consequences can be seen.
The nature of evil can be divided into two, which are moral evil, and natural evil. Moral evil is the result of an action or failure to act by a person2. A good example is a murder, which is brought about by an action done by a human being; hence it is a moral evil. In this case, the proximate cause applies where cases such as death by poisoning may be identified to have been caused by the person who gave out the poison and not by the natural action of the poison on the victim’s body. In cases where people starve to death while the governments are not willing to distribute emergency relief food, the evil here is identified as moral since the officials holding the relief food are the cause of the deaths and not the famine.
On the other hand, natural evil is not a result of any action by man. It is usually out of the control of human beings and there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. An example is where a person undergoes a slow and painful death due to an incurable disease such as cancer.
Theodicy must be internally consistent and also defend the internal consistency of the argument on the existence of evil. In this case, the existence of moral sin lies squarely with the choices made by human beings who are often motivated by selfish needs. On the other hand, natural sin is a manifestation of nature’s ability over human ability. Moral evil attracts punishment from God for those who commit it, while natural evil attracts blessings from God for those who make a positive impact on the lives of those who are suffering.
Proponents of theodicy argue that the existence of either natural evil or moral evil does not negate the existence of God3. One of the arguments presented is that moral evil is a direct result of the free will that God has advanced to human beings. It is then upon man to practice this free will to create evil or to reduce it. This is the case for those who choose to kill others. There are those like the police and the doctors who work towards reducing human suffering by stopping those who choose to commit murder or treat those suffering from diseases.
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On the other, hand some argue that evil exists out of a greater good that God has foreseen. Proponents of this philosophy identify natural evil to be a way through which God manifests the good in humanity. An example is where people come together to alleviate the suffering that results after a natural disaster such as an earthquake or a hurricane. However, the problem lies in the suffering that such an occurrence brings which in itself is identified as the lack of good in the world4.
The argument, therefore, arises on whether humanity has to suffer through evil for there to be good especially if God exists. In this case, some people may identify this as a weak excuse and argue that there is no God. It is, therefore, impossible for a solid argument on the existence of God especially the belief in him, without actually attacking God.
Drees, Willem. Is nature ever evil? Religion, science, and value. London; Routledge, 2003.
Elwell, Walter. Evangelical dictionary of theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2001.
Towns, Elmer. Theology for today. Upper Saddle River: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2008.
- Elmer, Towns. Theology for today. Upper Saddle River: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2008. 73.
- Willem, Drees. Is nature ever evil? Religion, science, and value. London; Routledge, 2003. 38.
- Walter, Elwell. Evangelical dictionary of theology. Grand Rapids Michigan: Baker Academic, 2001. 65.
- Willem, Drees. Is nature ever evil? Religion, science, and value. London; Routledge, 2003. 112.