The Problem of Evil or the Goodness of God
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The problem of evil is supposed to challenge belief in God’s existence by calling attention to the wickedness and suffering in the world. God is wholly good and all-powerful. Thus, according to the argument, He would be both willing and able to put a stop to all evil. Evil exists, however; so, the argument concludes, a wholly good God must not exist. I examine different formulations of the argument from evil and defend their cogency against some of the contemporary responses to these arguments. On the other hand, the various arguments from evil depend on accounts of God’s goodness that turn out to be difficult to justify. Drawing from the work of Christopher Coope, I suggest another way of looking at the problem. If we piously believe that God exists and accept that we experience different varieties of evil, we must reject any belief about God’s goodness that in conjunction with our other beliefs entails an inconsistency. In this way, we can rule out accounts of God’s goodness that are incompatible with His omnipotent, omniscient character and with the testimony of creation. Using the testimony of creation, we may develop constraints on the ways we are able to understand God’s goodness. Any explanation of God’s goodness must take these constraints into account if it is to be able to explain the existence of the various kinds of evils we experience. If God exists then everything, including all instances of sin and suffering, are manifestations of God’s goodness. I argue that the accounts of John Hick and Peter van Inwagen fail to give satisfactory explanations for the ways in which sin and suffering are manifestations of God’s goodness, but that St. Augustine’s account of evil in On Free Choice of the Will successfully explains such evil. He argues that all evil is either sin or the punishment for sin, and that the existence of sinners and the punishment of sinners are each manifestations of God’s goodness. He believes that while we genuinely experience evil, evil as such lacks being and thus cannot count as evidence against God’s existence.
Reagan, Joshua Allen (2013). The Problem of Evil or the Goodness of God. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from