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Must a World Created by an All-Perfect being be Wholly Free of Evil?

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Abstract

The traditional problem of evil is of the form that the existence of any evil creates a problem in respect of the perfection of God — consider again the various statements of the problem of evil set out in Chapter 1 Yet, if the discussion in Chapter 2 establishes anything, it establishes that if there is a God, he did not create a world entirely free of evil. Thus our substantial question in this Chapter consists in examining the assumption underlying the statement of the traditional problem of evil, namely that there is at least a prima facie incompatibility between the existence of a perfect God and the existence of any evil. Our question may therefore be stated in the form, ‘Ought or must a perfect being make a world which is wholly good, wholly free of evil?’ Theists who discuss this problem usually answer it in the negative, citing by way of support of their contention, examples of men justifiably causing evil that good may come. A more fundamental line of questioning is that of M. B. Ahern who argues that it has not been shown, and that it cannot be shown, that there is an analytic ethical principle, which would provide the essential connecting link between the assertions: This world contains evil; this world was created by a wholly good, omnipotent, omniscient being: if a self-contradiction between the assertions is to be established.1 Ahern argues that those who have insisted that there is a problem have in fact set out ethical principles which involve explicit or implicit reference to the amount or kinds of evil, for example, to the evil being excessive and hence unjustified or avoidable, or they have simply set out as the connecting principle, false ethical principles which are synthetic propositions, and not ‘true’ analytic propositions as required in the detailed statement of the traditional problem. As Ahern supports his contention by reference to examples both of justified evils and of principles set out by those who claim that evil, any evil, is a real problem for the theist, we may first consider the argument from examples of justifiable evils.

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© Martinus Nijhoff, The Hague, Netherlands 1974

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