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Section 6.2 When Bad Things Happen to Good People

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Section 6.2 When Bad Things Happen to Good People. God as Troublemaker. Thought Experiment: Rowe’s Fawn. Suppose that in a distant forest, lightning strikes a tree, causes a forest fire, and burns a fawn to death.

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thought experiment rowe s fawn
Thought Experiment: Rowe’s Fawn
  • Suppose that in a distant forest, lightning strikes a tree, causes a forest fire, and burns a fawn to death.
  • How can an all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good being allow such unnecessary suffering?
the argument from evil
The Argument from Evil
  • There is unnecessary evil in the world.
  • If there were an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being, there would be no unnecessary evil in the world.
  • Therefore, there is no all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good being.
  • A theory that seeks to justify belief in God in the face of all the evil in the world is known as a theodicy.
  • Many different theodicies have been proposed over the years, and all seek to defend the claim that the evil in the world is necessary.
the ontological defense
The Ontological Defense
  • According to the ontological defense, goodness cannot exist without evil, so it’s impossible for God to make a good world that didn’t contain evil.
  • Objection: This would be true if goodness were a type of evil, but it isn’t.
  • Just as redness can exist without other colors, goodness can exist without evil.
the knowledge defense
The Knowledge Defense
  • According to the knowledge defense, evil must exist in order for us to know good.
  • Objections:
    • It’s possible to know evil without experiencing it, for example, Adam and Eve.
    • There is far more evil in the world than is necessary to give us a knowledge of it.
thought probe adam and eve
Thought Probe:Adam and Eve
  • The forbidden apple contained the knowledge of right and wrong. So before Adam and Eve ate the apple, they couldn’t have known it was wrong to eat the apple.
  • But if they didn’t know it was wrong, was it right to punish them?
  • Even if it was right to punish them, was it right to punish all of mankind throughout eternity for what they did?
the free will defense
The Free Will Defense
  • According to the free will defense, evil is necessary for free will.
  • Objections:
    • It’s possible to have free will and not choose evil, e. g., God, Mary, Jesus.
    • The evil caused by humans (moral evil) is only one sort of evil. There is also evil caused by nature (natural evil).
thought probe wrath of god
Thought Probe:Wrath of God
  • One of the most poignant examples of natural evil is the tsunami (tidal wave) that occurred in the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, killing more than 200,000 people.
  • Some see this as evidence of God’s wrath.
  • Would an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful being allow 200,000 of his children to die in such a manner just to express his anger or teach people a lesson?
thought probe is there free will in heaven
Thought Probe: Is There Free Will in Heaven?
  • Heaven is supposed to be a place where there is no sin and thus no evil.
  • But according to the free will defense, there cannot be free will without evil.
  • So can there be free will in heaven?
the ideal humanity defense
The Ideal Humanity Defense
  • According to the ideal-humanity defense, evil is necessary to improve the human race.
  • Objections:
    • There is little evidence that humanity has improved.
    • This conflicts with the principle that humans are infinitely valuable and thus should not be used as means to an end.
the soul building defense
The Soul-Building Defense
  • According to the soul-building defense, evil is necessary to make us better people.
  • Objections:
    • Suffering often does not necessarily improve one’s character.
    • Forcing others to do something against their will, even if it will benefit them, is a violation of their rights.
    • There is much more evil than necessary.
thought probe karma
Thought Probe: Karma
  • According to the law of Karma, whatever evil we do in this life will come back to us in another life.
  • Hindus claim that Karma can explain natural evil—those who suffer evil at the hands of nature had it coming to them.
  • Is this a better solution to the problem of evil than those offered by Christians?
the finite god defense
The Finite God Defense
  • According to the finite God defense, evil exists because God lacks one of the traditional properties associated with Him such as being all-powerful or all-good.
  • Objections:
    • If God is not all-powerful, He cannot perform miracles.
    • If God is not all-powerful, He may not be worthy of worship.
thought probe god s goodness
Thought Probe: God’s Goodness
  • American revolutionary patriot Thomas Paine claims that the Bible is so filled with cruel and vindictive acts, “it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon rather than the Word of God.”
  • Is Paine’s assessment a fair one?