TIME. Spring 2019 | Page 16

God and Evil: An Inquiry Josiah Jordan Over the centuries, theist and atheist philosophers alike have converged upon a common point of belief that the funda- mental characteristics of God, whether God exists or not, are omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence. For one to describe some being that is omniscient and omnipotent but not omnibenevolent, or omnipotent and omnibenevolent but not omniscient, or any such combination that fails to recon- cile the coexistence of these three traits, would be for one to describe something other than God. And if it be the case that God is not simultaneously all-knowing, all-powerful, and all- good, we have good reason to believe that God does not, in that God cannot, exist. If we can, however, then perhaps we have one more reason to believe that such a God does. ment that attempts to reconcile the coexistence of God and evil, beginning with the claim that perhaps God simply cannot properly eliminate every evil state of affairs. In other words, it may be possible that there are things God is incapable of performing in spite of His omnipotence, yet, as it accords with His omnibenevolence. Take, for instance, the possibility that Jack suffers from a minor cut on his finger, while Jill takes great pleasure in Jack’s pain. If we conjoin Jack’s pain with Jill’s pleasure, we may consider the resulting conjunctive state of affairs to be good, rather than evil, since we would be amiss to take Jack’s subtle annoyance toward the cut as outweighing the great pleasure Jill receives from it. 1 For God to eliminate Jack’s pain is, effectively, to eliminate an outweighing good that results from it; and while this may seem trivial or even Alongside this conception of God, theists and atheists con- slippery, Plantinga asserts that the mere possibility that there verge at a common point of belief in the experienced reality be an outweighing good state of affairs that necessarily results of evil. However, it is at this same point of convergence where from some evil, which thus makes the conjunctive state of af- their commitments to the notion of God also diverge, for it is fairs good, suggests that God cannot eliminate every evil state the very undeniable reality of evil in the of affairs—namely, those from which out- For, when we allow God to be- world that shakes one’s confidence in the weighing goods come about. For, as Plant- co-reality of a God Who is truly all-know- come the third-person party... inga recognizes, it wouldn’t be a complete ing, all-powerful, and all-good. If God is our perspectives shift focus; subversion against the goodness of God indeed omniscient and omnipotent, would for while we see absolute for Him to not eliminate every evil but, it not then be within God’s power to prop- evil, God sees absolute good. rather, for Him to prevent outweighing erly eliminate every evil state of affairs? goods from occurring by eliminating those And if He doesn’t, would it not then be a complete contradic- necessary, concomitant evils. Despite how evil it is to strip tion against His omnibenevolence? That is, if God has fore- someone naked and whip them to a pulp and hammer nails knowledge of some evil that will occur, why would He not 1 Here, I am simply taking after the nature of an example Plantinga eliminate it unless He were not capable of doing so? And yet, uses and am aware that it is controversial and taps into a discussion if He were capable, why hasn’t He eliminated that evil? Given involving the ethics of taking pleasure in someone else’s pain. The purpose of this example is to show that Jill’s pleasure, in and of itself, all of the evils in this world, what does this suggest about God? In response to these pressing worries that have challenged the theistic worldview, 2017 Templeton Prize winner, Christian, and analytic philosopher Alvin Plantinga provides an argu- 16 Spring 2019 is a good; Jack’s pain is, in and of itself, an evil; and Jill’s pleasure as being caused by Jack’s pain doesn’t make that pleasure an evil, necessarily. Plantinga would argue that pleasure is a necessary good, and evil is a necessary evil, regardless of how each came about (i.e., pleasure in someone else’s pain is still pleasure, and though it can be perceived as evil, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s pleasure).