The problem of evil is the question of how to reconcile the existence of evil and suffering with an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God. Or as the first known presentation by the Greek philosopher Epicurus puts it: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then from whence comes evil?"
Responses to the problem have traditionally been discussed under the heading of theodicy. Besides philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is also important to the field of theology and ethics.
The problem of evil is often formulated in two forms: the logical problem of evil and the evidential problem of evil. The logical form of the argument tries to show a logical impossibility in the coexistence of God and evil, while the evidential form tries to show that given the evil in the world, it is improbable that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good God. The problem of evil has been extended to non-human life forms, to include animal suffering from natural evils and human cruelty against them.
Responses to various versions of the problem of evil, meanwhile, come in three forms: refutations, defenses, and theodicies. A wide range of responses have been made against these arguments. There are also many discussions of evil and associated problems in other philosophical fields, such as secular ethics, and evolutionary ethics. But as usually understood, the "problem of evil" is posed in a theological context.
The problem of evil acutely applies to monotheistic religions such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism that believe in a monotheistic God who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent; but the question of "why does evil exist?" has also been studied in religions that are non-theistic or polytheistic, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism.
1. Formulation and detailed arguments
The problem of evil refers to the challenge of reconciling belief in an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient God, with the existence of evil and suffering in the world. The problem may be described either experientially or theoretically. The experiential problem is the difficulty in believing in a concept of a loving God when confronted by evil and suffering in the real world, such as from epidemics, or wars, or murder, or natural disasters where innocent people become victims. The problem of evil is also a theoretical one, usually described and studied by religion scholars in two varieties: the logical problem and the evidential problem.
1.1. Formulation and detailed arguments Logical problem of evil
Originating with Greek philosopher Epicurus, the logical argument from evil is as follows:
If an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god exists, then evil does not.
Therefore, an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient god does not exist.
There is evil in the world.
This argument is of the form modus tollens, and is logically valid: If its premises are true, the conclusion follows of necessity. To show that the first premise is plausible, subsequent versions tend to expand on it, such as this modern example:
If there exists an omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient God, then no evil exists.
A being who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, who is able to prevent that evil from coming into existence, and who wants to do so, would prevent the existence of that evil.
An omnipotent being has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.
An omnibenevolent being would want to prevent all evils.
Evil exists logical contradiction.
An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence, and knows every way in which those evils could be prevented.
God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient.
Both of these arguments are understood to be presenting two forms of the logical problem of evil. They attempt to show that the assumed propositions lead to a logical contradiction and therefore cannot all be correct. Most philosophical debate has focused on the propositions stating that God cannot exist with, or would want to prevent, all evils premises 4 and 6, with defenders of theism for example, Leibniz arguing that God could very well exist with and allow evil in order to achieve a greater good.
If God lacks any one of these qualities - omniscience, omnipotence, or omnibenevolence - then the logical problem of evil can be resolved. Process theology and open theism are other positions that limit Gods omnipotence or omniscience as defined in traditional theology. Dystheism is the belief that God is not wholly good.
1.2. Formulation and detailed arguments Evidential problem of evil
The evidential problem of evil also referred to as the probabilistic or inductive version of the problem seeks to show that the existence of evil, although logically consistent with the existence of God, counts against or lowers the probability of the truth of theism. As an example, a critic of Plantingas idea of "a mighty nonhuman spirit" causing natural evils may concede that the existence of such a being is not logically impossible but argue that due to lacking scientific evidence for its existence this is very unlikely and thus it is an unconvincing explanation for the presence of natural evils. Both absolute versions and relative versions of the evidential problems of evil are presented below.
A version by William L. Rowe:
An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
Therefore There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.
There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.
Another by Paul Draper:
Gratuitous evils exist.
The hypothesis of indifference, i.e., that if there are supernatural beings they are indifferent to gratuitous evils, is a better explanation for 1 than theism.
Therefore, evidence prefers that no god, as commonly understood by theists, exists.
1.3. Formulation and detailed arguments Problem of evil and animal suffering
The problem of evil has also been extended beyond human suffering, to include suffering of animals from cruelty, disease and evil. One version of this problem includes animal suffering from natural evil, such as the violence and fear faced by animals from predators, natural disasters, over the history of evolution. This is also referred to as the Darwinian problem of evil, after Charles Darwin who expressed it as follows:
the sufferings of millions of the lower animals throughout almost endless time are apparently irreconcilable with the existence of a creator of unbounded goodness.
The second version of the problem of evil applied to animals, and avoidable suffering experienced by them, is one caused by some human beings, such as from animal cruelty or when they are shot or slaughtered. This version of the problem of evil has been used by scholars including John Hick to counter the responses and defenses to the problem of evil such as suffering being a means to perfect the morals and greater good because animals are innocent, helpless, amoral but sentient victims. Scholar Michael Almeida said this was "perhaps the most serious and difficult" version of the problem of evil. The problem of evil in the context of animal suffering, states Almeida, can be stated as:
Necessarily, God can actualize an evolutionary perfect world only if God does actualize an evolutionary perfect world.
God is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good.
Necessarily, God actualized an evolutionary perfect world.
Necessarily, God can actualize an evolutionary perfect world.
The evil of extensive animal suffering exists.
If #1 is true then either #2 or #5 is true, but not both. This is a contradiction, so #1 is not true.
2. Responses, defences and theodicies
Responses to the problem of evil have occasionally been classified as defences or theodicies; however, authors disagree on the exact definitions. Generally, a defense against the problem of evil may refer to attempts to defuse the logical problem of evil by showing that there is no logical incompatibility between the existence of evil and the existence of God. This task does not require the identification of a plausible explanation of evil, and is successful if the explanation provided shows that the existence of God and the existence of evil are logically compatible. It need not even be true, since a false though coherent explanation would be sufficient to show logical compatibility.
A theodicy, on the other hand, is more ambitious, since it attempts to provide a plausible justification - a morally or philosophically sufficient reason - for the existence of evil and thereby rebut the "evidential" argument from evil. Richard Swinburne maintains that it does not make sense to assume there are greater goods that justify the evils presence in the world unless we know what they are - without knowledge of what the greater goods could be, one cannot have a successful theodicy. Thus, some authors see arguments appealing to demons or the fall of man as indeed logically possible, but not very plausible given our knowledge about the world, and so see those arguments as providing defences but not good theodicies.
The above argument is set against numerous versions of the problem of evil that have been formulated. These versions have included philosophical and theological formulations.
2.1. Responses, defences and theodicies Skeptical theism
Skeptical theism defends the problem of evil by asserting that God allows an evil to happen in order to prevent a greater evil or to encourage a response that will lead to a greater good. Thus a rape or a murder of an innocent child is defended as having a Gods purpose that a human being may not comprehend, but which may lead to lesser evil or greater good. This is called skeptical theism because the argument aims to encourage self-skepticism, either by trying to rationalize Gods possible hidden motives, or by trying to explain it as a limitation of human ability to know. The greater good defense is more often argued in religious studies in response to the evidential version of the problem of evil, while the free will defense is usually discussed in the context of the logical version. Most scholars criticize the skeptical theism defense as "devaluing the suffering" and not addressing the premise that God is all-benevolent and should be able to stop all suffering and evil, rather than play a balancing act.
2.2. Responses, defences and theodicies "Greater good" responses
The omnipotence paradoxes, where evil persists in the presence of an all powerful God, raise questions as to the nature of Gods omnipotence. There is the further question of how an interference would negate and subjugate the concept of free will, or in other words result in a totalitarian system that creates a lack of freedom. Some solutions propose that omnipotence does not require the ability to actualize the logically impossible. "Greater good" responses to the problem make use of this insight by arguing for the existence of goods of great value which God cannot actualize without also permitting evil, and thus that there are evils he cannot be expected to prevent despite being omnipotent. Among the most popular versions of the "greater good" response are appeals to the apologetics of free will. Theologians will argue that since no one can fully understand Gods ultimate plan, no one can assume that evil actions do not have some sort of greater purpose. Therefore, they say nature of evil has a necessary role to play in Gods plan for a better world.
2.3. Responses, defences and theodicies Free will
The problem of evil is sometimes explained as a consequence of free will, an ability granted by God. Free will is both a source of good and of evil, and with free will also comes the potential for abuse, as when individuals act immorally. People with free will "decide to cause suffering and act in other evil ways", states Boyd, and it is they who make that choice, not God. Further, the free will argument asserts that it would be logically inconsistent for God to prevent evil by coercion and curtailing free will, because that would no longer be free will.
Critics of the free will response have questioned whether it accounts for the degree of evil seen in this world. One point in this regard is that while the value of free will may be thought sufficient to counterbalance minor evils, it is less obvious that it outweighs the negative attributes of evils such as rape and murder. Particularly egregious cases known as horrendous evils, which "." ridicule, humiliation, abandonment, beating, torture, despair, and death.
Theologian Jurgen Moltmann asserts the "passibility" of God saying "A God who cannot suffer cannot love." Philosopher and Christian priest Marilyn McCord Adams offers a theodicy of "redemptive suffering" which proposes that innocent suffering shows the "transformative power of redemption" rather than that God is not omnibenevolent.
2.4. Responses, defences and theodicies Afterlife
Thomas Aquinas suggested the afterlife theodicy to address the problem of evil and to justify the existence of evil. The premise behind this theodicy is that the afterlife is unending, human life is short, and God allows evil and suffering in order to judge and grant everlasting heaven or hell based on human moral actions and human suffering. Aquinas says that the afterlife is the greater good that justifies the evil and suffering in current life. Christian author Randy Alcorn argues that the joys of heaven will compensate for the sufferings on earth.
Stephen Maitzen has called this the "Heaven Swamps Everything" theodicy, and argues that it is false because it conflates compensation and justification.
A second objection to the afterlife theodicy is that it does not reconcile the suffering of small babies and innocent children from diseases, abuse, and injury in war or terror attacks, since "human moral actions" are not to be expected from babies and uneducated/mentored children. Similarly, moral actions and the concept of choice do not apply to the problem of evil applied to animal suffering caused by natural evil or the actions of human beings.
2.5. Responses, defences and theodicies Deny evil exists
In the second century, Christian theologists attempted to reconcile the problem of evil with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God, by denying that evil exists. Among these theologians, Clement of Alexandria offered several theodicies, of which one was called "privation theory of evil" which was adopted thereafter. The other is a more modern version of "deny evil", suggested by Christian Science, wherein the perception of evil is described as a form of illusion.
2.6. Responses, defences and theodicies Evil as the absence of good privation theory
The early version of "deny evil" is called the "privation theory of evil", so named because it described evil as a form of "lack, loss or privation". One of the earliest proponents of this theory was the 2nd-century Clement of Alexandria, who according to Joseph Kelly, stated that "since God is completely good, he could not have created evil; but if God did not create evil, then it cannot exist". Evil, according to Clement, does not exist as a positive, but exists as a negative or as a "lack of good". Clements idea was criticised for its inability to explain suffering in the world, if evil did not exist. He was also pressed by Gnostics scholars with the question as to why God did not create creatures that "did not lack the good". Clement attempted to answer these questions ontologically through dualism, an idea found in the Platonic school, that is by presenting two realities, one of God and Truth, another of human and perceived experience.
The fifth-century theologian Augustine of Hippo adopted the privation theory, and in his Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love, maintained that evil exists only as "absence of the good", that vices are nothing but the privations of natural good. Evil is not a substance, states Augustine, it is nothing more than "loss of good". God does not participate in evil, God is perfection, His creation is perfection, stated Augustine. According to the privation theory, it is the absence of the good, that explains sin and moral evil.
This view has been criticized as merely substituting definition, of evil with "loss of good", of "problem of evil and suffering" with the "problem of loss of good and suffering", but it neither addresses the issue from the theoretical point of view nor from the experiential point of view. Scholars who criticize the privation theory state that murder, rape, terror, pain and suffering are real life events for the victim, and cannot be denied as mere "lack of good". Augustine, states Pereira, accepted suffering exists and was aware that the privation theory was not a solution to the problem of evil.
2.7. Responses, defences and theodicies Evil as illusory
An alternative modern version of the privation theory is by Christian Science, which asserts that evils such as suffering and disease only appear to be real, but in truth are illusions, and in reality evil does not exist. The theologists of Christian Science, states Stephen Gottschalk, posit that the Spirit is of infinite might, mortal human beings fail to grasp this and focus instead on evil and suffering that have no real existence as "a power, person or principle opposed to God".
The illusion version of privation theory theodicy has been critiqued for denying the reality of crimes, wars, terror, sickness, injury, death, suffering and pain to the victim. Further, adds Millard Erickson, the illusion argument merely shifts the problem to a new problem, as to why God would create this "illusion" of crimes, wars, terror, sickness, injury, death, suffering and pain; and why God does not stop this "illusion".
2.8. Responses, defences and theodicies Turning the tables
A different approach to the problem of evil is to turn the tables by suggesting that any argument from evil is self-refuting, in that its conclusion would necessitate the falsity of one of its premises. One response - called the defensive response - has been to assert the opposite, and to point out that the assertion "evil exists" implies an ethical standard against which moral value is determined, and then to argue that this standard implies the existence of God.
The standard criticism of this view is that an argument from evil is not necessarily a presentation of the views of its proponent, but is instead intended to show how premises which the theist is inclined to believe lead them to the conclusion that God does not exist. A second criticism is that the existence of evil can be inferred from the suffering of its victims, rather than by the actions of the evil actor, so no "ethical standard" is implied. This argument was expounded upon by David Hume.
2.9. Responses, defences and theodicies Hidden reasons
A variant of above defenses is that the problem of evil is derived from probability judgments since they rest on the claim that, even after careful reflection, one can see no good reason for co-existence of God and of evil. The inference from this claim to the general statement that there exists unnecessary evil is inductive in nature and it is this inductive step that sets the evidential argument apart from the logical argument.
The hidden reasons defense asserts that there exists the logical possibility of hidden or unknown reasons for the existence of evil along with the existence of an almighty, all-knowing, all-benevolent, all-powerful God. Not knowing the reason does not necessarily mean that the reason does not exist. This argument has been challenged with the assertion that the hidden reasons premise is as plausible as the premise that God does not exist or is not "an almighty, all-knowing, all-benevolent, all-powerful". Similarly, for every hidden argument that completely or partially justifies observed evils it is equally likely that there is a hidden argument that actually makes the observed evils worse than they appear without hidden arguments, or that the hidden reasons may result in additional contradictions. As such, from an inductive viewpoint hidden arguments will neutralize one another.
A sub-variant of the "hidden reasons" defense is called the "PHOG" - profoundly hidden outweighing goods - defense. The PHOG defense, states Bryan Frances, not only leaves the co-existence of God and human suffering unanswered, but raises questions about why animals and other life forms have to suffer from natural evil, or from abuse animal slaughter, animal cruelty by some human beings, where hidden moral lessons, hidden social good and such hidden reasons to reconcile God with the problem of evil do not apply.
2.10. Responses, defences and theodicies Previous lives and karma
The theory of karma refers to the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual cause influence the future of that individual effect. The problem of evil, in the context of karma, has been long discussed in Indian religions including Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, both in its theistic and non-theistic schools; for example, in Uttara Mīmāmsā Sutras Book 2 Chapter 1; the 8th-century arguments by Adi Sankara in Brahmasutrabhasya where he posits that God cannot reasonably be the cause of the world because there exists moral evil, inequality, cruelty and suffering in the world; and the 11th-century theodicy discussion by Ramanuja in Sribhasya.
Many Indian religions place greater emphasis on developing the karma principle for first cause and innate justice with Man as focus, rather than developing religious principles with the nature and powers of God and divine judgment as focus. Karma theory of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism is not static, but dynamic wherein livings beings with intent or without intent, but with words and actions continuously create new karma, and it is this that they believe to be in part the source of good or evil in the world. These religions also believe that past lives or past actions in current life create current circumstances, which also contributes to either. Other scholars suggest that nontheistic Indian religious traditions do not assume an omnibenevolent creator, and some theistic schools do not define or characterize their gods as monotheistic Western religions do and the deities have colorful, complex personalities; the Indian deities are personal and cosmic facilitators, and in some schools conceptualized like Platos Demiurge. Therefore, the problem of theodicy in many schools of major Indian religions is not significant, or at least is of a different nature than in Western religions.
According to Arthur Herman, karma-transmigration theory solves all three historical formulations to the problem of evil while acknowledging the theodicy insights of Sankara and Ramanuja.
2.11. Responses, defences and theodicies Pandeism
Pandeism is a modern theory that unites deism and pantheism, and asserts that God created the universe but during creation became the universe. In pandeism, God is no superintending, heavenly power, capable of hourly intervention into earthly affairs. No longer existing "above," God cannot intervene from above and cannot be blamed for failing to do so. God, in pandeism, was omnipotent and omnibenevolent, but in the form of universe is no longer omnipotent, omnibenevolent.
2.12. Responses, defences and theodicies Evil God Challenge
One resolution to the problem of evil is that God is not good. The Evil God Challenge thought experiment explores whether the hypothesis that God might be evil has symmetrical consequences to a good God, and whether it is more likely that God is good, evil, or non-existent.
3.1. Monotheistic religions The Bible
Sociologist Walter Brueggemann says theodicy is "a constant concern of the entire Bible" and needs to "include the category of social evil as well as moral, natural physical and religious evil". There is general agreement among Bible scholars that the Bible "does not admit of a singular perspective on evil.Instead we encounter a variety of perspectives. Consequently always has the last word." Gods commitment to the greater good is assumed in all cases.
3.2. Monotheistic religions Judgment Day
John Joseph Haldanes Wittgenstinian-Thomistic account of concept formation and Martin Heideggers observation of temporalitys thrown nature imply that Gods act of creation and Gods act of judgment are the same act. Gods condemnation of evil is subsequently believed to be executed and expressed in his created world; a judgement that is unstoppable due to Gods all powerful will; a constant and eternal judgement that becomes announced and communicated to other people on Judgment Day. In this explanation, Gods condemnation of evil is declared to be a good judgement.
3.3. Monotheistic religions Irenaean theodicy
Irenaean theodicy, posited by Irenaeus 2nd century CE–c. 202, has been reformulated by John Hick. It holds that one cannot achieve moral goodness or love for God if there is no evil and suffering in the world. Evil is soul-making and leads one to be truly moral and close to God. God created an epistemic distance such that God is not immediately knowable so that we may strive to know him and by doing so become truly good. Evil is a means to good for three main reasons:
Character building – Evil offers the opportunity to grow morally. "We would never learn the art of goodness in a world designed as a hedonistic paradise" Richard Swinburne
Means of knowledge – Hunger leads to pain, and causes a desire to feed. Knowledge of pain prompts humans to seek to help others in pain.
Predictable environment – The world runs to a series of natural laws. These are independent of any inhabitants of the universe. Natural Evil only occurs when these natural laws conflict with our own perceived needs. This is not immoral in any way
3.4. Monotheistic religions Augustinian theodicy
St Augustine of Hippo 354–430 CE in his Augustinian theodicy, as presented in John Hicks book Evil and the God of Love, focuses on the Genesis story that essentially dictates that God created the world and that it was good; evil is merely a consequence of the fall of man The story of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve disobeyed God and caused inherent sin for man. Augustine stated that natural evil present in the natural world such as natural disasters etc. is caused by fallen angels, whereas moral evil caused by the will of human beings is as a result of man having become estranged from God and choosing to deviate from his chosen path. Augustine argued that God could not have created evil in the world, as it was created good, and that all notions of evil are simply a deviation or privation of goodness. Evil cannot be a separate and unique substance. For example, Blindness is not a separate entity, but is merely a lack or privation of sight. Thus the Augustinian theodicist would argue that the problem of evil and suffering is void because God did not create evil; it was man who chose to deviate from the path of perfect goodness.
3.5. Monotheistic religions St. Thomas Aquinas
Saint Thomas systematized the Augustinian conception of evil, supplementing it with his own musings. Evil, according to St. Thomas, is a privation, or the absence of some good which belongs properly to the nature of the creature. There is therefore no positive source of evil, corresponding to the greater good, which is God; evil being not real but rational - i.e. it exists not as an objective fact, but as a subjective conception; things are evil not in themselves, but by reason of their relation to other things or persons. All realities are in themselves good; they produce bad results only incidentally; and consequently the ultimate cause of evil is fundamentally good, as well as the objects in which evil is found.
3.6. Monotheistic religions Luther and Calvin
Both Luther and Calvin explained evil as a consequence of the fall of man and the original sin. Calvin, however, held to the belief in predestination and omnipotence, the fall is part of Gods plan. Luther saw evil and original sin as an inheritance from Adam and Eve, passed on to all mankind from their conception and bound the will of man to serving sin, which Gods just nature allowed as consequence for their distrust, though God planned mankinds redemption through Jesus Christ. Ultimately humans may not be able to understand and explain this plan.
3.7. Monotheistic religions Liberal Christianity
Some modern liberal Christians, including French Calvinist theologian Andre Gounelle and Pastor Marc Pernot of LOratoire du Louvre, believe that God is not omnipotent, and that the Bible only describes God as "almighty" in passages concerning the End Times.
3.8. Monotheistic religions Christian Science
Christian Science views evil as having no ultimate reality and as being due to false beliefs, consciously or unconsciously held. Evils such as illness and death may be banished by correct understanding. This view has been questioned, aside from the general criticisms of the concept of evil as an illusion discussed earlier, since the presumably correct understanding by Christian Science members, including the founder, has not prevented illness and death. However, Christian Scientists believe that the many instances of spiritual healing as recounted e.g. in the Christian Science periodicals and in the textbook Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy are anecdotal evidence of the correctness of the teaching of the unreality of evil. According to one author, the denial by Christian Scientists that evil ultimately exists neatly solves the problem of evil; however, most people cannot accept that solution
3.9. Monotheistic religions Jehovahs Witnesses
Jehovahs Witnesses believe that Satan is the original cause of evil. Though once a perfect angel, Satan developed feelings of self-importance and craved worship, and eventually challenged Gods right to rule. Satan caused Adam and Eve to disobey God, and humanity subsequently became participants in a challenge involving the competing claims of Jehovah and Satan to universal sovereignty. Other angels who sided with Satan became demons.
Gods subsequent tolerance of evil is explained in part by the value of free will. But Jehovahs Witnesses also hold that this period of suffering is one of non-interference from God, which serves to demonstrate that Jehovahs "right to rule" is both correct and in the best interests of all intelligent beings, settling the "issue of universal sovereignty". Further, it gives individual humans the opportunity to show their willingness to submit to Gods rulership.
At some future time known to him, God will consider his right to universal sovereignty to have been settled for all time. The reconciliation of "faithful" humankind will have been accomplished through Christ, and nonconforming humans and demons will have been destroyed. Thereafter, evil any failure to submit to Gods rulership will be summarily executed.
3.10. Monotheistic religions The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints LDS Church introduces a concept similar to Irenaean theodicy, that experiencing evil is a necessary part of the development of the soul. Specifically, the laws of nature prevent an individual from fully comprehending or experiencing good without experiencing its opposite. In this respect, Latter-day Saints do not regard the fall of Adam and Eve as a tragic, unplanned cancellation of an eternal paradise; rather they see it as an essential element of Gods plan. By allowing opposition and temptations in mortality, God created an environment for people to learn, to develop their freedom to choose, and to appreciate and understand the light, with a comparison to darkness
This is a departure from the mainstream Christian definition of omnipotence and omniscience, which Mormons believe was changed by post-apostolic theologians in the centuries after Christ. The writings of Justin Martyr, Origen, Augustine, and others indicate a merging of Christian principles with Greek metaphysical philosophies such as Neoplatonism, which described divinity as an utterly simple, immaterial, formless substance/essence ousia that was the absolute causality and creative source of all that existed. Mormons teach that through modern day revelation, God restored the truth about his nature, which eliminated the speculative metaphysical elements that had been incorporated after the Apostolic era. As such, Gods omniscience/omnipotence is not to be understood as metaphysically transcending all limits of nature, but as a perfect comprehension of all things within nature - which gives God the power to bring about any state or condition within those bounds. This restoration also clarified that God does not create Ex nihilo out of nothing, but uses existing materials to organize order out of chaos. Because opposition is inherent in nature, and God operates within natures bounds, God is therefore not considered the author of evil, nor will He eradicate all evil from the mortal experience. His primary purpose, however, is to help His children to learn for themselves to both appreciate and choose the right, and thus achieve eternal joy and live in his presence, and where evil has no place.
3.11. Monotheistic religions Islam
Islamic scholars in the medieval and modern era have tried to reconcile the problem of evil with the afterlife theodicy. According to Nursi, the temporal world has many evils such as the destruction of Ottoman Empire and its substitution with secularism, and such evils are impossible to understand unless there is an afterlife. The omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god in Islamic thought creates everything, including human suffering and its causes evil. Evil was neither bad nor needed moral justification from God, but rewards awaited believers in the afterlife. The faithful suffered in this short life, so as to be judged by God and enjoy heaven in the never-ending afterlife.
Alternate theodicies in Islamic thought include the 11th-century Ibn Sinas denial of evil in a form similar to "privation theory" theodicy. This theodicy attempt by Ibn Sina is unsuccessful, according to Shams C. Inati, because it implicitly denies the omnipotence of God.
3.12. Monotheistic religions Judaism
According to Jon Levenson, the writers of the Hebrew Bible were well aware of evil as a theological problem, but he does not claim awareness of the problem of evil. In contrast, according to Yair Hoffman, the ancient books of the Hebrew Bible do not show an awareness of the theological problem of evil, and even most later biblical scholars did not touch the question of the problem of evil. The earliest awareness of the problem of evil in Judaism tradition is evidenced in extra- and post-biblical sources such as early Apocrypha secret texts by unknown authors, which were not considered mainstream at the time they were written. The first systematic reflections on the problem of evil by Jewish philosophers is traceable only in the medieval period.
The problem of evil gained renewed interest among Jewish scholars after the moral evil of the Holocaust. The all-powerful, all-compassionate, all-knowing monotheistic God presumably had the power to prevent the Holocaust, but he didnt. The Jewish thinkers have argued that either God did not care about the torture and suffering in the world He created - which means He is not omnibenevolent, or He did not know what was happening - which means He is not omniscient. The persecution of Jewish people was not a new phenomenon, and medieval Jewish thinkers had in abstract attempted to reconcile the logical version of the problem of evil. The Holocaust experience and other episodes of mass extermination such as the Gulag and the Killing Fields where millions of people experienced torture and died, however, brought into focus the visceral nature of the evidential version of the problem of evil.
The 10th-century Rabbi called Saadia Gaon presented a theodicy along the lines of "soul-making, greater good and afterlife". Suffering suggested Saadia, in a manner similar to Babylonian Talmud Berakhot 5, should be considered as a gift from God because it leads to an eternity of heaven in afterlife. In contrast, the 12th-century Moses Maimonides offered a different theodicy, asserting that the all-loving God neither produces evil nor gifts suffering, because everything God does is absolutely good, then presenting the "privation theory" explanation. Both these answers, states Daniel Rynhold, merely rationalize and suppress the problem of evil, rather than solve it. It is easier to rationalize suffering caused by a theft or accidental injuries, but the physical, mental and existential horrors of persistent events of repeated violence over long periods of time such as Holocaust, or an innocent child slowly suffering from the pain of cancer, cannot be rationalized by one sided self blame and belittling a personhood. Attempts by theologians to reconcile the problem of evil, with claims that the Holocaust evil was a necessary, intentional and purposeful act of God have been declared obscene by Jewish thinkers such as Richard Rubenstein.
4.1. Other religions Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt
The ancient Egyptian religion, according to Roland Enmarch, potentially absolved their gods from any blame for evil, and used a negative cosmology and the negative concept of human nature to explain evil. Further, the Pharaoh was seen as an agent of the gods and his actions as a king were aimed to prevent evil and curb evilness in human nature.
4.2. Other religions Ancient Greek religion
The gods in Ancient Greek religion were seen as superior, but shared similar traits with humans and often interacted with them. Although the Greeks didnt believe in any "evil" gods, the Greeks still acknowledged the fact that evil was present in the world. Gods often meddled in the affairs of men, and sometimes their actions consisted of bringing misery to people, for example gods would sometimes be a direct cause of death for people. However, the Greeks did not consider the gods to be evil as a result of their actions, instead the answer for most situations in Greek mythology was the power of fate. Fate is considered to be more powerful than the gods themselves and for this reason no one can escape it. For this reason the Greeks recognized that unfortunate events were justifiable by the idea of fate.
Later Greek and Roman theologians and philosophers discussed the problem of evil in depth. Starting at least with Plato, philosophers tended to reject or de-emphasize literal interpretations of mythology in favor of a more pantheistic, natural theology based on reasoned arguments. In this framework, stories that seemed to impute dishonorable conduct to the gods were often simply dismissed as false, and as being nothing more than the "imagination of poets." Greek and Roman thinkers continued to wrestle, however, with the problems of natural evil and of evil that we observe in our day-to-day experience. Influential Roman writers such as Cicero and Seneca, drawing on earlier work by the Greek philosophers such as the Stoics, developed many arguments in defense of the righteousness of the gods, and many of the answers they provided were later absorbed into Christian theodicy.
On the other hand, the philosopher Lucretius in De rerum natura, rejected the divinity in nature as a cause of many evils for humanity.
4.3. Other religions Buddhism
Buddhism accepts that there is evil in the world, as well as Dukkha suffering that is caused by evil or because of natural causes. Evil is expressed in actions and state of mind such as cruelty, murder, theft and avarice, which are a result of the three poisons: greed, hatred, and delusion. The precepts and practices of Buddhism, such as Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path aim to empower a follower in gaining insights and liberation nirvana from the cycle of such suffering as well as rebirth.
Some strands of Mahayana Buddhism developed a theory of Buddha-nature in texts such as the Tathagata-garbha Sutras composed in 3rd-century south India, which is very similar to the "soul, self" theory found in classical Hinduism. The Tathagata-garbha theory leads to a Buddhist version of the problem of evil, states Peter Harvey, because the theory claims that every human being has an intrinsically pure inner Buddha which is good. This premise leads to the question as to why anyone does any evil, and why doesnt the "intrinsically pure inner Buddha" attempt or prevail in preventing the evil actor before he or she commits the evil. One response has been that the Buddha-nature is omnibenevolent, but not omnipotent. Further, the Tathagata-garbha Sutras are atypical texts of Buddhism, because they contradict the Anatta doctrines in a vast majority of Buddhist texts, leading scholars to posit that the Tathagatagarbha Sutras were written to promote Buddhism to non-Buddhists, and that they do not represent mainstream Buddhism.
Mainstream Buddhism, since its early development, did not need to address a theological problem of evil as it saw no need for a creator of the universe and asserted instead, like many Indian traditions, that the universe never had a beginning and all existence is an endless cycle of rebirths samsara.
4.4. Other religions Hinduism
Hinduism is a complex religion with many different currents or religious beliefs Its non-theist traditions such as Samkhya, early Nyaya, Mimamsa and many within Vedanta do not posit the existence of an almighty, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent God monotheistic God, and the classical formulations of the problem of evil and theodicy do not apply to most Hindu traditions. Further, deities in Hinduism are neither eternal nor omnipotent nor omniscient nor omnibenevolent. Devas are mortal and subject to samsara. Evil as well as good, along with suffering is considered real and caused by human free will, its source and consequences explained through the karma doctrine of Hinduism, as in other Indian religions.
A version of the problem of evil appears in the ancient Brahma Sutras, probably composed between 200 BCE and 200 CE, a foundational text of the Vedanta tradition of Hinduism. Its verses 2.1.34 through 2.1.36 aphoristically mention a version of the problem of suffering and evil in the context of the abstract metaphysical Hindu concept of Brahman. The verse 2.1.34 of Brahma Sutras asserts that inequality and cruelty in the world cannot be attributed to the concept of Brahman, and this is in the Vedas and the Upanishads. In his interpretation and commentary on the Brahma Sutras, the 8th-century scholar Adi Shankara states that just because some people are happier than others and just because there is so much malice, cruelty and pain in the world, some state that Brahman cannot be the cause of the world.
For that would lead to the possibility of partiality and cruelty. For it can be reasonably concluded that God has passion and hatred like some ignoble persons. Hence there will be a nullification of Gods nature of extreme purity, unchangeability, etc., And owing to infliction of misery and destruction on all creatures, God will be open to the charge of pitilessness and extreme cruelty, abhorred even by a villain. Thus on account of the possibility of partiality and cruelty, God is not an agent.
Shankara attributes evil and cruelty in the world to Karma of oneself, of others, and to ignorance, delusion and wrong knowledge, but not to the abstract Brahman. Brahman itself is beyond good and evil. There is evil and suffering because of karma. Those who struggle with this explanation, states Shankara, do so because of presumed duality, between Brahman and Jiva, or because of linear view of existence, when in reality "samsara and karma are anadi" existence is cyclic, rebirth and deeds are eternal with no beginning. In other words, in the Brahma Sutras, the formulation of problem of evil is considered a metaphysical construct, but not a moral issue. Ramanuja of the theistic Sri Vaishnavism school - a major tradition within Vaishnavism - interprets the same verse in the context of Vishnu, and asserts that Vishnu only creates potentialities.
According to Swami Gambhirananda of Ramakrishna Mission, Sankaras commentary explains that God cannot be charged with partiality or cruelty i.e. injustice on account of his taking the factors of virtuous and vicious actions Karma performed by an individual in previous lives. If an individual experiences pleasure or pain in this life, it is due to virtuous or vicious action Karma done by that individual in a past life.
A sub-tradition within the Vaishnavism school of Hinduism that is an exception is dualistic Dvaita, founded by Madhvacharya in the 13th-century. This tradition posits a concept of God so similar to Christianity, that Christian missionaries in colonial India suggested that Madhvacharya was likely influenced by early Christians who migrated to India, a theory that has been discredited by scholars. Madhvacharya was challenged by Hindu scholars on the problem of evil, given his dualistic Tattvavada theory that proposed God and living beings along with universe as separate realities. Madhvacharya asserted, Yathecchasi tatha kuru, which Sharma translates and explains as "one has the right to choose between right and wrong, a choice each individual makes out of his own responsibility and his own risk". Madhvas reply does not address the problem of evil, state Dasti and Bryant, as to how can evil exist with that of a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.
According to Sharma, "Madhvas tripartite classification of souls makes it unnecessary to answer the problem of evil". According to David Buchta, this does not address the problem of evil, because the omnipotent God "could change the system, but chooses not to" and thus sustains the evil in the world. This view of selfs agency of Madhvacharya was, states Buchta, an outlier in Vedanta school and Indian philosophies in general.
5.1. Philosophers Epicurus
Epicurus is generally credited with first expounding the problem of evil, and it is sometimes called the "Epicurean paradox", the "riddle of Epicurus", or the "Epicurus trilemma":
There is no surviving written text of Epicurus that establishes that he actually formulated the problem of evil in this way, and it is uncertain that he was the author. An attribution to him can be found in a text dated about 600 years later, in the 3rd century Christian theologian Lactantiuss Treatise on the Anger of God where Lactantius critiques the argument. Epicuruss argument as presented by Lactantius actually argues that a god that is all-powerful and all-good does not exist and that the gods are distant and uninvolved with mans concerns. The gods are neither our friends nor enemies.
5.2. Philosophers David Hume
David Humes formulation of the problem of evil in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion:
"Is he if one accepts that it is a positive fact, then one must posit that it is not the work of God, but of some other beings such as man or superior spirits, good or evil.
Kant did not attempt or exhaust all theodicies to help address the problem of evil. He claimed there is a reason all possible theodicies must fail. While a successful philosophical theodicy has not been achieved in his time, added Kant, there is no basis for a successful anti-theodicy either.
6.1. Corollaries Problem of good
Several philosophers have argued that just as there exists a problem of evil for theists who believe in an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent being, so too is there a problem of good for anyone who believes in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnimalevolent or perfectly evil being. As it appears that the defenses and theodicies which might allow the theist to resist the problem of evil can be inverted and used to defend belief in the omnimalevolent being, this suggests that we should draw similar conclusions about the success of these defensive strategies. In that case, the theist appears to face a dilemma: either to accept that both sets of responses are equally bad, and so that the theist does not have an adequate response to the problem of evil; or to accept that both sets of responses are equally good, and so to commit to the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnimalevolent being as plausible.
Critics have noted that theodicies and defenses are often addressed to the logical problem of evil. As such, they are intended only to demonstrate that it is possible that evil can co-exist with an omniscient, omnipotent and omnibenevolent being. Since the relevant parallel commitment is only that good can co-exist with an omniscient, omnipotent and omnimalevolent being, not that it is plausible that they should do so, the theist who is responding to the problem of evil need not be committing himself to something he is likely to think is false. This reply, however, leaves the evidential problem of evil untouched.
6.2. Corollaries Morality
Another general criticism is that though a theodicy may harmonize God with the existence of evil, it does so at the cost of nullifying morality. This is because most theodicies assume that whatever evil there is exists because it is required for the sake of some greater good. But if an evil is necessary because it secures a greater good, then it appears we humans have no duty to prevent it, for in doing so we would also prevent the greater good for which the evil is required. Even worse, it seems that any action can be rationalized, as if one succeeds in performing it, then God has permitted it, and so it must be for the greater good. From this line of thought one may conclude that, as these conclusions violate our basic moral intuitions, no greater good theodicy is true, and God does not exist. Alternatively, one may point out that greater good theodicies lead us to see every conceivable state of affairs as compatible with the existence of God, and in that case the notion of Gods goodness is rendered meaningless.