Problem of evil

In the philosophy of religion, the problem of evil is the question of how to explain evil if there exists a deity that is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient (see theism).[1][2] Some philosophers have claimed that the existences of such a god and of evil are logically incompatible or unlikely. Attempts to resolve the question under these contexts have historically been one of the prime concerns of theodicy.

Some responses include the arguments that true free will cannot exist without the possibility of evil, that humans cannot understand God, that suffering is necessary for spiritual growth or evil is the consequence of a fallen world. Others contend that God is not omnibenevolent.

There are also many discussions of "evil" and associated "problems" in other philosophical fields, such as secular ethics,[3][4][5] and scientific disciplines such as evolutionary ethics.[6][7] But as usually understood, the "problem of evil" is posed in a theological context.[1][2]


Detailed arguments

Numerous different versions of the problem of evil have been formulated.[1][2][8]

Logical problem of evil

One example among many of a formulation of the problem of evil is often attributed to Epicurus[9] and may be schematized as follows:

  1. If an all-powerful and perfectly good god exists, then evil does not.
  2. There is evil in the world.
  3. Therefore, an all-powerful and perfectly good god does not exist.

This argument is of the logically valid form modus tollens (denying the consequent). In this case, P is "God exists" and Q is "there is no evil in the world".

Since it is unclear precisely how the antecedent of the first premise of "Epicurus" argument entails the consequent, later philosophers have offered refinements such as:[2]

  1. God exists.
  2. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.
  3. A perfectly good being would want to prevent all evils.
  4. An omniscient being knows every way in which evils can come into existence.
  5. An omnipotent being, who knows every way in which an evil can come into existence, has the power to prevent that evil from coming into existence.
  6. 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.
  7. If there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then no evil exists.
  8. Evil exists (logical contradiction).

Versions such as these are referred to as the logical problem of evil. They attempt to show that the assumed propositions lead to a logical contradiction and cannot therefore 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 No. 3 and No. 6), with many defenders of theism arguing that God could very well exist with and allow evil in order to achieve a greater good and/or allow free will.

Many philosophers accept that arguments such as Plantinga's free will defense (in brief, that possibly God allows evil in order to achieve the ultimately greater good of free will) successfully solve the logical problem of evil in terms of human action;[10] the question of how free will and God's omniscience are compatible remains, however (see the Argument from free will). Plantinga's defense further seeks to explain natural evils by positing that the mere logical possibility of "a mighty nonhuman spirit"[11] such as Satan is sufficient to resolve the logical form of the problem of suffering or natural evil. This assertion seems to imply either polytheism or a relatively weak interpretation of divine sovereignty, but since Plantinga's goal is to defeat only the assertion that God and evil are logically incompatible, even an unlikely but possible, coherent instance of God's coexistence with evil is sufficient for his purposes.

Evidential problem of evil

The evidential version of the problem of evil (also referred to as the probabilistic or inductive version), 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 Plantinga's 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 (despite widely observable evil and suffering) its existence is very unlikely and thus it is an unconvincing explanation for the presence of natural evils.

William L. Rowe's famous example of natural evil: "In some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned, and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering."[12]

A version by William L. Rowe:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. (Therefore) There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.[2]

Another by Paul Draper:

  1. Gratuitous evils exist.
  2. 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.
  3. Therefore, evidence prefers that no god, as commonly understood by theists, exists.[13]

These arguments are probability judgments since they rest on the claim that, even after careful reflection, one can see no good reason for God’s permission of evil. The inference from this claim to the judgment that there exists gratuitous evil is inductive in nature[clarification needed], and it is this inductive step that sets the evidential argument apart from the logical argument.[2]

The logical possibility of hidden or unknown reasons for the existence of evil still exist. However, the existence of God is viewed as any large-scale hypothesis or explanatory theory that aims to make sense of some pertinent facts. To the extent that it fails to do so it is disconfirmed.[2] According to Occam's razor, one should make as few assumptions as possible. Hidden reasons are assumptions, as is the assumption that all pertinent facts can be observed, or that facts and theories humans have not discerned are indeed hidden. Thus, as per Draper's argument above, the theory that there is an omniscient and omnipotent being who is indifferent requires no hidden reasons in order to explain evil. It is thus a simpler theory than one that also requires hidden reasons regarding evil in order to include omnibenevolence. 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. As such, from a probabilistic viewpoint hidden arguments will neutralize one another.[1]

Author and researcher Gregory S. Paul offers what he considers to be a particularly strong problem of evil. Paul describes conservative calculations that at least 100 billion people have been born throughout human history (starting roughly 50 000 years ago, when Homo Sapiens – humans – first appeared)[14]. He then performed what he calls "simple" calculations to estimate that the historical death rate of children throughout this time. He found that it was over 50%, and that the deaths of these children were mostly due to diseases (like malaria). Paul thus sees it as a problem of evil, because this means, throughout human history, over 50 billion people died naturally before they were old enough to give mature consent. He adds that this could have implications for calculating the population of a heaven (which could include an additional 30 000 billion humans who died naturally but prenatally, the aforementioned 50 billion children, and finally the remaining 50 billion adults – excluding those alive today).[15][16]

A common response to instances of the evidential problem is that there are plausible (and not hidden) reasons for God’s permission of evil. These kinds of responses are discussed below.

Related arguments

Doctrines of hell, particularly those involving eternal suffering, pose a particularly strong form of the problem of evil (see problem of hell). If unbelief, incorrect beliefs, or poor design are considered evils, then the argument from nonbelief, the argument from inconsistent revelations, and the argument from poor design may be seen as particular instances of the argument from evil.

Answers and theodicies

Responses to the problem of evil have sometimes been classified as defenses or theodicies. However, authors disagree on the exact definitions.[1][2][17] Generally, a defense 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. A defense need not argue that this is a probable or plausible explanation, only that the explanation is logically possible, for if on some logically possible explanation God and evil are logically compatible, then whatever the case with respect to that explanation's being true or not, God and evil are logically compatible.[18]

A theodicy,[19] on the other hand, is more ambitious, since it attempts to provide a plausible justification—a morally sufficient reason—for the existence of evil and thereby rebut the "evidential" argument from evil.[2] Richard Swinburne maintains that it does not make sense to assume there are greater goods that justify the evil's 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.[20] 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 defenses but not good theodicies.[2]

Lacking omnibenevolence, omniscience, or omnipotence

The problem of evil will not be encountered if God lacks any one of the three qualities.

Lacking omnibenevolence

Dystheism is the belief that God is not wholly good.

Since good and evil are merely the perceptions of what is beneficial and harmful to a living creature, the human concept of good and evil may not be applicable to God. God may not be bound to human standards of morality, or may not be wholly good from a human perspective. One argument proposes a Creator who is omnipotent, omniscient and completely just, although is not omnibenevolent. In this argument, since God brings the universe into existence, God can cause both 'good' and 'evil' in the world while remaining completely just.

Pantheism and panentheism may or may not have a problem of evil depending on how God is perceived.

Lacking omnipotence

In polytheism the individual deities are usually not omnipotent or omnibenevolent. However, if one of the deities has these properties the problem of evil applies. Belief systems where several deities are omnipotent would lead to logical contradictions.

Ditheistic belief systems (a kind of dualism) explain the problem of evil from the existence of two rival great, but not omnipotent, deities that work in polar opposition to each other. Examples of such belief systems include Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and possibly Gnosticism. The Devil in Islam and in Christianity is not seen as equal in power to God who is omnipotent. Thus the Devil could only exist if so allowed by God. The Devil, if so limited in power, can therefore by himself not explain the problem of evil.

Process theology and open theism are other positions that limit God's omnipotence and/or omniscience (as defined in traditional Christian theology).

The omnipotence paradoxes have led some theists to propose nuanced elaborations of the notion of omnipotence. Greater good arguments invoke such elaborations when they argue that God cannot do what is logically impossible and that the existence of some greater good, such as free will, may not be obtainable by God without the existence of evil.[8]

Free will

The free will argument is as follows: God's creation of persons with morally significant free will is something of tremendous value. God could not eliminate evil and suffering without thereby eliminating the greater good of having created persons with free will who can make moral choices.[2][8] Freedom (and, often it is said, the loving relationships which would not be possible without freedom) here is intended to provide a morally sufficient reason for God's allowing evil.[21]

C. S. Lewis writes in his book The Problem of Pain:

We can, perhaps, conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves that carry lies or insults. But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried out to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted to frame them.[22]

"Natural" evils such as earthquakes and many diseases are sometimes seen as problems for free will theodicies since they don't seem to be caused by free decisions. Possible reasons for natural evils include that they are caused by the free choices of supernatural beings such as demons (these beings are not so powerful as to limit God's omnipotence—another possible response, discussed later); that they are caused by original sin which in turn is caused by free will; that they are caused by natural laws that must operate as they do if intelligent, free agents are to exist; or that through observation and copying they allow humans to perform greater evils, which makes moral decisions more significant.[23][24]

For many evils such as murder, rape, or theft it appears that the free will and choice of the victim are diminished by the free will decisions of the offender. In some cases such as murdered very young children, (e.g., Death of Baby P), it appears that they never had any free will choices to make at all. A possible response is that a world with some free will is better than a world with none at all, however an omnipotent deity should by some definitions be able to circumvent this without impinging on the free will of the offender.

Another possible objection is that free will could exist without the degree of evil seen in this world. This could be accomplished by inducing humans to be inclined to always make, or make more, good moral decisions by causing these to feel more pleasurable; or if harmful choices were made, then for some or all of them God would prevent the harmful consequences from actually happening; or if harmful consequences occurred, then God would sometimes or always immediately punish such acts, which would presumably diminish their frequency; or the worst diseases could have been prevented, more resources could have been available for humanity, extremely intense pains either did not arise or could be turned off when they served no purpose. A reply is that such a "toy world" would mean that free will has less or no real value. A response to this is to argue that then it would be similarly wrong for humans to try to reduce suffering, a position for which few would argue.[1] Therefore, a simpler way to dismiss the objection is to consider it a cherry picking (fallacy) argument—one can always argue that the degree of evil seen is "unnecessary" to the point at which free will is meaningless. The debate depends on the definitions of free will and determinism, which are deeply disputed concepts themselves, as well as their relation to one another. See also compatibilism and incompatibilism and predestination.

There is also a debate regarding free will and omniscience. The argument from free will argues that any conception of God that incorporates both properties is inherently contradictory.

While not affecting the validity of the free will argument itself, this reasoning creates problems for other common religious beliefs. It implies that there can be no heaven unless its inhabitants have no free will and thus lose its tremendous value. However, Some faiths' religious beliefs are that humans abused free will and brought upon themselves a state of sin, which will be cleansed when on route to heaven. If a heavenly existence is still more valuable than an earthly existence, then the earthly one seems unnecessary and filled with meaningless suffering. Another problem is that an omnibenevolent deity does not seem to have the tremendous value associated with free will, since he can not fail to do what is good.[8]

Problem of natural evil

Free will is not the only cause of evil in the world. For instance, David Attenborough often tells this story:

My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that's going to make him blind. And [I ask them], 'Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child's eyeball? Because that doesn't seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy'.[25]

Consequences of sin

Another possible answer is that the world is corrupted due to the sin of mankind (like the original sin). Some argue that because of sin, the world has fallen from the grace of God, and is not perfect. Therefore, evils and imperfections persist because the world is fallen. An objection is asking why God did not create man in such a way that he would never sin. A reply is that God wanted man to have free will which makes this another example of the free will argument.[26] Some have wondered whether free-agency, or the loving relationships to which it is thought to be necessary, constitutes a good large enough to justify the evil it brings in its wake.

There are also beliefs that when people experience evils it is always because of evils they themselves have done (see Karma and the just-world phenomenon) or their ancestors have done (see again the original sin).

Soul-making or Irenaean Theodicy

Evil and suffering may be necessary for spiritual growth. This approach is often combined with the free will argument by arguing that such spiritual growth requires free will decisions. This theodicy was developed by the second-century Christian theologian, Irenaeus of Lyons, and its most recent and outspoken advocate has been the influential philosopher of religion, John Hick. A perceived inadequacy with the Irenaean theodicy is that many natural evils do not seem to promote this, such as the suffering of young children. Others enjoy lives of ease and luxury where there is virtually nothing that challenges them to undergo moral growth.[27] Another problem attends this kind of theodicy when "spiritual growth" is cashed out in terms of its usefulness in overcoming evil. But of course, if there were no evil that needed overcoming in the first place, such an ability would lose its point. One would then need to say something more about the inherent value in spiritual health.


Another response is the afterlife theodicy. Christian theologian Randy Alcorn argues that the joys of heaven will compensate for the sufferings on earth. He writes[28]:

Without this eternal perspective, we assume that people who die young, who have handicaps, who suffer poor health, who don't get married or have children, or who don't do this or that will miss out on the best life has to offer. But the theology underlying these assumptions have a fatal flaw. It presumes that our present Earth, bodies, culture, relationships and lives are all there is.

The afterlife answer was called “a very curious argument” by the philosopher Bertrand Russell. He argued:

“If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, ‘After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here then the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.’ Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue: ‘The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.’ You would say: ‘Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment;’ and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say: ‘Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against deity and not in favor of one.’”[29]

This is a controversial argument because it assumes that "this world" is a fair sample of the universe, which includes the heaven.

One response to this argument is that this ignores the problem of hell.

Humanity's limited knowledge

One argument is that, due to humanity's limited knowledge, humans cannot expect to understand God or God's ultimate plan. When a parent takes an infant to the doctor for a regular vaccination to prevent some childhood disease, it's because the parent cares for and loves that child. The young child however will almost always see things very differently. It is argued that just as an infant cannot possibly understand the motives of its parent while it is still only a child, people cannot comprehend God's will in their current physical and earthly state.[30]

Another suggestion is that the problem of evil's argument is logically flawed because it silently assumes that people really can comprehend what God should do. In other words, for the problem of evil to be valid, it must be proven that there can be no god which cannot be so comprehended.[31]

A counter-argument is that God could make it absolutely clear to and assure humanity that, even if these cannot be understood in detail, good reasons and a plan do exist. Here the problem of evil becomes similar to the argument from nonbelief.[2]

One may also argue that good and evil are divine concepts beyond mere human comprehension. Thus, what appears to be "evil" is only evil from humanity's limited point of view, but is not truly evil. This is supported by the Hebrew Bible: "...Who makes peace and creates evil; I am the Lord, Who makes all these.".[32] However, this solution has problems of it own; see Euthyphro dilemma.

The "limited knowledge" defense to the problem of evil has been argued by some to be a fallacious appeal to ignorance.

Definition of evil as absence of good

The fifth century theologian Augustine of Hippo maintained that evil exists only as a privation (lack, absence) in that which is good and thus evil is not created by God. Evil is only privatio boni or an absence of good such as in discord, injustice, and loss of life or of liberty. Some believe that this doesn't completely solve the problem of evil, as the question remains why God neglected to create those goods that are found to be lacking in the world,[33] which might be answered by citing the story of Adam and Eve.

Absence of God

A common legend takes this concept one step further by defining Evil as a relative absence of God, Himself. A correlation is usually drawn to heat vs cold or light vs dark. Just as cold and darkness do not truly "exist," except as a comparison (the less heat that is included, the colder something feels) so too does evil not truly exist, except as a comparison (the less God is included, the more evil something is). This comparison does not contradict the omnipresence of God, since energy is present even in cold things. The legend is typically presented with either a Rabbi, Albert Einstein, or a precocious student offering the explanation.[34]

Evil is an illusion

One possible argument is that evils such as suffering and disease are illusions. An argument against is that the sensation of suffering caused by such illusions is evil.[33] Strictly speaking, the claim that evils doesn't exist represents a dissolution rather than a solution to the problem of evil, which is only generated on the supposition that evil exists. This approach is favored by some Eastern religious philosophies such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Evil is complementary to good

Concepts such as the Taoist yin and yang suggest that evil and good are complementary opposites within a united whole. If one disappears, the other must disappear as well, leaving emptiness. Compassion, a valuable virtue, can only exist if there is suffering. Bravery only exists if we sometimes face danger. Self-sacrifice is another great good, but can only exist if there is inter-dependence, if some people find themselves in situations where they need help from others. (Sometimes known as the 'need for contrast' argument in GCSE Religious studies examinations.[citation needed])

"Evil" suggests an ethical law

Another response to this paradox argues that asserting "evil exists" would imply an ethical standard against which to define good and evil which implies the existence of God. See the argument from morality.

C. S. Lewis writes in his book Mere Christianity,

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies.[35]

But it's not clear from the argument as stated how the existence of an ethical standard implies the existence of God. One must supply more premises in order to show that moral standards entail or make probable the God of Theism (cf. the theistic "argument from morality").

No best of all possible worlds

Assume that there is no best of all possible worlds. Then for every possible world, however good, there is a better one. For any world God creates, there is a better. Then it is argued that God cannot be criticized for not having created a better world since this criticism would apply no matter which world God were to create. One can not be faulted for failing to perform some act where there is no logical possibility of performing it.

One response is that, even accepting the basic assumption that there is no best of all possible worlds, a value system which sees all worlds except the best possible one as equally valuable is questionable. But the argument only assumes that all worlds are equally permissible for God to create, not that they are equally valuable.

Another response is to avoid a direct confrontation and argue instead from a deontological approach that certain forms of the problem of evil do not depend on the claim that this world could be improved upon, or upon the claim that it is not the best of all possible worlds: it is that there are in the actual world evils which it would be morally wrong for God to allow. That there might be better and better worlds without limit is simply irrelevant.[1]


In Islam, Satan is described as "the whisperer" which enters the hearts of men and women and this whispering of the devil is the source of human sin. This does not explain evil that results from the natural world, and is not incombent on human action, such as natural disasters and illness.

God's nature is freedom and/or agency giving love

Thomas Jay Oord argues that the theoretical aspect of the problem of evil is solved if one postulates that God's eternal nature is love. As necessarily loving, God always gives freedom and/or agency to others, and God cannot do otherwise. Oord calls his position, "Essential Kenosis," and he says that God is involuntarily self-limited. God's nature of love means that God cannot fail to offer, withdraw, or override the freedom and/or agency God gives creatures.[36] This does not however, explain the belief in some religions that god has a "plan" that is always in effect, and can not be changed or disturbed, causing a contridiction of with free will.

General criticisms of all defenses and theodicies

Steven M. Cahn has argued that there exists a "problem of good" (or "Cacodaemony") which is a mirror image of the problem of evil. The problem is the same except for that omnibenevolence is replaced by omnimalevolence, greater good is replaced by greater evil, and so on. Cahn argued that all arguments, defenses, and theodicies regarding the problem of evil applies similarly to the problem of good. However, critics have noted that the "problems" are about whether such omnipotent beings "could" or are "likely" to exist, not that they "must" exist, so these problems do not logically contradict one another.[37][38]

An argument that has been raised against theodicies is that, if a theodicy were true, it would completely nullify morality. If a theodicy were true, then all evil events, including human actions, can be rationalized as permitted or affected by God, If every conceivable state of affairs is compatible with the "goodness" of God, the concept is rendered meaningless.[39] Volker Dittman writes that,

the crucial point is, that .... there will be no evil, because every suffering could be justified. Worse: It would be impossible to act evil. I could torture and murder a young child, but this would be justified for a higher good (whatever the perfect solution is, it could be something else than free will). This would be the end of all moral, which clearly is absurd. The theist could not point to the ten commandments and claim that they are necessary, because one goal of morals – to prevent evil – would be granted no matter how I behave...[40]

By religion

Ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt

The problem of evil takes at least four formulations in ancient Mesopotamian religious thought, as in the extant manuscripts of Ludlul bēl nēmeqi (I Will Praise the Lord of Wisdom), Erra and Ishum, The Babylonian Theodicy, and The Dialogue of Pessimism.[41] In this type of polytheistic context, the chaotic nature of the world implies multiple gods battling for control.

In ancient Egypt, it was thought the problem takes at least two formulations, as in the extant manuscripts of Dialogue of a Man with His Ba and The Eloquent Peasant. Due to the conception of Egyptian gods as being far removed, these two formulations of the problem focus heavily on the relation between evil and people; that is, moral evil.[42]


The Hebrew Bible

A verse in the Book of Isaiah is interpreted in the King James Bible as "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.".[43] The Hebrew word is רע Ra`, which occurs over 600 hundred times[44] in the Hebrew Bible. It is a generalized term for something considered bad, not held to mean specifically wickedness or injustice in this context,[45] but to mean calamity,[46] or bad times,[47] or disaster.[48]

The Book of Job is one of the most widely known formulations in Western thought questioning why suffering exists. Originally written in Hebrew as an epic poem, the story centers on Job, a perfectly just and righteous person. He makes no serious errors in life and strives to do nothing wrong; as a result he is very successful. A character described only as the 'Accuser' challenges God, claiming that Job is only righteous because God has rewarded him with a good life. The Accuser proposes that if God were to allow everything Job loved to be destroyed, Job would then cease to be righteous. God allows the Accuser to destroy Job's wealth and children, and to strike him with sickness and boils. Job discusses his condition with three friends. His three friends insist that God never allows bad things to happen to good people, and assert that Job must have done something to deserve his punishment. Job responds that is not the case and that he would be willing to defend himself to God. A fourth friend, Elihu, arrives and criticizes all of them. Elihu states that God is perfectly just and good. God then responds to Job in a speech delivered from "out of a whirlwind", explaining the universe from the scope of God's perspective and demonstrating that the workings of the world are beyond human understanding. In the end God states that the three friends were incorrect, and that Job was incorrect for assuming he could question God. God more than restores Job's prior health, wealth, and gives him new children, as though he has been awakened from a nightmare into a new awareness of spiritual reality. The ultimate purpose of the story is a matter of much debate.

New Testament critic and popular author, Bart D. Ehrman, argues that different parts of the Bible give different answers. One example is evil as punishment for sin or as a consequence of sin. Ehrman writes that this seems to be based on some notion of free will although this argument is never explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Another argument is that suffering ultimately achieves a greater good, possibly for persons other than the sufferer, that would not have been possible otherwise. The Book of Job offers two answers: suffering is a test, and you will be rewarded later for passing it; another that God is not held accountable to human conceptions of morality. Ecclesiastes sees suffering as beyond human abilities to comprehend.

Later Jewish interpretations

An oral tradition exists in Judaism that God determined the time of the Messiah's coming by erecting a great set of scales. On one side, God placed the captive Messiah with the souls of dead laymen. On the other side, God placed sorrow, tears, and the souls of righteous martyrs. God then declared that the Messiah would appear on earth when the scale was balanced. According to this tradition, then, evil is necessary in the bringing of the world's redemption, as sufferings reside on the scale[citation needed].

Tzimtzum in Kabbalistic thought holds that God has withdrawn himself so that creation could exist, but that this withdrawal means that creation lacks full exposure to God's all-good nature.[citation needed]



Gnosticism refers to several beliefs seeing evil as due to the world being created by an imperfect god, the demiurge and is contrasted with a superior entity. However, this by itself does not answer the problem of evil if the superior entity is omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Different gnostic beliefs may give varying answers, like Manichaeism, which adopts dualism, in opposition to the doctrine of omnipotence.

Irenaean theodicy

Irenaean theodicy, posited by Irenaeus (2nd century AD – 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 3 main reasons:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  3. 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


The consequences of the original sin were debated by Pelagius and Augustine of Hippo. Pelagius argues on behalf of original innocence, while Augustine indicts Eve and Adam for original sin. Pelagianism is the belief that original sin did not taint all of humanity and that mortal free will is capable of choosing good or evil without divine aid. Augustine's position, and subsequently that of much of Christianity, was that Adam and Eve had the power to topple God's perfect order, thus changing nature by bringing sin into the world, but that the advent of sin then limited mankind's power thereafter to evade the consequences without divine aid.[49] Eastern Orthodox theology holds that one inherits the nature of sinfulness but not Adam and Eve's guilt for their sin which resulted in the fall.[50]

Augustinian Theodicy

St Augustine of Hippo (354 AD – 430) in his Augustinian theodicy 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 (evil present in the natural world such as natural disasters etc.) is caused by fallen angels, whereas moral evil (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.

This, however, poses a number of questions involving genetics: if evil is merely a consequence of our choosing to deviate from God's desired goodness, then genetic disposition of 'evil' (currently fictitious) must surely be in God's plan and desire and thus cannot be blamed on Man.

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.[51] There is therefore no positive source of evil, corresponding to the greater good, which is God;[52] 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.[53]

Evil is threefold, viz., metaphysical evil, moral, and physical, the retributive consequence of moral guilt. Its existence subserves the perfection of the whole; the universe would be less perfect if it contained no evil. Thus fire could not exist without the corruption of what it consumes; the lion must slay the ass in order to live, and if there were no wrong doing, there would be no sphere for patience and justice. God is said (as in Isaiah 45) to be the author of evil in the sense that the corruption of material objects in nature is ordained by Him, as a means for carrying out the design of the universe; and on the other hand, the evil which exists as a consequence of the breach of Divine laws is in the same sense due to Divine appointment; the universe would be less perfect if its laws could be broken with impunity. Thus evil, in one aspect, i.e. as counter-balancing the deordination of sin, has the nature of good. But the evil of sin, though permitted by God, is in no sense due to him; its cause is the abuse of free will by angels and men. It should be observed that the universal perfection to which evil in some form is necessary, is the perfection of this universe, not of any universe: metaphysical evil, that is to say, and indirectly, moral evil as well, is included in the design of the universe which is partially known to us; but we cannot say without denying the Divine omnipotence, that another equally perfect universe could not be created in which evil would have no place.[54]

Luther and Calvin

Both Luther and Calvin explained evil as a consequence of the fall of man and the original sin. However, due to the belief in predestination and omnipotence, the fall is part of God's plan. Ultimately humans may not be able to understand and explain this plan.[55]

Thomas Robert Malthus

The population and economic theorist Thomas Malthus argued that evil exists to spur human creativity and production. Without evil or the necessity of strife mankind would have remained in a savage state since all amenities would be provided for.[56]

Christian Science

Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of the Christian Science movement) regarded evil as an illusion (both of and to material sense). To explain this, Eddy started with a concept of God as infinite inexhaustible Spirit, wholly good and reasoned to the conclusion that the so-called "opposite of God" could not be actual or factual. This is not unlike St. Thomas Aquinas' conception previously discussed. But Eddy took this a step further to its (to her, logical conclusion, in that) She taught her students that to speak of God, on one hand, as omnipresent and omnipotent, but to accept, on the other hand, the notion that this very infinite spiritual omnipresence could have a (seeming) opposite was self-contradictory, by definition, explaining that to the infinity of God, good, evil would be unknown just as in a room full of light, darkness is unknown. In her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Eddy describes both evil (false, material self-deceived sense) and it sense of reality which it calls matter, as impossible or unknown to infinite God, Spirit, writing, "Life is neither in nor of matter. What is termed matter is unknown to Spirit, which includes in itself all substance and is Life eternal. Matter is a human concept. Life is divine Mind. Life is not limited. Death and finiteness are unknown to (true, real, actual or spiritual) Life. If (this true spiritual one and only) Life ever had a beginning, it would also have an ending. ."[57] To Eddy, Evil, was not some "thing," to be known by Truth as reality, but the hypothetical absence of good. This absence of good could only seem to exist to a self-deceived, ignorant false belief, which Eddy called mortal mind, linking it to the Pauline carnal mind of the New Testament. To Eddy, mortal mind was a state of self-deception or ignorance of true being. This false sense postulated both "places" (states or modes of belief) for the absence of all-inclusive good, or God (which Eddy called evil), as well as places where good and evil co-existed and struggled for supremacy. To Eddy and to her students, dealing with or overcoming evil consists in "removing its mask" (of seeming reality) in thought by declaring for the allness of God and the nothingness of God's so-called opposite. Eddy concluded that Christ healed both physical as well moral sickness and deformity by refusing to accept as reality what the physical senses were displaying and, in its place, declaring for or "seeing" God's perfect spiritual image and likeness. In Science and Health, she explained, "Jesus beheld in Science (through his spiritual or divinely mental seeing or vision) the perfect man where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect (spiritual or divinely mental) man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy. ...To the five corporeal senses, man appears to be matter and mind united; but Christian Science reveals man as the idea of God, and declares the corporeal senses to be mortal and erring illusions.

Divine Science shows it to be impossible that a material body, though interwoven with matter's highest stratum, misnamed mind, should be man, the immortal idea of being, indestructible and eternal. Were it otherwise, man would be annihilated.[58] Consequently, she and her followers claim to have no philosophical problem with the concept of an almighty and wholly good deity. In regard to the question as to what caused or causes the illusion of evil, Christian Science responds that the question is meaningless, and furthermore that inquiring into the origin of the illusion of evil tends to reinforce it, since such an inquiry would strengthen the belief that evil is real. Mary Baker Eddy writes: "The notion that both evil and good are real is a delusion of material sense, which Science annihilates. Evil is nothing, no thing, mind, nor power."[59]

In dealing with moral evil or sin, Eddy expanded the concept of sin beyond obvious moral failings, (murder, cruelty, etc.) seeing both sin and sickness as but two different sides of the same coin, "material sense" or "material belief," what an ignorant self-deceived "false" limited (even hypothetical – never actual) consciousness was believing at a particular moment teaching her students, "When sin or sickness seems true to material sense, impart without frightening or discouraging (your) the patient (being treated metaphysically by scientific prayer or "Christian Science treatment") the truth and spiritual understanding, which destroy disease. Expose and denounce the claims of evil and disease in all their forms, but realize no reality in them. A sinner is not reformed merely by assuring him that he cannot be a sinner because there is no sin. To put down the claim of sin, you must detect it (operating as seeming or apparent "reality), remove the mask (that deceives both victim and perpetrator), point out the illusion (to the ignorant beliefs of the patient requesting metaphysical treatment or prayer), and thus get the victory over sin and so prove its unreality. The sick are not healed merely by declaring there is no sickness, but by knowing that there is none."[60]

Islamic concept of evil

In Islam, it is believed that God (Allah) is the omnipotent. There is no concept of absolute evil in Islam, as a fundamental universal principle that is independent from and equal with good in a dualistic sense. It is essential to believe that all good and all bad comes from Allah. Actually this is a fundamental part of belief which is formulated as "hayrihi ve serrihi min Allah-u Teala". But it is important to remember that in the Islamic view, evil is not the cause but the result. This result might be because of the actions of humans with their free will, influence of the devil and his minions; or it can be a natural event that is neither good or evil in the eyes of an objective third party, but could be perceived by the subject in question as "evil" (a natural disaster, a death etc.) Muslims learn to accept all that their destiny brings to them, good or bad, and say "all comes from God".


Hinduism is a complex religion with many different currents or schools. As such the problem of evil in Hinduism is answered in several different ways such as by the concept of karma.


In Buddhism, there is no theistic "problem of evil" as Buddhism generally rejects the notion of a benevolent, omnipotent creator god, identifying such a notion as attachment to a false concept. For instance, in the Bhūridatta Jātaka the Bodhisattva sings:

If the creator of the world entire
They call God, of every being be the Lord
Why does he order such misfortune
And not create concord?
If the creator of the world entire
They call God, of every being be the Lord
Why prevail deceit, lies and ignorance
And he such inequity and injustice create?
If the creator of the world entire
They call God, of every being be the Lord
Then an evil master is he, (O Aritta)
Knowing what's right did let wrong prevail![61]

By philosophers


Epicurus is generally credited with first expounding the problem of evil, and it is sometimes called "the Epicurean paradox" or "the riddle of Epicurus":

Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world? – Epicurus, as quoted in 2000 Years of Disbelief

Epicurus himself did not leave any written form of this argument. It can be found in Christian theologian Lactantius's Treatise on the Anger of God where Lactantius critiques the argument. Epicurus's 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 man's concerns. The gods are neither our friends nor enemies.

David Hume

David Hume's formulation of the problem of evil in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion:

"Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?"[62]

"[God's] power we allow [is] infinite: Whatever he wills is executed: But neither man nor any other animal are happy: Therefore he does not will their happiness. His wisdom is infinite: He is never mistaken in choosing the means to any end: But the course of nature tends not to human or animal felicity: Therefore it is not established for that purpose. Through the whole compass of human knowledge, there are no inferences more certain and infallible than these. In what respect, then, do his benevolence and mercy resemble the benevolence and mercy of men?"

Gottfried Leibniz

Gottfried Leibniz

In his Dictionnaire Historique et Critique, the sceptic Pierre Bayle denied the goodness and omnipotence of God on account of the sufferings experienced in this earthly life. Gottfried Leibniz introduced the term theodicy in his 1710 work Essais de Théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l'homme et l'origine du mal ("Theodicic Essays on the Benevolence of God, the Free will of man, and the Origin of Evil") which was directed mainly against Bayle. He argued that this is the best of all possible worlds that God could have created.

Imitating the example of Leibniz, other philosophers also called their treatises on the problem of evil theodicies. Voltaire's popular novel Candide mocked Leibnizian optimism through the fictional tale of a naive youth.

Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant argued for sceptical theism. He claimed there is a reason all possible theodicies must fail: evil is a personal challenge to every human being and can be overcome only by faith.[63] He wrote:[64]

We can understand the necessary limits of our reflections on the subjects which are beyond our reach. This can easily be demonstrated and will put an end once and for all to the trial.

Victor Cousin

Victor Cousin argued for a form of eclecticism to organize and develop philosophical thought. He believed that the Christian idea of God was very similar to the Platonic concept of "the Good," in that God represented the principle behind all other principles. Like the ideal of Good, Cousin also believed the ideal of Truth and of Beauty were analogous to the position of God, in that they were principles of principles. Using this way of framing the issue, Cousin stridently argued that different competing philosophical ideologies all had some claim on truth, as they all had arisen in defense of some truth. He however argued that there was a theodicy which united them, and that one should be free in quoting competing and sometimes contradictory ideologies in order to gain a greater understanding of truth through their reconciliation.[65]

Peter Kreeft

Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft provides several answers to the problem of evil and suffering, including that a) God may use short-term evils for long-range goods, b) God created the possibility of evil, but not the evil itself, and that free will was necessary for the highest good of real love. Kreeft says that being all-powerful doesn't mean being able to do what is logically contradictory, e.g., giving freedom with no potentiality for sin, c) God's own suffering and death on the cross brought about his supreme triumph over the devil, d) God uses suffering to bring about moral character, quoting apostle Paul in Romans 5, e) Suffering can bring people closer to God, and f) The ultimate "answer" to suffering is Jesus himself, who, more than any explanation, is our real need.[66]

William Hatcher

Mathematical logician William Hatcher (a member of the Baha'i Faith) made use of relational logic to claim that very simple models of moral value cannot be consistent with the premise of evil as an absolute, whereas goodness as an absolute is entirely consistent with the other postulates concerning moral value.[67] In Hatcher's view, one can only validly say that if an act A is "less good" than an act B, one cannot logically commit to saying that A is absolutely evil, unless one is prepared to abandon other more reasonable principles.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The Problem of Evil", Michael Tooley
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The Evidential Problem of Evil", Nick Trakakis
  3. ^ Nicholas J. Rengger, Moral Evil and International Relations, in SAIS Review 25:1, Winter/Spring 2005, pp. 3–16
  4. ^ Peter Kivy, Melville's Billy and the Secular Problem of Evil: the Worm in the Bud, in The Monist (1980), 63
  5. ^ Kekes, John (1990). Facing Evil. Princeton: Princeton UP. ISBN 0691073708. 
  6. ^ Timothy Anders, The Evolution of Evil (2000)
  7. ^ J.D. Duntley and David Buss, "The Evolution of Evil," in Miller, Arthur (2004). The Social Psychology of Good and Evil. New York: Guilford. pp. 102–133. ISBN 157230989X. 
  8. ^ a b c d The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The Logical Problem of Evil", James R. Beebe
  9. ^ The formulation may have been wrongly attributed to Epicurus by Lactantius, who, from his Christian perspective, regarded Epicurus as an atheist. According to Mark Joseph Larrimore, (2001), The Problem of Evil, pp. xix–xxi. Wiley-Blackwell. According to Reinhold F. Glei, it is settled that the argument of theodicy is from an academical source which is not only not epicurean, but even anti-epicurean. Reinhold F. Glei, Et invidus et inbecillus. Das angebliche Epikurfragment bei Laktanz, De ira dei 13,20–21, in: Vigiliae Christianae 42 (1988), p. 47–58
  10. ^ Meister, Chad (2009). Introducing Philosophy of Religion. Routledge. p. 134. ISBN 0415403278. 
  11. ^ Plantinga, Alvin (1974). God, Freedom, and Evil. Harper & Row. p. 58. ISBN 0802817319. 
  12. ^ Rowe, William L. (1979). "The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism". American Philosophical Quarterly 16: 337. 
  13. ^ Draper, Paul (1989). "Pain and Pleasure: An Evidential Problem for Theists". Noûs (Noûs, Vol. 23, No. 3) 23 (3): 331–350. doi:10.2307/2215486. JSTOR 2215486. 
  14. ^ Haub, C. 1995/2004. “How Many People Have Ever Lived On Earth?” Population Today,
  15. ^ Paul, G.S. (2009) "Theodicy’s Problem: A Statistical Look at the Holocaust of the Children and the Implications of Natural Evil For the Free Will and Best of All Possible Worlds Hypotheses" Philosophy & Theology 19:125–149
  16. ^ Greg Paul and the Problem of Evil, on the podcast and TV show "The Atheist Experience",
  17. ^ Honderich, Ted (2005). "theodicy". The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. ISBN 0199264791. "John Hick, for example, proposes a theodicy, while Alvin Plantinga formulates a defense. The idea of human free will often appears in a both of these strategies, but in different ways." 
  18. ^ For more explanation regarding contradictory propositions and possible worlds, see Plantinga's "God, Freedom and Evil" (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans 1974), 24–29.
  19. ^ Coined by Leibniz from Greek θεός (theós), "god" and δίκη (díkē), "justice", to refer to the project of "justifying God" – showing that God's existence is compatible with the existence of evil.
  20. ^ Swinburne, Richard (2005). "evil, the problem of". In Ted Honderich. The Oxford Companion to Philosophy. ISBN 0199264791. 
  21. ^ Christian pastor and theologian, Gregory A. Boyd claims that God's all-powerful nature does not mean that God exercises all power, and instead allows free agents to act against his own wishes. He argues that since love must be chosen, love cannot exist without true free will. He also maintains that God does not plan or will evil in people's lives, but that evil is a result of a combination of free choices and the interconnectedness and complexity of life in a sinful and fallen world.Boyd & 2003 57–58; 76; 96
  22. ^ C. S. Lewis The Problem of Pain HarperCollins:New York, 1996 pp. 24–25
  23. ^ Richard Swinburne in "Is There a God?" writes that "the operation of natural laws producing evils gives humans knowledge (if they choose to seek it) of how to bring about such evils themselves. Observing you can catch some disease by the operation of natural processes gives me the power either to use those processes to give that disease to other people, or through negligence to allow others to catch it, or to take measures to prevent others from catching the disease." In this way, "it increases the range of significant choice....The actions which natural evil makes possible are ones which allow us to perform at our best and interact with our fellows at the deepest level" (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996) 108–109.
  24. ^ John Polkinghorne is one advocate of the view that the current natural laws are necessary for free will Polkinghorne, John (2003). Belief in God in an Age of Science. New Haven, CT: Yale Nota Bene. pp. 14. ISBN 978-0300099492.  and also See esp. ch. 5 of his Science and Providence. ISBN 978-0-87773-490-1
  25. ^ David Attenborough, 2003. "Wild, wild life." Sydney Morning Herald, 25 March. Attenborough has also told this story in numerous other interviews.
  26. ^
  27. ^ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, "The Problem of Evil", James R. Beebe
  28. ^ If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, published by Random House of Canada, 2009, page 294
  29. ^ Why I am not a Christian
  30. ^
  31. ^ The Supposed Problem of Evil,
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b "Does Evil Exist?". 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  34. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara (14 July 2007). "Einstein Humiliates Atheist". Retrieved 18 June 2011. 
  35. ^ C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity Touchstone:New York, 1980 p. 45–46
  36. ^ Oord, Thomas Jay. The Nature of Love: A Theology (2010) ISBN 9780827208285
  37. ^ "Cacodaemony"
  38. ^ Cacodaemony and Devilish Isomorphism, King-Farlow, J. (1978), Cacodaemony and Devilish Isomorphism, Analysis, Vol. 38, No. 1 (Jan., 1978), pp. 59–61
  39. ^ The Moral Argument from Evil, Dean Stretton
  40. ^ Dittman, Volker and Tremblay, François The Immorality of Theodicies
  41. ^ "Ancient Babylonia—Wisdom Literature". Bible History Online. Retrieved 19 April 2007. 
  42. ^ UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology: Theodicy
  43. ^ Isaiah 45.7
  44. ^ Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius Lexicon; this is keyed to the "Theological Word Book of the Old Testament."
  45. ^ Carson, D. A. (1994). New Bible commentary : 21st century edition (4th ed.). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press.
  46. ^ THE HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984
  47. ^ Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996.
  48. ^ Holman Christian Standard Bible ® Copyright 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999
  49. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia:Pelagius and Pelagianism
  50. ^ Orthodox Theology, Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky, Part II "God Manifest in the World" [1]
  51. ^ Summa Contra Gentiles III c. 7
  52. ^ Summa Theologica Ia q. 49 a. 3
  53. ^ Summa Theologica Ia q. 49 a. 1 and Summa Contra Gentiles III c. 10
  54. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia's entry on evil
  55. ^ The Problem of Evil in the Western Tradition: From the Book of Job to Modern Genetics, Joseph F. Kelly, p. 94–96
  56. ^ Malthus T.R. 1798. An essay on the principle of population. Oxford World's Classics reprint. p158
  57. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 1971, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, p. 469:1–6.
  58. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 1971, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, p. 476:32-18.
  59. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 1971, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, p. 330.
  60. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, 1971, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, Boston, p. 447:16–28.
  61. ^ Ja, Book XXII, No. 543, vv. 208–209, trans. Gunasekara, V. A. (1993; 2nd ed. 1997). The Buddhist Attitude to God. Retrieved 22 Dec 2008 from "BuddhaNet" at For an alternate translation, see E. B. Cowell (ed.) (1895, 2000), The Jataka or Stories of the Buddha's Former Births (6 vols.), p. 110, retrieved 22 Dec 2008 from "Google Books" at,M1. In this Jataka tale, as in much of Buddhist literature, "God" refers to the Vedic/Hindu Brahma.
  62. ^ Hume, David. "Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion". Project Gutenberg. Retrieved 15 August 2008. 
  63. ^ See Kant's essay, "Concerning the Possibility of a Theodicy and the Failure of All Previous Philosophical Attempts in the Field" (1791). Stephen Palmquist explains why Kant refuses to solve the problem of evil in "Faith in the Face of Evil", Appendix VI of Kant's Critical Religion (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000).
  64. ^ As quoted in Making the Task of Theodicy Impossible?
  65. ^ Cousin, Victor (1856). The True, the Beautiful, and the Good. D, Appleton & Co.. pp. 75–101. ISBN 9781425543303. 
  66. ^ Strobel, Lee (2000). The Case for Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. pp. 25–56. 
  67. ^ Hatcher, William, Computers, Logic and a Middle Way

Further reading

  • Adams, Marilyn McCord. "Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God." Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999.
  • Adams, Marilyn McCord and Robert M. Adams[disambiguation needed ], eds. "The Problem of Evil". Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990. The standard anthology in English. Contains classic papers by recent philosophers of religion in the analytic tradition. Deals with both the logical problem and the evidential problem.
  • Adams, Robert M. "Must God Create the Best?" in "The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays in Philosophical Theology". New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Adams, Robert M. "Existence, Self-Interest and the Problem of Evil" in "The Virtue of Faith and Other Essays in Philosophical Theology". New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
  • Aquinas, Thomas. On Evil (De Malo), trans. Regan; ed. Brian Davies. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003.
  • Beebe, James R. (2006). "The Logical Problem of Evil". In Fieser, James; Bradley, Dowden. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. .
  • Boyd, Gregory A. (2003). Is God to Blame?. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0830823948. 
  • Brown, Paterson. "Religious Morality", Mind, 1963.
  • Brown, Paterson. "Religious Morality: a Reply to Flew and Campbell", Mind, 1964.
  • Brown, Paterson. "God and the Good", Religious Studies, 1967.
  • Carver Thomas N. 1908. "The Economic Basis of the Problem of Evil," Harvard Theological Review, 1(1), pp. 97-111.
  • Farrer, Austin (1961). Love Almighty and Ills Unlimited. Garden City, NY: Doubleday .
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov, 1881. Chapters "Rebellion" and "The Grand Inquisitor"
  • Haught, James A. (1996). 2,000 Years of Disbelief: Famous People with the Courage to Doubt. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books. ISBN 1-57392-067-3 .
  • Hick, John (1966). Evil and the God of Love. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0060639020 .
  • Howard-Snyder, Daniel, ed. The Evidential Problem of Evil. Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indian University Press, 1996. Probably the best collection of essays in English on the evidential argument from evil. Includes most of the major players on the topic.
  • Mackie, J. L. (1982). The Miracle of Theism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0060639020 .
  • Hume, David. Dialogues on Natural Religion (Parts X and XI), ed. Richard Pokin. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1980.
  • Leibniz, G. W. von. Theodicy.
  • Leibniz, G. W. von. "A Vindication of God's Justice...", ("Causa Dei") trans. Paul Schrecker and Anne Martin Schrecker. New York: MacMillan, 1965.
  • Murray, Michael (1998). "Leibniz on the Problem of Evil". In Zalta, Edward N.. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. .
  • Ormsby, Eric. Theodicy in Islamic Thought (Princeton University Press, 1984)
  • Palmquist, Stephen (2000). "Faith in the Face of Evil (Appendix VI)". Kant's Critical Religion. Aldershot, England: Ashgate. ISBN 0-7546-1333-X .
  • Plantinga, Alvin (1977). God, Freedom, and Evil. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0802817310 .
  • Plantinga, Alvin (1974). The Nature of Necessity. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0198244141 .
  • Rowe, William. "The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism" in The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert M. Adams. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990.
  • Stewart, Matthew. The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza and the Fate of God in the Modern World. W.W. Norton, 2005.
  • Swinburne, Richard (1997). The Coherence of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0198240709 .
  • Swinburne, Richard. Providence and the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
  • Tooley, Michael (2002). "The Problem of Evil". In Zalta, Edward N.. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. .
  • Trakakis, Nick (2006). "Evidential Problem of Evil". In Fieser, James; Bradley, Dowden. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. .
  • Van Inwagen, Peter. The Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
  • Wilson, William McF.; Hartt, Julian N. (2004). "Farrer's Theodicy". In Hein, David; Henderson, Edward. Captured by the Crucified: The Practical Theology of Austin Farrer. New York: T & T Clark International. pp. 100–118. ISBN 0567025101 .
  • Voltaire. Candide. Many editions. Voltaire's caustic response to Leibniz' doctrine that this is the best possible world.

External links


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  • PROBLEM OF EVIL —    the TRADITIONAL PHILOSOPHIC and practical problem which asks how an all knowing and all powerful GOD, who is both the CREATOR of the UNIVERSE and by definition GOOD, can allow SUFFERING and EVIL. It concerns the basic human problem of MEANING… …   Concise dictionary of Religion

  • problem of evil — See evil, problem of …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Problem of evil in Hinduism — Hindu answers to the problem of evil are different from most answers offered in Western philosophy, partly because the problem of evil within Hindu thought is differently structured than Western traditions, mainly Abrahamic traditions.In the… …   Wikipedia

  • evil, problem of — ▪ theology Introduction       problem in theology and the philosophy of religion (religion, philosophy of) that arises for any view that affirms the following three propositions: God is almighty, God is perfectly good, and evil exists. The… …   Universalium

  • evil, problem of —    The problem of evil occurs in many forms. Philosophical discussion has eschewed the practical and pastoral problems of evil, and concentrated on the logical and evidential/probabilistic problems. The logical problem of evil is the problem that …   Christian Philosophy

  • Problem of Hell — The problem of hell is an argument against the existence of God. It is a variant of the problem of evil, applying specifically to religions which hold both that:# An omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), and omnibenevolent (all… …   Wikipedia

  • evil, problem of — The problem of reconciling the imperfect world with the goodness of God. The problem has two forms. One is whether it is consistent to hold that an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfect creator could have made a world in which pain and evil form a… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • evil, problem of —  Зла проблема …   Вестминстерский словарь теологических терминов

  • The Origin of Evil — Infobox Book | name = The Origin of Evil image caption = author = Ellery Queen country = United States language = English series = Ellery Queen mysteries genre = Mystery novel publisher = Little (1st edition, USA, 1951); Gollancz (1st edition, UK …   Wikipedia

  • Problem des Übels — Theodizee [ˌteodiˈt͜seː] (frz. théodicée, v. altgriech. θεός theós „Gott“ und δίκη díke „Gerechtigkeit“) heißt „Rechtfertigung Gottes“. Das Theodizeeproblem ist ein klassisches philosophisches und theologisches Problem für diejenigen religiösen… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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