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The Problem of Evil in Clarke

GORAN OGAR
The existence of evil in the world around us is clear and undeniable and it is an
inevitable part of the human experience. A common meaning of evil is often
expressed as that which is the opposite of good, something that we want to turn
away from, that which is harmful, destructive, or repugnant. As such, it has often
been a part of a larger religious worldview that involves both God and humanity
and it represents a serious and enduring challenge to religious faith striking at
the heart of the traditional belief in God. According to theologian Hans Kung, the
problem of evil is so severe that it has become the rock of atheism!.
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As #.
$orris %larke points out, the existence! of evil raises a set of serious problems
for all metaphysicians and a theologian, and making the existence of evil one of
the most difficult problems that a philosophy of God must face.
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The challenge to
theism presented long ago, and it has been repeated many times through history
of philosophy of God, proposes a 'uestion( )f God is omniscient, all*good, and
all*powerful, why doesn+t He prevent evil, And if he allows it, is He responsible
for it, and morally evil Himself,
Traditionally, #estern philosophical though has divided evil into two general
categories( natural evil and moral evil. $atural evils refer to natural disasters
such as tsunamis, earth'uakes, hurricanes, as well as diseases. This type of evil
is beyond reach of human control, yet it has profound and devastating
conse'uences on human life. -n the other hand, moral evil has been traditionally
referred to the evil that results from deliberate human choice, whether personal
or collective, where human beings inflict evil on each other. .urthermore, close
examination reveals that the problem of evil is really not /ust one problem, but a
cluster of interrelated arguments and issues. 0ach argument and issue raises in
its own way the 'uestion of how the God of theism could allow undeserved
physical suffering, or how could God allow human beings to be so inhuman to
each other. )s the existence of a good God compatible with the presence of evil in
the world, .or 1avid Hume, evil manifested through terrible physical maladies
poses an almost insurmountable obstacle for theistic belief, while 2t. Thomas
A'uinas argues that all evil is the result of essentially good creatures gone
wrong.
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4eibni5 defined metaphysical evil as the imperfection of all created
things, intelligent or not, solely in virtue of their being created. The fact that they
1
Peterson, Michael L. The Problem of evil : selected readings. Notre Dame, Ind: University
of Notre Dame Press, 1992. P.1
2
Clarke, W N. The one and the many : a contemporary Thomistic metaphysics. Notre Dame,
Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001. p 2!
!
Peterson, p.2
1
are created gives them boundaries6 only God is infinite, hence perfect and
complete. .or 4eibni5 this poses a problem of necessary evil.
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Hume formulated his argument against the existence of God stating that God by
nature must be both omnipotent and all*good 8all*loving9. $ow if God is
omnipotent, he could prevent all evil. And if he is all*good, he would do so, since
it is the characteristic of a good person to prevent evil wherever possible. :ut in
fact he does not prevent all evil, even though he could, but allows a vast amount
of it, both physical and moral, as is evident in the world around us. Therefore, it
follows that God is either not omnipotent or not all*good. )n either case such a
being could not be God. Hence there is no God!.
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Hume+s logic follows the
schematic that firstly, there is evil, secondly, God is benevolent, and thirdly, God
is omnipotent. )n whichever order these three statements are arranged, one of
them has to be eliminated, as all three cannot be held in union, with the
statement of the existence of evil too obvious to be called into 'uestion.
%larke is of the opinion that there is a fundamental flaw in the form of Hume+s
argument, pointing out that the alternatives proposed and presented by Hume
are incomplete6 it is not necessarily the case that a morally good and wise
person is bound to prevent any or all evil under all circumstances. He also points
out that another condition is not mentioned in Hume+s argument, that a greater
good can be achieved by allowing a lesser evil, which in some circumstances
could not be otherwise achieved. To illustrate the point, we can look at an
example of a wise parent who allows his children to suffer small hurts and
failures in order to train them to learn responsible /udgment on their own. The
over protectiveness of such a parent could produce far worse results in the child+s
character development.
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%larke+s argumentation follows Augustinian theodicy
that the created world, even with its evil, is beautiful and fitting when seen from
God+s perspective. These Augustinian ideas recur in the works of later %hristian
thinkers, such as 2t. Thomas and subse'uently other Thomistic philosophers.
.ollowing a similar thought pattern, for the =rocess thinkers God+s chief goal is
the reali5ation and maximi5ation of value within the experience of creatures.
However, every creature possesses some degree of self*determination or free
choice. 2ince God does not have a monopoly on power, creatures can genuinely
resist the divine plan6 in other words, they have power to do evil. #hat God does
is trying to persuade and influence humans to fulfill the good possibilities and
avoid the evil ones, and then continually interacts with their choices, putting all
the events together, good and bad, into a fitting pattern, like a pu55le within his
own experience. And, the challenge is that no finite being ever sees how all the
events of the whole world fit together for God.
>

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Neiman, Susan. Evil in modern thought : an alternative history of philosophy. Princeton,
N.J: Princeton University Press, 2004 p. 9!
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$lar%e, p.2!
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$lar%e, p.2"
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Peterson, p.1!
2
%larke also explains, following Augustinian theodicy, that through the gift of
intelligent freedom God allows us to exercise it, and He chances it that good
human creatures would misuse that gift and at least sometimes choose evil over
good, falling into sin. 2o, an all*good person could allow some evil so that a
greater good could be achieved, which otherwise would not be possible.
?

%larke is confident that with the above arguments the burden of proof regarding
the existence of all*good and all*powerful God in regards to his coexistence with
evil in the world, falls on the ob/ector to demonstrate that there is no higher
good to be achieved in the future by permitting some form of lesser evil to
happen now. Additionally, with our limited knowledge of the future, we cannot
have sufficient evidence to settle such a 'uestion with any certainty or even
probability and make a convincing argument against the existence of God. Thus,
God+s positive reason for allowing the 'uantity of evil that He allows remains for
the most part a mystery hidden from us in this life. This mystery does not allow
that any valid argumentation against the existence of wise and good and
omnipotent God is convincing, since the evidence to do so is beyond our reach.
@

The Augustinian tradition focuses on the causal genesis of evil in the world in
order to accomplish two basic ob/ectives( to exonerate God and to maintain the
guilt of creatures. Augustine+s theodicy held that God brought an originally good
and innocent creation into existence, and coming from a perfectly good and
sovereign God, all the creatures were inherently good. Thus, according to his
metaphysics, evil has no positive reality, but is instead the privation of good!.
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Although the central theme of Augustinian theodicy is that good human beings
misusing their own free choice produce moral evil, committing sin, he explains
the existence of natural evils in a similar way of privation of good. Thus a disease
is evil only because it deprives someone else of his or her health, but the disease
is not evil in itself. As %larke points out The T: germs in themselves are
perfectly healthy, doing fine for themselves6 they are not evil in their own being,
but are called son only because they are the cause of the absence of health in
human lungs.!
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0very aspect of evil! could be seen this way, so it follows that
death is depravation of life, hatred is depravation of love, etc. Hence, evil is the
privation in some being of a good that should be there, or more briefly( 0vil is
the privation of a due good. 2o it is this negation of the positive reality that is
perceived as evil, and as %larke puts it, until we hit this negative core, there is
no reason to call anything Bevil+!.
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:ruce Ceichenbach explains that when it
comes to the natural evils that we must take seriously the possibility of such
evils within a world order operating by natural laws. The stability of a natural
order diminishes expectations for fre'uent divine intervention to prevent or
eliminate many natural evils. The regular natural order provides a framework

$lar%e, p.2"
9
$lar%e, p.2"
1(
Peterson, p.11
11
$lar%e, p. 2'
12
$lar%e, p. 2'9
!
within which rational deliberation and action can occur, thus supporting a very
valuable state of affairs.
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The overall orientation of Augustine+s theology seems to point to the absolute
power and goodness of God, and conse'uently conclude that there is no genuine
evil in the universe, a perfectly good deity controls everything, and no evil can
be ascribed to him.! 1avid Cay Griffin, a process philosopher, however is of the
opinion that such theology of denial of genuine evil is neither faithful to the facts
of human experience nor to the %hristian faith itself.
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At the other end of the spectrum of the historical %hristian though on the
problem of evil the thought of :ishop )renaeus of the early 0astern -rthodox
church, whose theodicy is very different from that of the Augustinian tradition.
)nstead of focusing on the causal genesis and nature of evil, the )renaean
tradition emphasi5es the evolving resolution of evil. This theodicy does not view
evil in the world as a fall from one perfect state, but merely as a stage in the
development of a relatively immature creation toward a greater maturity.
=eterson points out in his introduction to The =roblem of 0vil that according to
)renaeus, the divine plan is for the gradual improvement of the human race,
which is a process that ultimately culminates in the afterlife. God+s desire is to
bring forth morally and spiritually mature beings capable of exercising faith in
him and love toward their fellow humans. The reasons for apparent evil is
twofold, firstly the epistemic distance!, so to protect the humans that they
would not be overwhelmed by the presence of the %reator, and secondly, the
existence of moral and natural evils is to promote the development of the
number of important virtues, which otherwise could not flourish.
";

-ne of the most prominent philosophers of )renaean tradition in the twentieth
century was Dohn Hick. Hick stresses that in dealing with the problem of evil we
cannot separate three relevant facets of the %hristian religion( %hristian
experience, %hristian mythology, and %hristian theology. He points out that for
)renaeus the creation of humans was in the image of God, only as the raw
material in the process of creation, but that the finite likeness! has not yet been
formed. :y this likeness! )renaeus means something more than the personal
existence as such6 he understands it as certain valuable 'uality of a personal life
which reflects finitely the divine life. This represents the perfecting of man, the
fulfillment of God+s purpose for humanity. Hick explains that in the light of the
modern anthropological knowledge some form of two*stage conception of the
creation of man has become almost an unavoidable %hristian tenet. 2o we have
in the first stage the development of homo sapiens as a product of a long
evolutionary process, and then his sudden spirituali5ation as a child of God. This
sudden spirituali5ation places the onus on the human to be perfected through
tribulations and temptations, by making responsible choices, to develop into
perfect likeness! of God. Ean is in the process of becoming the perfected being
1!
Peterson, p.1&
1"
Peterson, p.12
1#
Peterson, p.12
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whom God is seeking to create, and the apparent evil is the tool in achieving that
goal.
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The importance of the problem of evil for both a theologian and a philosopher is
demonstrated by the 'uantity and 'uality of the past and present volume of
philosophical discussion. Eany 'uestions yet need to be asked and e'ually as
many answered. )s the greater good theodicy! a truly viable answer to either
general theism or %hristian theism in the light of genuine tragedies happening in
the world, #hat is the role of a theological treatment of the problem of evil,
especially using %hristian specific themes in constructing the arguments, #hat is
the role of the doctrine of hell in the discussion on the topic, #ith these issues,
and many more not accounted here, it seems that the problem of evil commands
more attention than any other, and it will continue to do so for many years to
come. Although we may speculate and construct various arguments and counter
arguments on the topic, and try to analy5e how to fit certain philosophical and
theological concepts together on why God allows evil, it is evident that regardless
of our position or take on the problem, we are dealing with one of the greatest
mysteries of the human existence.
1&
)ohn *ic%s, The World as a Vale of Soul-Making, in Peterson p.22#
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BIBLIOGRAPHY
Clarke, W N. The one and the many : a contemporary Thomistic metaphysics. Notre Dame,
Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 2001. Print.
Cooper, Terry D. Evil : Satan, sin, and psychology. New York: Paulist Press, 2008. Print.
Eagleton, Terry. On evil. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010. Print.
Jensen, Steven J. Good & evil actions : a journey through Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Washington, D.C: Catholic University of America Press, 2010. Print.
Mathewes, Charles T. Evil and the Augustinian tradition. Cambridge New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2001. Print.
Neiman, Susan. Evil in modern thought : an alternative history of philosophy. Princeton, N.J:
Princeton University Press, 2004. Print.
Peterson, Michael L. The Problem of evil : selected readings. Notre Dame, Ind: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1992. Print.
Wright, N. T. Evil and the justice of God. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 2006. Print.
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