The Logical Problem of Evil (3)

What about (4)? It states that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can. In order for this proposition to work against the theist, it has to be necessarily true, but is it? At first glance it may seem to be the case, but it’s always possible that a good thing may allow evil to happen, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Plantinga uses several thought experiments and analogies to help us see this. For example, lets say a friend of yours, who was driving out in a snow storm, ran out of gas and was stranded in the middle of nowhere. You, however, are sitting in front of the fireplace in your living room enjoying a cup of hot chocolate. In your car, which is full of gas, you have an extra can of gas in the trunk that you use for emergencies. However, you don’t help your friend. Can you really be considered evil for not helping your friend, despite having the ability? No. You still may be good, you just didn’t know about what was happening (pg. 18).

This analogy doesn’t touch the area of omniscience though. If God knows about all evils, is it necessarily true that He would stop them all? Not necessarily. Let’s say you have two friends stranded on two separate islands, both fifty miles on either side of you. You know about them both and have the ability to save one of them, but you cannot save them both. You aren’t considered a bad person because you couldn’t save both, though you knew both needed help, you just did what you could (pg. 19).

But what if we added both attributes together? Is it necessarily true that both an omnipotent and omniscient God would stop evil as far as He can? Again, not quite. Some good things can’t exist apart from evil, so perhaps an evil event that happens leads to a good event that far outweighs the evil event. If the evil state of affairs is needed in order for the good state of affairs to happen, then if God stopped the evil state of affairs, He would preclude the outweighing good state of affairs as well. For example, Plantinga says:

“. . . there are people who display a sort of creative moral heroism in the face of suffering and adversity—a heroism that inspires others and creates a good situation out of a bad one. In a situation like this the evil, of course, remains evil; but the total state of affairs—someone’s bearing pain magnificently, for example—may be good.” (pg. 23)

The evil event is still evil, but the outweighing good that results from it makes the whole thing ultimately a good state of affairs. Perhaps the evil in this world is meant to bring about something better in the long run.

So Plantinga shows that the existence of God and evil hasn’t been proven to be inconsistent. But, in page 26, he goes even farther and shows that it is consistent. First, he takes the propositions:

  1. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good
  2. Evil exists

These seem inconsistent. How can both exist at the same time? But he adds another proposition to them that is consistent with (1) and entails (2), which is:

  1. God creates a world containing evil and has a good reason for doing so.

If (3) is even possible, then (1) and (2) are consistent. (3) is possible. Therefore, (1) and (2) are consistent.

In conclusion, Plantinga shows that there is no logical inconsistency in the existence of God and evil. There is still the question of how likely God’s existence is considering all the evil in the world (probabilistic problem of evil), and this philosophical babble is hardly any emotional comfort for people who are grieving, but Plantinga’s only goal is to show that the evil in the world doesn’t logically entail that an omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good God doesn’t exist.

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About Kyle Hendricks

Bondservant of Christ, philosophy grad student, Mizzou alumni. My hobbies include reading and looking younger than I really am.
This entry was posted in Apologetic Thursdays, Blog Series, Engaging Worldviews, Why I am a Christian. Bookmark the permalink.

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