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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Appeal to the Existence of Evil?

A fairly constant objection to God's existence is also one of the oldest objections.  It centers on the existence of evil and how any all-good, all-knowing God would allow any evil to exist in His creation. It was first widely voiced by the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus who asked:

"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 Whence Cometh Evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

Skeptic David Hume repackaged the riddle and it's been highly popular with skeptics and atheist ever since.

The problem with this objection is that it assumes there are only two factors to consider. But if we add a third proposition, say that God may allow evil to exist temporarily for a higher purpose, then the argument simply crumbles.

For fun, I've thought about reformulating the argument and turning it on its head. It would go something like this:

Atheists have a true desire to use Epicurus' Riddle in toppling the belief in God for rational people.
Atheists claim that Epicurus' Riddle is powerful enough to topple belief in God for rational people.
Yet rational people still believe in God.

 So, why appeal to Epicurus' Riddle?

In both instances, it strikes me that the logic is the same.  If my argument above doesn't logically follow, then I would think that the argument from evil also doesn't logically follow. Even given that the second argument is not discussing a perfect being, the premises are not as bold and rational people will seek to make rational decisions. One may say "perhaps the rational person is biased by his emotions, or perhaps he doesn't  understand the implications of the argument."  Those points are very possible and make the argument invalid, but prove my point--when other factors can be considered, the either/or structure of both arguments fail.


  1. You wrote: "But if we add a third proposition, say that God may allow evil to exist temporarily for a higher purpose, then the argument simply crumbles."

    There's only one problem with that theory... there is no higher purpose. The answer to "Why does God allow such horrendous evil" is still "I don't know." But if there's no god, it all makes senses; this is what you'd expect from nature.

  2. You aren't being very rational when you are aware of Epicurus' question of evil and then still accept that an all loving all powerful god exists. People can be rational at times, then irrational at other your attempt to 'turn the argument on it's head' is baseless (regarding your statement that 'rational people still believe in god'). What higher purpose is there in allowing a child to be raped? Are you saying that an all loving and all powerful god...master and creator of the cosmos and all within ....couldn't come up with a better way to achieve what ever his higher objectives are than to allow a child to be raped?

    1. Charles,
      Please reread the post. It proves that Epicurus' question doesn't logically follow. I've answered the charge in other posts before; this post is to demonstrate that the conclusion doesn't necessarily follow from the premises. If it did, then atheists should abandon appealing to the riddle as a logical conclusion.


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