Answering Epicurus on the problem of evil

(quoting Epicurus)

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?

(quoting Olliff and Hodges)

It was claimed that if God did ‘x,’ He would be evil; but this presupposes a standard of good and evil independent of God, which [objectors] would have to prove in order to make this conditional valid. On what basis does he know that such an act would be evil? He simply assumes what he needs to prove. Moreover, such a presupposition is incoherent, because there is no ethical standard outside of God’s will that can provide the qualities that an ethical standard needs, i.e., normativity, invariance, and personality. Without the infinite, immutable, personal will of God as the standard for good and evil, we would be reduced to the incoherence of the atheist who tries to construct a normative, invariant, personal standard of ethics based on the numerous and incompatible opinions of variant and subjective men.

My two cents

English: Epicurus sitting
Epicurus sitting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More epistemology here, going into the technical end of the spectrum…and I like it. There do seem like a lot of people who assume (or rather, hope) that good and evil exist independently of God’s will. I also think there are many people who like to quote “don’t judge” from the Bible…but then they go ahead and judge God anyway. Finally, I remember asking someone if he believed in moral absolutism or moral relativism, but he instead tried to reframe the term as ethical absolutism/relativism, because he was bent on trying to remove God from the equation…and even when he tried that, he didn’t end up answering the question anyway.

Quote sources

  1. ThinkExist (n.d.). Epicurus Quotes. Available: http://thinkexist.com/quotation/is-god-willing-to-prevent-evil-but-not-able-then/411189.html. Last accessed 17th Apr 2012.
  2. Olliff, D.K. and Hodges, D.H. (n.d.). A Reformed Response to Daniel Helminiak’s Gay Theology. Available: http://www.reformed.org/social/hodges_response_helminiak.html. Last accessed 31st Dec 2011.
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