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Derin Adetosoye

Derin Adetosoye


Total Article : 11

About Me:I am a student at sixth-form currently studying Economics, Biology & Philosophy and Ethics. My articles are mainly focused on Philosophy and explores the different approaches to ethics. They are written in a way which can be used for revision purposes.

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The Problem of Evil: Augustinian Theodicy

The Problem of Evil: Augustinian Theodicy

In the world, both moral and natural evil exists which causes suffering. There are two types of evil: moral evil – which is suffering caused by sentient beings e.g. murder and there is natural evil – suffering caused by natural events e.g. earthquakes. Despite this difference, it is evident that these two types of evil can overlap in the sense that natural evil can be made worse by moral evil; for example, environmental issues such as acid rain and global warming are events which are enhanced by moral evil, resulting in suffering.

The fact that evil and suffering exists poses a problem for religious believers, as the monotheistic God is said to have the divine attributes of omnipotence and Omnibenevolence, therefore it is known as the Problem of Evil. Augustine acknowledged this problem and proposed that “either God cannot or he will not prevent evil; if he cannot he is not all powerful; if he will not he is not all loving.” This highlights that the nature of God is seriously brought into question and so the problem of evil is a theological problem. As a theological problem, there are three assertions which a theist has to hold: God is omnipotent, God is omnibenevolent and that evil exists. So as God is seen as the creator of the universe, he has a responsibility of everything in it which includes both natural and moral evil as well as humans with the characteristics that lead to evil e.g. free will. This may cause a problem for religious believers because as Putnam argued, “if God is omnipotent then why would he create suffering when he could have made harmony?”

Thus the problem of evil is also a philosophical problem which can be viewed as an inconsistent triad by Mackie. Mackie argued that if God is omnipotent (a) then he is aware of existing evil and suffering and has the power to end it. If God is omnibenevolent (b) then he will want to put an end to it as that is the most loving thing to do. Yet evil and suffering does exist (c) meaning that these propositions were inconsistent and so at least one of these attributes must be false, but all attributes are needed to be God.

Augustine proposed a solution to the problem of evil, known as Augustinian theodicy which is a soul-deciding theodicy. Augustine defined evil as the privation of goodness just as blindness is a privation of sight. This comparison indicates that evil cannot be an entity in itself, like blindness is not an entity in itself and so God could not have created evil. Thus, Augustinian theodicy argues that God created the world and it was perfect, without the existence of evil or suffering. This idea is supported in Genesis 1:31, where the Bible states that “God saw all that he had made and saw that it was very good.” So if the world was made perfect and good, then where did evil originate from? Augustine argues that existence of evil ultimately originates from our God given free will, in which Adam and Eve abused and disobeyed God by eating the fruit of good and evil. This disobedience resulted in a downwards spiral which caused the state of perfection to be ruined by both moral and natural evil. Augustine argued that “all evil is sin or consequences of sin” and therefore moral evil derived from human free will and disobedience, whilst natural evil occurred as a result of the Fall of Adam and Eve as this “set all nature awry” causing an imbalance to the world’s order – known as the ‘penal consequences of sin.’

Thus Augustine reasoned that as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve, all humans are worth of the punishment of evil and suffering because he proposed that we are all “seminally present in the loins of Adam” meaning that as we are descendants of him, we too are also deserving of the punishment of original sin. Thus since we are worthy of punishment, Augustine argued that God has the right not to intervene and put a stop to evil and suffering. However, it is by his omnibenevolent (all-loving) and omnipotent (all-powerful) nature that God sent Jesus Christ to offer us the gift of eternal life in heaven, free of suffering and evil for those who repent and hell for those who do not.

What do you think about Augustine’s theodicy? Does it seem just? Does it make sense that an “all loving” God would allow such a place like hell to exist? Most importantly, biological evidence shows that we are not all descendants of Adam, so how does this explain evil and suffering in the world? There are many different theodicies to the problem of evil which I will be exploring.

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