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Essay: The Problem of Evil Critical Summary

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  • Subject area(s): Religious studies and Theology essays
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  • Published: January 21, 2020*
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  • The Problem of Evil Critical Summary
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In his chapter on “Evil and Omnipotence”, J.L. Mackie presents the difficulties in logical explanations of evil existing in a world where an omnipotent God also exists. Mackie’s writing argues that there is no valid solution to the problem of evil and an omnipotent God co-existing unless at least one of the premises in which theists view God or evil to be is modified. There are three propositions in which Mackie designs his arguments around: God is omnipotent, God is wholly good, and yet evil still exists. Although these propositions do negate each other, and most theologians adhere to all three propositions on the premises surrounding God, all three cannot consistently be argued at the same time. This is because of the contradictions that highlight the flaws the position holds and can only be properly argued unless an amendment is made to the premise. As Mackie attempts to reconcile all three propositions with fallacious solutions, he also criticizes the limitations that each proposition has. The main underlying agreements are on the Paradox of Omnipotence. The first being that evil is necessary for us to understand and notice the existence of good, but this binary opposition causes conflicts with the definition of good and evil, what is logically impossible, and presents the Paradox of Omnipotence by questioning why a being that is wholly good cannot eliminate its counterpart of evil. Secondly, evil is argued to be a necessary means to good, but again, that would imply a severe restriction to God’s omnipotence, as the conflict of an omnipotent being binding themselves would be presented. Thirdly, a world with evil would be better than a world without evil, as evil would contribute and contrast to the good. This argument would make good an unchallenged supremacy that would gradually overcome evil. This would mean that God’s goodness is to promote the virtuous acts in others, but the same can be argued for evil, meaning that a good and omnipotent being’s inability to defeat evil is put into question. Lastly, evil to the result of human free will, but God’s failure to control the beings of His creation presents the Paradox of Omnipotence. This Paradox of Omnipotence can only be resolved if God’s existence was outside of time. But this presents another problem in which free will cannot help to explain evil unless one questions God’s omnipotence with the Paradox of Sovereignty, which would mean that God is no longer omnipotent, or is bound to laws that could change.
Mackie presents a very convincing agreement. I can agree that no valid solution can be made to solve the problem of evil unless one modifies one of the propositions. But I do question if the three propositions mentioned are essential to the core of the theistic position. Several theists also believe that God is omnipresent. An omnipresent God would be a being not bound to time or location, therefore Mackie’s argument of avoiding the paradox of omnipotence by putting God outside of time, is an invalid solution. The location of Mackie’s argument is earthly bound. Mackie fails to expand his agreement to the afterlife, in which the argument that evil is a struggle everyone must face as a test to the entry into the afterlife provides a solution that God allowed evil to exist. By God allowing the existence of evil, God would be fully asserting His omnipotence. I, therefore, do not believe the existence in a good God is irrational in a world where evil does exist, and this conclusion can be proven when the propositions are expanded to give options such as the afterlife, in which that solution is possible.

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