In this first part of two series-articles I introduced, what I called Epicurus’ beast, the deductive problem of evil as presented by Hume and Mackie. In the second part I presented analytical Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga’s response, reception and status of logical problem evil in contemporary philosophy of religion. My aim is to show the contribution of Plantinga’s work since the mid-1960’s that is believed by majority of philosophers both theists and nontheists’, to have provided the answer to Epicurus’ beast.
In 3rd century A.D. Diogenes Laertius’ De Reum Natura brought to light Epicurus’ (341-270 B.C.), who is believed to be the architecture of the logical problem of evil, beast that challenged the existence of an all powerful (omnipotent) and all loving (omni-benevolent) God.
The “Epicurean paradox” beast claimed that if God existed, He is a benevolent and omnipotent being. If God were benevolent and omnipotent, then there would be no evil. But there is evil, therefore a benevolent and omnipotent God does not exist. Evil, according to this beast, is logically incompatible with existence of an omniscient, omnipotent and benevolent God. If true, this beast would tear down all who believe in the existence of such a God.
David Hume invoked the voice of the beast when he remained his readers that “Epicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered”. He wrote about God,
“Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”(Hume 1779: 186)
“In its simplest form the problem is this:” wrote J. L. Mackie, “God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; and yet evil exists. There seems to be some contradiction between these three propositions, so that if any two of them were true, the third would be false.” (Mackie 1971:92)
- God exists
- God is omnipotent
- God is whole good
- Evil exists
Plantinga began by challenging logical problem of evil’s defenders to clarify where, they believe, lays a contradiction. He wrote “to make good his claim the atheologian must provide some proposition which is either necessarily true, or essential to theism, or a logical consequence of such propositions”(Plantinga 1967:117) to show that existence of God and evil are in logical contradiction since proposition 1-4 does not contain explicit contradiction.
Mackie agreed with Plantinga and he provided those missing propositions. He wrote,
“According to traditional theism, there is a god who is both omnipotent (and omniscient) and wholly good, and yet there is evil in the world. How can this be? It is true that there is no explicit contradiction between the statements that there is an omnipotent and wholly good god and that there is evil. But if we add the at least initially plausible premisses that good is opposed to evil in such a way that a being who is wholly good eliminates evil as far as he can, and that there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do, then we do have a contradiction. A wholly good omnipotent being would eliminate evil completely; if there really are evils, then there cannot be any such being.”(Mackie 1982: 150)
3a. A wholly good omnipotent being would eliminate evil completely.
If 3a. is true, then Mackie is correct that theologians do have a contradiction(3a and 4) in their belief and thus necessarily false. But is it true that God being wholly good omnipotent being would eliminate evil completely?