On Behalf of Demea: Hume’s Problem of Evil

Pain Pauls blogEpicurus’ old questions are yet unanswered.” Said Philo, David Hume’s skeptical character, in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1779). “Is he [God] 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?”(D 10.25)

In part 10 and 11 of the Dialogues, Hume explored the traditional problem of evil. He, quo Philo, argued that given the occurrence of pain and suffering, an omnicompetent Deity, believed by Cleanthes and Demea, cannot exist. The existence of instances of pain and suffering is logically incompatible with the existence of such a Deity.

Philo expounded more,

Why is there any misery at all in the world? Not by chance surely. From some cause then. Is it from the intention of the deity? But he is perfectly benevolent. Is it contrary to his intention? But he is almighty. Nothing can shake the solidity of this reasoning, so short, so clear, so decisive; except we assert, that these subjects exceed all human capacity, and that our common measures of truth and falsehood are not applicable to them (D 10.34)

Demea, Hume’s unbending and inflexible standard orthodox-theist character, offered a response to meet Epicurus’ old questions. This article explored Demea’s response and argued that it does shake the solidity of the classical problem of evil.

Demea’s Solution To The Problem Of Evil

Demea disagreed with Philo that Epicurus’ questions were yet to be answered. All pious divines and theologians who have indulged themselves in their rhetoric on this issue, according to Demea, have undoubtedly offered solutions. He then proceeded to offer the following solution:

This world is but a point in comparison of the universe: This life but a moment in comparison of eternity. The present evil phenomena, therefore, are rectified in other regions, and in some future period of existence. And the eyes of men, being then opened to larger views of things, see the whole connection of general laws, and trace, with adoration, the benevolence and rectitude of the deity, through all the mazes and intricacies of his providence (D 10.29).

Cleanthes hastily dismissed Demea’s solution as “arbitrary suppositions” in the same class with “conjectures and fictions”(D 10.30). Without any evidence in our present experiences, argued Cleanthes, holding Demea’s position “is to ascertain the bare possibility of our opinion; but never can we, upon such terms, establish its reality.” (ibid). Philo, on the other hand, had nothing to say about it.

Does Demea’s solution, viz., an omnicompetent and benevolent Deity rectifies whatever pain and suffering in some future period of existence, shake the solidity of the classical problem of evil?  Treating Demea’s solution not as a theodicy but as a defense, I believe it does. Demea’s solution is an attempt not to postulate the Deity’s reason to permit such instances of pain and suffering but an attempt to show that existence of evil is compatible with the existence of an omnicompetent and benevolent Deity.

Unlike a theodicy, what is required for a successful defense is not its reality nor its plausibility nor its believability that it established, but only its possibility. The defense needs only to shows that the instance of evil is logically consistent with the existence of an omnicompetent and benevolent Deity.

To show this truth, I applied Demea’s solution in a following just-so Christian saga¹:

All things were created by benevolent and omnicompetent God good. In the whole creation God made higher sentient creatures to exemplify His essential moral perfect character. These beings were created to first and foremost love, adore and serve their Maker, and love and serve each other. For there to be a genuine love, these being were endowed with freedom of will which is a necessary condition for true acts of loving, adoration and service.

Some of these sentient creatures misused their freedom of will in choosing not to exemplify their Makers moral perfect character. As a consequence, pain and suffering entered into the things God once created good.

God is both able and willing to bring an end to pain and suffering at any given moment. The fact that the pain and suffering exists is because God has morally sufficient reason(s) to allow it for a specific duration of time. The time is coming where God will put an end to past and present instance of pain and suffering.

True or not, this just-so Christian saga captured Demea’s Deity who rectifies instances of pain and suffering in some future period of existence, either in this life or the next.  God is willing and is able to prevent evil but has moral sufficient reasons to permit instance of evil for a given period of time.

Applying Demea’s solution in a just-so Christian saga, it appears that the problem of evil fails to establish the conclusion that God cannot existence. The temporary existence of pain and suffering in this world is not logically inconsistent with the existence of Cleanthes’ and Demea’s Deity.

[1] Just-so example is inspired by Peter van Iwangen (2006) The Problem of Evil. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

49 thoughts on “On Behalf of Demea: Hume’s Problem of Evil

  1. I appreciate Lewis’ explanation of natural evil, but in my judgment it doesn’t adequately explain why an omnipotent God, who by his benevolent nature should prevent all the evil he can, would create a natural order that results in so much suffering, pain and evil. I continue to wrestle with this. I wonder if we might not also need to reconsider natural evil itself (which, there being no evildoer, is determined by the effect it has on its victims). Maybe we need to look at the biotic community as a whole, or even all of creation, to determine the goodness of a natural event, rather than at the individual humans who may suffer from it.

    A father allowing his child to be burned, even though he has the opportunity to prevent it, may not be a monster. But what of a father who, with the ability to prevent it, allows his child to be raped, tortured and murdered? Or a father who, with the ability to prevent it, allows his child to become infected with a painful and deadly disease? It is very difficult to imagine a morally sufficient reason for any such thing. We would uniformly condemn such a man, and we would be outraged if he claimed to have been behaving in a godly way and that he has a morally sufficient reason for his behavior that we are just too simple-minded to appreciate.

    I just wonder if we aren’t sacrificing too much of God’s benevolence in an effort to save his omnipotence.

    It’s a tough question and I greatly appreciate your thoughtful analysis of it.

    • Brilliant response Bill. I love the passion in you that dares explore through asking and pondering hard questions. Lewis’ explanation reflects Paul’s argument in his letter to the Romans(8:18-25), viz., after the higher sentient creatures rejected their Creator, the whole creation was subjected to futility and is in bondage to corruption. Adequate or not, it does connect the natural pain and suffering with moral evil.

      The example of a father allowing his child to burn herself is not meant to show which kind of evil the father could allow, but that show that if there is morally sufficient reason, a being A is justified in allowing undesirable event-E to be the case. From a limited perspective I cannot understand and do not see reason(s) a benevolent God would allow certain horrible evils(rape, tortured, murder etc), but that does not mean that there are no such reason(s).

      Assume Christian saga is true. God the Father allow God the Son who was in the form of human(Jesus) to be tortured and brutally murdered as a criminal. But as Joseph and Job, God had a morally sufficient reason, that through the death of His Son save many, to permit such an evil act. Saint Augustine correctly stated: “Since God is the highest good, He would not allow any evil to exist in His works, unless His omnipotence and goodness were such as to bring good even out of evil.”(Enchir. xi):

      I don’t think we have to sacrifice either God’s benevolence or omnipotence. Good attempts to solve this paradox preserve both His characters.

      Let me know your thoughts Bill.

  2. The problem of evil has long troubled me. I am satisfied that Plantinga’s Free Will Defense shows that the existence of the classical orthodox understanding of God is possible, but only if all evil proceeds from the exercise of the free will of moral agents. In other words, it only explains moral evil, not natural evil.

    To say that there is a “morally sufficient reason” God permits evil seems to me to be another way of saying that what we perceive to be evil really isn’t; we just lack the ability to see and understand it from God’s perspective. If we had that perspective we’d presumably recognize that there is in fact no evil, because what we perceive as evil is in fact morally justified in some way. The problem with that argument is that it is wildly inconsistent with our experience. Surely when we observe some horrific act of evil, such as the torture, rape and murder of a child, or a child who dies of starvation, dysentery or cancer, there cannot be some morally sufficient reason for it, unless the definition of morality is twisted in some bizarre way. To say that God has a “morally sufficient reason” to permit such things seems to me to make God a monster.

    I’ve come to conclude that we need to rethink our traditional understanding of omnipotence unless we want to leave God complicit in the evil we observe and experience. I’ve come to believe, therefore, that God acts to prevent all evil that God can (just as any moral parent would). When evil occurs, I believe that it is not because God “permits” it (or worse yet, causes or preordained it). I realize this requires rethinking the classical definition of omnipotence, but in so doing we preserve God’s omnibenevolence, which seems to me to be the primary characteristic of a God who “is love.”

    Thanks for this great and thought-provoking post!

    • Thank you Bill for a brilliant input. I am also satisfied with Plantinga’s FWD but with my on modification on his understanding of Freedom of Will.

      I do not think we can call natural pain and suffering evil in any meaningful sense. A tree falling on and killing a baby(for example) is a bad thing, but it is not evil. Granted, we call naturally bad things evil, it appears that a defender of FWD(such as did C. S. Lewis) could argue that the natural laws are tuned to maximize freedom of will. Natural evil are the consequences of the abuse of freedom of will.

      To say there is a morally sufficient reason for God to permit evil ought not be understood as another way of saying evil is not evil given God’s perspective. Not at all. Like the Joseph’s story in the Bible, Joseph being sold into slavery was evil deed my his brothers, but God permit it, not because it was not evil, but because He turn it into good. Joseph coming to save his brothers (or Job’s saga). Another classical example: A wise father permit his child to touch a hot coal and burn herself because that father has morally sufficient reason, namely to let the child learn not to touch a hot coal. Her burning herself is a bad thing from the wise fathers perspective. A father allowing his child to burn herself for a good reason is far from a monster.

      Thank you once again for your input Bill.

  3. Pingback: Pick your poison: Either God is imperfect or “true morality” is uncomfortably immoral | A Measure of Faith

  4. And yet, what we actually see is an enormous amount of suffering with no apparent justification. The universe is essentially a giant machine that grinds out suffering in the form of sick and starving children, or the thousands of people drowned in a tsunami, or a person undergoing surgery without anesthetic, or an animal being eaten alive. This has been going on every minute of every day around the world since before recorded history, for millions and millions of years.

    This is a huge empirical problem for the Christian claim that there is a loving, omnipotent God presiding over the universe. To respond to the problem of evil by saying that you can imagine a scenario in which God would be justified in permitting some evil misses the point on, literally, a cosmic scale.

    • Hello William,

      You mention moral and natural evils.

      Moral evil is the unrighteousness that occurs first in the hearts of men by their choice and then manifests itself in sinful deeds. Greed, hatred, selfishness, deceit, theft, lust, and envy are but a few examples of these immoral deeds. (Judging this as evil implies a standard of morality, and thus becomes its own argument for the existence of God.)

      Natural evil derives from natural processes. Examples would be flood, lightning, earthquake, tornado, hurricane, etc., all of which can result in suffering and death. You need to realize that we live on a plant that is alive. At the equator the Earth is spinning at 1,038 miles per hour. This, and other factors, cause weather patterns. If you study tectonic plates and plate boundaries you will learn why we have earthquakes and tsunamis.

      You specify sickness – In a world tainted by sin, sickness, and disease, death will always be with us. We are flesh and blood beings with physical bodies prone to disease and illness. Some sickness is simply a result of the natural course of things in this world.

      You specify starving children – Why would adults have more children than they can care for and regardless of this, are you and I, and the millions of those with an overabundance giving enough to help those in need?

      You specify a person undergoing surgery without anesthetic. ???

      You specify an animal being eaten alive – I assume you mean people eating animals alive, which occurs in some cultures, but these are fish, shell fish and insects. If you are implying the circle of life, or food chain, then that is just the way it is. Every living thing has to feed to survive, it isn’t evil.

      The presence of evil is not a sufficient argument against the existence of God. In fact, according to the gospel revelation, you and I cannot appreciate the nature and character of God apart from the presence of suffering. Because God chose to suffer for us in order to save us from the consequences of our own evil choices. If you would understand the value of suffering look to the cross.

    • God’s SOLUTION to the human PROBLEM of suffering is Jesus Christ’s creative death, viz.: verifiably Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical, including a point of change for the transformation of the world, long abandoned without sufficient cause by post-apostolic Christianity.

    • Thank you William for a great input. For Christians, the problem of evil is truly strong emotional problem, but I believe not a problem intellectually. The giant machine that grinds out suffering is a natural consequences of creatures de-throning their Creator. Christians knows from Joseph’s saga, Job, and mostly death and resurrection of Christ, that though creatures intend things for evil the Creator will always turn to good.

      Finding a scenario in which God is justified in permitting some evil is intended to show that existence of God is logically consistence with existence of some evil.

      Let me know your thoughts William.

  5. For a proper understand of evil perhaps an appropriate question would be, “Why Does God Allow Satan to Influence Mankind?”

    Jesus was tempted by Satan, the Lords Prayer contains this sentence – “And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.”

    We are instructed to put on the Full Armor of God in Ephesians 6. Where it states “so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

    There are dozens and dozens of references to our fight and it all comes down to mans rejection of God and the things of God, and in doing so we lose the fight against Satan’s deceptions.

    A good study on this is 1 Peter Chapter 5. We read in verse 8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

    Another interesting study can be found in all three Gospels. Matthew 8:30-37; Mark 5:1-20; and Luke 8:27-38.

    In Matthew 8:28-34 we read “When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon- possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. ‘What do you want with us, Son of God?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?’

    Note the demons were concerned about the time, as it was not the “appointed time.” Luke discusses the demons concern about going into the “Abyss”. James 2:19 declares that even the demons believe that there is only “one God,” however the demons “shudder” because they are aware of the judgment of God that they (demons) will suffer eternal punishment.

    By studying the Bible I’ve learned God wants all of humanity to learn important lessons – that “the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23) and that Satan’s way leads to misery and suffering.

  6. Demea’s solution seems to be valid because it can be accomplished as a realization that all of the pain and suffering was never actually contrary to the benevolent deity’s character. It was all just a misunderstanding, if you will.

    Your application of the solution to the Christian saga, however, appears to subjugate God so that his purposes are entirely dependent on man’s free will. Presumably God can and will end pain and suffering because that is in line with his nature. If he hesitates to do so for “morally sufficient reasons” then the implication is that the state of affairs which attains from waiting is in some way superior to the state of affairs which would have attained from the instantaneous elimination of pain and suffering, which would be effectively equivalent to God having prevented its introduction in the first place. In your saga, the pain and suffering was only introduced because of man’s free will, presumably because God cannot introduce something which is contrary to his nature. This means that the best possible outcome, the one which is realized by God waiting to eliminate pain and suffering, can only occur if man exercises his free will in a manner contrary to God’s character. This God is therefore not omnicompetent because he is dependent on the actions of another free agent in order to attain the best possible state of affairs.

    • Thank you Travis for a first class comment that I am honored to respond.

      I have argued elsewhere that God not been able to control the action of free agent does not bring to question his omnicomptence. In short I argued, borrow Thomas Morris, that what we mean by a being B can do x, is either B’s ability, viz., B is “ able to do x” or B’s capability, viz., B is “capable of doing x”(Morris 1991). With this in mind, it become clear that God, a wholly good omnipotent, could be able to eliminate evil, but either God is morally incapable to eliminate evil without eliminating good, viz., God’s incapability to create a creature C who possesses true freedom of will and C only do good and never do evil, or God has sufficient moral reasons not to eliminate evil, has nothing to do with God’s power(ability) but God’s moral perfection (capability)(see also Peter van Inwagen 2006, pp. 64-65)

      Nelson Pike (1969: 215-216) provided an illustration to show how that could be the case, which I borrowed and exaggerated it a little. Think of deeply devoted Buddhist Jones whom we are told cannot be cruel to animals. Surely Jones does have physical ability to kick a kitten, for example. So it is not because Jones lacked certain power to act cruel to the animals that Jones cannot be cruel to animals but because of Jones’ strongly disposed moral character that insures that he is incapable of acting cruel to them. The cannot does not reflect Jones physical ability, but moral incapability.

      Thus God dependent on the actions of another free agent does not question His ability. A theist could argue that He has the ability but because of His morally perfect God is incapable of having free creature without there being pain and suffering, without letting go of His omnipotence.

      Let me know your thoughts.

      Inwagen, Peter van (2006) The Problem of Evil. Oxford Press Inc., New York.
      Morris, Thomas V. (1991) Our Idea of God: An Introduction to Philosophical Theology. InterVarsity Press.
      Pike, Nelson (1969) “Omnipotence and God’s Ability to Sin,” American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3: 208-216

      • Prayson,
        Let me reformulate the argument as a set of premises and a concluding argument so that we can better pinpoint where your objection lies.

        1) A morally perfect God wills the state of affairs to be that which is morally superior to all other possible states of affairs.
        2) An omnipotent God can achieve any state of affairs which is logically coherent (e.g., God cannot make a square circle).
        3) A morally perfect and omnipotent God will not violate the freedom of his created free agents (because freedom of will is necessary for true love).
        4) A morally perfect God cannot introduce pain and suffering because it is contrary to his nature.
        5) An omnipotent God can end pain and suffering at any time.
        6) If pain and suffering ends at the instant it is introduced then the resulting the state of affairs is equivalent to those which attain if pain and suffering are never introduced.

        In the proposed Christian saga:
        7) God is morally perfect (#1) and omnipotent (#2), and thus #3 applies.
        8) God created free agents.
        9) Pain and suffering was introduced by the created free agents.
        10) God did not end pain and suffering at the moment it was introduced (because he has morally sufficient reasons, as required by #1).

        Concluding argument:
        If God has allowed pain and suffering for some time (#10) but could have ended it at the instant it started (#5) then the state of affairs in which pain and suffering endures must be morally superior (by #1 and #2) to the state of affairs in which it never exists (#6).

        If the free agents are truly free, then there is a possible world in which they did not introduce pain and suffering. According to the argument above, this world is morally inferior to the world in which pain and suffering exist. God cannot introduce pain and suffering (#4) and cannot influence his free agents to do so (#3). Therefore, God is completely incapable of attaining a morally superior state of affairs by his own volition.

        The follow-up:
        The last paragraph of your response was a little hard to follow, so you may need to restate it. I believe that you are perhaps inferring that premise #4 is equivalent to a logical incoherence. If that is the case then, by #2, the inability to attain the morally superior state does not defeat God’s omnipotence because it was not part of the capability set which defines his omnipotence.

        I agree, but this leads to a new problem. By eliminating this capability from God’s repetoire, we have now inferred that God is not morally perfect because he is missing a requirement for attaining the morally superior state of affairs.

        Sorry for the length, but I wanted to make the argument easier to dissect. Looking forward to your response.

        • Prayson,
          Just wanted to let you know that I’ve published on my blog (http://wp.me/p2RvYN-wr) a refined and generalized version of the argument I presented here. I would like to continue our discussion, either here or there, but I suggest you review that post before we continue. Looking forward to further dialog.

    • Travis, your comments and input have top the list of the best philosophical discourse I have had on my blog for a long time. No need for apologizes on the length. It is worthy it. Thank you for our discourse.

      I do agree with (2), (3), (4), (5), (8), and (9) but not with (1), thus not with (7) and (10). I do not know where I stand with (6).

      I think (1) is false. Similar to Anselm’s response to Gaunilo’s perfect Island dilemma, there is no such thing as “a morally superior to all other possible states of affairs”. As the impossibility of there being a Gaunilo’s perfect Island, since we can conceive of something more, for example a tree or dancing girls, could be added to whatever perfect Island I(n), we can conceive of a possible states of affair that is moral superior superior to the moral superior to all other possible states of affairs. I think Descartes was wrong. There is no best of all possible worlds.

      I would formulation my argument, thus, as:

      Axiom: God is a being that possesses maximal excellence with respect to power (omnipotence), knowledge (omniscience), presence (omnipresence) and is morally perfect.


      1. God exists

      2. Instances of pain and suffering in the world exists.

      3. God is able and will to eliminated pain and suffering in the world (He once created good).

      4. God has moral sufficient reason(s) not to eliminate pain and suffering.

      4a. God has all the power a being could have to eliminate pain and suffering but morally incapable (due to his moral perfect nature) to eliminate pain and suffering without eliminating a certain essential good (freedom of will)

      Building A Conclusion:

      5. If (4) is possibly true, then (1) is logically consistence with (2)
      6. (4) is possibly true
      7. (1) is logically consistence with (2)


      The additional (4a.) could be one of the possible but not necessary true reason for God not eliminating pain and suffering.

      To clear out confusions, I am attempting to show, from (3) and (4), that: Person P being able and willing to remove event-E, does not entail that not-event-E would be the case, because, as I argued, P may have reason(s) that suppresses the need to remove event-E(forever or for a given period of time) (see Van Inwagen Peter van Inwagen 2006, pp. 64-65 for an illustration)

      Let me know your thought Travis. Sorry for the lengthy response.

      • Prayson,
        Since the post on my blog has split our conversation, I propose that the comments here focus on the argument you have put forth and the comments there focus on the argument I put forth. Agreed? On that assumption…

        How do you reconcile your premise #3 with #4a? The combination would seem to imply that God will have to eliminate free will when he ends pain and suffering. I know you said that 4a was just a possibility, but isn’t there a conflict? Should 4a even be on the table? Or are you willing to accept that God will eliminate free will in order to eliminate pain and suffering?

        On a more general note, your argument seems to have stripped out some assumptions that were present in the original just-so Christian saga. The situation is more mysterious than it used to be. Are you willing to add premises which answer the following questions, or must we proceed without knowing? You of course do not have to provide an answer to any or all of these. It is your argument, after all.
        1) How was pain and suffering introduced into the world that was once created good?
        2) What will change between now and when God eliminates pain and suffering so that pain and suffering no longer exist?
        3) Is the world where pain and suffering don’t exist (either before it was introduced, or after God eliminates it) morally superior to the world where pain and suffering do exist?

        Best wishes.

        • Travis, thank you for a response that inquired a number of questions, thus provide me with a better opportunity to make my thoughts and argument clear.

          (4a) does not have to be on the table. Though I do not see any conflict between (4a) and (3). I believe you are correct that accepting both premises, I am to accept that God will eliminate free will in order to eliminate pain and suffering. Borrowing some of Irenaeus’ thoughts, which were rechoed by John Hick, a theist could argue that for higher sentient creatures to exercise there freedom of will there need to be created at an epistemic distance from God. The time to which God will eliminate pain and suffering would be the time to which that distance would be removed there eliminate freedom of will.

          The Christian saga was not introduced to give an an account of where pain and suffering originated but to give context to Demea’s solution of a Deity that will bring pain and suffering to an end.

          Answers to the questions:

          1. Pain and suffering, quo Christian saga, was introduced by higher sentient creatures’ abuse of freedom of will.
          2. There would be no freedom of will (since the epistemic distance would be removed)
          3. There is no such thing as a morally superior world. Is there a possible world without pain and suffering? Yes. A world which higher sentient creatures were not created at an epistemic distance from the Creator (no freedom of will).

          Let me know your thoughts Travis.

      • Prayson,
        Before I offer a more thorough response, please clarify the following:
        1) Is your argument adopting the Irenaean theodicy, where pain and suffering exist as the means of “soul building”?
        2) I did not ask about a morally superior world, but rather the relative morality of the worlds. In other words, is the world which is free of pain and suffering morally better, worse or equal to the world which includes pain and suffering? Or better yet, rank the morality of the pre-fall world, the current world and the restored world. 1-1-1 would mean they’re all the same, 2-3-1 would mean that the restored world is best, the pre-fall world is second best and the fallen world is worst. Of course, you could also leave this as an unknown.

        • 1. No, I only borrowed a speculative idea of creation at an epistemic distance from God as a necessary condition for freedom of will from Irenaeus. I don’t find Irenaenian theodicy persuasive.

          2. Ideas about pre-fall or states of the world before introduction of sentient creatures with freedom of will brings us into the world of deeper speculation. I would thus say I do not if such worlds are possible and even if possible, if they are feasible for God to actualize, Travis.

          • 1. OK
            2. I understood all three of those worlds to have been assumed to have been actualized. The pre-fall world is the world God created where sentient creatures existed but had not yet used their free will to sin. The current world is, well, the current world and the restored world with the world after God ends pain and suffering. Can these be ranked by their moral value, or is that not possible?

          • Is it also too speculative to suppose that God will eliminate pain and suffering because the resulting world is in some sense better than the world before pain and suffering are eliminated?

          • It is, indeed, sad that “the kind of death Jesus suffered”, viz.: the glory of his Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical death on the cross, i.e., the antidote to human pain, suffering and death, has been suppressed but not extinguished in Christian tradition.

            (John 12: 32-33; 14: 18-21; 19: 30-37)

      • Prayson,
        After adding in the extra information, I’ve come to the conclusion that your argument only differs from mine as follows:
        1) I propose that a morally perfect God wills the world to be that which is morally superior to all other realizable worlds. Alternatively this could be stated as saying that, when given the ability to actualize one world from a finite set of possible worlds, a morally perfect God will actualize the world which is morally superior to the others.
        2) I propose that a morally perfect God cannot intentionally introduce pain and suffering into a world where it did not previously exist. The presumption is that this kind of act is contrary to a morally perfect nature.
        3) I propose that an omnipotent and morally perfect God will not violate the free will of created agents. The presumption is that God would have prevented the fall, but did not do so for this reason. It also serves to ensure that the love between the creator and creature is not coerced.

        As I see it, #2 and #3 are central to any free will theodicy. There’s little reason to invoke free will if they aren’t asserted. #1 is more intended to be a clarification of how a morally perfect God acts.

        If your argument is to remain absent these three additions then I find no problems with the argument as you have framed it. However, I suspect that those who assert a free will theodicy will also agree with these three claims. Given that you have already begun engaging with the expanded argument at my site, I see no reason to continue the discussion here. I look forward to continuing the discussion on the other side.

  7. Prayson, I know the nature of the problem of evil. In your response to me, you said

    A defense, ridiculous as it may be, does not aim to be plausible, true, or believable but aim to show that the conclusion that God does not exist does not follow from the fact that evil exists.

    It is this I called child play. Please tell me where I misunderstand the nature of the problem.
    This is what you wrote in premise #2

    2. A benevolent and incompetent God will in future eliminate evil.

    Is this what you intended to say[emphasis by me]?

    You say to argue your case for two we need so many iffs. If premise #1 is false, how do we get to the benevolent god removing evil?

    • Whether it is a child play or not is irrelevant Makagutu. What is required for a defense is to show the possibility of coexistence of benevolent and omnicompetent God and evil.

      You misunderstood the nature of the problem of evil in a sense that you failed to note that it presupposes the existence of benevolent and omnicompetent God to which it showing to be inconsistence with the instances of evil.

      The problem of evil is the case is supposedly challenge those who hold that such a Deity exists and give reasons why such a Deity cannot exist.

      Assuming that God does not exist, then there is no problem at all. The person holding that God does not existence, to be reasonable, has to offer justification for that position. The problem of evil has and is being used as a justification for holding such a position.

      The aim of solving the problem of evil is to show that that is not a good justification. From a neutral position, a person who considering theism or atheism, the problem of evil and the solutions ought to leave her neutral.

      • Prayson, I know the nature of the problem of evil. I know the assumptions it makes. Am not sure you have read my comment because you would not continue in this diatribe of yours.

        You write an incompetent god, I ask you if this is what you mean, you tell me I misunderstand. What is wrong with you?

        I know and I have written in a godless universe, there is no problem of evil, things just are. Why you’d think this position, which is what we observe around us needs justification.

        • Hej Makagutu. I apologize for misunderstanding on the nature of the problem of evil.

          Theists surely do not observe a godless universe universe. Thus a justification is needed show them that it is a godless universe.

          Simply stating that that is what we(whoever they are) observe is not a justification but an appeal to popularity which may be false.

          • Theists observe a godless universe but interpret it to be something other than it is. We observe the same world, where earthquakes kill both the believer and the unbeliever. A world in which the rapist gets away with the rape sometimes and so much more. A world where, if there was divine providence, we wouldn’t have had people dying from hunger.

          • Makagutu, sorry to be trouble, but a theist could say the same, namely, atheists observe a God universe but interpret it to be something other than it is.

            Demea’s solution and others are given to show that natural and moral pain and suffering we observe does not lead to the conclusion that this is a godless universe.

            How does it follow that a world where, if there was divine providence, we wouldn’t have had people dying from hunger? I can see the emotional connection but I fail to see a logical connection. Could you help me understand your position. I am correct to say:

            1. Assume there is a divine providence (Premise)
            2. People would not dying from hunger (Premise)
            2a. People are dying from hunger (Premise)
            1a. Therefore there is no divine providence (Conclusion)

            Is this your argument Makagutu? I would like to understand your position?

  8. It’s man who is paying the cost of his disobedience.

    God is willing and able. Jesus Christ has overcome evil through his Spirit-active, perfect and diacritical death on the cross by destroying the Devil who had the power over death; and reopening the way to the “tree of life” in Paradise.

    Verification by personal experience is open for the spiritually poor.

    • You are very correct. The life, death and resurrection of Christ Jesus showed that God is victorious and evil lost it sting and will be removed. Thank you for your input.

  9. Hey Prayson, hope you have been well.
    The thing I find curious is how far they are willing to grant god leeway just to convince themselves that one could actually exist. To claim we are governed by an all powerful and loving deity who has allowed evil to exist and plan to remove it at a future date is beyond ridiculous. How you can see this as an adequate defense if beyond me. It is inadequate. Unless you also allow that the said deity finds fulfillment in the suffering of mortals whom he created with deficient knowledge in seeing the beauty of suffering and with short life spans to experience the extinction of evil in a later date. This same argument has been advanced by either Platinga or WL Craig and I think it is only a mad man who would agree to it. You wouldn’t accept it if your next neighbor had immense power and could alleviate your suffering but tells you to wait for a future date. You would find him immoral. The existence of evil is logically consistent with the existence of a sadistic and cruel god. If you accept these also as traits for your deity, we are game.

    In the scenario you provide, which call a fact, we must first agree is an assertion. No gods have been shown to exist. It has not been demonstrated we have free will. It has also not been demonstrated we were created or anything for that matter. That said, why do Christians and apologists ignore the idea that if god is all knowing he would have foreseen this and created a world in which such abuse doesn’t occur and where he is still loved, if he is so vain as to want to be adored and loved by everyone. Unless you grant that for this excuse to work, then he can’t be all knowing. And if he is all knowing and all powerful and has allowed this to go on from the beginning and expecting to do something about it in the future, I contend here, that only a madman would find this god worthy of worship and belief. He is a fiend, a cruel and capricious fellow!

    • Thank you for your comment Makagutu.

      I think you misunderstood two things, the aim of this article and the difference between a theodicy and defense.

      The aim is not to prove that such a God exist but to show that the reason given that such God does not exists is not sound.

      For a theodicy, to claim that God will remove pain and suffering, is indeed not sufficient. But as I argue, Demea’s position ought to be understood as a defense. A defense, ridiculous as it may be, does not aim to be plausible, true, or believable but aim to show that the conclusion that God does not exist does not follow from the fact that evil exists. A defense need only be possible.

      Here is the argument in outline:

      1. A benevolent and omnicompetent God exist
      2. A benevolent and incompetent God will in future eliminate evil.
      3. Evil exists

      2 need not be true or believed. It only need to be possible. 2 is a defense core premise that shows that the conclusion that God does not exist does not follow from 1 and 2.

      Let me know your thoughts Makagutu. Thank you for a good comment.

      • No Prayson, I didn’t misunderstand you.
        You say a defense need only be possible regardless of whether it is believable, plausible or true, in short it is a waste of time. Child play for many things are possible in a child’s world.

        In your formulation above, there must be something wrong with #2.
        I don’t accept #1 and as such we can’t get to two. The above formulation has false premises.

      • Makagutu, thank you for your response. Now I would add the nature of the problem of evil on the list of ideas on the article you misunderstood. The problem of evil presupposes the existence of omnipotent and benevolent God and reduce that presupposition to absurdity, namely such a being cannot exist.

        To show the problem with 2, you need to argue that it impossible for a God , if God exists that is, eliminate evil in the future. I am open to hear you case for that?

        Thanks once again for our exchange Makagutu. Though you disagree with me, you have shown awesome civility.

  10. Granting that Hume was a terrible religious philosopher (his one good observation being that causality isn’t empirical), the idea of freedom is an important issue that this dialogue raises. If freedom consists in simply being able to make ‘free’ choices or to be free ‘from something’ then there is little more to be said on the topic that hasn’t been said. Clasically conceieved, however, freedom has almost nothing to do with volition and everything to do with the teleological.

  11. What is “morally perfect” in wanting (nay, demanding) to be worshiped? By your example your god has simply created a legion of forever subservient slaves; captives who must live under the eternal threat of punishment if they do not do what this creator demands.

    This, in my mind, is morally abhorrent.

    And if i may ask a question: Free Will… “Free” from what, precisely?

    • Thanks John for a brilliant comment that raised good questions.

      We adore and automatically praise objects that a worthy of such adoration and praise. A being that is God must, by definition, be morally perfect. Plato’s The Good. The paradigm of goodness, beauty and adoration.

      By my example, God created being to love and serve Him, and to love and serve each other, as He love and serve them(through divine providence). Rejecting to love and serve God results to a failure to love and serve each other. This leads to slavery, a bondage, to not exemplify His moral perfect character that in turn brings chaos.

      Eternal punishment actually shows that these moral perfection Being is seriously against imperfection and out of love cannot tolerate creatures that chose not to love and serve each other, as a result of not loving and serving Him. Evil doers, not being eternally punished, is morally abhorrent.

      Free not “from” but “to” truly love God and each other. Let me know your thoughts John.

      • You seem to be dancing around the rather obvious point: this being you describe created creatures to adore it, and if they don’t they WILL BE PUNISHED. You described no other reason for these creatures (us) being created, therefore this is their (our) only function: to worship. You can dress this up with “but to worship is to love,” but that is little more than an ornate colloquy and does nothing to free the slave from the bondage he was placed in. Do remember, you are saying we were “created.” We had no say in this matter. We were brought into existence whether we liked it or not; an existence which by your very premise is to be indebted to this creator forever, never free. We are, by your definition, born into servitude.

        It’s logically (and morally) incompatible to say a morally perfect being wishes perfection so much that it created hell to ensure its creatures worship it as it sees fit. Did Stalin build the gulags because he loved the proletariat, or because he was a dictatorial, paranoid sociopath?

        I don’t think you answered my question regarding “free.” Granted, this is semantics, but for the word to be meaningful one must be “free” from “something.” What is that “something?” What is the opposite of “free will,” and can you give me an example of a creature without it, and how that example differs from the points I was raising above.

        • John, I think we should not got hanged-up on the detail of the just-so Christian saga that does not have to be true for Demea’s defense to be successful. That being said I would explain the just-so Christian saga to avoid confusion it may generate.

          Since it is a Christian saga, I used “God” and “He/Him”. God created creature to love, adore and serve Him and love and serve each other. Loving and serving each other is loving and serving God. Failure to love, adore and serve God necessarily leads to failure to love and serve each other. A person is punished not simply because she does not love, adore and serve God, but not exemplifying God’s essential moral character.

          I did not claim that morally perfect being wishes perfection so much that He created hell(punishment for evil doers) to ensure He is worshiped. No, punishment for evil doers, I argued, is a righteous and morally response of a perfect Being. A being that does not punish evil is neither perfect nor loving.

          Freedom of will I argued is a necessary condition for there to be true love, adoration and service toward God and each other. Free “to” choose to love God and each other. Free to either exemplify God’s moral nature or not. Freedom of will is about freedom “to” not freedom “from”.

          • Sorry, but you have not established how what you’re describing is not a forced bondage… imposed servitude issued under threat of punishment. Why even create these creatures in the first place if this is their lot in the drama?

            Regarding “free” I think you’ll have to provide an example of something that is not “free.” Your explanation is not making any sense. That might just be me, but an example might help me understand your position.

        • I am grateful for our discourse John. Thank you so much.

          My just-so Christian saga is not meant to describe how not being created to love God and each others a “forced bondage”. I denied that the reason to love God and each others is to avoid punishment but that to love is a way of exemplifying God’s essential character. Punishment is not a threat to those who love, but those who do not. Those who do not exemplify God’s character by their acts towards God and each other.

          Sadly we are going into semantic in our discourse on “freedom”. It does not make any sense to you because you are talking broadly about the word “free” while I am talking narrowly about “freedom of will”, which does not include freedom “from X”. E.g. You are free to respond or not respond to my article. I have not hold you hostage for you to break free from me by answering my article. Hope that makes little sense.

          • I’m afraid not, no, not in the context in which we are talking. There is nothing “free” at all in the relationship you’re describing. If the creature does not behave as its creator desires it will be punished. There is no freedom in that arrangement, only bondage to a purpose the slave had no say in. Purpose is set in stone, to worship, and if that purpose is not fulfilled pain and suffering will be inflicted… no ifs or buts. This punishment is guaranteed.

            Perhaps it would be helpful if you give a reason why (at least in your mind) this creator created these non-free creatures in the first place? Why do it? What purpose did/does it serve? Why complicate something which you are implying was already perfect?

          • The freedom you speak of is not freedom at all. Plato, in Republic, correctly stated “The probable outcome of too much freedom is only too much slavery in the individual and the state”(564a). Freedom that allow evil doers to go unpunished is not the freedom we understand even in our own sense.

            Our states’ system works in a similar manner. There are laws that set the standard that exemplifies what the State require. Thieft, rape, murder &c., fails, for example, to exemplifies the States requirement and thus punished. Saying, in this case, that we are threaten by punishment if not able to exemplified the states requirement, is nothing free misses the point.

            Sadly we are going away from the topic of the article which is Demea’s defense. Do you have input, critique or comments on the main aim of the article?

Comments are closed.