J. L. Mackie: “In its simplest form the problem is this: God is omnipotent; God is wholly good; 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. But at the same time all three are essential parts of the most theological positions; the theologian, it seems at once, must adhere and cannot consistently adhere to all three.” (Mackie 1971: p. 92-3)
Alvin Plantinga: Theologian can consistently adhere to all three, Mackie, by adding a premise which does not have to be necessary true or even believed, but simply logically possible.
1. God is omniscient, omnipotent, and wholly good.
2. God creates a world containing evil and has a good reason for doing so.(Plantinga 1974: 26)
3. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and wholly good.
4. It was not within God’s power to create a world containing moral good without creating one containing moral evil.
5. God created a world containing moral good.
6. Therefore, evil exists.(ibid p. 54-5)
Mackie, are (2) and (4) possibly true?
Mackie: “[P]roblem of evil does not, after all, show that the central doctrines of theism are logically inconsistent with one another […God] might not eliminate evils, even though it was logically possible to do so and though he was able to do whatever is logically possible, and was limited only by the logical impossibility of having the second-order good without the first-order evil ”(Mackie 1982: 145)
Note: I added words to capture the brilliant works of Mackie and Plantinga.
Mackie, J. L (1971) “Evil and Omnipotence” in The Philosophy of Religion, ed. Basil Mitchell. London: Oxford University Press.
_____________ (1982) The Miracle of Theism. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Plantinga, Alvin (1974) God, Freedom and Evil. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
Photo Credit: Christ Koelle illustraiton in John Piper’s poem: Job and The Sister Disciples of the Divine Master
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