Free «Problem of Evil» Essay Sample

In philosophy, the problem of evil is one of the controversial topics because of different religious, social and philosophical interpretations of this phenomenon.  One of the most popular answers, confined to theism, is that evil is due to the work of a whole host of perverted spiritual beings consciously trying to defeat God's purpose. The evil is that resulting from human choices (Miller and Jensen 2003). Its relation to natural evil may be more or less apparent. Destructive floods, for example, can often be traced to the exploitation of forests and fields by an earlier generation. Or it may seem to be confined within human affairs. War is perhaps the best example of this. Even though natural factors such as population pressure may help set the stage for war, actual hostilities depend on a highly organized human endeavor. But along with any possible worthy objectives (such as the attainment of freedom or the protection of a homeland) come hosts of evils--mass killing, wholesale destruction, and the personal and social problems that war leaves in its wake.

The problem of evil is closely connected with the issue p God and divine power. Theism explains that so long as man has pondered his experience, he has sought to wrestle with the problem of evil, precisely because it is contradictory to the balance of his experience. And this point may well be emphasized: The problem is with these evil aspects of life. Occasionally someone will surrender to skepticism or nihilism, but most people assume on good evidence that life as a whole makes sense. The pattern of meaning takes shape, and these things of which we now speak contradict it (Miller and Jensen 2003). The over-all impression is not that they prevent any formulation of meaning. But the attempt to impress a pattern of meaning on every fact of life without considering it fully gives rise to partial or fallacious answers to the problem of evil. One's appreciation of love is increased if he has also known faithlessness. One's enjoyment of a good apple is augmented by his having eaten a rotten one. It has even been suggested that the saints' bliss in heaven could not be complete unless they could also be aware of the torture of the damned in hell (Tooley 2009).

Theism may well question whether the good can be known only by contrast with evil. Theism does not have to eat good and rotten apples alternately in order to appreciate wholesome food. But aside from arguing this issue, the question at hand is whether every evil can be explained as a necessary contrast to good (Tooley 2009). A twinge of toothache may give me a momentary appreciation of sound teeth, but it surely is not good sense to say that a person must be helplessly crippled by disease in order to appreciate good health. And if we even concede that one person's suffering may increase the enjoyment of others who participate in it only vicariously, we have the additional question as to why the individual reaping the benefit does not also pay the price (Miller and Jensen 2003).

Particularly in organized religious groups has this answer constantly recurred. Of course there is some truth in it. Sin does lead to evil results which are by no means confined to the inner life of the sinner. There are those who would account for all the chaos of nature, all the cruelty and frustration of life as the direct result of the sin of the first man. But this--though it may still be questionable--is far different from saying that all evil we experience today is punishment for our sin. According to this view, the good man prospers and the evil man suffers. And when circumstances arise apparently contradicting this maxim, they are explained as indicating the hidden sin of people which otherwise would have gone undetected. Thus when tragedy strikes an acknowledged "good" family, their goodness is said to be only superficial and not genuine. The Bible, while admittedly giving this answer in various places, also refutes it. Job, for example, is the story of the blameless friend of God who suffered the loss of everything including his own health. His friends insisted against his protests that he was really guilty of some secret sin, and when he in all honesty could not accept their exhortation for him to repent, they charged him with imaginary sins, so reluctant were they to surrender their answer to the problem of evil (Tooley 009).

One of the most obvious is that it is so hard to correlate with the scientific picture of the world, with the modern medical approach to disease. And yet at times even psychiatrists speak of mental illness almost in terms of "possession," reflecting the idea that "something" has seized control of a person to warp hopelessly his life responses. Another objection is that the concept of a devil in no way accounts for the problem. It recognizes an interrelatedness in the realm of evil, but it does not explain the origin of Satan or the origin of the temptation to pride that in the traditional view made the angels fall (Tooley 2009). The Genesis account represents man's sin as corrupting the whole natural order because it was created to be subject to man. While he still maintains dominion, it is won only at the price of pain and frustration. But science makes it difficult for us to conceive of the world with man at the center. Natural processes are seen to run their course whether or not men are even around to benefit or to suffer from them. The idea that natural catastrophes are punishment for sin is hard to accept even though we take it, as the earlier theologians did, as referring to a general, corporate human sinfulness and not the particular sin of the individual or community stricken (Miller and Jensen 2003).

In sum, the problem of evil in terms of theism is not to ignore it, or to deny it by attempting to force it into some total pattern of meaning, but rather to eradicate it. This approach is indicated in several ways in the Bible. God is represented as giving man dominion over the earth for his welfare. This does not mean that man can exercise that dominion independently of God. Part of the answer to the problem of evil is the activity of men who are guided by their religious faith. The general attitude toward the natural world which characterizes our Western civilization has essentially this religious origin. It marks the difference between Greek science, which sought to understand nature through universal principles arrived at through reasoning processes alone, and modern science, which seeks to control as well as to understand nature.


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