by Dima Zhyvov

This post is a continuation of the series on the problem of evil. Please see Part 1, if you have not read it yet.

The intellectual problem of evil

Here again, further distinctions are handy. Generally philosophers recognize that there are significantly different versions of the intellectual problem of evil and have assigned various labels to them. Although there probably isn’t an agreed-upon way to categorize the varieties of the intellectual problem, I find Craig’s and Moreland’s approach in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview helpful. They distinguish between an internal and an external problem of evil (see the diagram below). The internal problem of evil is presented in terms of premises to which a Christian theist is, or ought to be, committed as a Christian, so that the Christian worldview is somehow at odds with itself. On the other hand, the external problem of evil is presented in terms of premises to which a Christian theist is not committed as a Christian, but which we nevertheless have good reason to regard as true. The first approach tries to expose the inner tension within the Christian worldview itself; the second approach attempts to present evidence against the truth of the Christian worldview.

Now the internal problem of evil takes two forms: the logical version and the probabilistic version. In the logical version of the problem of evil, the goal is to demonstrate that it is logically impossible for both God and evil to exist. The idea is that once we grasp the very concepts of God and evil, we will come to recognize that the two are logically incompatible. Just like recognizing that such things as an irresistible force and an immovable object cannot possibly coexist, so, the objector argues, God and evil cannot both exist. If one exists, the other does not. And here comes the alleged problem for a Christian theist: she is committed to both the reality of evil and the reality of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God. Since the existence of evil is uncontroversial, the argument goes, it follows logically that God must not, indeed cannot, exist.

The probabilistic version of the problem of evil, sometimes referred to as an evidential problem, admits that it is possible for God and evil to coexist, but it insists that their coexistence is, nevertheless, highly improbable. Thus the Christian theist is stuck between two beliefs which tend to undermine each other. Given that the evil in the world is real, it follows that it is highly improbable that God exists.

I would like to examine each of these versions of the argument in turn.

Click here to see part 3 of the article

  1. Karen says:

    This is really very good thus far. Coincidentally, I will be taking a class on The Problem of Evil in college this coming semester. I you don’t mind, I would love to share this series with my class.

  2. Karen says:

    You’re welcome, Dima.
    Wonderful! I am sure my professor is going to appreciate it 🙂

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