20.03 Observations: The Sliding Scale (pps.13-14)

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Theodicy is actually a hierarchical problem ranging from a defense of God in the face of gross mass atrocity, through a defense of God in the face of the tear of a single child. Yet the fact that the removal of the existence of the severer forms of evil would only lead us to address lesser forms of evil does not free us philosophically from addressing the question first with regard to the grossest forms of evil apparent to us.43

Of all the philosophical challenges to theistic faith, none is more serious than that posed by evil. For theistic faith posits God to be omnipotent and omni-good. If God is omnipotent, God can prevent gratuitous evil. But gratuitous evil exists. Therefore God seemingly cannot be both omnipotent and allbenevolent. The removal of either one of these components, however, would be a fatal blow to traditional Jewish or Christian monotheism.

The challenges can be articulated in one short paragraph. Yet even the preliminaries to an answer require considerable development. This situation, not uncommon in philosophical issues, has the effect of giving the problem higher standing. In the thirteenth century Thomas Aquinas listed evil as one of the two chief intellectual obstacles to Christian faith, the other being man’s ability to explain the world without reference to a Creator.44

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43 Cf. Wiesel, The Fifth Son, p. 19. “Absolute Evil was opposed by a Good that was only theoretical, therein lay the tragedy.”

44 Hick, Evil and the God of Love, pp. 3-4. See also footnote: “It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the name God means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable: but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.”

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