Friday, September 28, 2007

Gratuitous Evil

We're discussing the evidential argument from evil against God's existence. It says (you'll recall) that while the existence of evil doesn't prove that God doesn't exist, the sheer amount, variety, and degree of evil and suffering makes God's existence highly improbable. While acknowledging that a god might have a purpose for some suffering, advocates of this argument call some evil 'gratuitous.' They are claiming, in effect, that "I can't think of any (future or resulting) good that would justify this degree of suffering (or amount of evil)."

A number of responses could be given to this claim. I'll let Ronald Nash have the first reply*...
One final point is worth noting: what properties must a being possess in order to know that some evils really are gratuitous? It certainly appears as though one such property must be omniscience. It would seem then that the only kind of being who could know whether some gratuitous evils exist would be God. But if the only being who could know whether such evils exist is God, there surely are problems in arguing that the existence of gratuitous evils is a defeater for the existence of God.

*I found this Nash quote cited in the excellent Guide to Christian Apologetics, written by my friend Doug Powell. I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Doug's book.

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