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The Problem Of Evil Essay

1607 words - 6 pages

In his essay “Why God Allows Evil” Swinburne argues that the existence of evil in the world is consistent with the existence of all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good God. To start, Swinburne bases his argument on two basic types of evil: moral and natural. Moral evil encompasses all the ills resulting from human action, whether intentional or through negligence; natural evil included all evils not caused or permitted by human beings. Whereas moral evil such as abortion, murder, terrorism, or theft comes from humans acting immorally, natural evil, in the form of suffering caused by earthquakes like the Haitian’s, hurricanes such as Katrina, wild forest fires or diseases such as HIV/AIDS, results from pain and suffering that comes from anything other than human action with predictable consequences. Swinburne's argument is that God allows suffering because it's necessary to make humans good of their own accord by giving them the free will to freely choose among their competing deliberations.
To understand why moral evil is necessary, Swinburne urges us to imagine the sorts of goods an all-powerful God would bestow upon humans. In addition to pleasure and contentment, Swinburne supposes that such a God would "give us great responsibility for ourselves, each other, and the world, and thus a share in his own creative activity of determining what sort of world it is to be."1 This kind of responsibility requires that humans have free will because we cannot be responsible for our actions without the freedom to choose from other available competing options. As a consequence, humans must have the opportunity to harm other people in addition to helping them. Moreover, he argues that humans should be expected to have some inherent tendency to act wrongly if they are to have a real choice between good and evil. This is so since it would be a bygone conclusion if only we had a choice of doing that which is right. Thus, in order to make the choice between good actions and evil actions meaningful, Swinburne argues that God would have made humans predispose to act wickedly at times so as to expedite the responsibility requisite for an exceptional life.
To truly appreciate the importance of agency in the face of suffering caused by evil, it is important to clarify what Swinburne means by freedom and responsibility, especially the distinction between their trivial and significant forms. Trivial freedom is freedom to perform non-moral actions of one’s own choosing – what restaurant to dine in or what clothes to buy. On the other hand, significant freedom is the ability to choose to benefit or harm ourselves, other humans, animals, and our world. At the same time, trivial responsibility is responsibility for non-humans and inanimate objects and includes such thing as chores and other petty obligations. In contrast, significant responsibility is responsibility for the welfare of our own lives, the lives of others, and the...

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