The problem of evil is a difficult objection to contend with for theists. Indeed, major crises of faith can occur after observing or experiencing the wide variety and depths of suffering in the world. It also stands that these “evils” of suffering call into question the existence of an omnibenevolent and omnipotent God of the Judeo-Christian tradition. The “greater good defense” tries to account for some of the issues presented, but still has flaws of its own.
In the excerpt from Philosophy of Religion, John Hicks outlines the problem of evil as such:
(a) If God were truly omnibenevolent, he would then wish to eliminate all evil;
(b) If God is were truly omnipotent, he would then be capable of eliminating evil;
(c) Evil exists in the world.
Therefore: (d) God is not omnibenevolent or He is not omnipotent.
Either element of the conclusion is damaging to the traditional understanding of a Judeo-Christian God. It seems simple enough. A benevolent Creator appears incompatible with what we understand to be the existence of evil. Evil is opposed to God’s will, eventually cumulating in the crucifixion of God’s son, Jesus. One must then wonder how an all-loving and all-powerful God would allow such pain to occur to both his creation and Jesus. A perfect God’s world should be similarly perfect. The world is not perfect so it seems that God must not be all-loving or He must not be all-powerful. Rejecting the existence of evil, immediately rejects too much of the Judeo-Christian tradition to be considered, though some philosophers have considered it.
The traditional Christian answer to why God allowed the death of Christ is for the absolution of humanity’s sin. However, this begs the question, as an omnipotent God why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer to pardon sin?
In a similar vein, the greater good argument answers the problem of evil by suggesting the presence of evil allows a higher level of good, which would be otherwise impossible without the existence of suffering. Leibniz admits that evil does exist in the world. However, he argues against the first premise of the problem of evil argument in that he disagrees with the assumption that a world without evil would be the best possible of all worlds. Leibniz states it is possible evil can be coupled with a much greater good. He makes a comparison of a general winning a great victory at the expense of a minor wound, contrasting to a general gaining neither the wound nor the victory.
He explains that original sin or “felix culpa” (happy sin) was for the greater benefit of humanity because it permitted Christ to come into the world, a life form more noble than anything that would have existed without the existence of evil. Jesus’ suffering therefore was also for the greater good.
Hicks explicitly addresses the problem of moral evil in humans. He asserts that a “genuinely free moral agent who never...