Problem of Evil as raised by Dostoevsky
- Overview of the problem of evil
- Perhaps the strongest argument against God's existence (at least a
certain kind of God)
- Serious stumbling block to religious faith
- People who believe stop when they experience evil
- People who want to believe, can't believe because of it
- Not just an intellectual, philosophical, or academic problem
- An existential problem: Feel it in ones gut
- A problem that Christians (and other faiths who believe in a
certain kind of God) should seriously confront and be shaken
- Dostoevsky makes one really feel and see the problem
- Brings it alive
- Real issue in the lives of Ivan and Alyosha (who is studying for the priesthood)
- A focus on the sufferings of children
- What is the problem of evil?
- John Hick's formulation (p. 463 original)
- "If God is perfectly loving, he must wish to abolish evil; and if he is
all-powerful, he must be able to abolish evil. But Evil exists;
therefore God cannot be both omnipotent and perfectly loving."
- Problem of evil involves the idea that the following four propositions are
logically incompatible (can't all be true)
- One: God is omniscient
- Two: God is omnipotent
- Three: God is omnibenevolent
- Four: Evil exists
- Why need all four?
- Which one did Hick's formulation leave out? Is that a problem?
- A reasonable conception of God?
- A traditional Christian conception
- Problem of evil is a problem for anyone who accepts this conception
- Two types of responses to the problem
- One: Deny one of the four propositions
- God has limited knowledge or ability or goodness
- Evil is an illusion; it doesn't exist
- Dostoevsky makes this a hard response to accept
- What happened to the girl of five in the outhouse was not evil? (P.
- Two: Explain why the four are not incompatible
- This is a "theodicy": A defense of reality of this type of god given
the existence of evil
- Dostoevsky's response to the "higher harmony theodicy"
- Higher harmony
- Evils here will be made up for later and are part of a higher harmony
- Suffering of children necessary for the higher harmony?
- God using children as a means to own ends?
- Sufferings of children can't be made up for
- Ivan will not accept this
- If there is a higher harmony, there must be atonement (reconciliation
between wrongdoer and victim) and this requires forgiveness
- But mother should not forgive those who tortured her children
- And putting a person in hell for these acts doesn't make up for the
suffering of children
- Thus there can be no forgiveness, reconciliation, or atonement and thus no harmony