Talking About the Problem of Evil: The Greater Good

To review, so far, we’ve addressed how one can even object to evil, in the moral argument. We’ve talked about what evil is and is not, and the idea of it being a privation. We’ve talked about some possible reasons God allows evil, which included the best-of-all-possible-worlds argument and the free will defense. Today I want to go over the greater good principle. While all the arguments I’ve given so far are intellectual and do not necessarily help with the emotional side of evil and suffering, this principle is especially delicate. I say “delicate” because this defense may not help a questioner much if they have been a victim of a seemingly very unwarranted evil, and/or if they are still carrying anger or bitterness.

Again, the topic for today is the greater good principle, which argues that certain evils are needed in the world for certain greater goods to happen. To put it another way, certain evils in this world are called for, as greater goods stem after them. For instance, nobody would believe a doctor who cuts out a cancerous tumor is being evil because he made an incision on the patient. The surgery incision is much less evil than letting the tumor develop. The greater good is the patient being cancer-free. Parents who penalize children for poor conduct with the loss of toys or privileges or even giving spankings are instigating pain (particularly from the kid’s viewpoint). Although, without this discipline, the other possibility is the kid will develop into a grownup with no discipline and would consequently face much more suffering. We do not understand in this world all the good God is preparing; therefore, we need to trust that God is good even when we can’t see it and we can’t understand the larger picture of what He’s doing.

Plus, nearly all individuals will award some truth to the saying ascribed to Nietzsche: “Whatever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” Consequently, the principle of allowing pain in the short term to bring about greater contentment eventually is legitimate and one we know and use ourselves. That implies there is no mandatory contradiction between God and the reality of evil and suffering.

Tomorrow, I’ll close with God’s solution and way of ultimately dealing with evil.


This originally aired on Probe Radio and appeared on Probe.org.

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