Johnson begins with a situation of evil a baby dies in a house fire. From there, Johnson begins examining the theists excuses and refutes them one by one. Free will is the first to be discussed. The theist states that God gave free will to humans so that when accidental or purposeful evil occurs, it is only the humans responsibility. However, this does not follow through. Can it be called good when a bystander knowingly does not help when witnessing a horrible event? Johnson says, Certainly not (Pojman 121). Good would be the bystander taking action and stepping in to help those suffering. So then, is it right to say that God is good for not interfering as a bystander? Again, certainly not.
Standing by allows the suffering and evil to continue, hence it is not good. A theist would go onto say that people should not have help in the face of a disaster. This would make humans dependent on outside help. Johnson finds two criticisms. This statement seems to imply that emergency and medical services be eliminated because humans are dependent upon their help. If this implication does not apply, this type of world (without the help from God) does not make people independent. The emergency and medical services still exist, meaning the majority is dependent on the minority. Humans, with their free will, created these services because God did not step in to prevent suffering. Therefore, free will of humans does not defend God in the face of evil.
Moral urgency, or the need for virtue, is the second defense Johnson examines. A theist would state that God allows suffering in order to make humans stronger (in a morality sense) and more virtuous. Without this suffering and evil, it would eliminate moral urgency needed to teach us morals and virtue. This would mean that God is obligated and just in causing humans to suffer. Johnson simply responds with, All of this is of course absurd (Pojman 122). The vast majority of human beings, according to Johnson, do not feel that good is being done when maximizing moral urgency. This would mean more suffering for the people. Proof of this is emergency and medical services counteracting Gods moral urgency or danger and pain. Even so, theists believe that God needs to create opportunities for the world to develop important virtues.
Johnson agrees. This may be right, but the amount of suffering occurring is not necessary for humans to develop virtues. Johnson also points out that in eliminating all evil, future generations would not be able to develop virtues. In not developing virtues, the future generations would not be virtuous. In order to maintain that virtue development, humans should stop attempting to eliminate evil and stop improving the world. However, as stated previously, maximizing the need for virtue is not good because it maximizes suffering. Therefore, developing virtue is not an excuse in defending God against permitting evil.
The laws of nature also attempt to defend God. A theist claims that the laws of nature creates evil, and it is irrational for God to intervene in every case of suffering and danger. If God did become involved, it would be impossible for anything to be predictable. In other words, nature and the cause and effect that people know would not be consistent or reliable. Johnson agrees that Gods involvement in every disaster would be wrong. As Johnson states, To argue that continued miraculous intervention by God would be wrong is like insisting that one should never use salt because ingesting five pounds of it would be fatal (Pojman 123). However, God should step in to stop or prevent the most horrific of disasters. Where is the line drawn, though? Johnson says it should be on the side of intervening more than not. Even if it is not known where to draw the line, no excuse should be made to not interfere in instances of pure evil. Thus, the laws of nature do not excuse the coexistence of God and evil.
Gods higher morality is the last defense Johnson inspects. This morality is only followed by God and is what judges His actions. Higher morality, though, is unlike the morality on Earth. To allow evil, Gods morality would imply that what humans call good is evil, and what is evil in this world is good. Thus the two moralities are opposites. Since Gods higher morality is the opposite, humans can have no understanding of it, or as Johnson states, Such a morality can have no meaning to us (Pojman 123). The theist might say that God is the parent and the people are merely ignorant children who do not yet understand their parents ways. Even though the child many not understand the reasoning of their parents, what is right and wrong is still evident to the child. Because of this polarity, Gods higher morality does not determine whether He is good or not in our world.
Hick also has his own take on the problem of the existence of God and evil. He also addresses free will, virtue, and the laws of nature. Before diving into each explanation, Hick provides Augustines (a Christian teacher) perspective on evil. Augustine states that evil comes from the corruption of good, and that God creates everything as inherently good. As Hick explains, Evil is essentially parasitic upon good, being disorder and perversion in a fundamentally good creation (Pojman 127). Evil was not created by God, and He does not impose evil on the world.
Hick explores the origin of evil through examining free will. God created people with free will, which is inseparable from their being. For a creature to be a person, free will, with all of its consequences, is necessary. God can create beings that are free from possible sin, but that creature would not be human. Some might argue that God has predetermined our actions, but still allows free will. Hick views that as a contradiction. From this, he derives the notion that people appear to have free will, but in reality, people are, his [Gods] helpless puppets (Pojman 128).
Hick also goes on to explain that evil comes from human sin, which is a part of people having free will. Therefore, through creating people with free will (which leads to sin and then evil), God is responsible for evil, though not directly. (Hick did not state this in his piece. I, the reader, inferred this from linking his arguments together.) Johnson and Hick are in concordance, based on the assumption I made. Johnson believes that free will is not an excuse for defending God, and Hick indirectly states that God is partially responsible for evil.
Hick next uses Irenaeus thinking in addressing virtue and the laws of nature. First, Hick provides two viewpoints on natural evil (evil that is not stemmed from human sin, i.e. natural disasters): a Christians and a skeptics. The Christian, like Irenaeus, believes that the world is a place for soul-making, which involves danger and suffering (viewed as challenges). The skeptic believes that if God were all-powerful and benevolent, He would not have created a world full of danger and suffering. God would have created a paradise. Hick does not agree with the skeptics point of view. As he later states, ¦ it [paradise] would be the worst of all possible worlds (Pojman 130).
In this paradise, there would be no meaning to virtues and ethics. There would be no distinction from right and wrong, and no knowledge of ethical notions, such as kindness, love, and unselfishness. People would not develop any virtues. If God created a paradise, it would only hurt the people. However, God did not create a paradise, and suffering exists. According to Hick, God allows evil with virtue (which has the purpose of soul-making), and without virtue, the people would also suffer with no soul-making. This perspective is different from Johnsons. Johnson believes that the development of virtue is creating more suffering, while Hick believes the opposite. Suffering and evil allows for soul-making needed to go to heaven (thus, a good thing).
Finally, Hick addresses the laws of nature through the same viewpoint on paradise. If God were to prevent evil and suffering, the laws of nature would no longer apply. Nature would need to create special circumstances to prevent evil. Sometimes gravity would not apply, such as when someone falls from an eight-story building. These laws, as Hick states, ¦ would have to be extremely flexible (Pojman 129). Laws of nature and sciences, which create predictability, would not exist. People must learn to respect and follow these laws in order to avoid pain and/or death.
This coincides with the allowance of virtue. Without these laws, people would not learn what is right and what is wrong physically in the world. People would not develop virtues, such as courage, unselfishness, love, and so on. Luckily, this world is not a paradise and these virtues and laws do exist. This is in contrast with Johnson. Johnson believes that God should intervene only part of the time for extremely terrible disasters. Although Hick does not directly state that God should not intervene at all, Hick implies this in his piece that paradise would be the worst possible world (in which God should not intervene).
In reading and analyzing both arguments these gentlemen make, I believe Hicks argument is stronger. This belief is not easy to explain because it is merely a belief and not a truth. There is no concrete evidence for Hicks argument or for Johnsons. Every person has different beliefs compared to the next person. Thus, I do not aim to make my viewpoint difficult for a theist to defend God. I respect others perspectives. I believe that evil and suffering are present only to help and teach the people on Earth morals and virtues. I also believe that people are inherently good and become corrupted by the imperfect world they live in. The poem Paradise Lost, by John Milton, is an example of this. God created man in his likeness and put him on Earth. Satan (which is irrelevant in both arguments presented) finds a way to Earth and corrupts man. In this case, Satan represents evil, and evil, in a sense, ruins Gods creation. This poem represents my beliefs on the existence of evil.
I do not believe in the existence of a God, but I do believe in the virtues and teachings that the idea of God represents. If such a God did exist, I do not believe that He would malevolently create and put evil and suffering on human beings, which he also created. Instead, like a parent, He seeks to teach His children goodness. In order to learn and understand concepts such as goodness, the people must experience suffering and discover goodness for themselves, much like Socrates teaching. Socrates did not give the answers to his students. He did not make it simple and clear. God, if he exists, does the same thing according to my belief. That is why this problem of the existence and God and evil exists. Humans are attempting to learn and discover the answer to this problem with the guidance of God.
Both Johnson and Hick present strong arguments addressing the problem of the existence of God and evil. Johnson rejects all of the theists defenses pertaining to free will, moral urgency/virtue, the laws of nature, and Gods higher morality. At the end of his argument, Johnson concludes that God is either evil or both good and evil simultaneously because God allows evil. Hick takes another path. He never directly states if God is good, evil, or both good and evil. Through analyzing his argument, it can be assumed that God created humans as inherently good, and evil on Earth corrupts. In this way, God is similar to a parent. Though His children are unhappy with the outcome of His decisions the parent seeks to teach goodness and virtues. My beliefs line up with Hicks argument, which is stronger than Johnsons. Overall, I believe the existence of evil is not caused by God for evil purposes, rather to guide His children towards goodness.