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HomeTheologyExploring the Depths of the Problem of Evil: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives

Exploring the Depths of the Problem of Evil: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives

The ‘problem of evil’ has historically been at the forefront of both philosophers and theologians/scholars of religious doctrine. There are so many works and commentaries written in both academic disciplines on the subject that their total could fill the shelves of a small-sized library. However, if you ask whether these works and the ideas expressed within them have convinced people’s minds or satisfied their hearts, my personal answer would be no. Why? Because the topic involves on the act of creation, ‘God’, destiny, belief in the afterlife, and on the other side, life on earth, the element of testing, and human freedom which has been defined in hundreds of different ways.

Let’s think in terms of creation; no matter what kind of explanation you offer that centers belief in God, the afterlife, and the element of testing in life on earth to a person who denies God, it will not satisfy them. In fact, they will neither read nor watch any explanations made in this framework. As for those who believe in God and view life from the perspectives of faith, testing, reward-punishment, heaven-hell, and who read, listen to, and watch explanations from this viewpoint; some will be satisfied, others will not. Some will object to the explanations because they do not conform to their concept of God, while others might agree intellectually but state that their hearts are not at peace. Indeed, this is a reality as of this moment.

After this brief introduction, what is theodicy – which we will refer to as the problem of evil in the following lines?

The problem of evil is related to the concept of God. To put it concretely, “If God is absolutely good, all-knowing, and all-powerful, then why does He create or allow evils? If He is unable to prevent them or doesn’t know about them, then He is not God. If He is capable and knows yet allows them, then He is not absolutely good and it is God Himself who desires the existence of evil.”

From this perspective, the problem of evil stands more as a problem for believers than for atheists, agnostics, or skeptics who explain the universe and its workings as coincidental or a natural necessity.

Regarding the categories of ‘prevention’ and ‘creation’ that we analyze, examples include natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, wars, or incurable diseases in infants and young children.

Personally, I find the following tripartite classification by various philosophers and theologians more comprehensive and understandable:

a-Metaphysical Evils: Evils like being born and dying, the existence or nonexistence of which is not in human control. ‘We understand dying, but why should existence and being be considered evil?’ you might ask. Constraints on freedom, and post-death experiences like hell and torment lead some people to wish, ‘Had we never existed, had we not been subjected to this test!’ Throughout history, there have been people who voiced this sentiment.

b-Physical Evils: Disasters such as diseases, earthquakes, floods, wars, rapes, etc. The fact that innocent babies and children are also affected by these disasters plays a significant role in forming this view. Human actions like building houses in flood zones, not adhering to construction regulations in earthquake-prone areas, and not resorting to preventive and protective medicine make these disasters understandable for adults, but the same disasters affecting innocent children and adults who play no part in these processes are reasons for considering these events as evils.

c-Moral Evils: Sins and crimes that both God and sound reason prohibit.

Returning to the beginning, why does an all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful God create or allow these evils? Indeed, this is the ground where the problem of evil is situated.

As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s possible to evaluate the explanations brought in the philosophical and theological/religious discourse on this matter in four distinct categories.

I will continue, God willing. I anticipate writing two or three more articles related to this topic.

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Dr. Ahmet Kurucan is a an author and scholar focusing on Islamic Studies and Law.

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