Essay on Response to the Idea of Evil

Submitted By Coliva
Words: 1409
Pages: 6

The idea of evil is one of the most contended with problems for those who have faith in God. Theists have dealt with the idea and reality of evil for hundreds of years. Famous philosopher David Hume discusses the existence of evil present in the world in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion. In the later sections of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Philo presents a contradiction to an argument that Demea has posed. He states how God possesses many good characteristics, and yet evil exists. Philo argues that the existence of evil is a problem for those who believe in God because the two ideas are incompatible. Nevertheless, Philo puts forth, theists can respond in a number of ways to counter what Philo has said. One way for theists to respond is by saying that evil and suffering is present to challenge and better a person and their faith. The conversation about evil opens when Demea says the whole earth “is cursed and polluted. A perpetual war is kindled amongst all living creatures…[life] is, at last, finished in agony and horror” (Hume, 59). Demea continues by asserting that, “were a stranger to drop on a sudden into this world, I would show him, as a specimen of its ills, a hospital full of disease, a prison crowded with malefactors and debtors, a field of battle strewed with carcasses, a fleet floundering in the ocean, a nation languished under tyranny, famine, or pestilence” (Hume, 61). Demea has made his point and the presence of suffering and evil clear. It is clear and indisputable that evil and suffering exist on earth. As the conversation progresses, the talk turns to the idea of God and his descriptive characteristics.
Cleanthes, Philo and Demea describe God as having “infinite benevolence, conjoined with infinite power and infinite wisdom” (Hume, 66). Even so, these characteristics pose a problem for Philo regarding evil and suffering. The belief in God and what he embodies is clear to the three conversing and no one disputes God’s existence or characteristics. Yet, with the existence of the presence of suffering and evil therein lies the problem. Philo contends that evil “is not, by any means, what we expect from infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite goodness” (Hume, 65-6) Philo quickly continues by asking “why is there any misery at all in the world? Not by chance surely. From some cause then. Is it from the intention of the Deity? But he is perfectly benevolent. Is it contrary to his intention? But he is almighty. Nothing can shake the solidity of this reasoning” (Hume, 66). Each of these question and answer pairs prepares Philo, Cleathes and Demea for the conclusion drawn on evil and God’s existence. Philo’s overarching argument is to assert that what Demea has said about God and evil is somewhat incorrect. Therefore, Philo wrestles with the idea of evil and God’s presence in the same world.
At the start of his argument, Philo questions God’s characteristics before anything else. He knows God is benevolent, perfect and omnipotent, but Philo does not understand how evil can contingently exist if this description of an all-powerful creator is true. Therefore, Philo asks, “is [God] willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?” (Hume, 63)Philo sees God’s characteristics, and also is aware of the existence of evil. Each of these questions are essential to understanding the basis of Philo’s conclusion on evil and God’s presence on earth. Philo and Demea alike have asserted different facts on God and on evil and suffering, all which exist in some form on earth. However, there are serious inconsistences between the two sets of facts for Philo and theists alike. This brings up the idea of an “inconsistent triad.” Nelson Pike presents an interesting view on this argument through his interpretation of the text. The “inconsistent triad” of facts presents the three facts