The Evil God Challenge


Stephen Law conducted a thought experiment with a purpose of establishing the existence of an evil God, whereby he challenged those who believed in the presence of a kind and good God, doing nothing evil, and argued that the existent God is wicked indeed. The hypothesis developed into the challenge based on the argument that, if an omnibenevolent God is said to exist, yet there is so much evil in the world, then there is as well a possibility that an evil God exists, yet there is so much good. Law aimed to doubt not the fact of the existence of God, but the generally accepted assumption that the existing God is benevolent. Another researcher, Rowe, refutes this approach, arguing that the existence of a Supreme Being, who created people and hence cares for them, cannot be associated with evil. In fact, the presence of evil is a clear sign of the absence of a God. This paper seeks to take a position opposing to Law’s theory and prove that, despite the presence of evil, an omnibenevolent God still exists.

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Law’s Evil God Challenge

Law’s position is based on the principles of traditional theodicy, which reconciles a benevolent Deity with the presence of evil in the world (Law, 2011). Basically, he argues that this point of view mirrors a similar situation, in which the presence of good in the world could be reconciled with the existence of an evil God. In general, he believes that the same reasons that are used to prove the existence of the good God are applicable to the confirmation of the evil God presence. Law asserts that the evil God, as compared to the benevolent Deity, holds the same explanatory power (Law, 2011). According to Law, “We can sharpen the problem by noting that God will presumably not allow any gratuitous suffering to exist” (Law, 2010, p. 354). When defining the evil, Law refers to the actions that are morally blameworthy, as well as to the human and animal suffering. Law uses the amount of evil, present in the society, as an evidence of the non-existence of a good God. He asserts that the availability of a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and good in a maximal way is incompatible with the presence of evil. In such a way, to prove the inexistence of a benevolent God, Law introduces a different type of a Deity, who is evil, yet coexists with goodness.

The idea of a good God was based on the fact, that he has positive influence on the lives of individuals (Law, 2010, p. 353). However, it is inarguably evident that there is a great number of people, believing  in a good God, who is willing to affect the humanity positively, the amount of evil in the world is overwhelming. This is an especial issue of a great concern because even innocent and good people face suffering in unimaginable amounts. A case in point is that most, if not all, of the claimed disciples of Jesus are said to have been persecuted to death. It raises questions about the goodness of the benevolent and all-powerful God that is said to exist.

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The evil God hypothesis, as developed by Law, proves the incompatibility between the existence of such a God and goodness. Law asserts that, “the amount of evil does now become relevant. Even if we acknowledge that God might have reason to allow some evil, surely there can be no good reason for quite so much?” (Law, 2010, p. 354). It is important to note that the features of this God characterize him as an evil one, so that people would expect nothing but harm from him. In this view, Law tries to understand why a God that is deemed evil, would give people good things and affect their lives positively. The point is that, Law asks why such a God would give some individuals immense health, happiness and wealth (Law, 2010, p. 356). It is quite clear from Law’s statement that there is incoherence between an evil God and good deeds. In the same way, Law upholds the fact that compatibility does not exist between a good God and evil, as well. If such a God existed, he would be associated with good things and would correspond to his attributes such as omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.  Moreover, such  God would strive to ensure that evil does not exist within the world.

Rowe’s Argument

Rowe tends to agree with Law on the issue of coexistence between a God and evil. Nevertheless, unlike Law, Rowe takes a different approach to the subject, arguing against the existence of a Supreme Being altogether. In his book, he maintains a position that, “It is one thing to argue that the existence of evil is logically inconsistent with the existence of the theistic God and quite another thing to argue that the world contains evils that render the existence of the theistic God unlikely” (Rowe, 2007, p. 69). Rowe acknowledges that human beings are exposed to some incidents of extreme suffering, which would have otherwise been prevented by a God without tolerating the increase of evil or the loss of any greater good. Rowe suggests that the only explanation that could be found by a God for not preventing an intense human suffering is his knowing that such prevention would lead to the loss of greater good or would allow some worse or equally bad evil to flourish.  With such considerations, Rowe stated that a Supreme Being that could be referred to as a God does not exist (Hasker, 2008, p. 177).

This theorist takes an inductive approach to the issue of the existence of a God, arguing that if there is so much evil in the world, that could have been, but unfortunately was not prevented by any being, then there is no Superior Power to prevent it at all (Hasker, 2008, p. 178). The major assumption supported by this argument is that any existent Superior Being, a God, for example, would wish to prevent acts of evil from happening. Hence, the fact that such acts still occur means that it is highly likely, that there is no such Superior Being that would avert this evil from taking place. Considering a logical approach to the definition of God, if one defined the God metaphysically, then he would exhibit various metaphysical properties such as knowledge, greater power, and goodness (Law, 2010, p. 355). As such, he would treat, evil, as no serious problem and easily take care of it. Thus, there is no logical explanation, which would justify the existence of evil in the presence of God. Rowe’s conclusive take is that the God does not exist, as it is impossible for him to exist alongside with evil.

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Critique of Law’s challenge

This paper seeks to take a differing approach to the issue of coexistence between the God and evil, that is why it suggests that the God exists despite the rampant evil in the society. While explaining the issue of the existence of God alongside with the immense evil, the free-will solution proves to be highly significant. According to this approach, at the same time as an omnipotent God exists, he has granted the free will to human beings, and, thus, they have the power to decide and to choose what to do or not to do (Forrest, 2012, p. 36). Existing as a Supreme Being and the one that has all the authority that could be metaphysically or religiously described, the God had all the potential of creating puppet-like human beings, whom he could easily control according to his will. Nevertheless, by granting free will to people, the God surrendered the power of making a choice to human beings, allowing them to decide whether to embrace good or evil. However, the God interferes when it comes to punishing those who chose evil while rewarding those who chose good (Forrest, 2012, p. 37). A major drawback of this approach is that it fails to explain some of the natural evils that are present in the world.

Another argument that could also be embraced to justify the coexistence between the God and evil involves the character-building solution. This approach maintains the idea that human beings are less developed, hence, the God allows them to undergo the ordeal by evil that will help them to grow in terms of their will and to learn how to make right choices (Forrest, 2012, p. 37). On the other hand, one could argue that the God decided to place evil  into the world to show the proper distinction between good and evil. Actually, for one to identify what can be termed as good, there has to be an opposition, according to which he can measure the good. A great defect of these approaches is the fact that they do not give a proper explanation of why too much evil exists in the world.

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It is evident that as much as the arguments expressed by both Law and Rowe are logically correct, and can effectively justify the existence of the God and evil, they remain inconclusive in terms of such aspects as free-will and growth facilitation,. Nevertheless, it is important to note that the solutions adopted in this paper are highly limited in their scope and practical application.

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