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Trilemma Rebuttal 1

February 18, 2010

Or “Why I wish people would stop using this thing ’cause it’s stupid.”

You may have heard this before:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent.
Is He able but not willing?  Then He is malevolent.
Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?

It’s commonly attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus, but there’s not total agreement on that. The last line has been added more recently than Epicurus because apparently someone didn’t get the point of the argument.

Whoever coined it, it’s paraded around as this great intellectual argument and it’s so full of holes it irritates me. So I’m spewing for a couple days ’cause I can.

First of all, the entire the thing presupposes there is such a thing as Evil. Denying the existence of a God who can draw the universal line between good and evil, and in the same breath talking about Evil as though it were a concrete, universal idea causes problems.

If there is no Law-Giver, no standard of Good from which we can deduct what is Evil, then what are we even talking about here? What is it that we’re juxtaposing against the possibility of God?

Epicurus defined Evil as that which causes pain, unless that pain is intended to yield a greater good. That’s a very finite, physical, animalistic (and ancient Greek-ish) definition of Evil.

Because does that mean that if something does not cause pain it is inherently good? Is a lie not evil if it’s never found out? Is a sexual affair not evil if the other spouse remains ignorant of it? Is drunk driving not evil if no one is hurt?

Those kinds of questions raise the obvious point that unless there is an omnipotent wisdom that can universally define Evil, the concept is completely subjective. Rape is evil is some societies and business in others. Cheating in business is evil in some industries and commonplace in others.

If you can’t define evil, how much more can you not define God? You can’t use a non-tangible concept to prove or disprove the existence of a non-tangible God until we can all agree on what that concept means. And that will never happen.

Tomorrow we’ll assume that Evil is Evil for the sake of argument, and it still irritates me.

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