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Trilemma Rebuttal 3

February 20, 2010

Here we are:

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?

We started Thursday with the inherent flaw in defining Evil. Yesterday, we assumed that Evil is Evil for the sake of argument, and discussed the idea that it takes more than what the trilemma suggests to prevent evil. And yesterday we left off with the argument that if God is not willing to violate our free will, or is unable to violate His word – then He is not willing and/or not able to prevent Evil.

At this point I have to ask – really?

Free will is the other element that Epicurus’s trilemma is not considering. For God to totally prevent Evil – assuming our definition of Evil is the right and universally agreed-upon one – He would have to act against a person’s free will. Do you really want Him to do that?

On the one hand, it would make Him a liar. And without getting into the theological implications of the Truth becoming a liar, that’s still opening an infinite can of worms. He’s either trustworthy or He’s not. If the God of promises and covenants and verbal contracts renegs on one, what are we to trust in?

On the other hand, asking God to do whatever it takes to prevent evil assumes your definition of Evil is correct. Consider that if some high-minded intellectual somehow convinced God to sovereignly prevent Evil – like the trilemma is proposing – it would touch your life too.

You may not be premeditating murder or trafficking children, but what if God’s definition of Evil is not simply, “that which causes pain”? What if God considers dishonesty in business Evil? What if His definition of Evil includes how you treat your parents, or what you do with your weekends?

Do we – did Epicurus – really want God to prevent Evil? Or just the Evil committed against us, against innocents? Just what we consider Evil? Or just what we consider the “big” Evils?

It’s interesting that we insist on defining Evil ourselves, and yet we look to God to enforce it. If we’ll submit to His definition of Evil, He is willing and able to prevent it. If we take advantage of the free will to “define” Evil for ourselves, He leaves it to us to prevent it.

If anyone is guilty of being able but not willing it’s you and me. We’re not able like God is able, but we’re able to do more than we’re doing. How much of my time and my resources am I spending on feeding the hungry, supporting anti-trafficking work, and sending mosquito nets to Africa? When we’ve done all we can do, maybe then we can call on God to do the rest.

Not good enough? That’s why someone added the fourth line:

Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?

Another answer to another hypothetical on Monday.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 22, 2010 7:57 am

    definitely digging these deep little discussions. (alliteration, haha!)

    but seriously. thanks for posting – enjoying reading them through. we spent about a week on this in my college philosophy class and it’s always interesting getting to the “definition of evil” talk when considering jesus’ words in matthew 5/6.

  2. Lex permalink
    February 23, 2010 10:56 am

    Glad you’re enjoying it, Justin. Please feel free to post some good – probably more legitimate – wisdom on the thing from your class!

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