Date of Award

5-1974

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religious Studies

Supervisor

I.G. Weeks

Abstract

The problem of evil is meant to show that the propositions (A) "God exists and is all-good and omnipotent," and (B) "There is evil in the world," are logically inconsistent and incompatible. Formulated in this way, the problem of evil confronts theism with the following dilemma. If, on the one hand, it can be shown that propositions (A) and (B) are logically incompatible, therein lies a proof of atheism and the end of theism as a rational enterprise. If, on the other hand, propositions (A) and (B) are not logically incompatible, then religious and theological utterances become, on the basis of Antony Flew's falsification challenge, vacuous and meaningless, and are, at best, pseudo-assertions.

The purpose of this study is to attempt to resolve the above-mentioned dilemma by attacking both horns; that is, by showing that both alternatives are in fact false. It is argued that propositions (A) and (B) are not logically incompatible and that, although (B) does not falsify or count against (A), religious language is nonetheless meaningful. In order to substantiate this latter claim, a careful study of the concept "meaning" is made to show why the falsification criterion of meaningfulness is not the only criterion of meaningfulness, but that the actual use of any language provides a sound criterion.

In substantiating the former claim, a careful examination of the nature and use of such concepts as "omnipotence", "omniscience", "all-goodness", and "freedom" is made' in order to compare them as they appear in the formulation of tho problem of evil with their traditional usages. Next, the whole question of Divine Omnipotence, Omniscience and Foreknowledge, Divine Goodness and Human Freedom is discussed to show that the traditional free Will Defence is valid in that it shows that not even an omnipotent God could make men such that they would always choose freely what is right. The notion of a perfect world, a world free of evil, suffering and defect, is next discussed. It is argued that a world free of evil and defect is logically impossible, and further that even if such a world were possible, human life insofar as it involves moral developments and rationality would not be possible.

The discussion ends with a consideration of the attitude of the religious believer when faced with evil and suffering in the world. It is my contention that, although religious people are affected by the great deal of pain; evil and suffering in the world, their faith is not threatened; that is, they need not (and do not) give up their belief in a God of love. This does not mean that evil and suffering do not affect the believer, that he is not concerned about them, for clearly he is. He is constantly struggling with suffering and evil, all the time trying to understand why these must be. He may never understand why evil and suffering must be, but he does not relinquish his belief in God because he knows that evil will be overcome. Others (nonreligious people) may never understand his attitude, but that is only because they do not share his beliefs. And it is here that the whole issue between the believer and the non-believer reaches (it seems) an unresolvable deadlock.

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