The philosophical problem of evil lies in the difficulty of reconciling the all-pervading presence of evil in the world we know with the goodness and omnipotence of the God who created that world. Three hundred years before Christ, Epicurus presented the problem in its classic formulation: Either God wants to prevent evil and he cannot do it—in which case he is impotent; or he can do it, and does not want to—in which case he is not good; or he neither wants to nor can prevent evil—in which case he is neither good nor omnipotent; or he wants to and can—in which case no reason can be given for the existence of evil.

Space cannot be taken here to trace out in detail the evils—due both to moral and to natural causes—that plague mankind. This might help us better comprehend the gravity of the problem before us, however, since we all tend to put out of our minds those things that are unpleasant. But whether we want to think about it or not, evil surrounds us on every side. Evil is in fact an inescapable datum that colors the whole of our existence from cradle to grave. Life can be described as a sorrowful vale through which man passes, ending in that apparent cul-de-sac, the last and most menacing of man’s enemies—death. At the end of his moving novel The Plague Albert Camus has one of his characters say: “But what does that mean—‘plague’? Just life, no more than that.” The question before us therefore is not simply “Why evil?” but also, and more perplexingly, “Why so much evil?”

The ubiquity of natural and moral evil in our world on the one hand, and on the other, both the goodness and the omnipotence of the God who created that ...

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