Natural evil allows God to communicate a message to mankind

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Parent debateThis argument is used in the debate Does God exist?.
Keywords: God, Evil, Suffering, Theodicy, Message[ edit ].



“Natural evil enables human beings to make choices, in two ways. Firstly, the way in which the laws of nature work to produce evil provides human beings with knowledge (if they choose to acquire it) about how to produce that evil themselves. By observing that I catch a disease through the workings of natural processes, I acquire the ability either to use these processes in such a way as to transmit that disease to others, or, through negligence, to let others catch it, or to take steps to prevent others from catching that disease. The study of nature's mechanisms in its production of various evils (and goods) offers human beings a vast field for decision. Couldn't God give us the requisite knowledge (concerning the production of a good or evil) that we need to exercise a free and responsible decision by a less costly means? Couldn't He simply whisper in our ear from time to time what the various consequences of our various actions are? Of course. However, if someone were to think that it is God who informs him that such and such an action will have such and such an effect, he would have to consider that all his actions are carried out under the eye of an all-seeing God. No longer content with the strong conviction that God exists, he would know, with complete certainty, that God exists. This knowledge could severely hamper his freedom of decision, and make it very difficult for him to decide to do evil. This is because we all have, by natural inclination, the desire to be well thought of by everyone, and above all, if need be, by a perfectly good God; that we have this inclination is a very good human characteristic: without it, something would be missing from our humanity. If, then, we were directly informed of the consequences of our actions, we would be deprived of the possibility of deciding to seek to discover their consequences through experimentation and serious cooperation. This knowledge would overwhelm us. Only natural processes can give human beings knowledge of the effects of their actions without hindering their freedom, and if evil is to be a real possibility for them, it's up to them to discover how they can make it happen.”

Richard Swinburne, Is there a God?, p.102-103, Ithaca, Paris, 2009.


Arguments forJustifications

Arguments againstObjections

  • Argument againstIt's a mental projection to make the pain more bearable.
  • Argument againstGod is supposed to be omnipotent, therefore able to communicate messages without using evil

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