Evil and Omnipotence

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“The third rope was still moving; being so light, the child was still alive… For more than half an hour he stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes… Behind me, I heard the same man asking; ‘Where is God now?’ And I heard a voice within me answer him: ‘Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows.’” (Wiesel, 1982) What possible good could have come out of this child being executed? He committed no recognizable crime. How could an all powerful, all knowing, perfectly good God allow such a thing to happen? Philosophers and theologians have struggled with this question for centuries. It is known as the problem of evil, as the existence of evil and the classical theistic concept of God appear to be logical incompatibilities. Many philosophers have devised theodicies or justifications of evil; however; J. L. Mackie proposed that the only plausible explanation is not that evil is justifiable but rather that the problem lies in the traditional concept of God.

While traditional theology has characterized God as being omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good, we all have seen instances of evil in the world, from the genocide currently occurring in Darfur to the mass torture seen in the Spanish Inquisition, where people have been forced to suffer at the hands of others for millennia. Mackie’s argument is that an omnipotent, omniscient and perfectly good God has the means, knowledge and desire to prevent such instances of evil from occurring, and yet evil clearly exists. Mackie argues that the removal of any one of the ascribed characteristics would solve the problem of evil; however few theologians have been prepared to accept this as the only solution. (Mackie, 1955)


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...mpossibility for an omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly good God to exist in a universe where evil exists. The qualities in question are categorical, omnipotence, omniscience and being perfectly good, and the only way to account for the existence of evil is to limit in some way one of the categorical characteristics. What this does is change the quality of omnipotence to the lesser quality of extremely powerful. And in admitting any restrictions to any of the classical attributes of God is to admit that the logical impossibility is in fact valid. What a person needs to do is examine the problem objectively first, and only after reaching their objective conclusion can they then apply it to their religious beliefs.

Works Cited

Mackie, John L. "Evil and Omnipotence." Mind LXIV.254 (1955): Pages unknown.

Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York, NY: Bantam Publishing, 1982
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