Knowing Otherworldly Goodness Through Worldly Evils
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Humans come to understand experiences through the basic functions of the mind. The word "experience" refers not only to personal involvement in certain events, but also to anything that can be detected through the senses, ie: people, inanimate objects, and feelings. The ability to define, categorize, extend knowledge onto other things, and compare are the most fundamental functions. Without these functions, we could not gather knowledge from our experiences, nor could we arrive at any conclusions about their significance. The physical world would ultimately be unintelligible. This leads to the question of how we can understand things that are not in the physical world, like God. Our senses cannot directly experience things outside of this world, therefore we are drastically limited in our ability to know and understand God. The best possible solution is for us to combine our belief in God and our earthly experiences to create a better understanding of God and his qualities. Our experiences of evil are key in the understanding and appreciation of God. Although it is commonly claimed that the existence of evil weakens the assertion that God is omnibenevolent, this is contrary to the truth. Through our ability to extend knowledge to arrive at new truths and our ability to compare experiences, our minds can use the existence of evil to further understand and appreciate God and his omnibenevolence.
First, it is important to illustrate how extension and comparison work in day-to-day situations before moving on to how these functions assist us in understanding God. Suppose you have a friend you have known all of your life. We will call him Patrick. Patrick is a generally reliable friend, so you are content with having thi...
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...which have varying amounts of goodness, something must be good beyond all the other things. In such a world, we might know God is good beyond all else, but without evil, the significance of that knowledge is diminished. When there is good and evil, another dimension is added. A tension is added. Even if it is a psychological response, humans are more compelled when there are two opposing sides. We see God as being so good, that he can easily overcome and conquer the most evil of things. Mackie is wrong to claim it is fallacious to believe the universe is better off with evil. Without evil, our minds could not begin to understand how special God truly is.
Mackie, J.L. "Evil and Omnipotence." Philosophy of Religion. 4th ed. Eds. Michael Peterson, et al. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 288-296. Print.