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Biblical Themes: The Problem of Evil

Epicurus is generally credited with first expounding the problem of evil, and it is sometimes called "the Epicurean paradox": "Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?" The problem of evil poses this question: how can a God who is all-powerful, all-wise, and all-good permit so much pain, suffering, and evil in the world? How would you answer this question?

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This is one of the most difficult questions in philosophy or religious studies. When philosophers talk about the problem of evil they often distinguish between moral and physical evil. The former comprises the pain and suffering that human beings inflict on one another (e.g., the holocaust) while the latter comprises disease, illness, and accidents. Now there are several approaches to handling the challenge of evil. The so-called Epicurean paradox results when we try to reconcile the traditional characterization of God as omnipotent (all powerful, capable of doing anything) and morally good with the obvious existence of evil in the world. If God has the capacity to do anything, just why does He not intervene to eliminate or at least lessen the suffering that's all around us. Some folks think that maybe God really isn't omnipotent, that God is limited in power and just can't reduce human pain and suffering. ...

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The following posting discusses the problem of evil and the Bible.