I've been musing over the problem of evil and that popular maxim put forward by Epicurus, 2300 years ago, as an argument against an all-knowing (omniscience), all-powerful (omnipotent), and all loving God. The argument is still popular today among many of my atheist friends (even being referenced in the movie Superman vs. Batman), so I thought it worthwhile addressing.
First, in case you are unfamiliar with the argument, Epicurus basically posited that if God is willing to prevent evil, but not able, He is not omnipotent. If He is able, but not willing, He is not all good. If He both able and willing, evil should not exist. If He is neither able nor willing, then He is not God.
The problem with the Epicurean trilemma (leaving aside the fact it is first quoted in the writings of a Christian theologian arguing against it, and was possibly never uttered by Epicurus) is that it rests on a few (unproven) assumptions: 1) the future is something which can be known, 2) omniscience is properly defined as knowing the future, and 3) evil can be objectively defined.
The reason this is a problem is that, if the future is something which can be known ahead of time (either because it is predetermined, or "exists" in the mind of its Creator), then free will does not exist. If free will does not exist, no action can be good or evil. A predetermined universe negates the initial premise of the argument.
However, it seems that quantum mechanics shows us "the future" is probabilistic in nature, rather than deterministic. This means it is essentially uncreated. While an omniscient God can know all the possible futures, there is no way a single future could be known ahead of time. A thing can only be known if it exists; so it follows that if the future does not exist, it cannot be known. In this case, a probabilistic universe negates the argument's definition of omniscience.
Finally, if evil can be objectively defined (especially as something within the created order), this suggests a moral reality beyond human social contract, which can only apply to functionally free beings in a probabilistic universe. Since humans are (said to be) free beings, then the burden of evil rests entirely on them.
But if there is no God, then there can be no moral reality beyond transitory human social contract. And again, the burden of breaking any such contract (defined as an act of evil) would rest only on its constituent parties, i.e. human beings. In either case, human beings are to blame for evil's existence, rather than God (whether or not God exists).
It seems to me that the God of Christianity (the faith with which I am most familiar) is generally described as creating humanity to reflect God's "Image", i.e. to be free beings which possess the ability to make moral decisions, to live in community (with God, fellow humans, and creation), and to create or destroy.
But the existence of free beings carries with it the implicit risk of evil, broken relationship, and immoral decisions. If Christianity's claims are correct, then the best explanation for the existence of evil is that God loves humanity so deeply, He figured it was worth the risk that we would dork everything up.
#philosophy #God #atheism #Christianity #theodicy #Epicurus #evil