I have recently started a Philosophy A-level course and have been set a course work task. I was
wondering if you had any additional information about the problem of evil and suffering. If God is
supposed to be omnipotent why doesn't he stop the suffering in the world? I realise a Christian would
say the God gave us free will, we need suffering to indicate to us when we are ill in order to try and
recover, i.e. seek medical attention, I also realise its linked to what's known as the FALL — Adam
tempted, going against God's commands to not eat from the tree. I would appreciate some more
arguments from a Christian aspect.
Secondly, do you have any information on the arguments for and against after-life, reincarnation,
rebirth, resurrection, immortality of the soul?
One reason why God allows suffering and evil is that He wants to!. i.e. God is not wholly good. Sure
this is not very acceptable to many Christians, but it would solve the problem! Another response
made by the Christian Scientists is to deny the existence of evil — it is simply an illusion, But if there
is no evil why did Jesus Christ come to redeem all our sins?
Responses to the problem of evil are called theodices, the Christian strategy is to argue that God
does will evil , not for it's own sake, but tor some supposed supreme good or "summum bonum". 'The
Augustinian theodicy (St.Augustine's response ) argues that evil is necessary in order for us to
recognise the goodness that God has created, just as we could not recognise the difference between
colours if all we saw was blue (evil is also explained as mankind's disobeying God's will an act of
divine punishment). However why would we need to tell the difference at all if we only experienced
The Irenian theodicy explains evil as necessary for the perfect. development of human beings.
According to Swinburne (A defender of this position) evil provides an opportunity for people to grow
intellectually and morally. For example, without. evils such as stealing there could not be such good
states as forgiveness. But is it simply begging the question to say this? because if there were no
stealing there would be no need for forgiveness and surely a world free of forgiveness is better, than
one where old women get beaten up.
The free will defence although more plausible is no good either if one accepts that God being
omnipotent could have created a world of free beings who always chose the right thing to do (see
Mackie's The Miracle of Theism.) Further the free will defence cannot explain natural evils. Anyway,
moving on. There are two basic conceptual forms of argument for life after death. One is that humans
possess an immortal spirit that can exist separate from the body. For, the classical arguments for this
see Plato's Phaedoand Descartes' Meditations. The second form of argument is that life after death
continues in a bodily form. This view is expressed in the traditional Christian doctrine of the
resurrection of the dead. Both these arguments depend on an important issue of personal identity:
What is it that makes a person the same person through time? the first says it is my soul, the second
But there is another way we can conceive of life after death. What if all I am is a set of memories and
psychological traits? If so then we could write a "blue print" of the Brian Tee program load it into a
computer network and live forever! Of course separate from these considerations of whether life after
death is possible is the question of whether it is desirable. (For a good general discussion see B.
Davis: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion.)
Dept of Philosophy
University of Sheffield