The Illogic of God
Somebody once said that there is nothing more uncommon than common sense. Likewise, there is perhaps nothing more illogical than logic, especially when talking about God. As the Pascal Wager states, “If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible… Reason can decide nothing here….” However, that never has stopped people from trying.
Case in point is the Greek philosopher Epicurus who posed this logic problem: Either God was (1) willing to prevent evil but was unable – in which case Epicurus stated that God wasn’t really omnipotent, or (2) able to prevent evil but not willing – in which case he was malevolent, or (3) both willing and able to prevent evil – in which case where did evil come from, or (4) neither able nor willing – in which case why call him God.
As logic problems go, this one was well constructed. The thing is that Epicurus wrote the problem in such a way that, no matter how you responded, he would win. You see, the person who frames the debate has a huge advantage. So in this case, Epicurus constructed a logic problem in such a way as to produce the outcome(s) that he wanted.
However, Epicurus made a number of assumptions in his logic problem. For example, he assumed that (1) evil is a bad thing; and (2) God would never have created a world with evil in it. These assumptions are further based on yet larger assumptions that man can (1) properly understand his own reality and (2) comprehend the Absolute with his finite mind. Now, Occam’s razor is a well-known principle in logic which has been attributed to a 14th century Franciscan monk by the name of William of Ockham, although its origin goes back to Aristotle. One of the tenets of this concept is that in logic one should make as few assumptions as possible. Epicurus should have taken note since there’s nothing like an assumption or two (see above) to mess up a logic problem.
It’s been said that good is good because evil is evil. It’s the Yin and the Yang, a natural symbiotic relationship of Creation. Under those circumstances, it’s illogical to try to ascribe logic to the concepts of good and evil. The only “logical” conclusion that can be drawn is that we do, in fact, exist in a world of good and evil. As a result, we can not experience good without also experiencing evil; we were apparently meant to experience both. So to answer Epicurus, there is no incompatibility between the existence of evil and the existence of God, assuming that you can define either. Again, assumptions, assumptions, assumptions.
Epicurus’ last, and perhaps fatal, assumption is that if God was able to prevent evil but was not willing, then he (God) had to be malevolent. That’s completely predicated on the assumption that evil is something to be avoided and is un-Godlike. After all, it’s completely possible that God allows evil in order to achieve a greater good. In that case, evil would no doubt be considered a necessity of Creation. That is, how would you ever know what good is, unless there was evil? As Neale Donald Walsch so aptly put it, “In the absence of that which is not, that which is, is not.”
Man has been blessed with both intellect and curiosity. However, we have never been able to adequately explain the world that we live in, let alone comprehend the unknowable, the Absolute. How arrogant of us to even assume that we can read the mind of God. William of Ockham admitted as much when he said that, “God’s existence cannot be deduced by reason alone.” Logic is a great thing, except when it’s illogical. Epicurus, of all people, should have known better.
“We could still imagine that there is a set of laws that determines events completely for some supernatural being, who could observe the present state of the universe without disturbing it. However, such models of the universe are not of much interest to us mortals. It seems better to employ the principle known as Occam’s razor and cut out all the features of the theory that cannot be observed.”
– Stephen Hawking/A Brief History In Time