Defining omnibenevolence and the problem of evil

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We all know the problem of evil, which is basically the question of why God allows evil if he is all-good and all-loving. The problem of evil makes perfect sense: why are there disasters, evil, death and tragedy if there is an all-loving, all-good god who can prevent these tragedies? And Christian apologetics have come up with a number of answers to this question.

Firstly, we must agree on the definition of ‘omnibenevolent’. This word means ‘all’ (omni) ‘good’ (benevolent), and something that is all-good would not commit evil, and would definitely not stand for it in any case. Omnibenevolence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “unlimited or infinite benevolence”, therefor an all-powerful, all-good being would not allow evil, under any circumstances, for any period of time.

#1  “God only allows evil for now. It is all part of his plan, and sooner or later God will (finally) defeat Satan and there will be no more evil.” This is actually one of the arguments proposed in the Christian propaganda film ‘God’s not dead’. But this argument redefines the meaning of the word ‘omnibenevolent’. An all-loving, all-good and all-powerful god would not allow evil to exist in the first place. He would have defeated Satan by now – either that or evil would not exist in the first place. This is like saying “God isn’t omnibenevolent yet, but he will be later. We’ll just have to put up with evil for now.’

#2  “God allows evil to ‘glorify’ himself.” Basically, God lets everyone suffer and die so he can act all great and merciful by giving people eternal life – as long as they believe in him. Firstly, does God need to be glorified? No, because he’s ‘perfect’. But does he want to be glorified? If so, then this seems to me like pride, and Bible does not approve of it. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says this:

“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,”
declares the Lord.

And why would God need to let everyone suffer just so he can offer eternal life? It’s his fault sin and evil exists in the first place. And this answer still redefines the word ‘omnibenevolent’.

#3 “God allows evil because of free-will.” This answer has a few problems, firstly, why didn’t God make a better system? He could have made free-will without the possibility of doing evil. If you believe a literal interpretation of the Bible, God is the one who made the tree of knowledge, so he definitely started the problem. Secondly, God knows what is going to happen in the future, and therefor automatically knows what we are going to do, so he could have only created the ‘good’ people, instead of letting bad people exist too. Third, this is STILL redefining the word ‘omnibenevolent’; God would not allow people to do evil, or evil to happen, if he was omnibenevolent. And I just thought of something: this answer doesn’t explain why God allows disasters, both natural and man-made. It also doesn’t explain why he allows death and disease to exist. None of these things come from free-will.

Every other argument I have seen regarding the problem of evil violates the definition of omnibenevolence one way or another. And thus, the problem of evil persists.

Further reading:

Omnibenevolence defined

God vs Satan

All sins are equal?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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3 thoughts on “Defining omnibenevolence and the problem of evil

  1. The only answer that would work to shore up their belief is one that the apologists can’t stomach – a god that’s not all-powerful. He allows evil because he has no choice. The way christians portray Satan in their sermons is as an equal and opposite power to their god, a more Zoroastrian kind of view. But then when confronted by this, they turn around and come up with lame justifications for why their all-powerful god allows evil, rather than admit that their version of biblegod actually has limitations. A limited god is more consistent with the Old Testament version of god as well, where he has to send messengers to check on reports, test people to see if they are faithful, and has reason to be jealous of the worship of other gods. But no apologist is actually going to tell you this.

    Liked by 1 person

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