Philosophy of ReligionWhat are your thoughts on this quote; "Is God willing to prevent evil but unable? Then God is impotent. God is able, but not willing? then God is malevolent. Is God both able...

Philosophy of Religion

What are your thoughts on this quote;

"Is God willing to prevent evil but unable? Then God is impotent. God is able, but not willing? then God is malevolent. Is God both able and wiling? Whence then is evil? Is God neither able nor willing? Then why call God, God?"

Expert Answers
wannam eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I was always taught that God is not the cause of evil but he sometimes allows bad things to happen so that he can work through them. We were taught that evil was the work of Satan, but God doesn't always intervene. Sometimes he allows these things to happen. Although, I got the impression it was the same way a parent sometimes allow their child to learn a lesson the hard way because that's what is best for them. I don't think God is either impotent or malevolent. Impotent would mean that he can't do something but I think it's more that he chooses not to. Malevolent implies that he doesn't stop bad things from happening out of some evil intent. As a parent, I know how hard it is to watch your child do something that might cause a temporary pain in order to learn an important lesson. It doesn't mean the parent is malevolent because they did not take action. They were doing what was in the best interest of the child. I was taught to feel this is the same thing that God does. He does not always act against evil, not because he is malevolent, but because there is some greater purpose.
larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An interesting quote, however its parameters attempt to define (that is limit) the concept of God in a way that most believers will not accept. The standing Christian philosophy is that God is both able and willing to prevent evil; but does not actively intervene to save human beings from themselves. If God were to do so, then humans would be little more than puppets on a string who could be yanked about at the whim of the Almighty. Another part of the Christian philosophy is that God's will is not easily understood by humans, but should be accepted, just as children do not always understand the reasoning behind the actions of adults. Short answer: God cannot be limited within the parameters you mentioned; the assumptions within the quote are fallacious.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I agree with the first post.  You need to think about this as if God has a greater intelligence than we do and knows what is best for us much more than we do.

If you are a child and your father does not prevent something bad from happening to you (when he could have) does that mean he's malevolent?  Probably not.  What if he wanted the bad thing to happen to you so you would learn from it?  Then he would be able to help but unwilling and it would be because he knows what is good for you, not because he is malevolent.

So if we believe in God, we have to believe that he has superior wisdom and that he allows things to happen for reasons that are not accessible to us.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
It is an interesting quote. My thoughts on the matter are that humans have free will. God is not there to intervene in everything people do. God is not a puppet. People make choices, for good or evil. That does not make God unable or unwilling to intervene. God created human beings with free will. Evil is the price we pay for that freedom.
karimjessa | Student

I've subjected this riddle by Epicurus to scrutiny, and concluded that it rests principally upon an accepted characterization of god, and, next in order, the character of evil.

Every interpretation will be based upon preconceived notions of these terms.

For a full analysis, see my article:

c-brooke | Student

I feel that the free will argument is interesting, but how then can you explain the starving children in the world?

c-brooke | Student

Thank you everybody for your response, I'm thinking a little about what everyone said, and will post reply later today.


frizzyperm | Student

This quote is, "The Problem of Evil." In my opinion, Posts 2,3 and 4 all made the same mistake by citing human freewill as the reason for God's inactivity. The quote is by Epicurus. Dozens of philosophers have wrestled with it.

Mankind's freewill is clearly not responsible for all the 'evil' in this world. There are countless examples of natural tragedy. I will take one example; Flu. It is a common enough thing, but at regular intervals, a new strain of flu tears through the world, killing millions. You can't blame humans for this. We did not make this problem. Why does God allow such pointless slaughter?

Now, imagine you are holding a 3-month-old, dead flu-victim in your hands, its life snuffed out by this unthinking pathogen.

Was God able to prevent this child's death?  If he wasn't, he is not all powerful.

Was God able but unwilling to prevent it? Then he is surely not all good.

Is he powerful and good? Then how did this tragedy happen?

Now, people talk about 'God's tests' and 'we don't understand God' and other soft excuses. But the if you open your newspaper you will see that God allows famine and disease and human tragedy on a truly vast scale. It is not 'Good'.