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What do religious believers mean by 'the problem of suffering'?

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Introduction

Q. What do religious believers mean by 'the problem of suffering'? (5) Suffering is the experience of evil and so deals with the problem of evil on a personal level. The root of the problem of evil can be found in the three properties ascribed to the God of traditional theism, namely that: 1. God is omnipotent 2. God is omni-benevolent 3. God opposes evil. From the three premises one can conclude that evil should not exist, yet there are few who would deny that it does. There are two types of evil, moral and natural evil. Moral evil is the product of man's actions that cause suffering and harm, whilst natural evil causes suffering, but, it outside of human control. Evil can be physical, relating to pain and mental anguish, or, metaphysical, which pertains to imperfection and contingency as a feature of the cosmos. If one of the three premises ascribed to the God of traditional theism is removed, then there is no longer a paradox, however, if all three remain, then God's existence becomes questionable. ...read more.

Middle

Augustine believes in the predestined fall of angels. For Augustine, he sees that through Adam all men are in a state of guilt and condemnation, but God brings some to repentance and salvation. Modern science rejects the suggestion that all were present in Adam and the idea of a fall of humanity, suggesting instead an evolutionary development. Also, if humans are finitely perfect, then even though they are free to sin they need not do so. Surely, if they did, then they were not flawless to start with and so God must share responsibility for their 'fall'. As God is the creator of all things, he must be also be the creator of Hell, which would suggest that it was part of his plan. Therefore God's omni-benevolence must be called into question, as if Hell was part of God's plan he seems unfair in sending some to Hell for eternal damnation and punishment, whilst sending others to heaven. ...read more.

Conclusion

The final end in the Irenaean theodicy is that everyone will eventually be rewarded in heaven. This seems unfair as it would seem to remove the point of obeying God's command. The theodicy also fails to explain why suffering should be so excessive, nor does it explain the existence of evil that serves no purpose and benefits no-one. Indeed, D.Z. Philips argued that an omni-benevolent God would not make people suffer for any purpose. The concept and value of 'free will' can be found as key to both the Augustinian and Irenaean theodicies. This concept has been developed further by what has become known as the 'Free Will Defence'. The main debate centres on whether God could have created free beings which would always obey him, those who maintain that could have done this cite Jesus as an example, on account of the fact that he was free to sin but did not. However, Plantinga in 'God, Freedom and Evil' argues that God's creation of another being that would by necessity only perform actions which were good, is a logical impossibility. Matthew Ebbs ...read more.

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