Theism and the Problem of Evil: A Critical Study

Theism and the Problem of Evil: A Critical Study

The Concept of Theism

The Meaning of Theism

The Word “theos” “ qeos” in Greek means “ God”. Theism means belief in God, where God is understood to be the single omnipotent creator of everything else that exist. God is regarded as a being distinct from his creation though manifesting himself through it and also essentially personal, earring for and communicating with mankind and infinitely worthy of human worships and obedience. Theism is a central element in the whole judaeo Christian religious tradition. A theistic argument is one that is meant to establish the existence of God and “prove” it to non- believers or reaffirm it for the benefit of believers.

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The idea of God is either a fact, like sane or a fantasy, like Santa1.

If it is a fantasy, a human invention, it is the greatest invention in all of human History measure it against all other invention, mental or physical, put on one side of the scale the control of five, the domestication of animals and the cultivation of wheat; the wheel, the ship and the rocket ship baseball, the symphony orchestra and anesthetics – and a million other similarly great and wonderful things. Then put on the other side of the scale a single idea, the idea of a being that is actual absolute, perfect, eternal, one, and personal all knowing, all-loving, all-just, all–merciful, and all- powerful, undying, impervious, unbribeable, uncompromising and unchangeable, a cosmic creator designer, redeemer and provider, cosmic artist musician scientist and sage, the infinite abyss of pure being who is yet a person, a self, an “I”. It is disputable whether such a being is a fact or a fantasy, but it is indisputable that if it is a fantasy, it is by for the greatest fantasy in history. If it is humanity’s invention, it is humanity masterpiece.

The idea of God has guided or deluded more lives, changed more history, inspired more music and poetry and philosophy than anything else, real or imagined. It has made more of a difference to human life on this planet, both individually and collectively, than anything else ever has. To see this clearly for yourself just try this thought experiment: suppose no one in history had ever conceived the idea of God. Now rewrite history following that premise. The task daunts and stagers the imagination from the earliest human remains- religious funeral artifacts – to the most recent wars in the mideast, religion- belief in a God or gods- has been the main spring of the whole watch that is human history.

Many people have found the idea of God to be comforting, inspiring and the source of hope. But the philosophy of religion is concerned not with the psychological  benefits of believing in the idea of God, but rather with the question of whether the word God refers to anything in reality. As Kreeft put it, “God is either a fact, like sand or a fantasy like Santa”. But once we start raising question about the existence of God, a number of other question arise. How can we decide whether God exists. There are rational argument that demonstrate that God exist or at least that his existence is probable? Is there evidence that counts against God’s existence? Is it impossible or inappropriate to approach this question in an objective way? Should we fall back on faith or subjective consideration in making up our minds? What about the existence of suffering in the world? Isn’t it pretty hard to square this fact with the belief in an all- powerful, loving God.

Most of our discussion surrounding these question deals with the monotheistic conception of God found in such religious as Judaism, Islam and Christianity monotheism claims that one God created the word and sustains it while transcending it. (hereafter, I refer to this position as simply “ theism”).

2If we think of God as the creator of heaven and earth” and if we consider heaven and earth to include everything that exists except God, then we appear to have, in the foregoing consideration, fairly strong reason for asserting that God, as so concerned exist. Now of course most people have much more in mind then this when they think of God, for religious here ascribed to God ever so many attributes that are not at all implied by describing him merely as the creator of the world, but that is not relevant here. Most religious persons do in any case, think of God as being at least the creator as that being upon which everything ultimately depends, no mater what else they  may say about him in addition. It is in fact, the first item in the creeds of Christianity that God is the “creator of heaven and earth”. And, it seems there are good metaphysical reason, as distinguished from the persuasion of faith, for thinking that such a creative being exist.

3If, as seems clearly implied by the principle of sufficient reason, there must be a reason for the existence of heaven and earth i.e. for the world then that reason must be found either in the world itself, or outside it, in some thing, that is literally supernatural, or outside heaven and earth. Now if we suppose that the world i.e. the totality of all things excepts God- contains within itself the reason for it’s existence, we are supposing that it exist by it very nature that is that it is a necessary being. In that case there would, of course be no reason for saying that it must depend upon God or anything else for its existence, for it exists by its very nature then it depend upon nothing but itself, mush as the sun depend upon nothing but itself for it’s heat. This, however is implacable, for we find nothing about the world or anything in it to suggest that it exist by it own nature and we do find, on the contrary, ever so many things to suggest that it does not for in the first place anything which exist by its very nature must necessarily be external and indestructible. It would be a self- contraction to say of any thing that it exists by its own nature or is a necessarily existing thing, and at the same time to say that it comes into being or passes away, or that it ever could come into being or pass away. Nothing about the world seems at all like this for concerning anything in the world, we can perfectly easily think of it as being annihilated or as never having existence in the first place, without there being the slightest hunt of any absurdity in such a supposition. Ultimately then, it would seem that the world or the totality of contingent or perishable things, in case it exists at necessary and imperishable, and which accordingly exists, not in dependence upon something else, but by its own nature.

  • The Various Argument about the Existence of God Theist Perspective Thomas Aquinas
READ  Theism and the Problem of Evil

4The existence of God can be prove in five ways by Thomas Aquinas. The first and more manifest way is the argument from notion, it is certain and evident to our sense that some thing are in motion. Whatever is in motion is moved by something else for nothing can be in motion unless it has a potentially for that towards which it is being moved, where as a thing moves in as much as it is in act. By “ motion” we means nothing else than the change of something from a state of potentiality into a state of actuality. But nothing can be changed from potentiality to actuality except by something already in a state of actuality. For example, fire which is actually hot makes wood which is potentiality hot to be actuality hot. Thereby fire makes and changes wood from potentiality to actuality. Yet, it is not possible that the same thing at the same moment should be in a state of actuality  and potentiality from the same point of view, but only from different point of view. What is actuality hot cannot simultaneously potentiality hot, still, it is simultaneously potentiality cold it is therefore impossible that, from the same point of view and in the same way anything should be both moved and mover that is, that it should move itself. Therefore whatever is in motion must be put in motion by something else. If that by which it is put in motion were itself put in motion, then this also must have been put in when by some thing else and that by something else again. This cannot go on to infinity. For if it did, there would be no first mover and consequently no other mover seeing that subsequent movers only move in as much as they are put in motion by the first movers; as the staff only moves because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other. Everyone understands that the first movers is God.

5The second way is from the nature of efficient causation. In the other world of sensible thing we find that there is an order of efficient causality. There is no case know (neither is it indeed, possible) in which a thing is found to be the efficient cause of itself, it would be prior to itself, which is impossible now in tracing the chain of efficient cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause or effect whether the intermediate cause are several or only one. To take away the cause is to take away the effect. Therefore, if there were no first cause among efficient cause there would be neither intermediate cause nor ultimate cause. But if it were possible to go on to infinity in the chain of efficient cause, no intermediate efficient cause, no ultimate effect all of which is plainly false. Therefore it is necessary to put forward a first efficient cause, to which everyone gives the name of God.

The third way, which taken from possibility and necessity, runs thus. We find in nature things that may possibly either exist or not exist, since they are found to be generated and then to be corrupted. Consequently, they can come into being and then cease to exist. If is impossible for those things to always exist for what which can someday cease to exist must at some time have not existed. Therefore if everything could cause to exist, then at one time there could have been nothing in existence if this were true, even how there would be nothing in existence, because that which does not exist begin to exist only by means of something  already existing. There fore if at onetime nothing existed it would have been impossible for anything to have begin to exist and even now nothing will be in existence, which is assured therefore, not all beings are merely possible, there must exist something the existence of which is necessary. Every necessary thing either has it’s necessary caused by something else or it does not. It is impossible to go on to infinity in necessary things which have their necessity caused by something else as has been already proved in regard to efficient cause. Therefore we cannot but postulate the existence of some being having of itself it’s own necessary, a being that does not receive it necessary from some thing else, but rather cause in other their necessity. This all men speak of as God.

The fourth way is taken from the gradation to be found in things. Among being there are some more and some less good, true, noble and the like. But “more” and “less” are predicating of particular thing, in so far as they resemble in their different ways some thing that is in degree of “most” for example a thing is said to became hotter when it more nearly resembles that which is hottest since this is the case, there must be something that is truest, something that is best, something that is noblest, and, ultimately, same thing that is uttermost being. For the truer things are, the most truly they exist. What is most complete in any genus is the cause of everything in that genus. For instance fire, which is the most complete form of heat, is the cause whereby all things are made hot. Therefore there must also be something that is to all being the cause of their being, goodness, and every other perfection, and this we call God.

The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things that lack intelligence, such as natural bodies act for some purpose. This fact is evident from their acting always or nearly always in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that it is not by chance that they achieve their purpose, but rather by design. What ever lacks intelligence cannot fulfill some purpose, unless it is directed by some being endure with intelligence and knowledge as an archer shoots on arrow to it’s mark. Therefore some intelligent being exist by whom all natural things are directed towards a definite purpose; and this being we call God.

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Ontological Proof (St Anselm 1033-1109)

6In his work the Proslogan, in the context of trying to understand rationally what we posses already in faith, Anselm argues as follows:

God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived (thought) but that than which nothing greater can be conceived must exist not only mentally in idea but also extra-mentally. Therefore God exist.

If God were to exist only mentally, he would not be perfect or the greatest we think of, for we would think of another which is both great and really existing in reality, therefore greater than, him because this better one has both existence and greater. The conclusion object of thought exist in reality as well.

St Anselm’s argument goes straight from the datum that God is for us the greatest reality thinkable if he is the greatest conceivable reality and at the same time one that does not exist, then he is not reality but mere. Chimera. But we are at the level of realities in our thought. Moreover as some people like Bonaventure and duns scouts argue, there is no contradiction that a finite mind could comprehend an infinite being, not totally but partially, partially, but reality.

Here is one version of the crucial part of Anselm’s prologian 11;

This even the fool is convinced that something that which nothing greater can be conceived, is in the understanding, since when he hears this, he understand it and whatever is understand is in the understanding. And certainly that than which a greater cannot be convinced cannot be in the understanding alone. For if it is even in the understanding alone it can be conceived to exist in reality also, which is greater. This, if that than which a greater can be conceived.

But surely this cannot be, this without doubt something that which a greater cannot be conceived and in reality.

Planting a prove of God’s existence

  • That God exist in the understanding but not in reality.
  • That existence in reality is greater than existence in the understanding alone.
  • That a being having all God’s properties plus existence in reality can be conceived.
  • That a being having all God’s property plus existence is reality greater than God.
  • That a being greater than God can be conceived.
  • That it is false that a being greater than god can be conceived.
  • Hence, it is false that God exists in the understanding but not in reality.
  • That God exist in understanding ( this is the premise on which even the fool agrees) and that,
  • Hence God exist in reality
  1. The fool understands the expression “ the being than which no greater can be conceived.
  2. If a person understands a expression “b”, then ‘b’ is in that person understanding.
  3. If a thing is in a person’s understanding then the person can conceived of that things existing in reality.
  4. That each thing which exist in reality is greater than anything which exist only in the understanding.
  5. That a person conceived of something and that thing entails something else than the person can also conceived of that other thing.
  6. That if a person can conceived that a specified object has a given property than that person can conceived that something or other has that property.
  7. Hence, the being that which no greater can be conceived exist in reality.


10Descates opines that there is no less contradiction in conceiving a supremely perfect being who lacks existence than there is in conceiving a triangle whose interior angles do not sum up to 180 degrees. Hence, Descartes suppose, since we do conceived a supremely perfect being. Therefore, we must conclude that a supremely perfect being exists.


11Among the philosopher who advance moral argument for the existence of God are Kant and hasting Rashdall.

Kant argues that morality per supposes the existence of God, there must be God to reward morality. A morality upright man who conforms to the demand of the moral law ought to be rewarded with happiness proportionate to his observance of the moral law. And it is only God that can do that.

Therefore God exist, otherwise morality would not make sense, justice would not be done to those who observe the moral law. Hastings Rashdal points out that the moral imperative is transcendent and obliges all human being. Therefore it’s source must also be transcendent in other words the source of the moral law or the moral imperative must be a being that transcends man a being that is higher than man, and who was the moral law to regulate and control man’s behaviors.

The obvious objection to this argument is that very many people, atheists, aquatics and humanists, believe in morality and observe the moral law strictly but without believing in God. They do not see morality as presupposing God and they practice morality without adhering to any religion. They see morality as something on it’s own, without depending on God or religion. The fact remains however that although belief in God or adherence to a religion is not a necessary condition for the practice of morality, it nevertheless enhance it. The moral practice of the atheist, agnostic or humanist would be enhanced if he becomes converted and comes to believe in God.

Russell maintains that God exist and the existence (or the reality) of God are solecisms. But these however remain very convenient solecisms which can be rendered harmless by stipulating that God exist is to be understand as shorthand for ‘there is an individual and only one, who is omniscient, omnipotent etc understood this way, we can retain the traditional phrase ‘God exist while admitting it’s logical impropriety.

Argument from Religions Experience

This kind of argument can take various forms it can take the form of personal experience of the transcendent, an experience of God, an encounter with him, which in most case radically changes the course of one’s life. A classical example of such an experience is that of Saul of tarsus on his way to Damascus to arrest any Christian he could find in that city, for he hated Christian and didn’t want to see them anywhere. He launched a relentless attack on them and obtained permission from the authorities to arrest any of them he found anywhere. It was for the purpose that he set for Damascus when on the way he had a dramatic religions experience, which changed the course of his life. By the time he got to Damascus he was a different man radically changed. Instead of arresting Christians he joined them and for the rest of his life he was preaching that Jesus Christ was the son of God, the long- awaited messiah, the saviour of the world. He spent the rest of his life traveling from city to city preaching, winning increasing number of convert and establishing churches- expounding the very church he had vowed to destroy. What happened to him? He tells us himself that this radical change was as a result of the dramatic religions experience he had on his way to Damascus. A brilliant dazzling light came upon him from above and a powerful force knocked him down from his horse. As he was lying helpless on the ground he heard a voice asking him “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”. And when he ask who was speaking to him, the answer came: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” Jesus was the name Saul didn’t want to hear, and whose followers he was persecuting arresting them and putting them in prison, still lying helpless, and realizing that Jesus had now won, he surrendered to him, ready to do whatever he wanted him to do. And so he asked Jesus, what do you want me to do now lord? He was asked to get up and go into the city and there he would be told what to do. When he managed to get up he discovered ha had becomes blind and he was led by his companions into the city. He remained blind for the next three days and could not eat anything. It was only when a disciple sent by Jesus to him to open his eyes came and prayed for him, laying his hand on him, that his eyes became open again and he was able to eat. From that point outward Saul was no longer the same, even his name was changed from Saul to Paul. He lived the rest of his life working for Jesus and suffering for him until he eventually died for him, such is the power of religions experience.

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The objection usually raised against any argument base on religious experience is that religious experience is something subjective, personal to the person who has it and the interpretation he gives to it own interpretation of that experience is personal to him. Another person may give it a different interpretation. The point however is that religious experience is an experience of something objectively real. If for example, Jesus were not objectively real how could we account for the force that knocked Paul down on the way to Damascus, what made him blind? How could we account for the radical change of his life?

Religions experience is a strong pointer to the existence and reality of God.

Aristotle (Proof for God’s existence)

Unmoved mover

Aristotle argument for the existence of God is based on his theory of change or motion. An change or motion (the two terms means the same thing for Aristotle) implies a transition from the state of potency to a state of act. A being that change has moved from one state (the state of potency) to another (the state of act) it has therefore acquired what it formerly lacked. But it cannot give itself what it lacks, for (nemodat quod non habet) nobody can give what he does not have. A being in potency therefore cannot bring itself to act and since motion invades a transition from potency to act, it follow that no being is the absolute initiator of it’s own motion. Consequently whatever moves is move by another, a being in potency requires a being, to moved it from potency to act. What true of any object tin motion is true of the whole universe in motion. The motion of the universe presupposes a mover who is himself unmoved. If the cause of the motion of the universe is itself moved, it would also have a mover and if that other one is itself moved it would a mover too, and so on and infinitum. We would therefore have an infinite regress but there must be a starting point in the whole process; there must be a first mover, which is the unmoved mover, the prime mover. Since the unmover mover is itself not subjected to motion it follows that it has no potency but is pure act.

This means that it has no matter in it’s being, but is purely immaterial, and since it is pure act without any potency, it must be absolutely perfect, immutable and eternal. Since it neither changes nor moves, it’s activities cannot be physical for it is an immaterial (non- physical) being. It’s activities therefore must be purely intellectual, and this means that it’s activities consist in thinking. The unmoved mover is God, God is the prime mover, the unmoved mover and the source of the motion of the universe.

In conclusion, we can see that God really exist, different philosophers gave their different proof and one cannot disprove of God’s existence, looking at the universe, it was not just formed by itself.

There must be a founded, have never seen anything not formed that is in existence, there must be creator which is God. We have gone through different proof for the existence of God from St Anselm, Augustine, Aristotle, Descartes and so many others.

Theism and the Problem of Evil: A Critical Study


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