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. . .my friends believe that we have no sufficient reason at all to think it even likely that God could achieve the very best for us (humans and animals) were he to have prevented the Holocaust, the terrible suffering of the fawn, the horrible suffering of the little girl, or any of the other countless evils that abound in this world. Why on earth do they believe this? The basic reason is this: God's knowledge of goods and the conditions of their realization extends far beyond our own. Because God's knowledge of the goods and the conditions of their realization extends far beyond our own, they think it just may be that God would know that even he, with his infinite power, cannot achieve the best for us without permitting all the horrendous evils that occur daily in our world. And they also think it just may be that God can achieve the best for us only if he keeps us in the dark as to what the good is that justifies him in permitting any of these horrendous evils. But what their own view comes to is this: Because we cannot rule out God knowing goods we do not know, we cannot rule out there being goods that justify God in permitting any amount of evil whatever that might occur in our world. If human and animal life on earth were nothing more than a series of agonizing moments from birth to death, my friends' position would still require them to say that we cannot reasonably infer that it is even likely that God does not exist. For, since we don't know that the goods we know of are representative of the goods there are, we can't know it is likely that there are no goods that justify God in permitting human and animal life on earth to be nothing more than a series of agonizing moments from birth to death. But surely such a view is unreasonable, if not absurd. Surely there must be some point at which the appalling agony of human and animal existence on earth would render it unlikely that God exists. And this must be so even though we all agree that God's knowledge would far exceed our own. I believe my theistic friends have gone considerably beyond that point when, in light of the enormous proliferation of horrendous evil in this world, they continue to insist that we are unjustified in concluding that it is unlikely that God exists.

William Rowe, "Reply to Howard-Snyder and Bergmann", in Peterson, Michael L. and Raymond Van Arragon (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Religion (Blackwell, 2004), p. 26.

Comments

Mike Almeida said…
He is no doubt right. If theism is to be reasonable, then it must be true that God cannot eliminate the evils we find, not that they serve a greater purpose in any world in which they occur. In any case, this is what I say.

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