LINK: Ted Poston on the Problem of Social Evil

According to Ted Poston, the problem of evil includes more than just the familiar categories of moral evil and natural evil. It also includes social evil, which he defines as any pain or suffering brought about by game-theoretic interactions of many individuals. Social evils cannot be reduced to natural or moral evil. Moreover, traditional defenses for natural and moral evil fail against the problem of social evil.


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About Jeffery Jay Lowder

Jeffery Jay Lowder is President Emeritus of Internet Infidels, Inc., which he co-founded in 1995. He is also co-editor of the book, The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.

  • Patrick

    The problem of social evil is supportive of theism, as it shows that even with the best intentions people can bring about evil outcomes, which can only be avoided if there is an omniscient and omnibenevolent being telling them what to do. Consequently, the existence of God is necessary for morality.

    But even if social evil cannot be prevented my theodicy, which may be called “Theodicy from divine justice” and which I’m going to present below, may withstand the challenge the problem of social evil presents for theism.

    - God’s perfect justice prevents Him from relieving people with unforgiven sins from their sufferings (see Isaiah 59,1-2).
    - Unlike God Christians are not perfectly just. Therefore, unlike God, they are in a position to help people with unforgiven sins. By doing this they may make those among them who haven’t yet accepted God’s salvation receptive of it (Matthew 5,16, 1 Peter 2,11-12, and 3,1-2), which in turn frees these persons from suffering in the afterlife.
    - The greater God’s beneficial power due to His love, the greater God’s destructive power due to His justice (see Matthew 13,27-29). Striving to prevent as much suffering as possible God can only interfere to such a degree that the beneficial effect of the interference is not neutralized by the destructive effect of it.
    - Someone who dies before he or she reaches the age of accountability, i.e. before he or she can distinguish between good and evil (see Genesis 2,16-17, Deuteronomy 1,39, and Isaiah 7,16) faces no punishment in the afterlife, as he or she would not have been able to commit sins. So, God may not be inclined to prevent such a person’s death.
    - A person’s suffering in this life may have a redeeming effect (Luke 16,25) and consequently contribute to a decrease of the respective person’s suffering in the afterlife; the amount of suffering in this life is so to speak subtracted from the amount of suffering in the afterlife. So, God may not be inclined to relieve this person’s suffering.
    - A person’s suffering in this life may make the person receptive of God’s salvation (Luke 15,11-21), which in turn frees this person from suffering in the afterlife.
    - There are degrees of punishment in the afterlife depending on one’s moral behaviour (Matthew 16,27, 2 Corinthians 5,10), one’s knowledge of God’s will (Matthew 11,20-24, Luke 12,47-48), and, as mentioned before, one’s amount of suffering in this life (Luke 16,25).
    - Those people who suffer more in this life than they deserve due to their way of life are compensated for it by receiving rewards in Heaven.

    Discussions of this theodicy can be found in the following threads, in which I sent my comments under the names “Patrick (Christian)”, “Patrick”, and “patrick.sele”, respectively.

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