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Epicurus Trilemma

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Epicurus' Trilemma is a famous attack on the existence of God typically attributed to Greek philosopher Epicurus, and quoted by David Hume in the 18th century, which argues, as quoted by Stanford University[1]:

  1. "Is God willing to prevent evil but unable to do so? Then he is not omnipotent."
  2. "Is God able to prevent evil but unwilling to do so? Then he is malevolent (or at least less than perfectly good)."
  3. "If God is both willing and able to prevent evil then why is there evil in the world?"

Presumptions Examined

  • Presumption 1: The problem with this is that it assumes God is all-knowing, which isn't necessarily the case. Even if God has the ability to know the future, that doesn't mean He chooses to always use it. After all, if He didn't have the ability to not know it, He wouldn't be all-powerful. The Bible calls God omnipotent (Revelation 19:6) but not omniscient. Just because prophecy and seeing the future is displayed in the Bible, doesn't mean God sees all the future, or saw it originally. Just because God has all knowledge and wisdom that exists, and sees everything that occurs, doesn't mean He knows everything the future holds. There are several problems Biblically with assuming God knows everything. Why would God look down from Heaven to see if anyone understood and did good, if He already knew? (Psalms 14:2, also referenced in Romans 3:11) And why would God plead with the wicked to change their ways if He knew they were incapable of doing so, and had predetermined destinies? (Ezekiel 33:11) Given Psalms 14:2, it appears evident God's knowledge is conditioned on His looking, and choosing to know it, just like with anyone else, not by inherent knowledge of all that ever happened and will happen. A God with all knowledge of the future does not appear to be Biblical.
  • Presumption 2: God created or helped create evil. Biblically, Genesis 1 repeatedly says God created all things good. Satan is portrayed as causing the downfall of creation through trickery, and gaining control over mankind through sin (Hebrews 2:14-15), as well as control over the world. (2 Corinthians 4:4, John 12:31) God is seen as doing damage control, trying to return mankind to Him. Likewise with tares in the Church, Jesus said in a parable that they get planted by Satan, not God. (Matthew 13:28)
  • Presumption 3: Evil is unlinked to humanity. Logically, humanity is with Satan the source of evil. That is why God sent the Flood, humanity had become so evil they were corrupting all Creation. Hitler is just an extreme example, humans hurt each other and mistreat each other all the time. Even if God brought in Heaven, He could not allow most humans to enter it, because they'd just mess it up like they have this one, continuing the propagation of evil while harming each other and God. Only by destroying humanity can God destroy evil. Salvation is not an answer because it forgives people, but because it changes their natures from tendency toward doing evil to tendency toward doing good through loving God and other people. Only because one's nature is changed can one's proclivity towards evil be sundered, can a person be forgiven, and can they be allowed to enter God's new creation. By asking why God does not destroy evil, the questioner is actually asking why God does not destroy them.

References

  1. Russell, P. (2005). Hume on Religion. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.