Skip to main content

Problem of Evil: The Devil?

By Paul So ~

In the documentary from PBS Frontline called Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero, there were varying religious and non-religious perspectives about the tragic event. One of them was from a fundamentalist Christian whose occupation is that of a fireman. From his perspective he saw the whole tragedy as an example of the supernatural conflict of Good vs. Evil, and the fireman feels that it is his duty to fight against it. This sounded very odd to me, because in the philosophical and theological topic called Problem of Evil, very few thinkers would bring up the supernatural evil the Devil as the culprit for all the human suffering. But aside from this curious fact, but what are the implications if one brings up the devil as an answer to the problem of evil?

From what we know about from traditional Christianity, many Christians believe that the devil is a fallen angel who enslaves humanity by tempting them into sin. This enslavement, however, does not merely consist of tempting human beings but also keeping them spiritually disconnected from God in order to deprive them of salvation. This is a fairly common and orthodox view among many traditional Christians, but does it help solve the problem of Evil as the fireman believes?

The devil as a solution to the problem of evil is far from being acknowledged by philosophers and theologians, but the reasons for this isn’t very clear. What I suspect is that if one brings the devil into the problem of evil, it only begs the question. By begging the question, I don’t mean it brings more questions, but rather it seems make the very assumption that is being questioned: Why does God permit evil in the world? Such question applies to both the actions of human beings and the devil, since God presumably permits their actions, thus in regards to the devil the question would be “Why did God permit evil from the devil?” The traditional theist can insist that just as God respects human free-will He also respects the free-will of the devil. However this seems rather very peculiar: God respects the free-will of human beings so they can make a decision between good and evil, however it is unclear whether the same reason applies to the devil since the consensus is not clear among Christians. While some Christians committed to Universalist salvation believes that everyone, including the Devil, would be saved, there are substantial opposition to this position from many other Christians and theologians alike, since many of them believe that the devil is categorically evil.

There is also another common questions that both skeptics and doubtful believers would ask: Why does God create the devil if he knew the consequences. When I was a young child, I asked this question to a pastor who cleverly came up with an argument. The pastor argued that God initially wanted Satan to remain a good person, but if Satan does not remain a good person God would already have a back-up plan, etc. As a child who was still developing intellectually, I simply accepted that answer. Right now, I obviously know what the problem with this argument is. To say that God has a back-up plan is to indicate that God simply isn’t perfect: it already admits that God’s previous plan did not succeed, thus has flaws. This obviously implies that God is not perfect.

One of the ways to be an accomplice is to be in a position to prevent consequences that can inflict suffering on people, but deliberately failing to do so. If God foresaw the consequences of his actions that could ultimately bring suffering upon many, but performed the action in spite of this knowledge, then there seems to be something very disturbing about that decision. One of the common arguments that many conventional theists would make is that God loves the devil as much as he loves anyone else, and would not destroy him, hence Go is merciful. Also, if God did destroy the devil it would only prove that God is not as merciful as he claims to be. But this argument already doesn’t make any sense in the first place. In the old-testament God has already punished or destroyed many human beings for disobedience and other sins, but somehow God doesn’t apply this same standard of punishment on the devil. Also, the argument that God did not destroy to devil to be merciful is self-refuting, because by not destroying the devil the lives of other human beings are in spiritual crisis. Also, isn’t Justice another virtue of God? If God destroyed the devil, wouldn’t God already proven that He is Just? The believer will insist that God reserved this punishment at the Day of Judgment, but this is obviously not satisfying: why not now? Why later? Doesn’t this sound like God is procrastinating?

There is another troubling or disturbing implication about God foreseeing the consequences of his actions, but performing it in spite of it. Such an action seems irresponsible, imprudent, or to make matters worse it would make God an accomplice. One of the ways to be an accomplice is to be in a position to prevent consequences that can inflict suffering on people, but deliberately failing to do so. If God foresaw the consequences of his actions that could ultimately bring suffering upon many, but performed the action in spite of this knowledge, then there seems to be something very disturbing about that decision. It would seem that such a decision is not consistent with our moral intuitions. Of course, anyone can argue that our moral intuitions/judgment are not only fallible but completely unreliable, but I do not thing such an argument is acceptable. Even if it is the case that our moral judgments are unreliable, there seems to be a resemblance between the kinds of decision-making that God makes an that of the human beings: to make a decision in spite of knowing beforehand what the risks and consequences would be.

Even if we grant the assumption that the Devil exist as a solution to the problem of evil, and took that position seriously, there would seem to be another troubling implication. We often blame people because we assume that they are moral agents who are capable of performing actions which makes them responsible. Blameworthiness, then, seems to presuppose moral agency. But if traditional theists want to blame the devil for the problem of evil among human beings, then this would imply that the devil himself would be a moral agent who is responsible for his actions. This seems very odd, since we do not see the devil as either the moral being or moral agent. It also seems predetermined or established that such a being is bound to be punished anyways. Also, if the blame is attributed to the devil, then how much blame is left to be attributed to human beings? Were the terrorist in 9/11 also at fault? It would not be inconsistent to argue that both of them are at fault, but to do this is to concede that both terrorists (who are humans) and the devil are both moral agents responsible for any actions.

Finally, If God is a moral being as theists might have pointed out, then wouldn’t God, like any other moral beings, consider consequences and risks of his actions? A theist can point out that God does not need to consider consequences and risks of his actions because God is perfect and omnipotent. This may sound like a stopper, but quite to the contrary. If God is perfect, then considering consequences and risks of any actions is not incompatible with perfection. It may be true that an omnipotent being may not have to consider risks since such a being cannot get hurt (since God is invulnerable), but God could at least consider the risks that involves the lives of other persons (which is consistent with his benevolence).

In conclusion, positing the devil as a solution to the problem of evil would either be just as problematic as any other solution, or probably more problematic than other solutions. Ironically, positing the existence of the Devil as a solution brings more doubt about God than without the Devil since God’s judgment to assess consequences and risks would seem questionable.


Popular posts from this blog

So Just How Dumb Were Jesus’ Disciples? The Resurrection, Part VII.

By Robert Conner ~ T he first mention of Jesus’ resurrection comes from a letter written by Paul of Tarsus. Paul appears to have had no interest whatsoever in the “historical” Jesus: “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, we know him so no longer.” ( 2 Corinthians 5:16 ) Paul’s surviving letters never once mention any of Jesus’ many exorcisms and healings, the raising of Lazarus, or Jesus’ virgin birth, and barely allude to Jesus’ teaching. For Paul, Jesus only gets interesting after he’s dead, but even here Paul’s attention to detail is sketchy at best. For instance, Paul says Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” ( 1 Corinthians 15:4 ), but there are no scriptures that foretell the Jewish Messiah would at long last appear only to die at the hands of Gentiles, much less that the Messiah would then be raised from the dead after three days. After his miraculous conversion on the road to Damascus—an event Paul never mentions in his lette

Are You an Atheist Success Story?

By Avangelism Project ~ F acts don’t spread. Stories do. It’s how (good) marketing works, it’s how elections (unfortunately) are won and lost, and it’s how (all) religion spreads. Proselytization isn’t accomplished with better arguments. It’s accomplished with better stories and it’s time we atheists catch up. It’s not like atheists don’t love a good story. Head over to the atheist reddit and take a look if you don’t believe me. We’re all over stories painting religion in a bad light. Nothing wrong with that, but we ignore the value of a story or a testimonial when we’re dealing with Christians. We can’t be so proud to argue the semantics of whether atheism is a belief or deconversion is actually proselytization. When we become more interested in defining our terms than in affecting people, we’ve relegated ourselves to irrelevance preferring to be smug in our minority, but semantically correct, nonbelief. Results Determine Reality The thing is when we opt to bury our


By David Andrew Dugle ~   S ettle down now children, here's the story from the Book of David called The Parable of the Bent Cross. In the land Southeast of Eden –  Eden, Minnesota that is – between two rivers called the Big Miami and the Little Miami, in the name of Saint Gertrude there was once built a church. Here next to it was also built a fine parochial school. The congregation thrived and after a multitude of years, a new, bigger church was erected, well made with clean straight lines and a high steeple topped with a tall, thin cross of gold. The faithful felt proud, but now very low was their money. Their Sunday offerings and school fees did not suffice. Anon, they decided to raise money in an unclean way. One fine summer day the faithful erected tents in the chariot lot between the two buildings. In the tents they set up all manner of games – ring toss, bingo, little mechanical racing horses and roulette wheels – then all who lived in the land between the two rivers we

Christian TV presenter reads out Star Wars plot as story of salvation

An email prankster tricked the host of a Christian TV show into reading out the plots of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air and Star Wars in the belief they were stories of personal salvation. The unsuspecting host read out most of the opening rap to The Fresh Prince, a 1990s US sitcom starring Will Smith , apparently unaware that it was not a genuine testimony of faith. The prankster had slightly adapted the lyrics but the references to a misspent youth playing basketball in West Philadelphia would have been instantly familiar to most viewers. The lines read out by the DJ included: "One day a couple of guys who were up to no good starting making trouble in my living area. I ended up getting into a fight, which terrified my mother." The presenter on Genesis TV , a British Christian channel, eventually realised that he was being pranked and cut the story short – only to move on to another spoof email based on the plot of the Star Wars films. It began: &quo

On Living Virtuously

By Webmdave ~  A s a Christian, living virtuously meant living in a manner that pleased God. Pleasing god (or living virtuously) was explained as: Praying for forgiveness for sins  Accepting Christ as Savior  Frequently reading the Bible  Memorizing Bible verses Being baptized (subject to church rules)  Attending church services  Partaking of the Lord’s Supper  Tithing  Resisting temptations to lie, steal, smoke, drink, party, have lustful thoughts, have sex (outside of marriage) masturbate, etc.  Boldly sharing the Gospel of Salvation with unbelievers The list of virtuous values and expectations grew over time. Once the initial foundational values were safely under the belt, “more virtues'' were introduced. Newer introductions included (among others) harsh condemnation of “worldly” music, homosexuality and abortion Eventually the list of values grew ponderous, and these ideals were not just personal for us Christians. These virtues were used to condemn and disrespect fro

I can fix ignorance; I can't fix stupid!

By Bob O ~ I 'm an atheist and a 52-year veteran of public education. I need not tell anyone the problems associated with having to "duck" the "Which church do you belong to?" with my students and their parents. Once told by a parent that they would rather have a queer for their sons' teacher than an atheist! Spent HOURS going to the restroom right when prayers were performed: before assemblies, sports banquets, "Christmas Programs", awards assemblies, etc... Told everyone that I had a bladder problem. And "yes" it was a copout to many of you, but the old adage (yes, it's religious) accept what you can't change, change that which you can and accept the strength to know the difference! No need arguing that which you will never change. Enough of that. What I'd like to impart is my simple family chemistry. My wife is a Baptist - raised in a Baptist Orphanage (whole stories there) and is a believer. She did not know my religi