Some comments I made on the problem of evil in alt.religion.christian.roman-catholic:
Peter> one could ask, if one believes in the traditional idea
Peter> of an omnipotent, omniscient, loving God, how does one
Peter> reconcile that with the fact that this God, allows
Peter> innocent children to be periodically killed by natural
You’re asking why God would create a world in which there is natural evil. I don’t think any very definite answer is possible, because none of us know what’s involved in creating a world and it’s hard to imagine what a world with no natural evil would be like.
I suppose the general answer is that the possibility of natural evil makes possible a greater good. One can think of ways in which that might be so. For example, if there were no possibility of natural evil, if we lived in a sort of Lubberland in which all our needs and desires were taken care of without risk or effort, it’s not at all clear that would be for the best. In such a condition why would we ever look beyond our immediate sensations? Are we really best off in a world in which everything revolves around us?
That’s speculation of course. My basic response to the problem of evil is to say that the real question is how there can be a real distinction between evil and good, and whether you need the notion of purpose in the Universe—and therefore God—to make sense of that distinction. If you do, then the problem of evil becomes an objection that can be handled by pointing out that it’s possible that the presence of some evil may make more good possible.
Peter> I do not think it is compatible with the idea of an
Peter> omnipotent, omniscient, loving God because such a God
Peter> would be capable of miraculous powers if he chose to use
Peter> them. Such a god would therefore not need to introduce
Peter> evil to make more good possible.
But we don’t know what making a world is like. It’s hard for me to imagine a world of finite beings with intelligence and responsibility for running their lives in which no one could get hurt. For all we know it would be impossible to create such a world in the same way it would be impossible for God to make a rock so big he couldn’t move it.
Peter> You have a point, but if it is true, it could be equally
Peter> difficult for God to provide us with a risk free heaven.
Quite true. I know even less about constructing heavens than I know about constructing earths. As always though I can speculate. For example, heaven is said to involve eternity and the beatific vision, both of which suggest a sort of all-at-once quality. So quite possibly there’s no risk in heaven because “before” and “after” don’t have the same significance there as they do among us here and now. Or so one can guess.
Remember that from my standpoint all I have to do is show that the existence of evil doesn’t make an all-good and all-powerful God impossible, that there could be some reason for such a God to permit evil to exist. So I don’t have to demonstrate that a risk-free version of this world would lose something essential, or that a risk-free heaven wouldn’t. All I need is to show that those things are possible.