The problem of evil is the umbrella term to present the argument against the belief in the existence of a God, offered by non-believers to the believers in God. It is the questions of how an all-powerful, all loving and all knowing God, taken from the traditional Judaic- Christian teachings, can let His creation suffer the effects and consequences of evil. Theodicies also exist such as the Augustinian and Ireaenian, which are very different in their approach to this problem of evil, to explain why evil exists, both natural and moral.
Augustinian theodicy promotes the ideologies from the traditional teachings of the Church and is based on the story of Genesis, and the rise and fall of angels and humans. Augustine did not say that angels and humans were evil to begin with, as that would mean that God produced evil beings, but they turned to lesser goods. For Augustine, evil is privation of goodness, resulting in sin- moral evil. Therefore, he describes the natural evil, as the loss of balance in the world due to sin and is rectification of moral sin.
Then Augustine continues and develops the ideas of heaven and hell, and how moral wrong is corrected there too. The next theodicy, known as the Ireanean theodicy, is the belief that humans are working towards perfection, just like the earth, and was not born in perfection like the teachings dictate. Even though this goes against the traditional understanding of God and creation, the Irenean theodicy firmly hold that perception that God made us in His image, such as we are, and that we are working towards His likeness. In order for us to do such, He gave us free will.
This explains moral evil. The theodicy explains natural evil as the trails for character building. Again, heaven is used in this theory to solve the problem of evil; everyone receives universal salvation. The belief in heaven and hell, are theories of life after death. Both of them are used to give solutions for the problem of moral evil. Hell, is the place of eternal punishment for those whose earthly lives where morally wrong, there is no escape from hell. Believers, in God, especially those who believe is the God of classical theism, hell, can be the solution for the problem of evil.
It can be maintained that, those who are the wrongdoers, in this lifetime, are destined to be in hell, to pay for their sins for all eternity. It seems to coincide with most ethical systems; people who do wrong are jailed. Hell provides a solution for the problem of evil, because it provides a sense of justice, by punishing the sinners, and the problem of evil, is eradicated because, the evil people have done in this world is being paid for in hell. On the other hand, morally thinking, the criminals who are jailed, are not in eternal punishment, and neither are they kept in that jail forever.
Many would argue that that the eternal punishment would be morally wrong too. Similarly, if people who do morally bad things in this earth, is to be punished for all eternity, and to be punished continually, in another world, the punishment itself changes from being the punishment derived from the concept of justice, to almost another evil derived from the concept of revenge- which most of us know is not a good thing. Two wrongs do not make a right. If evil, is to be corrected, it cannot be done by another evil. Universalism parallels this argument by again flagging up the injustice of hell.
If hell is unjust, and unjust is not good, the problem of evil still remains, and the thedoicies and the types of life after death still have not provided any solutions for the life after death. Another criticism that can be put forward, to argue against the concept of hell being the solution to the problem of evil comes from the Judaic- Christian teaching of God. In the book of Genesis, God is the Lord of everything; everything came from Him and at other parts of the teachings, it also mentions that this God is the only God. This must mean that God is then the Lord of Hell, and that he created Hell.
This directly questions the goodness of God- how could He have made Hell and lord over it, if He is all-good? Another alternative is to sustain the notion of an omnibenevolent God, and to create another Lord who governs Hell. However, this would not agree with the teachings, and have no accounts to provide evidence for this statement. From this perspective, hell only adds to the problem of evil, instead of solving it. It seems that hell, is a place for people who have implemented their choices, and went through with what they have thought to be right, in that situation.
Heaven is the reward for the moral person, not achieved however, by good acts the person does, but through the grace of God. Being in heaven is because of God’s love not His justice. The problem of evil may be eliminated, if we use the concept of heaven to explain, that a moral person who receives God grace can enter heaven, while an immoral person cannot- and therefore must go elsewhere. Heaven seems to solve the problem of evil, by opposing entry for the morally bankrupt people, who are also, seen as the sinner, the wrongdoers.
In not allowing them into heaven, they are denied of true happiness given by heaven alone, because they have caused trouble. Nevertheless, opposing this argument are thoughts such as, why does a moral have to receive God’s grace, before entering heaven, and why is it that good acts are not rewarded? If it were not necessary to do good acts, only be moral and receive God’s grace, why act good? It is possible to argue against this very point, by a believer in God, by arguing that somebody who incessantly does good acts does not make them a moral person.
The person could be doing all the generous acts for name sake- to be the better person in society, to be glorified. Therefore, it can be necessary for a person to be moral, as the intentions of doing something is just as important as doing the act and stems from the morality of a person, and then to receive the grace from God, for being such a person. On the contrary, is it good enough for someone’s intention to be good, and leave it at that? If the moral person sees a murder could it sufficient for that person to think ‘that’s wrong’ and do nothing about it.
Although, it can be argued that if the person was truly moral, the sense of morality and the intentions coming from that morality would impulse the person into doing something. It can also be critiqued that, from the Irenean theodicy, the belief in a universal salvation is not just, even if we are going through trails and suffering that could impair our judgements. Surely if one person can be morally right, others can too. The belief in a heavenly after life does not seem to solve the problem of evil, but show more shortcomings in the theodicies and its approach to the problem of evil.