Give me an example, please!


On several threads the problem of evil comes up. The theist defense to this problem is that even God, with his omnipotence cannot bring forth all the “good” things without allowing some evil to happen.

There is a usual allegory to highlight this question: it speaks of a child who suffers from a serious health problem and he must undergo some painful medical treatment to cure him.

The child cannot understand why he is subject to the painful medical procedure. He cannot comprehend that it is necessary to allevite his condition. It is morally permissible to expose the child to the pain and suffering of the medical procedure, because the greater good of curing him and the painful procedure form a morally justifiable set of actions. (Important observation: the greater good of curing the child does not justify the procedure, in and by itself.)

This allegory looks great on the surface, but it proves to be false under scrutiny. It presumes that medical technology cannot be improved - that is the pain involved in the medical procedure cannot be lessened. It presumes that child’s ailment is a given. None of these apply if we consider God’s omnipotence.

So I ask you to present an example, where God wishes to bring forth a “greater good”, which is impossible to do without inflicting / allowing some “evil” to happen.

It does not matter how “farfetched” the scenario is. It does not matter, if the “greater good” materializes in this life or in the afterlife.

The only restriction is that the sufferer and the beneficiary are the same. This is essential. It would be morally impermissible to use a human being as a “tool”, or as a “means” to bring forth some good that benefits only others. Basic Catholic teaching asserts that human dignity prevents from using a human being as a “resource”.

I tried to come up with a possible scenario, and so far I failed. So I am passing the “baton”. Can anyone come up with an example?


He gave us the free will to love Him and attain eternal bliss, which by that freedom, means it is possible to reject Him and go to hell.


Nope. The free will defense is null and void. The existence of free will only necessitates the possibility of evil, not its actuality.

Also, the actuality of evil is not necessary to allow the free choice of accepting God, and thus attaining eternal bliss.


The greater good?

The concept of inalienable rights as defined by the BoR.

Something like that can only come out of huge conflict.


I think this challenge immediately runs afoul of a proper semantic and definition for evil.

In the example of the suffering child, just because there is a physiological wiring of nerves and sensations that produce a thing called pain does not mean that pain in and of itself is evil.

One has to investigate the nature of evil to resolve this class of problem. If we are all perfect humans (e.g. unfallen Adam) is it evil that we suffer the realization that we are less than God? Does awareness of conditon with respect to a greater or lessor objective standard become evil in the judgement or recognition?

This stuff can go circular real fast…



If the evil is not there to be had, dormant or otherwise, then the choice of loving God isn’t there. I don’t want to play word games.


You say “dormant” which is the same as “possible” - is there. No word games here.


You see I used the word “evil” in quotation marks, indicating both “moral evil” and the so-called “natural evil”. I would much rather preserve the word “evil” to mean only “moral evil”, but many times the two kinds are mentioned together.

So, please concentrate on moral evil (if you so choose), after all the case I brought up was just an example - used by believers - to indicate that not all suffering should be properly labelled “morally evil”.

In this thread I am not about to investigate the “problem of evil”. There are many threads about that.

I am simply curious if anyone can bring up a scenario, where God desires a greater good, which necessitates some painful or evil logical precursor to it.

Indeed. Not the pain itself, which can be a usful indicator of some deeper problem. (Though the question arises, why did God not create a better design, without illness and such. It is not logically impossible)

But it can properly labelled as morally evil, if the procedure of fixing the deeper problem goes beyond the necessary “pain” or “discomfort”.

Yes, it could be. As such God should not have even created us with the ability to feel inferior.


It seems to me that the very act of creation would be an instance of this, because things that pass from non-existence into existence is considered a “greater good” without necessitating evil.


Well, this would be an example of the opposite. :slight_smile: I asked for one where the evil is necessary, and yet the greater good is “worth it”.


:confused: God cannot bring forth good without evil? I don’t think that is an accurate representation of Catholic theology.


The fact of evil is also a given in the OP.

You are attempting to negate something that is actually requisite to the question.


If that is the case, why don’t the Catholic posters point this out when other Catholic posters say exactly that? It sure would be helpful to all of us.


I think a lot of people around here just like to argue. :smiley: :shrug:


3 examples

  1. “I Am”
  2. “Let there be Light”
  3. “The Word became Flesh”


  1. Preexisting perfect good against the backdrop of an alternative oblivion and 2) the promulgation of that absolute good through an action of Divine Will to create a “greater good” in the context of a previous state that was vacuous of either good or evil, and 3) the invocation of a greater good in a context of pre-existing good and evil that is compelled to an absolute greater good through the distillation and segregation of good and evil into seperate orthogonal classes with the pain associated with evil being washed out to become relatively null in the context of limit reached at eternity.




Well, I would say that the most obvious examples would be some of the conflicts or wars that have occurred. Lots of terrible things happened in World War II however; it also served as a wakeup call to the evils of Imperialism and eugenics. It didn’t cure those things but it got the ball rolling in humanity’s consciousness, in the West at least, to recognize the evil in these institutions.

Imperialism was an often romanticized ideal, probably a holdover from the generally positive view the West had of the Roman Empire, while to the East the great empires of Persia, and China were viewed as synonymous with cultural enlightenment. Both West and East appreciated the stability that Imperialism offered.

Yet in World War II the world saw what could happen if Imperialism went unchecked. In other words we got to see the institution taken to its natural conclusion. The Strong really didn’t have a right to conquer an area just because they could. While this seems obvious to us today it wasn’t so in even the recent past. In the West it took the fall and loss of self-determination of “civilized” and “strong” nations for us to realize that something was wrong.

Relating to this then comes the idea that Eugenics and racism as invalid concepts. Pretty much every nation as a whole didn’t really believe that “every man was created equal”. In the West Whites knew they were better than the other races. This wasn’t just a few red-necks feeling this way, it was a cultural assumption. It took one group of whites saying that even the other whites inferior, and then proceeding to conquer everyone around them while devolving into the depths of obvious, and utter depravity and savagery. Important also is that this “civilized” white nation did all of this while displaying the pretty pomp, and amazing science and technology that were seen as signs of the white race’s superiority. These things when taken together showed us that were not as civilized as we had thought.

To me all of these things are examples of extreme evil, whose occurrence has and is playing an important part in the enlightenment of mankind as a whole. We aren’t there yet but the atrocities of WWII seem to have been a major factor in a cultural change in direction.

Mankind unfortunately, is seldom moved by philosophy. We usually only receive our epiphanies through strife and suffering. We’re proud and fight hard to avoid seeing the chinks in our armor. I think that sometimes in order for God to bring about change within humanity as a whole, he has to let us play out even our most nightmarish ideas in order for us to see by example where we’ve made mistakes. I don’t think God likes it but as was stated above as creatures of freewill the ultimate choices in our determination are left to us.

When it comes to humanity, God has to work with what He’s got. Unfortunately God builds His Kingdom with broken tools. Fortunately He doesn’t just throw His broken tools away and get new ones, He seeks to fix the ones He has.


The story of Job.


That is a good first approximation, but I would like to see some refinement. You see, it is not enough that “some good” comes out from the evil - which in your example it definitely does.

It is also necessary to show that the evil was not excessive. In your example you should substantiate that all the atrocities that happened were necessary. If only one fewer occurred, then the desired result would not have happened.

And what is even more important, you should substantiate that the victims who suffered were not simply “used” as “tools”. It is Catholic teaching that humans have innate dignity and nothing could more undignified than to be used as a “resource” or “teaching material”. That is why I emphasised that the greater good must happen to the victims. If other goods come out, that is even better.

With that in mind, you can refine your argument.

That contradicts God’s omnipotence. God’s “toolset” can be whatever he wants to have.


Could you elaborate?


I fail to see the evil here.

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