Need quick answers! debating atheists


… once again this came up:

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?

Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?"

i think i’m going to try to apply the principle of double effect on the action of giving us free will, exercised by good or bad choices and the necessary by-product of sin. however, i’m having a hard time trying to have the third term of the doctrine hold water. maybe i’m just reading it wrong:

3) The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words, the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise, the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.

does the argument work? why? how? heelp!

edit: nevermind. i see it in the second to last sentence now. i’ll go for it. wish me luck! and discuss my theory and other possible ways to debunk the claim that a god able but not ‘willing’ to fix evil is malicious.


Eternity is an infinitely long time to amend the evil in this world.


Make them prove their hedonistic outlook.

They assume that unhappy things are intrinsically bad and that only pleasurable things are good. In order to build upon that premise they must support it. If you just take it on their say-so, then you’re playing with a stacked deck.

Don’t forget to bring up that such hedonistic views have led to things like contraception, abortion, and euthanasia.


Well first of all be aware, that these questions originally came from an Ancient Greek Philosopher by the name of Epicurus(240 BC).

There are quite a few assumptions being made, whilst advancing these questions.

First you need to address the definition of Evil.
When reading Epicurus’s questions, I had the feeling that he thought Evil was a created thing. Well Evil is not a “thing”. Evil is just less good.

You don’t measure darkness, you measure light.
You don’t measure coldness, you measure heat.
You don’t measure evil, you measure good.

St. Augusting even said that evil is merely the privation of good.

So you can’t have concept of evil, if there is no good. The very fact that you aware of evil, means that you know there is good. Our Free Will, allows us to make choices, that aren’t always perfectly good, hence a little more evil comes into play.

Also your last line “but not ‘willing’ to fix evil is malicious.”. God is fixing evil. His solution was Jesus Christ, crucified on the cross, for our good. Don’t the writings say that he conquered it in this way?

Short, maybe to succinct, but otherwise this post would get extraordinarily long.


That God is able, but not willing to alleviate suffering is not inherently malevolent. Suffering must be viewed through the lens of eternity. This is challenging for athiests who don’t believe in eternity. Suffering and death make abundant sense for the Christian.

God, is His great mercy, wields suffering like a master sculptor wields a chisel or a surgeon wields a scalpel. Suffering can be redemptive. It can bring our focus back to Him.

Check out Peter Kreeft’s Making Sense out of Suffering. Or read his snippet on his website.

Here is a quote from the website:
All our sufferings are transformable into his work, our passion into his action. That is why he instituted prayer, says Pascal: to bestow on creatures the dignity of causality. We are really his body; the Church is Christ as my body is me. That is why Paul says his sufferings are making up in his own body what Christ has yet to endure in his body (Col 1:24).
Thus God’s answer to the problem of suffering not only really happened 2,000 years ago, but it is still happening in our own lives. The solution to our suffering is our suffering! All our suffering can become part of his work, the greatest work ever done, the work of salvation, of helping to win for those we love eternal joy.


Ask them why they focus on this thing they call “evil”. What is it? By what standards is it “wrong”?

Ask them to describe a world without this thing called “evil”. No suffering of any kind, and no death (for dying is surely the ultimate evil, isn’t it?).

Ask them if they let their own children learn from experience, or if they shelter their children from every possible “evil”? Do they not let them ride bikes because they might fall? Not make friends because they might have a falling out? Not be on teams because somebody else might do better? Ask them to describe a world in which they prevent every possible “evil” from befalling their own children, and ask them if that’s the kind of life they want their children to lead.



Jimmy Akin, Hard Sayings Of The Old Testament


Yes, ask them if they never wish their children to leave the house, assuming they can always keep the house safe and sound, and assuming they can always be there with them.

Also, ask them if we would be better off as inerrant robots, with no free will.


First, there’s the obvious: there is no such thing as the concept of good vs. evil without God.

And second, since we have free will…so free that God loves us enough to let us reject Him…consider how loving He is that He can take evils and suffering and turn them into the greatest goods.

Third, I also recommend Kreeft and Akin.


thanks guys! everyone pretty much ignored my post applying the principle of double effect so i assume there was no argument.

When reading Epicurus’s questions, I had the feeling that he thought Evil was a created thing. Well Evil is not a “thing”. Evil is just less good.

You don’t measure darkness, you measure light.
You don’t measure coldness, you measure heat.
You don’t measure evil, you measure good.

St. Augusting even said that evil is merely the privation of good.

i’ve tried to argue that before, specifically the point augustine makes, that evil is just the lack of goodness that is inherent in god’s creation. that the fall of man resulted in subtraction. not an addition. they can’t fathom that good can exist without evil, but not vice versa. they said if evil is a thing than good is a thing as well. they can’t see it my way, i can’t see it their’s.


Well, you are delving into an arena, that holds many positions on the “problem of evil”. Much has been written on this topic over the past couple thousand years. It would take years, to go through all the arguments. So stand your ground and be firm.

If they are atheists, and they think Evil is a thing. Then where does it come from? I mean is it some kind of evolutionary organism? If it is an evolutionary organism, then why can’t we see it? Take for instance a Gorilla. A Gorilla is a thing, we can all see it, we can all identfy it. We can touch it, we can hear it, we can certainly smell it. (Some might say you smell like a gorilla :slight_smile: ).

Evil has no such attributes. In fact if a parent punishes a child, then the parent perceives this as good, the child may perceive it as evil. In this instance the two can’t agree on the attribute of evil - but they can both agree on the gorilla.

I guess if they think evil is a thing, then they need to prove that it is a thing, complete with similar attrbutes to the gorilla.

Also as far as good existing without evil take this example. Stand on top of a mountain, and look around. The creation that you see is just astounding. It fills the senses with good. This scene has existed for millions of years, and yet there is no evil associated with this. Isn’t this an example of good existing without evil?

DISCLAIMER: Oh by the way, I am not saying a gorilla is evil.
All such associations are merely coincidental. Unless the gorilla attacks me, or hugs me, and thus makes me smell like a gorilla THING:smiley:



The questions are meaningless because if God didn’t exist, nothing would be evil. Morality is God’s creation. If God did not exist, then why not steal and lie and cheat all you want? Why not rob banks? Why not steal candy from babies? Why not drive drunk down the sidewalk crunching people under your tires? Why should you care what happens to anybody else?

Those acts are evil because God forbids them. Remove God from the equation and there’s no such thing as evil anymore.

It amazes me how little thought some atheists put into their position.


What an interesting post. I consider myself agnostic. I believe that the evidence for and against the existence of God is inconclusive. Therefore, your claim that evil only exists because “God” forbids certain acts is confusing and lacking in correct logical relation. In my opinion, Epicurus hit the nail on the head.

Things are evil because they are morally bad or wrong. The answers to life’s questions should be sought in family and society-based morality and ethics.


As one who deals oftentimes with self-proclaimed “skeptics” (actually militant atheists), I find this element of formal logic helpful.

Godel’s Incompleteness Theorems

The theorems state unquestionably that no system of logic can ever prove why it is true without bringing in assumptions, such as the validity of certain logical premises (e.g. 1+1 = 2; AB = BA for scalars, etc.).

Atheists often feel that they can “disprove” God by showing that evolutionary theory, cosmology, geology, biochemistry/biophysics, and complexity theory can explain much of how humanity got here. However, even the most comprehensive theoretical attempts to explain “life, the universe, and everything” run headlong into Godel’s incompleteness theorem. That is, even sophisticated mathematical depictions of the world still cannot answer the question as to why their theories work – why the elegant language of mathematics does such a good job of describing reality.

You might speculate that the part in Genesis about God giving Adam the authority to name animals represented God creating a world and a human consciousness capable of apprehending it!


So things are evil if the society says they are? I think the Nazis were OK with that, but is it true? The southern plantation owners were OK with that, but is it true? How many thousands of examples could we come up with of society-based morality (or family-based morality) which they said was OK, but which we think it very wrong?

No, family and society-based morality is no guarantee whatsoever that evil will be recognized as evil.


Yes, it is true!

Society and family-based morality are the most important teachers and guides to right and wrong. I never mentioned Nazis in my post, but if you want to start a new subject, I’d be more than happy to discuss that topic at length. The Nazis were/are evil and the society in which the existed/exist know that the Nazis there values and there actions are far from right. We don’t need a God to reveal the obvious.



No militant atheist here. :o
Regardless of what we attempt to convince others of, whether it be that we believe in Christ, or that we are agnostic, we are all “self-proclaimed”. Your use of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems only servers to deepen my skepticism. According to your argument and Gödel’s theorems, it is purely illogical to believe in the existence of God. Are sure you aren’t only assuming his existence?

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