"God said it, I believe it, and that settles it", is the final refuge of faith-based rhetoric, not a viable philosophical position. Has any significant religious thinker of any stripe constructed a refutation of the paradox of evil attributed to Epicurus: 'If god is willing to prevent evil, but unable, then he is not omnipotent; If he is able but unwilling, then he is malevolent; If he is both able and willing, then whence cometh evil; If he is neither able nor willing, then why call him god?'

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    Yes, the standard response is that the inference in the second horn ("if he is able but unwilling, then he is malevolent") is invalid. There is a reason for God to tolerate evil other than malevolence - preserving free will. Subverting free will to prevent evil would be a greater evil. The issue is generally discussed under the name of theodicy, see SEP, The Problem of Evil. – Conifold Mar 1 at 20:36
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    In addition to the free will argument against the second horn, there is also the "defense from plenitude" at jstor.org/stable/40012554 and also available from the paywall-bypassing site sci-hub.st at sci-hub.st/10.1007/BF00135826 ...see in particular the discussion starting on p. 31 of various arguments that a world with a mix of "significantly free creatures (sfc's)" of varying degrees of virtue is in some sense "better" than a world where everyone is perfectly virtuous, even if that virtue is compatible with free will. – Hypnosifl Mar 1 at 22:44
  • The question of why a 'good' God allows evil exists only in dualistic religions/philosophies which assert an extra-cosmic Godhead. The question does not arise in monistic traditions as it is incongruous with monistic logic. Read Plotinus' Six Enneads. – Swami Vishwananda Mar 2 at 5:15
  • @Conifold; why would an omnipotent god have any problems allowing free will without evil. After all; he did so in heaven, right? – ThisIsMe Mar 2 at 10:49
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    If 'good' and 'evil' are only culturally defined and contradictory then there is no problem of evil in the first place, and no Epicurean argument to respond to. It does not even get to free will. – Conifold Mar 2 at 18:34

I think that Leibniz's theodicy is an attempt to settle this paradox. He basically argues that there are three sorts of evil in the world :

  • Metaphysical evil, which is necessary since only God himself can be perfect, therefore the world is not.
  • Physical and moral evil, which are allowed to exist because they enable a greater good if one is able to look at the broader picture.

Hence "Everything is for the better in the best possible world", i.e God reduced evil to the minimal amount.

  • And which category does en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onchocerciasis (eye eating worms) causing blindness in children fall under? – causative Mar 2 at 3:48
  • 1) But we are created in gods' image, therefore we are also perfect. 2) Why is this needed; if god is omnipotent, surely he can enable the greater good without any evil 3) For the christian god, the "minimal amount of evil" is zero, else he isn't omnipotent – ThisIsMe Mar 2 at 10:48
  • Define 'minimal amount'. Is the death of 2 million children (give or take) world-wide per year to violence and deprivation a minimum amount? Both physical and moral evil are culturally defined, so which culture's god enabled the most 'greater good' by virtue of the types of physical and moral evil allowed? – Uncle Kurt Mar 2 at 17:12
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    The argument is about the least amount of evil logically possible. The flaws you point out are not new, they are actually one of the central ideas in Voltaire's Candide, in which the eponymous main character gradually comes to reject this view (which is the one of his master Pangloss) as he is confronted with the evils of the world (slavery, executions, etc). – Nathanaël GIROD Mar 3 at 13:13
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    Of course, the idea of omnipotence entails several apparent paradoxes, and I personally reject the naive conception of an omnipotent God but Leibniz's argument is consistent, and I think that this is the main point – Nathanaël GIROD Mar 3 at 13:23

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