Evil and omnipotence
Mackie’s core argument in his article is that theologians are subject to criticism based on the contradictory nature of the solutions that they provide regarding the existence of evil yet God is both omnipotent and wholly good. According to Mackie, the three statements that God is omnipotent and wholly good yet evil is in existence provide a theologian with a problem that is hard to solve or justify. For instance, if God is really good why does he let evil exist yet he has the power to do anything even eliminate evil? Mackie evaluates the various solutions that theologians attempt to provide regarding this problem and finds them all inadequate.
Mackie’s argument is not correct primarily because God’s qualities are not restricted to omnipotence and goodness alone. There are other qualities that God possesses that change the equation as Mackie sees it. An example of an attribute of God that makes it illogical to evaluate him as Mackie did is his incorporeality or spirituality (Reymond, 1998). The fact that God removes him from the tools and approaches that could be used to evaluate human beings. This means that he does not have to conform to logic and order and that the definition of logic and order made by human beings does not have to apply to him. Consequently, there exists a possibility that God can exist in ‘contradiction’ or a situation that is filled with ‘contradiction’. It would therefore be vain to try to apply logic to a being that is not limited to logic or whose definition of logic differs completely from that of man (Reymond, 1998).
Secondly, omnipotence refers to absolute power therefore God is all powerful and can do anything. As such, God can allow good and evil to exist even though he is wholly good. There is no impossibility that applies to an all powerful being (Bavinck, 1992). Being all powerful means that there is nothing that God cannot do therefore Mackie’s assertion that the three statements need to support each other is false because being omnipotent, God is not limited by anything including the requirement to eliminate evil or manifest his goodness. Mackie argues that God is omnipotent and good therefore he can eliminate evil in order to promote goodness. What Mackie does not realize is that he attempts to limit God’s will whereas God does as he wills and since he can do anything, there is no reason why he cant let evil exist and still maintain his goodness (Bavinck, 1992).
Mackie’s arguments indicate that he expects God to be accountable to man. This is preposterous since God is not bound by any rules or accountable to anyone. God is sovereign and therefore does not have to create a world without evil in order to manifest his goodness or prove to man that he is indeed good (Bavinck, 1992). Mackie only focuses on two attributes of God and therefore his argument is limited and inadequate. There is no problem present in the three statements since his omnipotence enables him to exist within the ‘contradictory’ context and his sovereignty gives Mackie and other human beings no right to expect God to be accountable for anything.
Mackie asserts that God cannot be omnipotent and wholly good and yet let evil to exist. He is wrong because he focuses on only two of God’s attributes and overlooks other qualities like spirituality that invalidate Mackie’s attempt to evaluate God based on logic. Logic applies to human being and not a spirit. Similarly, God is sovereign and not accountable to anyone, contrary to what Mackie expects and finally, God’s omnipotence enables God to do anything including existing as wholly good and allowing evil to exist.
Bavinck H. (1992). The Doctrine of God. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth
Reymond R. L. (1998). A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith. Nashville: Thomas Nelson