The Epicurean Riddle
The Greek philosopher Epicurus posed an argument against the existence of God (which was also cited by David Hume). It is as follows:
If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to
Then He is not omnipotent.
If He is able, but not willing
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?
This argument makes the assumption that "good" and "evil" are mere logical constructs that cannot be defined. I contend that, regardless of one's moral system, nearly every human has an opinion on what constitutes acts of good or of evil.
The problem begins in premise two. Who wouldn't want to prevent "evil"? After all, moustache-twirling villans who put beautiful damsels in death-traps for evil's-sake exist only in B-movies. It is unlikely that anyone looks at his own acts as "evil." But this premise assumes that any "evil" action is less desirable than the consequences of stopping this action. For example, if a parent advises his child not to play roughly with a toy or it may break, that parent may physically intervene by separating the child from the toy if he continues to abuse it. Or, the parent may allow the child to learn a hard lesson for himself, perhaps preventing broken toys in the future. Premise two claims that the action (or inaction) of allowing evil to exist is inferior to the action of intervening. I disagree, as there are clear benefits to learning from experience. To go further, it could be easily argued that restraining a free will is in itself an evil act.
I believe that God created us as thinking creatures with free will, not automatons. Preventing "evil" requires preventing evil actions, and that requires controlling our actions through direct or indirect means. This harmonizes with the biblical account of history, where man's own actions have led to his fall from grace and subsequent suffering. While God has guided history, he has allowed us to learn and demonstrate through our mistakes precisely how man's will differs from God's.
"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
- Genesis 4:7