The Evidential Argument from Evil in Recent Analytic Philosophy

Edward N. Martin, Liberty University

Document Type Dissertation


The problem of evil is the most difficult problem confronting theistic belief. If God exists, why is there evil in the world? William Rowe has presented a forceful argument from the evil in the world to the nonexistence of God. Starting with Moore's conception of ethics, he examines a particular instance of evil ('E') and states that he cannot see any resulting good sufficient to justify E's occurrence. Since an omnipotent, all-good being would not permit E unless there was some good which would justify him, and since the traditional theistic conception of God includes God's being omnipotent and all-good, it is reasonable to conclude that God does not exist. Rowe's argument is called an evidential argument from evil. I argue that there are good reasons to think that Rowe's argument is not sound for the following reasons. (1) There are goods we know of which could partly justify God in permitting E. (2) Since God is omniscient, there could be goods he knows of which are beyond our ken yet which he understands and is able to actualize. (3) It is theoretically difficult to explain exactly how some evil E weighs against a theory such as theism. (4) Salient features of John Hick's soul-making theodicy can be brought to bear against Rowe by moral considerations concerning God's duties as the creator of the world. I argue that the amount of evil in the world is not excessive for the enterprise of soul-making, i.e., for God to bring about moral and spiritual maturation in significantly free moral agents.