In this thought-provoking exploration, we delve into the age-old philosophical dilemma known as the Problem of Evil, specifically focusing on the argument presented by Epicurus. With its potential to challenge the faith of believers, we seek to provide a compelling response rooted in the teachings of the Catholic Church. By examining the interplay between God’s omnipotence, human free will, and the existence of evil, we aim to offer a perspective that upholds the goodness and love of God, while acknowledging the complexities of human suffering. Join us on this journey of faith and reason as we navigate the intricacies of Epicurus’ argument and discover the profound hope that can be found amidst the challenges of our world.
Epicurus, a Greek philosopher, lived between the years 341 and 270 BC. He was born in Samos and founded a philosophical school called “The Garden” in Athens. The argument of the problem of evil attributed to him relates to the existence of God and human suffering.
Epicurus’ argument on the problem of evil can be summarized as follows:
- If God is all-powerful and all-good, then He would eliminate evil in the world.
- Evil exists in the world.
- Therefore, either God is not all-powerful, or He is not all-good, or He does not exist.
From a Catholic perspective, it is possible to address the argument presented by Epicurus on the problem of evil and the existence of God. The Catholic Church maintains that God is infinitely good and loving, but He has also given us free will as human beings.
- Deuteronomy 30:19: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” Here we see how God presents the Israelites with the option to choose between life and death.
- Joshua 24:15: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Once again, a choice is presented to the Israelites regarding whom they should serve.
This freedom implies the ability to choose between good and evil, and our actions have both positive and negative consequences.
The presence of evil in the world does not mean that God does not exist or that He is not good, but rather that human beings, in the exercise of their free will, can make choices that lead to evil and suffering. The root of evil lies in the abuse of human freedom and the rupture of the relationship with God and with others.
The Catholic Church teaches that God is not indifferent to evil and suffering. Let us see what the Bible says about it:
- Exodus 3:7-8: “Then the Lord said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.'”
- Isaiah 63:9: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.”
- Matthew 9:36: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.“
As we can see, God suffers with us and offers us His grace to overcome evil and find redemption. A clear example of this is the incarnation of Jesus Christ, who took on our humanity and experienced suffering and death on the cross to free us from the power of evil and sin.
Why did God send His Son to die on the Cross?
In Hebrews 9:22 we read, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” This verse emphasizes the importance of the shedding of blood as a means of the remission of sins, as dictated by the Jewish law in Leviticus 16:30. This verse refers to the Day of Atonement, where the high priest offered sacrifices and sprinkled blood in the Most Holy Place for the atonement of the sins of the people.
Jesus, through His death on the cross, shed His blood for the remission of sins. In John 1:29, John the Baptist recognized Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
It is important to remember that the Catholic perspective considers that suffering and evil can have a redemptive purpose and allow for spiritual growth. Through suffering, we are invited to unite ourselves with the sufferings of Christ and participate in His work of redemption. This does not mean that God directly causes evil or suffering, but in His infinite wisdom, He may allow them to occur for a greater good.
Ultimately, the Catholic response to Epicurus’ argument is based on trust in the goodness and infinite love of God, and the belief that even in the midst of evil and suffering, God is present and offers hope, healing, and redemption.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16.