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This is an ancient paradox for philosophers, particularly Muslim, Christian and Jewish philosophers.

Begin with the following four assumptions:

  • God is omnicient.
  • God is omnipotent.
  • God is omnibenevolent.
  • Bad things happen to good people.
What's the paradox? If God is omnicient (he knows about the problem), and God is omnipotent (he could do something about the problem), and God is omnibenevolent (he wants to do something about the problem), then WHY IS THERE A PROBLEM?!?!?

C.S. Lewis proposes one possible solution that a world without pain is logically impossible. If God's overriding goal is to give human beings free will, then we must have an environment where free will is possible and anytime there is free will, a) some people will choose to make bad stuff happen and b) sometimes bad stuff happens by accident because if God intervened all the time, free will would be meaningless.

Martin Luther proposed a solution. Pain is good for human beings. We are naturally sinful creatures. By sufficient pain and suffering, we are trained not to do sinful things. Eventually God's grace will cover us. "As snow covers shit." is a rough translation of Luther's statement in German.

Of course, there are philosophers who have backed away from the assumptions, arguing the full range from "God therefore doesn't exist" all the way to "God is malevolent".

It is sometimes felt that the "problem of pain" really depends very strongly on what we might call a "three-legged stool" of an idea of the God are 1) omnipotent, 2) omnibenevolent, and 3) omniscient. If the Divine is all of these things, then the existence of suffering -no guilty suffering, that is- becomes a problem. An inviting "escape" from this issue is to toss one of the three "legs." For instance, it is feasible don’t believe that the Divine is all-powerful. Each human being has his own power, which he can use to increase joy, or to increase pain, and his choices matter and are real. From this perspective, the man's "job", as the sapient part of the universe, is to do what he can to make God’s gamble worth it: to make the joy greater than the pain. After all, the gods are present in all things, feeling the joy and the sorrow. The gods’ all good applies to all things equally, and that they hold all creatures’ interests in equal regard. So a god who loves men so much will allow disease to make them ill because the bacteria have to survive as well as man.

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