I laid out in a previous post the logical problem of evil. This post is the promised follow-up explaining how the revelations and teachings of the prophet Joseph Smith resolve the logical problem of evil.
The premises that comprise the logical problem of evil are as follows:
- God is absolutely all-powerful. He can do anything he wants that is logically possible (for example, God cannot create a round square).
- God is perfectly good.
- God created everything out of absolutely nothing (creatio ex nihilo).
- God knows everything and therefore has absolute foreknowledge of all the outcomes of his creative choices. That is, he knows what the consequences would be of creating a world like ours and the people in it.
As I stated in the last post, premises 1, 3, and 4 require that God is responsible for all that is bad in the universe which in turn would force us to deny premise 2. If we insist on premise 2 being true, then we must reject premise 1, 3, or 4.
The revelations and teachings of Joseph Smith deny premise 3, and thereby to some extent logically necessitates the denial of premise 1 and a different understanding of premise 4.
God created everything out of absolutely nothing (creatio ex nihilo)?
You ask the learned doctors why they say the world was made out of nothing; and they will answer, “Doesn’t the Bible say He created the world?” And they infer, from the word create, that it must have been out of nothing. Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means…to organize the world out of chaos–chaotic matter….Elements had an existence from the time He had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed. They had no beginning, and can have no end (Joseph Smith in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 350-352).
From this we come to understand that the universe was created out of pre-existent material (mass-energy?). In other words, God isn’t the ultimate absolute source of everything–the material out of which the world was created “had no beginning, and can have no end.” Just like God it is self-existent. Therefore, it can be assumed that the physical laws that govern how this material acts and interacts may also be eternal.
We say that God himself is a self-existent being….But who told you that man did not exist in like manner upon the same principles? Man does exist upon the same principles…The mind or intelligence which man possesses is co-eternal with God himself. (Joseph Smith in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 352-353)
If there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning; they existed before, they shall have no end, they shall exist after, for they are gnolaum, or eternal (The Book of Abraham 3:18, revealed by Joseph Smith)
In other words, not only was the material universe created out of pre-existent eternal material, but the mind or intelligence of man is also pre-existent and “co-eternal with God.” God did not create (out of nothing) the intelligence of human beings. We are “co-eternal with God himself” and likewise “shall have no end” and “have no beginning.”
Therefore, premise 3 is rejected in Mormon thought.
God is absolutely all-powerful and can do anything he wants that is logically possible?
If God did not create the universe out of absolutely nothing, and if man is in some way co-eternal with God, it follows there are some things God can’t do. For example, he apparently can’t absolutely create or absolutely destroy matter (“The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and reorganized, but not destroyed”). He apparently cannot create spirits out of nothing (“Spirits…have no beginning…they shall have no end”).
Therefore, premise 1 in Mormon thought is also rejected.
Things as they really are.
Mormon doctrine as revealed through Joseph Smith completely dissolves the logical problem of evil. If God did not absolutely create me, or Hitler, or Satan, or any one else, then he cannot be held responsible for our actions. We are, in a sense, completely morally independent of God. We are radically free and therefore completely responsible for our own choices. Likewise, if God didn’t absolutely create the material world out of nothing, it follows that he cannot be blamed for natural disasters, sickness, or for someone burning to death or drowning, etc. There just simply are laws that govern how the material world acts. The same water that sustains life can take it. The same fire that provides heat and energy can burn and destroy. That’s just the way things are.
Ultimately, God isn’t responsible for the evil in the world. He is struggling constantly against it. Although it isn’t possible to explain why God allows each particular instance of evil, it is helpful to understand that God isn’t the direct or indirect cause of such evils. God too is struggling with the evil in the universe. He has provided means whereby we can overcome evil, namely the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. His work is to bring about our immortality and eternal life (Moses 1:39). It never was and never will be his intent to bring about mortality, death, and evil. That is the work of the adversary and the natural tendency of the universe we live in. God waits on our faith in him so that he may be able to work with us to eradicate more and more evil.
The infant in the hospital, the suicidal youth, untimely deaths–God didn’t create these. He has given us the opportunity to struggle, learn, and reach out to others to try and eradicate these problems. Sometimes he miraculously intervenes in these circumstances. Further, He has provided a Savior who has eradicated death and who will eradicate in so far as possible all the problems of existence so long as we allow him. God participates actively in our struggles. He rejoices when we overcome. He suffers when we suffer. Both the Father and the Son understand the mortal experience because they have also endured it (another doctrine revealed by Joseph Smith). God is our fellow laborer.
…That is, at least, if you accept the revelations of Joseph Smith.