April 19, 2009
I’m one of those people who thinks the Problem of Evil is far from solved. I know, I know… the audacity, right? Skeptics and atheists claim the Problem of Evil logically disqualifies certain definitions of God, specifically the Omni^3 God typically advanced by Judeo-Christian monotheists. I concede that this polemic has been commonly repeated in philosophy circles for over 2,000 years now, but is it true? I cannot consider the Problem of Evil any problem at all sans a reasonable explanation of when and why the allowance of suffering constitutes a genuine breach of omni-benevolence, and I maintain that the burden falls back to the skeptic to demonstrate how or why this is so. Earlier this week, a real-life scenario recalled this question to mind.
I sometimes work in a publishing warehouse where customers can ring a doorbell to signify their presence at the Western entrance. Late one evening this week, somebody rang the bell. I opened up the window and stuck my head outside, where I saw a man and a woman with a baby. I knew instantly that they weren’t our customers, and I made the reasonable presupposition they were here to see a tenant in the residential part of the building. So, being in “work-mode,” I initially ignored them and was about to go “back to work” when the human factor kicked in. Just because they weren’t our customers didn’t mean they didn’t need help, so I returned to the window. My next intuition was to immediately engage them, but that curiously gave way to a competing intuition suggesting I merely observe for a moment, remaining watchful to ensure they got whatever it was they needed, but still granting enough confidence in their independence to assume they can solve their own problems without my meddling. A brief moment passed.
I noticed the Bay cold along with their momentary uncertainty was causing the woman to suffer. The cold itself had been causing me to suffer all day long, and I was certain where I was – inside the warehouse with a hooded sweatshirt on! No sooner than I could ask myself another question or respond to another intuition, a tenant let them inside of the building, and they were once again happy and warm.
Although it’s certainly nice that this story has a happy ending, did I violate the principle of omni-benevolence in that brief moment of observance?