Tree of Knowledge
By Vedika Hurdoyal-Chekhori
Why is there so much suffering in the world?
If God is omnipotent, benevolent and omniscient, then how does one account for the evil that manifests in the form of suffering? Epicurus, the Greek philosopher, has articulated the dilemma, “If God is willing to prevent evil but not able, then he is not omnipotent; if he is able but not willing, he is not benevolent; if he is both able and willing, whence come evil?”
“Suffering is not always a misfortune. It often helps us to grow”. Photo – www.naukrinama.com
Some theologians tried to unsuccessfully solve the riddle of evil by glorifying suffering:
“Suffering is not always a misfortune. It often helps us to grow. In the depths of sorrow we receive light”;
“Suffering is not punishment but the prize of fellowship. It is an accompaniment of all creative endeavor”;
“Suffering takes us to the center of things and away from trivialities of life”.
St. Augustine puts forth three views about evil in the following:
- Evil is necessary for the enhancement of the greater good, in the same manner in which the shadow in the moon enhances the beauty of the full moon.
- Evil is not a positive, but privative good which simply means the deficiency of good.
- Not God but man is responsible for his moral fall.
A brief metaphysical explanation of the above unfolds is evil is not good, but it is good that there is evil. What appears as evil is not really evil. It is only to enhance the excellence of good. For example, in explaining the birth of a man born blind, Jesus said that this man was born blind so that the glory of God may be made manifest.
Secondly, evil is the privation of good that is the present absence of the expected good. For example, there is the evil of blindness, but it is simply the present absence of the power of vision. In due course, this good could be restored. As for the third argument, it suggests that the first man Adam had free will, but with his fall by disobedience to God, Adam lost his free will. This condemnation of Adam being a sinner has been transmitted to the whole of mankind. This is the doctrine of Original Sin. ‘In Adam’s fall, we sinned all.’
As an alternative, the doctrine of karma offers a satisfactory solution to the riddle of suffering. According to it, God’s creative act is in conformity with the Law of Karma.
Though He is omnipotent and can overrule the Law of Karma, He does not do so because that would be inconsistent with His moral nature and violative of the principle of natural justice.
He, however, bestows man with the power of reasoning, to enable the latter to discern between right and wrong, to choose his action out of the free will, and to seek His Grace ultimately.
Dr (Mrs) Vedika Hurdoyal- Chekhori teaches Philosophy at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute.
* Published in print edition on 11 September 2020
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