“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”
The problem with quotes by philosophers is that much of them are not true. Epicurus didn’t say these words. This post at Egregores does a pretty nice job at illustrating this. However, anyone with any passing familiarity with Greek philosophy at all should have been suspicious of the quotes from the get go. It isn’t very Greek, at least not 500 BCE Greek. Plus, and more telling, it is odd that an ancient Greek philospher refer to a supposed ‘God’ instead of gods.
While the four statements are also used as ammunition against a case for a monotheistic god, typically of the sort with white beard, white skin, sitting behind pearly gates, it isn’t a very good attack on a notion of such a concept at all. All in all it is quite weak when one considers it. I admit that in my times of haste and lazy thought I too have affirmed these very statements. However, given a moment’s pause to consider them, they are weak. This Christian apologist post illustrates some of the various weaknesses. Though the post also suffers from its own biases, monotheism being among them.
I am not writing this to attack anyone. I honor all the gods, it is the people that I sometimes take issue with. No, my purpose here is go in a different direction against the weak statements that lead at the top of the post. I shall begin with a scenario.
Suppose a parent is watching a child play outside. The kid is on the edge of the porch, and a fall, while unpleasant, isn’t fatal. The parent, a strong, wise, powerful being in the universe of the child, watches from nearby. The parent has, compared to the mind of the child, a near infinite grasp of the laws of cause and effect, able to foresee with great precision what will occur in the future. While it is true that some parents shadow their children’s every move, fearful of every seen and every possible bump and scratch that may befall their child, while others seem to care less about the opportune harm, many parents walk a fine line of safety and danger. They know that a child needs to learn to reach out, beyond the center of gravity underneath them, and into the shaky unknown beyond their fingertips.
The benefits the child experiences are daring, even at such a small level, of stretching zer wings and daring. Better an arm to break than the child never learns to risk… to dare… to dream.
How empty our lives are when we cannot dream freely.
Risk implies, no… necessitates, pain. It must require that pain is unavoidable, hence there are no true limits. How utterly boring and sad omnipotence must be. Of all the comic book heroes, I think that Superman is the most sad of all. Daring is as much about flying as it is about learning to live with pain. Without that knowledge of that pain, beauty, joy, triumph, are utterly and completely meaningless.
Go back to that child on the porch, experiencing the world with new eyes, growing, learning… and the parent that watches. What is it like as a parent to experience life through the eyes of that child? We get a glimpse of that fear, that thrill, that hope, that laughter, when we watch our little ones’s fully live… fully human.
Dare. Dream. Risk. Be fucking human.