A Response to the Problem of an ‘Evil God’ as Raised by Stephen Law
by Michael Rundle
“The challenge is to explain why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god.”1
This reminds me of the evil demon in Descartes’ Meditations. However, whereas Descartes was introducing the evil demon hypothesis for epistemological reasons Law is raising the evil god hypothesis as a challenge to theism. His challenge is for theological reasons.
Some responses to Law have failed to grasp his argument or have suggested Law’s argument fails to challenge Christian theism (eg. Edward Feser). I think that is incorrect and Law’s challenge should be taken seriously just as Descartes took the evil demon seriously. More reasonable responses to Law have appealed to the fact that Christian theism has other arguments in addition which move us toward a specifically Christian God (such as the moral argument). Whilst I think there is some value in such responses I think there is a better approach.
I will argue that the case for Christian theism is far more rational to the evil god hypothesis on the basis of an a priori argument rather than the successive addition of other a posteriori arguments.
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As soon as we look at the proposal we find a problem with Law’s challenge. Whereas Christian theists have been very specific with their definition of a good God, Law is quite vague about what the exact nature of this evil god is.
“The challenge is to explain why the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-good god should be considered significantly more reasonable than the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient and all-evil god.”2
In describing the evil god he continues:
“Rather, imagine that he is maximally evil. His depravity is without limit. His cruelty knows no bounds. There is no other god or gods – just this supremely wicked being. Call this the evil-god hypothesis.”3
So we have the proposal of a “maximally evil” god. Since my attack is going to be an a priori one it is worth noting first that Law has made reference to such possible attacks and he mentions those of Plato and Daniels. He describes the replies as such…
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