The Epicurean Paradox

The “Epicurean paradox” or “Riddle of Epicurus” is a version of the problem of evil.
Lactantius attributes this trilemma to Epicurus in De Ira Dei:

“God,” he says, “either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able.”

Through the centuries there is no evidence of the intervention of God in human affairs. One might reasonably have expected Him to have intervened during the massive slaughters of two world wars, but no. Again, one might expect evidence of intervention at the present moment, with the planet in peril, with so-called “strong men” taking control over countries throughout the world, with inequality, mass migration, hunger, the breakdown of liberal democracy and the end of American hegemony, which did at least guarantee a measure of order. But no. We have to presume that God is neither willing nor able to help us live together in respect and harmony. Millions have been calling upon Him for centuries, to no avail.

We are left with the hope that more and more people will espouse the decent, humanistic ideas of Epicurus that stand for moderation, consideration for others, toleration, the search for peace of mind, friendship and caring for those less fortunate than ourselves. Epicureanism and similar humanistic philosophies are what we have left to us. Common sense, really, but then the “leadership” of the human race seems to has remarkably little of that. It prefers self-interest, dubious dealings, lies, bullying and filling its own pockets at our expense. Plus ca change.


  1. It”s sad to admit to the damnation mankind has to the cruel cycle of: good, to bad, to worse. It almost leaves me to wonder, why bother believing things to stay stable, when it only take a whiff of wind to topple our “peace”. In the ancient Greek story of the first woman,Pandora, we learn she opens all the plagues of the world, including the unbelieving deceitful hope. Hope I find can bring strength and help us to live and believe things to work out, but it could be a mask for our stupidity when the truth is, you can’t fix what is beyond repair. So as if we are in a excruciatingly painful season of evil, like all seasons, it’ll pass eventually, if we hope and continue to live.

    • Accepting our mortality is the beginning of Wisdom. A choice exists for each of us to make sense of all that exists before us. We can choose the endless void and play the victim. Or make sense of a world so in need of our proper order. The source of Gods existence is all around us. The beauty in nature itself. Our growing ability to learn and develop our own existence. Life itself is our gift. Accepting pour need for God is itself Faith to believe and this appetite Ned’s to be fed. We can choose to starve or grow in ways of faith and mercy. Love itself proves Gods existence. Our ability to care for ourselves in a healthy manner and see the good in things. It is not Gods choice to live a dismal existence. What about the things larger than life itself. The love of our children. Our hope for our children to emerge victorious. Our ability to care for them more than even our own lives is Spiritual. This world has good in it. That’s the source of Faith to build on. Faith exists and our gift of life is itself the light to follow. What source allows us to learn and grow. The Principal of Light is the formation of positive value moving in the same direction. Our choice is sure to follow. To deny the existence of God is itself a dark place with little light to follow. Our great challenge isn’t to know who God truly is, it’s to simply know there is a God and we’re not Him. Knowing proof of faith can be as simple as acknowledging gravity. We can choose to believe in a living source within each of us that can grow and prosper even in times of utter desperation or live in the shadows that also draw us
      Just the same…

      • Do you believe God knows everything before it even happens?

        “God either wishes to take away evils, and is unable; or He is able, and is unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, or He is both willing and able.” – Lactantius

        In my opinion, if he has the power to create, not only life, but the universe, his powers limitless. Of course, he knows everything that has happened and everything that will happen. If God created everything, there’s no cap on that. No one can tell me anything that he did not create which means whatever is going to happen in the future he created that already we just haven’t got there yet. That means pedophiles, murderers, rapists people with cancer people with heartbreak, he created all of those things and allows them to exist.

        What’s up with good people having terrible lives but evil people being perfectly content? He watches that happen. He has the power to stop it from happening, but he just watches. he watches little kids entire families, die in a car accident little kids all alone in his life fucked up forever. Now he sees all the sadness and despair and the mass shootings….everything. Driving me crazy.

        What I’m getting at is the older I get the harder it is for me to believe in hell. Why would an all loving and pure good make something like that and make anyone that might end up there nobody asked to be here we’re all blessed to have the opportunity but if I do end up in hell, why did you bother even making me I don’t know.

        And have you ever considered this? If there is a hell, he created it. If there is evil, he created it. If there is a Satan, he created that Satan, and allows that Satan to do what he does, when he has the power to snap his fingers and delete him instantly. What does he need from us? Why does he need us to struggle with riding wrong?

        I did not choose to be born. I did not choose this journey, if I do end up failing and going to hell, why would he do that to me? Especially if he knows that I’ve always done everything in my power to be the kind of person he needs and wants me to be he sees inside my mind in my heart, and even in my failures he knows I do my best.

        This is my biggest conundrum at this stage in my life, understanding the concept of free will. No one has ever been able to explain to me in a way that makes me believe that he does not know everything that’s going to happen today tomorrow and throughout all of time he already knows everything because he created it even the future that hasn’t happened yet is going to, and that future was created by him.

        The closest anyone has ever gotten was telling me that maybe he is so powerful that he made himself forget? I don’t know I’m fine not worried or panicking anything just in church asking people their opinion.

    • We have an American President who doesn’t ”believe” in global climate change, despite overwhelming evidence and almost daily experience of it. And he is not the owner of an oil well or a coal plant, complete with vested interests. I am courteous and therefore have to take your information as accurate, even if I have never seen such an assertion before. After all, the ability of human beings to be irrational is always amazing.

  2. Any reader of the OT will find that God did intervene often in the affairs of mankind. He rescued his people – The Jews – only to have them turn their backs on him at the earliest sign of trouble. Impatient, they could not even wait for Moses to come off the mountain.

    Any reader of the NT will find that God intervened in the most effective, dramatic and visible way by sending Jesus to earth. God became man and lived with him. The world has never been the same.

    God has proven again and again that he is patient, long suffering and desirous of man’s turning to him. He has shown how this turning can be done. Ask any Christian if you don’t know how to turn away from the evil God abhors.

    Why evil? A clue is given above by the commentator who pointed out God is not a baby sitter nor is he Santa Claus, for that matter. Evil exists to show the delight God and his created man may find in the alternatives to evil. It would be impossible to love what is good unless one knew the difference between good and evil. It would be impossible to love evil unless one knew the difference between evil and good.

    And it often comes down to choices made by man. It is never God’s will that man do evil. But he has given man the will to choose. Choices have consequences, as most of us know from life experiences.

    Evil is a necessary tool. It can be used or rejected by man.

    Evil is almost like a parasite, requiring good to feed upon. In this analogy, it may be said that evil could not exist without good. And therefore exists because of the good.

    Finally, over millennia, it is possible to note that good has triumphed. Nothing lasts forever. Evil is eventually defeated, everywhere.

    • Your cheerful and positive conclusion, that “evil is eventually defeated, everywhere” is most heartening, but regretfully I do not agree with you. Evil has a tendency to pop back up, time and time again. The world was thrown into turmoil by Hitler and the other fascists, and millions died defeating them. We now have the start of a repeat, when moderation is out of the window, along with democracy and truth. If you don’t recognise this then you Re making the same mistake as many did in the 1930s, to their horrific cost.

    • Saying the writings of a small group of people who also believed magic was real, witches existed, and the stars effected one’s life is not proof that a god intervened. If if were so then you must accept the written word of all religions.

  3. The Bible mentioned in Psalms that “man’s heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Give him a stick and he will use it for bad or good. Man was also given free will and he can choose right or wrong. Why blame God when things do not go our way? Since creation, the devil has been trying to defeat God by offering mankind choices that are more comfortable. That’s why the Word-Faith movement is a hit, among others, while the real gospel will offend most. Sending Jesus Christ is his ultimate intervention and this provided a lasting solution. You just have to choose.

  4. Please forgive my typos. One last comment: Meditation and Contemplation are tools we can utilize. The Quiet One speaks to all who listen. Quiet to the Sound of Many Waters, Listen to the Wind.. Rejoice in the Wisdom of Gods presence. He who
    Is and was and is to come… Live simply with an attitude of Gratitude and you’ll be half way home before you know it…

  5. The Bible based algorithm below solves/disputes the Epicurean Paradox
    1. Evil exist. Evil causes harm and suffering. Did God cause the 1st evil (death of Adam & Eve)?
    Yes. Go to 3.
    No. Go to 2.

    2. Did an angel, or human cause the 1st evil (death/suffering)?
    Yes. Go to # 4.
    No. Go to # 5.

    3. There is no evidence that God caused the first evil. God gave the 1st humans an earthly paradise as home to widen and care for. (Genesis 2:10-15) He also gives rain and sunshine even to unrighteous ones. (Matthew 5:45). Jesus Christ said that Satan caused the 1st evil. (John 8:44). Go to #4.

    4.The Bible teaches that the first evil (death) was caused by the rebellion in Paradise. It was instigated by a rebellious angel, Satan. (Genesis 3:1-6,19; John 8:44) After the rebellion in Eden, the Bible teaches that man caused evil to himself and others. (Proverbs 14:12; 19:3).
    Go to # 6.

    5. If the 1st evil was not caused by God, humans, or angel, then it could have been caused by natural disasters, or disease. Jesus Christ whom God sent ressurected the dead, cured diseases, and even stopped a stormy sea. But, it was all temporary relief. A more permanent cure is coming.
    Go to # 6.

    6. God made laws that if followed would have prevented evil. One of his earliest laws could have prevented death, the 1st evil. (Genesis 2:16,17). For ancient Israel he gave more than 600 laws. Two examples are: (a) the 10 commandments in Exodus 20:3-17. (b) love of fellow humans. (Levitucus 19:18)
    Go to # 7.

    7. Think: if all humans follow the 10 commandments, and showed love to fellow humans, would there be evil? Majority of humans have ignored God’s laws resulting in all sorts of evil. (Proverbs 14:12; Jeremiah 10:23). Do you like to continue?
    Yes. Go to #8.
    No. Go to # 27.

    8. Would it have been better if God killed the first rebels–Satan, Adam & Eve started all over again?
    Yes. Go to # 9.
    No. Go to #10.

    9. If he killed the first rebels, other intelligent beings–angels per Job 38:4,7–would have thought that the issue raised by Satan, and his human cohorts was true. Go to #10.

    10. The issue raised in Eden was: whether humans do not need God to tell them what is right or wrong. (Genesis 3:1-5). An issue of right to rule (sovereignty) was raised. The issue of sovereignty was again raised in 1Samuel 8:4-9; John 19:15. Time was needed to resolve this issue. Go to #11.

    11. In his mercy and justice to humans he allowed Adam and Eve to have children. Their children, now imperfect, would have choices: to serve God/or not; to choose life or death. (Joshua 24:15; Deuteronomy 30:19). Go to # 12.

    12. Are there any other reason/s why God would allow evil to exist for the time being?
    Yes. Go to #13.
    No. Go to # 14.

    13. There are other issues that need time to be resolved why God allows evil to continue for a while: (a) the issue of whether a human is serving God only for selfish interest written in Job 1:6-12; (b) to give other humans a chance to turn around their lives and be reconciled with God. (2Peter 3:9)
    Go to 14.

    14. God is Almighty. Would it have been better for God to have created humans without freedom to choose/free will?
    Yes. Go to 15
    No. Go to 16

    15. Robots/artificial intelligence do not have freedom to choose/ free will–except for their built in programs. Would you like to be a robot, or loved by a robot?
    Yes. That’s your choice. Go to 27.
    No. Go to 16.

    16. Would you like to use your freedom to choose/ free will to love God by obeying his laws (1John 5:3) ?
    Yes. Go to # 17
    No. Go back to # 7.

    17. Majority of those who truly love God will inherit paradise earth and live there forever. (Matthew 5:5; Psalm 37:29). A limited number will go to heaven and be kings/priests over the earth. (Revelations 5:9,10). Do you like to continue?
    Yes. Go to # 18.
    No. Go to # 27.

    18. Should God stop all evil now in this present system of things?
    Yes. Go to 19
    No. Go to 20

    19. The present world is evil, and ruled by the evil one, Satan. (1John 5:19) Think about this. If God stops all sorts of evil in this present world, then he would be working for Satan as policeman, emergency relief worker, etc. God will not be mocked. Humans will reap what they sow. (Galacian 6:7)
    Would you like to continue?
    Yes. Go to # 20.
    No. Go to # 27.

    20. While not stopping all sorts of evil now, God does not allow his true followers to be tested by evil beyond what they can bear. He provides escape so those who truly love him. (1Corinthians 10:13). Go to 21.

    21. God gives comfort/hope to those suffering from evil. To receive godly comfort/hope one has to (a) study and apply his counsel found in his inspired word, the Bible, and (b) Throw his/her burdens to him by means of prayer. Read Romans 15:4; Psalm 65:2; 119:2,93, 105; 1Peter 5:6,7
    Go to # 22.

    22. God is all knowing. He can know what the future lies. (Isaiah 41:3; 44:7,8) Would it have been better if he used this power to prevent evil?
    Yes. Go to # 23
    No. Go to 24.

    23. If God used his power to know things in advance (omniscience) and prevent humans from committing evil everytime, then man’s freedom of choice/free will would be greatly impaired–thus making humans mere robots. If God use omniscience to eliminate natural causes of evil–disease, tsunamis–then humans would not reap the consequences of the 1st rebellion in Eden, as well as subsequent ones. (Galacian 6:7,8; 2Chronicles 12:2,7,8)
    Go to 24.

    24. God will eliminate all evil in the future. Do you believe this?
    Yes. Go to 25
    No. Go to 27.

    25. God’s promise to eliminate all evil in the future is recorded in Proverbs 2:21,22; and Revelations 21:2-4. God destroyed an evil world in the days of Noah. He also destroyed the evil inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. (Jude 7)
    Do you believe this?
    Yes. Go to 26.
    No. Go to 27.

    26. Study and learn more about the amazing God of the Bible. His name is JEHOVAH or YAHWEH. God’s name was derived from an ancient Hebrew word that means ‘he causes to become’. Knowing Jehovah–his character, what he likes, or doesn’t like–could mean eternal life for you and your family. (John 17:3) For more information visit
    Go to # 27.

    27. The END.

    • The evil in the paradox goes beyond just acts of free will, but includes things like car accidents and plagues. Just following the 10 commandments does not prevent those.

      Wrong “solution”.

    • God knew before he created them that Adam and Eve would disobey, which can only mean that he set them up to fail and their punishment was foreordained. God also knew Lucifer would rebel. And yet somehow it’s our fault the world is the way it is? This all-loving God still lets children die of painful cancer — what lesson is to learned of such horrors, other than God either doesn’t care or allows suffering to exist to lead us to reject evil, in which case he just uses innocent lives to make a point, as if someone’s beloved child is expendable fodder to remind us of how great and powerful he is? If he’s all powerful, he could simply compel us to follow in his ways and reject evil, rather than pretend to give us free will, when he already knows every choice we’ll ever make, and the “free will” to choose other than what God wants results in eternal torture. That’s not a choice; it’s a threat. And it’s not a choice that an all-loving deity would compel.

    • No. This is illogical.
      There is no evidence that God caused the first evil.
      God created EVERYTHING. God created evil, God created hell, God created Satan.

      After the rebellion in Eden, the Bible teaches that man caused evil to himself and others. (Proverbs 14:12; 19:3).
      God knew the rebellion was going to happen before it happened, if you’re trying to tell me, the guy didn’t have the power to keep people from happening again illogical.

      God created right and wrong, God created depression, confusion, as well as all the good things, happiness joy, love no one on this planet, asked to be here, he put us here, and he already knows whether everyone on this planet is going to heaven or hell, if he has the power to create everything literally everything there’s no way you can make me believe he doesn’t know what’s going to happen to everyone before it happens


  7. The recent pandemic called COVID 19 has brought about wide destruction to the society globally. The millions of infected cases, death of many, and the numerous suffering people that are still in confinement nowadays are evidence that there is evil. Not surprisingly, the recent occurrence of this kind of natural evil that affected greatly ideologies and thus raises up again the epicurean paradox. Epicureanism continues to revive itself in the almost undeniable fact that there are many sufferings of humanity. Believers and agnostics ask same as that of Epicurus. Hence, it still is conjuring a debate: whether God wishes to take away COVID, and is unable; or he is able, and unwilling; or He is neither willing nor able, then why calls him God?

  8. “No evidence of God intervening in the affairs of men….” Oh dear… you obviously don’t know God or how He operates. He’s sovereign and in control of everything while STILL allowing sinful, demonic men to have their own free will. He’s allowing the wickedness to culminate to a point where He looks beaten so He can have the last laugh. Read the Bible, it’s plain as day. The end is coming quicker and quicker all the time.
    Furthermore, my free eBook reveals plainly that God is working in ALL our individual lives at all times. My testimonies are proof of that (on top of His fulfillment of all prophecy).
    May you humbly acknowledge Christ and experience eternal life and then share it with others.

  9. Pingback: AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JOB Part VI – Priest ITM White

  10. Even if I use the OT story of Genesis we see that ALL was very good at the end of God’s creation. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”

    So if all was VERY good, whence came evil?

  11. In my book, Parable Axis (The Epicurean Riddle) I made usage of Epicurus philosophy to address the confusion in which the world has been entangled with since the dawn of human civilization. “Nothing creates nothing,” says Epicurus, and remind us of the dangers of idol worshiping instead of a Spiritual source from where humanity was created. Indeed, it was no mistake or coincidence that the book of “The Acts of the Apostles,” makes mention in regard to the Epicureans, along with the Stoics. At the Areopagus, the Apostle Paul encountered the Epicureans and Stoics, which appears to be were the most prominent philosophers of that time. Indeed, ACTS chapter 17 exposes the problem of idol worshiping, the cure, “The word” or its other more common variation “Jesus’ death and resurrection.”

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