Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? whence then is evil?

Epicurus (341-270 BC) Greek philosopher
(Attributed)

"Epicurus' old riddle," in David Hume (1711-1776), Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Part X (1779). Full text. It is not found in Epicurus' surviving works. Discussion.

Variants:

  • "Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; Or he can, but does not want to; Or he cannot and does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. But, if God both can and wants to abolish evil, then how come evil is in the world?"
  • "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?"
Added on 3-Feb-10 | Last updated 3-Feb-10
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