Maltheism is the belief that God exists but is evil, malevolent, incompetent, or otherwise not wholly good. The term comes from the Greek words “mal” meaning bad and “theos” meaning god. Maltheism stands in contrast to the mainstream Abrahamic religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam that consider God to be omnibenevolent.
Some key aspects of maltheism include:
God is Cruel and Unjust
Maltheists view God as cruel, unjust, uncaring, and arbitrary in His dealings with humanity. They accuse God of creating a world filled with gratuitous suffering and evil. A maltheist might point to natural disasters, diseases, wars and other tragedies as evidence that God is not good or loving. Many maltheists see God as capricious, bringing suffering and calamity on innocent people without just cause.
God is Not Worthy of Worship
Since maltheists view God as evil or incompetent, they believe He is not worthy of love, obedience, or worship. They may obey God out of fear of punishment, but they do not love Him or serve Him gladly. Maltheists reject the mainstream theistic view that God is supremely worthy of human devotion, service, and praise.
Hatred or Rejection of God’s Sovereignty
Maltheism includes a fundamental hatred of or opposition to God’s sovereignty. Maltheists resent God’s authority over creation and His lordship over humanity. They are angered by the idea of an omnipotent God who can do whatever He pleases with His creation. This leads to an outright rejection of God’s right to rule.
Rejection of Providence
Since maltheists believe God is not perfectly good, they reject the idea that everything happens according to God’s wise and loving providence. They do not accept that God causes or allows suffering for good reasons that humans cannot always understand. Maltheists typically see suffering as pointless cruelty from a God who is detached and uncaring about humanity’s plight.
Emphasis on the Problem of Evil
Maltheists emphasize the theological problem of evil – how can an all-good, all-powerful God allow evil and suffering in the world? They use unresolved questions about evil to cast doubt on God’s goodness and undermine faith in mainstream theism. Unlike atheists, maltheists accept God’s existence but deny that He is perfectly good and just.
Antitheism and Misotheism
Maltheism is related to antitheism, the direct opposition to theism and belief in God. It also overlaps with misotheism, the hatred of God or gods. A maltheist might be considered a specific type of antitheist who believes God exists but hates Him for being evil. Misotheists can also hate God, but their hatred does not necessarily depend on the belief that God actually exists.
Some potential origins and causes of maltheistic beliefs include:
Personal Suffering and Tragedy
Profound personal trauma like a debilitating illness, loss of a child, or genocide can lead to the view that God is evil or apathetic about human plight. Lived experiences of intense and seemingly unjustified suffering often drive maltheistic attitudes.
Problem of Evil
The theological and philosophical problem of evil seems unanswerable to some, challenging the notion of a loving, all-powerful God. Human cruelty and natural disasters that cause innocent suffering can call God’s goodness into question.
Rejection of Mainstream Religion
Someone raised in an abusive religious environment or angered by corrupt religious institutions may come to despise religion’s image of God. This disillusionment breeds contempt for traditional depictions of God.
Rebellion and Desire for Autonomy
The desire for complete moral and intellectual autonomy can motivate rebellion against God’s authority. A determination to be free of divine accountability can breed maltheism.
Misconceptions about God
Misunderstandings about God’s nature, such as seeing Him as a petty tyrant or the direct cause of all human suffering, leads some to maltheism. Their concept of God is different from standard monotheism.
Some rationalists contend that an all-powerful God would ensure a just world. The existence of severe and seemingly pointless evil convinces them that if God exists, He must not be completely good or rational.
Psychological Coping Mechanism
Hating God can provide a sense of control and empowerment for some survivors of severe trauma. Maltheism allows them to direct anger about their suffering toward a cosmic villain.
The most prominent maltheistic perspective in the Bible is found in the book of Job. After experiencing devastating personal tragedies, Job voices maltheistic ideas:
“May the day of my birth perish…That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine on it.” (Job 3:3-4)
“God has wronged me and drawn his net around me.” (Job 19:6)
“Although I cry, ‘Violence!’ I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.” (Job 19:7)
“He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.” (Job 9:22)
Job accuses God of being unjust and not governing the world rightly. His friends defend God’s justice and wisdom, arguing that Job’s situation must be deserved. Ultimately, God reproves Job for demanding that God give an account of His mysterious providence. He never answers Job’s specific complaints, but rather affirms His power and sovereignty over creation. The book ends with Job repenting for his maltheistic accusations.
The Bible consistently presents God as righteous, just, merciful and good throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Other biblical authors, in contrast to Job, express steadfast faith in God’s goodness, even in the face of adversity:
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15)
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.” (Lamentations 3:22)
“Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)
“In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” (Romans 8:28)
While the Scriptures recognize the mystery of suffering under a sovereign God, they clearly reject the maltheistic conclusion that God is evil or incompetent. The doctrine of God’s holiness, goodness and hatred of evil is central to the Bible’s depiction of His character throughout its pages.
Maltheism contrasts sharply with the traditional Christian perspective of God’s benevolence and trustworthiness. Christianity has historically seen suffering and evil as the result of human sin and fallenness, rather than defects in God Himself. Let’s explore key ways maltheism diverges from orthodox Christian theology:
Christianity staunchly upholds God’s perfection, sovereignty, holiness, justice, and goodness. Maltheism’s assault on God’s moral character contradicts core Christian values and doctrines.
Christianity affirms God’s wise and loving sovereignty over all things. Maltheism rejects divine providence by claiming God perpetrates evil.
Christian theodicy defends God’s goodness despite evil. Maltheism argues evil disproves divine goodness.
Sin and Salvation
Christianity sees human sin and brokenness as the root cause of evil, remedied by God’s salvation. Maltheism faults God’s nature instead.
Pride and Rebellion
Christianity labels maltheism as rooted in the same rebellious human pride underlying the original fall into sin, expressing arrogance and ingratitude towards God.
Christianity calls for faith and hope in God’s goodness despite trials. Maltheism cultivates distrust by judging God untrustworthy.
Christianity commands the worship of God for His love and mercy. Maltheism rejects worshipping a supposedly evil God.
So in summary, orthodox Christianity completely contradicts maltheism, upholding God’s holiness and confronting the prideful tendencies within the human heart that lead to distrusting God in the midst of suffering.
While maltheism sharply contrasts with Christianity, maltheists have offered arguments to justify their perspective. They contend that the existence of horrendous evil is positive evidence against the mainstream idea of a perfectly good deity. Let’s examine some of their reasoning and claims:
The Magnitude of Evil
Maltheists argue the shocking amount of evil and suffering in the world strongly suggests divine malevolence or incompetence. The prevalence of evil seems to point to God’s detachment or even delight in human suffering.
They argue that God’s omnipotence means He is culpable for not preventing evil. His power combined with human agony indicates He is unwilling, not unable. He seems to perpetuate evil needlessly.
The Hiddenness of God
Maltheists claim God seems hidden in the face of atrocities. His lack of intervention and comfort implies callousness towards humanity. He appears indifferent to evil and suffering.
Patterns of Evil and Suffering
The extensive patterns and systemic injustices underlying evil lead maltheists to believe God designed the world to include gratuitous suffering. The evidence points to divine cruelty.
Diseases, natural disasters and birth defects that cause human pain appear to maltheists as positive evidence of divine malice or incompetence in designing nature. They seem pointless for any good God.
Problem of Hell
The doctrine of eternal punishment seems sadistic and overly harsh coming from a supposedly gracious God. Hell appears to contradict divine benevolence.
So in maltheists’ view, the affirmative evidence of rampant evil and suffering overrides traditional formulations of God’s perfect goodness and power. This makes God seem malevolent, negligent or pathetic.
Defenders of God’s goodness have offered various counterarguments and theodicies to explain the coherence of faith in a loving God despite the existence of evil. Let’s examine some key Christian responses to the maltheist perspective:
Moral Evil Caused by Humans
Much evil and suffering is perpetrated by morally corrupt human beings. God gives free will, and humans abuse it to commit atrocities against others.
Non-God Explanations for Natural Evil
Natural disasters, disease, birth defects have scientific explanations that do not implicate God directly. Cancer is caused by genetic mutations, not divine cruelty.
Greater Good Defense
God allows certain evils and suffering because preventing them would impede greater goods like free will, moral growth, and redemption. God aims to ultimately undo evil.
temporary evil and injustice in this fallen world will be rectified in the perfection and justice of the afterlife under God’s rule.
Warning against Human Limitations
Human inability to fully comprehend God’s ways means we lack capacity to judge Him. Apparent divine negligence or malice reflects limited human perspective.
Divine Justice and Wrath
Some Jewish/Christian thinkers explain evils as divine punishment against collective human sin. God is just and acting within moral right in judgment.
God allows evil and suffering because they cultivate virtues like courage, mercy, and resilience that perfectly reflect God’s nature once redeemed.
So in summary, Christianity provides various explanations for why an all-good God permits evil without directly causing it. These accounts aim to show how omnibenevolence and omnipotence remain consistent with the existence of suffering. The persistence of evil does not necessarily prove maltheism.
If God exists and is evil or incompetent as maltheists claim, this would have profound implications. Let’s consider some of the practical consequences that would follow if maltheism is true:
No Ground for Objective Morality
An evil God could not function as a foundation for objective moral values. Good and evil would be arbitrarily determined by a malicious deity.
Life Lacks Higher Purpose
With no morally perfect deity to give life meaning, humanity would be directionless, living in a potentially chaotic and absurd universe.
No Justification for Hope or Courage
Hoping for salvation from an evil God or appealing to Him for courage makes little sense. Maltheism leaves people fundamentally alone.
Rebellion is Justified
Disobedience against an evil sovereign is morally right. Allegiance to a corrupt deity seems foolish and degrading.
Worship Seems Incoherent
Maltheism eliminates worshipping God out of admiration and gratefulness. Obeying out of fear seems the only motive left.
Problem of Heaven and Hell
An evil God’s heaven would be undesirable and obedience motivated by avoiding hell seems slavish. Afterlife offers no hope.
Religious Duties are Suspect
If God is malicious, all forms of devotion and obedience to God seem misguided at best. Religious duties become morally suspect.
So in summary, the implications of maltheism undermine many foundations of religious belief and explain the hostility many maltheists exhibit towards faith in God. But many of these implications would likewise apply to atheism, showing maltheism is not necessarily a practically superior alternative to traditional theism.
Maltheism has appeared in various forms throughout history, espoused by certain individuals and movements. Let’s overview some notable historical examples of maltheistic thought:
Many Gnostic sects saw the God of the Old Testament as evil or incompetent, while still positing a separate, supreme good deity beyond the material world.
2nd century heretic Marcion claimed the biblical God was evil and tyrannical. He rejected the entire Old Testament.
19th Century Occultism
Some occult practitioners tried accessing demonic powers to defy and rival God, seeing Him as tyrannical and desiring forbidden knowledge.
The Renaissance philosopher contended that God’s apparent apathy toward evil justified using deception and ruthlessness in politics.
Many deists believe God is apathetic and absent, having created the world but then permitting it to run chaotically according to scientific laws.
Liberal theologians portrayed God as well-meaning but weak and incapable of actually intervening in creation and human affairs.
Prominent New Atheists like Richard Dawkins portray the Judeo-Christian God as tyrannical, contradictory, and by implication, evil.
Some fictional works propose dystheist scenarios where God oppresses humanity. They imply God is real but malicious.
So various unorthodox religious and irreligious movements throughout history have incorporated maltheistic ideas to different degrees. But traditional monotheism has firmly upheld God’s benevolence.
While many questions surround the problem of evil, the longstanding Judeo-Christian tradition has maintained that God is perfectly good despite human inability to fully comprehend His ways. Maltheism diverges sharply from this tradition and faces substantial theological and philosophical problems of its own. The Scriptures overwhelmingly testify to God’s holiness, love, and redeeming grace. They neither endorse nor permit the view that God is evil or incompetent. Despite heartrending evil in the world, Christianity provides rational hope that God will one day defeat and destroy all pain, injustice and sin for those who trust in Him.