Monday, August 14, 2006

Exbeliever on Evil #3

EXB wrote:
P1a: If the creator of this world were omniscient, omnipotent, and free, then "he" could choose any goal for this world that he wanted.
P2a: If the creator of this world were omnibenevolent, then "he" would choose only those goals for this world that did not involve pain and suffering.
P3a: This world involves pain and suffering.
C1a: Therefore, the creator of this world did not choose only those goals for this world that did not involve pain and suffering.
C2a: Therefore, the creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, free, and omnibenevolent.

P1b: If the creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, free, and omnibenevolent, then the Christian God is not the creator of this world.
P2b: The creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, free, and omnibenevolent.
Cb: Therefore, the Christian God is not the creator of this world.


God can choose any goals for the world that he wants, but some goals cannot be achieved simply by fiat, even for an omnipotent being. On the assumption that free will is incompatible with determinism, God cannot unilaterally achieve the goal of a world in which everyone freely does what is right. In order to prove his case, the atheist must prove that that a robotic world in which everyone does what is right is better than a world of free creatures which includes suffering, or argue that freedom and determinism are compatible. Neither of these cases is proven to my knowledge, therefore the atheist's case has not been made.

In response to Steve Hays EXB wrote.

1) Steve assumes the position that I predicted and described in my support of this argument. He says that there are second-order goods that cannot be achieved without some evil. He forgets, though, that his god sets these rules. His god pulls the strings. His god could have chosen any goal for the earth. He could have chosen goals that did not involve evil in any way. One goal is not "better than" another if "better than" is measured only by the accomplishment of god's goal.



But is the absence of suffering the only good? If so, then perhaps a world without sentient creatures would be a good idea. I maintain that having a world in which god can be freely loved an obeyed is worth having even if it includes pain and suffering. Am I as a Christian committed to values that would rule this out? if so, I would like to see the argument.

Later EXB writes:

1) Steve still doesn't seem to understand that his god was not limited in the goals he could have chosen for his creation. He could have chosen a world in which he only dealt in first-order goods (e.g. Heaven).

Aha. The Heaven-only universe. But on free will theology, while God can give heaven to people after they choose to become a heavenly kind of person, God cannot give heaven to free creatures unless that choice is made.

It may be argued that this world would not be "as good as" our own. A Christian, however, defines "goodness" (as it pertains to the state of the world) by how it achieves god's goals.

In other words, this world is "good" (according to Christians) because it accomplishes god's goal for it. To say that another world in which pain and suffering were not a part would not have been "as good" makes no sense if a world's goodness is defined by god's goals.


Yes I agree that this line of thought leads to a kind of theological voluntarism where what is good is just what God wills, and if God sovereignly wills lots of eternal pain and suffering for almost everyone, that is good it is God who wills it. I'm not a theological voluntarist.

Let me try this another way. Did god choose the goal he did for this world because it was good per se or is this world good because it accomplishes god's goals? If the former, on what basis is this possible world "good"? What makes a possible world good, bad, or indifferent? Christians normally only say something is good if it works according to god's plan. If this is the case, then any other world would be just as good as this one because it fulfilled god's plan. There would be no reason for god to pick a possible world that had pain and suffering in it because it would be just as good as a world that did not have pain and suffering in it.


Ditto.

2) I agree that different scenarios would entail different "trade-offs," but there is no reason that god would have chosen a scenario in which pain and suffering was involved. To him, goodness means accomplishing his goals. He could have chosen any goal.


Unless good to be achieve necessarily involves the possibility of suffering.

If this god is omnibenevolent, then it follows that he would not inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on creatures. The pain and suffering is necessarily "unnecessary" because god could have chosen a different end for his creation.

The good goal of free love and obedience requires the possibility of suffering.

And yes, I disagree with my beloved Calvinist brethren on these matters. See here.

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2005/03/why-calvinists-cant-solve-problem-of.html

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This may be slightly off-topic, but do you ever wonder: What does God get out of all this? Why did a supposedly all-perfect being need or want to create humans?

I'd be interested in your thoughts on this...the only (coherent) answer on this I have seen is basically that God did it for amusement. It seems to me this answer does not understand the question.

Steven Carr said...

'. On the assumption that free will is incompatible with determinism, God cannot unilaterally achieve the goal of a world in which everyone freely does what is right.'

It is Christian dogma that God can, wants to, and actually has created beings with free will that he knew in advance would always freely choose right.

And it is also Christian dogma that God will , in the future, bring about a world in which everyone will always freely choose good, and that he cannot be thwarted in this plan.

John W. Loftus said...

Why didn't God create us with wings on our backs to fly?

Victor Reppert said...

Steven Carr: It is Christian dogma that God can, wants to, and actually has created beings with free will that he knew in advance would always freely choose right.

VR: It may be a dogma in some Christian circles but it is denied by others. Ever heard of Open Theism? That is the view that an omniscient being does not necessarily know the outcome of future free choices. Omniscience is defined as knowing everything there is to know, and the outcome of a future free choice is not something there to be known. Hasker's God, Time and Knowledge is the locus classicus on this position.

But, besides this, it is often argued that God can know the outcome of future free choices without determining those choices. There are different views on this. There are the people that say God knows future free choices, but knows only actual future free choices. To argue that God could have arrange the world better with respect to free choices presumes that God knows the outcome of all would-be free choices. This is the doctrine of middle knowledge, defended by people like Fred Freddoso, William Lane Craig, and Alvin Plantinga. But even in that case, it is possible that no arrangement of would-be free choices results in a better world than the actual world, as Plantinga has argued.

Victor Reppert said...

Steven: And it is also Christian dogma that God will , in the future, bring about a world in which everyone will always freely choose good, and that he cannot be thwarted in this plan.

VR: God will do this, according to free will theology, for those who have freely submitted their wills to him.