Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Exbeliever's argument from evil #2, with my responses

Argument #2 (general):

P1a: If the creator of this world were omniscient and omnipotent, then "he" could create a world in which all of his goals could be accomplished without pain and suffering.
P2a: If the creator of this world were omnibenevolent, then "he" would create a world in which all of his goals were accomplished without pain and suffering.
P3a: This world is not without pain and suffering.
Ca: Therefore the creator of this world is not omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent.

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

I believe P1a is true by definition. A being that is both omniscient and omnipotent would have both the wisdom and strength to accomplish his goals without inflicting (or allowing) pain and suffering.

VR: What if his goals were to make it possible for human creatures to love him freely, without being causally determined to love him. If this were God’s purpose, then God would have to open the possibility that human creatures would refuse to love him and would oppose his will. Far from being true by definition, this premise is highly doubtful.

It seems to me that P2a is also true by definition. Given a choice between accomplishing a goal with pain and suffering and accomplishing the same goal without it, a being that is all good would not inflict this pain and suffering because it would be unnecessary.

VR: Unless that pain and suffering were necessary to a greater good.

Perhaps it could be argued that "pain and suffering" are not "evil" and are, therefore, irrelevant to the discussion of a benevolent being. I feel this stance, however, is unusual. It seems that most humans agree that pain and suffering is evil. It seems to me that one arguing an unusual position should bear the burden of that claim. I realize that I am the one equating pain and suffering with evil, but I feel that since this is such a commonly held belief it is not my burden to defend this in detail. If asked, I will attempt to do so, however.

VR: I don’t know whether a life of eternal blessedness which began with an earthly career which included a good deal of pain and suffering would be better than an earthly career with a lot of suffering followed by an eternity of everlasting blessedness. In a way, I would think that I would appreciate the blessedness in heaven more if I were denied it on earth.

Denial of P3a seems antithetical to Christian doctrine and irreconcilable with human experience. If anyone disagrees, I will accept my burden to elaborate on this point.

Conclusion Ca follows from the premises.

Justification of P1b is taken, again, from Christian doctrine (or, perhaps, it is more appropriate to say that it is taken from Evangelical doctrine--e.g. Process theologians would not agree with this premise). Since my audience is mostly Evangelical, however, I do not feel the need to justify a premise derived from their own theology.

P2b is justified on the basis of P1a, P2a, and P3a above as it is simply the conclusion derived from those premises.

Conclusion Cb follows from the premises.

It seems to me that a possible defeator of this argument would be the claim that the Christian God could have had pain and suffering as a goal for humanity. In other words, while it might be true that an omnipotent and omniscient being could create a world in which many goals could be accomplished with or without pain and suffering, it might be the case that the particular goal of the Christian God in creating the world involved pain and suffering as its overall objective. Even an omniscient and omnipotent being could not accomplish a goal that included inflicting pain and suffering without pain and suffering.

This position, however, seems to create another problem. It seems to insist that the Christian God could not have chosen another goal for the world that did not involve pain and suffering. It seems to imply that the Christian God was not free to choose his own goals for the world; that he had to choose one that involved pain and suffering. This, however, seems to refute Christian doctrine of the Christian God's freedom, which leads into Argument #3.

VR: Some pain and suffering is involved in being a separate creature from God; if there is more than one person in the picture then the interests of one person can always conflict with those of others. This, however, makes possible the virtuous act of self-sacrifice; however, if we are free in the libertarian sense, the act of self-sacrifice might not be performed.


Mike D said...

"P1a: If the creator of this world were omniscient and omnipotent, then "he" could create a world in which all of his goals could be accomplished without pain and suffering."

I agree with Victor. Also, if a cornerstone of God's goals for this world is his expression of his love through the suffering and death of his Son, then P1a is false by definition. One of your obligations when composing an argument is to define your terms. By failing to define "goals", the premise is vulnerable.

thinking human said...

More than TEN MILLION CHILDREN under the age of 5 years old die every year of starvation.

Rasmus Møller said...

Thinking human: That does not look like an argument to me - it looks like emotional blackmail.

Victor Reppert said...

Actually that is an outstanding argument--for contributing to overseas relief.

HiveMaker said...

It is not an argument because it does not even pretend to address the substance of the position Mr. Reppert went to great pains to articulate. If Thinking Human feels Reppert's arguments do not adequately do so, s/he should explain why they do not, rather than simply restating the problem back at the audience.

Neither is it "emotional blackmail", since it is the self-appointed task of the theodicist to accommodate precisely such observations.

thinking human said...

I have neither time nor inclination to debate at length. I think the fact that 10 million children die every year of starvation is hard to reconcile with the idea of a merciful, just or omnipotent god. That you would think he was allowing this to happen for some "greater good" or some such nonsense is just obscene. And I think in your hearts you know it, however much you may like to dance around with your fancy numbered arguments and BS.

Don Jr. said...

Thinking Human,

This is a trivial aside, but if you have "neither time nor inclination to debate at length" nor interest in "fancy numbered arguments," then you ought to consider changing your pseudonym.

sola fide said...

Thinking human,

How much do you contribute to the relief of the starving children overseas? If that situation produces such indignation in you, surely you must contribute something. I mean, you accuse God of not caring, of not even existing in fact, because there are starving children in the world. I wonder, if you're so concerned about starving children, are you as equally concerned about aborted children? The harsh reality of children starving, among other harsh realities we must deal with in this fallen world, is the result of Man's sin, not God's lack of compassion. We have made our own bed, and though God is gracious and merciful, yet we still to one degree or another, must lie in it. So, the fact that there are problems in the world is no proof that God doesn't exist. I would assert that it confirms the truth of Scripture...

thinking human said...

Not that it is really relevant to the discussion, but I donate on an ongoing basis to various hunger relief organizations. I am actively working on a local community project right now. The reason I do this is that I do not expect any magical intervention now or in the future. Only through direct human action can these problems be solved. Interestingly, I think you agree that only humans can solve this problem.

Re: Original sin, outside of Paul's remarks, where in the Bible do you find that doctrine? Did God say it somewhere? Did Jesus say it? I can't find those references. I do not understand how this came to be accepted wisdom.

So do you think man's fallen state per Paul is enough of an explanation for this? That because Adam and Eve ate an apple, that justifies allowing millions of children to die each year? Does that not seem just a trifle harsh to you at all?

sola fide said...

Thinking human,

You are to be commended for your efforts to relieve suffering. God works through means, human effort is one of those means. There are only a few instances where food has miraculously appeared that have been recorded in Scripture, so I take those instances to be exceptional.

With regard to original sin David stated, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." (Ps. 51:5) That is not a reference to his mother being sexually promiscuous, but of his inherent sinfulness from birth. There are several other instances, but the inherent sinfulness of man is assumed throughout Scripture. That is why Christ came to call sinners to repentence. If there was ever one person who was not a sinner they would be justified as perfectly holy before God and would not need a Savior. The inherent sinfulness of man is quite apparent and easily observed in children. For example, I have never had to teach my little ones how to lie, or how to not obey their parents. It's something they do quite naturally. I do however have to teach them to tell the truth and to obey with joyful hearts. Have you ever come across a perfect person who has not sinned? Why not? If there is no original sin you should be able to find a sinless man or woman, right? Just look at the world, the fact that human nature is inherently evil is quite apparent.

The sin of Adam and Eve is not that they ate an apple, it's that they disobeyed God. They doubted His word to them and broke His commandment. The fruit is just the circumstance of their disobedience. They wanted the forbidden fruit for themselves, and wanted to establish their own morality apart from God (to know good and evil). Their sin was the sin of rebellion, which is why the devil was cast out of heaven and why he tempted them to the same sin that he himself committed. Does that justify starvation and suffering in this world? Not if you have little regard for the glorious, holy, and eternal God who created all things, but to the believer who has come to know something of the utter holiness and beauty of the God of the Bible, and has seen His goodness and mercy in Jesus Christ, it is understandable that starvation and suffering exist in this fallen world that still today rebels against God and breaks His commandments...

thinking human said...

Okay so Adam and Eve disobeyed God. I maintain that it is excessive punishment.

And it seems to me that there are just as many references in the Bible that disprove the concept of Original Sin.

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." Ezekiel 18:20

"The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin." Deuteronomy 24:16

"But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin." II Chronicles 25:4

"Him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not to him it is sin." Jas. 4:17

"Sin is not imputed where there is no law (the law gives the knowledge and is the knowledge of right and wrong). Romans 5:13

It seems to me that the bible teaches God created people with an inherently good nature, one that teaches the difference between good and evil and urges us to choose the good and refuse the evil. No one argues that little children are naughty and disobedient. Do you think they ought to burn in hell because of it? (maybe some days...) Seriously, would you condemn your children to ETERNAL torment for their childish misbehavior? How can you worship a deity that does?

Didn't Jesus teach that little children are without sin?

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 18:3

Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. Mark 10

Did he mean something else by that?

sola fide said...

Thinking human,

I maintain that to properly understand the text of Scripture you must interpret Scripture with Scripture (known as the analogy of the faith), and that to remove a text from its larger biblical context is to misunderstand the Bible's teaching as a whole. The Word of God must be handled very carefully, with humility and dependence upon God. That being said the texts you cite do not teach man's inherent goodness. That was forfeited in the Garden of Eden. Entering the kingdom as a little child means having the simple faith of a child, who when he asks his father a question and his father give him the answer, accepts that answer with love for and trust in his father. God is worthy of that love and trust, eminently worthy. That is the understanding I have come to embrace as I have studied the Scriptures as a whole, and this verse in particular. Of course I wouldn't condemn my children for disobedience, and God doesn't condemn His children either. He has sent them His own Son to die for them, and atone for their sins. He does condemn the rebellious ones though, who reject Him and His mercy and grace in Christ. Again, eternal condemnation for what you consider to be a small thing seems harsh to you, but that is because you do not know the glorious Being you revile and reject. If you had proper regard for the Holy One who created the world and all that is therein, you would at least understand to some degree that the punishment fits the crime. As an unbeliever I understand why you don't see this, I struggled with it too for a time when I was coming to know the Lord. First believe, then God will open your heart and your mind to understand...

thinking human said...

Again, Jesus and God never mentioned original sin that I can find in the Bible. Instead I find that each person is responsible for sinning or following the law. If you have citations that show otherwise according to Jesus or God, please share them.

God certainly does condemn those millions of children to hell according to Christian doctrine. Please explain how they can avoid damnation if they are living in a foreign country and have not been "saved."

sola fide said...

Thinking human,

All Scripture is inspired of God, so God is speaking throughout the Bible. Original sin is patently clear in Scripture. Why do you think that Adam and Eve's first son Cain killed his brother Abel? Why was the wickedness of man very great upon the earth, so much so that God brought the flood to destroy all those living at that time except Noah and his family? Why did God promise to send a Savior in Genesis 3 right after the Fall? In the book of Romans all men are designated as children of wrath by nature. It's all throughout Scripture. The fact that you don't see it demonstrates you misunderstanding of the Bible, and therefore your rejection of what you wrongly understand to be Christianity.

Starving children in a foreign country cannot avoid damnation if they do not come to Christ for salvation, anymore than someone here can. So, we do all we can to obey the command of Christ to preach the gospel to every creature. If these children are your burden then, relieve their suffering through your labors to provide for their needs, and come to Christ so that you can go to them and preach the message of God's mercy in Christ. Their never dying souls are of utmost value, how much greater good could you do by seeking their eternal well-being along with their temporal well-being. Please consider what I say...

thinking human said...

"Why did God promise to send a Savior in Genesis 3 right after the Fall?"

My online lookup of Genesis 3 on biblegateway.com does not indicate a savior coming. Please give me a complete citation.

"Starving children in a foreign country cannot avoid damnation if they do not come to Christ for salvation, anymore than someone here can."

Do you realize how truly evil and warped that belief is? Do you hear what you are saying? That an infant deserves ETERNAL damnation because it could not accept Christ? I could never agree with this sentiment. I would much rather burn in hell myself than worship an evil god who would permit that despicable act.

Fortunately, there's no evidence outside of the that that will happen. And I would no more accept the bible as evidence of Hell than I would accept Peter Pan as evidence of Neverland.


thinking human said...

That should have said "no evidence outside the bible that that will happen."

Anonymous said...

The thing I really do not get about Christians is how you could enjoy heaven while watching or knowing about others' suffering. How hard does your heart have to be for you to be blissful while millions of others suffer endless horrible torment?

sola fide said...

Thinking human,

Gen. 3:15 is the citation. There is only one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ (Jn.14:6). I do hear what I'm saying, I'm reiterating what Christ Himself said in Scripture. What sentiment you agree with doesn't change reality or the truth.

To anonymous:

No Christian delights in the suffering of others. If unbelievers reject God's way of salvation through Christ, who's fault is that but their own? They are rebellious and wicked for rejecting the gospel, and God's just wrath is poured out upon them, not because they weren't offered a Savior, but because they didn't want the one God provided. May God open the eyes of your heart, that you may see His glory in the face of Jesus Christ...

thinking human said...

Wow, you really have to bend over backwards to interpret Genesis 3:15 as a Messianic prophesy. In which case, what exactly was God's thinking? "First I'll punish you for a while and then in a few thousand years I'll send a savior?" Why the delay? That just makes no sense.

That's what I don't understand about Christianity. It just makes no sense from a rational perspective. You have to work really hard to reinterpret so many things to try to make it fit your philosophy.

Regarding unbelievers, many if not most of them will never hear the gospel. So it's not a matter of choice for millions. It's just the luck of the draw. It seems just a tad racist that all those people would be going to hell. Although I have heard the argument that God makes sure those who WOULD accept the gospel will be sent a missionary or something, no matter what deep jungle they live in. All righty then.

I appreciate your concern, which I am sure comes from a deep compassion for your fellow creatures. (This is not meant sarcastically) Please know that I argue out of a concern for you. I feel very sad that you will go through life with false expectations of something that will not happen. I feel sorry that you will probably not fulfill your full potential as a human being because of your religious beliefs. I am afraid that neither of us has any hope of convincing the other. However, I have enjoyed our conversation - as frustrating as it has often been, it has also been educational. Peace.

Anonymous said...

I'm not going to pretend to be learned on the subject of Scripture, but what is most remarkable to me is Thinking Human's main argument against God appears to be based entirely upon his/her sense of injustice. So one deny's God and with him the transcendent qualities of morality and yet uses those same morals up to disprove God? Adain the strangeness of a universe in which everything is meaningless and yet one part of it, rational beings, continue pointing that out....is personally bothersome to a neat argument against God's existence.