Monday, March 16, 2009

Partial Theodicies

•While it is too much to know why some evil did happen, it might be a good idea to have some ideas as to why a good deal of the evils in the world might have happened. These are partial theodicies that offer possible answers to the question of some evils, rather than comprehensive theodicies which give a full and sufficient account of why God permits any and all evils.

28 comments:

Ilíon said...

We already have a complete, or at lease sufficient, theodicy -- God permits evils precisely because he is God (*) -- but we reject it because it's not *emotionally* satisfying, and we reject it because we have chosen to be enslaved to magical thinking (i.e. we want and demand that 'A' and 'not-A' be simultaneously true).



(*) God is God:

1) God is Truth: God cannot lie, God cannot be what he is not. To put it another way: if God were to lie, then all things would cease to exist.

2) God has decreed that his creatures shall be morally free.

3) Since God's creatures *are* morally free, they are free to commit moral evil.

4) The possibility of moral evil is a logical necessity given that God has decreed freedom.

5) The instantiation of moral evil is not a logical necessity.

6) However, were God to prevent the instantiation of moral evil then he would be disputing his own decree, he would be at war with himself ... and all things would cease to exist.

Ilíon said...

ps: to say "if God were to lie, then all things would cease to exist" is to express the idea in the time-bound manner in which we finite being must think.

Another, and slightly better, way to put it is this: "if God lies then nothing (including God himself) exists"

Ilíon said...

BDK, Christianity asserts, and has always asserted, that all evils, moral and natural, ultimately result from human rebellion against God's sovereignty. Christianity asserts, and has always asserted, that when God's rule is restored then all evils, natural and moral, will be no more.


That you do not wish to believe either of these two assertions does not generate a logical contradiction in Christianity. That we cannot give you a naturalistic "explanation" for how human rebellion results in the entire Cosmos being out-of-whack does not generate a logical contradiction in Christianity.

Robert said...

Hello Victor and Ilion,

Regarding the “total theodicy” idea, isn’t a “total theodicy” an explanation as to why God allows **every evil** that occurs? Or to speak of it another way, isn’t it like saying that God has this “total plan” that encompasses every event which occurs so that there is a specific purpose or reason for which every single detail occurs? And isn’t that based on the further assumption that God has exhaustively predetermined whatever happens? In other words isn’t the unbeliever when asking about why specific evils occur, asking the question (assuming exhaustive predeterminism of all events, or assuming calvinism is true) what part this specific event plays in the “total plan” of God? But not all theists believe that God has exhaustively predetermined every event which occurs (in fact most do not). And furthermore even if we assume that calvinism were true and that God had in fact predetermined every event according to his total plan for history, wouldn’t you have to know the entire plan in order to have a total theodicy? And wouldn’t that amount to you having to **be** God to have the mind of God and know and understand the “total plan”? So even if the total plan existed, it seems to me that it would be beyond our capacity to know and understand it, correct? And aren’t the “partial theodicies” asking for the same access to the mind of God to discover His personal explanation as to why He permitted a particular event to occur? Or perhaps “partial theodicies” is merely trying to figure out **principles** as to why God allows certain events to occur. But even here, the principles are going to be based upon the reasons and values God has in His mind.

Ilion wrote:

“We already have a complete, or at lease sufficient, theodicy -- God permits evils precisely because he is God (*) -- but we reject it because it's not *emotionally* satisfying, and we reject it because we have chosen to be enslaved to magical thinking (i.e. we want and demand that 'A' and 'not-A' be simultaneously true).”

I am not sure **that** is an **explanation**, it seems more like an appeal to the authority and sovereignty of God (i.e., God permits it because He is God, and since He is God he does as He pleases). Now it is true that God is sovereign and has ultimate authority, but this does not explain **why** a particular evil is permitted to occur at a particular time. The unbeliever wants to know: why did (X) happen to person (Y) at time t. That is a demand for a very specific and personal explanation. Appealing to the fact that God is sovereign does not provide a personal explanation as to why a particular evil was permitted.

Ilion presented a “free will defense” consisting of points 1-6:

“(*) God is God:

1) God is Truth: God cannot lie, God cannot be what he is not. To put it another way: if God were to lie, then all things would cease to exist. . . . .6) However, were God to prevent the instantiation of moral evil then he would be disputing his own decree, he would be at war with himself ... and all things would cease to exist.”

This is a good statement of a “free will defense” and is helpful for partly explaining why morally evil choices come about. God values personal freedom on the part of human persons, creates them with that freedom, but that freedom also allows for the committing of morally evil actions. But it is still **too general** it does not explain why a **particular moral evil** was permitted at a **particular time t**.

Some demand a **personal explanation** as to why God permitted what they believe to be each evil that occurs. But that presumes a total plan which purposes and necessitates every event that occurs. But what if God in creating and designing the world did not have a total plan in mind but instead had certain values in mind and these values would go into why God created the world with the features that it has. If one of His values regarding humans was to create a being capable of enjoying personal relationship with him and also worshipping Him. Then that creature is going to have libertarian free will. People will need to have the capacity to choose what their own preferences will be (cf. in order to worship one over all others, one must distinguish one from all others and one must prefer or choose one over all other alternatives; but if one can prefer the true God over all others, one also has the capacity to freely choose another God to be the preferred one; just as being able to choose to do good also means that you have the ability to choose to do evil as well).

Now if God does not have a “total plan”, but rather creates a world that expresses his values (what is important to Him). Then the resulting world could and would have a mix of moral goodness and moral evil. A mix of what God wants to see and also what God does not want to see but nonetheless allows. And God would always act in line with His own values throughout the process. So if you wanted to know why God permitted a particular evil event to occur you would have to know not only God’s values, but what he was thinking in a specific situation. And it seems to me we do not have access to this information and to demand that we do is to make an inappropriate demand which will not be granted. In order to have such a personal explanation from God, we would need to know what reasons God has in mind in a particular situation as well as what values God was acting in line with in a particular situation.

It’s like asking a criminal about the crime that he has done, (which say we have on videotape): **why** did you do it? In order to get at the proper personal explanation of the event, one would need to know the reasons the criminal had in mind as well as what values of his own he was acting in line with when he did the crime. We have a hard time getting this kind of explanation from a criminal whose action is fully visible and videotaped and whom we can directly ask questions of, how are we going to get a similar personal explanation from God whose actions we do not directly observe and whose mind (and hence his reasons and values) we do not have access to?

Robert

Ilíon said...

Robert: "I am not sure **that** is an **explanation**, it seems more like an appeal to the authority and sovereignty of God (i.e., God permits it because He is God, and since He is God he does as He pleases)."

Robert, I was neither offereing a theodicy nor appealing to the authority of God's sovereignty. Rather, I was -- as is plainly spelled out in black and white -- explaining the nearly total refusal on the part of human beings to trust in God's goodness and faithfulness.

Blue Devil Knight said...

BDK, Christianity asserts, and has always asserted, that all evils, moral and natural, ultimately result from human rebellion against God's sovereignty.

I have also seen people assert that there is no such thing as natural evil. I have also seen people just say they don't understand it, but assume it is part of God's plan that they can't fathom.

But you say that because of human rebellion, a hundred thousand people are killed by an earthquake. That seems like a silly way for an omnipotent being to communicate to his subjects (to put it kindly).

Victor Reppert said...

If the earthquake is caused by rebellion, if would have to be angelic rebellion.

But I'm not actually going there.

Rob G said...

"If the earthquake is caused by rebellion, if would have to be angelic rebellion."

Bingo.

"But I'm not actually going there."

Wise!

Ilíon said...

BDK: "... That seems like a silly way for an omnipotent being to communicate to his subjects (to put it kindly)."

And you keep tossing around words of which you refuse to understand the meanings and the context in which the meaning applies.

As I keep pointing out, if you hope to find a contradiction in Christianity, then you're going to have to *deal* with Christianity; it will get you no where to play with your strawmen.


Ilíon: "BDK, Christianity asserts, and has always asserted, that all evils, moral and natural, ultimately result from human rebellion against God's sovereignty."

BDK: "But you say that because of human rebellion, a hundred thousand people are killed by an earthquake. That seems like a silly way for an omnipotent being to communicate to his subjects (to put it kindly)."

As with most atheistic "arguments" against the reality of God or against specific Christian doctrines, you're demanding to have it both ways -- in this instance: "Go to Hell, God! .... but keep us safe."

We humans rejected, and continue individually to reject, God and obedience to him, we willfully remove ourselves from his care; thus, he has no "legal" obligation to keep us safe. That we continue to exist, that our Cosmos does not wink out of existence, is because God is extending us mercy, and not justice.

======
VR: "If the earthquake is caused by rebellion, if would have to be angelic rebellion."

Rob G: "Bingo."

Really? It's logically necessary that IF the earthquake is (ultimately) caused by rebellion, THEN said rebellion is not ours, but rather that of spiritual beings?

How interesting.

======
VR: "But I'm not actually going there."

Have you considered the speculative idea that *we* are those rebelious angelic beings?

Ilíon said...

Robert: "Regarding the “total theodicy” idea, isn’t a “total theodicy” an explanation as to why God allows **every evil** that occurs? Or to speak of it another way, isn’t it like saying that God has this “total plan” that encompasses every event which occurs so that there is a specific purpose or reason for which every single detail occurs? And isn’t that based on the further assumption that God has exhaustively predetermined whatever happens? ... "

Why would we imagine that to be the case?

Let's look at a different subject matter, one near and dear to the hearts of most God-haters: 'modern evolutionary theory.' Does 'modern evolutionary theory' generate a statement explaining every biological phenomenon? Of course not! Do 'modern evolutionary theorists' accept as true an assertion that they have an obligation to ensure that 'modern evolutionary theory' *can* generate a statement explaining every biological phenomenon? Of course not! And yet, do not 'modern evolutionary theorists' constantly assert that 'modern evolutionary theory' fully explains all biological phenomena? (*all bow to the greatness and fullness of 'modern evolutionary theory'*)

How is this logically possible? It's because a "complete" theory is general, rather than specific. It must be able to account for all known phenomena within its purview; but it is not required that it be able to "predict" or "explain" all possible phenomena within its purview. Rather, what it does "predict" or "explain" must not turn out to be either false or contrary to the theory itself, and what is discovered must continue to be in accord with the theory.

[And, by the way, 'modern evolutionary theory,' like atheism, is seen to be false because it *does* generate contradiction.]


Now, when we turn from theories of physics (or biology) to theories of meta-physics, there is the additional complication that at some point or another we're going to be talking about agents/subjects/selves/wills, and, definitially, these cannot be captured by mechanism.

People in general, and especially God-haters, want and demand a mechanistic "explanation" for evil (that is, when they're not busy asserting that the concepts 'good' and 'evil' are empty and meaningless) -- and Christianity keeps insisting, "No, just that won't do. Evil, all evil, results from the abusive exercise of free will, not from some mechanism."


If "evil" (or "good") is mechanistic, or results solely from some broken (or not-yet-formed!) mechanism in the physical makeup of the Cosmos, then the concepts of 'good' and 'evil' *are* empty and meaningless.

If people want to rage about the "evil" which exists in the world, and especially if they want to rage against God for allowing it to continue, then it is hardly rational or logical for them to assert that the concepts 'good' and 'evil' are empty and meaningless and/or that God does not exist.

And yet, they keep doing just that.


Robert: "... So even if the total plan existed, it seems to me that it would be beyond our capacity to know and understand it, correct? ..."

No doubt.

That's one more reason that Christians really do need to stop being so concerned with most of the charges and "arguments" the God-haters make. What they're demanding is the moral/logical right to say "Until I understand everything about God, then I will deny that he is God." Certainly, they have the *freedom* to assert that, but they don't have the right; what they're trying to assert is that God must bow to them.

Robert: "... And aren’t the “partial theodicies” asking for the same access to the mind of God to discover His personal explanation as to why He permitted a particular event to occur? Or perhaps “partial theodicies” is merely trying to figure out **principles** as to why God allows certain events to occur. But even here, the principles are going to be based upon the reasons and values God has in His mind."

Yes (as see at the start of this post; as see my post you are commenting on).


Robert: "Some demand a **personal explanation** as to why God permitted what they believe to be each evil that occurs. But that presumes a total plan which purposes and necessitates every event that occurs. ..."

Does it? It seems to me that it presumes that God answers to us, rather than that we must answer to God.

Robert: " [continuing on] "

Of course, but what you're saying is *reasonable* and logical -- and people are rejecting understanding of it on the basis of emotion. Or willful pride.

Blue Devil Knight said...

My point, Ilion is that you overgeneralize a parochial view. There are many possible answers besides "God did it because of human rebellion." It's not just atheists and nonChristians that think it's silly to allow a hundred thousand innocent people to die because of other people's rebellion. If this was the best Christianity had, then Christianity wouldn't be as popular as it is.

Victor, I wonder if CS Lewis hought God allowed his wife to die because of human rebellion? Perhaps this view is more prevalent than I thought among non Catholics.

Blue Devil Knight said...

I guess Ilion disagrees with this, which I agree with:
"We do others a grievous disservice to hold out to them in private or in the pulpit any expectation to understand why God would permit so much evil or any particular instance, expectations which we have no reason to believe will be fulfilled, expectations which when left unfulfilled can become near irresistible grounds for rejecting the faith. We are in the dark here. We can’t see how any reason we know of, or the whole lot of them combined, would justify God n permitting so much horrible evil or any particular horror. We need to own up to that fact. "

There is a difference between saying "Christians think X" and "X". Perhaps X is right, but it is misleading to act as if it is settled or consensual.

Ilíon said...

BDK: "My point, Ilion is that you overgeneralize a parochial view. There are many possible answers besides "God did it because of human rebellion." ..."

No, I'm telling you what Christianity explicitly asserts and has always asserted: that the entire Cosmos has been thrown out of whack by sin, by rebellion against God.

Of course there are other possible answers (i.e. "explanations") for the natural turmoil which leads to natural suffering. For instance, here is the atheistic answer: "That's just how it is, it doesn't *mean* anything, it can never mean anything; there is no *reason* for it, and you will never "be made whole" or "find closure" anywhere."


BDK: "... It's not just atheists and nonChristians that think it's silly to allow a hundred thousand innocent people to die because of other people's rebellion. ..."

And I've shown you *why* it's not silly: we have demanded (and continue to demand) of God that he get the hell out of our world and our lives, and he has partly withdrawn from us, partly removed his protection from us (and thus, Cosmos is always threatening to slide into Chaos). Were he to completely leave us to our own devices, the entire Cosmos would cease at once to exist.

This is the nature of sin -- that the 'innocent' pay the penalty; it is ever thus.


BDK: "... think it's silly to allow a hundred thousand innocent people to die ..."

Atheism: "That's just how it is, it doesn't *mean* anything, it can never mean anything; there is no *reason* for it, and you will never "be made whole" or "find closure" anywhere."

Christianity: "There is a cause and a reason for the senseless suffering in the world; and you can "be made whole" or "find closure" if you will."


And you want to talk about "silly?" And you want to pretend to care about suffering (and demand that I pretend to believe that you do care)?

I understand quite well what you want to do, even it you will not allow yourself to understand what you're attempting. You want to distract attention away from dealing with the First Question: "Exists God?" But, as we can see here, the "silliness" of atheism is easly to uncover no matter where we look.


BDK: " ... If this was the best Christianity had, then Christianity wouldn't be as popular as it is."

Then again, perhaps Christianity became so popular precisely because people could see that it wasn't mere feelgoodism and that its claims resonate with what they know to be true about themselves and their fellows and because it tells them that there will ultimately be an answer for all the senselessness in the world and that there will ultimately be both justice and mercy.

It's true that there are many so-called Christians these days who refuse to come to grips with what Christianity actually says. That's their problem, not yours. When you stop fighting against God and become a Christian, perhaps it will be that God calls you to minister to and correct these so-called Christians.

Robert said...

Hello Ilion,

Before responding to some of your comments made to me, I want to bring up something that you referred to in an earlier post that I believe to be very important to remember.

You wrote:

“BDK, Christianity asserts, and has always asserted, that all evils, moral and natural, ultimately result from human rebellion against God's sovereignty. Christianity asserts, and has always asserted, that when God's rule is restored then all evils, natural and moral, will be no more.”

Here you are referring to the Christian belief in the “fall” (i.e., that when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, this brought huge negative effects upon the entire creation, so that the apostle Paul speaks of the creation “For the creation was subjected to futility . . . that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know, that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now” Rom. 8:20-22).

In addition to this point about the fall, I would add that another Christian belief is that: for sin comes death. If Adam and Eve had received strict justice from God they would have experienced immediate physical death for their rebellion. But instead God has mercy, in fact the whole human race is “running on borrowed time” (i.e., if we got what we strictly **deserved** we would all get death and eternal separation from God). But instead of operating strictly according to justice (for sin comes death and then eternal separation), God operates with mercy towards the human race. He developed a plan of salvation, of rescuing the human race based upon Christ. If one combines these two Christian doctrines then we realize that we live in a fallen world and that we exist through the mercy of God alone. God does not owe us anything, and if He gave us what we deserve for our sin, we would be dead and eternally separated from him.

I make these points because it seems to me that often the nonbeliever tries to make it an issue of justice (i.e., if God were good and just then He would never ever allow any evil to occur, he would immediately intervene and prevent evil from occurring). What this leaves out is that **if** we did in fact immediately get what we deserve it would not be divine intervention to save us from evil, it would be divine intervention to justly condemn and destroy rebellious sinners.

“Does 'modern evolutionary theory' generate a statement explaining every biological phenomenon? Of course not!”

Interesting example.

“How is this logically possible? It's because a "complete" theory is general, rather than specific. It must be able to account for all known phenomena within its purview; but it is not required that it be able to "predict" or "explain" all possible phenomena within its purview. Rather, what it does "predict" or "explain" must not turn out to be either false or contrary to the theory itself, and what is discovered must continue to be in accord with the theory.”

I agree that a general theory will only explain things in a general manner. But the nonbelievers I have encountered are not asking for a general theory but for a personal explanation as to why a specific evil occurred. And the follow up is why did God allow **this** to occur?

“Now, when we turn from theories of physics (or biology) to theories of meta-physics, there is the additional complication that at some point or another we're going to be talking about agents/subjects/selves/wills, and, definitionally, these cannot be captured by mechanism.”

Good point they sometimes demand mechanistic explanations when we are talking about persons, agents, with God Himself being a personal agent who does things for reasons and in line with what He values.

“People in general, and especially God-haters, want and demand a mechanistic "explanation" for evil (that is, when they're not busy asserting that the concepts 'good' and 'evil' are empty and meaningless) -- and Christianity keeps insisting, "No, just that won't do. Evil, all evil, results from the abusive exercise of free will, not from some mechanism."”

Good point again, it is wills committing evil actions that causes evil. Inanimate things do not commit evil actions, only personal agents do so.

“If people want to rage about the "evil" which exists in the world, and especially if they want to rage against God for allowing it to continue, then it is hardly rational or logical for them to assert that the concepts 'good' and 'evil' are empty and meaningless and/or that God does not exist.

And yet, they keep doing just that.”

I find it to be more of the “rebellion” to shake your fist at God for evils in the world, when it is His mercy alone that allows you to live and even shake your fist. And that mercy exists in order to give you an opportunity to come into personal relationship with Him. But they don’t want Him, they want to dictate what He should and should not be doing!

“That's one more reason that Christians really do need to stop being so concerned with most of the charges and "arguments" the God-haters make. What they're demanding is the moral/logical right to say "Until I understand everything about God, then I will deny that he is God." Certainly, they have the *freedom* to assert that, but they don't have the right; what they're trying to assert is that God must bow to them.”

What I see a lot of is the nonbeliever himself becoming the criteria or standard of what is acceptable or unacceptable (seen in statements that sit in judgment over God: if God were good or loving or . . . then He would do . . .). In a word they are “playing God” because rather than submitting to Him as Lord, they want God to submit to THEM!

“Does it? It seems to me that it presumes that God answers to us, rather than that we must answer to God.”

This idea that “God answers to us” rather than vice versa is what I mean by “playing God”. They’ve got the roles reversed and some even exult in that!

“Of course, but what you're saying is *reasonable* and logical -- and people are rejecting understanding of it on the basis of emotion. Or willful pride.”

The problem of unbelief in my opinion is most often, not unbelief for reasons and logic (though that “looks nicer”)but willful rebellion and rejection of God and specifically his authority. What I find interesting about the “new atheists” (e.g., Dawkins, Dennett) is not new and stronger reasonable arguments against Christianity. But more intense emotion and hostility towards religion and particularly the God of the bible. It’s as if they have major chips on their shoulders and want to appear to be making rational attacks against Christianity when in fact it is obvious that their hatred for the God of the bible is hiding behind “intellectual reasons”. The hatred they exhibit shows that it’s become **personal** for them. Exactly what you would expect from people in willful and intentional rebellion against their creator!

Robert

Blue Devil Knight said...

The problem of unbelief in my opinion is most often, not unbelief for reasons and logic (though that “looks nicer”)but willful rebellion and rejection of God and specifically his authority.

This is a bit of a stretch. This assumes that theism has a certain pull on the psychology of the nonbeliever that it frankly often doesn't have (perhaps it does with those that recently rejected their theism). My life is 99 percent free of thoughts of gods and such. I come here partly to see what theists think about, but other than that it's really not there.

This kind of psychological dismissal of atheism is as bad as such dismissals of Christianity, claims such as theists are stuck in a childlike state psychologically, still looking for a magical perfect father.

I'll avoid such psychologistic babble, at least on this site.

I understand the concept of the Fall, and that it is supposed to explain our present state.

You act as if it is not my place to question God. Assuming theism, and that my sense of morality is from God, what am I to do? Turn off my moral sense?

Those "rebelling" aren't setting the tone of the debate, common sense and reasonable moral premises are setting the tone.

Have you ever spent a lot of time with a child that is about to die of cancer? I have. I have spent a good deal of time with many sweet children dying of cancer, suffering for months as their bodies waste away to nothing, as they (or more often, their parents) wonder why God is allowing this to happen to them. The cancer and chemotherapy rolling along with the parents in agony, they see their kids turn from happy-go-lucky firebrands into emaciated shells.

I see that almost every day in the hospital. If I could snap my fingers to help those kids, I would do it. Even if one of their great grandparents rebelled against me, I wouldn't be so petty as to not help them.

As I said, this is not a high-falutin subtle moral labyrinthe I'm walking. It is moral common sense. That is what makes the problem of evil so real and difficult, in particular natural evil.

Sure, you can try to dismiss the problem because there putatively exists a self-consisent philosophical system in which it can be explained. But if that system doesn't jibe with fundamental moral sense, why would you want to enter that system?

Victor Reppert said...

You just believe because you are afraid to face up to your own mortality.

You just believe because you want desperately to believe in a Father in heaven (a sky-daddy).

You just believe because you grew up as a believer.

You just disbelieve because you don't want to acknowledge someone who has the right to give commandments and call you a sinner if you violate them.

You just disbelieve because you want to be one of the supreme beings of the universe.

All of these arguments, to my mind, add up to zero.

Ilíon said...

Those are arguments?

Ilíon said...

Robert: "The problem of unbelief in my opinion is most often, not unbelief for reasons and logic (though that “looks nicer”)but willful rebellion and rejection of God and specifically his authority."

BDK: "... This kind of psychological dismissal of atheism ..."

As is usual, you're not paying attention. And you may be "projecting" (you folks do a lot of that).

Ilíon said...

BDK: "I'll avoid such psychologistic babble, at least on this site."

Will you now?

BDK: "Sure, you can try to dismiss the problem because there putatively exists a self-consisent philosophical system in which it can be explained. ..."

Is that not psychobabblish?

BDK: "... Have you ever spent a lot of time with a child that is about to die of cancer? I have. ..."

And this, what is this?


Will you also avoid trying to build strawmen;will you avoid "misunderstanding" what you're "arguing" against?

BDK: "You act as if it is not my place to question God. Assuming theism, and that my sense of morality is from God, what am I to do? Turn off my moral sense?"


Will you reason? Will you ground that "moral sense" you claim to possess in anything my sunstantial that yourself? Or, is your "moral sense" just kinda vaguely out there, somewhere?

BDK: "As I said, this is not a high-falutin subtle moral labyrinthe I'm walking. It is moral common sense. That is what makes the problem of evil so real and difficult, in particular natural evil."


Will you continue to avoid admitting the nullity that atheism offers as "answer" to the "problem of pain?" How is it that you imagine you can beat God with this stick -- which by your lights doesn't even exist?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Ilion: you must be good at dodgeball.

Ilíon said...

Ah, yes! Because I can spot and call you attempting to dodge.

Robert said...

Blue Devil Knight I am a bit disappointed by your response. You took one small snippet from what I have been saying and then responded to that while ignoring everything else that I have said in this thread.

I had said:

“The problem of unbelief in my opinion is most often, not unbelief for reasons and logic (though that “looks nicer”) but willful rebellion and rejection of God and specifically his authority.”

Note that I said **most often**. Well **most often** for me does not mean IN EVERY CASE. I realize that there are some unbelievers who reject God due to extremely difficult circumstances they have dealt with. I can understand and sympathize with this perspective. I’ve met folks like that. I am not talking about that kind of person. No, I am talking about the person who exhibits intense hostility towards religion and in particular Christianity and hides behind supposedly sophisticated arguments. The intensity of the hostility demonstrates that things have become quite “personal” for that individual. In **these** cases the people that I have encountered have always had an issue with authority (basically they take the tack that “no one tells me what to do, think, or say”). Well if that “no one” includes God, then there is most definitely an issue with authority, and specifically with God’s authority.

“This is a bit of a stretch. This assumes that theism has a certain pull on the psychology of the nonbeliever that it frankly often doesn't have (perhaps it does with those that recently rejected their theism). My life is 99 percent free of thoughts of gods and such. I come here partly to see what theists think about, but other than that it's really not there.”

Should I take things on **your** authority or consider what the bible says about this?

The bible says of the atheist that “the fool has said in his heart there is no God.” Where is the fool saying this? The text says “in his heart.” In other words he is saying it to himself, attempting to persuade himself of the truth of atheism. In another place the apostle Paul writes: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power, and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. . . . For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 1:18-25)”

Much could be said about these verses, but the verses clearly suggest that God has revealed Himself to all, and yet most rejected this God-given knowledge and preferred to worship some other God besides the God of the bible. The passage suggests this rebellion on the part of man is intentional not accidental, and that man is accountable and to blame for this rejection of God. The passage also says they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. This means not an ignorant rejection of truth, but someone who does so in a disingenuous manner.

“This kind of psychological dismissal of atheism is as bad as such dismissals of Christianity, claims such as theists are stuck in a childlike state psychologically, still looking for a magical perfect father.”

Romans 1 does in fact describe the psychological dismissal of Christianity.

“I'll avoid such psychologistic babble, at least on this site.”

I have not engaged in “psychological babble” and in fact my perspective is partly derived from the Romans 1 passage. Perhaps you will now claim that Romans 1 presents “psychologistic babble”.

“I understand the concept of the Fall, and that it is supposed to explain our present state.”

And how does it explain the “present state”?

“You act as if it is not my place to question God. Assuming theism, and that my sense of morality is from God, what am I to do? Turn off my moral sense?”

When did I say that?

Neither did I suggest “turning off” your “moral sense”.

Regarding questioning God, the bible itself includes examples of this (see Job, and some of the Old Testament prophets such as Habakkuk).

“Those "rebelling" aren't setting the tone of the debate, common sense and reasonable moral premises are setting the tone.”

That is both inaccurate and naïve. Actually the “new atheists” and other atheists are trying to set the tone of the debate. Why do you think they are producing their books and going on their book tours? They neither present common sense nor reasonable moral premises. Rather they present emotional screeds, bring up arguments that are very weak and not new. The argument that science rules out God for example is not new and extremely weak. But they keep saying it over and over (perhaps if it is said enough then people will believe this lie, this atheistic propaganda).

“Have you ever spent a lot of time with a child that is about to die of cancer? I have. I have spent a good deal of time with many sweet children dying of cancer, suffering for months as their bodies waste away to nothing, as they (or more often, their parents) wonder why God is allowing this to happen to them. The cancer and chemotherapy rolling along with the parents in agony, they see their kids turn from happy-go-lucky firebrands into emaciated shells.
I see that almost every day in the hospital. If I could snap my fingers to help those kids, I would do it. Even if one of their great grandparents rebelled against me, I wouldn't be so petty as to not help them.”

By these words you sit in judgment of God because you claim that if you were Him you would immediately help the children you wouldn’t be as “petty” as you think God to be. Well your experience is children, I have other experiences (mine have been with adults with cancer), and I can bring up many others who have dealt with real genuine human suffering and tragedy (e.g. my wife’s experiences as children’s counselor at a shelter for abused women and children). Others have seen suffering just as you have and yet they do not sit in judgment of God as you do here.

“As I said, this is not a high-falutin subtle moral labyrinthe I'm walking. It is moral common sense. That is what makes the problem of evil so real and difficult, in particular natural evil.”

There is only a “problem of evil” from a religious perspective. If there is no God and this life is it, then people simply choose what they want to be good and evil (that is called moral relativism the logical consequence of there being no absolute basis for good and evil, no God or as Dostoevsky put it: “if there is no God then everything is permitted”). Perhaps you find the suffering of the children here to be “evil” but to another from a militant and anti-American culture, they are happy to see our children dying, for them it’s a good thing.

“Sure, you can try to dismiss the problem because there putatively exists a self-consisent philosophical system in which it can be explained. But if that system doesn't jibe with fundamental moral sense, why would you want to enter that system?”

When did I “try to dismiss the problem”? This is what I mean by ignoring what I have said on this thread. I said earlier that even if there were personal explanations as to why a particular evil occurs, we would have to have the mind of God to know them, which we do not have access to. So even if these explanations exist in the mind of God we have no access to them so we merely end up speculating about them. I am not the one suggesting “a self-consistent philosophical system”.

I would also add here that the biblical principle is “to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” This means when someone suffers we do not launch into a presentation of “a self-consistent philosophical system”. Rather we do what we can to comfort the person (i.e. we act upon our moral sense and do good). I don’t need a “philosophical system” to comfort people. And most people understand this.

So ***who is it*** that is demanding that we present some sort of “self-consistent philosophical system” to explain the problem of evil TO THEIR SATISFACTION?? It is nonbelievers who demand this system as they sit in judgment of God. They sit in the cat bird seat complaining that the presence of evil suggests that God does not exist, that if they were God they would do this or that, and demand some philosophical system that meets with their satisfaction. But whatever is presented to them is just disregarded and attacked, so they can keep in their cat bird seat, or should I say so that they can continue to sit in judgment of God regarding the presence of evils. C. Lewis talked about this as people putting “God in the Dock”. They’ve got the roles reversed: instead of God being judge over them, they are the judge of God.

Robert

Ilíon said...

Robert: "I would also add here that the biblical principle is “to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” This means when someone suffers we do not launch into a presentation of “a self-consistent philosophical system”. Rather we do what we can to comfort the person (i.e. we act upon our moral sense and do good). I don’t need a “philosophical system” to comfort people. And most people understand this."

I'm not so sure about that last sentence. In my experience, people, especially if they're not Christians (*), and even when they claim to be atheists, nearly always try to offer a "[in]consistent philosophical system" when they think they're comforting the grieving.

For instance, when my parents died (and moreso when my mother died), I found myself in the odd and uncomfortable situation of comforting my comforters by politely listening (or pretending to listen) to their inanities.


(*) Now, perhaps, in total, Christians are just as prone to fall into this trap; but in recounting from one's experience, one can recount only from one's experience.

Blue Devil Knight said...

Robert said "There is only a “problem of evil” from a religious perspective. "

I disagree, and join up with Euthyphro on this one. If God told me that raping babies was morally good, I'd be all, "Ummm, sorry God, but you're just way off on that whole baby raping thing." I would not bow to his authority, but my moral sense.

At any rate, there appears to be an emotional disconnect in those that aren't bothered by natural evil. It's sort of like atheists that say there is nothing puzzling (to the naturalist) about consciousness.

Robert said...

Blue Devil Knight wrote:

“Robert said ‘There is only a “problem of evil” from a religious perspective. ‘

I disagree, and join up with Euthyphro on this one. If God told me that raping babies was morally good, I'd be all, "Ummm, sorry God, but you're just way off on that whole baby raping thing." I would not bow to his authority, but my moral sense.”

Once again you completely ignored my point. If there is no God, then there is no absolute basis for good or evil and again as Doestoevsky so well put it: “If there is no God then everything is permitted.” If there is no absolute basis for good or evil, which would be true if atheism were true, then we are left to our own choices as to what is good and evil. Good and Evil become mere personal preferences. You’ve got yours and I’ve got mine, with neither having any greater authority in themselves (unless you’ve got the bigger stick to enforce yours upon me).

“At any rate, there appears to be an emotional disconnect in those that aren't bothered by natural evil. It's sort of like atheists that say there is nothing puzzling (to the naturalist) about consciousness.”

Again, imagine there is no God, this life is it, the natural world has nothing behind it, all we have is nature alone. Well then when that major disaster comes, like an earthquake or Tsunami and people are killed, that natural event is not “evil” nor is it “good”, it just is what it is (actually rather than being good or evil, it becomes we are lucky or unlucky to be involved in it). **Good and evil** make sense only if in some way a person and choice is involved. If there is no God and “stuff just happens” in the natural world, then those events are neither “good” nor “evil”. Purely natural events have no morality attached to them. Our heartbeat and our digestion are neither “good” nor “evil”. So again the so-called “problem of evil” only exists in some sort of ***personal context*** where some person has done something (or not done something) or some event occurs and someone wonders why God (who is a person) didn’t prevent it or do something.

Regarding being “bothered” by natural evil, I (like I hope is true with others) am “bothered” whenever human beings suffer, whether their suffering is caused by a personal action (a wrong choice) or a “natural disaster”.

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Ilion,

“I'm not so sure about that last sentence. In my experience, people, especially if they're not Christians (*), and even when they claim to be atheists, nearly always try to offer a "[in]consistent philosophical system" when they think they're comforting the grieving.”

My point and perhaps I did not make it clearly enough is that **when** people are suffering they don’t need “self consistent philosophical explanations/theodicies”: they need to be comforted. Perhaps at another time these abstract philosophical notions can be discussed, but there are times when they are completely inappropriate. Ilion in your words here you present the case of people who go ahead and present them anyway, that is a mistake.

“For instance, when my parents died (and more so when my mother died), I found myself in the odd and uncomfortable situation of comforting my comforters by politely listening (or pretending to listen) to their inanities.”

These comments here prove my point. The “comforters” tried to come comfort you with “their inanities”. That is the mistake as some of these “inanities” may include abstract philosophical and/or theological notions such as theodicies. Sometimes the best thing is to say nothing and just hug people or just give them food or water or just be there and listen to them. We don’t want to be like “Job’s comforters” providing all sorts of explanations that are wrong and failing to comfort the person who is suffering.

Robert

Blue Devil Knight said...

Robert said "Once again you completely ignored my point. If there is no God, then there is no absolute basis for good or evil."

I was directly addressing your point. Perhaps you should become familiar with Plato's Euthyphro argument, which I explicitly mentioned. It should be familiar to anyone with a passing interest in moral philosophy.

Robert said...

“I was directly addressing your point. Perhaps you should become familiar with Plato's Euthyphro argument, which I explicitly mentioned. It should be familiar to anyone with a passing interest in moral philosophy.”

Is that the dilemma between: Is something commanded by God good simply because God commanded it (which meand that then God could arbitrarily declare something evil to be good and vice versa), or is something good and so that is why God commands it (so morality is something independent of God)? I’ve never had much of a problem with this supposed dilemma because for me, God is good and what is commanded by Him comes from **who God is** (so a good person, God, commands what is good, perhaps this is too simple for some but its sufficient for me). God’s commands flow from His character. So when He commands us to do something good, it’s because that commandment reflects the kind of person He is.

Take a famous and universal law of God: God commands people not to commit adultery. God wants marriages to be stable and involve love and trust. There won’t be much trust if you cannot trust your partner because of their infidelities. And why does God want stable marriages? Because He is both loving and good and highly values healthy relationships and wants relationships where love and trust are present. He also wants marriage relationships which will be healthy environments for children to be raised in. He Himself is totally faithful and loyal in His nature and in His relationships, so why should we then be surprised that a command prohibiting adultery should come from **that person**? From a person with character like that.

You had earlier written:

“I disagree, and join up with Euthyphro on this one. If God told me that raping babies was morally good, I'd be all, "Ummm, sorry God, but you're just way off on that whole baby raping thing." I would not bow to his authority, but my moral sense.”

That moral sense that you refer to here comes from God. The book of Romans talks about the “law written on the heart” referring to this moral law. C. S. Lewis called it the moral law and wrote about how you could find evidence of it even in other cultures. God is a good person and so He is not going to be commanding you to be raping babies. And your moral sense that we ought not rape babies is the moral law written on your heart by God (He does not contradict Himself in this so what He writes on the heart is not going to be contradicted by a command from Him to rape babies).

The moral sense written on the heart is further evidence of the existence of God. The apostle Paul talks about man’s rebellion including his going against this moral sense that God has written on the heart. So the nonbeliever intentionally rejects both the evidence of creation as well as the moral law on his heart. This is why Paul says they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (i.e., the rebellion against God’s truth and the truths that He has revealed whether by natural revelation or supernatural revelation is disingenuous).

C. S. Lewis talked about how this moral sense in us sometimes “yells”, but unfortunately many continue to reject it. Ever wonder why we find “moral” people in all sorts of religious traditions as well as non-religious traditions? They are obeying this moral law that has been written on their heart by God. That is also why when it comes to morality I can usually get along quite well with people who are of other religions and even non-religious persons, if they are moral persons (and what beliefs will those moral people hold? The moral laws written on the heart by God). If we agree with the moral law on the heart, then we will all agree that raping babies is wrong. Those of us who are religious will also believe that God as the good and loving person that He is, would not command us to rape babies and go against the moral law He writes on our hearts.

Robert