Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Satan and the Problem of Evil Redated

This is an old post of mine, with the comments included in the same line as the text, on the role of Satan in the problem of evil.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Could it be Satan?
My daughter is writing a paper on the problem of evil, and asked me what I thought of the attempt to explain natural evil as a species of moral evil. In the literature on the problem of evil, moral evil is thought to be the result of the actions of creatures do wrong. Examples of this would be Hitler’s slaughter of the Jews, the party purges of Stalin, the murders of Ted Bundy and Jack the Ripper, but also would include less dramatic evils such as the sins I have committed today. Natural evil is evil that does not result from the actions of creatures, such as earthquakes, floods, being struck by lightning, illness, old age, etc.
In the case of moral evil, a solution looks to be available. God, it seems, has an interest in free obedience, and by free I mean that obedience that is not determined or controlled by God himself. (See my discussion of Star Trek in a previous entry). But in order for God to open the way obedience that is free in this sense, God must refuse to control the outcome of our choices, but if he does that, then he risks the possibility that disobedience. I realize this involves rejecting the claim that free will and determinism are compatible. If freedom and determinism are compatible, then God could have created the World of Mr. Rogers, the world in which everyone freely does what is right.
Plantinga’s Demon Scenario
For the sake of this discussion, I will assume that the problem of moral evil is answerable in terms of human free will. This still leaves the serious problem of explaining natural evil. In Alvin Plantinga’s The Nature of Necessity, he mentions the idea that all evils are broadly moral evil, because while some evils are the result of human free choices, other evils are the result of the free choices of non-human creatures. He writes:
But another and more traditional line of thought is pursued by St. Augustine, who attributes much of the evil we find to Satan, or to Satan and his cohorts. Satan, so the traditional doctrine goes, is a mighty non-human spirit who, along with many other angels, was created long before God created man. Unlike most of his colleagues, Satan rebelled against God and since has been wreaking whatever havoc he can. The result is natural evil. So the natural evil we find is due to free actions of non-human spirits.1
Now, Plantinga points out that for Augustine, this appeal to Satanic agency is an attempt to provide a theodicy, that is, to provide a true explanation for why God permits suffering. A defense, on the other hand, is an attempt to refute some version of the argument from evil. That may involve providing the actual explanation for the existence of evils, but it may not. The argument from evil Plantinga is discussing here is often called the logical problem of evil; it involves the claim that theists, in believing both that there is a God and in also being a realist about the evils in the world, the theist is implicitly contradicting himself. All we need to refute this argument is to provide a possible scenario according to which God and the evils in this world co-exist. Plantinga therefore claims that the demon scenario meets this requirement, and therefore, he claims the logical problem of evil stands refuted.
Over the years, and largely due to the work of Plantinga, attention has shifted from the logical problem of evil to the probabilistic or evidential problem of evil. The idea is that while it is possible that God existence is compatible with the suffering and evil we find in the world, nevertheless, it can be argued that evil in the world makes God’s existence improbable, or that that evil and suffering is strong evidence against the existence of God. In response to this argument, Plantinga says:
(The demon scenario), for example, involves the idea that the evil that is not due to free agency, is due to the agency of other rational and significantly free creatures. Do we have evidence against this idea? Many people find it preposterous; but that is scarcely evidence against it. Theologians sometimes tell us that this idea is repugnant to “man come of age” or to “modern habits of thought.” I am not convinced that this is so; in any case it does not come to much as evidence. The mere fact that a belief in unpopular at present (or at some other time) is interesting, no doubt, from a sociological point of view; it is evidentially irrelevant. Perhaps, we do have evidence against this belief, but if we do, I do not know what it is.2
I recall a conversation in my office with Plantinga when I was a fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Religion at Notre Dame in which Plantinga told me that even though he presented the scenario as a possible scenario, he considered demonic influence to be the real explanation of many of the evils in the world. Certainly this explanation has biblical support, as is evident from reading Job or the Gospels. It also has the support of an obscure popular British theologian from the middle of the past century, a guy by the name of..uh..uh..Lewis. (See the Animal Pain chapter of The Problem of Pain).
Atheist philosopher Keith M. Parsons, in his book God and the Burden of Proof, however, offers two criticisms of the demon scenario as a defense against the problem of evil. He writes:
But how is this even possible? What would it be like to bring about natural evils? Natural evils are caused, so far as we can tell, by the same fundamental laws of nature that explain all other natural phenomena. Earthquakes are caused by the same tectonic processes that produce majestic mountain ranges; pathogens and parasites evolved according to the same kittens and butterflies, weather systems that bring balmy breezes to one region bring tornadoes to another. The causes of natural evil are thus so intimately involved with (and often identical to) the causes of all other natural phenomena that to cause natural evil, it would seem necessary to cause nature.
But in that case, what becomes of the doctrine of God as creator? At best we would seem to have a kind of dualism reminiscent of Manichaeism—a heretical movements in the late Roman Empire that viewed the cosmos as the creation of eternally opposed good and evil principles. If the demon scenario is thus inconsistent with the doctrine of God as creator, it cannot be of any use to Plantinga, not even as a bare possibility.3
He goes on to say:
A further difficulty with Plantinga’s argument is his assumption that free will could have the sort of absolute value he thinks it might have. As we saw earlier, ordinary moral judgments do not grant such a value to the possession or employment of free will. For instance, if I knew that a terrorist, of his own free will, planed to plant a bomb on an airliner, I would feel obliged to do everything in my power to inhibit him from exercising his free will in that way. How then is it possible that God could be justified in allowing Satan to run amok? How is it consistent with the goodness of God not to have placed greater restrictions on Satan’s freedom?4
So I’m going to put the question to my commentators, having presented both sides of the argument. Are at least some natural evils due to the influence of Satan and his minions? Or not?

1 Alvin Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974) p. 192. He references “The Problem of Free Choice”’ in Ancient Christian Writers, vol. 22 (New York: Paulist/ Newman Press), pp. 71ff.; and Confessions and Enchiridion tr. and ed., by Albert C. Outler (Philadelphia: Westminister Press), pp. 341-6.
2 Plantinga, p. 195.
3 Keith Parsons, God and the Burden of Proof (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1989) pp. 123-124.
4. Parsons, p. 124.
posted by Victor Reppert @ 11:28 PM

At 7:43 AM, Jason said…

Considering that it took me 167,068 words (including parenthetical footnotes {wry g}) to reach an answer to this question that I could understand and be satisfied with, I don't think I can possibly justify my answer in a comment.

But for what it's worth: I _am_ sympathetic to Keith's criticism (as far as it goes); and to the questions he himself is (perhaps somewhat rhetorically) asking.

Keeping in mind the vastness of the topic and the (relative) paucity of commentary space-time {s!}, these are the comments that occur to me:

a.) I think the term 'natural evil' is a non sequitor. I don't hold tornados, for instance, morally responsible for their behaviors.

b.) I do think there are rebel spirits messing around in our Nature (along with perhaps an unknown selection of what Lewis once called 'neutrals'); and that they tend to congregate around destructive natural reactions, ramping up the effects where they can, where not outright instigating them. (Sidenote: Gregory Boyd, in _God at War_, notices that during the tornadic incident reported by the Gospels on Galilee Lake--the Greek is literally a 'whirl of wind', and the visual and audible cues are consonant with a tornado hitting the lake--Jesus rebukes the wind in exactly the same way He exorcises possessing devils. To this I suppose I could add the nearly universal human intuition on such things throughout history, from which we still derive the term 'dust devil'.)

c.) I don't think rebel spirits are necessarily to blame for all such 'natural disasters'. (Though I note, in passing, that the word 'disaster' itself holds much the same implicit meaning: hostile star.)

d.) I strongly suspect, though I am not entirely sure, that a significant amount of what we would call 'bad' evolutionary development, can be traced to the tampering of these spirits in genetics.

e.) At the same time, I _am_ entirely sure that the Problem of Pain in regard to animals is somewhat moot. To whatever extent animals are unconscious, then (by tautology) they are not consciously suffering whatever is happening to them--which doesn't excuse malicious tampering with them. (If someone rapes a hole in a wall, then an evil is still being committed, though the hole itself isn't conscious. The intention is what counts.)

While I do believe some animals are in fact conscious, particularly individuals of them (and I strongly suspect it in other cases), I don't believe all animals everywhere have always been conscious. A body can go into all sorts of odd reactions when it is suffering (whether pain or pleasure), which we (as conscious act-ers ourselves) can sympathize and empathize with. But the fact that we can imagine how _we_ would feel if it was happening to us, does not mean the animal (or a plant, for that matter) is necessarily 'feeling' it, too.

f.) I also consider the question of suffering in animals to be a philosophical smokescreen. I _already_ know that _I_ suffer in ways I believe to be unjustly afflicted on me. (Though I don't believe all my suffering is unjustly afflicted on me. On the contrary, I believe some of it is very justly afflicted on me. I even pray and hope for certain sufferings to be induced in me. So do the vast majority of humans throughout history, today and every day; as should, but probably won't, be manifestly obvious. {g} 'Suffering', per se, is important, but it isn't the crucial problem.)

Adding a definitely suffering animal to the mix doesn't add to the principles involved in the questions and answers already raised by my own existential evidence.

g.) Relatedly, I find theodicy to proceed a lot more smoothly when I stop asking why God would allow a rebel angel or a dictator or mass murderer do whatever they've succeeded in doing, and start instead with why God allows _me_ to inflict injustice (however 'big' or 'small' it may seem)--and rigorously stay on _that_ question until I've worked out as many answers as I can figure.

h.) The answers to which, I find I can sum up in a principle: God loves His enemies, too.

i.) Which brings me back to the point, that the problem of evil, as pressing as it is on us, is not what I would call a first-order philosophical question. It's more like 350th in line. _Any_ cogent answer to it requires a whole bunch of other questions to have been settled first insofar as possible.

(A brief summary of questions to be answered would include God's existence, characteristics, relationships to us and to the evident field of Nature, and intentions toward us and Nature, including toward any enemies of His. If the question of God's existence is answered in favor of atheism, for example, then the mediant questions leading to the problem of evil will change somewhat, and the answers will in many cases change radically. Ditto if the question of characteristics is answered in favor of pantheism, etc.)

j.) In passing, I think that a Fall of Mankind is also implied by the available evidence, and that this has its own contributions to our situation throughout human history. (I mention this because I didn't see it mentioned in Victor's overview. {s}) I'm more than a little agnostic as to historical details, although I think Gen 1&2 works well enough in getting across the basic principles, one of which is that it _is_ historical somehow. (i.e. there's clearly a whole lot more to the story than what's shown there, but not _less_.) By 'the available evidence', btw, I don't mean scriptural authority: I'd believe the same thing if I had never heard of Genesis.

(Most of what I've said above isn't argument but conclusion; which apart from argument, I know can only look like mere assertion. I'm not asking anyone to believe it, certainly not on what appears to be my mere say-so. {s!})

'kay, back to "work" work...

At 7:29 AM, Ross Parker said…

Dr Reppert's initial post made me think immediately about Greg Boyd's book "Satan and the Problem of Evil" where he develops his Warfare Theodicy. He takes the idea that "natural" evils are possibly caused by agents (Satan and his Demons) an fleshes it out. It is a thought provoking work....

Thats my $0.02

Ross Parker

At 10:49 AM, Johnny-Dee said…

I think there is plausible room to affirm that some apparently "natural evil" is the result of demonic (or other malignant immaterial beings). If theism is true (no less Christianity), there is no problem with sayign immaterial beings can interact with the material world. Moreover, it is not ad hoc for theists to appeal to evil supernatural entities since they are apart of the theistic worldview.

What I think is difficult is to say that all "natural evil" is the result of demonic forces. Elsewhere, I have laid out some initial thoughts on how natural evils still might (realistically, not just as a logical possibility) be the result of free will.

At 6:48 PM, Darek Barefoot said…

I don't think we need to see natural disasters as the work of Satan (directly, anyway) to account for them. They must be seen in terms of the biblical doctrines of creation and the fall into sin. Man was given supremacy over the material world, and therefore man's alienation from God entailed the alienation of nature.

According to Genesis, God prepared the universe in successive steps until, with the creation of man, it at last began to reflect the divine image. It is apparent, however, that while God completed his own part of the project, he intended further progress to be made by man himself. God's creative works were "very good" and "complete," not in that there was nothing more to be done with them, but in that they had been brought to the ideal stage for man to play his divinely appointed role regarding them. God put all creation in subjection to man and woman, and we tend to assume, incorrectly, that this refers to the power human intelligence has always afforded man over his environment. Instead, the Bible says that the mandate over creation has never been carried out except insofar as Jesus is poised to exercise it (Heb. 2:8-9).

Having creation in subjection means more than tinkering clumsily with the created order as man does now, often with destructive results. Paul in Philippians says that Jesus will transform the bodies of believers to be like his own “by the exertion of the power he has even to subject all things to Himself (Phil. 3:21).” Holding creation in subjection, then, means being able to glorify it, having the means to alter physical reality from the inside out in ways undreamt of by man in his present state. We at best can dimly conceive of how unfallen man, equipped with powers no human except Jesus has ever wielded, was supposed to have beautified the natural order. Instead, because of the fall into sin nature was crippled at the moment of birth and left "groaning" in misery, awaiting liberation under the coming kingdom of Christ, the "last Adam" (Rom. 8:19-22; 1 Cor. 15:45). Jesus controlled natural forces at will; sinful man cannot. In Christ, God will restore tenancy of creation to humakind, but not until the drama of redemption has unfolded. That drama entails the call to faith and must play itself out against the backdrop of a fallen and dangerous world.

None of this may be a sufficient explanation of natural disasters/tragedies in purely logical or philosophical terms. For some of us, it is spiritually satisfying albeit mysterious. But the atheistic alternative has its own mysterious and distinctly unsatisfying aspects. It stipulates a dangerous and indifferent universe, but does not explain why part of that universe--namely us--feels a sense of alienation and tragedy, what I call "cosmic discomfort." To me, the Christian account is much the better one on that score alone.

At 10:31 PM, Daryl said…

Firstly I have a problem with the terms we are using. Moral evil is evident, it is human thought/action in rebellion against the will of God. If God intends us nothing but good then any rejection of His will can only do us harm. Calling the events of nature "evil" involves a whole other set of suppositions. Evil to whom? Of course we consider ourselves the most important things in the universe so we intepret anything that occurs as it relates to us, I am not so sure that is God's perspective. How can we know if an earthquake is evil? It is as if Job decided to tell God how the universe needed to be run. Perhaps the earthquake, or the possibility of earthquakes, is an unavoidable consequence of creating a world where our lives are possible. There are so many perimeters that if changed slightly would exclude life altogether perhaps excluding the possibility of natural disaster would exclude much more.

At 6:36 PM, Edward T. Babinski said…

Is there anything more idiotic than philosophizing when it comes to answering the big questions?

Several philosphers in Vic's blog have argued that "evil" comes from "evil beings," or that pains in nature originate from "beings that inflict pain."(Such "answers" "explain" nothing and only move back the question one step further.)

Vic also seems to want to play round with the phrase "free will" as if that solves anything. Every variant definition of "free will" simply raises different kinds of theological questions whose answers remain problematical.

So I have yet to see philosophy settle any of the big questions or debates. See:

I will say that Jason's mention of the etymology of the word "disaster" provided me with a new bit of trivia. Thanks Jason! Though piling the etymology of "disaster" on top of the phrase, "dust devils"--as if building a tower of such babel amounts to anything--seems ludicrous.

Jason, there is no philosophical proof (nor any "science") in either the Bible or etymologies of the Oxford English Dictionary. See this article to learn more about "wandering stars" that the ancients interpreted as gods who watch mankind:

At 7:26 PM, Edward T. Babinski said…

Vic, Why can't you be satisfied as a philosopher with simply trying to get more people to acknowledge which things they know the MOST about, and which they know the LEAST about, rather than tying to get others to agree with you concerning your "Christian" beliefs about so many things both seen and unseen, in nature and supernature, in this life and the next?

Your work thus far also seems to be assuming that there are only two choices, 1) no meaning whatsoever to life, or, 2) meaning lay in accepting the dogmas, doctrines and holy book of one particular religion.

Have you studied some of the multi-sided, maybelogic philosphical questions that folks like Robert Anton Wilson and Raymond Smullyan raise in their works? Check them both out on the net.

Wilson recently wrote at his site:

I don't believe anything, but I have many suspicions.

I strongly suspect that a world "external to," or at least independent of, my senses exists in some sense.

I also suspect that this world shows signs of intelligent design, and I suspect that such intelligence acts via feedback from all parts to all parts and without centralized sovereignity, like Internet; and that it does not function hierarchically, in the style an Oriental despotism, an American corporation or Christian theology.

I somewhat suspect that Theism and Atheism both fail to account for such decentralized intelligence, rich in circular-causal feedback.

I more-than-half suspect that all "good" writing, or all prose and poetry that one wants to read more than once, proceeds from a kind of "alteration in consciousness," i.e. a kind of controlled schizophrenia. [Don't become alarmed -- I think good acting comes from the same place.]

I sometimes suspect that what Blake called Poetic Imagination expresses this exact thought in the language of his age, and that visits by "angels" and "gods" states it an even more archaic argot.

These suspicions have grown over 72 years, but as a rather slow and stupid fellow I do not have the chutzpah to proclaim any of them as certitudes. Give me another 72 years and maybe I'll arrive at firmer conclusions.



Here are also some further interesting comments from a former fundamentalist contributor to Leaving the Fold, Will Bagley, who writes:

For me, everything on the spiritual path does not require faith of any kind. You learn from your own experience each step of the way. Even if you want to, you cannot know something as true until your experience reveals it to you. It is of course possible to hypnotize yourself into believing some particular dogma or other is true, but that hypnosis does not add up to any kind of knowing. Merely memorizing that 2+2=4 and believing that equation to be true does not mean that you can add and does not mean that you know “why” it is true. This is why fundamentalist spirituality of any kind, Christian, Moslem, Jewish, and even Buddhist is filled with memorized slogans, like “Have you accepted Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior?” I did experiment one time with answering a fundamentalist Christian with nonslogan words and found that they did not register and made the person very uneasy. I was not using the secret handshake of the tribe to get “in.” The word “conjure” is French meaning “with knowledge” and means that a formula only has the power to evoke reality when it is used with a genuine understanding of what it means. (A related thought is this: The word “idiot” means “one who is sacrificed” and there are 18 idiots that need to be sacrificed in one Sufi system in order to arrive at enlightenment or sanity). Another kind of faith emerges from study, practice, and meditation, and arises from experience itself.

The second thing I do not believe in is trying to prove I have the answers concerning the major questions about this life and the next, in both the seen and unseen worlds.

One thing however does appear to be quite true in a very experiential way anyone and everyone can understand. It is this: What you decide is true affects how you see “reality.” There are some interesting experiments you can do to feel this and which are mentioned in a lot of Sufi and Buddhist training manuals. Try to imagine for one week that the universe is merely physical and that everything happens because of physical laws governing essentially random and meaningless causes. Get deep into this belief system, believing that you are merely a body and when the body dies you will be completely annihilated and that aging and death is inevitable and that there is not supreme Being running the show and that life on Earth is a freak improbable happening and that we might be the only lifeforms around and will probably be completely annihilated something when our Sun goes supernova. Feel that if something happens to you, it is pure coincidence with no higher meaning. Notice what life feels like when you live this view out.

Next try out the view that there is a personal God watching you and judging your every move and that depending on how good or bad you are that you will go to heaven or hell forever and that everything that happens to you is this God blessing or cursing you for things that you have done or even merely thought to do and that every disaster, every death, every disease, etc. is this God punishing someone for “sins” or for the sins of their parents and that if you repent hard enough and beg for forgiveness thatü something this God will forgive you if you are “sincere” enough.

You can note how each belief system feels just by the use of active imagination, even while simply reading the above descriptions. You may notice that some parts of you empathize with parts of both stories. For instance, it might feel like a relief to know that when you stub your toe that it is merely an accident and that God is not trying to tell you something through this or a relief to feel try when you do something wrong that it is not counted and weighed upon Judgment Day. Yet it also might not feel good to know that “evil people” can get away with shooting and annihilating “good people” and that there is no justice woven into the universe at all and that everyone that you love will be less than a memory and that some people that you love, dying very young, will never have had any kind of meaningful existence, and for some of these their entire short existence may be just pure pain.

There are, of course, many views about what reality is, not just two.

There's a view that God exists and created the cosmos, but does not ensure human immortality. Or the view that God exists and intimations of his existence have appeared in all the world's religions, no one of which is "inerrant" in its holy book and traditions.

If you play around with beliefs, you might develop some “ontological flexibility” and also question whether it's wise to look through the lens of one particular belief so fervently as to exclude the possibility of entertaining multiple beliefs or living with a wider range of questions.

Having said all this, Dogen Zenji, an advanced Zen master, once said, “The universe is a bright pearl.” What could he have meant? What kind of space was he coming from? What happens to our mind when we try to feel what it would mean if it were true?

Some capitalists say, “Time is money.” What could they mean? What kind of space are they coming from? What happens to our mind when we try to feel what it would mean if it were true? How would Dogen Zenji and the capitalists view paying our rent every month? *smile*


At 7:43 PM, Victor Reppert said…

Ed: For an agnostic, you certainly do like to pontificate!



At 9:15 AM, David said…

I don't buy the standard free will defense, but if Satanic agency exists, it is as plausible a candidate for causing moral and natural evils as any other finite agent capable of acting in the world. It's just a question of the scope of their power.

The Bible also assigns the creation of natural evils to God (Romans 8:18-25 for example). His purposes in willing these evils are many. Sometimes it is to punish, sometimes to cause repentance. But it's very clear that it has moral purposes.

At 11:55 PM, Edward T. Babinski said…

Dear David,

In the response before this one you wrote about "God's moral purposes" that you believe lay literally everywhere in nature, from God creating evil and pain and suffering to demons doing it. Nice to know both sides are on the same painful page, creating pain and suffering, for all of those "moral purposes" you wrote about.

Actually, I don't know what to make of nature and wouldn't even begin to hazard a guess concerning what "moral purposes" lay behind any particular pains or messiness in the cosmos, either the physical cosmos or the biological one.

Take the fact that today's astronomers speak in terms of a messy astronomical past filled with orbital perturbations, even a treacherous future filled with bleak possibilities for our planet and/or solar system:

Articles from New Scientist

"Birth of the planets: The Earth and its fellow planets may be survivors from a time when planets
ricocheted around the Sun like ball bearings on a pinball table" 24 August 1991 issue 1783

"Jupiter drifted towards sun in its youth" The giant planet drifted tens of millions of kilometres towards the sun in its youth, a new study suggests, perhaps even helping to form the Earth. 26 September 2004

"Wandering Jupiter took trek towards the sun" 25 September 2004

"Planet formation is violent, slow and messy" A new view of planet formation is revealed by observations of nearby stars - it suggests Earth-like planets might
be common. 19 October 2004

"Did a planetary wobble kill the dinosaurs?"... A wobble in Mercury's orbit could have wiped out the see when the next potentially catastrophic planetary wobble will be...

"New moons suggest brutal beginnings" Five new moons
circling Neptune, and two tiny moons newly discovered around Saturn hint at violent pasts 18 August 2004

Or a nearby star could go nova, or simply pass near our sun. Also, there's the fact that hundreds of
asteroids cross the earth's orbital path each year, and the geological record contains impact craters throughout geological time.

Even our genes apparently have undergone loads of perturbations due to mutation-facilitating ALU
sequences, according to this week's news. ("Scientists track 'stealth' DNA elements in primate evolution" 02 May 2005)

Not to mention living with the knowledge of other kinds of perturbations, like several major (and many minor) periods of extinction in the past.

Not to mention the fact that a third to a half of all fertilized human eggs simply don't survive. Even of those humans who get to emerge living from the womb, half of them used to die by age seven (according to Buffon, writing 200+ years ago).

In nature some species lay several thousand eggs, that vast majority of which don't survive. Plant seeds face a similar rate of death. Some bacteria divide so fast
that they could fill the oceans and land in a few days, but their death rate is likewise enormous.

Speaking of "purpose" all I hazard to say is that each organism appears to be tested by nature beginning with prefertilization "sperm wars," then during the zygote and
early embryogenesis stages when a third to a half of them all don't survive, and there's the missing twin syndrome later on in pregnancy, a quite common failing, such that perhaps 30% of all single births were once twins in the womb, and then after birth
during childhood more testing from mother nature takes place with a large childhood mortality rate (which if you survive that test, your odds of surviving to old
age are greatly enhanced), all the way up to adolsecence when human beings begin another breeding
cycle, and then social and sexual selection plays a further testing role. Such a rigorous testing plan
occurs throughout nature for every individual of every species. And the tests are basically all reproductive in the end, whether or not your genes are passed along. I don't see exactly how "moral" such a testing pattern is, but that pattern is far more plainly visibly than the one you mentioned, of pains because caused by God and demons for "moral" purposes.

I am not denying moral purposes exist, but I am saying that some plans appear plainer and more easily grasped than others.


At 2:30 PM, CenterUniverse said…

The introduction of evil/death and suffering into the word began in the book of Genesis with the fall of man account.

Satan is not the cause of evil, but he preys on the weak minded to influence it.

We must understand that this is a fallen cursed world we live in, infected with years of degeneration.

Satan is the not the ruler of hell, nor will he ever be, he will however be one of its victoms at some point in time.

ThanX <><


Doctor Logic said...

In trying to solve the problem of evil, Christians propose all sorts of absurd ideas.

For example, there's the idea that God is doing good in the long run, by eliminating people prone to diseases etc. And what if humans took that tactic? Would they be good, too? Should we build a super race, not by uplifting everyone, but by weeding out the weak? It's been tried before, but it was never considered morally good. Why would it be morally good if God does it?

Then there's the idea that God has to remain invisible to preserve free will. Very convienient, but clearly false.

If a human mother can do best for her child by limiting her child's actions, then God can do the same for humans. And children have plenty of free will, thank you very much.

When the child grows up, it gains power and mental capacity comparable with its human parents, and the parent-child relationship must change. This is not so in the relationship between man and God. If God doesn't continually intervene, he's an irresponsible parent. Indeed, if God impedes our development, he's an irresponsible parent.

Thus, the free will argument crumbles to dust, and the whole Satan defense has nothing on which to rest.

I can't believe humans are still talking about evil spirits in the 21st century!

Anonymous said...

Try to imagine for one week that the universe is merely physical and that everything happens because of physical laws governing essentially random and meaningless causes. Get deep into this belief system, believing that you are merely a body and when the body dies you will be completely annihilated and that aging and death is inevitable and that there is not supreme Being running the show and that life on Earth is a freak improbable happening and that we might be the only lifeforms around and will probably be completely annihilated something when our Sun goes supernova.

Next try out the view that there is a personal God watching you and judging your every move and that depending on how good or bad you are that you will go to heaven or hell forever and that everything that happens to you is this God blessing or cursing you for things that you have done or even merely thought to do and that every disaster, every death, every disease, etc. is this God punishing someone for “sins” or for the sins of their parents and that if you repent hard enough and beg for forgiveness thatü something this God will forgive you if you are “sincere” enough.

After being a Christian for 10 years, I left it to explore Buddhism, and did exactly what you are suggesting. However, you create a false dichotomy here - it's not godless universe v. vengeful, jugdmental god, but godless universe v. personal, transcendent god.

After doing a 10 day silent retreat (Vipassana retreat), and practicing in my heart and mind as if there was no God, I came to believe that this was not how we were designed to live - it felt entirely unnatural, like I was trying to live without something real and essential.

After 8 years away from xianity, I have come back for the last 4, and reconciled my good experiences in Buddhism with it's incompleteness when it comes to the revealed truth of the personal God who loves us.

I wrote the following essays as a response

slaveofone said...

I agree 100% with Darek Barefoot. I also agree with the statement: “I think the term 'natural evil' is a non sequitor.”

Check out my blog for a post that explain more in-depth my views.

Anonymous said...

There have been many futile attempts to crack the problem of evil.

But all of them have failed because you can't defy perfect logic.

They couldn't explain things like the malaria parasite, AIDS, Tubercolosis. Hookworms...

One of my favourites is the parasitic wasp that lays it eggs in a live host. Would a loving God create that? No way

Evil exists regardless of man's free will, just look around and observe God's creations. Over 50% of all living things are parasites.

Accept it! Evil is here and either God can't do anything about it or he won't do anything about it...

Edwardtbabinski said...

Gregory Boyd, in _God at War_, notices that during the tornadic incident reported by the Gospels on Galilee Lake--the Greek is literally a 'whirl of wind', and the visual and audible cues are consonant with a tornado hitting the lake--Jesus rebukes the wind in exactly the same way He exorcises possessing devils. To this I suppose I could add the nearly universal human intuition on such things throughout history, from which we still derive the term 'dust devil.'
--Jason's comment at Dangerous Idea


Below is a pic of the intersecting swirling trails left by the earlier passage of dust devils across sand dunes on Mars, as they lifted lighter reddish-pink dust and exposed the darker material below. Also visible are darker slope streaks along dune edges, formed by a process which is still under investigation. More, or see location on Google Mars. (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Jason Pratt said...

Do you even bother to actually read the posts you reply to, Ed?

JRP: {{I think the term 'natural evil' is a non sequitor. I don't hold tornados, for instance, morally responsible for their behaviors. [...] I don't think rebel spirits are necessarily to blame for all such 'natural disasters'.}}

What part of those sentences did you not understand?

(But obviously you didn't care much to understand anything I wrote, if you thought I was trying to prove or even to argue anything with my comment, least of all by means of etymological trivia. Cool photo, though. The electrical tornadic gouges on Mercury are even better, btw.)


Tian-Tian Zhang said...

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