Sunday, October 03, 2021

A premise of the argument from evil

 An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

Is this premise open to question? 


oozzielionel said...

The premise creates a standard for judging whether this being is good. It puts humans in the position of measuring whether there is a greater good lost or greater evil prevented.
Grudem says, "But in an ultimate sense, we are not free to decide by ourselves what is worthy of approval and what is not." God is the standard of what is good, not a subject to be evaluated by some external standard. "The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval." Grudem, Systematic Theology p 197

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One Brow said...


If we can't really understand what is good, how do we know that we would even enjoy being in some putative heaven, or dislike being in some putative hell? If God thinks cancer is good, maybe everyone in heaven is riddled with the equivalent of cancer.

oozzielionel said...

We should rely on the report of Someone who has been there. That source should have also exhibited the behavior that measured up to an exceptional standard of goodness. Perhaps, also He would have taught about right living in an authoritative manner. It would be necessary for Him also to be in line with previous divine revelation. It would not be surprising if this source was rejected by many and eagerly embraced by some.

One Brow said...

We should rely on the report of Someone who has been there.

Outside of supposedly saying there were a lot of rooms in heaven, did this person say anything about what it would be like to be there? Further, if you happen to think that this person is God themself, can they be an independent witness to what is good in heaven?

Starhopper said...

I find how little the Bible actually says about Heaven quite interesting. Jesus speaks in parables that compare Heaven to a wedding feast, but that's about it. The Old Testament has not a single word on the subject - not one. The Book of Revelation is couched in symbolic language, so it is quite difficult to find reliable details about Heaven in its pages. As to Paul (who'd actually been there, see 2 Corinthians 12:2-4), he limits himself to quoting Isaiah in speaking of what he had experienced there. ("No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.") obviously, no details there.

So maybe, just maybe, we're not meant to engage in idle speculation and concentrate instead on what we're doing in the here and now.

One Brow said...


I have no issues with believers focusing their attention to our current existence. My point was that, for those who make an argument that 'we don't know what's good, only God does', that undercuts any notion that some putative heaven if a place believers will enjoy, because heaven will be good by God's standards, not ours.

Starhopper said...

"for those who make an argument that 'we don't know what's good, only God does'"

Well, don't count me amongst those who so argue. God by nature knows (and does) what is good, and we also know (because He's told us - see C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man), but sadly do not also do.

bmiller said...

One Brow,

What do you find objectionable about the standard Christian view of heaven?

One Brow said...


Well, first I question that there is a standard Christian view of heaven. Different sects seem to create different versions.

I have no objection to any individual characterizing heaven in any way they wish. My point was about one line of argumentation undercutting another.

bmiller said...

As far as I know the majority of Christians hold a standard view. Eternal happiness in the presence of God.

I myself have no confidence that I know what makes me perfectly happy, as proven by life's experiences. I'm more confident that my creator does.

Victor Reppert said...

It seems appealing to say we shouldn't judge God, or that God himself is the standard of goodness. The problem with attempts to avoid having some standard of goodness to which one appeals is that without such a standard, the term "goodness" is deprived of meaning. If I say that Kyler Murray is a good quarterback, and you ask me what I mean by that, I can point to the fact that the Cardinals are the team with the only perfect season in the NFL, and then go over his completion percentage, quarterback rating, rushing and passing touchdowns, number of interceptions, etc. If he started losing games and getting bad numbers, and you came to me and told me he should be benched, it would be no argument to say, no Kyler is the standard of goodness, and by definition everything he does is worthy of approval.

Part of the standard definition of God is to say that that being is perfectly good. So before we call someone God, we have some idea of what that is supposed to mean--we are presupposing a standard of goodness that some being, such as Yahweh, meets. If someone were to say "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God," the answer would have to be that this would make sense except that some who says that Yahweh is not good is arguing, in fact, that Yahweh doesn't merit the title of God. In virtue of what is some being, however powerful, entitled to the title of "God?" Answering back to a being who really is God would be mistaken by definition, but to assume that this being merits the title of God would be to beg the very question at issue.

If there is no standard of goodness that we are claiming that God meets when we say that God is good, then the phrase "God is good" doesn't mean anything. Is it an expression of subjective approval on our part (we like the Big Guy, or think we had better because of what the Big Guy might do to us), or is it an actual statement? And if it is a statement, what is it?