Sunday, January 16, 2011

Can a Good God exist? An Atheist and a Christian Debate the Problem of Evil (2)


Just as the Charger did with my piece I will seek to move through his responses and address them in order to show their failure to solve the problem of evil.

(click here to see the beginning of this discussion on my blog)
(click here to see the Charger’s post that I am now responding to)

I want to actually begin with the end of the Charger’s response in order to prevent needless rabbit trails and expose one of the most obvious weaknesses in the Charger’s piece. The last section the Charger includes he labels as “The problem of good and evil for naturalism” He then goes on to describe what he believes are problems for atheists or naturalists when talking about evil like the idea that without God they have no objective basis for arguing that there is any evil in the world. And he does this in an attempt to show that atheists have even bigger problems then theists and thus can’t, or at least shouldn’t use the problem of evil to deny the existence of God. This entire section serves to demonstrate a complete misunderstanding of what the problem of evil really is. The Charger says outright that, “the problem of evil also exists for the atheist.” But that is simply not true. The problem of evil does not exist for the atheist rather it is an internal problem to the theistic worldview. Even if the entire planet were Christians the problem of evil would still exist. The Charger either does not understand that or seems to ignore it, which exposes as well as explains many of the problems with his response.

The way the Charger makes his confusion visible in this section is the way he uses the word “evil.” In this section he uses the word evil only as a moral category trying to demonstrate that atheists are unable to define that category without God. But the word evil as used in the problem of evil is not meant merely as a moral term defining a wrong action rather and more importantly it is intended to describe the fact that there is suffering in the world, which is undeniable and whether that suffering undermines the theists’ system of belief and therefore makes belief in their God unreasonable. So the problem for the theist is to resolve the seemingly obvious existence of senseless suffering in the world with their belief in God who is all-powerful, all-knowing and most importantly all-good.

This problem of evil (suffering) does not exist for the atheist because once you take the theist’s God out of the equation suffering is no longer a logical problem to be solved but rather it is just a fact to be observed. Atheists and Naturalists do have problems in their systems of belief that have to be addressed but the problem of evil is not one of them. If one reads Christian theologians who address the problem of evil like Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga one will see that. They understand that what’s at stake with the problem of evil is the internal consistency of theism. So the fact that I’m an atheist, while it looks good in the title of this blog, is completely irrelevant to the topic we are discussing. Discussing issues facing atheists such as morality without God (look here for a previous post where I discuss that issue) and ethical standards for naturalists is important but it truly has nothing to do with the topic that was agreed to be discuss in this blog, which again was the problem of evil.

What this section amounts to is a fallacy known as a red herring, which serves only to avoid the issue, similar to what I said most Christians do when confronted with the problem of evil. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a red herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention away from the original issue. The basic idea is to "win" an argument by leading people away from the current argument and to another topic and this is what the Charger does in this section as well as in part of his section concerning the evidential problem of evil.

I have to add that it is of little surprise that it is only in this last section in which the Charger even mentions the specific examples of evil (suffering) I gave during my discussion of the evidential problem of evil (Jose Stable who slashed the throat of his 12 year old autistic son Ulysses and left him naked in their bathtub; Sixteen men indicted for the use and maintenance of a protected Internet forum about child pornography, which includes thousands of images and videos as well as advice on how to beguile children into participating in sexual activity; and Robert Burdick a 40 year old man who has was accused of raping at least 12 different women in the last 14 years and has since been convicted of multiple rapes.) because it is only in this section that he could avoid dealing with them.

So moving forward I would just remind the Charger and those reading this that the issue meant to be addressed was the problem of evil, a problem specific to theists, especially the Christian theists. When talking about evil we are dealing with suffering and pain not merely ethical definitions and whether or not those evils make belief in the traditional monotheistic God unreasonable or not. And again we are not just talking about suffering in abstract terms rather we are talking about the type of suffering that is gut wrenching and horrid happening to real individuals with names. The theist cannot escape this problem whether I’m here or not.

The Logical Problem of Evil

So beginning again with the logical problem of evil I initially used the lay out given by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy;

1. If God exists, then God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.

2. If God is omnipotent, then God has the power to eliminate all evil.

3. If God is omniscient, then God knows when evil exists.

4. If God is morally perfect, then God has the desire to eliminate all evil.

5. Evil exists.

6. If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn't have the power to eliminate all evil, or doesn't know when evil exists, or doesn't have the desire to eliminate all evil.

7. Therefore, God doesn't exist.

The Charger’s issue was with point number six for two reasons. First because, “it assumes that God has to act right now—a good being does not necessarily have to “always” eliminate evil as far as it can right now. This makes even more sense when you consider that God is not in space and time.” And second because, “if there is a greater good served by His inaction than this argument is defeated. Alvin Plantinga has suggested that free will is this greater good.”

Both statements work together so that the Charger seems to be saying that God will act to eliminate evil at the best time, which is when it will produce the greatest amount of good and/or prevent the greatest amount of evil. Alvin Plantinga, who the Charger cites, offers a similar idea saying that, “an omnipotent, omniscient person is wholly good only if he eliminates every evil, which is such that for every good that entails it, there is a greater good that does not entail it.” This seems to make sense but the problem this idea produces is the issue of creation itself; if evil was inevitable with creation why did God create anything?

Richard La Croix provides a different version of the logical problem of evil that demonstrates the new problem theists must face if they accept Plantinga’s statement.

1. There is a God who created everything.

2. Before God created there was nothing but God.

3. After God created, everything is causally dependent on God.

4. God had the choice of whether or not to create the world.

5. In one possible scenario, God could have chosen not to create anything at all.

6. If this choice were actualized, God would not have created a world in which evil existed.

7. Since God is perfectly good, if God had not created anything, all that would exist would be perfect goodness.

So the theist who believes with Plantinga that God will always act to eliminate any evil that does not prevent some greater good must now explain why God created anything at all? For if God is morally perfect and desires to eliminate all evil at the time when it will produce the greatest amount of good and/or prevent a greater amount of evil then he should have simply never created us to begin with. The Charger himself said when arguing against my original set up of the logical problem of evil that if a greater good is served by God’s inaction then God will not act. If that is true then God should have remained inactive never creating us in the first place. La Croix puts it this way, “If God is the greatest possible good then if God had not created anything there would be nothing but the greatest possible good. And since God didn’t need to create at all, then the fact that he did create produced less than the greatest possible good…Perhaps God could not, for some perfectly plausible reason, create a world without evil, but then it would seem that he ought not to have created at all…Prior to creation God knew that if he created there would be evil, so being wholly good he ought not to have created.” (see “The Impossibility of God” eds. Michael Martin and Ricki Monnier)

According to traditional theistic belief God didn’t need us but chose to create us but by making that choice and knowing all the evil that would come from it God was choosing to make a state of existence with evil rather then one without it. So Plantinga’s answer to the logical problem of evil fails at the very moment of creation. And to those who would say that God desired to create us because he wanted us to love and know him all that seems to show is a God who cares more about getting something he wants (doesn’t need) then in what is actually good. It demonstrates that God was willing to create a world filled with suffering and pain as well as a place of eternal suffering (hell) where the majority of those he created would go just so he could be praised, adored and obeyed by the minority of people who would end up “choosing” him. There is nothing sacrificial or selfless in this creative act. God chose to make things worse then they had to be to get something he apparently wanted.

Perhaps my favorite way to expose the weaknesses of the theists’ response to the logical problem of evil is to point out the fact that almost all the answers they can provide to explain how it is logically possible for an all-good God (also all-powerful, all-knowing) to exist given the evil in this world can also be reversed and likewise used to explain how an all-evil God (also all-powerful, all-knowing) exists given the good in this world. See Stephen Law’s essay (link). This serves to show that the theists’ responses are basically word games to justify a belief that is inherently unreasonable given the world we live in.

And let me restate I don’t believe the logical problem of evil is as important as the evidential problem of evil so even if one still finds the Charger’s or any other theistic responses to the logical problem of evil compelling one still has a long way to go to solve the entire problem of evil.

The Evidential Problem of Evil

Concerning this section of the Charger’s response there is not much I can say because for the most part he avoids the issue. I said in my first piece, “The evidential problem of evil is the problem that I just don’t see any theistic answer to, the best they can do is side-step the issue or simply throw up their hands and say ‘I don’t know but I still believe.” The Charger even quotes this in his own piece and then funny enough he goes right on and confirms it. In his first section titled, “How much evil is too much evil?” he either intentionally or unintentionally avoids the real problem of evil facing the theist (to explain how all the seemingly obvious pointless and gratuitous suffering in the world is compatible with their conception of God as all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good) by changing the topic to issues facing atheists when dealing with definitions of good and evil as well as moral/ethical absolutes. This again all goes back to my initial critic of the fallacy of the red herring.

Then in his second section entitled “God may have a greater good by allowing things to go as they are” he merely restates his idea for solving the logical problem of evil, even weakening it a little by adding the word "may”. He then assumes it is true (God has a good reason for allowing the evil he allows) and then offers two possibilities (free-will and heaven) as to what could be “good enough” to make up for all the evil in this world. Both possibilities are mentioned very briefly without any real reason to accept them and no actual, specific examples of evil are dealt with. The section ends up amounting to little more then a few sentences that fail to actually deal with the evidential problem of evil.

So the Charger basically completely side stepped the evidential problem of evil pointing the reader in different directions and then offering a few brief theodicies (he expands on free will later) that could only address the logical problem of evil. So the problem I said theists’ can’t answer, the evidential problem of evil, is the problem the Charger failed to actually address.

The Charger’s Theodicies

Now let us address the theodicies the Charger offered.

The free will argument

The free will defense is the argument that dominates the Charger’s attempts to explain evil so it is the one I will spend the most time addressing.

Now for the free will argument to offer any type of solution to the problem of evil one must first accept the assumption that free will is a human trait of such supreme value that without it humanity would be worse off then with the evil that currently exists. This is an assumption I will later challenge. But even if we accept that assumption the free will argument must also demonstrate that having free will is necessarily connected to evil in the world such that free willed humans beings could not exist without evil and further that evil must abound to the great extent it has in our current world (no gratuitous suffering).

Beginning with the second issue I say the free will argument fails because there is no obvious impossibility, logical or otherwise, in the existence of human beings with free will and humans who have the inability to deliberately sin, or at least the inability to commit heinous crimes. The Charger again referenced Plantinga who deals with this issue at great length and argues that, “it was not within God’s power to create a world containing moral good but no moral evil.” In order to explain this Plantinga created the idea of “transworld depravity” meaning that in any world were a person is significantly free, that person would on some occasion, act morally wrong. The key is defining what it means for people to be “significantly free”. For Plantinga significantly free persons must have three types of freedom; external freedom, internal freedom and logical freedom. Quentin Smith lays these out perfectly:

A person is externally free with respect to an action A if and only if nothing other than (external to) herself determines either that she perform A or refrain from performing A.

A person is internally free with respect to an action A if and only if it is false that his past physical and psychological states, in conjunction with causal laws, determine either that he perform A or refrain from performing A.

 A person is logically free with respect to an action A if and only if there is some possible world in which he performs A and there is another possible world in which he does not perform A. A person is logically free with respect to a wholly good life (a life in which every morally relevant action performed by the person is a good action) if and only if there is some possible world in which he lives this life and another possible world in which he does not. [Smith, “A Sound Logical Argument from Evil” in Ethical and Religious Thought in Analytic Philosophy of Language (New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1997), p. 149]

So Plantinga and other theists are arguing that these types of freedoms are of such intrinsic value that they explain why there was no world God could create that did not in some way contain evil. The problem with this idea is the third type of freedom, logical freedom because this is a type of freedom that God himself does not have. The fact that God by definition is all-good makes logical freedom impossible for him. There is no world in which God could commit a wrong act or make a wrong choice. Therefore logical freedom is not a trait that is metaphysically valuable or else God would have it. Consequently the theist is now creating a double standard saying that logical freedom is trait of such great value and goodness for humans that God allows evil and yet it is not a trait that God in his supreme goodness needs or shares. So one can argue (and Quentin Smith does) God could have created necessarily good (thus logically unfree) but internally and externally free beings, like himself, and therefore need not and would not have created a world in which moral evil exists. So the Charger’s claim that it would be logically contradictory for God to “create free-willed beings and only allow them to do what is right” fails because God himself is that kind of being. So too the Charger’s example of the person with 5 dollars whom God allows to spend it only on what is good fails to demonstrate a logical contradiction since by definition God himself cannot spend those 5 dollars on anything except what is good. (Now whether an action is good because God does it or God does it because it is good is another issue but either way the problem for the theist remains)

Moving on it is clear that the free will defense is only able to try and address the logical problem of evil not the evidential problem. Even if one accepts the theists’ arguments that some evil must exist it is unable to explain why there is such a great quantity of evil permitted by this all-good God. This is because free will only addresses moral evils therefore all natural evils (earthquakes, floods, birth defects, etc) remain outside the grasp of the free will argument. The Charger attempts to apply free will to the problem of natural evils by noting Richard Swinburne but based on what was presented I did not see any answer for how free will deals with natural evil. The Charger said, “Swinburne has suggested that natural evils would be the expected result from a fallen world.” But then the Charger does not elaborate on this point so I have no real understanding of why Swinburne believes that. I see no necessary connection between the fall of humanity and the natural evils (earthquakes, floods, tornados, tsunamis, etc) that exist in the world. And also free will does not do anything to explain animal suffering.

It is clear that the free will argument simply fails to properly deal with the evidential problem of evil because it’s not difficult to think of numerous ways God could have reduced the amount of evil and suffering in the world without restricting or changing our current amount of free will. God could have created all people with one skin color, ridding history of the massive amount of killing, oppression, segregation and inequality due to ideas based upon racial differences. God could have made us all speak the same language. How many problems could have been averted if people could just speak with one another and understand what the other person was saying? (yes I know the story of the Tower of Babel) God could have created us to have uncomfortable or painful physically responses to immoral actions. I have the freedom to eat my own feces but I don’t because it is physically nauseating and as such mentally disgusting. God could have given us this same sort of nauseating feeling at the idea of killing another person or raping someone or even lying. It would not take away people’s freedom to do those actions but few people would do them just like few people eat their own feces. God could have made people not need food to survive or at least not so much food and thus reduce the pain and suffering due to hunger and starvation and if God could not do that he could have increased the amount of food on the earth. Why not make oranges sprout like dandelions or make wheat grow like grass? God could have made women as physically strong as men thus enabling them to better protect themselves from men who would try to rape, abuse or assault them. God could have simply made us self-reproducing so that sex was not an issue. How much pain and suffering and crime would disappear if sex did not exist? Again none of these things would affect people’s free will. And perhaps the simplest thing that God could have done to reduce suffering and pain and retain our free will is education. All God had to do was teach humanity more about the world and the natural system he supposedly created. In an attempt to get God off the hook concerning natural disasters the Charger says, “Even in cases of natural disaster, such as the Black Death humans cannot get an out-of- jail free card. If people during the fourteenth century had actually cleaned their cities, then they have avoided most of the deaths.” He’s right that if people had cleaned their cities and themselves more often the amount of viruses and diseases would have been reduced (certainly not avoided) but what he ignores is the fact that they did not know that at the time and God never told them. All God had to do was tell people what viruses were and how they spread and then tell them the things they should do to help avoid becoming sick. That would not have affected anyone’s free will rather it would simply give people more accurate information to base their choices on and it would have reduced the amount of suffering that has occurred in history and yet God did not do that. Instead most people believed demons were responsible for their sickness and that witches could cast spells on them or curse them and that the solution was to pray, carry holy charms or icons, cast out the demons and kill the witches. God could have taught people about democracy and equality (gender; racial; sexuality; etc) but rather he himself displayed and demanded hieratical systems of government (monarchy/dictatorship) where obedience was the key virtue and individual rights were completely unknown. Really the list could go on the point is there are so many things God could have done to reduce suffering without impinging on anyone’s free will that it is hard to understand how anyone thinks free will solves the problem of evil.

Further when using the free will argument on the problem of evil one must also address what responsibility God would have in making sure we do not abuse or misuse the free will he gave us. The fact is that if free will is a gift provided by God and he knew exactly what we would “choose” to do with it then as the giver of the gift he does bear part of the blame for the evils that have been committed due to the use of our free will. Pierre Bayle observes that, “It is in the essence of a benefactor to refrain from giving any gift which he knows would be the ruin of the recipient…Free agency is not a good gift after all, for it has caused the ruin of the human race in Adam’s sin, the eternal damnation for the greater part of his descendants, and created a world of a dreadful deluge of moral and physical evils.”

The fact is that good parents do not give their children more freedom then they can be responsible for. If a parent gives their toddler a bat or a knife the parent is accountable for anything that child does with that bat or knife. When children abuse the freedom bestowed upon them by their parents the parents tend to discipline them by taking away some of those freedoms for a time until their children learn how to be more responsible. Shouldn’t we expect God to at least act like a good parent? Further most parents go to great lengths to protect their children from bearing all the consequences of their mistakes. If a child disobeyed their parents’ instructions not to play in the street those parents will not simply wait and watch while a car comes down the road and hits their child. Instead they will grab their child out of the street and save her despite her poor choice. The parents will then try to explain to the child why she should not be in the street (give knowledge) and likely restrict her freedom for a time by sending her inside or into the backyard. But with God he waits and watches us eat one piece of fruit and then gives us (theists would say allows) earthquakes, holocausts, crusades, floods, diseases and so on. It’s also fun to note that the piece of fruit Adam and Eve were not supposed to eat was the fruit of the “knowledge of good and evil” meaning that before they ate it they could not know what was good (obey God) and what was evil (disobey God). God again withholds knowledge so really what did he expect? (I’ve had fun with that story in my blog before see here)

Now a lot of the Charger’s response revolves around the idea that at some point in the future God will finally take care of all the evil (suffering) in the world and it will no longer exist making up for the current state of evil. So when using the free will argument to explain why evil exists now one must then figure out what changes in the future? Christians believe that after their death (or at some point in the future) they will go to heaven where there is no “death, or mourning or crying or pain” (Rev. 21:4) and they will have bodies that cannot be corrupted. (I Cor. 15:30) So one must ask is there free will in heaven? If the answer is yes then it seems it is possible for humans to have free will as well as no pain/suffering/evil. So if that is possible why didn’t God just start there in the first place? If the answer is no and free will does not exist in heaven then clearly it is not as valuable as theists claim it is. And one must then ask why it was so valuable to have free will on earth? Either way a good God should have simply created the world/heaven the way theists believe it will be, whether that means free will and no evil or no free will and no evil or he should not have created anything at all.

Going back to the beginning of this section I said that for the free will argument to have any merit one must first assume that free will is of such great value that it is worth any amount of evil and suffering which results from it. And that is what theists do that when they make the free will argument they simply assume everyone would prefer to keep the world as it is filled with suffering and pain to maintain their free will (to some degree) over any type of world free of suffering and pain without that free will. The Charger does this when he is trying to determine why God might allow so much evil in the world. He says, “it would be a direct violation of free will for God to stop suffering and evil—to me, this would be a much greater evil than letting evil go on unabated, since it would entail the destruction of the world as we know it. I think if you asked most people if they would rather have evil and the world, or a world where they don’t have a choice they would prefer the first option”. The part the Charger fails to mention is that with the second option you get a life free of pain and suffering where you wouldn’t have missed free will because you wouldn’t have known anything different. It seems like a detail worth mentioning because unlike him I would guess the exact opposite that if you go throughout history and offer people the world as is with all the pain and suffering they experience but their free will intact verses a world with no pain and suffering but only the illusion of free will a majority of people will take the later. I would.

I say that because the fact is that people don’t have as much free will as they think. We are limited by so many factors like our gender, race, age, nationality, genetics, place of birth, time in history, class in society, education level and so on all of which limit the amount of “free” choices we can make. As a white, American male adult from a middle class background with a college degree I have significantly more choices then an Chinese girl belonging to a poor family, or a boy starving in Africa, or a female concubine in ancient Babylon, or a slave in ancient Rome or Egypt. If you were to ask that girl in China, or that boy starving in Africa, or that female concubine in ancient Babylon, or that slave in ancient Rome or Egypt if they were willing to give up their free will in favor of a life without pain and suffering what do think they would say? I think they would say yes. How valuable is a free will that can’t be used anyway? (I don’t even think most of them would understand the concept of free will in the first place)

It is also worth noting that the free will argument is a fairly new argument historically speaking and has little to no scripturally support. For most of history God’s sovereignty has always taken precedence of any concept of human freedom. Even currently there are many branches of Christianity that do not accept the idea of libertarian free will, where it is actually possible for human beings to choose whether or not to do something as opposed to more clear forms of determinism.

God suffered the same evil as us

In this section the Charger offers more theology then philosophy as he himself admits. So the problem is this section offers little to nothing to the unbiased observer trying to make a rational choice about God’s existence based on the problem of evil. Instead Jesus’ atoning death on the cross and his resurrection are faith claims, which one can believe or not believe.

But even for Christians who accept these claims I believe they don’t really solve the problem of evil as the Charger tries to make them. Jesus’ suffering doesn’t erases other people’s suffering rather it merely increases the amount of suffering that has occurred. The idea that a friend of mine suffered through some sort of pain with me does not take away the pain that I myself suffered it merely means they suffered as well.

Another issue I would note here is that suffering is not solved by the promise of things being better in the future. Even if Jesus’ death made some sort of perfect future possible for some or all people it does not change or make up for the suffering of the past. If someone suffers from cancer and must endure all the pain (physical and psychological) that comes from it the promise that one day they will no longer have cancer does not make-up for the pain that was suffered. Pain is not a simple debt that one can erase by offering a lack of pain later.

Then of course there is the issue of hell. If hell is a place of eternal suffering as traditional Christian doctrine claims then the real problem of evil never actually gets solved it merely gets segregated so that while some people are enjoying the perfect heaven that God for some reason was unable to create originally the majority of humanity is suffering endless torment. Jesus’ death was clearly limited in its effectiveness. One must again question why God created humanity at all knowing only a small fraction of them would end up “choosing” to follow/obey/love him while the rest of us burned? It again makes God look fairly self-serving.

Finally Jesus’ suffering and death also did nothing to address natural evils or animal suffering. It is merely a theological answer to the problem of moral evil.

Animal Suffering

In this section the Charger offered three answers to address animal suffering. First he claims, “There are good reasons to believe that the animals in the Garden of Eden were herbivores…then man, as the free moral creature, ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil and took away the perfect world.” So the Charger says there are good reasons to believe all animals used to be herbivores but then he doesn’t provide any. So the most obvious question is what are these good reasons to believe that? Beyond just animals being herbivores what about the existence of dangerous plants? Did some plants suddenly just turn poisonous? I recently read about a parasite called toxoplasma gondii, which can live inside many mammals but needs to get inside a cat’s stomach to reproduce. So it often infects rats or mice and has the property of being able to interfere with their nervous systems making them hyperactive and relatively fearless greatly increasing their chance of being in the vicinity of a cat. And when the cat eats the rat or mouse the toxoplasma gondii gets into the stomach, reproduces gets pooped out and starts the whole process over again. Where did these parasites come from? Did they suddenly come into existence the second Adam and Eve ate the fruit? And why did God make them at all? They don’t affect humans rather they only cause problems for animals that may be eaten by cats. Basically even if all animals suddenly starting eating plants that would still not solve all the problems associate with animal suffering caused by the natural world.

Now the big problem with this response besides the lack of reasons given for actually believing it is the fact that it requires one to accept the Garden of Eden story as historical rather then mythical and that simply does not work rationally. Animals were suffering, killing and eating one another long before human beings ever existed. Any potential fall of humanity could have only occurred millions of years after animals already existed. Similarly natural evils (earthquakes, hurricanes, etc) are events that occurred long before human beings ever showed up on the planet and animals suffered as a result of those events. So while the fall is a helpful story to explain the theology of the church and the need for Jesus it does not work to explain why animals suffer.

Second the Charger cites C.S. Leiws saying maybe it was Satan’s fault that animals suffer. Again no reasons are provided for believing that and one would have to accept the idea of Satan as real, who as a non-human agent of evil creates even more problems for theists trying to argue that evil exists as a by product of the existence of humanity.

Lastly the Charger argues that animals will be herbivores again in heaven. Similar to above the fact that something becomes good in the future does not erase the fact that there is suffering in the present. The idea that animals may one day stop experiencing pain does not resolve the fact that they currently do experience pain and have for their entire existence.

The Charger’s attempts to address animal suffering clearly fail and so he is still left with resolving the problem of animal suffering.

Conclusion

When looking at the Charger’s piece as a whole I think one finds basically what I described in my first piece. The Charger deals mostly with the logical (deductive) problem of evil rather then the evidential problem (inductive), then provides some theodicies none of which can address the problem of evil in its entirety and some of which offer almost no help at all and finally goes so far as to change the subject and introduce irrelevant topics seemingly in hopes diverting attention away from his inability to solve the problem of evil.

So moving forward there would be numerous issues the Charger needs to address. With the Logical Problem of evil he must first explain why God, who always acts (or doesn’t act) to produce the greatest good created humanity in the first place knowing evil was the inevitable outcome and thus destroying the greatest possible good. If he can do that he must then explain why God was not able to create us as beings that were significantly free yet could not sin since God himself is such a being. What is so valuable about a freedom that allows evil if that is a freedom God does not have? And if he can do that he must then turn right around and explain what changes to enable the existence of a perfect heaven (for some) where people will not/cannot sin or suffer, which was for some reason previously impossible for God to create. With the evidential problem of evil the Charger must actually deal with it since it was all but ignored in his first piece. Even if one accepts that God should have created humans and that for humans to be significantly free humans must be able to (and would) sin then one must explain why God allows humans to sin to such a great extent. Why did God not make a world that maintained the same freedom humanity currently holds yet reduce the amount of suffering? Finally one must explain natural evil and animal suffering since neither of those topics was resolved.

So I turn the floor back over to the Charger. I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts particularly concerning the evidential problem of evil.

[Click here for the Charger's response]

13 comments:

  1. Enjoyed the post--the plot thickens! Hope your doing well. It may take me a while to respond, due to the fact that I start my semester tomorrow...

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  2. Truly no rush to respond. My head needs a bit of a break, this one took me awhile. Plus school is definitely more important then this for you. Enjoy school tomorrow hope the semester starts well.

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  3. Thanks. I'm double majoring in comm and philosophy--so I don't exactly get a break. But I enjoy it for the most part.

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  4. Now that sounds like fun. I definitely miss school. Do you mind if I ask where are you going to school? No worries if you don't want to share.

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  5. I'm at wichita State University in Kansas.

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  6. I went to Arizona State for my undergrad in Jewish history and then I got my Master's in theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. both great places

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  7. Wow. I was just in Arizona over Christmas break. (U. or Arizona is one of my top choices for grad school.) I know of some profs at Fuller. From what I've heard they have a pretty solid program. I have to say I really love Jewish history--anything late European or pre-second temple fall is really fun. I've written quite a bit on Jewish holocaust historiography. There are some real freaks out there in Jewish scholarship right now.

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  8. Charger, forgive the delay. My sister was out visiting me here in Korea so I haven't been online much just out having fun with her. So now I got your response and I will read it and get to work on responding.

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  9. I'm glad you could spend time with your sister.

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