A logical defence for the co-existence of evil and the Christian God!

My original thought - God creates world to 'make worthy people?' - World endures unspeakable torment and evil while his plan of restoration via sacrifice results in a bunch of Christians winding up in heaven? To make this omelette, god grins and bears it while dancing along the broken eggshells of blood and pain that paved the way (and possibly continue to writhe in hell below).

The following is an excerpt from an interesting article that can be viewed in its entirety at The Revival Churches Discussion Forum: *I was posting comments left here at the forum but will no longer do so at the wishes of the original author.

Ian - "It's not my aim to touch on the origin of evil at this point, suffice it to say (with Thomas Aquinas), that ultimate cause rests with God. To consider this by way of propositional logic, my preferred form: (1) God is absolutely perfect; (2) God created only perfect creatures; (3) one of the perfections that God gave to some of his creatures was perfect choice; (4) some of these creatures freely chose to do evil; (5) therefore, a perfect creature caused evil. However, it's important to distinguish between the primary cause of a free action (God), and the secondary cause (a human being). Whilst God gave the power of choice, he's not responsible for the exercise of that free choice to do evil: God doesn't perform the free action for us. Also, and contrary to the position promoted by Christians having an Arminian slant, human free choice isn't a mere instrumental cause through which God necessarily works. Human beings are the efficient, albeit secondary, cause of their own free actions. God produces the fact of free choice, but each human being performs the act of free choice. Logically, then, God is responsible for the possibility of evil, but we are responsible for the actuality of it."

11 comments:

Nova said...

There's tons of evil in the world that has nothing to do with free will, i.e. natural disasters.
Plus, why should free choice of a few have such a strong impact on billions?

Sorry Ian, your argument does not convince me at all.

MothRust said...

Ahh, of course. There's a point I didn't consider. Tectonic plates and the weather system were hardly slotted in with the other curses such as 'pain in child birth' and 'tilling the fields'.

Anonymous said...

I'll take a quick stab at this.
First off I want to verify that you state the premise that God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. If this is incorrect, then let me know.

By definition and all-knowing God knows everything. God is eternal and thus knows everything in the past and in the future. He knew when he sent this whole universe into motion exactly what would happen always. He knew who would use their free will to "choose evil." If he knows how I will decide and set it into motion, then how do I have free will? God knew when he created the universe that at this time, I would choose not to believe in him. If he didn't know, then he is not all-knowing, but that gives me back free will. They are mutually exclusive so you must choose whether you want us to have free will or for God to be all-knowing, but you can't have both.
Next, if the ultimate goal is for us to reach heaven and be with him and that is the best thing in the universe to strive for, but we're not allowed free will anymore once we get there, then it goes to reason that free will is actually bad and not having free will is the ultimate in goodness. So God, instead of making us already happy and wonderful in heaven with him, purposefully created us as substandard beings with the hope that through our flaws would somehow reach him? Isn't that a bit sadistic? If you choose to say that God did it that way because he had to, then you are stating that there is a rule or law of the universe that he himself had to follow, which shows that God is not all-powerful, that he himself does not create morality, but has to follow it, and that there are things greater than him. Again, you are left with the choice of A) God is all-powerful, but chose to create us to suffer with the negative aspect of free-will instead of just making us in heaven, happy or B) God is not all-powerful and has to follow a set of rules greater than him. If you argue that we will still have free will in heaven, then why can't I choose to follow him and believe in him after I die and I meet him and actually have some evidence for his existence? If the whole point of free will is to put us through a sadistic game where we have to choose him with no evidence before we die, then it is not logical for us to still have free will after we die. If we do, then there is no point for this sadistic game we go through.
Next is the question that if God is in fact all-powerful, then he could have created a universe that did not involve suffering but allowed for free will and the ability to choose things. If a simple being like me can imagine such a place, than an infinitely powerful creature that created everything could have done it. If he couldn't do it then he is not all-powerful.
Next, I have some issues with some of your assumptions. How come evil isn't a substance, but good is? If you say that evil isn't a substance, but is a privation in a substance, I can say the same about good. Does that mean that God didn't create good? By your logic that is what it means. And how are you able to say that it's impossible to destroy evil without also destroying free choice? Based on what? And why is freedom of choice necessary to a moral universe? How did you arrive at those assumptions/conclusions? If God had created a universe in which evil didn't exist, then we could sit around all day and still debate freedom of choice, because we'd never even be aware of the choice of evil. We only assume it has to exist so that we can have a choice between the two existent choices! What if, hypothetically, the universe is ruled by 3 choices? Good, Evil, and Dingleloop? No human has ever been aware of Dingleloop, so we think our only choices are between Good and Evil. So if God created a universe without the concept of evil, we could still have choice, still have morality, but not have to suffer. If he created it this way because he had to, then again, he had to follow a higher rule.
I'm terribly sorry but all these wonderful presentations of yours only go to show the ridiculous mental gymnastics required to belief and justify to oneself the concept of a god. I'll stick with valid logic and reason.
Here's a great article illustrating how bad all the apologists excuses for evil are:
http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2007/03/god-of-eth.html

And here's a great article about the illusion of free will:
http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2008/08/morality-and-absence-of-free-will.html

MothRust said...

Hey thanks, that awesome. I've passed this reply onto Ian already. And ditto, the first thing I thought of after reading Ian's post was about this mythical eternal period after evil has been conquered and done away with. No more free will? Couldn't we have skipped the 'billions of suffering humans' bit?

Urchin said...

So if God knows that you'll choose evil and then because of free will lets you, that means he's not all-knowing??

Not a very 'logical or reasonable' point and I really can't work out why you think they are 'mutually exclusive'?

Urchin

MothRust said...

Urchles, I think you're missing the irony in the whole predestination bit.

After reading Ian's piece, the first thing that came to my mind was the prospect that free choice will be done away with after some victory of evil is had. A time is coming when god will no longer permit evil to be done? My argument is that this time should have been a long time ago. Long before men were allowed to suffer. God lets the devil have a go at Job? Nasty god. What is this future event coming that will undo all the evil before it and set in place a new balance where there is no longer a choice to do evil or shades thereof. Six hundred billion years from now... still no ability to question the authority? A trillion years from now, the brief moment in history when there was free choice and free thought becomes but a very distant memory of the new eternal robots?

Silent Dave said...

Ian said,

(2) It's actually impossible to destroy evil without also destroying free choice.

Christians have never proven this premise, which is the lynchpin of all free will defenses, and there is good reason to think that it can never be proven. Therefore, Ian's defense fails.

Ian said...

By definition and all-knowing God knows everything. God
is eternal and thus knows everything in the past and in the future. He knew when he sent this whole universe into motion exactly what would happen always.
He knew who would use their free will to "choose evil." If he knows
how I will decide and set it into motion, then how do I have free will?


Hardly! What you've offered above is little more than a logical fallacy. Consider: God's
exhaustive knowledge isn't necessarily constrained by your ability to freely choose. Further, there comes a point at which you do or will make a choice;
prior to that point being reached/actualised, however, all that exists is the potential that you do or will make a choice. And importantly, God judges us by what we do (realised action), not by what we might do at some point in the future as perceived by us (unrealised action).

God knew when he created the universe that at this time,
I would choose not to believe in him. If he didn't know, then he is not all-knowing, but that gives me back free will. They are mutually exclusive so you must choose whether you want us to have free will or for God to be all-knowing, but you can't have both.


Wrong. What you've offered isn't a "mutually exclusive" set of propositions at all, nor even a paradox. It is in fact, as I said, a rather simple logical fallacy; one that resulted from the faulty pre-conditions that underpinned your thought process (and might I add, your entire argument).

Next, if the ultimate goal is for us to reach heaven and be with him and that is the best thing in the universe to strive for, but we're not allowed free will anymore once we get there, then it goes to reason that free will is actually bad and not having free will is the ultimate in goodness.

Still more faulty premises. First, what makes you think that the "ultimate goal" is for us to reach heaven? From a Christian perspective, "reaching heaven" isn't the ultimate goal, heaven reaching us, however, is. Second,
who is it who says that redeemed beings won't be allowed freedom of will in the Eschaton? From whence comes this supposition? But to move the argument forwards a bit, why must eternal redemption equal transformation into an automaton? Eh?

So God, instead of making us already happy and wonderful
in heaven with him, purposefully created us as substandard beings with the hope that through our flaws would somehow reach him? Isn't that a bit sadistic?


No, but it is a thoroughly illogical thing to propose. Consider, why (or even how) would God creating "perfect" beings in heaven be any different to creating
"perfect" beings on earth? After all, "perfection" describes a superlative, a state that can't be improved upon, therefore "location" is completely irrelevant. Second, the word
"perfect" requires some dualification: perfect for what, exactly? Perfect for communing with God? Or perfect in nature, knowledge and authority so as to be
like God?

If you choose to say that God did it that way because he had to, then you are stating that there is a rule or law of the universe that
he himself had to follow, which shows that God is not all-powerful, that he himself does not create morality, but has to follow it, and that there are things greater than him. Again, you are left with the choice of A) God is
all-powerful, but chose to create us to suffer with the negative aspect of free-will instead of just making us in heaven, happy or B) God is not all-powerful and has to follow a set of rules greater than him. If you argue that we will still have free will in heaven, then why can't I choose to follow him and believe in him after I die and I meet him and actually have some evidence for his existence?


Really? But then again, (a) I didn't state anything of the sort, you did; and (b) it was God
himself who ordained that one's future destiny is determined by one's current activity. They're his rules, not mine.

If the whole point of free will is to put us through a sadistic game where we have to choose him with no evidence before we die, then it is not logical for us to still have free will after we die. If we do, then there is no point for this sadistic game we go through.

You keep saying, "if". Who is it that says the "whole point of free will is to put us through a sadistic game"? And on what propositional basis was this
premise reached? I'll say one thing about it though it certainly hasn't been defended by anything approaching rational or "logical" reasoning thus far. All that you've done is ask rhetorical questions which have no bearing on
the consistency (or otherwise) of my proffered theodicy.

Next is the question that if God is in fact all-powerful, then he could have created a universe that did not involve suffering but
allowed for free will and the ability to choose things. If a simple being like me can imagine such a place, than an infinitely powerful creature that created
everything could have done it. If he couldn't do it then he is not
all-powerful.


Do you think? Consider the following propositions: (1) God isn't obligated to create any
universe/world, given that his own existence is the supreme good (and not your existence or mine, which is the apparent basis of your reasoning). (2) Creating a
universe/world is a fitting thing for God to do, but it's not the only fitting thing for him to do. Whatever he chooses to do is done on the basis of reason, but such reasons aren't necessary laws in this universe. (3) There are an
infinite number of finite contingent possible universes/worlds. Some are, by
their very nature, inherently evil, so God couldn't create them. However, there is more than one good possible universe/world which God could have created. But
there is no such thing as a best possible world. (4) God was free with respect to whether or not he should create, and with respect to which of the good possible universes/worlds he would create, if he chose to create. Capiche?

For what it's worth to you, I'd suggest that if you struggle with this concept, that you should locate and read some of Gottfried Leibnz's work.

Next, I have some issues with some of your assumptions.
How come evil isn't a substance, but good is? If you say that evil isn't a substance, but is a privation in a substance, I can say the same about good. Does that mean that God didn't create good? By your logic that is what it
means.


Not even closely. What you're actually attempting to do, above, is challenge the theological "truth-claims" that underpin my theodicy. And remember
that I stated up-front in my first post that a theodicy isn't a defence of God that needs to convince you of anything; it's simply a demonstration of internal
consistency that conforms to the basic laws of logic. The only person it needs to convince is me Now, a foundational premise from which I constructed my theodicy was that God is "good". Consequently, "goodness" is an attribute of God. Evil, however, isn't an attribute of a "good"
God, therefore it's non-substantial given that a "good" God created all things, and declared them to be "good" (in substance). So, as I hope you can see, you can take whatever issues you wish to take regarding my assumptions, such don't challenge the internal and logical
consistency of my theodicy at all. What they do; however, at best, is call into question the validity of the underpinning "truth-claims", themselves. But in doing as much, you've strayed into the field of apologetics and away from
testing the logic of my theodicy.

And how are you able to say that it's impossible to destroy evil without also destroying free choice? Based on what?

Read my post again, and you just might see.

And why is freedom of choice necessary to a moral universe?
How did you arrive at those assumptions/conclusions?


Logical reasoning, so please take another peek at my post. It's in there.

If God had created a universe in which evil didn't exist, then we could sit around all day and still debate freedom of choice, because we'd never even be aware of the choice of evil. We only assume it has to exist so that we can have a choice between the two existent choices!

Hmmm. I have to ask: did you actually read my post? In it I stated that God created a universe
devoid of actualised evil, not the potential for evil (and remember, evil is a privation and not a substance). So I do wonder from whence came your assumptions.

What if, hypothetically, the universe is ruled by 3 choices? Good, Evil, and Dingleloop? No human has ever been aware of
Dingleloop, so we think our only choices are between Good and Evil.


Sorry, but you've strayed completely outside the scope of my theodicy. What you're currently trying to do is pit your "world-view" against mine (which
is, as I've already mentioned, to stray into the realm of apologetics). What you need to do, and what you should be doing, is seeking to challenge the
internal consistency of my propositions as they stand. In effect, you're attempting to prove something, rather than disprove the coherence of my theodicy!

So if God created a universe without the concept of evil,
we could still have choice, still have morality, but not have to suffer. If he created it this way because he had to, then again, he had to follow a higher rule.


"If",
"if", "if"?

I'm terribly sorry but all these wonderful presentations
of yours only go to show the ridiculous mental gymnastics required to belief and justify to oneself the concept of a god. I'll stick with valid logic and reason.


I might be so bold as to suggest that yours are two rather significant claims, neither of
which is supported by anything even remotely approaching the use of rational thought by way of
logical method. Given that you apparently can't quite distinguish the basis of this discussion, and that is the distinction between theodicy and a defence for the existence of God, I find it
rather difficult to take seriously your claim to "stick(ing) with valid logic and reason."

Hoo, roo.

Ian

HeavyThinker said...

Ian, I think I may be missing something. I re-read your original proposal and it re-affirmed what I originally wanted to say after reading it, so perhaps there was nothing to miss at all.

First, let me say how refreshing it is to read the thought process of a clearly-thinking theist.

You go on a bit about the difference between theodicy versus defense. I will say now that I think understand the difference.

That said, I realize there may be things I do not grasp, and if this is the case, I encourage you to point out these aspects of the argument.

Now:
You relate how God could create the natural world with the potential for evil, but not actually creating evil itself (only the potential for it.) I grasp this fine enough, and in fact, it was the understanding of creation that I once embraced when I was a Christian.

But in reading your argument, you preface this with the following, and as my logic follows, jumped to another plane of reality that I cannot (nor anyone else) argue against because it doesn't represent the reality I see, or a reality I can hypothetically imagine.

(1) God can't do what's actually impossible. (2) It's actually impossible to destroy evil without also destroying free choice. (3) But freedom of choice is necessary to a moral universe. (4) Therefore, God can't destroy evil without also destroying this moral universe. Going back to our basic laws of logic, it's impossible for God to do what's contradictory, and even an omnipotent being can only do what's possible (he can't make square circles, for instance).

Here's where you leave the realm of rationality. For all people reading this the following is true:
Nothing is impossible for something that is all-powerful.
Even the square circle should be possible for an all-powerful being able to create or destroy dimensions on a whim.

But I'll admit, you had me going there for a while, and I enjoy what you write.

Eek said...

I cbf actually reading this post but the title made me lol... lol.

Herman Krieger said...

Religious satire: Photo essay, "Churches ad hoc"
www.efn.org/~hkrieger