The problem of honesty


One of the biggest problems for Christian apologetics is what to do with the problem of evil. God is supposedly all-good, all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving. What’s more, He is also supposed to be the only truly self-existent Being. Everything else that exists was either created directly by God, or by a chain of cause-and-effect whose First Cause is ultimately God.

That’s a problem, because the world abounds in what Christians refer to as sin and evil, which should not be there. If the only self-existent Being is a perfectly good and loving Almighty God, then only good things should result from His deliberate and sovereign actions, even indirectly. No necessity can constrain God except those which are inherent in His nature, and thus if God’s nature does not require evil, then there can be no necessity that evil exist. As an almighty God He should be capable of creating a world without evil, and as a loving God He should want to do so. Thus, the existence of such a God necessarily implies the absence of evil, which contradicts what we see in real life.

William Lane Craig attempts to address this problem with an approach that is both subtle and profoundly deceptive: instead of directly confronting the contradictions raised by the existence of evil, he re-frames the debate into one where the only question is whether God’s existence is incompatible with human suffering. Since there are at least some circumstances where “no pain, no gain” is a valid observation, this re-definition stacks the deck in his favor, and leaves him with an easy out. The uncritical reader is then left with the feeling that Craig has dealt with the ancient Problem of Evil, when in fact all he’s done is a simple bait-and-switch.

(Read the rest of this post at Evangelical Realism. We’ve started chapter 7, and it’s a doozy.)

Comments

  1. sailor1031 says

    I don’t see any problem concerning the “problem of evil”. From jewish and christian scripture their deity is evil as well as sometimes good. It is to be expected that his products will be both evil and good. And christians just need to be honest with themselves (and us) and admit that the reason they suck up and kiss this deity’s rear end is that they are terrified of getting on his wrong side. If I believed that stuff I would be too!

  2. Darby M'Graw says

    he re-frames the debate into one where the only question is whether God’s existence is incompatible with human suffering. Since there are at least some circumstances where “no pain, no gain” is a valid observation

    Humans are finite and limited, and must deal with rules and consequences. It always seems a stretch when I see an attempt to fit the allegedly omnipotent God into this analogy. Who sets the conditions for the trade-offs? Who makes the rules that God must follow?

  3. hazukiazuma says

    Darby:

    Well, this is why you can’t take only single arguments in isolation :)

    Also, you’re forgetting something: God is defined as maximally-excellent, one quality of which excellence is omnibenevolence. You are going to need to argue every single point, every single instance of suffering is absolutely necessary.

    In other words, you’re going to have to show that the God who is also all-powerful (nothing he can’t do) and all-knowing (nothing he doesn’t know) could not possibly in any way shape or form have prevented one single iota of the suffering that has and will occur.

    And this is really, really, really pushing the definition of “maximally excellent” here. A “free will theodicy” is the usual response when someone points out these issues, but I’ve never seen one that can stand up to careful scrutiny. Indeed, just as William Lane Craig’s purported solution to the Euthyphro Dilemma merely pushes the problem back a step, so do all free will theodicies: you would have to prove that God could not choose but to value free will above all else, which is placing a limit on him and is in direct contradiction to his omnipotence.

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