Gospel Disproof #14: Sinning for a better tomorrow


Following up on yesterday’s post, have you ever noticed the weird co-dependency between God and evil? As I’ve said previously, if a good God were to exist, the consequences of His existence ought to be good rather than evil. Yet evil does exist, and is widespread. The Christian answer to this contradiction is to suggest that evil is somehow necessary in order to accomplish a greater good. But we don’t even need to look at the specific excuse of “free will” to see that there is something very fishy about this proposed explanation.

Think about it. God is supposedly the only self-existent being. That means the only constraints and necessities are those which are either inherent in His own nature, or else created by God Himself. If sin and evil are going to be necessary in order to do good, that’s a constraint that is either present in God’s nature—i.e. God’s nature is such that it makes sin and evil necessary!—or else God deliberately commanded that good cannot be achieved in the absence of evil. Either way, if evil is necessary, it’s because God makes it necessary.

I don’t think many Christians would approve of that observation, but what are the alternatives? Suppose it was not necessary to resort to sin and evil in order to accomplish the greater good. What then? That would mean that God could have accomplished the same good results without resorting to sin and evil—but He chose to use evil means anyway! That’s an evil God, folks.

Nor does it help to suggest that God avoids the stain of guilt by merely “allowing” evil instead of actively initiating it. Fallible mortals might be innocent, if their negligence was unintentional and was committed through ignorance. An omnipotent and omniscient deity does not have that excuse. A sovereign God is responsible for the consequences of how He exercises His sovereignty. If He subtly “arranges” things so that some other poor saps have to take the fall while He comes out smelling like roses, that makes Him even more wicked and diabolical, not less so.

Suppose God could have achieved good results without evil, but was able to achieve even better results by making sin and evil part of His “grand design” for history. Is that any better? No, that’s an even less reasonable alternative. First of all, isn’t a lesser good without evil morally superior to a “better” result obtained via evil means? Wouldn’t God be better glorified by a plain wooden altar than one gilded with stolen gold? But that’s the least of the problems here.

The deeper problem is that this alternative proposes that Good itself is irrevocably flawed and imperfect: God Almighty, with all His infinite knowledge and infinite wisdom and infinite power, cannot accomplish as much by Good alone as He can achieve by resorting to evil. Good by itself does not have the power to do good: you have to have evil to do good.

Again, where would such a constraint come from? If God is the only self-existent being, then either God’s nature  requires evil in order to do good, or else God deliberately decreed it, just because He wanted to. Would you worship a God who was either evil by nature or else deliberately decreed that good could only be accomplished through evil?

If God could do a lesser good without resorting to evil, then the lesser good would be morally preferable to any goal requiring evil means (assuming that sin and evil really are bad things, of course). In other words, the possibility of a lesser good means evil is not necessary—in order for there to be a necessity of evil, it must not be possible to do any good at all without resorting to sin and evil.

That is a seriously messed up philosophy of good and evil, and it’s one that even Christians would reject, if they could. But they can’t do that without admitting that a world created by God would be free from the evil we find in real life. It’s an inherent and irreconcilable contradiction, and the only thing Christians can do about it is try to obscure the problem.

Comments

  1. danielrudolph says

    What if good without evil were logically impossible and God could no more make a world without evil than make four a prime number?

    • kagekiri says

      So God had to create/allow evil in order to create good?

      That still calls into question God’s omnipotence, sovereignty, and perfect goodness. If he’s omnipotent and sovereign, he could remake the rules (which makes Jesus dying on the cross a clear sign of masochism by my book), and if he’s perfectly good and omnipotent and sovereign, he writes the rules about goodness and evil; evil should not be a prerequisite to doing more good unless God wants/allows it.

      Saying it’s not logically possible is already moot if God is truly unlimited in goodness and power and fully sovereign over all existence.

      Of course, some argue that God is constrained by his “nature”, but the story of creation and existence as told by the Bible doesn’t make it sound anything like a “good” or “loving” nature.

      Creation goes in with free will, God lets it get corrupted so that “good can flourish” (the whole “weeds in the wheat” explanation for why God is waiting for judgment day to do anything about justice), curses people to suffer for their ancestors’ choices for thousands of years, judges the world and takes away their free will/choice, and gets mindless worshipers and a bunch of howling torture victims to spend eternity with.

      Free will as a better thing than enforced obedience, or evil as a choice being a better thing than pure good…it just doesn’t pan out because God takes those choices away in heaven. God himself doesn’t have a possibility of being evil/wrong, yet he’s supposedly the most good you can be, so that already messes with the “good requires evil (or at least it’s possibility)” idea.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      That goes back to the notion of God as the only self-existent being. If nothing originally existed except God, then the only laws of logic are those which are inherent in God’s nature and those which God made up. If the laws of logic are neither part of God’s nature nor anything created by God, then God is not the only self-existent being, but rather is a being in some larger, self-existent context. That in turn suggests at least the possibility that God’s existence is contingent on the existence of this larger context, which knocks down a whole house of cards, in terms of some of the major philosophical arguments for God’s existence. At that point the thoughtful and sincere Christian must admit that there is a very real possibility (at least!) that Christianity is not true.

      • danielrudolph says

        Do many Christian believe this, though? How many people would actually argue God could make 2 + 2 = 5 is he so chose? My understanding was the dominant school of thought was that logic was self-existent. Aquinas seemed to believe this.

  2. rwahrens says

    This is the real reason that Bart Ehrman gives for his leaving christianity.

    His book, “God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer “, is a very good read for those interested in this subject.

  3. wholething says

    If a god includes unnecessary suffering to achieve a desired end, and all suffering is unnecessary under an omnipotent god, then that god is sadistic.

  4. Rebecca says

    A couple of years ago, I went to a debate between Richard Carrier and Michael Horner on the existence of God. On the problem of evil and suffering in the world, Horner offered a variant of this same argument: that people suffer from hunger, disease and strife in the Third World in order to give us in the richer countries an opportunity to choose to do good, and learn to exercise our free will in God’s work. In the course of his inevitable sermon, he also stated that God has a wonderful plan for each of our lives, and that atheists, in denying the existence of God and his special creation of our species, place no value on human life.

    Putting this all together, it appears that God’s wonderful plan for millions of humans born each year is that they should live short, famished lives and die miserable deaths in early childhood to provide teaching aids for people in more privileged countries. In other words, it’s all about us. Which seems to me to place very little value on their humanity, and to leave them with little opportunity to exercise their free will.

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