Over at the other blog, we’re wrapping up William Lane Craig’s attempt to look like he’s solving the problem of evil without actually confronting the real issues. Interestingly, one of his arguments suggests that the problem may be unsolvable by evangelical Christians.
Craig’s argument is that God might have a good reason for allowing human suffering, if it allows us to attain a better knowledge of Himself. According to Christian teaching, the Ultimate Good for mankind is to know God, and therefore it’s possible that a good God might co-exist with human suffering (which Craig has substituted for the more difficult problem of evil). But even if we assume that knowing God is a good thing, there’s nothing about this assumption that makes God any more likely to co-exist with suffering, and in fact makes it a whole lot less likely. See below the fold for the reason why.
God does not show up in real life. Nobody has any photographs of His face, or any audio recordings of His voice. You can’t overhear God speaking to someone else, or catch Him on a security camera as He walks down the street. God, in short, does absolutely nothing to show up for that intimate, personal, one-on-one relationship that He allegedly wanted so bad He was willing to literally die for it.
Christians don’t like to admit that He is absent. They claim to have a direct experience of God, spiritually; that God comes into their hearts in some mystical way and works in them and through them to inspire their hearts with love and their minds with a deeper understanding of Himself. And that totally demolishes Craig’s argument, because it involves God imparting both knowledge and experience of Himself directly to the believer.
What that means is that even if the knowledge of God were the ultimate good, God would not be restricted to imparting that knowledge through suffering alone. He would have other channels available to Him—better channels, in fact, since people are prone to misinterpret the significance of worldly and materialistic happenstances. Consequently, if Christians are not lying to us about God coming into their hearts and communing with them, the desirability of knowing God only decreases the probability that He would resort to sin and suffering to cruelly and imperfectly communicate it.
You can’t explain this away by appealing to the doctrine of sin nature. If God could achieve ultimate goodness by directly imparting knowledge of Himself, then that whole Garden of Eden story is unnecessary: all God needs to do is intervene before Eve bites. Just impart knowledge of the truth to her directly, and cut straight to the good results without the pointless meanderings through sin, evil, and suffering.
Nor can you evade this problem by arguing that God is mysteriously unable to impart vital knowledge of Himself directly. We’re supposed to be His creatures, made in His own image, so if we lack the capacity to receive this essential knowledge of God, it’s because He chose not to give it to us. You have to argue that there is some fundamental necessity which prevents even God from direct communication with us, which is going to be tricky to do without also making liars out of all the Christians who claim to have any kind of spiritual experience of God. And then you’re going to have to explain why sin, suffering, and evil, are better at communicating this vital information about God than God Himself is.
Yeah, good luck with that.