I mentioned meeting Mark Fournier at Eschaton. (There are surprisingly many B&W readers-and-commenters in Ottawa.) Step in the time machine and go back to 2006, and Richard Swinburne…
Remember this of Swinburne’s? The interjection is mine.
Theodicy provides good explanations of why God sometimes — for some or all of the short period of our earthly lives — allows us to suffer pain and disability.
Good? Good explanations? Good in what sense?
Although intrinsically bad states, these difficult times often serve good purposes for the sufferers and for others. My suffering provides me with the opportunity to show courage and patience. It provides you with the opportunity to show sympathy and to help alleviate my suffering. And it provides society with the opportunity to choose whether or not to invest a lot of money in trying to find a cure for this or that particular kind of suffering.
Uh huh. Because everything, if you look at it like that, can be warped into something that is actually good. We should all go out and cause suffering then, right?
Mark a few months earlier was considering Swinburne’s take on causality and why God.
And now we come to another of Swinburne’s arguments: that assuming an intelligent creator is a simpler premise than the naturalistic alternatives. Given that it took all of this infrastructure just to get a few billion moderately intelligent and generally benign humans to appear on one planet, how is it simpler to assume the existence of an infinitely intelligent and good entity? Where did God come from? The answer is usually that God has always existed, but since Swinburne finds it highly suspicious that particles all follow the same rules across most of space and time, how likely is it that an entity as complex as God would never change? It’s no good to say that God is above time, because apparently he intervenes occasionally, which situates Him as an actor in time. It is precisely this temporal existence of the divine that believers crave–a God above time is not interactive. Indeed, an entity above time and space would be so utterly alien as to be completely orthogonal to all human hopes and wishes, ruling the universe by an incomprehensible aesthetic more conducive to blind terror than comfort and hope.
I always think it’s odd that many people think they know not only that god exists but also what god is like and that god is good in a sense that is meaningful to humans. That’s a lot to know. It’s a lot to know and there’s no real source for any of it. How can they possibly be so sure that god is not “so utterly alien as to be completely orthogonal to all human hopes and wishes”? It always makes me wonder how they know god isn’t raising us for food. That’s why when we got to this point in the conversation on Friday evening, I said “it’s a cookbook” and everyone laughed. They all knew the reference.