The Problem of Evil (Or The Old Story of How God Loves Him Some Free Will)

Well, this is a post that I’ve been dreading doing for a long time, but I’m going to get something down here if it kills me. Here we go….

So, if there’s a god that really loves us then why is there so much evil in the world? The answer from believers, it seems, is always free will. If god gave us free will then he has to allow for not only good, but also bad. If this freedom weren’t allowed then it would not really be free will.

Fair enough. I understand the argument. What I’d like to do now is show why it’s a weak excuse for a god that allows such massive atrocity and devastation to visit individuals as well as massive groups of people.

It seems that god holds free will in such high regard that he’d rather a woman raped and killed or a child molested than intervene and stop the offender. The rapist is exercising his free will to rape and maim. It wouldn’t be free will if he wasn’t allowed to after all.

What always struck me was that nobody considers the free will of the victim. You know, their desire of not wanting to be raped and fighting back against their attacker? Does this not factor into god’s decision to intervene or not?

Imagine that you’re walking along a city street late at night and you take a turn down an alley. In the alley you see a man attacking a woman and it’s clear that he’s going to attempt to rape her. What would you do? Would you do like god does and just not intervene because you know….free will. He’s exercising his ability to rape. If god holds it in such high regard then maybe you should as well. Or would you help the woman and scare off the attacker?

I hope that any level headed person would attack the attacker or call for help in an attempt to stop the attack. If you agree that you’d stop the attack then I think it’s safe to say that you’ve more moral sense than god. Or maybe you just think you know better than your god?

If you think that god put you there to stop the rape I think you’re scapegoating the issue. If your god really were all powerful he could simply wipe that guy out or remove the sickness from his brain that makes him want to rape. Why would he even allow such an atrocity to take place? So that we can have a measurement of how evil people can be? So we can know good from bad?

There’s 2 good points in the bible where god shows he really doesn’t think so highly of free will after all. The first example is good old Pharaoh. Turn with me if you will to Exodus 9:12:

“But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron, just as the LORD had said to Moses.” – NIV

This is a story that every kid knows inside and out if you’re raised in the church as I was. What this verse means is that god ultimately acted upon the Pharaoh to get the outcome he desired whether Pharaoh wanted to or not. Then, because god is ultimate justice, he punished the Pharaoh and Egypt for the choices the Pharaoh made that he may not have actually wanted to make. What?!

What justice is this? Would this ever pass in any court? If you were injected with a drug that made you not in control of your own actions, but made you obey the whims of the madman that gave you the drug, would any court punish the victim that was forced the drug? No. You punish the man administering the drug!

To me this is a clear violation of the Pharaoh’s free will followed by the extremely unjust punishment given to him for doing something he was forced to do.

Let’s say I gave you 50 bucks. I told you that it’s your 50 bucks and you can do whatever you want with it, but then I controlled what you did with it. Would it really be your 50 bucks? Or what if I let you spend it where you wanted and then punished you if you didn’t spend it how I saw fit? Would you really have been “free” to do with it what you want? Was it really a gift?

This analogy falls directly in line with god doing one of his most awesome acts of “check out my guns, man!” In case you haven’t guessed it yet I’m talking, of course, about the Great Flood.

God, being unhappy with the choices his creation has made, floods the earth and kills all men, women, children and babies (except for a few people that repopulate the earth through incest….again) because people weren’t doing what he wanted them to with their free will. Does this not seem like a contradiction? God gave us free will and then when we didn’t use it how he liked he killed us off. Stay classy, god!

One of the most outrageous crimes I’ve ever heard was the story of Elisabeth and Josef Fritzl. Josef Fritzl kept his daughter, Elisabeth, locked in the basement for 24 years and raped her almost nightly. She gave birth to 7 kids by him. 24 years?!

Can you imagine how much she cried out to god to help her? Sadly, god again seems only to care for the free will of the attackers or the strong. Does this not seem silly to anyone else?

Now imagine this happy scenario, say that a rape victim loses faith in god because of the horrible trauma they were forced to suffer. They can’t imagine why a god would allow such a thing to happen so they eventually reach the conclusion that there are no gods. She dies years later and goes to hell.

Meanwhile the rapist, having been caught and thrown in jail, finds Jesus and accepts him into his heart. When the rapist dies he goes to heaven.

This, to me, is the ultimate morally revolting idea of Christianity. That it’s not about what you do, but what you believe. The ultimate injustice carried out by a “loving” god that has shown he will intervene in free will, but only if it’s to further his glory.

I guess pedophiles, murderers and rapists are all just part of a larger plan that we’ll never comprehend to bring about some greater glory that we don’t have the mind to understand.

It’s a notion that I’ve gladly wrung my hands of.

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35 thoughts on “The Problem of Evil (Or The Old Story of How God Loves Him Some Free Will)

    • You’re too kind. The hesitation comes from the fact that it’s hard to even know how to address some stuff since common agreement, even among believers, can be hard to find. While I’ve had some assure me I’ll be burning in hell, I’ve just had someone as recently as yesterday tell me I need to abandon my thoughts of hell and focus on the love of Jesus. That hell isn’t a place, but an end to consciousness.

      So sometimes I’ll blog about stuff that many believers don’t even think is an issue because they don’t view it that way. Oh well. It’s still fun to write from time to time.

      Appreciate the feedback!

  1. This is a thought provoking piece. Bravo. I follow your concerned about the free will defense but I believe you failed to understand it. Free will defense, as presented by Alvin Plantinga, aims to show that the evil, for example ones you mentions, are logically combatible with existence of standard theistic God.

    The idea behind is not that God value human’s free will so much, but that free will is essential for relationship of love between Creator-sentient creature and sentient creature to other creature. Christians, for example, hold that God created sentient creature to first love Him and love each other. For there to be love, free will is necessity. God creating a world with possibility of love, meant a world with sentient creature with free will. Moral evil is a result of some sentient creature abusing there free will.

    Free will, as I understand when classically used in problem of evil, is the ability to exemplify God’s essential character( loving God and loving each other) or not to exemplify it( not loving God and not loving each other).

    Sadly the version of Christianity you were told is horrible. The idea that accepting Jesus means going to heaven even after committing horrible crimes is sadly terrible and twisted Christianity. It is American Pentecostalism which I think is false.

    Let me know your thoughts.

    • I appreciate the thought out reply and for your reading and considering.

      Like I said early in the post I understand the argument that for there to be free will there has to be the opportunity of both good and bad.

      I was attacking it more from a moral perspective and saying that somethings, the victimization of children, are worth intervening in. If I were god and had the power to stop someone from raping a child I would. God has show that he won’t.

      Morally, I do have a problem with that. Does that disprove the existence of a god? No, absolutely not. Does it mean that the argument that free will has to have good and bad is invalid? No, not at all.

      The fact that god has shown (strictly speaking in terms of the bible), in his own holy book, that he will intervene in the affairs of men choosing their own actions shows that he not only has the ability to, but also the incentive to from time to time. Again, morally, I can’t think of a better time to intervene than to stop the worst of criminals from harming the most helpless of victims. Would him smiting these guys impinge upon their free will to decide and take action to rape or not? Nope, but at least the victims would be spared.

      It would be beneficial if god would just make his existence known to remove any doubts among skeptics or agnostics. Having knowledge that he does exist does not stop me from deciding to follow him or not because even the demons know god and chose to turn against him.

      You actually hit the nail on the head with my hesitance to blog on this topic. Your view of hell, possibly even the existence of or at least how you get there, seems wildly different from my upbringing, Southern Baptist and then Evangelical many years later.

      I’m aware that there’s a large variation on the views of hell, how you get there and what it really is among believers, but, truthfully, hell and all of it’s forms no longer concern me.

      When you said that the “version of Christianity” I was told is horrible you also touched on a larger issue. That there are 30,000 different denominations all stemming from the same book and they all think they’ve got it right. How can you be as certain as them or at least have a more credible argument than them?

      I’d be all for hearing your views on the topic as I do enjoy the discussion. Are you saying that there are certain sins so bad that even if you turn to Jesus you don’t get to heaven?

      Faith? Works? Fruits? Faith and works? Faith, fruits and works?

      Thanks again for taking the time to respond.

      • Thank you for your response Nathan. It expounded a lot and put many things into a better and more understanding context. I enjoy this kind of discourse where two sides with great civility discuss on these important issues.

        I believe you are on something attacking free will defense from a moral perspective. I, for one, do not find the problem of evil strong logically but it is totally emotionally powerful. Our emotions toward victimized children in an endless pain and suffering create a powerful challenge to those holding that God’s benevolent. The pictures painted help us to move from abstracts to reality.

        Theists holding God’s omnipotence and benevolence could state that God can intervene but do not (for a specific period of time) because God has morally sufficient reason not to yet. There is a time in the future (in this life or next) where God will intervene and bring justice to the victimized. No evil will go unpunished and no harm that will not be restored. This does not have to be true in reality, no believed by any one. It simply needs to be possible. If it is possible then the logical problem fails.

        There is a possibility that God does not want to make His existence certain. Irenaeus and later John Hick proposed this idea that God created sentient creature at an epistemological distance from Him. This is so, they argued, because it is essential for freedom of will. You are thus correct, even the demons know God but chose to turn against Him. Hick would say because they are also created at an epistemological distance thus had free will. There is a time when God remove that epistemological distance, thus remove free will. For angles, that time is over. Those angels that freely love God (through exemplifying His essential good nature) are now enjoying Him while those angels that freely not love God (through not exemplifying His essential good nature) is now awaiting final judgment as fallen angels (demons). Humans are still having time.

        By version of Christianity I meant the contemporary American (and spreading in Africa and Asia) Christianity that is very removed from Historical Christianity. I cannot be certain, but comparing that version of Christianity with that of 30 – 1050 A.D. Mostly the Christianity of 30 – 250 A.D. is so different for that version.

        Christianity is a historical worldview. To know how Christianity ought to be, then it is best to explore the views early Christians.

        I would love to explore this topic with you in detail because I became an agnostic atheist in my later teen to my early twenties. One beautiful lady, now my wife, challenged me not to toss Christianity away because of a watered down version I had from Christians around, but to explore its history and philosophy. I dropped aviation and did B.A. in Theology (Religious Studies) and now moving to M. A. in Persuasive Design (Philosophy of Religion). I moved from agnostic atheist to moral relativist deist in my early twenties. 4 years ago, I returned to classical theism holding Augustinian-Aquinas-Anselm’s (Triple A) form of Christianity.

        Sorry for a lengthy reply. Let me know your thoughts Nathan.

    • I stand corrected but you have espoused a man made philosophical theory, Prayson.
      If you wouldn’t m ind shutting up for a moment I’d like to hear what god has to say….
      Okay, I’m listening…..er…still listening…

      ( oh, and in case you are listening , should I intervene and stop this bloke from raping this woman at the end of this alley?) Er…god, you there? Heeellooo.

      ”Ah, fuck it, I’ll make up my own mind. Hang on lady, I;m coming…”

      • I am not sure where you are or going with your input. Does it challenge the case I stated intellectually? I think not. Does it challenge it emotionally? I think it does.

        A person watching another person raped, doing nothing and hoping that God would intervene at that moment is irrational and failed to understand the nature of God(if God exists that is) nor the world created.

        The case I made is simply that God from a Christian point of view:

        God created higher sentient beings to have a loving relationship with Him and each other. For there to be genuine love, sentient beings where where endowed with freedom to exemplify God’s character of love and goodness. For there to be freedom of will these creatures where created at an epistemical distance from God. Some creatures abuse there freedom by not exemplifying God’s character and thus pain and suffering is the consequence.

        God is allowing pain and suffering for a certain period of time. The time is coming where God will remove the epistemical distance between Him and humans, bring a stop to pain and suffering and bring judgment to all past and present evil and justice to the victim. God will restore and intensify the state of those who exemplify God’s character. The evil doers will receive a righteous justice.

        This above point of view does not have to be true nor does it need one to believe it. It only need to be a possibly true from all that we know(or don’t).

        Given that point of view, the rape challenge does fail intellectually and would dare add emotionally. The raped will find justice, and be restored, even though the rapist may go unnoticed in this life, he will answer the evil committed. From emotional point of view that the rapist will face charge is more comforting that the thought that the rapist will go unnoticed.

        Thus I find your objection both intellectually and emotionally poor. As a ridicule, I think it is powerful. But beyond ridicule to critical thinking… I will let readers decide.

      • One of the reason’s Nate left Christianity was because it is utterly devoid of anything intellectually worthwhile, a wasteland full of emotional cripples and abused youngsters who believe that they if they rub something hard enough ( hiding it from their god for fear of blindness, I suspect) that a metaphorical genie will appear and save their sole(sic) – always something fishy about religion right?

        As for the rape analogy/challenge it actually illustrates what a first rate bastard Yahweh/Jesus really is ( if they existed of course) and the only people who are really being screwed mentally as well as physically are defenseless children and the utter fools who submit them and themselves to such diatribe.

        As Nate states (somewhere), now he is an atheist he is having the time of his life. That he had to wait nearly 30 years just shows you how unfortunate he was.

        You wish to be a plonker for the rest of your life? Good for you.
        Please keep it away from kids, okay?

      • Sadly you have not engage in what I presented but chose to reside in more ridicules. I think your ridicules are powerful but sadly they contribute heat and not light in this issue. Thank you for sharing your concerns. Thank you for our exchange. 😀

      • No, the bottom line is simple. You are not acknowledging it and are simply engaging in obfuscation and high brow philosophical mind games.
        This is your trademark. What is there abut your post to engage?
        If you need philosophy to engage your god then your god is pretty hopeless on the saving rape victims front I’d say and can go and get stuffed. Philosophically , of course.

        All that is now behind Nathan. he has done all the philosophizing, and reached the only logical common sense decision left open to any rational human being.
        What you believe in is a crock of es aitch one T.
        Ecscusez moi mon Francais.

      • You are correct philosophy and philosophical mind “games” is my trademark.

        😉 You are awesome. Do know that I value your critique. Thank you Arkenaten once again.

      • You’re welcome. I don’t do tiptoe round the issue.

        Have you made the correct moral decision yet to keep this nonsense away from your beautiful daughter? I hope so.Let he live a childhood free of superstitious garbage, okay?

  2. English is your 3rd language?! Geez. Maybe I should have paid better attention in German class in high school and college.

    Glad my reply cleared some stuff up and I appreciate your clarifying some thing as well as giving me a bit of your history. Also, I’m a big fan of civil discourse!

    Of course you could argue that god may not want to make his existence know, but I feel like if we go much farther we’re going to be into cases of special pleading for god.

    Is it possible that there’s a god? Sure. Just as it’s possible that Santa Claus is real and Bigfoot is real. Do I think it’s probable? Personally, I do not.

    Is it possible that god is waiting to hand out judgement and avenge the victimized? Sure. I think it’s more likely that there’s no god there and these answers only serve to preserve a picture of a god that loves and cares for his creation when we have no evidence to support those claims.

    I respect your walk and can appreciate your journey that brought you to deism, but I’m not sure how you made the jump from deism, where you think something made us and then left, back to theism of the Christian God. Did you rule out all the other gods?

    • Thank you for your kindness Nathan. You reflect way careful thinking ought to be done.

      I do not think that Santa Claus and Bigfoot are in the same category as a being that is God. For one Santa Claus did exist. Saint Nicholas of Myra was the man whose kindness in story told and retold and sadly twisted into contemporary fiction. I have not heard case for or against Bigfoot, thus cannot pass judgement there.

      You are correct that the idea of God going to pass judgement and avenge the victimize presuppose that God exists and care about the creations. A case is need to show that that is the case. The best position, is like yours, when we have no evidence presented. It is possibly true(or it is possibly false). With no evidence on the table we neither affirm nor deny it.

      The jump from deism to classical theism was not easy. For a long time I found home in Taoism. My journal was philosophically ontological and not epistemological at first. I did not ask epistemological questions, “who is god?, but ontological one, “what is god?”.

      In ontology there is no such thing a Christian God and other gods. There is only a being that is God. A being that is God is classically defined as the greatest conceivable being, viz., a being that possesses maximal excellence with respect to power (omnipotence), knowledge (omniscience), presence (omnipresence) and is morally perfect.

      There cannot be more than one being that is God (See Baillie, James & Hagen Jason “There Cannot Be Two Omnipotent Beings” in International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Vol. 64, No. 1 (Aug., 2008), pp. 21-33)).

      Muslim say Allah is the being that is God, Christians/Jews say Yahweh is the being that is God, Platonist would say Ultimate Form is the being that is God, Aristotle would say Unmoved Mover is the being that is God, Deist would say Intelligent Creator is the being that is God &c., How I end up Christians is a tale for another time 😉

      Let me know your thoughts Nathan.

      • Yeah, ontology is an interesting course of thinking, but one I’ve never found much traction in or took too seriously. There’s some fun games you can play with it, but I’ve never taken it much farther than textbook thinking.

        When you said “There Cannot Be Two Omnipotent Beings” I immediately thought of the Trinity. Three in one and all that. I remember my wife talking to my 3 year old son almost a year ago about the difference between Jesus and God, but that they’re the same person.

        He laughed and said, “That’s silly!” Sometimes I wonder if kids are much wiser than we adults.

        I’m going to send you an email here soon. I’d love to keep in touch if you’re on facebook!

      • Awesome Nathan. The doctrine of Trinity is headache in theology and philosophy. Your 3 years old son is correct that it is silly to think that Jesus and God[the Father] is the same person. Early Christians rejected that view. It was called Sabellianism.

        Concisely Trinity is about One being that is God with three distinct center of conscious. Namely three distinct persons in One being that is God. Being that are human have one center of conscious. The “I”.

        I would pass Theological Tractates & The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, which I think is a classical piece done on that topic, to your wife (if she is interested in the philosophical theology).

        Let keep in touch Nathan. Thank you so much for our discourse.

  3. I find all this talk about early Christians problematic on two fronts. My explication should also shed some light on similarly problematic reasoning.

    Firstly, which early Christians? Pre or post Constantine (we have numerous similarly influential break points like this)? Further still which sect of pre or post Constantine Christians? The idea that there was at one time one Christianity is impossible. This is because any Christian theology and terminology touching on God or any aspect of the supernatural have no common or concrete referents between people. Therefore, each individual has their own formulation. An exaggerated case of this could be seen by asking Einstein, The Pope, and a Deist: “Do you believe in God? Yes or No?”. All three would answer yes, though they would all three define the term quite differently. Einstein used the word as a metaphor, explicitly. The pope believes in a personal God. The Deist is much more enigmatic about the definition of God. The reason for this is that ‘God’ is a noun without a demonstrable referent. This is not an argument against a god/s, but rather an argument that any two people who profess belief in a god/s could believe the same thing. Indeed this is a problem even for objects/things with demonstrable common referents as each persons individual experience will come to inform the meaning of whatever word a person uses, doubly so for non-rational belief systems based on the existence of the supernatural.

    Secondly, peri Constantine Christians were xenophobic with an anti-roman genocidal itch (pre) or crusading with an anti-non-christian genocidal itch (post). This is hardly surprising given the endorsement of figures like Jesus of the existence of the god of the old testament who ordered genocide on numerous occasions. What is especially problematic is that such records are all you have to base your Christianity on and the intended mode of interpretation of these records (if not the actual interpretation) is revealed to us by the study of ancient and contemporary mythologies and legends. The collection of texts in the Bible (let’s leave aside the fact that there isn’t one definitive Bible) itself is an agglomeration of various mythologies (moral or origin stories) and legends (stories) before the advent of history as either an attempted objective record or a reflective backward looking documentation of human events. History, mythology, and legend were one in the same (and still are for a good many folks who do not live in the WEIRD – western industrialized rich democratic – world). We can glean than that the interpretation of these stories, mythology or legend, was meant to be literal in addition to figurative and moral. The idea that they were meant figuratively is an artefact of WEIRD privilege influenced by esoteric deists, the enlightenment, and other developments. Those who wrote the story of Noah believed it, Jesus really did curse a fig tree, and if you do not believe this it is unlikely that early Christians would have accepted you into their circles.

  4. Generally speaking the Free Will argument drives me nuts. “Free” from what, exactly? I truly don’t think the subject deserves anywhere near the attention apologists give it, yet one thing is clear: if we’re to follow the theological line of reasoning then the theist must admit that their god favours the free will of the rapist (to use an example) over the free will of the victim. This, of course, is morally abhorrent. Similarly, following the apologists reasoning, it is impossible to in fact say we have free will. The claim is we were created with one purpose: to worship this deity. We did not ask to be created, rather it, and our supposed one purpose (worship), was imposed on us. We were, in effect, born into bondage. There is no freedom in this arrangement, only servitude to a purpose the “created” (the slave) had no say in. Purpose is set in stone, to worship, and if that purpose is not fulfilled pain and suffering will be inflicted… no ifs or buts. This punishment is guaranteed. The question to this god is then: Why even create these creatures in the first place if this is their lot in the drama?

    The entire subject collapses on so many levels its baffling how it survives even inside theology corridors.

    • You an I agree on most every level it seems. A dear friend of mine (a former strong believer) hit his first real stumbling block in belief when his son was born 16 years ago.

      When holding his son he was struck with absolute terror at the thought that his son could potentially end up in hell. He’d logically concluded that with the reality of such a place that it would’ve been a safer bet to have never had children so as to spare them from the potential destination of hell.

      A few years later he became agnostic. His understanding of scripture and translation is a constant reason for me to be jealous of his knowledge.

  5. For me I always back it up a bit – why is rape wrong to begin with? And why do i think it is bad that a world would exist where rape would occur? This suggest to me that the ideal of a world where such things do not occur exists somewhere beyond nature itself. Before we can question why God would allow evil, we must insist evil exists, and at that point I think we have rather given up the entire argument that God does not in fact exist.

      • There are millions of people throughout history who were aware that rape was the ‘suffering od conscious creatures’ and thought nothing of raping others. There still are. The response begs the question.

      • All you’re doing is supporting my thoughts that morality is subjective. You’re the one begging the question.

        I told you that we can know right from wrong by looking at the how it impacts other conscious creatures and you acknowledged it and then brushed it away. So….again. You acknowledged it as correct. Then brushed it away…..

        Whether someone decides to rape or not does not change the ability to determine right from wrong. Morality is subjective and you’ve supported that idea.

        You’ve added nothing with this response.

  6. No, I pointed out your claim begged the question.

    Simply saying it harms conscious creatures doesn’t explain why it’s bad because you don’t explain why harming conscious creatures is bad. If morality is subjective, then there is no reason to believe there is so much evil in the world, since evil doesn’t actually exist except in your mind, in which case the entire premise of your post is undermined, i.e. that evil in the world undermines the existence of God.

    • Oh, I don’t think it undermines the existence of god. I just think it’s a non issue.

      We can recognize good and bad and work to have more of one or the other. I, having 2 small children that I care for, work for more good for their benefit. If you feel that’s not a good reason to be good then I feel pity for you.

      If you feel that without god there’s no such thing as evil or bad, that it’s all just in our minds, then please feel free to do what you want and suffer the consequences of living in a world where people don’t tolerate that behavior.

      Subjective morality allows us to always evaluate what we currently deem as good or bad. It was subjective morality after all that’s gotten us away from stoning unruly kids at the city gates or killing people of other faiths. Both in your holy text.

      Again, I do wonder how people can think it morally superior to think your morality is granted from a being which has shown, at least in the bible, that he’d commit genocide. Kill babies and kids.

      Not sure if you read my blog post on it, but I go more into detail about it there.

      If you’d care to point me to this list of objectively moral rules I’d gladly give it a gander.

      • “Subjective morality allows us to always evaluate what we currently deem as good or bad.”

        Subject morality by definition is merely what an individual deems as moral – which means for the individuals who considered stoning moral, it was moral for them. The fact it isn’t moral for us doesn’t make it immoral for them if in fact morality is ‘subjective’. There would be no ‘getting away’ from anything, merely deciding at any given time what we subjectively consider moral.

        Which is why the whole idea of subjective morality is nonsense.

  7. We live in a world of suffering. It falls on the just and the unjust, afflicting all of us at some time. Suffering strikes rich and poor, religious and irreligious, small and great. In this life virtually everyone will experience it.

    The Bible points to many agonizing human experiences that are direct results of sin. One such example is military aggression. The apostle James wrote of the origin of armed conflict: “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and can not obtain. You fight and war” (James 4:1-2).

    These words apply to nations as well as individuals, since nations are simply groups of people looking out for their own interests. Aggressors go to war out of a desire to enhance their power, prestige and wealth. In so doing they thrust aside law, ethics, morality and peace. They kill and maim to further their ends, putting into practice the might-makes-right principle and the maxim that to the victor go the spoils.

    As free agents one can make a choice to reject Gods second greatest commandment to love your neighbor as yourself and hurt others, you use rape as an example. So, since free agents are committing evil your next question is why doesn’t a loving God stop it.

    If we look at suffering purely from MAN’S point of view, we will not understand why suffering is permitted. God said through the prophet Isaiah:

    “For my thoughts [are] not your thoughts, neither [are] your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55)

    When we look at suffering from GOD’S point of view, from the viewpoint of His plans for us in preparation of eternity, then we can begin to try to understand why He would allow suffering to occur…those words of Paul, which reminds us of God’s never failing love:

    “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8)

    You may then ask, “Couldn’t God have foreseen all of this?” And no doubt he did. But look at it this way: you are a parent. Even before you had children, couldn’t you foresee that there was the very real possibility they may suffer disappointment or pain or rape or heartache in life, or that they might even hurt you and walk away from you? Of course — but you still had kids. Why? Because you knew there was also the potential for tremendous joy and deep love and great meaning.

    Now, the analogy is far from perfect, but think about God. He undoubtedly knew we’d rebel against Him, but He also knew many people would choose to follow Him and have a relationship with Him and spend eternity in heaven with Him — and it was all worth it for that, even though it would cost His own Son great pain and suffering to achieve their redemption.

    • WalkTheWay,

      Before you can cite Romans or Isaiah as being God’s Word, I think you need to make the case for why they deserve that designation. The Bible is a compilation of books, written by people. If you want to assert that they constitute The Word of God, a claim of that magnitude will require correspondingly substantial support. And until you can demonstrate that, it would be best to refer to what human authors have conjectured what regarding God’s will.

      But defining a human author is where the trouble will really begin. Isaiah 55, for example, has entirely unidentifiable authorship. There are long works on this, but for a short synopsis, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_isaiah#Authorship.

      Likewise for the epistle of James. Which James? Best bets are that he was not an apostle, which tends to cast cold water on authority claims. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistle_of_James#Authorship.

      Finally, Romans does appear to be a legitimate epistle by Paul, who oddly wrote the majority of the authentic books of the New Testament, but who wasn’t a follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry. There is a good deal of work still ahead of anyone that would claim that what Paul said was in any way the received Word of God.

      And in the meanwhile, none of the four gospels declare their authorship, much less the sources from which they drew their information.

      God may well be the great annihilator, as suggested by the Hebrew and Christian texts… the sort who annihilated humanity in the flood… the sort who annihilated the firstborn of Egypt… the sort who annihilated various ethnic groups in the Conquest… the sort who reserves flames for those who do not hold the right set of mental assents… and the sort who would have his son tortured to death to prevent a limited number of such future judgments. Maybe. But it is probably unhealthy to embrace one slaughter as a means of exempting another. We tend to decry that sort of thinking in the presentation of various moral dilemmas: would you kill the one to save the ten? Embracing and celebrating the notion that God actually works that way creates dissonance… It would be immoral for us, but it is moral for God, and the grounding of our morality is… God.

      Fortunately, we need not lean on conjecture. The Hebrew flood did not take place. The slaughter of the firstborn did not take place. The conquest of Canaan did not take place. None of the verifiable annihilations took place. On that background, we can relax concerning the promise of future annihilations – the people who gave us those prognostications weren’t reliable, in any sense.

      In short, the views of God and suffering as you have outlined are derived from unverifiable sources. You have a lot of work to do if you want to assert that the authors in question were writing on God’s authority. The worldview of the Judeo-Christian God is incoherent in its own terms. And it has been disconfirmed at multiple points on historical grounds.

      • Hello Matt.

        You ask, “Before you can cite Romans or Isaiah as being God’s Word, I think you need to make the case for why they deserve that designation.”

        First, it’s important to point out that some degree of circular reasoning is inevitable when it comes to an ultimate standard. Since an ultimate standard cannot appeal to a greater standard for its authority, it must appeal to itself. This is true of any alleged ultimate standard—not just the Bible. When people accept the Bible as God’s Word because it says it is, this is circular. But when people reject the Bible as God’s Word, they too are reasoning in a circle. That is, they start with the assumption that God has not revealed Himself in the Bible, and end with the conclusion that God has not revealed Himself in the Bible. Any ultimate standard involves some degree of circularity.

        Second, although both Christians and non-Christians must use a degree of circularity when appealing to an ultimate standard, not all circles are equal. The Christian worldview can make sense of human reasoning and experience. In other words, if (and only if) we start from the Bible as our ultimate standard, it makes sense that there would be laws of logic, uniformity in nature, senses and memory that are basically reliable, a moral code, and many other things that we take for granted. But, without the Bible as our ultimate standard, the foundation for these things is lost; and so there would be no possibility for true knowledge. Apart from Scripture, why should we expect that the universe would be rationally understandable?

        So, we accept the Bible as the inerrant Word of God by faith, but it’s not a “blind faith.” Faith in the Bible leads to rationality and knowledge; the Christian worldview makes sense of human experience and reasoning. However, a rejection of the Bible as the ultimate standard leads to irrationality; any other standard cannot make sense of human experience and reasoning. Apart from God’s Word, why would we expect to be able to understand the universe?

        This is the “proof” of the Bible as God’s Word: without God as revealed in His Word, it would be impossible to prove anything. So, I have a very good reason for my faith. Without the Christian worldview, I would not be able to account for reasoning. This also is the reason why you have no specific objection to my first reply, other than to question the source of my reasoning.

        I made several observations in regards to evil and they can be outlined as follows:

        1. In this life virtually everyone will experience pain or suffering. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “I am the Lord your God, believe in me, trust in me, and you will never feel pain or suffering”. In fact, it tells us the opposite.

        2. The Bible tells us that most evil is a result of Godless men who lust for power and wealth and are blinded by greed. They have chosen to ignore the second greatest commandment to love ones neighbor as oneself.

        3. Absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

        4. “Couldn’t God have foreseen all of this?” (Mans rejection of God, His Son, His commandments, and the evil that follows) Sure. But not all will be lost.

      • WalkTheWay,

        Circular reasoning serves as a wonderful utility for thinking about imaginary things. However, it becomes readily apparent in other fields of human endeavor, such as boxing or building airplanes, that consequences are short in the coming for those that embrace the circle.

        There appears to be a blunt conflation of circular reasoning with holding presuppositions. And presuppositionalism remains the warm haven of what amounts to intellectual sloth.

        I’m quite certain that, with a bit of scratching, it would be readily apparent that there are means by which we can address and interrogate presuppositions, to maintain a grounding, just as is required of boxers and airplane builders.

        Regarding my prior comments, I noted several lines of evidence that describe two major areas of crisis facing the texts which you have quoted: (1) textual anonymity and (2) direct disconfirmation of historical accuracy.

        You may construct arguments from authority if you wish – but it is within the domain of any listener to require that you cite your authorities. You have statements made by authors without faces. If you cannot provide the faces, you have not given a sufficient argument from authority. And once the faces are disclosed, only then would you have the start of such an argument. If you can explain why the texts you quote should be taken more seriously than Grimm, I’ll be very happy to engage with the content. I’ve been a believer all my life.

        In the meantime, don’t expect serious engagement with ghosts. That which can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.

  8. @ walk the way

    So, we accept the Bible as the inerrant Word of God by faith, but it’s not a “blind faith.”

    If not “blind faith” then you are obliged to rely on evidence for your claims, and Matt is spot on with his assessment of the bible. There is none.

    • Without God as revealed in His Word, it would be impossible to prove anything.

      Laws of logic are God’s standard for thinking. Since God is an unchanging, sovereign, immaterial Being, the laws of logic are abstract, universal, invariant entities. In other words, they are not made of matter—they apply everywhere and at all times. Laws of logic are contingent upon God’s unchanging nature. And they are necessary for logical reasoning. Thus, rational reasoning would be impossible without the biblical God.

      • The flaw in this argument is simply that the bible can be demonstrated to be fallacious, rendering your god as little more than a narrative construct.
        his anyone worshiping a narrative construct is rather silly, don’t you think?

  9. Great post! I agree completely. Thanks for writing.

    About a year ago, I read the book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This book opened my mind to thinking about sexual oppression, and it was one of the first rocks to fall in my leaving-Christianity-avalanche. Coming to the realization that god sits by with arms folded was a harsh and devastating blow. God, the bible, and morality simply do not mix.

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