The Problem of Evil: Response

From a comment on a post:

Well,what if God wanted to show his great power by letting evil exist? God, with infinite power, could destroy all the evil in the world but how much would that do for him. Wouldn’t there need to be a contrast from good to evil for either to be recognized? that’s how we can tell black from white, heat from cold, or light from darkness. If everything was one extreme we wouldn’t know there to be a difference.

In the article it also says something about God doing small things to not interfere with free will. God being the epitome of good does your life,or anybody else’s life, never have anything good in it have you heard every lie about you, lies going unheard, has a wanted man on the street never been recognized, has an assassination ever occurred that has eliminated a bad person? Ergo, i think he does do things like that…

For God not being infinitely loving. Is God not loving because he provided a way out of sin/evil through Jesus? is god not as loving to while in life the ability to go to him for protection? So, yes bad things happen but one he gives a way through it and two he allows an escape from it.

Yes, i am stating what i know from the Bible and logic. I am expecting you to say i got it from the Bible anyways and that the Bible can not be proven true or it’s wrong…etc. So your statements are wrong… I hope not. How many times has the Bible been proven true… Tell me when it hasn’t don’t tell me to say when it has. Stories of when it has been proven false are always more interesting. So my understanding is not on faith entirely it’s on the faith of the foundation of knowledge i have learned not anywhere close to the “you just gotta have faith” slogan…

You ask what destroying all the evil in the world would do for God. If God, being all good, considers his own benefit to be more important than eliminating evil where possible (as you seem to imply), then I need to hear more about what it means to say that God is “good.” In my mind, a good being does not allow evil to exist purely for reasons of self interest. It’s a bit rude of me to bring this up, but it sounds a little like you are arguing that God wants us to give us all Stockholm syndrome.

Your next point is that evil must exist so that we can recognize good. However, moral evil can exist as a concept whether or not it exists as a fact. For example, the concept of a global holocaust exists even though no such thing has ever occurred.

In terms of natural evils, you can certainly argue that great disasters help us appreciate God’s blessings. But if God is allowing or causing disasters to help glorify himself or highlight his goodness, then we once again need to talk about what “good” means.

Could it be that God does indeed do things that avert evils but do not interfere with free will? Sure. But if that’s the case, he’s missed some enormous opportunities.

You ask, “Is God not loving because he provided a way out of sin/evil through Jesus?” It sounds like you might have meant this sarcastically, but let’s take a look at it. If you’re a Protestant, then you believe that God created a system in which the only way people can avoid being eternally punished is by accepting as true something for which a great many people either haven’t heard of or cannot be convinced of because the evidence is so lacking. If you’re a Catholic, you don’t consider explicit belief in Jesus to be necessary, but think that people can avoid punishment by living a good life, in which case God could have set up the world so that salvation was possible through works without the whole resurrection business. In either case, “a way out through Jesus” sounds more like a hoop God wants people to jump through than either a logical necessity or something a loving creator would come up with.

Looking at it from another angle, I might argue that the possibility of salvation is irrelevant — God does not appear to be loving because he allows the possibility of eternal punishment in the first place.

You continue, saying, “So, yes bad things happen but one he gives a way through it and two he allows an escape from it.” At best, when really bad things happen, God allows a way through for the survivors. For those killed in a natural disaster or murdered by an evil person, it doesn’t sound like there’s much of an opportunity for escape.

I haven’t mentioned the Bible, so I think I’m avoiding dismissing you in the way you feared I would.

You ask where the Bible has been wrong. That’s a big topic, but in a nutshell it’s going to come down to what you mean when you say the Bible is true. It clearly isn’t literally correct (as the first chapter in Genesis demonstrates), and it’s not “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” as the varying descriptions of the same events in the Gospels show. Are you talking about prophecy? How about these:

Posted on February 3, 2010 at 7:41 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Discussion

4 Responses

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  1. Written by Ben
    on February 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    I do think God has a God complex if that is what you mean. His is good because 1) if you want people to come worship you not because you force them but because they want to you have to display power or authority that will invite, not require, them to worship you and in the “good” way. If God just destroyed evil, everything bad, we would have no way of knowing just how powerful he is we wouldn’t know the difference. Well then you might say why go through the entire headache of evil, well as I believe he is eternally powerful it’s not anything to him. It is definitely not the syndrome you speak of either. That’s pointless. I do not have any irrational positive feelings towards God because God is good, in the way that he is infinitely powerful and just doesn’t kill us, he doesn’t give something more then they can handle this doesn’t mean you can’t put more on yourself -you can <- that one was from a Christian perspective, he is just, he is merciful as well. As for a point I want to put out if God is infinite he transcends us all because we are finite we only have a limited time to consider ideas and other things. Therefore, it would make sense that his ways are a bit different than our ways in rationalizing, providing plans, understanding, solving problems, thinking, ect…
    I wonder if you’re a saying that moral evil exists at all? Could you explain eh moral evil statement I don’t quite fully understand what you mean. Well about a global holocaust, a global flood I presume is there not a layer of sediment from the same time period around the entire earth filled with various marine creatures. Was there not sea fossils found on top of mountains? Therefore, I think a flood happened.
    About God missing out on enormous opportunities would be the things that were so big it would have affected free will right? So it makes sense that he didn’t interfere he would have effected our free will.
    I was not being sarcastic about Christ though and the fact that people don’t believe in him because of the evidence is amazing. He has performed over 300 prophecies. The numbers of a person doing that are astronomical. People probably have heard of him and for those who haven’t that’s he reason why there are missions to do so.
    Jesus yes is like a ‘hoop’ but it is necessary. We who are not perfect could not be in commune with a perfect God without some sacrifice or offering to make us blameless and it does seem like a loving creator would in fact create a way to do this. That’s why he loves us he cares.
    Salvation appears to be relevant because our default state being eternal punishment. I would want to get away from that salvation being the way its pretty imperative it exists. For those people killed by an evil person the way from death to hell was Jesus, he saved them from eternal punishment that’s what I mean, and as for kidnapping from an evil person that one would be how the Holy Spirit allows the person’s spirit to be safe. (Now I’m assuming we are going to a Christian perspective)
    Yes it’s hard for prophecies to come true when they are still yet to come. And Isaiah 53:5 it’s only the translation, and several do say it, KJV for one, crushed also means bruised. He was bruised when he was crucified. As for being crushed by it’s self. As he was pierced nail and spear, he was crushed by the mental aspects too, as well as the possibility of when he was whipped and the rest he probably has things crushed bones, tissues, other flesh.

    • Written by ideclare
      on February 4, 2010 at 7:29 pm
      Reply · Permalink

      It seems to me that an infinitely intelligent being could find ways to show that it was worthy of worship other than allowing great evils to take place. For example, great wonders — such as restoring an amputated arm through prayer — would go a long way in that direction.

      When you say that God doesn’t give more than they can handle, exactly what do you mean. For example, would you say that being killed in a landslide is, in some sense, not more than a 10-year-old can handle?

      You are right that if God is infinite we could expect him to think differently than we think. However, you say that God is good, but if a human behaved as God seems to behave we would not call that human good. Does God being infinite cause His “goodness” to be different than human goodness? If so, then in what sense is God good if we cannot use him as an example of good behavior?

      I do think that moral evil exists. Quoting from my book, moral evil is, “Harming others for the pleasure of harming others. Also, maliciously
      harming others for personal gain.” My point was that we could conceive of this type of evil even if no evil people existed. Similarly, I can imaging that there is a supernatural being that causes devastating volcanoes for its own enjoyment, even though no such supernatural being exists.

      We can skip my example of a global holocaust and use the example in my previous paragraph instead. I completely disagree with your reasoning about a global flood, but that’s an entirely different conversation so let’s leave it for another time.

      You ask, “About God missing out on enormous opportunities would be the things that were so big it would have affected free will right?” Not necessarily. I don’t think that preventing an earthquake that killed tens of thousands of people, or stopping a disease that crippled or killed tens of thousands in a single year would interfere with free will. I also have to ask whether not interfering with free will is one of God’s highest moral priorities. For example, would bringing an early death to Stalin be so immoral that it would be better to let millions of Soviets die (thereby ending their chance to be saved by Jesus)?

      You say that Jesus “performed over 300 prophecies.” I don’t think you mean that he made 300 prophecies (because he made very few), but rather that he fulfilled these prophecies. As I said in my original response, I don’t think that most of these clearly were prophecies, and many of those that were clearly prophecies Jesus didn’t fulfill.

      You say that imperfect beings cannot be in commune with a perfect God without some kind of sacrifice or offering to make us blameless. Why? What prevents an infinitely powerful being with communing with any kind of creature it desires to? And what sense does it make for God dying to make people blameless? It seems very arbitrary to me.

      You say that our default state is eternal punishment. That means that God set up a system in which he knew intelligent beings would, by default, be eternally punished. Again, couldn’t he think of something that was more just than that?

      I still disagree about Isaiah 53:5, and your quoting what is, unfortunately, one of the least reputable Bible translation (KJV) doesn’t do much for your argument, and neither does introducing the possibility that Jesus was mentally crushed or that whipping, etc., crushed things (that just sounds like flailing for an answer). I’m willing to be convinced, though. Can you find out what Hebrew word is used here so we can check how it’s defined? That would be helpful.

  2. Written by Ben
    on February 6, 2010 at 12:44 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Your right about an infinitely intelligent being finding other ways to show that he is worthy of worship; evil in my opinion would not even be a very acceptable means to do so alone by itself. However, you say that restoring an amputees arm would by a place to start. Yeah it would but, don’t people get prosthetics to be able to have an arm that’s pretty amazing, and yes I know that’s not the same thing as a real biological arm; it’s still an arm to that person though. However, you’ll probably say that is the intelligence of man to be able to create such a thing he’s deserving of the worship. Yes from your view but, who created man the infinitely intelligent being, my view. So the praise goes to God for creating us to even have the slightest ability to cognitively think and create amazing pieces of engineering as us and the arm. What about the animals, the plant life, the universe for that matter. Is it above an intelligent being to create all of this and not deserve worship? No, he deserves it. Here is a link about “Did God create evil?” If you want to http://www.gotquestions.org/did-God-create-evil.html I think this is a clear explanation better than I could articulate about the ‘evil’ question. (No pun intended) See what you do you think? Obviously it’s a Christian perspective so look at it in that manner then relate it to what you believe. Which seems better? Oh, and yes atheism I know you don’t believe in deities or gods, I don’t know you personally so I don’t know which one or the other, but try to look at in the different perspective. That is what I try doing and am glad you bring up the responses you do because it actually helps me question my beliefs too. As for the discussion since we are looking at the evidence from two different pairs glasses so to speak I thought it would be clear where I’m coming from.
    When I said God doesn’t give you more than you can handle I am meaning if/when someone accepts God he will not give you more trials, difficulties, other troubles then you can handle. Now dieing would seem like too much after all you died. However, as a Christian if you accept Christ when you die you go to heaven that’s defiantly not too much to handle. As for the 10-year-old it would depend on their beliefs or if whether or not they were old enough to reason that. Originally I meant in life and in life God will never give you more than you can handle, as Job, in the Bible, is a good example of this. He lost completely everything, he had a lot going for him, and he never committed suicide or gave up. God allowed to happen yes but God also knew he could handle it.
    Yes, I believe God is good but I’m not completely sure I know what you mean by saying a man acting like God is not good. Unless, you mean man is actually acting like man and not God I think it happens a lot and gets put in the wrong way. I’m not sure of an example of this to illustrate a point and understand what you mean. As for God being an example of God behavior or good behavior. In the Bible: Respect yourself, respect others, love your neighbor as yourself, and follow the teachings of Christ. That’s basically three short examples. I don’t know how that has ever messed anybody up; while they are rational some people are crazy. How many times did Jesus go to the poor and weak that’s a good thing right?
    How do we know that God has prevented earthquakes before we don’t; so we can assume he has or has not or how do we know if Stalin could have died or could have lived longer. The point I’m making is we can look at the same thing from two different ways, however, you believe God is not good and I believe he is so I think everything worked out for the best anyways. I hope they could have heard about Jesus and accepted I don’t know though. Besides that is the point of believers to go and preach that is why it’s done so people hear. So is that our mistake or is it God’s for not being the one to stop Stalin. I think ours, the believers, to speak. Remember that God is not each individual person the people still have to perform actions. Yes, I believe God does perform actions and they are according to his plan.
    Yes, that is what I meant sorry for not wording it properly. I think that some were explicit and he did fulfill those. If you are talking about the prophecies that could still come true how do you know he is not going to perform them. For example there is a prophecy of a soccer player performing a certain thing in that game or in another. The only way it is going to be known if it wasn’t fulfilled is when that player is never going to play again or soccer is never going to be played again. The endings are not defined therefore we don’t know for certain if it won’t be fulfilled. The main point is you don’t know for sure, you don’t have explicit evidence saying that they were never fulfilled. I do know he fulfilled many of them.
    Well if you have a white sheet you won’t put it in with dirty rags and muddy rags. The same why God is pure we are not. This means we need to be cleaned before we can be with God. Now since we are dirtied with sin we needed to be cleansed from it. They only way to be cleansed from sin is death. That is why Jesus, God in human form, came to earth and died, death is not supposed to be pleasant so by sending his son it grieved God. Jesus rising on the third day signifies the conquering of death in essence sin. So the triumph over death and the atonement for our sin is complete. Now once that is done we can be with God we are like the white sheet because of Jesus. That is why.
    Yes and no. Sin requires death and separation from God is like the punishment. God being the epitome of love and goodness being away from that is horrible as is a lake of burning sulfur so eternal punishment. The system God set up was for us to be with him. We failed miserably when we decided not to. So yes he did think of something more than that. We just screwed it up, unfortunate yes.
    I’ll have to have a later response to the Isaiah verse and you’re fourth paragraph I would like to make sure I have something meaningful to say. So sorry I don’t have anything on it yet.

  3. Written by ideclare
    on February 6, 2010 at 10:21 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    It’s true that humans have created prosthetic limbs, but this doesn’t seem to me to be a very good response to the question of why God doesn’t build faith in himself by healing amputees. In particular, this response seems insufficient because, a) for thousands of years such prosthetics were not available, b) current prosthetics are still nowhere near as good as a real limb, and c) prosthetics are generally only available to the wealthiest people. Is it possible that the creation of human intelligence (and other natural wonders) makes God worthy of worship? Perhaps. But that being true would harm your argument that evils are necessary to convince us that God is worthy of worship, wouldn’t it?

    I appreciate the link to the article about whether or not God created evil, but I do not argue that God created evil. Rather, I argue that God obviously allows more evil than it is necessary for Him to allow.

    Regarding God not giving people more than they can handle, you clarify your point by saying that it is only those who accept God that do not receive more than they can handle. That is useful for our argument, but it makes me question the justice of allowing non-believers to suffer more than believers. It also makes me wonder how you go about measuring how much someone can handle, particularly since such beliefs can make people who feel overwhelmed by tragedy feel guilty for their own misfortune.

    You bring up Job as someone who was not given more than he can handle. How about Job’s sons? In their youth, they were crushed by a collapsing building so that God could (essentially) win a bet with Satan, and because this was pre-Jesus, they didn’t (I assume) go to Heaven.

    Regarding whether a man who acted like God would be considered good, let me give you an example. Let’s say that I am the ruler of a country and I declare that in my country any woman who is raped in town who doesn’t scream or who screams for help but is not heard should be put to death. Let’s say that I also go to war with another country and I order my soldiers to kill everyone except for women who are virgins. Would these be considered the actions of a morally good ruler? I don’t think so. However, God is not condemned for taking such action, so apparently the standard for “good” must be different for God than it is for humans. Would you agree? If not, then under what circumstances could a human take these actions and be considered good?

    As for Jesus going to the poor and weak, I agree that this is a good thing. I would argue, though, that his accepting an expensive gift when that gift could have been traded for food for the poor is less good.

    How do we know that God hasn’t prevented earthquakes and other evils? We don’t. But what we do know is that God has allowed quite a few very significant evils. Also, to clarify, I don’t believe that God is not good. I believe that God doesn’t exist and that the Christian characterization of God as good is difficult to support.

    Although I disagree, I understand your point about who is responsible for stopping human evils. But even if we conclude that it is not God’s responsibility to stop human evils, there are still copious natural evils that God either does not stop or actively created.

    Regarding prophecies that have not come true, you are right that they may still come true. Using your example of a soccer player, let’s say that a sports writer says, “Bob is an awesome soccer player. I predict that when he joins the team, he will help them win the World Cup!” Bob joins the team, and the team doesn’t win the World Cup. The sports writer then says, “I never said that Bob’s team would win the World Cup their first year. They’ll win it in a future year. However, in the same newspaper in which I made my prediction, there was an article about Elvis that said Elvis sold a record number of tickets, and Bob’s team sold a record number of tickets. Also, there was an article that said the new justice of the Supreme Court would be the twelfth, and Bob was made #12 on his team. And the weather report predicted it would be dry, and Bob is known for not building up a sweat. So yes, one of my predictions didn’t come true yet, but three other predictions did come true!” Honestly, I wouldn’t be particularly impressed with this sports writer. Biblical prophecies about Jesus strike me in the same way.

    You say that you don’t put a white sheet in with dirty rags, and that we need to be cleaned before we can be with God for similar reasons. Well, the reason you don’t put dirty and clean linen together is because the dirty will soil the clean. Are you saying that unclean human spirits could in some sense soil or degrade God? Since God is perfect, he must be incapable of being soiled, so you must mean something else.

    You also say that the only way to be cleansed from sin is death. I don’t think you mean this, because you would (I assume) that dying does not cleans a person’s sins. Please clarify.

    I also think you are being unclear when you describe the effect of Jesus dying and rising from the dead. You say that the resurrection signifies the conquering of death/sin, but this sounds like a symbolic conquering, and I don’t see how it can be just for a symbol to be fair payment for the sins of humanity. I think the more standard representation would be that God accepted blood sacrifices as payment for sins, and that the sacrifice of God himself in human form was of such magnitude that it was justly considered sufficient payment for any amount of human sin. Do you agree with this representation?

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