The Indictment Among the Rhetoric

Yesterday, I spoke of the Blog for WWGHA totally messing up Christian doctrine.  Mere rabbit trails compared to what the author really wants us to answer for him.

Thomas is asking for a theodicy that makes sense of the events of the last few years:

How can anyone love a “God” who allows hundreds of thousands of people to die in a tsunami, or dozens of people to get shot innocently in a movie theater? What parent would allow you siblings to die while they looked on laughing.

Semantically, Thomas is actually asking for a personal reason Christians can love a God that passively allows tragedy to occur.  But I’m going to interpret him charitably here, assuming Thomas is asking for a theodicy: a logically argued resolution to the problem of evil in a world run by an omnipotent, omniscient God who could end evil but doesn’t.

Infinite wisdom, as the author of the target piece argues, isn’t really all that satisfying.  Neither is the related “mystery” of God.

I’ve never really been that big a fan of the “free will defense,” since the Bible shows God quashing free will.  However, the instances of God upholding free will vastly outnumber the instances of him preventing sin.  So I think that free will, while not the answer, is a component of the bigger picture.

Greater good isn’t all that great by itself.   Strobel’s Case for Faith has a great analogy about a bear trap.  Suppose a bear is caught in a trap and you decide to free it.  You can’t possibly do so without causing the animal more pain than he’s in, and there’s no possible way to explain to the animal that his increased pain will actually lead to total freedom.  And so he’ll lash out at you while you try to free him in a misplaced effort to defend himself.

We lash out at God for people dying in tsunamis and for innocents getting shot in a movie theater.  But what if all this is just part of the ultimate plan designed to free us from this bear trap?  What if the pains we see and the suffering we endure are really leading up to the day when none of this pain and strife will be necessary?  When the metaphorical hunter finally releases our leg and we can scamper pain-free into the woods?

I don’t think it’s the whole picture, but I think that the greater good defense has some merit to it.

This means I see merit to both free will and the greater good.  And I think a synthesis of the two is the answer to all questions related to theodicy.  Which leads me toward something I might call the Education Defense for Evil — it is necessary to have evil in this world to reveal God’s full character (wrath, love, and mercy), bring full glory to God at the culmination of history, and to reveal our own nature.

Evil serves a purpose (greater good) without being God’s purpose (free will).

I confess that while I’ve thought about this for a while now, I have little in the way of previous theodicy by any great thinker to back it up.  The idea needs more development, but it is something I foresee I will be writing and researching more in the future.  This seemed as good a time as any to introduce it, since I could scarcely criticize Thomas from WWGHA in the previous post without actually answering the one conundrum that was worthwhile.

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on August 10, 2012, in Apologetics, God, Religion, Theology, WWGHA and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Surely an omnipotent creature can manage to extract a bear from a bear trap without injuring it further.


    • “Can” doesn’t translate into “should,” or even create an obligation. It only describes a person’s capability, not their moral or legal duty.

      What, in your mind, gives God an obligation free this world of pain and suffering? And how do you know he isn’t doing it right now in a way that you aren’t expecting, that will come to fruition at the Second Coming (as the Bible promises he is)?

      • You probably don’t realise it, Cory, but you just shifted the goal posts. The analogy you used in your original post did not ask whether we are morally obligated to free the bear or not. It was a given that we would.

        The point rightly brought up by Boz is that your analogy is a poor one because on the one hand we are talking about an omnipotent deity. Your analogy speaks of a mere mortal. Not apples to apples.

        Your reply shifted gears as if you’d utterly forgotten your own argument. Or do you concede the point that your analogy does not address the subject?

        And as to the question of yhwh’s moral duty, I suppose there is none unless we are talking about a benevolent god. In other words, yhwh isn’t under any moral obligation to do anything for our suffering, but only if he is not a good god. If you want to call him “good”, then you have some explaining to do.

        The question of amputees is not a silver bullet that “proves” there is no god. But it does limit the kinds of gods that are possible.

        If you’d like to discuss this further, meet me at the wwgha forum.

      • This is intended to be blunt. It will probably come off rude. That isn’t the intent.

        First, I was asking Boz to answer a clarifying question, and then I would have continued the discussion from there. He never answered the question, and I wasn’t done making my points.

        Let Boz answer the question, then let me make the further point I had intended to make. Perhaps then your criticism would be warranted. Right now it’s unwelcome and annoying.

        Second, no analogy is perfect. In order to compare apples to apples with God, I’d have to compare God to another deity. There is no other God (at least no other God who EXISTS) so I’m stuck with the imperfect analogy of the bear caught in the trap.

        Third, I don’t owe the explanations you think I do. You assert that a good God MUST save us from suffering, but you seem to think that is self-evident. I do not. So explain to me why a good God must save us from ourselves, please.

        Fourth, I wouldn’t touch the WWGHA forums with a 10-foot pole. I’ve been there and done that. The atheists on that forum are arrogant and rude, and they are NOT interested in discussion. They pick apart grammar, semantics, and other things not germane to the discussion rather than going for the actual arguments. You must be right at home there since you came after my analogy rather than my argument.

      • Isn’t this go dof your supposed to be all-loving? How can an all-loving being sit by and watch people suffer in natural disasters when a word would prevent them happening? It not so much ‘should’ or ‘can’, it’s more about the nature of your claimed god. An all-loving god would be expected to show its all-lovingness in the world and not leave everyone at the mercy of natural disasters.

        Of course there is a way out of all this but you won’t like it. Suppose for one moment, Cory, that there actually isn’t as god. Then the suffering in this world, brought about by natural disasters makes sense and there is no diety to help.

        Now you talk of Jesus’ second coming but that makes things worse. The Messiah was supposed to be a military leader who would rid Israel of the invading forces and establish an Israeli kingdom with him at its head. Jesus did not do that. Thus his followers had to find a way to make him still sound like a messiah – yes,he’ll come and get things done in a seconf coming, The only thing is that in his own mouth are put the words that some lving at his time would not experience death before he came again. Paul even warns that Jesus would be back soon.Did he reappear?

        So the church has been telling people of this second coming for the best part of 2,000 years and it is wearing thin. Jesus did not turn up when he supposedly said he would – within a few years after he died. It’s not going to happen now or any time. The real reason the WWGHA site is there is that the core of Christianity is collapsing as it become abundantly clear that there is no Jesus to come and there is no god to send him,

  2. god didnt cause a tsunami….you cant blame for a fallen nature that man has brought on himself and the man who shot up a movie theatre was into cult activites which means demonic activity so dont blame god for this but rejoice that it didnt happen to you:)\

  3. If God was really all loving he could create us as Gods. Why do most of us have to suffer, some terribly, if he loves us. Why put us through the pain in the first place Then there are the many examples of bad design which I’ve talked about on your other entries to this blog.

    Anyway the argument from suffering is easily beaten by saying that God is evil.

  4. Sorry, but I don’t think this really flies as a theodicy. The point that needs to be made is that the complete nature of any god needs to be defined before trying to extricate it from the problems of suffering. It’s an easy thing to pick one attribute to explain one thing and then pick another to explain something else. I understood the claim was that this god was one who was all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving. If that is the case, then the proposed theodicy falls flat.

    Some people seem to think that things changed when Adam and Eve consumed the fruit in Eden yet if that is the case an all loving god, really lost it over one fruit. For example, this god knew what was going to happen, because of being all-knowing, and yet thing proceed and then punished the couple is the most dire way he could think of too. It’s hard to see an all-loving god here but one intent on creating evil!

    Now, the all-knowing god is supposed to be well aware of what will happen when tsunamis and the like happen and these things happen, not due to the fault of humans but due to the atmosphere obeying the laws of nature. Now sure, of course, an all-loving god could mitigate the suffering (which he didn’t) but of course, if it created the earth, it already knew what would happen. When designing things, knowing what will happen after they are built would be a great tool and one could modify the designs before building to avoid these problems but such things didn’t occur to this god or he deliberately ignored them. So we have the earth designed and built be a god who knew the suffering it would cause but went with it anyway.

    So I think any theodicy needs to take in the design as well as individual events if it is to succeed. I doubt if it can though. Finally –

    Epicurus [341–270 B.C.] Greek philosopher:
    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

  1. Pingback: Does God Really Have Mysterious Motives? | Christian Apologetics Alliance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: