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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 12, 2012 11:51 am 
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dschiff wrote:
Jac: I was pleading ignorance about the origin of this tripartite definition of your God. Are you saying Aquinas was the origin? Not Thomas? Or do you not know?

Thomas is Aquinas . . . St. Thomas Aquinas . . .

And there is on "tripartite definition" of God. The three omnis you are speaking of are just three of many attributes we can talk about with reference to Him.

Quote:
A morally negative event: You asked for examples, then the abstract. I will give you an example again. Torturing a baby is a moral evil. The intention is to harm, to cause suffering. This makes it a moral evil. In general, we can conceive of pleasure as good and suffering as bad, as one way of making sense of positive/negative outcomes.
What makes it negative? Our evaluations. What makes it morally negative? Moral is a concept we apply to agents that have the capacity to understand moral reasoning.

So Cheetah's killing gazelle's isn't evil. Humans killing other humans is.

So you are defining "moral evil" as an intentional act to harm (that is, to cause suffering) by an agent capable of "moral reasoning"?

Quote:
Are there other interpretations? I'm sure. Do you want to defend the idea that the God of the OT is omniscient? Planned adam and eve, and their betrayal? Planned the flood? Wiped out all the innocents? Is omni-potent but let satan win? Omni-benevolent but killed the first-born egyptians?

To my mind, these are nice ideas that were attached to make the God more powerful and pleasing, to elevate Yahweh above the other local Israelite and Cannanite gods (el, bhaal, asherah, etc.)

I wouldn't say that God planned Adam's betrayal or that He let Satan win. I would say that He allowed Adam's betrayal and allowed Satan to successfully tempt him to turn to sin.

Those nuances aside, why would I have a problem with God knowing about Adam's betrayal, with His planning the flood, with His wiping out "the innocents" (I take this to refer to the children of the time), with Him allowing Satan a degree of success, or with killing the first-born of the Egyptians? How do any of those count against any of His attributes? It sounds like you have an implicit argument here, which I would formalize as:

1. If God is x (where x is any given attribute), then God would (not) do y (where y is any given event)
2. God did (not do) y
3. Therefore God is (not) x.

But the obvious problem with this is the second half of (1). It's a tall order to show that if God possesses a given property He will necessarily act or not act in a given way. In order to make that assessment, you must show that the concept is necessarily contradictory to the attribute. I fail to see how Adam's betrayal necessarily contradicts God's omniscience; how His allowing Satan temporary success in certain endeavors necessarily contradicts His omnipotence; or how God's either allowing or bringing about death necessarily contradicts His omnibenevolence.

Would you care to offer any arguments in favor of your assertions?


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:47 pm 
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dschiff wrote:
I just wanted to re-hash the ancient question, from Epicurus, and get your take on it. Again, cards on the table - I'm an atheist. So suffering is completely understandable from my perspective - a product of our biology and natural forces.

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?
-Epicurus

(I know this is based on Aristotelian philosophy, and that some of you may dispute this. Please feel free to share.)

This begins from the observation of both moral evil and needless suffering of innocents. If your God can help these people (presumably he's powerful enough, being either omnipotent or just powerful enough to create the universe), then why doesn't he?

Just to take the few theodicies I generally hear:

Do you believe there is a higher-order good that justifies the suffering and death of 7+ million children under the age of 5 every year? I often hear free will cited as the example. Or do you think heaven justifies the suffering of innocents, that a reward after death 'makes up' for needless suffering of innocents? Or do you think that we cannot know/understand your God's explanation, but that there must be one regardless?

I think this is the argument that made me turn from theism when I was very little, learning about the Holocaust as a young Jew. It seemed there was no good God, or at least no God that cared, and thus no reason for prayers, proficiations, or any of the other rituals of religious worship.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! As always, I am attempting to express my views, and not be impolite. Any criticisms of your faith should not be taken as personal criticisms, but intellectual challenges. I hope you will show me the same respect.


I guess my main question after reading your post is how does any of your questions disprove the existence of God? You certainly bring up questions that those who do believe in God have pondered. And will continue to ponder, I believe. But must belief in God for you, an atheist, equate with ancient ideas of God that you don't accept? Or is it possible for you to create and accept concepts of God that are more compatible with your (and everyone's) modern day mind?


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 2:21 pm 
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dschiff wrote:
Canadian:
4) Name-dropping? I mentioned Epicurus. It's the common basis for the problem of evil, a major part of philosophical literature. And no, I haven't read Lewis. What's the gist of the book?
Speaking from memory Lewis adresses the question you raise and provides common theological answers for the general reader. You need to define terms like omnipotence and divine goodness. He points out that it is not a lessening of God's omnipotence that He cannot do the non-sensical. He cannot make 2+2=5 or if I say" God cannot cease to exist therefore He is not omnipotent" I say nothing about God. I am talking nonsense. He then argues that God could not create a material world where free souls work out, with His grace, their eternal destinies without there being suffering. I not sure if his specific argument is that persuasive; the general point is that the term ' omnipotence' requires definition.

And so with Divine Love: God wants us to be perfectly happy and good. The mere absence of temporal suffering is not the destiny He has revealed to us and that we hope to attain. Every good parent can see a glimpse of this. Eternal beatitude is what He calls us to. Redemptive suffering has it's part to play in attaining or losing this destiny.

He also says some things about the fall of man and the suffering of animals. But you should read Lewis, and Chesterton, just to understand what it is Christians believe and what they mean when they use certain words. Thus the request to define your terms.

Both are popular writers and books are widely available. This website has a list of other books. It is very common that well-educated thoughtful people in this culture simply do not understand what Catholic Christians believe and why. I don't mean to be insulting when I point this out to you.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:09 pm 
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CanadianCatholic wrote:
dschiff wrote:
Canadian:
4) Name-dropping? I mentioned Epicurus. It's the common basis for the problem of evil, a major part of philosophical literature. And no, I haven't read Lewis. What's the gist of the book?
Speaking from memory Lewis adresses the question you raise and provides common theological answers for the general reader. You need to define terms like omnipotence and divine goodness. He points out that it is not a lessening of God's omnipotence that He cannot do the non-sensical. He cannot make 2+2=5 or if I say" God cannot cease to exist therefore He is not omnipotent" I say nothing about God. I am talking nonsense. He then argues that God could not create a material world where free souls work out, with His grace, their eternal destinies without there being suffering. I not sure if his specific argument is that persuasive; the general point is that the term ' omnipotence' requires definition.

And so with Divine Love: God wants us to be perfectly happy and good. The mere absence of temporal suffering is not the destiny He has revealed to us and that we hope to attain. Every good parent can see a glimpse of this. Eternal beatitude is what He calls us to. Redemptive suffering has it's part to play in attaining or losing this destiny.

He also says some things about the fall of man and the suffering of animals. But you should read Lewis, and Chesterton, just to understand what it is Christians believe and what they mean when they use certain words. Thus the request to define your terms.

Both are popular writers and books are widely available. This website has a list of other books. It is very common that well-educated thoughtful people in this culture simply do not understand what Catholic Christians believe and why. I don't mean to be insulting when I point this out to you.



Chap. 2 of PROBLEM, in particular. And Chap. 3.

Which Chesterton? "The Surprise" is surprisingly germane.

GKC


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 5:27 pm 
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GKC wrote:


Chap. 2 of PROBLEM, in particular. And Chap. 3.

Which Chesterton? "The Surprise" is surprisingly germane.

GKC
Because of another of your posts I will defer to your judgement. Over the years I've read Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man and his book on Aquinas along with most[I think] of Father Brown, Thursday and The Man who Knew Too Much. Nap. of Notting Hill a long time ago. I sometimes hesitate to recommend Orthodoxy to an atheist. While he says he is not being "whimsical" in talking of "we in fairy land", and I believe him, I can see the devout atheist begin to scoff. Just a personal view: Lewis is the plainer speaker, Chesterton the deeper and perhaps the more likely to be misunderstood.

P.S. Had to look up "the Surprise" in his bibliography.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 5:45 pm 
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CanadianCatholic wrote:
GKC wrote:


Chap. 2 of PROBLEM, in particular. And Chap. 3.

Which Chesterton? "The Surprise" is surprisingly germane.

GKC
Because of another of your posts I will defer to your judgement. Over the years I've read Orthodoxy, The Everlasting Man and his book on Aquinas along with most[I think] of Father Brown, Thursday and The Man who Knew Too Much. Nap. of Notting Hill a long time ago. I sometimes hesitate to recommend Orthodoxy to an atheist. While he says he is not being "whimsical" in talking of "we in fairy land", and I believe him, I can see the devout atheist begin to scoff. Just a personal view: Lewis is the plainer speaker, Chesterton the deeper and perhaps the more likely to be misunderstood.



After almost 50 years of collecting both of them (more or less), I can agree that Chesterton is possibly the more easily misunderstood, and certainly the more likely to fail to appeal to a contemporary sensibility, stylistically, if nothing else. I would not characterize either as deeper than the other.

With ORTHODOXY, one does have to recall that it was, as Chesterton said, a sort of slovenly autobio. Idiosyncratic, it was how he personally came to understand both the world and Christianity. That it spoke so to me that I found myself copying chapters in long hand (before I discovered the world of OP books), it definitely doesn't resonate with everyone.

GKC


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:41 am 
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Jerome_2 wrote:

(1) You missed something, the greater good for the elect, Christ told Judas that it would have been better for him not to have been born.

(2) I believe anyone who makes it to heaven will know and understand why they had to suffer to make it there, and that they will be in such a state of perfect bliss that they won't really care anyway. Hence Christ's analogy in John16:20-23, Christ also infers in John16:24 exactly what you asked, that we will understand perfectly why we have had to suffer. Suffering is a consequence of original sin.


1) Jerome, if a God only saved the greater good for the chosen or pre-chosen, and reserved nothingness or eternal punishment for the rest, then this would seem patently immoral to me. Didn't your God send Jesus to die? Wasn't Judas part of the plan? So setting Judas up and punishing him would be vastly wicked.

2) I understand your claim, but I want to know its justification. If I torture you for 10 years, then give you a pill that makes you much happier and forget the torture, does that make it okay? I know the analogy doesn't work perfectly, but I want to understand how reconciliation can fix past injustice. Also, thanks for sharing the quote from John. I would like some logical/scientific/non-theological proof for the claim made in John, as I do not believe the bible is divinely inspired.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:58 am 
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sunmumy wrote:
This is a poor explanation for your questions but here goes:



The problem of evil is, the problem of Zero. Zero is a negative value. It is nothing. You can only give someone a theoretical 'nothing'. What you are actually doing is withholding a positive thing. That is why God did not 'create' evil. The point of explaining this is to show that evil is not just that it is a thing God wants (he did not create it), but that is indeed not in the nature of God to want it because he IS (the affirmation of being). So lets use a different term for evil -- evil is the absence of good. (Now, Catholicism makes very few assertions, but THE Catholic theologian per excellence, Aquinas drew a distinction between the physical absence of good and the spiritual absence of it.)


I see the Catholic explanation of evil as a privation of good. But I don't buy it, and let me explain why. I think both 'evil' and 'good' are words, words used to express concepts. The words refer to observations, but they don't denote anything *real* in the world. We see some acts, associate them with a concept, and label that 'evil' or 'good'. That is, I see no evidence that 'good' itself exists. Could we not just as easily say that only evil exists, and good is the absence of evil? In my view, neither exist, so both are fine terms. I can say something is good, evil, ambivalent, neutral and so on, and the terms are equally successful in description.

So it's not a question of your God creating evil. It's a question of your God allowing the set of things (e.g. unnecessary suffering, tornadoes, diseases) to be among the things that exist. This allowing the things that we call evil.

sunmumy wrote:
Does God allow us to choose the absence of Good? Does he allow us to rape and kill? Does he allow us to reap the consequences of that in the physical world?
Yes, God allows us to make free choices because he is being loving to our human essence, our spirit and free will.


You did not explain why this makes God loving. Allowing people to rape and be raped is loving? How so? If you think freedom is some ultimate good, you must explain why it is, in the context of allowable rape.

For a thought experiment, imagine you have 10 children. Now you leave them alone in the room to play. When they start fighting with each other, beating each other, raping each other and killing each other, you step in. If not, you are hauled to jail - the worst parent possible. But again your God doesn't step in. That seems to be a much lower moral standard and not a legitimate strategy of parenting.

What does this freedom give us?
1) The freedom to find God and Jesus if we happen to be born in the right culture at the right time, otherwise unfairly lacking the boons of religion and afterlife (incredibly unjust)
2) The freedom to die as an infant or toddler without ever having moral understanding.
3) The freedom to kill and rape.

Does the inclusion of 1 explain the inclusion of 2 and 3? I do not think so.
[/quote]

sunmumy wrote:
Does that make God evil? No.
He no more wishes us evil than I wish evil to my son when he disobeys me and gets hurt. I could sit there and Guard him 24-7 never let him feel conflict, but this would not allow him to develop a conscience. Ten years from now, he would be the same conscienceless 5-year old, except with a driver's permit.


I see your assertion that God doesn't wish evil. But if I let my daughter get raped or killed, I am allowing that evil. I didn't wish it to happen; I just sat by and let it happen. Sitting by when a crime occurs is considered as bad as committing the crime in Judaism, while not punishable by our legal system currently...

sunmumy wrote:
Now, you object to the idea of God letting us suffer things like the Holocaust. However God has let us reap good also out of all that suffering. As negative as the holocaust was, we today have for a time a renewed commitment to stop religious persecution, so temporal good has come. But also the spiritual Good of people having put out the anti-semitism in their own hearts around the world. God has used that for our conversion. He has softened our hearts to learn how the absence of love for our Jewish bretheren bore poisoned fruit. Physical good came from hearts being moved to correct the absence of Good. Also spiritual Good. Yes, people died, many of them made spiritually better by their suffering and many were made better by helping Jews flee or dying in martyrdom with them like my favorite Saint Edith Stein. I'm sure many cursed God and refused to submit to his will too. But they were given a choice. Unlike other religions Christianity ACCEPTS suffering. We don't go looking for trouble but we are not looking to escape it when it is necessary for the love of God, but to develop an inner disposition, a spiritual freedom.


I cannot accept your attempt to reconcile the allowance of the Holocaust. Moral lessons for the rest of us? Such a being that would kill millions to spread a lesson is cruel and unjust on an unimaginable scale. The universe cannot work like that, where babies are gassed to death to convey some future lesson that could be conveyed in another way. You are submitting that your God allowed centuries of Catholic anti-semitic teaching and urging, and then rather than change that to change attitudes, actually allowed people to go through with their anti-semitic extinction to change our attitudes in an indirect way. Another note: anti-semitism has not been put out, and is even growing in many parts of the world. There are hundreds of millions, if not billions, who are anti-semitic.

I don't understand your acceptance of suffering. Suffering is bad. Allowing suffering is bad. And of course, I cannot concede that suffering allows spiritual growth. When you are shot in a firing line or gassed to death after nearly starving and watching your family die, where is the spiritual growth there?

sunmumy wrote:
If this subordination of the physical world to the spiritual good seems cruel, it is not because you are overstimating how much it hurts to be raped, to suffer a broken arm, to die. But because you are underestimating the importance of the Spirit. That Christians believe in life after death makes this faith possible.... All that being said we do not and cannot earn our salvation, we have nothing that God has not made. Everything we can offer him, is already his. So anything we do is merely a gesture, even dying for him. Its like my daughter offering me an orange. I bought the orange and I thought her to share, so even the work and the words are mine. So she is giving me back to myself. So it is with God.

The 'earning salvation' procedure is flawed and biased. It does not respect humans equally, but relies on luck and accident (circumstances of birth). That is not how perfect beings devise meaningful tests. If you are right that the supernatural realms justify the natural suffering, you must understand that you are putting a heavy burden of doubt on me. To accept something that explicitly contradicts what I see, I must accept the truth of something that no one can see or I submit, has ever seen.

sunmumy wrote:
Now the things that happen in the world are not baggage, any more than soldier's killed in the war are unimportant. Because the parts of the created world that he made and loved are being destroyed. Yes, the world's cause and effect must be upheld for the good of our conscience.

Now, I have explained this in Lay Person terms, other folks can probably fill in the more technical terms, but that's about the size of it.

The ability to accept suffering is the crux of Christianity. See the cross. That is not an intellectual task.Its a task of the will and spirit. So consider it for some time before you make up your mind. It is NOT an easy thing even for those of us who understand it intellectually, it may even be harder actually. Some questions need long incubation periods....


I don't see the relevance of the cross or understand your last point. I see a task of will as coping with suffering. But justifying it as okay by appeal to invisible, inconceivable post-life justifications seems an impossible stretch to me.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:07 am 
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Thanks for getting back with me.

jac3510 wrote:
Thomas is Aquinas . . . St. Thomas Aquinas . . .

Of course, thanks. Was St. Thomas Aquinas the origin of this definition? Or does it come from earlier theology?

Quote:
And there is on "tripartite definition" of God. The three omnis you are speaking of are just three of many attributes we can talk about with reference to Him.

If you have any information on the origin and relation of these terms, I'd be curious. I want to know to what extent Catholics accept these three omnis. I find religion much easier to justify if you just accept the OT God, one that is far less than omni-benevolent.

Quote:
So you are defining "moral evil" as an intentional act to harm (that is, to cause suffering) by an agent capable of "moral reasoning"?

That sounds right to me, generally. Of course harm can be quite broad, but yes, I would restrict moral evil to agents like humans with sufficient rational ability and malicious intentionality.

Quote:
I wouldn't say that God planned Adam's betrayal or that He let Satan win. I would say that He allowed Adam's betrayal and allowed Satan to successfully tempt him to turn to sin.

Those nuances aside, why would I have a problem with God knowing about Adam's betrayal, with His planning the flood, with His wiping out "the innocents" (I take this to refer to the children of the time), with Him allowing Satan a degree of success, or with killing the first-born of the Egyptians? How do any of those count against any of His attributes? It sounds like you have an implicit argument here, which I would formalize as:

1. If God is x (where x is any given attribute), then God would (not) do y (where y is any given event)
2. God did (not do) y
3. Therefore God is (not) x.

But the obvious problem with this is the second half of (1). It's a tall order to show that if God possesses a given property He will necessarily act or not act in a given way. In order to make that assessment, you must show that the concept is necessarily contradictory to the attribute. I fail to see how Adam's betrayal necessarily contradicts God's omniscience; how His allowing Satan temporary success in certain endeavors necessarily contradicts His omnipotence; or how God's either allowing or bringing about death necessarily contradicts His omnibenevolence.

Would you care to offer any arguments in favor of your assertions?


Sure, I can provide arguments. Your construction is just about right.
1. God is omnibenevolent
2. Omnibenevolent beings do not allow horrible suffering if they can prevent it
3. God allows horrible sufferring even though he can prevent it.
4. Ergo, God is not omnibenevolent (or on balance benevolent, I would say).

This is just one version. I would return to Epicurus' example, restated by Sam Harris to drive the point home.

"“Either God can do nothing to stop [unnecessary suffering], or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely."


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:13 am 
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Faustina wrote:

I guess my main question after reading your post is how does any of your questions disprove the existence of God? You certainly bring up questions that those who do believe in God have pondered. And will continue to ponder, I believe. But must belief in God for you, an atheist, equate with ancient ideas of God that you don't accept? Or is it possible for you to create and accept concepts of God that are more compatible with your (and everyone's) modern day mind?


In logic, if you make an assertion, and that assertion leads to a logical contradiction, some or all of your assertion must be wrong.

I just wrote this argument below.
1. God is omnibenevolent
2. Omnibenevolent beings do not allow horrible suffering if they can prevent it
3. God allows horrible sufferring even though he can prevent it.
4. Ergo, God is not omnibenevolent (or on balance benevolent, I would say).

Let me redo it.
1. God exists
2. God is omnibenevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent
3. Omnibenevolent beings do not allow horrible suffering if they can prevent it (by definition of omnibenevolence)
4. Omipotent being can prevent horrible suffering (by definition of omnipotent)
5. God allows horrible suffering even though he can prevent it. (observation)
4. Ergo, one of the assumptions is false. Either God does not exist, or does not exist as described: is not omnibenevolent or omnipotent.

So one could reconcile the problem of evil by simply conceding that God is evil, or at least apathetic. Or one could reconcile the problem by rejecting assumption 1, and denying that a God exists at all. That is my argument - to reject this version of God, the theistic God of most of Christianity.

I would reject a deistic God for different reasons. The problem of evil specifically speaks against the theistic God.

And I certainly could create a concept of God that fit. e.g. an evil God, or an apathetic God, or a mad scientist God who is just watching us. But it seems to me I should work from the evidence up, not the other way around. That is, I should find a pair of gloves that fits my hands (the truth) rather than try to stuff my hands into a pair of gloves that are too small to try to make them fit.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:15 am 
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The problem of evil is old hat, and even all the most informed atheists who are experts in the philosophy of religion now generally admit that even in its strongest form it doesn't really prove anything....and that is why it is not really used all that much any more.

What I want to know is how does the atheist resolve the problem of good? Atheism cannot explain why goodness exists.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:25 am 
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CanadianCatholic wrote:
Speaking from memory Lewis adresses the question you raise and provides common theological answers for the general reader. You need to define terms like omnipotence and divine goodness. He points out that it is not a lessening of God's omnipotence that He cannot do the non-sensical. He cannot make 2+2=5 or if I say" God cannot cease to exist therefore He is not omnipotent" I say nothing about God. I am talking nonsense. He then argues that God could not create a material world where free souls work out, with His grace, their eternal destinies without there being suffering. I not sure if his specific argument is that persuasive; the general point is that the term ' omnipotence' requires definition.

And so with Divine Love: God wants us to be perfectly happy and good. The mere absence of temporal suffering is not the destiny He has revealed to us and that we hope to attain. Every good parent can see a glimpse of this. Eternal beatitude is what He calls us to. Redemptive suffering has it's part to play in attaining or losing this destiny.

He also says some things about the fall of man and the suffering of animals. But you should read Lewis, and Chesterton, just to understand what it is Christians believe and what they mean when they use certain words. Thus the request to define your terms.

Both are popular writers and books are widely available. This website has a list of other books. It is very common that well-educated thoughtful people in this culture simply do not understand what Catholic Christians believe and why. I don't mean to be insulting when I point this out to you.


So first, I agree it is important to define things like omnipotence. There is a question whether omnipotence includes logical contradictions (can God make a round square?) or whether contradictions are not possible to instantiate, even for God. I tend to think omnipotence cannot include contradictions. Can God make a stone so large he cannot lift?

If you are arguing that, due to logical restrictions, God could not make a world like ours without suffering, there is a problem. Perhaps he needs to use physics and chemistry and biology to create creatures, and thus all created creatures like us have to suffer. The theodicy works to this extent - despite restricting the power of an omnipotent God massively. (What sort of God can create the laws of physics and 100 billion galaxies but can't modify simple weather patterns and geology to prevent volcanoes, earthquakes, and tornadoes? What sort of God can create DNA but can't get rid of ebola and malaria and AIDS? This is another contradiction, that a God can be this powerful and this weak).

Furthermore, the theodicy fails when we consider particulars. Surely, if God was powerful enough to intervene, to cause resurrections, to create a planet, he could do something like:
1) Remove malaria from mosquitoes
2) Make humans immune to malaria
3) Stop lightning? Stop fires? Stop plagues? Stop tornadoes?

If God cannot stop any of these things, he's not just omnibenevolent in a very weak sense, he's impotent. Even if I have a better shot at saving someone from malaria than God, by this definition. If you worship such a God, you must justify how this God does not intervene to save millions of dying children, but intervened 2000 years ago to do some magic tricks/miracles. That is another contradiction.

Either God never intervened, and so the bible and our other purported sources are fake.
Or God intervened, but does not care to save children from natural disasters, in which case the problem of evil stands.


I made a mistake. I actually did read Lewis in college - "Mere Christianity" - when studying Christianity & Ethics. I'm really not a fan, and I'm sure that will throw you off, but I didn't like his narrative use, his logic, or his strategies. But I am a philosopher, not a theologian.

Another great point though. A benevolent God would not allow animals to suffer so much.

I'm sure you are right that I don't understand Catholicism entirely. Just as I am sure I don't understand fully what it's like to be a Buddhist or Mormon or Muslim. And I similarly that you do not fully understand the atheistic/naturalistic worldview. That is part of why I am here - to understand your language and thought better.]Speaking from memory Lewis adresses the question you raise and provides common theological answers for the general reader. You need to define terms like omnipotence and divine goodness. He points out that it is not a lessening of God's omnipotence that He cannot do the non-sensical. He cannot make 2+2=5 or if I say


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:35 am 
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Doom wrote:
The problem of evil is old hat, and even all the most informed atheists who are experts in the philosophy of religion now generally admit that even in its strongest form it doesn't really prove anything....and that is why it is not really used all that much any more.

What I want to know is how does the atheist resolve the problem of good? Atheism cannot explain why goodness exists.



The problem of evil is over 2000 years old, and has not yet been solved. It remains an asked question, and I see that as a quite powerful failure of religion and theology. It is addressed by major writers and thinkers, and has been rehashed throughout literature, culture and philosophy, film, music and so on for millenia, literally. Popular criticisms of theology and proponents of atheism will raise this issue largely. The problem of evil is also responsible for a massive deconversion of Jews from theism to deism and atheism, through the Holocaust (another problem of evil situation) in recent history. So I wouldn't say it isn't used any more. Any philosophy of religion or metaphysics class will cover this issue. If it is your thought that philosophers think it is a past, irrelevant issue, I will fully dispute that. They think it is a powerful, convincing and standing contradiction.

So quite to the contrary of your claim, I would say it is a disproof of a certain version of God without convincing rebuttal. I'd also say that most professional philosophers agree - at least all the professors that I know. Theology professors who ignore the question already tend to think of a God in a deistic or pantheistic sense, which eliminates the problem of evil. But it remains a challenge to theism in popular and professional conception (but perhaps not as much for theists).

Your next thought - that atheism cannot explain goodness.
Do you think an inability to explain this fact shows that atheism is false? Is it possible that goodness does not exist, and thus no explanation is needed?
I contend that goodness is a word used to explain a concept. We are happy when things are 'good for us'. So doing well on a test is 'good'. If helping one another makes us more productive, we call that 'good'. If someone is well-intentioned and not selfish, we call that person 'good'. These are descriptions of positive, helpful, beneficent traits, persons and so on. One can also be a good student, or a good soldier, or a good husband.

That is, I do not actually think there is 'goodness' in nature. It is just a concept used to explain certain things we refer to.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:32 pm 
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Welcome back, Dschiff.

You ask a lot of pertinent questions but most are very basic. I think as folks above have said, CS lewis or Chesterton would be a good place to begin. I highly recommend that you get Mere Christianity in CD form. CS Lewis is more conversational than writerly.

If you are familiar with the answers then you can probably see that you are contradicting yourself by saying good and evil are just categories and then claiming X is evil and Y is unjust. So which is it? Is there a non-relative standard of good or isn't there? If there is no standard then getting run over by a car or cheated is just inconvenient, a personal taste. ( I rather like being beaten with a hammer but others not-so much....)

I do think some wine or a big fat piece of chocolate cake goes well with listening to Mere or to Orthodoxy. I say that because sometimes the objections are not so much in the intellect as in the spirit. (Either that or severe disease. This is related to that mystery of the cross and suffering)


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 1:42 pm 
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sunmumy wrote:
Welcome back, Dschiff.

You ask a lot of pertinent questions but most are very basic. I think as folks above have said, CS lewis or Chesterton would be a good place to begin. I highly recommend that you get Mere Christianity in CD form. CS Lewis is more conversational than writerly.


Negative...well I guess it depends on one's reading level and degree of experience with the philosophy of religion. For an advanced, and patient, reader I would actually recommend starting with Alvin Plantinga's 'God, Freedom and Evil'

http://www.amazon.com/God-Freedom-Evil- ... 501&sr=1-3

This is a serious work of academic philosophy and is where I would recommend starting.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 2:26 pm 
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Doom wrote:
sunmumy wrote:
Welcome back, Dschiff.

You ask a lot of pertinent questions but most are very basic. I think as folks above have said, CS lewis or Chesterton would be a good place to begin. I highly recommend that you get Mere Christianity in CD form. CS Lewis is more conversational than writerly.


Negative...well I guess it depends on one's reading level and degree of experience with the philosophy of religion. For an advanced, and patient, reader I would actually recommend starting with Alvin Plantinga's 'God, Freedom and Evil'

http://www.amazon.com/God-Freedom-Evil- ... 501&sr=1-3

This is a serious work of academic philosophy and is where I would recommend starting.



I am particularly qualified to agree with this sentiment.

GKC


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:40 pm 
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As others have begun and I will here reiterate, evil is not a created thing. Evil does not exist and has no being. Evil is always a privation of what ought to be. All being is good metaphysically or ontologically. For all being is either the Creator or His creature(Gen 1). For instance a sword is not evil. Even the stroke of the sword that chops your head off is not evil in its being-in fact, unless its a "good" stroke, it will not chop your head off.

Where is the evil? It is in the will, the choice, the intent, the movement of the soul, which puts a wrong order into the physical world of things and acts: the order between the sword and the innocent's neck rather than a murderer's neck or an innocent's bonds.

Even the devil is good in his being. He is a good thing gone bad-in fact, a very good thing gone very bad. To be morally bad you must be ontologically good.

Is evil then merely subjective? No, for if it were a subjective illusion, then the fact that we fear this mere illusion would be really evil. Evil IS real, but it is not a real thing. It is disordered love, disordered will. It is a wrong relationship, a nonconformity between our will and God's will.

Most importantly, God did not make evil, we did. That is the obvious point between Gen 1 & 3, the stories of God's good creation and humanity's evil Fall.

The origin of evil is sin and human free will. The immediate origin of suffering is nature, or rather the relationship between ourselves and nature. We stub our toe, or get the flu, or drown.

The second argument against God's "omnipotence" is the objection "If 'all things are possible with God,' then why didn't God create a world without sin?" That we already answered above.

Or to put it another way, omnipotence could not have created a world in which there was genuine human freedom and yet no possibility of sin, for our freedom includes the possibility of sin within its own meaning. Thus, even an omnipotent God cannot forcibly prevent sin without removing our freedom. The "cannot" does not mean that His power meets some obstacle outside Himself, but rather that "nonsense does not cease to be nonsense when we add the words 'God can' before it."(C.S.Lewis). This notion of God's omnipotence not extending to self-contradictions explains necessary physical evil as well as moral evil. Even omnipotence cannot avoid all physical evil if it creates a finite world that is not infinitely perfect. God wanted free creatures to love and that would choose to love Him, not robots. God is not a tyrant, He's a lover.

More specifically you fail to distinguish between two kinds of physical evil: (1) the imperfections, weaknesses, diseases, and deaths of nonhuman things, and (2) the suffering of human beings. The first is inherent in any finite, created world. Tornados are not evil in their being, they are the result of heat and pressure balancing themselves out within our atmosphere. Mosquitos look really attractive to other mosquitos.

The second is the necessary consequence of sin. Human beings are body-soul(psycho-somatic) unities, our souls or psyches or personalities are our form and our bodies are our matter, much as in a poem the meaning is the form and the sounds and syllables are the matter. Once you grant this principle, it makes sense that if the soul becomes alienated from God by sin, the body will become alienated too, and experience pain and death as sin's inevitable consequences. These are not external, arbitrary punishments added on. Spiritual death(sin) and physical death go together because our spirits(souls, conciousness) and bodies go together.

To help understand this think of three iron rings suspended from a magnet. The magnet is God; the first ring, the soul; the second ring, the body; the bottom ring, nature. As long as the sould stays in contact with God the magnetic life flows through the whole chain. But when the soul declares its independence from God, the whole chain falls. When the soul is separated from God, the body is separated from the soul-that is it dies-and also from nature-that is, it suffers. The soul's authority over the body is a delegated authority, as is humanity's authority over nature. When God the delegator is rejected, so is the authority He delegated. Thus both suffering and sin are traced back to man, not God.


Thirdly your idea of "omnibenevolence" or "goodness" confuses what is you think is "good" for what is "kind". Kindness is the will to free the loved one from pain. Sometimes, to be good is not to be kind. Dentists, surgeons, athletic trainers, teachers, and parents all know that.

Fourthly your argument about the amount of evil which you say disproves God. My question is this: How much evil would be too much? Would a Holocaust of six million disprove God but not a Holocaust of six thousand? How do you know how much evil is too much? You seem to assume implicitly that since you cannot understand why so much evil is permitted, it could not possibly be permitted by God; that is you assume that only the evil which you can understand as necessary or justified is compatible with God. But if only such evil did exist, it would be strong evidence against God. For if there is a God, His wisdom and ways must be infinitely superior to ours ,and we will not understand all His ways. That was the only answer Job got, and he was satisfied, because Job was a good philosopher. This is not blind fideism but eminent reasonableness. Who are we, the palyers on the stage, to tell off the author of the play? We cannot explain the particular evils we see, but we can explain why we can't explain them.

Lastly, the God of the OT is the exact same God of the NT.
You commit the same errors as I did when I was an atheist.
1) you, understandably but albeit ignorantly, place your false understandings on the text. When you read the OT you read it with a lack of reference. You listen, but you do not hear.
2) you fail to recognize the persistence of sin. You see sin's punishment as something arbitrary and posited instead of something intrinsic to the act itself.
3) because of your ideology you place material reality over and above all else. In other words you place something temporary and finite as more important than what is eternal.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:02 pm 
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dschiff wrote:
So quite to the contrary of your claim, I would say it is a disproof of a certain version of God without convincing rebuttal. I'd also say that most professional philosophers agree - at least all the professors that I know.

The so-called logical problem of evil has been wholly refuted, and no philosopher who knows anything about the state of philosophy of religion since the 60's would disagree. Unfortunately, a great many philosophy professors don't know anything about the state of philosophy of religion since the 60's, and still teach Mackie's confused stuff as though it were compelling. (That it is not compelling, even Mackie eventually came to see.) Now, a good many philosophers who do know something about the current state of philosophy of religion do believe that the so-called evidential problem of evil has some real teeth. But that they are correct is far from obvious, and in fact the one who wants to claim that this problem is actually a "disproof" of theism bears the burden of proof here.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:11 pm 
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gherkin wrote:
dschiff wrote:
So quite to the contrary of your claim, I would say it is a disproof of a certain version of God without convincing rebuttal. I'd also say that most professional philosophers agree - at least all the professors that I know.

The so-called logical problem of evil has been wholly refuted, and no philosopher who knows anything about the state of philosophy of religion since the 60's would disagree. Unfortunately, a great many philosophy professors don't know anything about the state of philosophy of religion since the 60's, and still teach Mackie's confused stuff as though it were compelling. (That it is not compelling, even Mackie eventually came to see.) Now, a good many philosophers who do know something about the current state of philosophy of religion do believe that the so-called evidential problem of evil has some real teeth. But that they are correct is far from obvious, and in fact the one who wants to claim that this problem is actually a "disproof" of theism bears the burden of proof here.



I was waiting for you to weigh in on that issue, I knew that what I said about 'the problem of evil now being regarded by atheists who specialize in the philosophy of religion as not proving anything and never using it any more' was true, but I don't have the documentation...I figured you would.


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 Post subject: Re: The Problem of Evil - What is your theodicy?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:12 pm 
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I don't actually have much by way of documentation, either. Just anecdotal evidence. But my experience is fairly wide.

ETA: Sorry, I do have some evidence that's not just anecdotal. Like, for example, the fact that lots of specialists in the philosophy of religion, whether atheist or theist, say exactly what I just said. So I'm not just drawing on my experience, but that of many other people. I guess that's anecdotal, too, but it's not just my anecdotes. Also, there's the non-negligible fact that it's just obviously true that the logical problem of evil has been refuted. One can look at the evidence for that. You already cited the classical source on that point.


Last edited by gherkin on Thu Apr 26, 2012 2:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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