Job and the Existence of a Good God

This deserves a post of its own, since I have been speaking about Job and a good God here, and here.


1) If God exists, and if he is good, and if he wants us to believe he exists and that he is good, then he should have a morally acceptable reason for causing intense creaturely suffering that is remotely understandable from our perspective.

2) There isn't a morally acceptable reason for an existing good God to cause intense creaturely suffering in our lives that is remotely understandable from our perspective.

3) .: Either God doesn't exist, or he isn't good, or he doesn't care whether we believe he exists and is good.

28 comments:

Kaffinator said...

Let’s restate item 1.

P1. God exists
P2. God is good
P3. God wants us to believe he exists
C1. God should have a morally acceptable reason for causing suffering that is understandable from our perspective.

C1 is an obvious non-sequitur and makes additional assumptions that are false. But rather pick them apart, I will demonstrate by analogy.

Suppose a murderous killer is on the loose. His moral sense is so corrupt and perverse that he does not understand that murder is a crime. Police apprehend him using weapons that almost kill him.

P1. Police exist.
P2. Police are a force for good.
C1. Police should ensure that the suspect understands their morally acceptable reason for causing his suffering.

Because the police made no attempt to enlighten the murderer, either P1 or P2 is false.

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John W. Loftus said...

Kaffinator. You annoy me with your uneducated and ill-informed objections. Your analogy is badly flawed. We know policemen exist, and we also have a general idea of what they enforce...the law, even if we disagree with it at times. Neither do the police care if we believe they exist and that they are good, since their job is to enforce the law. But God supposedly does.

Besides, if we are so demented as human beings that we cannot remotely understand the moral reasons God has for causing human suffering, as in the case of Job, then God cannot expect us to believe he exists and that he is good. And if that's the case, then there is likewise no reason to cast us away forever in hell, which is also morally repugnant to us and not even remotely understandable from our perspective.

Kaffinator said...

> We know policemen exist, and we also have a general idea of what they enforce...the law, even if we disagree with it at times.

Christians know God exists, and also have a general idea of the Law he enforces, even if we have trouble complying with it at times. If you are going to step into the Christian worldview and critique it you must be prepared for a response from within that worldview.

The essence of my “uneducated” (?) objection is that God is not obligated to tell us anything. When did God ever say he was?

Secularism is a religion said...

I assume that this was in response to my pointing out that Mr. Loftus's arguments are really a fallacy (arguing from ignorance) in the other post. Kaffinator has already made an attempt to put his comments into a logical format. Allow me to give my version of Loftus's argument here.

1) God exists.

2) God is good.

3) God wants us to believe he exists and is good.

4) God causes intense creaturely suffering.

5) God ought to have a morally acceptable reason for causing that suffering.

6) That morally acceptable reason ought to be understandable from our perspective.

7) There isn't a morally acceptable reason that is understandable for us.

.: Either God doesn't exists, he isn't good, or he doesn't care whether we believe he exists and is good.

This conclusion, however, does not follow from the logic, and is instead an either/or fallacy. Mr. Loftus only wants us to look at premises 1), 2), and 3) above and conclude that they are flawed based on 6) and 7). However, the conclusion needs to include the fact that 6) and/or 7) could be wrong too:

.: Either God doesn't exists, he isn't good, or he doesn't care whether we believe he exists and is good; or6) and/or 7) are wrong.

If 6) or 7) is not valid, then there is no logical tension here. So the question immediately becomes, is there any reason that 6) or 7) must follow from 1)-5)?

I can only assume that Mr. Lofuts intends 6) to follow from 3) as:

i) God wants us to know he is good.

ii) God must have a morally sufficient reason for doing something we consider bad in order for us to know he is good.

iii) If we do not know what that reason is, we do not "know" that God is good.

However iii) does not follow. We do not necessarily need to know what the moral reason is; we only need to know that the moral reason is good. Thus, we could ammend it:

iii-a) God has told us that He has a morally sufficient reason.

iv) If God is truthful in iii-a) then God's actions are good regardless of whether we know what His reason is.

v) if God is not truthful in iii-a) then God's actions are evil regardless of whether we know what His reason is.

This shows that 6) does not follow in the argument Mr. Loftus has made. Instead, his argument must be ammended to:

1) God exists.

2) God is good.

3) God wants us to believe he exists and is good.

4) God causes intense creaturely suffering.

5) God ought to have a morally acceptable reason for causing that suffering.

6) God has told us He has a morally acceptable reason for causing suffering.

.: Either God speaks truthfully (in which case there is no contradiction) or else falsely (in which case 6) contradicts 5)).

This, then, is the proper place to argue from instead of from where Mr. Loftus's argument lead us.

John W. Loftus said...

Sure, your God is not obligated to tell us anything. But if he desires us to believe in him then he should.

As far as my argument being a fallacy, read this, and understand that pinning an informal fallacy on a control belief is practically impossible.

We do not necessarily need to know what the moral reason is; we only need to know that the moral reason is good.

And how can we know that the moral reason is good? Upon what basis can we know such a thing? Such a thing suffers the same kinds of criticisms as I have mentioned previously. If I do not have a remote understanding of why someone like Job and his family suffered like they did, how can I believe there is a moral reason for causing such suffering if one cannot be produced?

.: Either God speaks truthfully (in which case there is no contradiction) or else falsely (in which case 6) contradicts 5)).

Now exactly how can we determine whether or not God speaks truthfully? In the first place, if he regularly beats and tortures us, I don't see why I should trust what he tells us. Furthermore, if Christians want to argue that God's moral ways are not our moral ways, then his truth may appear to us as lies. And we're back to square one all over again. How do we know God speaks truthfully? How do we know he has good reasons for causing us to suffer?

Secularism is a religion said...

I wrote
"We do not necessarily need to know what the moral reason is; we only need to know that the moral reason is good."

Mr. Loftus responded with:

"And how can we know that the moral reason is good?"

Although you may not realize it, you are now shifting the debate from where it began. Remember that you started with a bunch of premises that were assumed true as the "given" of the argument (e.g. "God exists"; "God is good"; etc.) Your argument then flowed from those premises in which you tried to construct a contradiction between the conclusions that necessarily followed it and the premises. For the purposes of your argument, we need only respond with the fact that God could have morally sufficient reasons without our knowing what those reasons are.

But the epistemological question, separate as it may be, is yet an intriguing one. So while it diverts us from your original argument, I shall nevertheless answer your question:

"And how can we know that the moral reason is good?"

And:

"If I do not have a remote understanding of why someone like Job and his family suffered like they did, how can I believe there is a moral reason for causing such suffering if one cannot be produced?"

We know because God has told us that He has purposes to what He does, that He is a good God, and that we do not need to understand His purposes in all things.

I see that you expect this argument as you try to pre-empt it with your comments:

"Now exactly how can we determine whether or not God speaks truthfully?"

I would answer that we determine this in the same way that we determine whether anyone else speaks truthfully or not. This is an issue of revelation and whether you accept it as true or not.

For instance, allow me to reveal to you the following fact: "I am 28 years old." Is there any way that you can verify this information?

Unless you have a time machine and can come back in time to watch me as I write this, the answer is that you cannot verify that I am 28 years old. You could come over to my house and speak with me, but you would not know for sure that the person you spoke with is the person who actually posted this comment (after all, I could have gotten a 28-year-old friend to substitute for me just to fool you when you come to visit).

Thus, you have nothing other than the implicit faith that I would not lie about my age to accept the statement "I am 28 years old." You have the revelation given to you. You can either accept it or reject it.

In the same way, God has spoken to us. You can either accept what He has said or reject it. But your acceptance or rejection does not alter the truthfulness of what God has revealed (just as my acceptance or rejection of it does not alter it either).

Mr. Loftus also wrote, "Furthermore, if Christians want to argue that God's moral ways are not our moral ways, then his truth may appear to us as lies."

I must confess that I do not understand your point here. Even if I granted that this was true, it doesn't change anything. How we perceive truth does not determine truth. (Or to put it another way, our perceptions do not alter reality.)

"And we're back to square one all over again. How do we know God speaks truthfully?"

Square one has already been addressed though. How do you know I speak truthfully when I write "I am 28 years old"? How do you know when anyone speaks truthfully?

John W. Loftus said...

How do you know when anyone speaks truthfully? I have my ways. ;-) But if I cannot determine this when it comes to God, then that becomes a problem if he wants me to believe him.

John W. Loftus said...

Daniel Moragn made a good point when he said: Their god is like the husband who beats his wife, but says, "trust me" and promises to give her flowers in the afterlife. That's the crux of the argument in the other thread about Job.

Secularism is a religion said...

I wrote

"How do you know when anyone speaks truthfully?"

Mr. Loftus said

"I have my ways. ;-)"

Yes, you do. But do you apply these ways consistently?

"But if I cannot determine this when it comes to God, then that becomes a problem if he wants me to believe him."

But why would it be a problem? You have no way to determine if I tell the truth when I say "I am 28 years old." Does it become a problem because I want you to believe me? If not, then why would it be a problem if God wanted you to believe what He said?

I think if you probe this issue you will see that you have several underlying assumptions at work that are coloring your view when you seek to determine if what God has said is true or not.

I do not say this as if I do not have similar assumptions that color my view, of course. I think we all have them (perhaps that's what you mean by your phrase "control beliefs") but I do wonder if you see yours or not.

If the manner in which we determine the veracity of a person's statements is identical if the person is man or God then what is it that causes you to doubt God's statements even if you are to accept mine when, in reality, you have absolutely no evidence beyond my mere statement that my statement is actually true?

If the manner is different when juding statements of men and God, then what are the differences and why ought we have those differences?

These are the questions that come next.

Ebonmuse said...

I notice that none of the apologists in this thread have actually attempted to give reasons why they consider God to be good, except for "he says he is and we should trust him" - an obvious circular argument, because an evil being would lie. Really, what they've said in so many words is that they have no basis for believing that God is good (even setting aside for the moment the question of whether God exists). They simply believe that because it's what they've always been told. Is it any wonder that John and so many others have chosen to walk away from the intellectual deadness that is fundamentalist religion?

Secularism is a religion said...

ebonmouse said

"I notice that none of the apologists in this thread have actually attempted to give reasons why they consider God to be good..."

This was one of the "given" statements in the argument Mr. Loftus presented, and thus it is not in debate here. Mr. Loftus's argument was not "God is evil" but instead was on whether we needed to know what God's purposes were in order to call God "good."

If you want to discuss the topic of whether God is good or not, feel free. But it hasn't been addressed by any of the "apologist" precisely because it's off topic on this post.

Secularism is a religion said...

ebonmuse,

Please accept my apologize. I did not mean to call you ebonmouse in the above comment.

Ebonmuse said...

Hello,

You seem not to understand what John was attempting to do. His post was an example of proof by contradiction: say for the sake of argument that a given premise is true, show how the acceptance of that premise leads to an inescapable contradiction, and conclude that therefore the original premise must have been false. John Loftus did not concede that God was good. Quite the opposite: He was giving a reason why we should not believe that. And none of the Christians posting to this thread have given any valid reason to believe otherwise, which was my point.

Kiwi Dave said...

Thanks, Ebonmuse, for stating the point of the argument explicitly.

Secularism, you ask how anyone can know if you have spoken truthfully about your age. I suppose there’s independent documentary evidence somewhere and if I was enrolling you for an election, serving you alcohol in a public bar or issuing you a driving licence, I would want this rather than your say-so.

When God’s behaviour doesn’t appear to meet ordinary human standards of decency, “God could have morally sufficient reasons without our knowing what those reasons are” is a pretty weak response if God wants me to worship him. Could have, but does he? The say-so of ancient biblical authors is not enough and we are back to the points and questions in the final paragraph of John’s 2.19 post.

Secularism is a religion said...

ebonmuse,

I know that you think you are correct, but in this instance you have missed the point of any debate. You wrote

"His [Mr. Loftus] post was an example of proof by contradiction: say for the sake of argument that a given premise is true, show how the acceptance of that premise leads to an inescapable contradiction, and conclude that therefore the original premise must have been false. John Loftus did not concede that God was good."

Your first sentence is correct; your second sentence is in error. Mr. Loftus did indeed "concede that God was good" for the reason you stated in the first sentence: "for the sake of argument." Mr. Loftus's argument depends on the initial acceptance of the claim "God is good" and then he is attempting to demonstrate from that that it logically must necessarily follow that there is a contradiction between that premise (which is assumed at the offset) and a certain conclusion (i.e. what I listed above as point 6) in my reduction of Mr. Loftus's argument).

The debate rightly centers then on the validity of point 6). Point 2) is a given that is not debateable in this argument.

Therefore, to question why the "apologists" have not provided evidence for point 2) is a red herring. Point 2) was a logical given and in this argument is not debateable.

Look at it this way: if we assume that point 2) is what the debate is about, then point 6) is irrelevant. Point 6) depends on point 2) being valid. Thus, if point 2) is the point of contention, there is no point in Mr. Loftus's argument to continue beyond point 2).

If you want to change the debate to the issue of point 2) (e.g. "God is good") then feel free to do so. Just be aware that it is a separate issue from the point of Mr. Loftus's argument and thus requires different argumentation than what has presently been provided while addressing Mr. Loftus's argument.

Secularism is a religion said...

kiwi dave said

"Secularism, you ask how anyone can know if you have spoken truthfully about your age. I suppose there’s independent documentary evidence somewhere and if I was enrolling you for an election, serving you alcohol in a public bar or issuing you a driving licence, I would want this rather than your say-so."

Hello Kiwi. You have misunderstood what I was attempting to point out. Let us suppose that I decide to drive over to where you live and I had you my identification demonstrating I am 28 years old. All you would be able to say is that someone who claimed to be the same person who posted these comments has an I.D. card that says he is 28 years old. You would not be able to know, other than based on my self-revealing the information to you, that I am actually the same person who wrote this as when I give you that I.D. card. This is why I said that, unless you have a time machine so you can go back in time and actually witness me typing this, you cannot verify other than on my say-so that the person behind the label "Secularism is a religion" is actually me.

kiwi dave wrote

"When God’s behaviour doesn’t appear to meet ordinary human standards of decency, 'God could have morally sufficient reasons without our knowing what those reasons are' is a pretty weak response if God wants me to worship him."

This opens up several secondary issues that are beyond the scope of this present argument (e.g. "ordinary human standards of decency" are different for someone like Zarqawi and pacifistic Quakers, etc.). However, the basic gist of your argument seems to be: "What Secularism is a religion said doesn't convince me."

But simply because something does not convince you does not mean we have a logical contradiction in theism. Mr. Loftus's argument, again, was an attempt to show that there is a logically necessary contradiction inherent in the assumptions of Christian theism. This is not the case, regardless of whether such a response seems "weak."

kiwi dave said

"The say-so of ancient biblical authors is not enough..."

This likewise brings up several secondary issues, the first of which being "How does kiwi dave know that the 'say-so of ancient biblical authors is not enough' evidence to demonstrate that God has reasons for what He does?" Again, all you have said is really, "The say-so of ancient biblical authors doesn't convince me." But whether you are convinced or not is not germane to the argument Mr. Loftus presented.

Kaffinator said...

Well put.

I showed above how point 1 falls apart on its own, but I think Loftus reveals where he is coming from in point 3.

> 3) .: Either God doesn't exist, or he isn't good, or he doesn't care whether we believe he exists and is good.

This isn't really the conclusion of a logical argument so much as an expression of annoyance. Loftus is annoyed that God does not explain everything he does to Loftus's satisfaction. And, I can't really blame Loftus for this. We humans like to understand things and it's frustrating to be told, "you can't". But that is the essense, I think, of God's response to Job: "you have no guarantee of understanding everything I do; I am the creator and you are the creature. Get used to it."

Now while it may be irritating it's not a real problem unless you diverge from the overarching message of the Bible and presume that God is actually evil. When Loftus is a theist, he is a maltheist, so the idea that God might be up to something--anything--outside of Loftus' personal view of reality is not just annoying, it's downright scary.

John W. Loftus said...

I am told to believe in God. "Why" I ask? "Just believe." "What about human suffering?" "Well, that we cannot explain." "What about the trinity or the incarnation?" "Well, that we cannot explain either." "What about free-will and forknowledge?" "We cannot explain that." "How is it possible for a being to always and forever exist without a beginning as the most highly complex entity possible who didn't gradually grow into such a being?" "We don't know." "What about hell?" "We don't know."

Get my drift?

Secularism is a religion said...

John Loftus wrote

"Get my drift?"

Honestly, Mr. Loftus, I do not.

You presented an argument earlier, one that had the appearance of being logically oriented. I addressed that argument logically on the grounds of that argument in order to demonstrate that the argument itself was flawed.

The questions you ask in the above paragraph are all unrelated to the argument that you put forth earlier. I could, naturally, give you some answers to those questions (e.g. "What about human suffering?", What about the trinity or the incarnation?", etc.) but these would all be completely different topics than your above argument that started this topic.

Kaffinator said...

> Get my drift?

Yeah, I get your drift. When your argument is shown faulty, you react with a bunch more of the same fallacy, hoping that twenty pounds of the same material will somehow collectively smell better than the first.

If you had better answers to explain free-will and foreknowledge and morality and eternity and human suffering, you haven’t presented them here! You tell me not to believe in God. “What about morality?” I ask. “Well there really is no such thing as universal morality; morality is just a social convention but I am going to continue imposing mine on you as if it was a universal.” “What about Creation?” “Well we can describe it but ultimately it just, sort of, happened on its own. Or it always was. We’re not sure.” “How is it possible for consciousness to arise from non-consciousness, thought from non-thought, free will to arise from deterministic material, etc?” “Well we’re not really sure so we’ll just say those things don’t exist or are irrelevant” “On what is logic grounded?” “Logic is fluff.”

John W. Loftus said...

Secularism said:
5) God ought to have a morally acceptable reason for causing that suffering.
6) That morally acceptable reason ought to be understandable from our perspective.

.: Either God speaks truthfully (in which case there is no contradiction) or else falsely (in which case 6) contradicts 5))."

Secularism just doesn't get it. If God lies, then I'm right that he's a tyrant who cannot be trusted. If God values the morality of telling the truth then there ought to be a morally acceptable reason for why he tortured Job in the story.

But I cannot even remotely guess at a morally acceptable answer to why God purportedly did this. And since I'm supposed to believe in such a God, and since God purportedly created me with brains to understand in the first place, then lacking any answer I conclude God either doesn't exist, or isn't good, or doesn't care what we believe about whether he exists or is good. Sheesh.

Secularism, you remind me of what politicians do when in power...they gerrymander districts. You participate in logical gerrymandering.

Besides, it's simply silly to speak of my having to show a contradiction before my argument can succeed. I never suggested there was a contradiction. I merely claim that it's extremely implausible that a good God exists from our perspective of life here on earth. There are a host of things which might be possible but which are implausible. I might be dreaming right now. So what? There is no contradiction if I am indeed dreaming right now. It's just implausible.

Secularism is a religion said...

Mr. Loftus,

You wrote

"Secularism just doesn't get it. If God lies, then I'm right that he's a tyrant who cannot be trusted."

How do I not "get it"? Did I not say that if God lies then 6) contradicts 5) (which would result in your argument successfuly demonstrating a contradiction in the Christian ideals)?

As to whether that would make God a "tyrant"--that would be debatable (I'm sure you've lied--as all humans have--but I would not classify you as a "tyrant" solely because you've lied before), but beside the point. I'll give you the fact that if God lies He cannot be trusted.

Mr. Loftus wrote
"If God values the morality of telling the truth then there ought to be a morally acceptable reason for why he tortured Job in the story.

But I cannot even remotely guess at a morally acceptable answer to why God purportedly did this.
"

Allow me to rephrase the above in a logical sequence again:

1) God values morality

2) God has a morally sufficient reason for the "evil" inflicted on Job.

3) Mr. Loftus does not know what this reason is, nor can he fathom what it could possibly be.

.: God does not have a sufficient reason.

But this is obvious non sequitur and continues to propogate Mr. Loftus's fallacy of arguing from ignorance.

Anyone can have a reason for acting without revealing that reason to someone else. Our knowledge of a reason is irrelevant to the issue of whether there is or is not a reason.

Mr. Loftus continues

"Secularism, you remind me of what politicians do when in power...they gerrymander districts. You participate in logical gerrymandering."

Please demonstrate what you mean by this term, and how I have engaged in logical gerrymandering. I think any fair reader looking at these comments will see that I have been extremely careful to look only at your exact argument, to focus specifically on it while excluding extraneous red herrings, and determining the logic of your argument. If this is logical gerrymandering, consider me guilty.

If you may allow me to make a personal comment, it appears to me that it is you who has presented a "logical" argument that you have then pressed beyond the logical extent of that argument. You have presented a logical argument (as I demonstrated in my first response to you) but yet you seem to want to talk about a bunch of extraneous issues instead. If you don't stick with your argument then may I assume you no longer stand behind it? I would gladly stop arguing against your argument if you concede that your argument is flawed.

Mr. Loftus wrote

"Besides, it's simply silly to speak of my having to show a contradiction before my argument can succeed."

Your argument is based on a contradiction, and therefore it is not "silly" to ask you to demonstrate that contradiction. You started with the theistic assumption that God is good and then you tried to demonstrate that God was not good in order to demonstrate that the original premise is flawed. That does, indeed, necessitate a contradiction between the steps in your argument where:

1) God is good.

2) God is not good.

.: The original premise is false.


Mr. Loftus said,

"I merely claim that it's extremely implausible that a good God exists from our perspective of life here on earth."

But this is not what you said. You originally said:


1) If God exists, and if he is good, and if he wants us to believe he exists and that he is good, then he should have a morally acceptable reason for causing intense creaturely suffering that is remotely understandable from our perspective.

2) There isn't a morally acceptable reason for an existing good God to cause intense creaturely suffering in our lives that is remotely understandable from our perspective.

3) .: Either God doesn't exist, or he isn't good, or he doesn't care whether we believe he exists and is good.


The conclusion you draw is not "it is implausible that a good God exists from our perspective." Stated as you did, you are saying it is a logically necessary conclusion. I have demonstrated that it is not.

John W. Loftus said...

Secularism. You are an intelligent person, but you are falsely trying to force me to claim I see a contradiction merely because I used a syllogistic way of expressing myself. That's stupid. Get off your high horse and find someplace else to troll. Either try to understand what I'm saying, or if you cannot, do not comment. You're looking foolish, and you might be the only one who doesn't see it. Now go away.

John W. Loftus said...

Oh, and secularism, take a logic class while you are away. If you lived near me I could be your professor. The only arguments which entail certain conclusions are ones about the rules of logic themselves. All other arguments about the world of our experiences result in probabilities at best, because the conclusion can only be as strong as the strength of any one of its premises.

highlander65 said...

Can I say that I find the attempted analysis of what John Loftus has actually said, (by both "Secularism is a religion" and "Kaff") to be unhelpful, innacurate, and being honest, a bit of a waste of time. (A load of waffle!)

The original statement, a compound conditional, says: if God exists and is good and wants us to believe that He is good ... then He would explain all the suffering and premature death that has occurred on earth.


"Secularism is a religion" seems first to be arguing that there is a reason (an unknown purpose) for all the suffering and premature death that has occurred on earth. Then he softens this position and suggests that God *could* have a purpose for all the suffering and premature death. (And he says that we can know that this purpose exists, without knowing what it is.) In support of this position, "Secularism is a religion" asserts that "God has purposes to what He does". To this he adds, rather cryptically, "God has spoken to us."

I have to say that I have been unable to find any scripture saying that God has a purpose for all the suffering and premature death on this planet (never mind what that purpose is). And I can find no mention of such a scriptural statement anywhere in the literature on this subject either (the "problem of evil"). Perhaps if "Secularism is a religion" can provide chapter and verse .. I suspect though, that he will be unable to do so.

(Note that quoting the likes of Isa 55:9 or Rom 11:33 would only support the assertion that we would not understand God's unknown purpose, it would not support the assertion that He has one.)


Now, getting to the point: I think that this is a good objection to the "argument from evil" as it was originally presented. For it calls into question not whether God is good, or whether God wants us to believe that He is good, but the logical *connection* between those ideas (common Christian ideas) and God's explaining to us His purpose for all the suffering and premature death on earth. The argument put forward by "Secularism is a religion" seems to be: If God is good, and He wants us to believe He is good, then it does not follow that He will explain His purpose for allowing all the suffering and premature death on Earth.

The position taken by "Secularism is a religion" seems to be that God needs only to have a purpose. He does not need to tell us what that purpose is. This point is well taken. And logically, it does, I think, address the "argument from evil" as it was originally presented by John Loftus. (Sorry John! - but of course the argument from evil can be formulated differently.)

If only "Secularism is a religion" could have got straight *to* the point, instead of trying to give us "his version" of a statment which was already perfectly clear, and instead of taking it upon himself (or herself) to tell everyone else what was a legitimate matter for discussion on someone else's board. That added nothing to his argument.

Problems arise though, if one wants to advance this form of the "unknown purpose defence". First of all, "SIAR" needs to provide scriptural evidence that God does indeed have a (currently unknown) purpose for allowing all the suffering and premature death that has occurred on Earth. As I said, I have yet to come upon such scriptural evidence.

Secondly (and since "SIAR" seems to like logic so much, I'm sure he'll like this problem with his "unknown purpose defence") SIAR needs to go ahead and explain why God has kept His purpose for allowing all the suffering and death a secret from everyone. In order to do this, of course (I'm paraphrasing Drange here) SIAR needs to appeal to a further unknown purpose of God's - His purpose for keeping his first (also unknown) purpose a secret.

That is to say, God could have an unknown purpose for allowing all the suffering and premature death on Earth, but it would be possible (and desirable, if he does want us to believe that He is good) for Him to let us know - not what that purpose is - but why it is necessary for Him to keep that purpose secret from us. But this second purpose, like His original purpose for allowing all the suffering and death, remains unknown.

In fact, anyone (such as "SIAR") wanting to advance the "unknown purpose defence" will find themselves facing an infinite regress of unknown purposes on God's part - Q: Why does God allow all the suffering and premature death on Earth? A: He has a purpose for allowing that, but no one knows what it is. Q: Why is that (first) purpose a secret? A: He has a purpose for keeping it secret, but no one knows what it is. Q: And why all the secrecy about that (second) purpose? A: He has a purpose for keeping that purpose a secret too, but no one knows what it is. And so on, and so forth ...

I think that the "unknown purpose defence" ultimately leads the theist further and further up a ladder of mysteries, farther and farther into the clouds, and what they need to do is come back down to earth, and admit that their argument has no explanatory power at all. In fact it only makes God more mysterious than ever. And as Drange argues, I think this goes against the idea that God is good, wants us to believe that, and wants us to love and worship Him.

So although logically the possibility that God has a purpose for allowing all the suffering we see on earth does help the theist's position, ultimately it raises more problems for him (or her). "SIAR" has a fair way to go if he (or she) wants to put forward an argument that reconciles the notion of a good God who wants us to love and worship Him with the state of affairs we see around us on Earth.

Just some thoughts .. hope I've contributed something to the discussion.

highlander65

Secularism is a religion said...

Mr. Loftus,

Forgive me for assuming that when you used a logical argument that you were actually interested in logic. This is obviously not the case. Instead, it appears that you want to look as if you have a reason for your beliefs, but as soon as someone demonstrates that your arguments are flawed, you are apparently so secure in your beliefs (read: your secularism is a religion) that you can do nothing more than ban the dissenter from further discussion.

I see that you have enabled "comment moderation" so I have no doubt that this comment will not be posted. However, I am sure that you will still read it before you delete it, so allow me to state it bluntly: you are a fraud.

Dr. W. Sumner Davis said...

1. God, by definition, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect.
2. Being omnipotent, God has the power to eliminate all evil.
3. Being omniscient, God knows when evil exists.
4. Being morally perfect, God has the desire to eliminate all evil.
5. Yet Evil clearly exists.
6. If evil exists and God exists, then either God doesn't have the power to eliminate all evil, and he is not omnipotent, or doesn't have the desire to eliminate all evil, thus he is not morally perfect.
7. Either God does not exist or evil does not exist.
8. We know evil exists
9. Therefore, God, by definition, cannot exist.

Daniel said...

Dr. Davis,

Might as well not hold your breath waiting on a response to that one.

Theists,

You have centered upon John as though John is personally culpable for not knowing the morally-sufficient reason that God not only permits evil to exist, but created it indirectly as a byproduct of our universe, or angels, or whatever.

Could such a reason exist? Whatever this reason is, could it possibly outweigh the gravity of the collective sum evil in our universe? Only if you suppose that God could not have brough about whatever purpose/reason this God had without the evil, which is, itself, a definitional contradiction in God's omnipotence! If God could have accomplished Its purposes without the evil in the universe, then there is no such thing as a morally-sufficient reason for allowing it.

Have you, then, shown us why we ought to believe that God does in fact have this morally-sufficient reason? Because to do so, you would have to show us how an omnipotent being could be limited in its purposes and intents, in that it chooses to bring about a universe, chooses to bring about an angel which will fall, men which will fall, and corruption and evil which will occur...instead of NOT choosing that? Did God Itself have no choice, where choice itself is supposed to excuse God's permission of evil?

If we believe that a God exists, then we must believe that this God has such a reason, sure...so...why should we presuppose that God exists, considering the fact that we know that evil exists and not only do we not know any morally-sufficient reason for it, but we know that the a "morally-sufficient reason" may in fact be an ad hoc device which cannot itself be plausibly demonstrated, given that God de facto is omnipotent and thus able to achieve its purposes without evil?