Four Points Concerning The Problem of Evil, Christian Apologetics & The Bible


Point 1) Theistic philosophers who discuss the problem of pain/evil without acquainting themselves with specific cases in detail from nature are like Kant who apparently avoided the museum of art that he walked past each day on his way to write a book on the "philosophy of art/aesthetics." (A philosophy professor even shared with me that Kant boasted something to the effect that it wasn't even necessary to look at art in order to write his treatise).

Unlike Kant I prefer to begin all investigations, philosophical or otherwise, by pondering specific instances. And since the topic is suffering (including suffering unto madness) please see the collection of instances found HERE. The effect of reading and pondering those examples is a bit different from reading a philosophical treatise on "suffering" that spends the majority of its time juggling-stretching-and-playing with huge generalizations such as "good," "evil," "pain," "suffering," "God," "perfection," "omnipotence," and "freewill," etc.)

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Point 2) Has any philosopher yet explained (except via verbal alchemy) how something can start out perfectly good and yet evil can come out of it? If God is defined as the perfectly good and only source of everything, then whence comes evil? Endless ages of verbal alchemy attached to this question explain nothing, the question remains.

Note that if God is perfectly good and has freewill then a freewilled being can exist in a state of perfect goodness. But if God has freewill then wouldn't it be possible for God Himself to commit evil, or become evil? (Or do Christian apologists employ a different definition of "freewill" when it comes to "God?") Conversely, if God does not have freewill then doesn't that imply that freewill is not necessarily of ultimate value and that humanity has something even God lacks?

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Point 3) Is there something, ANYTHING, that a Christian apologist might consider to be "unjustifiable suffering?"

For instance, what types of horrendous suffering (or chronic forms of soul-grinding suffering, or physically or psychologically crippling forms of suffering, even mentally maddening forms of suffering) have NOT happened to someone somewhere on this planet, or may not happen say, to someone throughout eternity? And is not ALL of that suffering "justifiable" according to Christian apologists? Judaism claims that even the righteous suffer like Job. While Christianity claims that an infinite eternal and guiltless Being (AKA Jesus-God) has "suffered" and even spent time in "hell," though everyone still continues to suffer here on earth, including for the past two thousand years since that Being suffered. So there does not appear to be any form of suffering that's not justifiable to the Christian apologist, is there, including Jews suffering in concentration camps simply for being Jewish in some way--and then they die in such a camp and may will awaken on judgment day to find their new bodies (and old souls) in eternal hell, right? (For centuries both devout Calvinists and Catholics even spoke about seeing the damned suffer for eternity and not only finding the eternal suffering of the damned something justifiable, but also something worth REJOICING over.) I ask again, is there any form of suffering that a Christian apologist might consider to be "unjustifiable suffering?"

And why must people believe that the only way God can "accept" a person is if that person believes God has wrath (or a need to punish), and cannot simply forgive, nor punch a super pillow till His wrath abates, nor calmly instruct with minimal pain, and give people more than one chance, but instead God must take the sum total of His wrath out on the most unworthy recipient, a wholly guiltless individual, who also happens to be Himself? Why is such a belief necessary? And why do Christian creeds insist on the necessity of such a belief, when it obviously does not appeal to all, nor even make sense to all? All people don't even find the same stories (whether they involve "God" or not) as equally appealing or believable.

At present about a third of the world is nominally speaking, "Christian." No doubt the Bible is constantly being published and republished, even Uber-published if I may coin the phrase, and passed out round the world, making it the "world's biggest best seller," though a more truthful accolade might be the "world's most handed out book," or the "world's most common gift book," or the "most commonly suggested book that Christian men and women and pastors tell others that they should or must get a copy of and read."

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Point 4) I wonder whether Christian apologists have ever come to grips in a truly convincing fashion with the ways their God is portrayed (either in reality or metaphorically) in the book that they claim "reveals" the truth of their beliefs to humanity? For instance does the DEVIL threaten to cast people body and soul into hell? No. That type of imposed suffering is God's design. Does the Devil get portrayed as wiping out every breathing thing on the planet except some ark survivors? Nope. That's God again. Does the Devil command the destruction of everything that breathes in certain cities? Does the Devil send plagues, famines, poisonous snakes, and opposing armies to teach people lessons like the God of the Bible is portrayed as doing? Does the Devil strike husband and wife both dead if they lie about giving all of their earthly possessions to the church?

Have Christian philosophers really dealt with questions like those above and below, or do they tend to flee them till they reach a nice quiet corner of huge generalizations resembling nothing so much as pious platitudes? But think for just a moment longer about this...

God is portrayed as acting thusly toward the "apple of His eye," the "children of Israel": The God of Israel tried to kill Moses (and failed); struck dead two sons of Aaron; commanded “brother to kill brother” leading to the deaths of 3,000 Israelites (right after He gave them the commandment, “Do not kill”); opened up the earth and buried alive “wives, sons and little children;” sent a fire that consumed 148 Levite princes; cursed his people to wander in the desert for forty years and eat 40,000 meals of quail and “manna” (talk about a monotonously torturous diet--and when they complained about it, God killed 3,000 Israelites with a plague); had a man put to death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath; denied Moses and Aaron entrance into the “promised land” because Moses struck a rock twice with his staff instead of talking to the rock; delivered to his people a “promised land” that was parched, bordered by desert, and a corridor for passing conquering armies; sent fiery serpents among Israel, killing many; wanted to kill every Israelite and start over with Moses and his family (but Moses talked God out of that plan); drove the first king of Israel to suicide; killed someone who tried to steady a teetering ark of the covenant; murdered king David’s innocent child; sent plagues and famines upon his people that killed men, women and children; ordered the execution of 42 children of the king of Judah; “smote all Israel” killing half a million men of Israel in a civil war between Israel and Judah; “delivered into the hand of the king of Israel” 120,000 Judeans massacred in one day along with 200,000 Jewish women and children; gave Satan the power to kill Job’s children and servants (in order to win a bet); let the Babylonians conquer the holy city of Jerusalem, and then the Greek forces of Alexander the Great, followed by the Romans; and finally left the Jews homeless and persecuted by Christians and Moslems for nearly 2000 years. Furthermore, the large number of laws in the Hebrew Bible concerning the treatment of lepers and those with sores demonstrates that the Israelites were far from being blessed with unparalleled good health. And archeological evidence indicates that in ancient Israel the infant mortality rate was as high as fifty percent.

Edward T. Babinski [See the Bible for all of the cases mentioned above, except for the archeological evidence concerning ancient Israel’s infant mortality rate. For the latter see, Drorah O’Donnell Setel, “Abortion,” The Oxford Guide to Ideas & Issues of the Bible, ed. by Bruce Metzger and Michael D. Coogan (Oxford University Press, 2001)]

7 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Great questions, Ed!

ochristian said...

Ahem. Ah, Mr.Babinski, with all due respect, I think the gentleman does protest too much.

I followed the link to the "TalkOrigin Archives" and read your very in depth and elaborate discourse and got the distinct impression that there was an underlying resentment towards...God?

In fact a lot of what I read there, particularly on that page, came across as rather bitter. Much of the anger seems to stem from tragedies that supposedly God did not prevent, because he could not, as he does not exist. Or even from the horrible way in which insects feed on other insects. If it is just their way, or the way of nature,then why the horror? To whom are we angry?

Because tragedy and suffering exists does preclude God's existence. It may not jive with how you expect God to be. It may not jive with how many of us have portrayed God to be. But the amazing thing is that even we believers experience pain, suffering and misery, yet for many us our relationship with God, through Christ, empowers us to perservere joyfully. It may not make sense to you, but it is the truth for me.

So let's say there isn't a God but I still believe...

ochristian said...

Oops! That should read:

"Because tragedy and suffering exists does NOT preclude God's existence."

Sorry.

bacchus said...

hey ochristian, the major grievance we non-christians have with you christians is that you can never keep your opinions to yourself, we dont care that you get all this satisfaction from believing in some ultra father figure who has no scruples with murdering millions of people in its name, what we do care about is that from day one you christians just can not shut up. not only is evangelism of all kinds a horrible atrocity, but that is the least of the sins of christians. think back to history class will you please. do you know about the crusades, the spanish inquisition, the holocaust, apartheid, the KKK, the list goes on and on and still you keep blabbing on and on about how if we non believers dont get our shit together and repent we are going to be damned and burn for all eternity in a lake of fire and brimstone. great sounds like fun in fact that sound a whole lot more fun than being tortured to death after being pulled from my home by an inquisitor, not even for disobedience, but because i was unaware that the one who told you to do all this torturing raping and pillaging has got a plan. so to summarize, SHUT UP and if you don't like that some people have noticed the gaping holes in the ridiculous story that you and your fellows term the TRUTH, then don't read the critiques, just hide behind your ridiculous beliefs and stop bothering those of us who have found alternative ways to achieve peace of mind that don't involve molesting choir boys.

Terry said...

Regarding evil,

Who knows why evil exists, it is simply assumed in Christian/Jewish scripture. Perhaps it has to do with allowing "free will" for humans or better yet perhaps it is a mystery and we don't have a clue. Without trivializing evil we need to deal with tragedies in life and have faith that they are under the dominion of God (if we believe in Him). If we don't believe in God then the question of evil self- destructs because without a moral law and lawgiver there is no good or evil unless we depend on fickle human opinion which endorses child protection in one culture and child sacrifice in another.

As far as being concerned about Christians sharing their opinions, isn't that what a blog is for? Some of the most "evangelical" people I know are atheists who are always sharing their opinions. Perhaps bacchus would prefer to have a one sided discussion??

***Liviana**Mari*** said...

It has nothing to do with my fear of God or anger and resentment toward a man who has little meaning in the grand scheme of things. I think religion and money are the cause of evil in society. How can you resentment toward something that you do not believe in. The people who believe in him might actually key into who he is, and why he isn't very useful. That is the problem... Not any anger toward the sky man or the man on the moon.

R. W. said...

Hello Ed. I've been exploring the nature of God for most of my life, and since I recently took a class just this last spring in introductory philosophy covering the problem of evil, I've become even more interested. From the class, I learned C.S. Lewis's definition of the theistic God, and from that I've been pondering the implications of this definition. That aside, I find this all very interesting and enjoyed reading your take on it all.

Over the last couple of days, I've been having some great discussions with people regarding my ideas regarding evil, love, the greater good, and how these relate to God as defined by Lewis. I'd greatly appreciated it if you dropped by my own blog, "Thoughts" and checked things out. I'm just a young man that's a novice compared to many that have been exploring theology, so I'm eager to learn what those more experienced with the subject have to say.