Reasonable Doubt about the Problem of Evil

I challenge the whole premise of the problem of evil on the grounds that is not consistent with gods character as described in the bible. (surprise)[irony]
Personally I think this effectively refutes the Problem of Evil as a test and the assertion that it creates a greater good.
- god is all powerful,
- god is all knowing,
- god is perfectly good,
- god is perfectly merciful,
- god doesn't like to see us suffer
- the problem of evil creates a greater good

So a solution that is consistent will all the premises is that god would have breathed people into existence as they would have turned out as if they had suffered through the 'test'.

To say that it is more important to actually do the work and suffer when the same result could be achieved in another way which avoids needless suffering is logically inconsistent with several premises:
- god is all powerful
- god is perfectly good
- god is perfectly merciful
- the problem of evil creates a greater good

If god were not all powerful, then the problem of evil as a test might make sense as an argument from ignorance, but even then the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.

To say that we are ignorant of gods motives means that the bible does not accurately describe god and we can't really know anything about him with certainty. Since the bible is the only authoritative descriptive evidence for god, then nothing else about god can be learned. That is to say that any conclusion about god is uncertain and nothing further can be learned. This is anoalogous to saying "I conclude this, but I am not sure, and I don't know how to know, but I deny evidence to the contrary".

Obviously my solution negates the need to create the universe, the world and us, therefore the problem of evil is refuted by our existence.

50 comments:

Jason said...

Firstly, your argument incorrectly assumes God is omnibenevolent.

Secondly, your argument ignores the notion of personal responsibilty.

Thirdly, there are many things we know about God and many things we don't. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Ecc 11:5 "As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all." (also Job 38 & 39).

Paul sums it up nicely: 1 Cor 2:11 "For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
Do you mind shoring up your rebuttal a bit? When you pose a rebuttal you should say something like, " your argument incorrectly assumes god is omnibenelovent. god is not omnibenevolent because yada, yada, yada, and this impacts your argument like yada, yada, yada"

Your christadelphian views are so alien to me I don't even know how to respond to you without us degrading into a squabble over scripture interpretation.

Joseph said...

This evening I dug up one of my own sermons about the Problem of Evil. It is an excellent summary of the Christian position on evil and suffering. Perhaps I will take Lee's suggestion a few posts back and critique it some day soon. The sad thing I remember about my pitiful argument is that the more I repeated it, the more I believed it. I suspect this might be the case with Jason, as well. There are so many qualifiers with Jason's counter-argument, so many ifs, ands, and buts as he tries to reconcile evil and God, that it becomes ludicrous. It proposes a nice, tidy explanation for suffering, death, and moral evil for sure. But it is explanatory only to the extent that you ignore or minimize the frequency, scope, and gravity of evil and suffering in the world around you.

As long as you keep the Scriptures protected from the scrutiny of rigorous examination and testing, you will believe it makes perfect sense. However, if you take an honest look at the world around you, there's no way you can be sensitive to its horrible realities and say that there exists a good, wise, loving, powerful God at work. Certainly, empirical knowledge cannot not lead you to that conclusion. It might actually lead you to the reasoned deduction that if God exists at all, he is a stoic who is indifferent to the pain, suffering, and heartache of humans and other living things....or at worse, he is a sadist. At best, he doesn't exist at all.

The only way an astute, mature, thinking individual can hold to the existence of God with any sort of integrity is to regress to the deistic view that God is distant and aloof. It makes much more sense to say that God wound up the world like an old fashioned clock and left everything to wind down on its own, than to say that God is personal, providentially answering prayer and working everything together for good (Romans 8:28).

Dillie-O said...

The one thing that I wonder about with this argument is the accommodation for innocence vs. virtue.

Following your train of thought leads me to a place where we should see a "perfect" world, free from any kind of stressors and challenges whatsoever. This is a very innocent society in my mind, and while innocence is desirable (as we hope to keep our kids in such a state as long as possible), we realize that the state of affairs does not allow this to remain forever.

So what then? Do we just take the fall, and stay in the muck, or do we strive for bigger and better things, despite the evils that are present? Doing so points to virtue, which is harder to come by than innocense, but far more desirable in the long run. The hardship with virtue is that you have to struggle with things in order to achieve it.

So what about evil in the world. God allows it so that we may become more virtuous? That seems like a harsh bagel to bite on, but the better one to digest.

Shygetz said...

So what about evil in the world. God allows it so that we may become more virtuous? That seems like a harsh bagel to bite on, but the better one to digest.

You fail to grasp the implications of omnipotent. If God wishes us to become more virtuous, he can simply make us become more virtuous without the need for suffering.

This is a very innocent society in my mind, and while innocence is desirable (as we hope to keep our kids in such a state as long as possible), we realize that the state of affairs does not allow this to remain forever.

Again, omnipotent God could easily cause a state of innocence to last indefinitely. You underestimate the implications of omnipotence. Unless two things are directly logically conflicting (God making something exist and not-exist simultaneously), God can do it by any means, including fiat. So, for a tri-omni God to choose evil must mean that some greater good exists that is logically wholly dependent upon the existence of every instance of suffering ever to have occurred, be occurring, or will occur in the universe.

jason said: Firstly, your argument incorrectly assumes God is omnibenevolent.

Considering the argument is against the tri-omni God, it is misleading to say it incorrectly assumes a tri-omni God. If your way out of the argument is to say that God is not omnibenevolent, then the argument does not apply to your notion of God (which is sizably in the minority in Christianity). Fair enough--the PoE is not applicable to jason.

Which brings us to the question: Why do you worship an all-powerful, all-knowing God who is not omnibenevolent? How evil do you think God is? How evil could God be before you would renounce Him?

Dillie-O said...

You fail to grasp the implications of omnipotent. If God wishes us to become more virtuous, he can simply make us become more virtuous without the need for suffering.

That is true that he could, but if we're taking the assumption here that God is the tri-omni and he's allowing it to occur, what does that say about the process itself? That it's better than the "matrix injection" on virtue?

Maybe it's the fact that there is an allowance of virtue that seems to be the fault here. To this point I haven't seen any instances where we're accusing God of causing evil, just allowing it, in letting Satan get the ball rolling in the first place. But maybe we're confusing could with should here...

Joseph said...

Dillie-o, you said: "That is true that he could, but if we're taking the assumption here that God is the tri-omni and he's allowing it to occur, what does that say about the process itself? That it's better than the "matrix injection" on virtue?"

Are those the only two options available to us? Who says?

In your comment before last, you said: "The hardship with virtue is that you have to struggle with things in order to achieve it."

Agreed. But virtue can be attained through positive struggle to accomplish something good (i.e. a building a barn, digging a well, etc). I'm not suggesting a world in which everything is easy to come by and there is no difficulty. I'm suggesting that if there is a God, he could have created a world without suicide bombers or killer viruses. These things eat away at the human spirit, they don't necessarily bring about virtue--nor is violence, bloodshed, and tragedy the best possible way to attain virtue.

akakiwibear said...

The tri-omni issue only appears to be the heart of the problem of evil. I see the tri-omni basis for the problem of evil as a red herring fabricated out of the literal inerrant etc ( and you know my views there, but they are not at issue here). A red herring because it traps the debate in the literal definitions and semantics thereby missing the big question.

The argument of evil is important – more so than the tri-omni issue gives it credit for. It impinges on questions like why pray for world peace; why do innocents suffer? etc

The real issue then, in my opinion, is the debate around free will. IF we are happy to assume that we have free will then we will have evil. One could state this as a choice God made, give us free will or conform to our tri-omni view and produce a … say perfect totally manipulated world. One could then argue that learning to live with free will is more important (a greater benevolence?) than freeing us from evil. Removing evil/horror from the consequences of inappropriately exercised free will undermines the free will.

Fuller discussion on
http://akakiwibear.blogspot.com
/2007/07
/atheist-argument-finely-crafted-but.html

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Dillie-o,
I see you have chosen the route that a lot of other christians take when they come here. They minimize god to fit the parameters of the problem.
In your solution you have chosen
- god is not all powerful
- god is not perfectly good
- god is not perfectly merciful
- the problem of evil does not create a greater good

The reason is as Jospeph pointed out, there is no dichotomy. An omni-everything god should be able to literally do more than you imagine.
One thing he could have done is to be Jesus, be what the Jews expected, and have carried out his job as teacher for ever. He could be God on earth as a human, creating a thousand disciples a year in all languages at The University of God somewhere. I'm sure the Middle east would benefit from something like that. We would still have the 'free-will' to choose to love or follow or not.

I suppose you could say that "god is real and he didn't do things that way so get over it", but if that is the case then we have to wonder why we can come up with such apparently better ways of applying General principles that work in other areas of life, instead of his way of sticking with principles that we know fail in other areas of life.

Life on this earth for some people is so terrible that if it is gods plan, and what he wants, it is abusive because we know that a raped child suffers for life, the family suffers for life, the community suffers and the stress causes molecular damage and is a catalyst for mental illness.

These are verifiable. Just take off your god glasses and pull your nose out of the bible long enough to read or listen to something else and most importantly think about how it applies to the bible when you stick your nose back in the bible.

Jason said...

Lee,

Thanks for your input. As an aside, I did find your last rebuttal a tad too long...not sure I really like the list format. Could you revise it accordingly?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi akakiwibear,
In your solution you have chosen
- god is not all powerful
- god is not perfectly good
- god is not perfectly merciful
- the problem of evil does not create a greater good

Which is the better principle, to teach through nurture or through harm?

In school and at home, we don't find it necessary to beat our children into submission, a good parent or teacher can raise good children with some thoughtful compassion. It is possible to be the kind of person that people love and want to follow. Did you ever have a favorite teacher, one that lit your desire to know more, made learning fun, made you loathe to disappoint?

I Think that "God the Father" should be able to do so as well. And I think it follows better from his reputed character that what we see around us.

Failing that, since I assume that timelines would annoy something timeless, he could have made us the way we would have turned out had we participated in the 'problem of evil test'.

For example, he could have made the mother of a raped and murdered child with all the properties she would have wound up with without the need to have the child go through the raping and the murdering. All those people that would have been affected by that crime could likewise been made with all those properties they would have accumulated had it happened.

That would be more merciful and attain the same goal. If we as humans can come up with better ways to do gods job, there must not be a god.

Joseph said...

akakiwibear said: "I see the tri-omni basis for the problem of evil as a red herring fabricated out of the literal inerrant etc ( and you know my views there, but they are not at issue here)."

Exactly, this is a blog devoted to debunking evangelical Christianity, which predominantly takes the literal, inerrant view of Scripture. We are simply using the literal-inerrantist's argument against him? How is that a red herring again?

"A red herring because it traps the debate in the literal definitions and semantics thereby missing the big question."

Only for the sake of this discussion. If you want us to deal with your brand of theism, lay your cards on the table and maybe one of us will depart from the norm and write and article debating it.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Joseph,
you are right, thats why I like to fall back on the underlying principle because it usually can be shown to be faulty empirically and is not so subject to interpretation.

You'll see a trend where they have to 'minimize god' to fit the parameters of the problem, but they don't see it. They must logically minimize it all the way back to the conclusion that god seems to have enigmatically chosen not to have used his 'superpowers' in a lot of cases, which is more human than godlike and who wrote the bible? Humans.

Joseph said...

Lee said: "All those people that would have been affected by that crime could likewise been made with all those properties they would have accumulated had it happened. That would be more merciful and attain the same goal. If we as humans can come up with better ways to do gods job, there must not be a god."

Lee, that is nothing short of brilliant. I can complete the Christian theist's argument for them from this point forward. They have no answer for this so they will respond (assuming they don't ignore your argument altogether) by saying, "Well, you know there are just some things we don't understand. That's one of the first things I'm going to ask God when I get to heaven."

Lee Randolph said...

Thanks Joseph,
but I'm riding on the shoulders of giants. I probably picked it up somewhere.

In any case seriously playing a kids game of "I can top that" and plugging god into the equation, will get the same result. Gods lack of boundary causes him to dissipate. He has the same problems with contradiction that infinity has.

Jason said...

There are things we don't understand about God and there's nothing wrong with admitting as such.

Isa 55:8-9 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

akakiwibear said...

I notice what I presented as the bigger question was avoided - the conflict of the argument from evil with free will and stayed with the red herring. That’s cool by me, if you want to play red herring OK – I think it demeans the debate, but I will play until I get bored.

The conclusion that the argument from evil produces a bigger and better God than we see is plausible only if the argument from evil is plausible. But it in turn is dependent on your assumptions regarding how God’s characteristics should be manifest.
If as the argument requires, God were omni- everything, then I assume you would concede that God knows better than you what he was doing – or are you claiming a greater omniscience?
You can’t base your argument on an assumption of God’s omniscience and then disregard that characteristic when it suits you.

An onmi-everything God would certainly enable us to go through what we perceive as suffering with only positive outcomes – are you sure it is suffering from the perspective of your omniscience.

You suggest that God could have created us all in a perfect end state and imply that God is at fault for not having done so? Why? Again you assume a greater omniscience, and it is clearly flawed. Why would first hand experience not be of real value in a latter life? – especially if it came with no negative consequences, without omniscience I would not dare to suppose.

Accepting that this site is targeted at the Christian fundamentalist you seem to ignore a lot of fundamentalist teaching when it does not suit you. You seek to trash the omni-everything teaching while ignoring the teachings that humanity is to suffer. Human suffering is not a surprise to a bible literalist, nor from the literalist’s point of view does it contradict God’s nature, because it is God’s teaching and the omniscient God knows best.

Consider Jason’s quote, an omni-everything God cannot be faulted, therefore, as presented the argument from evil is a vain exercise in semantics, worse it ignores the deeper issues.

Peace be with you

Joseph said...

akakiwibear said: "If as the argument requires, God were omni- everything, then I assume you would concede that God knows better than you what he was doing – or are you claiming a greater omniscience?"

If I may step in for a moment, because you're arguing in circles and it's too good to resist. To come to that conclusion, you must be assuming that the present state of earthly reality--one of evil, chaos, and confusion IS the will of an omniscient God (thus, begging the question). How do you know that it is? Lee and others here are saying the existence of such evil is incompatible with the Biblical idea of an omni-God.

Joseph said...

Jason said: "There are things we don't understand about God and there's nothing wrong with admitting as such." Sure. It's an easy out when the evidence is too strong to argue against.

Jason said...

Joseph,

It's not an 'out', it's a 'quote'.

Isa 55:8-9 "...so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

If Scripture says God's thoughts are higher then our thoughts, then how can you possibly argue with a Christian who is simply agreeing?

Like it or not, "...how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Rom 11:33)

Joseph said...

Saying that God's thoughts are higher than our thoughts and therefore he must know what he's doing by allowing suffering is not an explanation. It is a faith-propositions based on a few Scriptural text. It is an assertion you believe, but which is incongruent with the evidence. The statements about God in Scripture can be tested through the use of logic and logic mitigates against a omni-God allowing a chaotic, suffering, evil world to exist.

Lee Randolph said...

akakiwibear,
here is a complete rebuttal to both your posts, includind the argument you say that I am ignoring. attacking the principle that an argument depends on is not a red herring. It is fundamental to argumentation. Attacking something that is not related to your argument is a red herring. I'll show you what I mean with your argument that you allege I am ignoring.

starting with your first comment,

IF we are happy to assume that we have free will then we will have evil. One could state this as a choice God made, give us free will or conform to our tri-omni view and produce a … say perfect totally manipulated world.
If god made the world, and he knows everything in advance, and he has a plan, then we don't really have free will at all, we only have the appearance of freewill. What we really have is either a set of initial conditions that plays itself out, with him already knowing the outcome in which he watches from the sidelines, or we have a set of coditions that plays itself out with him intervening periodically in which we have the appearance of freewill but not really because he is manipulting things which interfere with our freewill. If he is all powerful, and knows everything he could just as easily take the results or the outcome of each person, and create them in a finished state. This would avoid the whole process of having to be raped an murdered (for example). Since he is all powerful, and knows all things, he can create us as we would have turned out anyway, and we would be ready to fulfill whatever divine purpose awaits us 'on the other side'.

One could then argue that learning to live with free will is more important (a greater benevolence?) than freeing us from evil. Removing evil/horror from the consequences of inappropriately exercised free will undermines the free will.
To say that learning to live with free will is more important admits that god is not all powerful or all knowing, or that he wants to avoid using his superpowers so that we can suffer being raped an murdered (for example).

Now this brings into question the entire principle of how ethical and moral it is to let puny humans suffer in this game, or to just create us in the state he needs us to be in without the suffering. I presume that helping to prevent suffering is better than not, so I say the principle of allowing suffering when it can be avoided is wrong.

see how that works?

Now here is another better principle, that since jesus set the precedent to be a teacher, and if we are supposed to have freewill to follow god or not, the to have Jesus living forever running a campus where people can choose to attend, and pumping out apostles to teach the word throughout the world for everyone to hear and make a choice about is better than having yourself tortured and hung on a cross because as you can see, there is at least room for doubt.

now your second set of comments

If as the argument requires, God were omni- everything, then I assume you would concede that God knows better than you what he was doing – or are you claiming a greater omniscience?
You can’t base your argument on an assumption of God’s omniscience and then disregard that characteristic when it suits you.

I don't claim omniscience, I claim to know a bad principle when I see it.

An onmi-everything God would certainly enable us to go through what we perceive as suffering with only positive outcomes – are you sure it is suffering from the perspective of your omniscience.
Why don't you ask a mother praying for the life of her baby, dying in the sudan what suffering is, she would know better than I would, and she doesn't need to be omniscient for that.

You suggest that God could have created us all in a perfect end state and imply that God is at fault for not having done so? Why? Again you assume a greater omniscience, and it is clearly flawed. Why would first hand experience not be of real value in a latter life? – especially if it came with no negative consequences, without omniscience I would not dare to suppose.
this is not what I said at all. I said to create us as we would have turned out had we suffered. To say my grandfather, whom I presume would get to heaven if it were there, was perfect is an exaggeration.

Accepting that this site is targeted at the Christian fundamentalist you seem to ignore a lot of fundamentalist teaching when it does not suit you. You seek to trash the omni-everything teaching while ignoring the teachings that humanity is to suffer. Human suffering is not a surprise to a bible literalist, nor from the literalist’s point of view does it contradict God’s nature, because it is God’s teaching and the omniscient God knows best.
What? You must not understand what you read very well or you must not understand the concept of debate. To accept a set of premises and then challenge them is argumentation. I have accepted the set of fundamentalist principles, laid them out for acceptance or rejection and proceeded to attack them. For example Jason rejected the premise that god is omni-benevolent and then decided not to back it up.

If a participant does not accept the initial conditions of a debate, the debate should not take place. Do you accept the initial conditions, my premises, as laid out in the article?

Jason said...

How can Scripture be incongruent with the evidence? The evidence is that I’m quite openly stating that we as Christians don’t know everything there is to know about God or His thoughts or His ways. Sure enough, this fits in nicely with the statements about God in Scripture…unless you’re saying we actually know more then what the Bible says about God but haven’t bothered keeping you in the loop…?

Joseph said...

Jason, circular reasoning.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi Jason,
as Joseph pointed out, your argument is circular and here's why.
I edited the sentences and only kept the dependencies.

- The evidence is ...that we ..don’t know everything there is to know about God.
- this fits in nicely with the statements about God in Scripture…

and the unstated premise is "the only place that describes the christian gods character is scripture".

so restated it comes out to be
"we don't know everything there is to know about god, it is verified in scripture, and scripture is how we know anything about god"

To break out of that circle, you need to introduce some external evidence to validate (support) scripture so that the data can converge on the conclusion.

What you have done here is to say "I conclude that you can't conclude anything about god because we don't know everything about god and we don't know how to know any more about god."

So for anyone to say they know anything with any certaintly about god is false, because all conclusions must necessarily be uncertain because of what you stated, because of conflicting statements about god and mis-interpretation of scripture between denominations. For example, you don't seem to believe that god is omni-benevolent. Is he or isn't he? Lots of christians think he is, you don't seem to think he is and you all strongly believe for your various reasons. That seems like too important a characteristic to be uncertain about.

whos in charge of that mess?

Lee Randolph said...

I'd also like to point out that christians that say the problem of evil is necessary to create a greater good are putting limits on god. My argument is consistent with his properties of being all powerful. I say that an all powerful god would not have to design reality to depend on suffering to create a greater good unless he wanted us to suffer, and that is not in character with his property of omni-benevolence or his claim that he loves us and is grieved by suffering.

To say he can do anything means that he would not have to contradict any of the properties that he supposedly breathed into scripture.

Would god contradict himself? Not if he was all knowing, he would not have to because there would never be a condition in which he would have to change his mind.

Did he deliberately not tell us everything? He would know that would cause people to lose faith, and it not consistent with his desire that all are saved. Without a mechanism to ensure there is no doubt about his existence no informed decision can be made. Without that we cannot be held accountable.

Should we believe without strong evidence (faith)? Its not a good idea in other areas of our life, so I'd say that is a faulty principle. Especially when there is nothing objectively more compelling about christianity than any of the other religions. It introduces uncertainty into the decision to follow god. Minimizing risk depends on minimizing uncertainty, and unnecessarily deliberately introducing risk would not be consistent with his desire that none of us are lost.

Jason said...

The argument is of course circular because atheists, for some bizarre reason, feel that Christians should know everything there is to know about God. A Christian naturally quotes Scripture showing they don't but apparently this isn't enough to prove an individual doesn't know everything about God, even after admitting as such. It's a lose-lose situation with only one side making up all the rules.

"we don't know everything there is to know about god, it is verified in scripture, and scripture is how we know anything about god"

That's absolutely right.

"I conclude that you can't conclude anything about god because we don't know everything about god and we don't know how to know any more about god."

Almost. Christians around the world will happily admit they don't know everything about God (His Divine Plan, what He's thinking at this very moment, why he created people with only two legs, etc.). In defense of our position, we quote Scripture (understanding that it's the word of God) and show you where God says we don't know everything about Him. It's good enough for us.

Christians think God is omnibenevolent? Really? Well then, since you feel you're entitled to speak on behalf of Christianity, explain how the belief in hell allows for a belief in an omnibenevolent God.

Lee Randolph said...

The argument is of course circular because atheists, for some bizarre reason, feel that Christians should know everything there is to know about God.
The argument is not circular because of atheists, it is circular because it is completely self contained, it depends only on itself.

A Christian naturally quotes Scripture showing they don't but apparently this isn't enough to prove an individual doesn't know everything about God, even after admitting as such. It's a lose-lose situation with only one side making up all the rules.
please get out of your pity pot. You know enough about to god to see that he doesn't live up to his reputation. If he is all powerful, he should be able to do anything including more than you can imagine. If he is infinitely merciful he should be more merciful than you can imagine, etc. I should not be able to show any principle that the bible depends on to be flawed, but the most glaring one that comes to mind is human sacrifice.

I don't think god is omnibenevolent, but some people do, and you should get out more and meet them, debate them. Here is an entry in the WebBible Encyclopedia. "God is infinitely and unchangeably good (Zeph. 3:17), and his goodness is incomprehensible by the finite mind (Rom. 11: 35, 36)"

Shygetz said...

The argument is of course circular because atheists, for some bizarre reason, feel that Christians should know everything there is to know about God.

No, I just think that an omniscient omnipotent God should do a better job than I could, as I CERTAINLY claim neither omnipotence nor omniscience. Yet I have probably saved more people from suffering and death than God has (at least during my years on Earth thus far).

Christians think God is omnibenevolent? Really?

Most of them, yes, as Lee has pointed out. Do you deny that most Christians confess to an omnibenevolent God?

Well then, since you feel you're entitled to speak on behalf of Christianity, explain how the belief in hell allows for a belief in an omnibenevolent God.

Hey, your co-religionists' crazy beliefs, not mine. Ask them.

akakiwibear said...

Lee, thank for a serious reply.
I will start with your concluding comments.
”To accept a set of premises and then challenge them is argumentation.
” Personally I think this effectively refutes the Problem of Evil as a test and the assertion that it creates a greater good. You have sought to establish TWO things, firstly ” the Problem of Evil as a test” AND ” the assertion that it creates a greater good”.

I agree with you that the problem of evil is a not valid test, it is well and truly debunked – we are not arguing that.

Your real challenge therefore is to Plantinga et al in ” the assertion that it creates a greater good”
Plantinga et al argued that the premise of basic problem of evil is illogical in that it necessitates a world that cannot logically exist, i.e. one where there is BOTH free will AND NO evil/suffering. The outcome of Plantinga’s position is the rider to the problem of evil that it creates a greater good.

You argue that the greater good could have been achieved by creating us in our perfect end state, thus defeating “greater good”. As with the original problem of evil this necessitates a world which logically cannot exist and indeed is seen not to exist - one which is devoid of experience, a time static existence. I think this defeats your argument.

My original comment did not address your OP and the obvious flaw in your argument (as I have above) rather, my original point ” I see the tri-omni basis for the problem of evil as a red herring and ”The real issue then, in my opinion, is the debate around free will is a reaction to the direction taken by the comments to your post.

Since you provided such a full reply, to what was off the explicit topic of your OP, I will try to do you the same courtesy by addressing your points as they arise.

” If god made the world, and he knows everything in advance, and he has a plan, then we don't really have free will at all,”
This is an often stated atheist position and is clearly flawed. Pre-knowledge does not constitute predetermination. I might know the not very bright student who has spent the entire semester avoiding class and partying is going to fail, but I have not taken away her free will.

Predetermination is most likely to arise from the sometimes expressed atheist view that we have no soul, but are really just a complex bio-computer that does not have free will. Such a computer will respond to a given situation is a predictable manner (i.e. no free will) and as such the complete set of all outcomes can be known once the programme and all inputs are understood. Such a world would be predetermined, fortunately we have free will which implies a soul.

” To say that learning to live with free will is more important admits that god is not all powerful or all knowing,”. That is simply an assertion that you do not back up. What the statement implies is a decision made by God. That the relative merit of mutually exclusive conditions has been weighed and free will got the nod. If such a choice were made it could only have been made by a being powerful enough to have been in the position to have made it (omnipotent?) and hence a God and therefore also wise enough to have (omniscient) to have made.
Your choice, a static ‘end state’ society would I suggest have been a poorer choice, but then I don’t claim omniscience.

Since he is all powerful, and knows all things, he can create us as we would have turned out anyway, yes but, as above, chose not to. You are invoking a belittled omniscience to prove your point, one subjugated by your knowledge. True omniscience would by definition by superior to your knowledge and would know the best way.

”I say the principle of allowing suffering when it can be avoided is wrong” and again you know better than the omniscience necessitated by your argument? I suggest you base your position on a human perspective that is not universally agreed by humans … yet you claim it as superior knowledge over omniscience – wow!

”another better principle, that since jesus set the precedent to be a teacher, and if we are supposed to have freewill to follow god or not, the to have Jesus living forever running a campus where people can choose to attend” Yes indeed, but I though that was the idea of sending the Holy Spirit! Yes we have the free will to choose to attend (atheists choose not to) we also have the free will to act according to those teaching or not.

I am sure you will agree that if all of humanity followed the simple “love you neighbour as yourself” teachings then the horrors you blame on an uncaring God would not happen. God has intervened to show us how to avoid the horrors, we have exercised our free will to follow another path – an option provided for in most religious teaching.

Interesting that the other part of what Jesus did that you mentioned, that of suffering is not identified by you as implying some value to suffering that our human frame of reference cannot fully grasp.

”I don't claim omniscience, I claim to know a bad principle when I see it.”, but you assume the authority to decide it is a bad principle ahead of a God your argument requires to be omniscient – that makes you what … ?

”ask a mother praying for the life of her baby, dying in the sudan what suffering is” In this life that is certainly suffering. But, you missed my point – I posed it as a possible for an omni-everything God - that the suffering MAY turn out to be a real positive in the next life. But it is only a possibility, I don’t claim to be all knowing.

The suffering is brought about by the human exercise of free will. With regard to the mother in the Sudan, would you prefer a God who destroyed the militia and government complicit in the tragedy in Darfur, or perhaps a God who showed no respect for us and deprived us of free will?

”I said to create us as we would have turned out had we suffered” Yes God could have, but again I say your point is only valid if you can show conclusively that God is in error in having chosen the option of free will and the consequences thereof over an automaton society. To say you “know a bad principle when you see it” is an unfounded assertion – not good enough.

Shygetz said...

Pre-knowledge does not constitute predetermination. I might know the not very bright student who has spent the entire semester avoiding class and partying is going to fail, but I have not taken away her free will.

Only because you don't really know that. You think it--you might even be convinced of it; but you don't know it in an absolute sense. However, if a bodybuilder takes a person weighing 100 kilograms and applies a force of 100 newtons for one second directly north, is that person free to choose not to travel at a velocity of 1 meter per second? Why not? Because you can predict absolutely what that person must do, and they cannot act to do otherwise.

Let's say for a moment that, at some point in the future, I must choose to either open my front door or not open my front door. Let's also say God already knows that I will open my front door at that time in the future. Am I therefore free to not open my front door at that time in the future?

If so, then God does not have future omniscience. If not, then I only have the illusion of choice. I cannot actually exercise free will, as the outcome is as predetermined as if I were hurled by a bodybuilder as per the previous example.

Similarly, God could have left free will (at least, the same illusion of free will that we have) by not having us ever desire to do evil. After all, if you don't do something you don't want to do, you still have free will. I choose not to eat rat poison because I have no desire to eat rat poison; this is still a free choice.

I agree with you that the problem of evil is a not valid test, it is well and truly debunked – we are not arguing that.

The Problem of Evil is NOT "debunked"; it is a valid problem for the claim of a tri-omni god. If you don't claim a tri-omni god then it simply doesn't apply to you; it still remains valid to the HUGE population that does.

Plantinga et al argued that the premise of basic problem of evil is illogical in that it necessitates a world that cannot logically exist, i.e. one where there is BOTH free will AND NO evil/suffering.

But even if that is valid, it does not defeat the PoE. In order for the PoE to prevail, one must decide that there exists one and only one instance of suffering of any amount that is not strictly necessary for the greater good. That means that everything from a stubbed toe to a family killed by a typhoon must be the MOST BENEVOLENT method by which God could have acheived this greater good.

You argue that the greater good could have been achieved by creating us in our perfect end state, thus defeating “greater good”. As with the original problem of evil this necessitates a world which logically cannot exist and indeed is seen not to exist - one which is devoid of experience, a time static existence. I think this defeats your argument.

Does Heaven contain less suffering than Earth? Is Heaven good? Could God not have just created humans in heaven?

Or, failing that, couldn't God have saved one person (just one) from whatever earthquake/tidal wave/volcano/other act of God and not violated His greater good?

Or, failing that, couldn't God have violated a rapist's free will to force him not to rape? He had no problem violating Pharoh's free will to force him to do something bad, so he obviously doesn't hold free will to be sacrosanct.

”I say the principle of allowing suffering when it can be avoided is wrong” and again you know better than the omniscience necessitated by your argument?

It is contrary to the very definition of omnibenevolence. One doesn't need to be omniscient to see that.

I am sure you will agree that if all of humanity followed the simple “love you neighbour as yourself” teachings then the horrors you blame on an uncaring God would not happen.

No amount of peace, love, and understanding would have prevented the Indonesian tsunami. God could have (and should have), if He is all that He advertises.

Interesting that the other part of what Jesus did that you mentioned, that of suffering is not identified by you as implying some value to suffering that our human frame of reference cannot fully grasp.

I do not hold unnecessary suffering to be a moral virtue, which is why I don't beat my children for no reason. Perhaps you feel differently...nah, of course you don't.

In this life that is certainly suffering. But, you missed my point – I posed it as a possible for an omni-everything God - that the suffering MAY turn out to be a real positive in the next life.

Only because God wants it that way. There is NOTHING that is logically necessary for an omnipotent being, except the arguable case of preventing DIRECT logical paradoxes (making something both exist and not exist). So, if he wanted an effect, he can have that effect by any means. Remember, He is the reason cause and effect even work as they do; if he wanted people to gain attribute X that they now gain via suffering, he could simply have made attribute X be gained through fruit pies. He is omnipotent--you still seem not to get what that really means.

The suffering is brought about by the human exercise of free will.

Some of it, but not all. See acts of God for examples.

With regard to the mother in the Sudan, would you prefer a God who destroyed the militia and government complicit in the tragedy in Darfur, or perhaps a God who showed no respect for us and deprived us of free will?

The Bible has many examples of God interfering with free will, in some cases to INCREASE suffering (the aforementioned Pharoh being the most egregious, as God hardened his heart to make him do something that God then punished him for doing), so he obviously values some things more.

Yes God could have, but again I say your point is only valid if you can show conclusively that God is in error in having chosen the option of free will and the consequences thereof over an automaton society.

I say that God, being tri-omni, could cause whatever results He wanted through any means He wanted, via the very definitions of omniscience (he would know what changes to make) and omnipotence (he would be able to make those changes), and would avoid all suffering not directly logically contradictory to His greater good, which would include all suffering. Suffering exists; therefore, no tri-omni God.

akakiwibear said...

Shy, pre-knowledge & predetermination. ” Let's also say God already knows that I will open my front door at that time in the future. Am I therefore free to not open my front door at that time in the future”. Yes you are.

There are two factors, your free will to make a decision about opening your door and pre-knowledge of the outcome of that decision. The decision is made in freedom, you have no pre-knowledge to influence your decision, your free will is exercised independently of God’s pre-knowledge. Your free will would only be compromised if there was coercion to conform with the pre-known outcome.

” by not having us ever desire to do evil” as this would restrict choice it would be a clear limitation of free will.

” it is a valid problem for the claim of a tri-omni god”, no it is not. The reasoned outcome on which the argument hinges is itself illogical, it would require ‘free will’ and ‘no evil’ to co-exist.

Before you raise the point, I accept that implicit in the classic exposition of this position is that omnipotent does not encompass the irrational, i.e. God cannot create a round square (some argue that this disproves God, but the argument is not convincing – simply put, it is defeated for instance by the question, ‘what does a round square look like?’)

” for the PoE to prevail, one must decide that there exists one and only one instance of suffering of any amount that is not strictly necessary for the greater good”. The greater good is free will, so any evil of human origin is covered.

Now you have also raised the question of the suffering from natural events such as earthquakes.
It is necessary for purpose of argument to distinguish between human evil and natural disaster. The human kind is covered by the free will argument. The natural kind is in a way covered by your example from physics. We live in a world of physical laws essential for its functioning, objects fall under gravity, if you fall a fair distance you will suffer pain; another example is that a fundamental property of fire is its ability to heat, if you stick your hand into fire it will be burned and it will hurt.
We choose to live on fault lines and suffer earthquakes, or in low coastal plains and suffer tsunamis. A contrary position is irrational.

” and would avoid all suffering not directly logically contradictory to His greater good,” I agree, but the greater good, as decided (and I guess could have decided differently) by the omniscient God you refer to is that we have free will and the laws of nature and both create the potential for suffering – but for neither is suffering a mandatory outcome.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi akakiwibear,
In your mind the problem of evil is debunked, but in my mind the problem of evil as test by god is debunked. the result being, if its not a test from god, then god is either indifferent or does not exist. simple, and follows from the description of his characteristics.

You argue that the greater good could have been achieved by creating us in our perfect end state, thus defeating “greater good”. As with the original problem of evil this necessitates a world which logically cannot exist and indeed is seen not to exist - one which is devoid of experience, a time static existence. I think this defeats your argument.
This looks like question begging.
can you spell this out for me or restate it in a different way. I'm not sure I get it. You seem to be saying that because my argument demonstrates that we shouldn't exist, yet we do, then my argument is defeated. That doesn't make sense because since we do exist, it would cancel the PoE as a test, and show that God is indifferent or doesn't exist.

Pre-knowledge does not constitute predetermination. I might know the not very bright student who has spent the entire semester avoiding class and partying is going to fail, but I have not taken away her free will.
you are not god. A god preknowledge is not a prediction it is a knowing. For a god to know everything and be timeless etc, he would know exactly the time and nano-second that she wakes up in the morning, and what her first thought would be. He would have known this before made her, and from the point that she was conceived in his head, her destiny would be sealed.

you should go read my other posts about freewill. We don't have as much freewill as you think, and it does not imply a soul, since anyone caring for an alzheimers patient will tell you that in the advanced stages they are effectively not the same person, their brain has degraded to such a degree that their personality is changed. The personality is an amalgum of all our memories and experiences and to change that changes our personality. Since this is the case, it necessitates the soul to be something else. What is it if it is not our personality? At what point can we say we have meaningful definition or understanding of the soul? What does it mean for a christian that forgets she's a christian and loses interest in god ?

Lee: ” To say that learning to live with free will is more important admits that god is not all powerful or all knowing,”.
aka: That is simply an assertion that you do not back up. What the statement implies is a decision made by God.

this looks like more question begging.
the conclusion follows from the premises. I can't think of any way to restate it any more clearly than I have. My solution meets all the criteria of the premises, and avoids suffering. Gods doesn't. You tell me what premise is flawed or what I haven't considered, besides 'god exists and he did it this way, so get over it'.

Since he is all powerful, and knows all things, he can create us as we would have turned out anyway, yes but, as above, chose not to. You are invoking a belittled omniscience to prove your point, one subjugated by your knowledge. True omniscience would by definition by superior to your knowledge and would know the best way.
I see now, you are question begging.
You assume god exists and I don't have a hope of critiquing him because I can't possibly take all factors into account. I can see that the principle doesn't fit the premises. Unless you want to say that the scripture that I took the premises from are wrong. In medicine you don't have to know everything about a patient to treat the disease, in auto mechanics you don't have to know everything about a car to fix it. In life you don't have to know everything to make a logical inference to take care of business, and in religion you don't have to know everything to see that god doesn't live up to his reputation.

lee: ”another better principle, that since jesus set the precedent to be a teacher, and if we are supposed to have freewill to follow god or not, the to have Jesus living forever running a campus where people can choose to attend”
aka: Yes indeed, but I though that was the idea of sending the Holy Spirit! Yes we have the free will to choose to attend (atheists choose not to) we also have the free will to act according to those teaching or not.

give me a break. are you saying that the holy spirit is as effective as it would be to have jesus on earth forever teaching us and letting us REALLY exercise our free will without the benefit of doubt to cloud our decision? Thats silly.

I am sure you will agree that if all of humanity followed the simple “love you neighbour as yourself” teachings then the horrors you blame on an uncaring God would not happen. God has intervened to show us how to avoid the horrors, we have exercised our free will to follow another path – an option provided for in most religious teaching.
No. I don't agree. If you go read my psychopath article, you will see that the psychopath doesn't have the benefit of a conscience to 'keep them honest'. Freewill is the result of biological algorithms in our brain that are shaped by genetics, environment, pathology, physiology and the resulting attitude. We percieve through flawed devices, they are stored in a flawed device, it is processed by a flawed device and you say we have an even chance of making the moral choice? No, we can make moral choices but we are sabotaged to favor 'evil'. Look into substance abuse research.

lee; ”I don't claim omniscience, I claim to know a bad principle when I see it.”,
aka: but you assume the authority to decide it is a bad principle ahead of a God your argument requires to be omniscient – that makes you what … ?

my goodness, you are trying your best to straw man, ad hominem and "poison my well" aren't you.
It makes me a critic.

lee: ”ask a mother praying for the life of her baby, dying in the sudan what suffering is”
aka: In this life that is certainly suffering. But, you missed my point – I posed it as a possible for an omni-everything God - that the suffering MAY turn out to be a real positive in the next life. But it is only a possibility, I don’t claim to be all knowing.

backpedaling? So you don't know what the significance of this is? can you hazard a guess? No? Why? because a guess is prohibited by your presumption that it is necessary for some reason because god permits it to happen? this is a result of your circular reasoning.

The suffering is brought about by the human exercise of free will. With regard to the mother in the Sudan, would you prefer a God who destroyed the militia and government complicit in the tragedy in Darfur, or perhaps a God who showed no respect for us and deprived us of free will?
there you go again, I told you I don't accept the premise. A better solution is that this situation presumably wouldn't have occurred if jesus was the head of the University of God over in Jerusalem.

lee: ”I said to create us as we would have turned out had we suffered”
aka: Yes God could have, but again I say your point is only valid if you can show conclusively that God is in error in having chosen the option of free will and the consequences thereof over an automaton society. To say you “know a bad principle when you see it” is an unfounded assertion – not good enough.

so there is no point at which a person has the right to criticize another viewpoint without omniscience? You know that is not true. I'm sure you have a better idea of how to do things at work, in the government, for me or your friends or children etc to behave don't you? I think if this principle was being exercised by something other than something you value, you would not agree with it. Instead you love it because you are trapped by it and you must reconcile it in your mind somehow. Making it off limits to criticism and setting impossible criteria to qualify to criticize for others achieves this for you.

zilch said...

akawikibear, you say:

There are two factors, your free will to make a decision about opening your door and pre-knowledge of the outcome of that decision. The decision is made in freedom, you have no pre-knowledge to influence your decision, your free will is exercised independently of God’s pre-knowledge. Your free will would only be compromised if there was coercion to conform with the pre-known outcome.

Shygetz and lee have already answered this, but I'll just add my € O.02 worth (almost $ 0.03!). If God is omnipotent as well as being omniscient, there is coercion to conform to the pre-known outcome: God made you in such a way that you would make that decision, whether you know it or not.

To use my example from another thread: suppose you make a coin with two heads. When I was a kid, I had a wonderful book called The Boy Mechanic, which described all kinds of things you could build, and one of them was a coin with two heads, with which you could amaze your friends and confound your enemies, as the saying goes.

Because you have prepared the coin like this, you know that it cannot come up tails. The coin, not knowing this, might think (this is a thought experiment, we can allow the coin to think) that it could come up tails. But no, it is coerced, by the nature that you, its god, built into it, to come up heads. So this poor coin has no chance to do differently, no matter what it might think.

I don't see how this is any different logically than the case of God, Man, and Free Will.

Lee Randolph said...

zilch,
that was beautiful and it totally fits with my most recent article "when our vices get the better of us".

Jason said...

Lee,

The argument is not circular because of atheists, it is circular because it is completely self contained, it depends only on itself.

The argument must depend on itself because any knowledge of God can only be attained through Scripture. If Scripture tells us we will never achieve a perfect knowledge of God’s ways and thoughts because they’re higher then ours, then we must happily submit this is actually the case.

If he is all powerful, he should be able to do anything including more than you can imagine. If he is infinitely merciful he should be more merciful than you can imagine, etc.

Naturally.

I should not be able to show any principle that the bible depends on to be flawed, but the most glaring one that comes to mind is human sacrifice.

There's nothing flawed about it. Jesus’ sacrifice did exactly what God said it would do.

I don't think god is omnibenevolent, but some people do, and you should get out more and meet them, debate them.

At the beginning, you said a view of an omnibenevolent God was "alien". If you don't think God is omnibenevolent, why not just say so from the very start?

Anyhow, you’re speaking on behalf of “lots” of Christians which is why I asked you the question: How does the evangelical Christian belief in hell allow for a belief in an omnibenevolent God? My point is that any belief in such a place automatically discounts God as being omnibenevolent which means Christians, even if they don’t realize it, can’t claim He is and hence we’re back to the original point: God isn’t omnibenevolent.

Jason said...

Shy said: Do you deny that most Christians confess to an omnibenevolent God?

The belief that wicked unbelievers will spend eternity burning in agonizing hellfire
negates a belief that God is omnibenevolent.

Hey, your co-religionists' crazy beliefs, not mine. Ask them.

I'm asking you as you're the one making the assertion on behalf of Christianity.

Shygetz said...

The belief that wicked unbelievers will spend eternity burning in agonizing hellfire
negates a belief that God is omnibenevolent.


You dodged the question; I wasn't asking what YOU believed. Do you deny that most self-identified Christians believe in an omnibenevolent God. There are two possible answers; yes, and no. Pick one, then elaborate if you must.

I'm asking you as you're the one making the assertion on behalf of Christianity.

Assertion? I am NOT asserting that God is omnibenevolent; I am stating the fact that most self-proclaiming Christians believe that He is. Christians believe all kinds of crazy crap, and I have no need or desire to defend their beliefs. I think they're wrong. I think that, if an omnipotent and omniscient God exists, there is NO WAY he could be omnibenevolent. I have argued such many times. And I bet you already knew this, so you're probably just trying to play rhetorical games to confuse the point.

Lee Randolph said...

Hi all,
here is a little piece of scripture that Jason our christadelphian contributed to the Problem of Evil debate over in the "scripture only is myth" to show that god will interfere with freewill when he wants to.

Rom 9:17-18 "For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."

akakiwibear said...

”in my mind the problem of evil as test by god is debunked. the result being, if its not a test from god, then god is either indifferent or does not exist. simple,”
Perhaps I missed your point and we agree – let me restate my understanding. The test reasons that a tri-omni God and evil can’t co-exist therefore God is either not tri-omni or does not exist. My point is that the test as I have stated it is debunked because while claiming logic and reason it’s conclusion, which requires that we have no free will, is irrational/illogical. Clearly the conclusion of an argument that claims to be logical must be able to logically exist. As I said, I may have missed your point.

” can you spell this out for me or restate it in a different way.” OK I will try, … your original point was ”the greater good could have been achieved by creating us in our perfect end state,” Now if we were created with all the experience etc, we would be created in an end state – where we would have ended up if we had lived through all our experiences.
This implies that we will not gain any further experience, our future existence will be devoid of experience, I used the word “static”. Such a static state does not look much like life but rather like death.

My point therefore was that to be created complete with all experience (i.e. into a static state) would be illogical/irrational. As such the argument creating us in the end state would avoid suffering, while superficially appealing and logical, requires a illogical or irrational world (one devoid of experience) to support it – it therefore fails.

I observed that as we are alive and have experiences God had not chosen to create us in the perfect end state – an observation not tied to my argument – I can see how it confused the point.

”you should go read my other posts about freewill.” I will. I am interested in the atheist view that we have no free will – the biological computer analogy.

Your point about the Alzheimer patient is interesting. It seems to imply that you view the soul is somehow dependant on the ability of our body to function properly. Why should the soul (immortal as it is reputed to be) degrade in some way because our memory has degraded, or our manifest personality has changed? You seem to be confusing the physical with the metaphysical.

”You tell me what premise is flawed or what I haven't considered, besides 'god exists and he did it this way, so get over it'”. I am tempted by the ‘get over it’. My thesis is not that the individual elements of your argument are necessarily flawed or that they have been strung together incorrectly - that just gets us too deeply into the semantics.

My thesis is that the argument itself is a nonsense as its conclusion is dependant on the existence of a world that is irrational/illogical – that is one where free will does not exist. If your point is that your argument holds because we do indeed not have free will then, if I agreed with you, I would concede your main argument. It is fine to have a lovely set of premises but if the outcome of your logic is illogical then the premises are for naught.

”are you saying that the holy spirit is as effective as it would be to have jesus on earth forever teaching us” In purely practice terms it seems quite obvious. Jesus would, as a person, be confined to one place and even with modern communications could only address a single issue at a time. With the Holy Spirit we get multiple concurrent individual access.

”and letting us REALLY exercise our free will without the benefit of doubt to cloud our decision?” Surly you don’t suggest that free will could really exist without doubt? In a world of certainty choice would be irrelevant.

I am surprised that you don’t agree that if we all followed “love your neighbour’ the world would be a better place – to me that is self evident, even your ‘red herring’ psychopath can be taught appropriate behaviour.

”we can make moral choices but we are sabotaged to favor 'evil'” In part we agree, I would suggest a slightly different source of the ‘evil’ , namely that we have an evolutionary bias to evil in that when stressed individual self preservation comes to the fore. With amorality as the product of evolution, morality can only be acquired from an external source.

”backpedaling?” no, I presented it as a possible because neither of us can have certainty about its validity or otherwise. What it does do is present an alternative explanation to your position which appears to be one of assumed certainty.

Of course we can all have a better idea. I made the point to illustrate the problem with arguments such as this which are prone become bogged down in semantics and/or argument constructs. The ability to reason and have better ideas is part of our free will. The absence of proof absolute that God does/not exist is part of our free will.

I will explore your writings on why you think we don’t have free will I am sure they will be interesting. This thread seems to be getting rather circular, don't you think?

In the meantime, peace be with you and God bless!

Jason said...

Shy said: You dodged the question; I wasn't asking what YOU believed. Do you deny that most self-identified Christians believe in an omnibenevolent God. There are two possible answers; yes, and no. Pick one, then elaborate if you must.

The answer is the statement. The belief that wicked unbelievers will spend eternity burning in agonizing hellfire negates a belief that God is omnibenevolent. Christians cannot believe in an omnibenevolent God, by sheer definition of the word, if they also believe in hell as place of eternal torture. The two concepts are mutually exclusive.

I am NOT asserting that God is omnibenevolent; I am stating the fact that most self-proclaiming Christians believe that He is..

Proof?

Lee Randolph said...

Hi akakiwibear,
I had to rush through this and start and stop it a couple of times, sorry if it doesn't flow.

Now if we were created with all the experience etc, we would be created in an end state – where we would have ended up if we had lived through all our experiences.
This implies that we will not gain any further experience, our future existence will be devoid of experience, I used the word “static”.

supposedly, once we are dead we are 'on the other side' anyway so our bout with experience on earth is over. Whats the difference?

My point therefore was that to be created complete with all experience (i.e. into a static state) would be illogical/irrational.
I don't see how it would be illogical or irrational. Do you mean it doesn't follow from the premises or is unwarranted somehow? if so which premises are false and /or what warrant or principle is violated or missing?

As such the argument creating us in the end state would avoid suffering, while superficially appealing and logical, requires a illogical or irrational world (one devoid of experience) to support it – it therefore fails.
you seem to be saying that since a world is necessary for experience it is illogical to create us in the state we would have been had we lived and gotten the experience. The premise here is that the world was a necessary condition, but if god is all powerful he could change that, and to keep the premise that he is all good and merciful he would have to to avoid needless suffering. In this view, if we say that suffering is necessary, then it means that god cannot or chose not to make a world without suffering when it was within his power. To say that suffering is necessary for us to arrive at our end state means that god is not all powerful or chose not to create us in our end state. This violates the premise that he is all powerful, Just, merciful or all good.

I am interested in the atheist view that we have no free will – the biological computer analogy.
the freewill comments are buried in the articles but they are basically the ones that started with the psychopathy article. My position on freewill is that we have a restricted freewill, freewill that is restricted by the biological structure of our brains. The choice and options we have depend on our ability to comprehend them and process them.

Your point about the Alzheimer patient is interesting. It seems to imply that you view the soul is somehow dependant on the ability of our body to function properly.
if we are to make moral decisions we have to have a knowledge base. We have to have learned something. Our brain holds the results of the input we acquire, sorts it, processes it, stores it, extrapolates meaning from it. These moral decisions that we are judged by come from somewhere, they must come from the brain. Therefore the experiences that the brain handles shape our soul do they not? Therefore the brain would have to be the tool the soul uses to be molded. I don't see how you can get around the fact that you need the brain to facilitate moral decisions that ultimately seal your fate. That raises the question of how closely the soul tracks the brain. When the brain malfunctions, what about the soul? How does the soul go on being shaped or when does it cease to be shaped in the onset of alzheimers? And if the soul ceases to be dependent on the brain or never was, what of the needless suffering that goes on that supposedly shapes our character? The suffering in an alzheimers patient is like being buried alive. It is an inexorable descent into forgetfulness, confusion, frustration, clumsiness, speechlessness, lack of comprehension, incontinence, and they know it wasn't always that way.

Why should the soul (immortal as it is reputed to be) degrade in some way because our memory has degraded, or our manifest personality has changed? You seem to be confusing the physical with the metaphysical.
Because our personalities are the amalgum of our experiences, memories and decisions. People that have suffered debilitating brain disease are described by thier caregivers as not the same person. They lose inhibitions and their personality changes. Not always for the worst but always a change.

My thesis is that the argument itself is a nonsense as its conclusion is dependant on the existence of a world that is irrational/illogical – that is one where free will does not exist. If your point is that your argument holds because we do indeed not have free will then, if I agreed with you, I would concede your main argument. It is fine to have a lovely set of premises but if the outcome of your logic is illogical then the premises are for naught.
Let me clarify, my argument is and has been, though I don't expect you to have tracked everything I have written, that we don't have as much freewill as we think we have. It is illusory. There is freewill to a degree, but it is biased by our brains physiology, our genetics, environment, attitude, temperment etc.

”are you saying that the holy spirit is as effective as it would be to have jesus on earth forever teaching us” In purely practice terms it seems quite obvious. Jesus would, as a person, be confined to one place and even with modern communications could only address a single issue at a time. With the Holy Spirit we get multiple concurrent individual access.
Compeletely theoretical, since all indications are that the holy spirit is ineffective, and I point the fact that major tenets of christianity are disputed. Like the trinity for instance.

”and letting us REALLY exercise our free will without the benefit of doubt to cloud our decision?” Surly you don’t suggest that free will could really exist without doubt? In a world of certainty choice would be irrelevant.
yes I have not doubt the sun and the moon will come up around the time the weather person predicts, and I get along just fine. I have no doubts about a lot of things, and I say that I could get along fine and be better off If I knew that Jesus was over in Jerusalem pumping out apostles and get a 'warm fuzzy' from it.

I am surprised that you don’t agree that if we all followed “love your neighbour’ the world would be a better place – to me that is self evident, even your ‘red herring’ psychopath can be taught appropriate behaviour.
I am sorry If i misrepresented myself, obviously the world would be a better place, but if you can teach a psychopath to respect the golden rule, there's a nobel prize waiting for you.

”we can make moral choices but we are sabotaged to favor 'evil'” In part we agree, I would suggest a slightly different source of the ‘evil’ , namely that we have an evolutionary bias to evil in that when stressed individual self preservation comes to the fore. With amorality as the product of evolution, morality can only be acquired from an external source.
and that source would be a disputed savior that curiously was hung out to dry?

”backpedaling?” no, I presented it as a possible because neither of us can have certainty about its validity or otherwise. What it does do is present an alternative explanation to your position which appears to be one of assumed certainty.
I am certain because logic and a preponderence of evidence points to a bible that is not divine, and that means that it does not describe god, and that means no one knows anything with any certainty about the christian god, including whether Jesus death on the cross was salvation or just another statistic.

Of course we can all have a better idea. I made the point to illustrate the problem with arguments such as this which are prone become bogged down in semantics and/or argument constructs. The ability to reason and have better ideas is part of our free will.
So how is it that I'm not god and I had a better idea than god?

Shygetz said...

Proof?

I refer you to William Newton Clarke's An Outline of Christian Theology, pg. 64-75.

Jason said...

And what facts does Mr. Clarke use to state that "most Christians" believe in an "omnibenevolent God"?

BTW, do you agree that the concept of an omnibenevolent God and the concept of hell as a place of eternal torture are mutually exclusive?

Shygetz said...

BTW, do you agree that the concept of an omnibenevolent God and the concept of hell as a place of eternal torture are mutually exclusive?

Oh yes, I do think they are mutually exclusive. I also think the idea of an avatar of God that is fully God and fully man existing simultaneously and seperately of God is exclusive to monotheism. I think Christians have become very adept at believing mutually exclusive things.

And what facts does Mr. Clarke use to state that "most Christians" believe in an "omnibenevolent God"?

Prof. Clarke was a theological scholar; I imagine that he used the basic tenents of faith for the major sects of his time. I found his book by searching through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s writings, who used Prof. Clarke's summaries approvingly in some of his sermons and would also be considered somewhat of an expert on matters of religious belief. If you have a survey showing that most Christians do not believe that God is all good, I'd love to see it.

Now, whether such a belief is rational given other Christian beliefs is an exercise best left to the reader. If you truly think that most Christians do NOT think that God is all good, then tell me why so many books, papers, and web pages exist to argue the Problem of Evil, which is not a problem at all for people who do not believe in an all-good God (Google it if you don't believe me).

goprairie said...

how does the Bible characterize God? As punishing and vengeful and violent and judging for the most part. The benevolent God is one that people WANT to beleive so they remember it and repress the rest. Just as Jesus is thought of as a pacifist but specifically declares himself not to be. Few Christians even know how Jesus characterizes himself. they would LIKE Jesus to be a peacemaker and God to be benevolent and all powerful in his benevolence. Not supported by the actual words in the Bible tho.
Hmm, I would like God to be a she - can I just ignore all the male pronouns and uses of the word Father?

Jason said...

Shy,

Don't avoid the question. What facts does Mr. Clarke use to state that "most Christians" believe in an "omnibenevolent God"?

Shygetz said...

Shy,

Don't avoid the question. What facts does Mr. Clarke use to state that "most Christians" believe in an "omnibenevolent God"?


How did I avoid the question? I said that he appears to have used his experience as a scholar in theology and comparitive religion. I also mentioned another theologian of note who agreed with him. What evidence are you relying upon to claim that most Christians do not believe in an omnibenevolent God? You haven't shown me a single thing.

Jason said...

I don't need to show you anything. You said it was "fact" that most Christians believe God is omnibenevolent. I asked for proof. You provided a reference to some book without actually quoting anything relating to "most Christians believe God is omnibenevolent". Either you have proof or you don't.

My proof is that Christians cannot believe in an omnibenevolent God, by sheer definition of the word, if they also believe in hell as place of eternal torture.

Shygetz said...

I asked for proof. You provided a reference to some book without actually quoting anything relating to "most Christians believe God is omnibenevolent". Either you have proof or you don't.

There is no such thing as proof. I have evidence that an omnibenevolent God is a central tenet of the Christian faith. As a central tenet of the Christian faith, it would be something that most Christians believe in. I pointed out at least two major theologians who agreed with this. I will add the following passage from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which relays dogma from the Church that has over half of the Christians in the world:

"Now while it cannot be said that God is infinitely extended, or that He feels or reasons in an infinite way, it can be said that He is infinitely good..."

Good enough for you yet? We can refer to Wikipedia on the matter:

Catholicism is monotheistic: it believes that God is one, eternal, all-powerful (omnipotent), all-knowing (omniscient), all-good (omnibenevolent), and omnipresent.

Need more? If we conclude that Catholics believe in an omnibenevolent God, then we can conclude that most Christians believe in an omnibenevolent God.

I don't need to show you anything.

Oh, I strenuously disagree. You did not claim agnosticism when it came to the question; you denied that most Christians believe that God is perfectly good ("The answer is the statement."). As such, you must provide evidence for your assertion. Merely pointing out that it is logically inconsistent with the idea of Hell is insufficient, as I previously pointed out--Christians profess belief in both the trinity and monotheism, which is also logically inconsistent, indicating that logical consistency is not a requirement for belief.

So, do you have evidence (I'll do you a favor and not require "proof") of your assertion or not? Or are you, as I suspect, too stubborn to admit when you have taken a bad position?