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« Creed & Politics | Main | Ideas of Consequences »

May 11, 2006

Comments

"In order to defeat the argument, all the theist has to do is show that these propositions are logically possible."

I got lost right around here. Can someone help explain this a bit more?

Bryan,

The argument might be more apparent like this:

1. God is omnipotent.
2. God is wholly good.
3. God is a wholly good, omnipotent thing. [1,2]
4. Evil exists.
5. A good, omnipotent thing exists, and evil exists. [3,4]
5. Good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can.
6. There are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do.
7. Therefore, a good omnipotent thing eliminates evil completely. [5,6]
8. Therefore, if evil exists, then a good, omnipotent thing cannot exist. [7]

Propositions [5] and [8] are inconsistent.

The statement you were confused about addresses possibility. With that in mind, here are some clues:

* Where do you see the language of possibility in the premises?

* What would it do to the argument if certain claims within the premises were shown to be false?

Ack. Typo. I'll try again.

1. God is omnipotent.
2. God is wholly good.
3. God is a wholly good, omnipotent thing. [1,2]
4. Evil exists.
5. A good, omnipotent thing exists, and evil exists. [3,4]
6. Good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can.
7. There are no limits to what an omnipotent thing can do.
8. Therefore, a good omnipotent thing eliminates evil completely. [6,7]
9. Therefore, if evil exists, then a good, omnipotent thing cannot exist. [8]

Propositions [5] and [9] are inconsistent.

I feel Alvin Plantinga's solution lurking about. :-)

Bryan, if the existence of God and the existence of evil really contradict, then it's not possible for both to be true under any possible state of affairs. The law of non-contradiction prevents it. So if there is any possible state of affairs under which both God and evil could exist simultaneously, then God and evil do not contradict. That's why it's only necessary to think of some possible state of affairs under which both could be true. It isn't necessary that the state of affairs be actual to demonstrate that God and evil are logically compatible.

Plantinga solved the logical problem of evil by showing that it's possible for there to be a good reason for evil. He offered what he called a "free will defence" which he distinguished from a "free will theodicy" in the fact that a theodicy is an attempt to explain why there is evil in such a way that it's consistent with God's attributes, but a defence is an attempt to describe a possible state of affairs under which both God and evil could exist simultaneously.

Mackie says that "...a good omnipotent thing eliminates evil completely," and "evil exists" are incompatible.

Not at all.

If he'd said "a good omnipotent thing HAS eliminated evil completely" and "evil exists", then we'd have a real contradiction.

It's a matter of timing. Saying God does something, and he hasn't done it yet, is no contradiction. God does eliminate evil. He is eliminating evil. He has indeed defeated the evil one, and there will be a day when evil will not be found in our universe (heaven).

In fact, is not the Christian religion the only worldview which adequately deals with evil?

Tom, some worldviews deal with evil by denying its reality. That doesn't strike me as adequate, though.

But speaking of Mackie's premise, Plantinga showed that it's not necessarily true. He showed that there are possible worlds that even an omnipotent being can't actualize.

What about 3.5 above?
3.5) God creates evil.

Did not God create everything?

The only way that God gets off the hook, as far as I can see, Is if he:

A) Knows all the past.

B) Knows all the present.

C) Knows most of the future, but with limitations.

If he is not limited in any way, shape, or form of future, then he is the responsible creator for evil.

I am starting to learn that there is alot of debate about the "truth" in theology. Why don't I ever read here, "O I got the answer, God told me its ___ during prayer last night." It seems the bible is the only source of information...? Why is that?

Thanks for the responses, it helps a little bit more =)
So going back to Bretts quote, does all it mean is that we have to show that it's logically possible for both God and Evil to exist simultaneously?

Bryan, I think that's one way to do it. Given the argument above, I think the weak links are proposition 6 and 7.

I like the way Tom took on proposition 6 - the proposition assumes a fait accompli; the Christian worldview is rich with "already, but not yet" tension in which that which has not yet occurred is already certain.

Proposition 7 is easily defeated as well. As Sam said, there are some things that are impossible even within the context of omnipotence. For example, an omnipotent God cannot contradict himself.

xselder, your question is a good one. You asked, "Why don't I ever read here, 'O I got the answer, God told me its ___ during prayer last night.' It seems the bible is the only source of information...? Why is that?"

First of all, God certainly could tell us through a supernatural communique. But it sure seems unusual. The Bible is much to be preferred...

Actually, Martin Luther addressed your question very nicely:

---

In 1539, commenting on Psalm 119, Luther wrote, "...For God wants to give you His Spirit only through the external Word" ... This phrase is extremely important. The "external Word" is the Book. And the saving, sanctifying, illuminating Spirit of God, he says, comes to us through this "external Word."

Luther calls it the "external Word" to emphasize that it is objective, fixed, outside ourselves, and therefore unchanging. It is a Book. Neither ecclesiastical hierarchy nor fanatical ecstasy can replace it or shape it. It is "external," like God. You can take or leave it. But you can't make it other than what it is. It is a book with fixed letters and words and sentences.

And Luther said with resounding forcefulness in 1545, the year before he died, "Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture."

---

(John Piper, _Martin Luther: Lessons from His Life and Labor_)

http://www.desiringgod.org/library/biographies/96luther.html

Yes Hugh, but there are alot of things n the bible not understood. (Hence all the doctrines, personal beliefs etc.) Some of these are of extreme importance. Some issues are very old, within the bible itself. (Talking in tongues needed for salvation, faith versus works, etc etc.) The fact that there is still debate indicates nobody has really and truley proven their point of view is correct.

So why not goto God, get the answer, and settle it once and for all? For example I have had alot of questions about things lately. I have been told to go and pray, seek God, and he will reveal the answers to me. But many of these things are the same issues that have been around since the biblical times. I "assume" that somebody has already prayed, sought God, and got answers to these questions before me. (Hence, "God told me ___") But that doesnt seem to be the case, since everyone keeps admitting they are not really sure of what the answer is.

Its just kidn of frustrating that in 2 thousand years nobbody has heard from God.

Anyways, I have been poking around at this site and have been reading some troubling things. One part of "theology" at this site wanrs against saying "God told me __" It makes an analogy to the prophets of the OT, comparing hearing God today to hearing God back then. Now, I think that analogy is terrible, because wasnt part of the point of Christ coming and going to give us the Holy Spirit and thus a more direct line of communication with God? If so, why isnt this line of communication paying off in information?

But anyways, regarding my 3.5 above.

I poked around here and came up with a post in "theology" about this kind of issue. The writer was comparing God to someone who knew where a robber would run to. It went on to say that even though you could know every twist and turn the robber would make, the robber was still acting on his free will. (This is a poor paraphrase, if anyone has a comment please read the post first so you know what I am talking about.)

Lets say the robber was a 22 year old that stole a pair of Jeans and was running away from cops, management, goodhearted bystanders, whatever,...

The problem with the post is that it neglects the fact that God made the individual. He made the individual born into a broken home. He made him with a lower ration of neurons in his frontal cortex, and with a higher basal concentration of testosterone. He knew the media he had already created was going to put it into his mind how important it was to wear those jeans he stole to impress that girl he was interested in. A girl that God created and placed in his life at that moment, a girl that the testosterone was going to urge him to get. God knows that the slightly smaller frontal cortex was going to pump out the answer "steal the Jeans".

And its not just what God made him like, and what God made around him (before he was born, and afterwords) but also what God DIDNT make. He didnt make their another girl telling him he looked fine without the new jeans, etc.

So anyways I felt that would be a bad analogy, as it left out all of these other things that God does, and thus not answer the issue of predetermination,...

Any comments? (I am writign this really fast and not able to edit it so please forgive grammer and spelling, just try to read my point, I think its evident.)

xelder,

I totally sympathize with your sentiments above about praying for an answer and everybody still disagreeing. That frustrated me to no end. I was in my early 20's when I first started seriously studying the Bible. I remember praying earnestly that God would help me learn the truth. I never had much faith that he would, though, because I knew many other people prayed that same prayer, and yet everybody still disagrees.

I don't experience that anxiety anymore, though. I acknowledge that I could be wrong about stuff, and I'll willing to live with that. But I'm comfortable with my opinion about things because they are informed opinions. The more you study, the more your opinions sort of form themselves. An opinion is nothing more than what you think is true. If I think something is true, then logic forces me to think others are mistaken who disagree with me. And if I disagree with somebody, I look at my reasons and their reasons and settle on which seems more likely to be true.

My lack of certainty used to cause me a great deal of anxiety, but it doesn't anymore. It's enough for me that I have good (though not infallible) reasons for what I believe.

Your disagreement with the robber analogy is a denial of libertarian free will. You are assuming that all of our actions are determined by are motives, inclination, desires, and predispositions, and those things are determined by causes outside of the will, such as our upbringing, environment, and DNA. If we actually have free will, then your rebuttal doesn't work.

But supposing you are right, that our actions are determined by causes outside of the will, that still doesn't rehabilitate the argument against God from evil. Granted, people do immoral things, and granted God creates the world in such a way that the immoral acts are inevitable, we still have to look at God's reasons for doing. If God has a morally justifiable reason for doing it, then evil is compatible with a good God. Before you can rehabilitate the argument against God from evil, you've got to be able to demonstrate that it's not even possible for there to be a good reason for evil.

But the Bible explicitly denies that. Take, for example, the incident of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers. Josephs said his brothers meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. God intended Joseph's brothers to sell him into slavery, and he intended it for good and just reasons.

Same thing with Jesus. God fully intended Jesus to be betrayed and to be crucified. Yet the one who betrayed him had morally unjustifiable reasons for doing it (he did it for the money).

Great post Sam.

A few comments, one is that we are not even close to explaining necrotizing fasciitis.

Also, I dont know where I stand on God and evil, pain, and ethics of judgement day, but I am seeking. IN seking I came across that analogy and I was just pointing out how the authors analogy fell WAY short.

Regarding : "You are assuming that all of our actions are determined by are motives, inclination, desires, and predispositions, and those things are determined by causes outside of the will, such as our upbringing, environment, and DNA."

I do not understand this.
It seems to me that I want to say "more than assume, thats part of the truth!" But I am not sure if I am reading this correctly.

xelder,

I don't know what "necrotizing fasciitis" means. :-(

Lemme see if I can explain myself a little more clearly. There are three common views of the will--there's libertarian free will, compatibalism (or soft determinism), and there's hard determinism.

The libertarian view is that our actions are not determined by any antecedent causes or conditions. Under the libertarian view, then, whether we sinned or not wouldn't ultimately depend on our environment, circumstances, brain chemistry, or anything else. Though those things might have some influence, ultimately our will is free to act in accordance with or contrary to these influences.

In the compatibalist view, we always act according to our nature, the way we are, our motives, inclinations, dispositions, etc. But these motives, etc., are caused by our brain chemistry, environment, situations, etc.

Above, you seemed to explain the theft of the jeans in terms of things God was responsible for, not the guy who stole them. God made him like that, he put the girl there, he may have had a broken home, etc. It sounds like you're suggesting that the guy stole the jeans because of all these causes that were not under the control of his will. If that's what you're saying, then your view is compatibalistic. You're basically denying libertarian free will.

A libertarian would argue that none of the factors you mentioned determined that the guy stole the jeans. The guy ultimately stole the jeans as an act of free will.

I agree Sam, basically I was acting as a ref. I was pointing out that if the arguement was meant to prove we had free will then it was failing because it did not include the things I mentioned.

So I would tell the auther he had to include this to prove himself correct, I wasnt saying that he was wrong. I was only saying his arguement was incomplete, and ultimaly unsuccessful.

Necrotizing fasciitis = Flesh Eating Bacteria. An evil to be sure, I garuntee you would be mortified to see it. Again, its just living out its biological program. Who programmed it?

Could God have made things more painfule for us? Could he have made us so that randomly thru the day we experienced shooting pains thru our body? I think the answer is yes, but he didnt. SO why did he decide to include things like necrotizing fasciitis?

I better clarify before someone gets smart. By shooting pains I dont mean the random case of arthritis, I mean ALL OF US FROM BIRTH, and I mean "fall on the flooor in mortal pain" debilitating.

xselder, the problem of raising the problem of evil in the form of a question (Why did God cause or allow these awful things to happen?) is that it only works as an argument against God if you can answer the question by saying, "God could not have possibly had any good reason for doing it." If it's even possible that God has a good reason for doing it, then it's not necessary to be able to know what that reason is before reconciling God and evil. If God and evil could exist under a possible state of affairs in which there was a good reason for evil, then God and evil are not logically incompatible.

Sam, doesnt your arguement presuppose that it would be ethical for God to create us into a painful existence for his own personal gratification? (I am not implying that he did it explicably for the pain, but that was part of it.)

And furthermore I dont believe Flesh eating bacteria or small pox to be neccessary. Neither does nost of the workd, hence the eradication of small pox. There are extremes.

There are many ways to get a task done, and I beleive God could have figured out a way without Flesh Eating Bacteria.

WAIT A MINUTE, "because it serves his purpose" is justification for his evil. YOur saying as long as he uses evil for some good purpose then the rest of its evilness is forgiven?

No, I am not buying that.

Well, Xselder, whether you buy it or not, it does solve the logical problem of evil by showing that God and evil are logically compatible.

Well, that not even a big deal for me.

If you had read most of the posts I have written in these blogs, I am more concerned with what is "ethical" than what is "logical".

Good morning Sam and xselder, if you're still around... sorry for going dark for a few days.

X, you wrote "The fact that there is still debate indicates nobody has really and truley proven their point of view is correct.... Its just kidn of frustrating that in 2 thousand years nobbody has heard from God."

Wow, there's a lot to respond to there.

1. Perhaps you've already done this, but read up on the problems addressed in the field of epistemology. It's (roughly) the study of "how is it that we know anything?" Even if it doesn't answer your questions, it's a lot of fun to think about...

2. "Proof" is pretty tough to come by. A mathematician named Kurt Godel tried to prove the existence of God and went insane, but what he did prove is that "provability is a weaker notion than truth." Coupled with the tenets of epistemology, this means that your ability to prove something means nothing for the question of whether you should trust it.

3. If people claimed to have heard from God, should we trust them? On what grounds? (Here's that epistemology thing again.) That's why (IMHO) the Bible is greatly to be preferred as the normative mode for God's communication over, say, Benny Hinn.

Also, and it's pretty much off-topic now, but the question of libertarian free will and compatibilism is one I can't resist jumping on. (So much for free will, hehe...)

D.A. Carson said compatibilism is the tension that exists between two clear poles that are established in Scripture:

1. God is sovereign.
2. Man is responsible.

There are two corollaries:

3. God's sovereignty never functions to mitigate man's responsibility.
4. Man's responsibility never functions to diminish God's sovereignty.

At the end of the day, #1 trumps libertarian free will. #1 also reinforces xselder's illustration about the jeans -- that God played a causative role there.

The clarity of #1 and #2 outweighs my inability to explain how they fit together.

Hugh, you should read Jonathan Edward's book on The Freedom of the Will. I think he solved the problem of God's sovereignty and our responsibility pretty well in that book. I'm going to be posting a series of blogs on it starting Thursday, and my ideas borrow heavily from Edwards.

Hugh, this doesnt make sense to me:
"3. If people claimed to have heard from God, should we trust them? On what grounds? (...) That's why (IMHO) the Bible is greatly to be preferred as,..."

The bible is a collection of stories from people that "heard" from God.

You are saying that people today cant be trusted when they tell you that they heard from God. Yet at the same time you are willing to accept the pages written by people that "heard" from God, as long as they lived thousands of years ago.

I would think you would trust more in the person that you could actually meet, and size up for yourself, then that which was written by those that you can not.

And why cant you trust someone that says they have heard from God?


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