December 15, 2010

Evil & Suffering IV: The So-Called Problem of Evil

The Problem of it actually a problem or part of a plan? For Evil pain or suffering to be even remotely useful it needs to be viewed correctly. The primary concern from a theological standpoint regarding theodicy is the issue of internal consistency. God is all-loving, God is all-powerful and evil and suffering exists in a world God created.

Due to this presupposition atheists or non-believing critics are convinced that there is there should be no logical explanation for the existence of suffering and evil according to the atheists (who don’t believe there is a God anyway) if God did exist and He was all-loving, He would eradicate the evil. What the atheist fails to take into account is that a God actually does exist and it is the God of the Bible. If atheists actually took the time to read the Bible (as it is the basis for all theological subject matter for a Christian) they would realize that the God of the Bible has a redemptive plan that clearly includes the use of evil to fulfill his purposes.

In this situation it is critical that a man of God or theologian structure their theology around the logically sound and biblically sound view of theodicy outlined in the Bible. That theology is soundly rooted in the idea of a redemptive history of a sinful and wicked humanity prone to evil and wicked behavior. Some of the end products or bad fruits of that sin and wickedness is evil itself or pain and suffering. Regardless of whether or not the atheist believes the Christian God exists or not doesn’t matter. If we as Christians base or view on the moral standard outlined by God/Jesus we successfully avoid the charge of circular reasoning since we are basing our standard or morality and rectitude on a known. Since God cannot definitively be proved or disproved, an atheist making the accusation of circular reasoning is on shaky ground with no evidence of his own.

Since the Bible can back up and justify the existence of evil in light of a sovereign and benevolent God it is an internally consistent worldview. As such it at least warrants an honest assessment from the believing and non-believing world before being dismissed as unreasonable or ridiculous. In other words: Christianity has a sound reasoning and valid explanations for the existence of evil and suffering in God’s world (which we will dwell in later) (Feinberg, “Dictionary of Theology” 386, 387).

The second issue confronting us with our hypothetical atheist is his audacity and arrogance to assume that he knows the mind of God that he will not even acknowledge exists. An atheist’s mindset (or any persons mindset) that has the perception of God as stated above and would make the charge of an unloving God or one that is not all-powerful needs to be scrutinized and examined closely. As stated above, if any critic would actually read the Bible to brush up on their subject matter they would see that the God of Christianity does indeed allow evil to exist and subsequently suffering for his purposes. Instead, atheistic worldviews usually created straw man arguments and attack the straw man they have created. They have a limited or inadequate view of what God is and because their view is flawed and inadequate they attack their own limited view of Him. Sad really, attacking a figment of their own creation or imagination because they have little ground to stand on to attack the true God. His ways are not our ways and we are in no position to judge him.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares 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. (MacArthur ESV, Isaiah 55:8-9)

What we do know from the Bible about God’s thoughts and purposes is that it is not because he is tolerant of the evil and suffering but because He is merciful and full of grace as mentioned in the Bible. God wishes to allow as many as possible to repent before the bell gongs so to speak.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

Unfortunately, in an effort to save as many as possible and wait until the absolute last second to drop the hammer of judgment, there will continue to be victims and suffer in the system of the world which is inherently evil and ruled by Satan until the Lord returns. Knowing this, we as believers have to assume many making the accusation that God either doesn’t care or isn’t all-powerful haven’t fully done their homework on the Christian worldview or they are willfully ignorant of the facts. So as Christians, let’s realize that theodicy in-and-of-itself is often an attack on the theological precepts or our worldview in an attempt to undermine it, it is not a legitimate attempt to understand evil, suffering or pain in a believers life. In these sorts of attacks it is important that believers have legitimate rebuttals to these types of accusations because they are actually attacks on God Himself (Feinberg, “Dictionary of Theology” 388).

Metaphysical/Methodological Naturalism & Secular Humanism - Atheistic/Agnostic

The predominate argument for the existence of evil without the existence of God comes from the atheists and agnostics and by and large falls along the line of metaphysical naturalism. It is from this quarter that some of the strongest legitamite arguments against a benevolent and all-powerful God come. As a matter-of-fact the atheistic side of this group doesn’t even believe God exists so their worldview doesn’t even really need to explain how evil can exist in the presence of God/a god it only needs to explain evils existence, period. As for the agnostics, many fall into this category because of their intellectual and theological cowardice. They will not chose a definitive worldview and usually has them side with a worldview that contains no god. This cowardice usually stems from the unwillingness to choose a side and risk being wrong. I will state the general consensus of most Atheist/Agnostics and then proceed to show why the metaphysical naturalistic worldview (MNW) explanation is an inconsistent worldview to explain evil and suffering. In layman’s terms the MNW denies supernaturalism whether it is metaphysical or methodological, by definition it:
“Is an explanation of the processes of nature which relies solely on natural causes without the explicit introduction of divine causation. Thus, following methodological naturalism, the world must be “as if there were no God” not only because this is necessary for moral freedom, but also because it makes it possible sto study the world via scientific methodology.” (Bennett et al, 136)
The Steady State Universe

Christians believe the world and universe was created by God ex-nihilo for the purpose of allowing faith and moral freedom. In the MNW the world and the universe is viewed as self-constituting or even more absurdly, infinitely existent (Steady State Theory or SST) which does not even match the scientific data of diminishing heat and entropy taking place in the universe. The universe is either a sum product of unintelligent random processes and chance or it “just is” (Bennett et al, 137). Additionally, the logical conclusion of having a world/universe as described by naturalists (in general) without a God in existence implicates man solely as the source of moral evil. The MNW would then conclude that if man can reach a utopian ideal, moral evil would then not exist. As Christians we realize this is utterly ridiculous as man is depraved and incapable of righteousness without being imputed with the righteousness of Christ.

The reason the SST does not work can be boiled down to some rudimentary scientific facts. If the universe has been dying a heat death for all of eternity as science has clearly shown it is currently doing now, the universe would’ve run out of heat a long time ago. The fact that it has not is an indicator that we are dealing with a system that was created at a fixed point in the past and will cease to have energy within it as some distant point in the future if left to run its course according to normal physical processes like radioactive decay and the deteriorating effects such as entropy. Regardless, in the MNW there is no explanation of where the universe came from and this is thoroughly baffling logic and does not warrant pursuit other than to say that scientific data firmly rejects this idea. This fact negates the legitimacy of this worldview thereby blunting and making any argument or any conclusion that can be made from it to explain evil or suffering moot from my point of view. The undergirding philosophical premise is flawed from the start so it stands to reason that the conclusion will be in error also. In other words: Things can sound good and still make sense but be wrong. The famous example of this is, “What is 2+2?” then ask, “What are 2 unicorns + 2 unicorns?”

There is also the premise of duality the MNW needs to contend with. Death and life or immorality and morality. Viewing life as the opposite of death is wrong, it is an absence of life. Viewing immorality as the opposite of morality is also wrong; immorality is an absence of morality. Where am I going with this? If we continue along this line of thought we can assume injustice is then a lack of justice. This means for injustice to exist there needs to be an absolute benchmark for justice. The MNW says this benchmark is man but they have already acknowledge that evil exists and by their nature, capricious and prone to choosing correct and incorrectly (i.e.: evolutionary theory and survival of the fittest, some will not survive due to bad choices) This opens the door for God’s justice which in the Christian worldview the only reasonable justice as it is based in an internally consistent worldview that accurate describes reality around us. It is a justice exacted by a perfectly righteous and just God, thus making his judgments perfect and fair. To take this premise even one step farther we must contend with the existence or thought of evil. It is agreed by the MNW and Christians that evil does indeed exist in the world. For there to be an ultimate evil there needs to be an ultimate good. As a Christians I posit that that good is God as described in the Holy Bible.

What does all this have to do with theodicy? Just this: I wanted to demolish this argument from the rudimentary philosophical perspective and from a rudimentary logic perspective. If I can undermine the logic that ungirds their worldview that they say produces the evil, then I can refute their explanation of how evil comes about in their worldview. What is ironic is that MNW gets the argument half right. The believe that humans are the sole source of moral evil. That is a correct assessment. What they get wrong is the logic leading up to the evil and source of the human being perpetrating or causing the moral evil. In a nutshell my defense of the proper Christian worldview goes back to the internal consistency argument.

Synopsis of Metaphysical/Methodologcial Naturalistic Worldview (Why It Fails)

The MNW argument is stated this way: Because God created everything, He is responsible for the creation of evil. However, "evil" is a word that we use to describe certain things that happen to us or it is a word symbol. The reality is that it is not a created thing and does not fall within the realm of something created by God (I will develop this more in the section discussing Augustine). So, the MNW argument is critically flawed. If I can show the system that produces the outcome is flawed, I can also show that any conclusions drawn from it are dubious also. So why do we need to demolish these arguments? Why can’t we live and let live? It is because these views are unbiblical and frankly, not grounded in very good science either. They lead people astray away from God and put in jeopardy people’s salvation, some Christians included. The Bible tells me I am to tear down ideas that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (1 Cor 10:4-5). These ideas are grounded in unconvincing philosophy / philosophies. Now that I believe we have convincingly dismantled this adversarial un-Christian and inconsistent view, let us move on...

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