First, since the Worrywart is asserting that the Problem of Evil proves that God doesn’t exist, the burden of proof is on him to prove that his arguments are valid. I don’t have to prove anything—I merely have to rebut his arguments in order for the theistic position to succeed. And if both of his arguments (the logical and evidential problems of evil) are rebutted, my opponent loses this debate, regardless of anything else that occurs in this debate.
Second, this debate is centered on logic—if an argument is irrational or invalid, then it should be discarded regardless of the emotional baggage attached to it. So, with these issues cleared up, let’s jump in.
I) Logical Problem of Evil
In my last response, I pointed out that the logical problem of evil is no longer considered valid by the vast majority of philosophers and that the argument itself has been sufficiently answered by Platinga’s Free Will Defense. With a few reservations, the Worrywart seemed to agree with Daniel Howard-Snyder that the logical problem of evil can be thrown in the “dustbin of history.”
However, the Worrywart still questions why God created at all—arguing that God in His perfection wouldn’t have to create a world that allowed evil into the universe. He argues,
“The Charger makes X represent no creation (nothing) while Y represents creation (something) but that is an error. The fact is that X represents no creation (no evil) plus God while Y represents creation (some evil) plus God. So one is not comparing nothingness to something rather one is comparing something (only God, who is perfect goodness) to something else (God and creation, which means some evil).”The Worrywart must assume that there is no “greater good” achieved by the evil in this world. This assumption has not been proven—it’s quite possible that, through free will, humans can achieve a much greater good. So this whole objection hinges on my opponent’s ability to prove that there is no “greater good” achieved by free will.
Also, it’s unclear to me how one can put a meaningful value on a non-action. The whole point of my argument was that it is impossible to value X in any sense—can a parent go back and put a value on not having a child? As humans, we like to say that we wish something had happened differently, but putting that wish into a meaningful value system is usually impossible.
So the logical problem of evil, as of right now, has been put to rest like horse with a broken leg.
II) The Evidential Problem of Evil
Now for those of you who may have forgotten what the evidential problem of evil is, I’ll give a brief explanation. The evidential problem suggests that there is “seemingly gratuitous” evil in this world and that the result is that God probably doesn’t exist. Unlike the logical problem of evil, the evidential problem only tries to prove that God probably doesn’t exist.
I have made two general responses to the evidential argument. First, I argued that there can be no standard for how much evil is “too much” evil. Second, I argued that, as human beings, we can’t make a judgment call on things we don’t understand.
How much is too much?
The Worrywart tried to refute my argument by pointing out that his argument doesn’t deal with the quantity of evil but rather the quality of the evil. Further, he argued that “it was inaccurate because I never said there was ‘too much’ evil rather what I said was that the Charger must, ‘explain how all the seemingly obvious pointless and gratuitous suffering in the world is compatible with their conception of God as all-powerful, all-knowing and all-good.’ So one can see that what I said about the suffering in the world is a lot of it is seemingly gratuitous. I never made a claim that there was too much evil but rather that much of it seems pointless.”
So, my opponent claims that there is “seemingly gratuitous” suffering in the world. (And really what is the difference between “gratuitous” and “too much”?) However, this only further exasperates the issue—after all, what does “seemingly gratuitous suffering” mean? Does it mean “seemingly gratuitous suffering” to an atheist who doesn’t want to believe in God or to a Christian who does? I seriously doubt that the theist and the atheist would agree on what is “seemingly gratuitous.”
This is exactly what I mean when I say “if an atheist wants to make a claim like this, he or she must provide a justifiable value standard—otherwise the claim has no bearing on God’s existence.” Until some kind of value standard, or definition, of “seemingly gratuitous suffering” can be provided, the argument is inherently weak.
The Worrywart responds, “Unfortunately while there is certainly truth to the fact that our lives are quite limited the fact is that those limitations exist for both sides of this argument. Just as he tells me I can’t infer that there are no caterpillars in the garden merely because I can’t see them neither can he infer that there are caterpillars in the garden despite the fact that we can’t see them. If we are too limited to make judgments upon the quantity and usefulness of evil then likewise we are too limited to make judgments concerning the existence of some ultimate good behind those evils.”
I completely agree that neither the Worrywart nor myself can know the extent or value of good or bad. Since we both agree on this, the Worrywart’s argument falls flat because it must prove that there is “gratuitous” evil. Since I’m not trying to prove that God exists, based on the amount of good, then I really don’t have a problem. Thus, it would seem that the evidential problem of evil is essentially dealt with.
Burden of Proof
The Worrywart claims, “The fact is that the theist has no answer to the evidential problem of evil…The theist has no good reason to believe what she believes at this point rather what she has is faith and a desire for it to be true.”
Remember at the beginning of this post, I argue that the Worrywart is the one who must support his arguments with solid proof. However, the Worrywart quite often dips into claiming that “the theist must demonstrate that there is absolutely NO pointless or gratuitous suffering.”
However, my opponent hasn’t ever proven that there is such a thing as “gratuitous” evil. He merely asserts it and then claims that the theist must provide a good reason for it. This commits two logical fallacies at the same time: First, it is circular; he supports his argument by claiming that there is gratuitous suffering, which he never proves. Second, it’s an argument from ignorance, because he asserts that his argument is true until proven false. Clearly, the theist doesn’t have to provide a “good reason” for all of the evil in the world until the atheist provides a equitable standard for “gratuitous” suffering. It would be like the theist claiming that there is God exists until the atheist disproves God.
Before responding, I’d like to remind my reader of what a theodicy is. A theodicy is a justification for the acts of God—however, it’s obvious that no theodicy needs to be provided if there are no valid objections to God based on evil. So, unless my opponent can resurrect the evidential or the logical problem of evil, his case is lost. Think of the theodicies as a response to the general problem of evil.
I also wanted to note that different theodicies are attempting to prove different things—many of the responses I provided are logically possible, which is all that is necessary. Remember, if it is suggested that something is seemingly contradictory—such as free will, heaven and hell, and whether God has free will—then all that is necessary is to provide a logically possible answer. So with that in mind, I’ll respond to my opponent’s objections to my theodicies.
Free Will Defense
I’ve split the issues into their respective areas—the free will defense and the free will theodicy are different theodicies and require differing levels of proof. So the issues that deal with the defense will be dealt with here. The Worrywart argues that my whole response is dependent on this argument—however, my opponent seriously underestimates the other issues involved.
God and Free Will
The Worrywart has argued that God doesn’t have free will because His perfection demands that He act a certain way. As I argued previously, as long as a logically possible solution is provided, the issue is averted. I’ve yet to see how my refutations aren’t “logically possible.” It is logically possible that a being cannot create other free beings that always do what is right, while at the same time, having free will itself. It’s also logically possible that God cannot actualize a world where people have “perfect free will.” Since there are many issues involved in the third and final response—and because I have two successful refutations—I’ll drop it for now.
The Worrywart also argues that I create a necessary link between evil and free will—but I don’t. I merely argue that according to my definition of free will it is impossible to create people who always do right—if they did their lives were determined in this way they wouldn’t have free will.
The next two examples are almost completely theological—not from my own desire—but because The Worrywart has provided Biblical examples, which supposedly contradict my argument. So my responses will be theological.
I suggested that it is logically possible that God will overwhelm us with His presence and that our desire to sin will no longer matter as long as we’re with God. The Worrywart asked “why didn’t God do this on earth?” I argued that God would be essentially raping us. What I mean is that if God forces His presence on us, then we have no choice in the matter. He would be forcing His love on us. What is the difference between this and rape? Doesn’t a rapist force himself on a victim? Obviously, it’s not rape if the other person consents—thus, if we choose with our free will to be in the presence of God, then we’ve accepted His gift.
The Worrywart provides some examples that he claims provide proof that God has been in the presence of people. I’ll respond to each on a case by case basis.
Adam and Eve
The simple response is that they weren’t in God’s presence when they sinned. Genesis 3:8 clearly shows that God met with them at specific times in the Garden of Eden, but that He didn’t reside there. So, unlike heaven, the Garden of Eden wasn’t always in the presence of God. And one of the stipulations of my argument was that in order for our sinful desires to be dealt with, we must always be in God’s presence. Think of God like a breathing apparatus—as long as we’re with Him we no longer sin, but as soon as He leaves we are no longer “overwhelmed.”
The “person” of Satan is definitely an interesting case because he was in God’s presence when he disobeyed God. This issue is hard to deal with theologically, because the Bible doesn’t talk about it very much. However, I think one can argue theologically that God gave all angels a one-time choice to rebel or to stay with Him. Satan and one third of the angels chose to rebel (Rev. 12:4). This decision was a one-time opportunity and couldn’t be changed (1 Tim. 5:21). So, while they may have been in God’s presence, He took away His influence.
Paul and Moses
In all of the cases where God appeared to man on earth, man did eventually sin. But if you remember, my argument suggested that we no longer have a desire to sin only when we’re continually in God’s presence. So like the breathing apparatus—when God’s gone, we no longer have protection.
The Worrywart then asks whether people have free will in hell. The answer, from the perspective of most theists is yes. The Worrywart essentially asks whether these people can’t leave hell. I would point out that free will doesn’t allow us to do the impossible. We can’t fly here on earth. We can’t disappear here on earth. In hell, we no longer have the ability to choose Christ. Indeed, the Bible makes it clear that the only sin that damns is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:28-30, Matthew 12:31-32). Matthew makes clear that the sin will not be forgiven “in the ages to come.” Also, Luke 16:26 makes it clear that a great chasm has been fixed between heaven and hell—making it impossible for anyone to go from one place to the other.
Free Will Theodicy
The Free Will Theodicy is a general theodicy that argues that free will is highly valuable.
The Worrywart essentially makes two points in this section. First, he argues that God could have created a better world. Second, he argues that God should have taught us about disease.
1) God could have created a better world.
The Worrywart gives many different examples—for which I provided answers—but he argues correctly that the bigger issue is whether God could/should have created a better world. The Worrywart said, “The Charger never actually deals with the point of the examples, which is that God could have done things differently to reduce suffering rather he dismisses these ideas without providing any real reasons as to why he dismisses them.”
First, I don’t think God should be blamed for imperfections in the world. If we really do have free will—and this free will was abused through rebellion against God—then it only makes since that perfection would be limited. Evil corrupts perfection—both physically and spiritually—so the ultimate result is a world where suffering exists. Now my opponent would probably respond that this suffering should only apply to ourselves, but, as most experience shows us, evil not only corrupts the evildoer but also many other things. Think about one person’s decision to play with a lighter. If the lighter starts a fire, it could kill innocent people, cause economic damage, kill pets and destroy priceless heirlooms. In the same way, when evil came into the world it corrupted everything, not just the ones who decided to allow it in.
Second, the Worrywart likes to claim that God’s only real attribute is “love”. But God is also just—and according to His justice we should all be destroyed. Indeed, He could still be all-loving and destroy a rebellious world. So instead of suffering, it is quite possible, that we’re merely feeling just judgment for our sins.
But isn’t God no longer all loving? No. Any judge is completely right in judging a lawbreaker. Just because the judge orders the criminal to go to prison doesn’t mean he is bad or that he doesn’t care about the criminal. In fact, it is because he cares about the criminal that he punishes him.
But what about innocent Children? Suffering exists for whole nations and peoples—and we accept this standard ourselves. Look at Germany. We made the whole nation repay us for the World Wars.
Second, as a result of the above response, it is quite probable that God did create the optimal world—where there was one language and one color. And perfect versions of the other things too.
2) God should have taught us
The Worrywart argues that God should have taught humanity about viruses and diseases. I argued that God gave us a world where we’re responsible for our actions and, as a result, we’re able to better understand that decisions have consequences. The Worrywart responded that there is no connection.
The point here is that, if we live in a world where there are no diseases or disasters, then we’re like spoiled rich kids who never really understand that our decisions do matter. If you think about it, this is the most important lesson God could teach us—the decisions we make here have eternal consequences. Further, God gave us incredibly adaptable brains that have been able to figure out cures to many diseases.
I also pointed out that God did give the Jews laws to live by which significantly enhanced their lives. The Worrywart gives two responses: first, that the Christians rejected the law and second, that these laws were for a few thousand people and not the world.
The first claim is false. The Worrywart argues that Paul himself taught that the law should be rejected. This is true—but what he clearly meant was that the law should be rejected as a way of being spiritually justified. The law no longer was able to justify a person before God—thus spiritually it was useless. Some passages seem to prove that Paul was totally against the law, but Paul argues throughout the scriptures that people should follow their convictions.
The second claim is also false because many different cultures have dietary laws, which are very much like the Jewish ones. Muslims have dietary laws that are very similar to the Kashrut. Both Hinduism and Jain preach vegetarianism, which is definitely healthier then most red meat cultures. One could argue that God provided all cultures with a good idea of what actions, foods and laws should be followed. Like the moral law, most cultures have similar laws and practices. This very well might be the hand of God.
The Worrywart finally drops into a long litany of anti-Christian comments that have absolutely no bearing on this discussion. Though I’ll happily discuss them in their own category.
The Worrywart, “I point out that God as the one who gave humanity it’s free will bears part of the responsibility for what humanity has done with its free will especially knowing what we would do with it.” I responded that man doesn’t have to abuse his free will—that he chooses to of his own free will. The Worrywart responds, “First this statement seems to contradict an earlier point of the Charger’s. If one goes back to the Charger’s (Plantagia’s) argument about it being impossible for God to create humans with free will who would not at some point sin then clearly humanity did, in a sense, have to abuse his free will.”
Again, man didn’t have to abuse his free will—but God cannot create creatures who are free and don’t abuse their free will. The point of Platinga’s argument is that God cannot create free beings that only do right.
The Worrywart also argues that God is like a parent who should run out into the street after us and stop us from getting hit by the car (evil). However, I pointed out that we’re cognitive beasts—we can make decisions on our own. It would be kind of odd for a cognitively able adult to run out in the street with his old parent wheeling after him in her wheelchair. God’s done more than this—He’s provided us with brains that tell us that we shouldn’t run out in the street. But what of children in this world, or people, who cannot make cognitively responsible decisions? Guess what, we do have parents or even strangers (imagine that), who will run out in the street after us.
The Value of Free Will
I argue that free will is highly valuable. The Worrywart argues that, “And it’s important to understand that not having free will as the Charger defines it would not make me or anyone else some sort of electronic robot. Now a deterministic world (one without evil and suffering) would not be a world where people are paralyzed or where God would control their motor actions.”
This is simply wrong—libertarian free will says that person X always has the ability to choose from multiple alternatives. The idea is that nothing is determined. So in every situation, X has the ability to choose from several options. Obviously, the opposite of libertarian free will is determinism, which asserts that every decision is determined based on something else. Thus, the Worrywart is completely wrong—without free will, every action is predetermined.
I just want to remind the reader that, without free will (as mentioned above), every decision is meaningless to them. You have no real decisions. Thus, the things that make your life meaningful, like family, marriage, a job and a bank account, are all predetermined. You’re no longer the product of your decisions—you’re the product of someone else’s. This is why I say that our actions make us who we are.
The Worrywart asserts that science is constantly proving that we are the products of our environment. However, the nurture vs. nature issue is much too in-depth to discuss right now. Needless to say, many scientists and philosophers disagree.
Finally, the Worrywart asserts that some people have more free will than others. This assertion is simply absurd. Everyone has the same amount of free will. I have the exact same amount of free will as a girl from China: she can choose to run away, kill her captors or any number of other things. She makes the choice to breathe, just like I do.
The Worrywart asserts that this section is theological and that I have never proven that Christ was raised from the dead. Both of these statements are true. However, if Jesus did rise from the dead, then He provides an answer to each and every “personal problem of evil.” My opponent always wants to bring this away from the “gymnastics” of theoretical answers—this is exactly what Jesus did. Romans 5:8 says, “[B]ut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” The beginning of John 3:16 can be translated, “For this is how God loved the world.” How? Well, God couldn’t destroy our free will, so He sent His only Son to die and give us a way out from under sin’s destruction. John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” So this is the personal answer to why God allows suffering—while He may not be able to stop us from suffering do to our own decision, He came and suffered for us on the cross and gave us the greatest possible love.
Animal Suffering and Natural Evils
The Worrywart asserts that this is one of the most important issues—so I’ll focus all of my energies on this point. I first answered the Worrywart by claiming that human rebellion caused animal suffering. The Worrywart suggests, “There is no logical or necessary connection between human beings making wrong moral choices and animals suffering or the occurrence of natural evils (most).”
First, almost all animal suffering is in a category of its own. Think about it—for every deer that’s killed, there’s a very happy mountain lion or wolf. (It’s almost like fans of opposing teams who pray that the other team will lose.) The deer “prays” every night that a nice plant awaits its consumption, while the mountain lion “prays” for a large plump deer. Logically speaking, for every animal that is killed by another animal, there is enough survival made up from the predator that, in the big picture, the equation comes out as zero. However, this might not be the case if the mountain lion is merely having a snack!
One must also remember that animals make decisions. They decide to go to a river where it is likely that a predator would be. It’s not like animals don’t know the threats of the world. A school of fish probably doesn’t go and swim around a whale for fun—they know better, they’ve been taught better by God.
Second, I frankly don’t understand natural evils as a category of evils (at least not in the same sense as moral evils)—it’s really just suffering. If a hurricane doesn’t land anywhere or kill anyone at sea is it morally evil? If it lands all of a suddenly it becomes evil—but how is the death of a person morally evil? If someone dies of natural causes is this morally evil? No, it’s a tragedy (suffering), but it’s not morally evil. Certainly it is true that sad events occur—the Japan earthquake and tsunami for example—but it’s unclear how this event was a priori evil.
If we correctly understand natural “evils” as events that may cause suffering, then there are many possible answers to the issues mentioned. First, it’s possible that many kinds of natural evil allow for greater good in the long run. Forest fires, for example, are very important for the cycle of life in the forests. In fact, the Sequoias in California require fires in order for their seeds to germinate—as a result, park rangers start controlled fires. In the long run, the fires allow for more life than before. Also, it would seem impossible to prove that most natural “evils” don’t in the long run bring about some form of greater good for a habitat.
Second, many of the natural “evils” are the result of human action such as pollution. The claimed global warming—which is unscientific—is said to be the result of human pollution. Indeed, it would seem impossible to prove that many natural disasters aren’t the result of human actions.
Third, the Worrywart hasn’t responded to the claim that evil corrupts more than just morality.
But what of all of the tragedies/sufferings that “fall through the cracks?” I still believe my answer above applies—especially since no real refutation of my argument has been mounted. It’s quite possible that human moral evil destroyed our perfect world.
The Worrywart again asserts that we cannot accept the Genesis account of the Garden of Eden. But the problem here is that my opponent is essentially committing the fallacy of straw-man here. If my opponent wants to prove that western theism (monotheism) and evil, or any monotheistic religion, are incompatible, he must take the religion as a whole. The Worrywart is twisting monotheism in order to make it easier to defeat. If my opponent seriously wants to defeat theism, he must actually take all of theism into account. It would be like me asserting that atheism isn’t true based on an incomplete picture of atheism.
IV) Naturalism and Good and Evil
I argued originally that the atheist must also respond to the problem of evil. The naturalist cannot assert that there is such a thing as evil because it doesn’t exist in naturalism. Instead, the naturalist argues that there is evil in the problem of evil.
First, the Worrywart argues, “Suffering is merely a fact. It is not something that can be denied. If I poke you in the eye it hurts or if I shoot you in the leg you feel pain end of story. Suffering equals pain so less pain is obviously better then more pain.”
This misses the issue. Why is suffering bad? According to naturalism, suffering is good because it helps an organism to survive. So how does a naturalist claim that suffering is bad?
The Worrywart seems to believe that my response concedes that the problem of evil is valid. However, if he remembers correctly, this issue was a direct response to the evidential problem of evil, which asserts that God probably doesn’t exist. I merely pointed out that if “Y” then “X” appears to be true, it isn’t necessarily true if one can bring other evidence to prove that “X” is unlikely.
Finally the Worrywart asserts, “The Charger just seems to keep missing the obvious point of the Problem of Evil, it is a problem if and only if there is an all-good and all-powerful God. So it seems the red herring remains, which is unfortunate because I’m just not a big fan of fish.”
I do not understand, I admit it. I don’t understand how my opponent can really claim that raping a thirteen-year-old girl is bad—when his own worldview claims that rape is good because it propagates the race. My opponent brings a great amount of passion into his responses—which I appreciate—but then he has to walk away and say that it is no longer evil in his view.
Douglas Wilson pointed out to Christopher Hitchens that, if you don’t believe that absolute morals exist, then stop acting like you believe in them. I really don’t understand how the problem of evil would exist if evil doesn’t exist in the first place. You can sit there and tell me that I can’t explain how God and evil can co-exist (which I’m trying to do). But you can’t tell me why evil matters so much to atheists who say it doesn’t exist.
I believe that I have answered all of the Worrywart’s objections. His arguments have caused me a lot of thought—and caused me to grow intellectually. However, I believe that the Worrywart’s two arguments have been defeated.
I would like to remind my readers that the problem of evil is a rational problem, but becomes emotional all too often. Indeed, I would say that the issues are so closely related that sometimes they seem like they are the same. Personally, as someone who has suffered a fair share of pain, I have experienced God as both the logical and emotional answer to the problem of evil. I join Job when he says, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth.” (Job 19:25)