Thursday, May 31, 2007

In the Darkest Depths of Mordor, I Met a Girl So Fair.

Except for times when I get a little overwhelmed, such as when I read the list I referred to in my last blog, I don't have too much of a problem reconciling a loving God with the all the pain in this world. If I ever do lose my faith I doubt that it will be due to encountering a lot of suffering.
The question. "How can a loving God allow so much pain?" has more than one valid response. For one thing it is a little bit arbitrary to say that God allows too much suffering. We're then setting the standard. Who's to say that God doesn't already prevent worse suffering?
A more convincing argument, I feel, is that we're mistaken when we say God is doing nothing. We want supernatural intervention but God seems to prefer using people to accomplish his will. The Christian theology is that God sent his son to die in order to right all the wrongs on Earth. So we can say that God doesn't prevent suffering the way that we would like, but we can't say that he doesn't do anything about it. He already has started the road to redemption in a most unexpected and amazing manner.
One other thing about pain and suffering is that it can also be seen as an opportunity. If for the sake of this argument you'll let me assume that Christianity is true, then it makes a lot of sense that God will allow some pain to occur. Jesus said that Christians should be recognized by their love for each other, as in helping those in need. Charitable acts are considered one of the best ways to "encounter" God and it also helps those in need so really it's a win win situation. Without any pain there's no way that people could understand their need for God. Helping a suffering person is truly a rewarding experience for all parties involve. I think this is a principle reason that God allows suffering, it enables humans to experience his love and also to demonstrate it. Suffering is a window to grace and love.

This started as an email response to Lowenfels' comment on my previous blog but I thought that I would post it instead because it's a subject that I've thought about blogging about for quite some time.


Justus said...

There's no answers here... but a lot of fuel for discussion... I took a philosophy class on this... I'll let you know what I truly believe once I figure out what my beliefs are.

~Justus... p.s. sorry it's kinda long

FROM J.L. Mackie's "Evil and Omniscience", Philosophy of Religion, pp. 263-73

Mackie’s Strategy: In his article Mackie considers a number of solutions to the problem of evil (theodicies) and then explains why they don’t work.


(PR, pp. 266-67)

· Argument: In order for us to know good we also must know evil. Thus both good and evil are necessary. One can’t exist without the other. (Analogously, one can’t have a world with just red things because one would never know red without a contrast.) So it is no limit on God’s power to say he cannot create a world of good without evil.

· Objection: This argument fails to distinguish what we can know and what can exist. It may be impossible for us to know good (or red) without bad (or non-red); but that does preclude the existence of world which is only good (or only red).

· Further Objection: Even if it were true that good could not exist without evil this does not explain why there is so much evil in the world; one just needs a tiny bit of evil to have the contrast.


Mackie is elaborating on Leibniz’s idea that this is the best of all possible worlds

· Distinctions:

-first order good is pleasure and happiness

-first order evil is pain and misery

-second order goods are human virtues and good actions, e.g.
sympathy with others, benevolence, courage…

-second order evils are human vices and bad actions, e.g.
malevolence, selfishness, hatred, cruelty, cowardice, laziness, prejudice…

· The Argument: God’s goodness is manifested in His desire to maximize all good, particularly second order good (human virtues); and first order evil is necessary for the existence of second order good.

· The “fatal objection”: Why did God allow second order evil to exist? Why did he create human beings who are malevolent, selfish, full of hatred, etc. ? Besides, these second order evils create much more first order evil in the world.

C) "EVIL IS DUE TO HUMAN FREEWILL" (The Free Will Defence, PR, pp. 270-73)

· Free Will is an answer to the “fatal objection”: Second order evil comes into the world through human free will, and not from God; second order evil is not part of God’s plan. God created humans with a free will, giving them the ability to choose between good and evil, and they chose evil.

· The argument: Freewill is a third order, higher order good than second order good like benevolence, kindness, courage in themselves. It was better that God made us with free will and not made us robots or automata who were benevolent, kind, or brave in a machine-like way. An all powerful, all good God would make a world in which human beings have free will, and are able to choose kindness over cruelty, since that makes a much better world.

· Mackie’s Objection to the free will defence: Why couldn’t God create us so that we always choose the good over evil of our own free will. Why couldn’t we have been created morally stronger beings so that we always chose to be benevolent, kind and brave when the occasion arose? For choices to be free there is no reason why we should sometimes prefer the evil over the good.

· Mackie considers the following answer to the objection: The making of wrong choices is logically necessary for freedom. If we were made with stronger characters or a stronger nature so that we only chose the good, this would take away our free will.

· He thinks this answer is not adequate: When we think that the making or wrong choices is necessary for freedom we must be thinking of freedom as randomness or indeterminacy, which is the only alternative to freedom that involves acting in accord with our character. But if that is what freedom is then how can one claim that it is such a good thing—the highest good?

True freedom is acting in accord with your character. I commend you for your actions if I think those actions come from your over all good character; I condemn a person only if I think their actions come from a cruel character. If free actions were random I would have no reason to condemn the person.

· Another objection to the free will defense: Suppose I acknowledge that choosing the good freely is better than being determined to choose the good. But then why couldn’t God intervene when people’s wills start to go bad so that they choose evil? (Why didn’t he rub out Hitler or Stalin in the 1920s?). Mackie thinks that the theist must hold that “God has made men so that he cannot control their wills.”

This leads to the Paradox of Omnipotence: Can God create beings with a free will which he cannot subsequently control? If we answer ‘Yes’, then God cannot be omnipotent, because He cannot subsequently control them. If we answer ‘No’, then it immediately follows that there is something he cannot create. In either case, God is not omnipotent.

Anonymous said...

My entire life's search is here
Thank you