Monday, July 25, 2011

Let's Talk "Theodicy"...Is God Yet Good With All This Suffering?

For thousands of years this has been a watershed question of religious and Christian experience. Can evil be reconciled with a God that is good or any God at all that cares about those whom he has created? In many debates best selling author and atheist, Christopher Hitchens, exposed what he felt was the greatest proof against the existence of God by building upon what is called the "Epicurean Paradox" or the problem of evil and suffering in the present world. It was stated by Epicurus like this:
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" ~ Epicurus
Here is how an inductive version of it could be set forth:
  • An omnipotent and benevolent God would not allow evil to exist in the world.
  • Evil exists in the world
  • Therefore God does not exist.
Now there are many problems with the argument as often set forth by atheists and nonbelievers. So it has been modified over the years in effort to make it as intellectually fulfilling as it appears to be on the surface. A modification would go generally like this:
  • The Christian proposes that God is both omniscient and  maximally good
  • An omniscient and maximally good God would eradicate evil
  • Evil exists
  • Therefore, God does not exist
At either rate the object is to draw a sharp contrast between what Christians teach as the good and loving nature of God, to the existence of evil and suffering in the world.


Of course, there is no Christian who has not asked themselves or asked God at one time or another, why HE has not healed, protected or performed a miracle in certain circumstances to alleviate or remove suffering when, as the creator of the universe, he could have done so rather simply and without effort. This is the focal point of the Epicurean problem. If God is, why does he not? 

In one of Mr. Hitchens most effective admonitions and even evangelical styled tirades, he would speak about a case involving Fraulein Friesel of Austria who's deranged father kept her in a dungeon for 24 years, bringing her out only to rape, sodomize and abuse her. He described how for a 24 year period of time there was not only intense suffering and perversion, but also intense prayers and hope for deliverance. In his summation, the "sky" was empty, meaning that there was no God there to answer prayer. If there was, a God that would sit silently couldn't "by any stretch of the imagination" be characterized as good for allowing 24 years of abuse when it either 1- could have been prevented or 2- stopped immediately by a miraculous act or event.

A second part to the argument deals with the justice of God. Mr. Hitchens went on to explain that finally, at age 76, and quite by accident, Fraulein Friesel's father was caught by law enforcement and she was finally freed from her inexplicable torment, however her father's  remaining years of life and eventual imprisonment would in no wise equal, pay or account for the 24 years of daily suffering and affliction that he had placed upon his daughter.

Now, that was a true event according to my understanding of Hitchen's accounting that occurred in Austria. However this is America. Little did we know at the time of the case of Jaycee Dugard which was being played out at the same time that Mr. Hitchens was making his rounds in Christian and religious debate circles all over the country.  

Jaycee Dugard 18 Years of Suffering


Now as Christians, I believe that we should address and tackle this issue head on. theodicy is an attempt to address the problem through logic and reason. A theodicy could be structured similar to this:
  • A omniscient and maximally good God exists
  • An omniscient and maximally good God would and could eradicate evil
  • Evil exists
  • Therefore an omniscient and maximally good God will eradicate evil in a future event
However the critic often asserts that what they require are intellectually fulfilling answers. However, naturalism doesn't come close to offering intellectually fulfilling answers at all...Shall we ask the reason for the existence of life at all? Does naturalism come close to presenting an answer that is intellectually fulfilling? Shall we ask how a quantum fluctuation (which is something) can be said to be "nothing", that gives rise to all things that we see and experience both biological, non biological and immaterial? Can naturalism deliver an intellectually fulfilling answer to that at all? Can we ask how abiogenesis occurs outside of any established rules or process of selection etc? Are there any intellectually fulfilling answers for that? This is called a reductio ad absurdum argument. Though this sort of argument or comparison does not specifically answer the question of the problem of evil, it does display that Christianity is a much better choice toward solving and addressing the issue over naturalism or other forms of religion or religious belief. 

So all answers need not satisfy the subjective standard of "intellectually fulfilling" in order to be accurate and true.  What may be intellectually fulfilling to one, may not come close to that standard to another and may be way over the top to even another.

Conclusion

1 Peter 3:15 ~ "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:"

We can often view the generalized suffering of mankind and come to certain conclusions, but like Hitchens, what of individualized suffering? What happens when we can view the horrific and sometimes senseless and seemingly purposeless suffering of others such as Jaycee Dugard who could have been rescued long ago if one of the over 66 official visits had actually been followed up on correctly?

In light of all the pain, can we deliver a "hope" to everyone that asks? I believe that we can and that we should because the evil that exists centers around the sin of man and mankind. Human suffering is never easy and examining the bible with no understanding of the spiritual condition of mankind while rejecting the personal revelation of HIS nature, is tantamount to only reading a small portion of what actually exists.

Hopefully some believers will address this issue head on. We can all learn from various biblical and philosophical understandings.

Blessed!

Also Please Read:

Does God Create Tragedy?

Evil & Who Knows It Pt. 1

Evil & Who Knows It Pt. 2

Is God A Moral Monster? ~ Dr. Paul Copan

The End Of Christianity ~ William Dembski 

14 comments:

  1. The critic often assumes that the only justice is the justice that can be experienced here in life as it pertains to the experience of moral evil.

    Paul recognizes that if Jesus was not the Christ and we only have a future expectation for such that we are most miserable. He states:

    1 Cor. 15:19 ~"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable"

    The reason for this statement in part has to do with the fulfillment of scripture, but also in part has to do with the reconciling of GOd or God setting things straight by first reconciling man and removing sin and proving his power by resurrection.

    So when it comes to justice or a future expectation of equalization we have proof of it in a resurrected Jesus. He didn;t rise so that he could simply stand or sit around. He rose as an earnest promise that all things belong to him and that he would reconcile all things and ultimately right all wrongs in an ultimate sense.

    Justice delayed is not justice denied.

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  2. On his radio program 7/26, Glenn Beck discussed how a certain atheist groups filed a lawsuit demanding that the cross be removed from a Ground Zero memorial.

    Though not outlined within the suit itself, part of their railing and non-sensical speech on the issue included the idea that the Christian God didn't bother to stop the tragedy from happening or save the people alive, so why should he be honoerd in any way?

    Now aside from the fact that sentiments like that are plain stupid...it reveals what the atheistic thought is regarding issues of this sort...

    There is a "social justice" that is expected in absence of God. This also leads to many social oriented values, at dispense of truth. If you're only an animal, you do what all the other animals do right??? Since there is no real right and wrong and since one is only programmed without a true free will (as is required under almost every atheist paradigm) objective law or call, everything is subjective and ALL things must serve the individual.

    The requirement for God to keep us away from all, if acted out upon includes him doing away with us!

    A second part is this...is God or heaven here just to serve man and mankind? ie: whatever we wish that's what we should have? What is that? It is self-exaltation. What makes us think we don't have to go through anything.

    Another is this, all suffering is not necessarily bad. There are times we suffer being broke from overspending. What is that for? It's to help us remember what to do the next time we get some money...to not be so foolish.

    The Jaycee Dugards and Frauline Frisel's are the EXCEPTION to the rule. They are not the norm of suffering. God's response to suffering is that he DELIVERS us out of all of them. Ps. 34:19. Suffering in this world is brought on by one thing...SIN, which leads to the pride and arrogance of the American Atheist group and those similar who live a life in abject denial of spiritual truths and ultimately God, not because there is not ample evidence, but because their hearts are defiled.

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  3. Suffering, sickness,disease are all complication of a spiritual disease called sin. Sin came about because of man. God has established laws that he abides by, he will never override our freewill, he may convince us it is in our best interest to change (Jonah) but he doesn't force us. That is why he sent his Son Jesus to redeem all mankind. He paid the penalty for sin, if we accept his sacrifice we are counted righteous. If not, we bear the full weight and consequences of sin. We get to make our own choices, but we can't choose the consequences. Choose wisely, after death there are no do overs.

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  4. The group Purpose Over Pain was born out of the murder of Chicago children and youth.

    The groups founder, Ronald Holt, a Chicago police officer, has used the tragic death of his son as a means to reach families that have suffered similar loss and also reach other children on the painful road and path of destruction.

    Now, the critic would say, "why didn't God stop his son from being killed?" and it is true that God could have allowed his son to survive.

    On the other hand God has used the death of Ronald's son to reach countless thousands who would have never been reached otherwise. GOd has also set the stage that this young man, his son, will be remembered forever and actually accomplish reaching countless thousands without ever being physically present.

    The fact is that THIS is NOT the end of life for Ronald's son. There is a new life which his son lives and which we will all esperience. In that new life none of us will be subject to death or murder again.

    So, in short, though God doesn't send or author pain and tragedy, he USES it, like all things the devil does, to HIS glory and to the benefit of those that do hear and listen.

    "Pie in the sky"? NO. It is a fact supported by the reason for life itself. The atheist has no reason that we should exist and certainly no process by which it all began. If we are merely material forms, it is an utter impossibility that we exist.

    Because we exist, we can be assured that there is a God and he has demonstrated his love toward us by sending his Son, the Son giving his life and through the fact of the resurrection.

    This life is not the end of all things.

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  5. Now, we've dealt with the events themselves and what God can do and is possibly doing through pain. However there is another part to teh argument...that is does God formulate and want evil and bad things to happen to us?.

    I have dealt with that thought in the post "Does God Create Tragedy" located in the article.

    This deals with the fact that as Cogicjustice has said, God is not the author of sin and or evil. These things come as a result of the fall.

    God uses these things to accomplish his purpose in this sense, they do not, have not, and cannot escape his power or authority. They are tools in that God has already worked something out before they come to do their work.

    Example, the pain that a child experiences by touching a stove is a tool that teaches him not to touch it again. He touched it initially in opposition to instruction. So the pain then becomes a tool in light of clear instruction against such.

    The critic undertakes another issue at that point saying thatm God's character is called into question because his punishment is not commensurate or proportionate to the crime. They say a baby's hand may be burnt temporarily, but you don't throw him in prison for life...

    While there is merit to the argument from a humanistic standpoint, God is not human. God is further not defiled by sin. He is holy. Therefore sin, is an egrigious offence to him, his nature and his person. Why should we expect that he handles sin and offence in the manner that men handle offenses against their imperfections?

    There is a complete class difference and variation between God and man and the resultant punishment for offense in each category. God doesn't punish like men because he is not a man. Men don't punish like GOd, because they are not God, although many think they are.

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  6. You start off by asking the right question: "Why does a good God allow evil to exist." and then don't answer it. One of your commenters states that it's because "God won't override free will" and that it's "mankind's sin." No. Epicurus had it right, if your God exists, and does not stop evil from happening then he is complicit in that evil.

    Also, I'm sorry but these two women's cases are not "Exceptions to the Rule," they are exactly the rule! History is repleat with the stuggles of humans to have enough food, gain shelter, have and raise children. Life is a constant struggle against the elements, against hunger, against fear and the next predator that is going to kill you. Animals still live with this struggle, it is only by some good fortune that we of the Western world in the 21st century only know a fraction of it, but much of the world and all of the animal world still go through it, struggling everyday.

    No. There is no good God.

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  7. FTLNewsFeed,

    By what means and or method do you know that evil exists and more specifically by what means and method do you know that what happened to Jaycee Dugaard was evil and or immoral?

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  8. Ah the old use of "naturalism" as a pejorative. Wow. I hadn't seen that one in a while.

    It is ludicrous to ask the astronomer about where the universe came from as it is amusing to ask theophiles who created the creator, just as it is a symptom of fecal encephalopathy to have access to the internet while allowing oneself to put about the Yoda-speak senselessness of a quantum fluctuation being "nothing and yet something". The temporary change in the amount of energy within a closed system occurring in a single point in space is not "nothing." People like to treat quantum phenomena as grounds for their Sensei-posturing when even when they have better shit to do.

    One who applies scientific methodology to the puzzles of the universe is nowhere near as responsible for answering questions about its origins as someone who pontificates from the pulpit on the nature of its creator.

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  9. AZ,

    The one who applies scientific method to puzzles of the universe cannot and does not have any clue as to the origins of the universe period.

    Fact is that a singularity of energy or anything else is SOMETHING no matter what words are placed to cover it up.

    Do you have anything to say on the topic of the article?

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  10. First, I'm sorry for being snippy and condescending. I simply get suspicious and annoyed when I see quantum phenomena questionably conscripted into religious discussion. Regardless, I'm sorry. Looking back on what you wrote and on other posts of yours I can see that my attitude was unworthy of you.

    In any event, of course quantum fluctuations are something. If you re-read what I wrote, you'll see that I was, in fact, saying precisely that. My point was that it seems illogical to treat the somethingness you refer to or other observational phenomena as a license to accept intellectually unsatisfying paradoxes that result, not merely from an imperfect yet improving model of phenomena whose very existence is not at present seriously or productively questionable, but rather from the application of purely human categories (such as "good" and "evil", for example) to the workings of a manifestly inhuman cosmos, whether managed by a supernal mindfulness or not.

    Let me be clear: though I am an atheist, I have heard spiritually and/or philosophically respectable cases made for the existence of God or gods. The god of mainstream Christianity (or perhaps mainstream Christianities) has not been one of them.

    Since I was unfair and disrespectful in my first post, let me try and make a comment on the main point I was trying to make and, by extension, the main point of your post.

    A consistent model of quantum gravity, when and if discovered, will likely render quantum mysticism and your inapposite example meaningless. However, there seems to be nothing other than some variation of "the lord moves in mysteriously carte-blanche ways" that can make the idea of an omnipotent, omniscient, unerring, precognitive and all-loving god compatible with any but the most unhellish notions of Hell, let alone Epicurus' formulation, unless one grants some point or other.

    One thing one could do is grant that God is, as Rabbi Bradley Arntson Shavit actually suggested in his reply to the statement of Hitchens which elicited this post of yorus not actually capable of intervening in human affairs in the way presumed by the Epicurean paradox. One could even make the case, and some have, that Judeo-Christian scripture itself does not suggest a God that is all of these things (e.g. there are many descriptions of what God can do. There is no statement to the effect that he can do anything he feels like.) However in this case one must question the instances in history where it is claimed that God, as the Rabbi puts it "intervenes, or breaks the rules or can do magic". For the Rabbi, whose appreciation of Hebrew scripture is not premised on anything described in it being true in any usual sense of the word, this is not a hard concession to make. Nonetheless, this still poses a problem for mainstream Christianities, as this leads one to the question the instances in history where it is claimed that God, as the Rabbi puts it "intervenes, or breaks the rules or can do magic". One would have to ask not just about the big hits such as Water-walking, Lazarus' reanimation etc. but also entertain some rather more mundane and, frankly, amusing questions such as how it was that the Holy Spirit managed to give Immaculate Mary the Y-Chromosome that made her son male and not a clone of his mother and, for that matter, why it was necessary- given that one didn't need to be male to stand up to the Romans in antiquity or even to die trying, and Jesus was never going to use his genitals anyway.

    (cont..)

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    1. AZ,

      You said:"In any event, of course quantum fluctuations are something. If you re-read what I wrote, you'll see that I was, in fact, saying precisely that."

      Yes, I understood as much because a fluctuations indicate the existence of time. Modern science would hold that not only matter and space were created as a result of the big bang, but that time was also created at that instant. So to have a fluctuation before time is an oximoron when it comes to material existence. Existence cannot exist before it exists. Time cannot exist before time exists either. Whereas God is eternal, transcending time and is not contained by it.

      Primarily your argument is this, you don't see how I can relate the supposed intellectually unfulfilling hypothesis of science, especially quantum theory's version of "nothingness" which we agree is really something, to supposed intellectually unfulfilling concepts of good and evil especially as it pertains to a God whose actions can neither be predicted nor mandated by men and mankind nor examined indepth by scientific method or process.

      Further, to address another problem you propose, and to clarify the confusion over the issue, the seed or the kernel of all sin is unbelief. The actions that men perform as a result are what we call sin. Unbelief, which is a freewill decision and choice to make, is the root cause of all that men do that is imperfect and therefore the root cause of sin. God created a sinless world in which sin was possible. As Norm Geissler states, and which I agree, men made sin actual and that by his unbelief.

      You also said:"Nobody has any business making absolutist claims regarding that which they cannot possibly come close to knowing with even an approximate certainty."

      Let's stop there for a minute, because that sounds like an absolutist claim. Do you know that with absolute or approximate certainty? Further how is that testable and what objective evidence can you provide to support your absolutism?

      You said: But one can examine the evidence and patterns available, one can make conjectures based on the likelihood thereby deduced, one can perhaps even form as-yet untestable hypotheses which seem to have predictive validity for the observed patterns. One can even formulate theories which render the cause/effect distinction meaningless and end the causality-chain quite nicely

      So what you are saying is that one can make a "best guess" based on available data? There is no way to make a truly "absolutist" claim? Is that fair to say? That sort of deadens the following statement:

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  11. (...cont)


    Another possibility is that human notions such as good and evil must not be the conceptual framework in which a non-human superbeing operates, in which In which case, it must be asked why he would care if anyone sins and, if he does, whether humans can even have a conceptual framework similar enough to his to be able to understand and intelligibly articulate what sinning even is. One can thus question (as the Book of Job does) the idea that good is necessarily rewarded by God and evil punished, and take with a pound of salt (as Ecclesiastes does) the presumption that humans are the pinnacle of god's creation. One may ask why thousands of galaxies at an unimaginably forbidding distance from our own, if such a suprahuman god really did so love (if love this being can) this particular world in this particular corner of this galaxy that he offered redemption to the guilty by letting his own innocent son end up via inscrutable kenosis on death-row for crimes he didn't commit.

    Nobody has any business making absolutist claims regarding that which they cannot possibly come close to knowing with even an approximate certainty. But one can examine the evidence and patterns available, one can make conjectures based on the likelihood thereby deduced, one can perhaps even form as-yet untestable hypotheses which seem to have predictive validity for the observed patterns. One can even formulate theories which render the cause/effect distinction meaningless and end the causality-chain quite nicely

    But one cannot, or at least should not, presume that the (perhaps ineluctable) unfalsifiability of many such claims licenses in the least way the adherence to claims about the occupants of the cosmos which, given current human knowledge, are in fact extremely implausible (in addition to being culture-bound and leaving on the mind's tastebuds an aftetaste of the familiar and all-too-fabulated tropes of mythology.)

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    1. AZ
      So what you are saying is that one can make a "best guess" based on available data? There is no way to make a truly "absolutist" claim? Is that fair to say? That sort of deadens the following statement:

      You said: But one cannot, or at least should not, presume that the (perhaps ineluctable) unfalsifiability of many such claims licenses in the least way the adherence to claims about the occupants of the cosmos which, given current human knowledge, are in fact extremely implausible (in addition to being culture-bound and leaving on the mind's tastebuds an aftetaste of the familiar and all-too-fabulated tropes of mythology.)

      So you give "science" an escape clause by contending that at the end of the day, it yet provides more satisfying answers than religion and Christianity in particular. Although the whole imposition of philosophical materialism into science is a myth of extraordinary proportions well beyond anything that is found within scripture isn't it?

      Based on philosophical materialistic scientific constructs, what we see and experience is a product of an effect without a cause, (which violates generally accepted rules of science) we see that nonliving matter gives way to living matter and biological life, (by some undetermined "unseen hand"[Richard Dawkins] of purely materialistic processes) and that the material existence automatically gives way to immaterial realities such as thought, consciousness, and logic, when pure material has no such demand ...I mean I could go on and on...

      The myth making is not equally shared. It would seem that those who live in approval of theories that our current experience is brought together by a singularity (whether nothing or something) explodes into rocks, which eventually produce sentience is probably the greatest myth of all in an age of scientific enlightenment. I believe it was the Greeks who claimed that Mithra came from a rock. It would seem that the tradition of that myth is alive and well in the mind of many materialists including yourself.

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  12. I repeated myself in a couple places. Sorry about that. That'll teach me not to proofread my rants.

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