For this one we turn the reins over to Nick Peters again, as it's his specialty subject and not mine.
I’ll state something important right at the start. I’ve never really been frustrated by the problem of evil. It is true that suffering has bothered me in the past and will in the future. It is true that I know this is something that needs to be explained. It’s just that I have never seen this as a defeater for the faith. As long as we have the resurrection of Jesus I think Christianity is true. With that, evil is an anomaly, but we have the essential question answered in the resurrection. Why trade an essential for a peripheral?
Also, this is not because I am unfamiliar with suffering. Right before I turned sixteen, I had scoliosis surgery to correct a curvature in my spine. While other boys were working on driving, I was working on walking. I spent a year in great pain recovering. I also have Asperger’s and went through a time of great depression and anxiety with panic attacks. Today, I am unemployed as I write this. My wife, also with Asperger’s, struggles with a number of other conditions. Therefore, I am not a stranger to suffering.
Despite this, I know other people are. I have often told people that I teach in apologetics that if you are ever a pastor and a young mother comes to you crying because her son just died in a car accident, you’d better not be an apologist at that moment. What she needs then is a pastor/counselor. There will be time to discuss the questions later, but for now, let her work through the emotional pain.
A lot of people unfortunately hold on to such emotional pain and that is one reason the problem of evil is so gripping. All of us have this sense that something is not right with the world. For some people, like myself, this creates a drive to seek to go out and make the world a better place. For others, this blocks them from fully getting to experience their life and in such a case, the problem of evil needs to be answered.
Enter God and Evil (G&E from now on) edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr. Readers of this book will be pleased to see a number of known people in the field commenting such as Greg Ganssle, Paul Copan, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, William Dembski, and Francis Collins. Some names will surprise such readers. We might wonder why the natural sciences are getting involved, except for the fact that evolution is part of this as well. Does it answer the problem of evil or is it a problem that needs to be explained?
That’s another benefit of this book. Which side does it take in the question of evolution? Both. There is an essay by Dembski first critiquing the views of someone like Karl Giberson in thinking that evolution is an answer to the problem of natural evil and bad design. Then, the next essay you read is Giberson himself writing with Francis Collins. Thus, the book does not just have one view, but speaks with several views so that anyone reading can find something.
There are essays on most every aspect of the problem of evil. An essay like Gary Habermas’s is an excellent one for pastoral situations. People who have followed his ministry closely know plenty about his usage of cognitive-behavioral therapy in helping people overcome emotional doubt. In my opinion, if this essay could be grasped, then most of the other essays would not be needed.
Paul Copan’s essays give an excellent look at biblical material, including passages that make it look like God is the source of evil. He also does not rehash what he did in “Is God A Moral Monster?” Copan’s essays in G&E instead take a look at original sin and how Christians have interpreted it and what the relationship is between God and evil.
Greg Ganssle has an excellent essay on evil as evidence for Christianity. As he points out, it is hard to see how the problem of evil could be a problem for Christianity when Christianity itself assumes that there is great evil. Evil is so much of a problem that it takes the death of the Son of God in order to make things right in the world. This will be one of the most helpful essays to read.
Some essays I didn’t think really delivered. Surprisingly, I had a major disappointment with Bill Craig’s essay. In it, he dealt with universalism and the problem of hell using his molinistic theory. Now I have a problem with the theory as well seeing as I think it doesn’t work to say every person who would not believe was born where they would not hear, particularly since what each person is in part also depends on their parents, but the biggest problem I had with this one was that there were no footnotes. I have no references to the universalists that Craig is dealing with or the works of philosophers who will support his beliefs. I realize Craig’s is a big name in apologetics, but I would hope it is not so big that we are reaching the point where it is just Craig’s say so on a matter. In this, I mean no disrespect to Craig. I am pleased he is on our side and I think he’s an excellent debater. It is just the statement that I wish I knew his sources on this material.
I thought a chapter on Hell that left room open for post-mortem evangelism was problematic as well seeing as not once was Hebrews 9:27 discussed that I can remember. Some readers who hold to a view of post-mortem evangelism might think that they have an answer to that. If so, that’s fine, but if you are presenting a paper to convince someone of your position, it doesn’t help to ignore a verse that most people would strongly think mitigates against your view.
While I would be more prone to side with Dembski in his argument, I found his essay less convincing than Giberson and Collins’s. Yet in their essay, I found the problem that they thought there would be no proof either way on the debate over the existence of God. I think Dembski has a great point that is shown in his book “The End of Christianity”, but I also think that Giberson and Collins have an interesting argument on how if theistic evolution is true, it does help deal with the problem of natural evil.
Readers will also be pleased that in the end of this book is a transcript of a debate between Bill Craig and Michael Tooley. I believe Craig did quite well in the debate, but that might not be saying much since Tooley did so terribly, including lack of study in biblical arguments. It boils down to “God does stuff I don’t like, therefore He’s wrong.” There is no looking at the Amalekite culture, or the fact that the Egyptians were enslaving Israel, or could it be that Jesus did not mean what Tooley thinks he meant by his second coming? (Note, he never calls it the second coming. As an orthodox Preterist, I see it as something different) Note also Tooley kept saying that the majority of people would go to Hell. I do not find any biblical basis for this.
One criticism I have with G&E is that as in too many other books, good and evil I did not see defined. It is treated as if we know what they are instinctively, and yet nowadays when I debate evil and morality with non-Christians, I always try to start us off with defining what goodness is. If we can do that, and I do so with a good Thomistic metaphysic, it can really deal with a lot of objections, including the joke one Tooley uses of Stephen Law’s “evil god” argument.
Despite that criticism, my overall response to the book is quite positive. There is much in here for someone to learn and I believe much of it is accessible to the layman. G&E will help to prepare the Christian for the discussion of the problem of evil, but let us hope that more than that, that Christians who read this will go out and deal with the problem of evil directly, starting with the evil in their own selves by modeling good Christlikeness.
Therefore, I conclude that this book is one for those interested in this topic to put on their list. There are a number of highly educated minds who have shared much for you to learn from.
Why trade an essential for a peripheral?ReplyDelete
Why trade the dubious evidence for a resurrected Jesus, mined from the ancient, superstitious past, for the plain as day empirical evidence of people's unimaginable suffering's today and in eons past? People getting horrible cancers, crushed in the rubble of earthquakes, or executed in iron maidens? Children getting raped in murdered?
I read a thing on Facebook the other day that sums things up nicely:
If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would
That's the difference between me and your god.
Quote right. My God wouldn't resort to emotional manipulations to score cheap points. He'd also give people the intelligence to put together a society where people don't:ReplyDelete
* Smoke, booze, consume fatty foods, dump waste, and engage in other behaviors that cause cancer
* Cut corners with shoddy construction (hint: no one would die in a quake on the Scythian plains)
* Ignore the principles He gave against cruel executions
* Require one child rape after another before it occurs to them that something like Jessica's Law is a good idea
Oh yes. There's one more difference. Our God wouldn't be such an idiot as to think a pithy Facebook whine is a substitute for complex philosophical discourse. But then again, He's a lot smarter than you are.
Pointing out that people suffer greatly isn't resorting to 'emotional manipulation'--it's simply pointing out the plain facts of reality. These are the facts of life and existence. I realize they aren't very convenient for you, but I'm entitled to bring them to light.ReplyDelete
What about cancer brought about by undiscernable causes? What about children born with cancer, or AIDS? What about people killed in earthquakes not due to the faulty construction of buildings? Etc. Of course, none of these things would be any match for an all powerful god, if he existed.
God gave principles against cruel executions? You mean, like stonings? Oh wait, he commanded them.
Yep. And the plain fact is, God gave you all the tools needed to to stop or prevent each and every one of those problems. But all you do is sit with you fat bottom glued to a chair, whining on a computer that costs enough to feed ten starving children for a week. That's the facts of life and existence. I realize they aren't convenient for you, but there they are.ReplyDelete
Now as for the rest of those whines:
* "Undiscernable" doesn't mean "uncaused," Dr. Schlep. Cancer and AIDS don't just pop ex nihilo out of thin air. They have antecedent causes. And each one of them is in your mirror.
* Earthquakes: Non-specific whine. The simple fact is that earthquake deaths are overwhelmingly caused by injury in MAN MADE structures.
Spare me the whine otherwise. As designed, stoning was the quickest and lest painful form of execution available in the ancient world. Or maybe you'd have preferred one of those deals the Persians designed (crucifixion) or the Romans (stake in the anus). Zeus knows you do little enough about human suffering as it is, Little Mr. Hypocrite.
Now either 1) come up with something of substance to say; or 2) sell your computer and go serve the suffering so that you can stop being a hypocrite.
On Christian theism, humans suffer.ReplyDelete
On atheism, stuff happens to stuff.
You're delusional. It is obvious that many cancers and other types of terrible illnesses are not due to the conscious decisions of humans. We don't have all the "tools."ReplyDelete
So if only 1 person dies in a non-shoddy construction related earthquake death, then that's okay? No, obviously not. an all powerful, benevolent god would still be culpable for that persons death. And I'm sure a lot of construction related earthquake deaths are due to innocent human error, say, on the part of the construction of the building and not a conscious decision to cut corners and save money.
Haha, you're crazy. I would much rather be hung or beheaded then stoned alive. Or God could have just struck the offenders dead on the spot. All powerful, remember? Even if I were to grant you that stonings were the quickest and least painful method of execution in the ancient world (which I won't), it it still an incredibly cruel punishment. And you're god commanded it. No amount of hand waving can change that.
Read the Human Faces of God by Thom Stark and rid yourself of your mentally crippling inerrantist hermeneutic.
I've worked as a researcher in a medical library. It's obvious you're poorly educated about cause and effect, especially in the medical field.Delete
Spare me your many skilled rationalizations. All this crap about "innocent human error" is nothing but a cover for the fact that someone screwed up -- nothing but the excuse used by a spoiled rotten society that sues McDonald's because it spilled hot coffee on ITSELF. and never wants to take the blame for any errors.
Spare me also the "all powerful" excuse. Next you'll ask God to change your TV channel so you don't have to press the remote. I see you're also quite ignorant about execution methods. Hanging can cause intense suffering when someone fails to die because of it. Beheading was not practicable without sharp metal blades -- not exactly available in a pastoral society! Oh of course -- any punishment is undeserved and so cruel. Dah.
Stark? That circus clown? I read his book and it's as ignorant and as uninformed as you are. I wrote an entire rebuttal to it, and humiliated Stark in several entries here as well. He's an untutored schlep with problems handling real life. Might explain why you like him so much though! :D
Great review Nick! I would also agree that I’ve never really viewed the problem of evil as the major problem for Christian theism. That being said, I would put it on my top 10 most powerful objections to Christianity. I would agree that I don’t think Craig’s molinist views on the soteriological problem of evil are all that compelling, but I am having trouble nailing down why. One possible reason seems to be that the Bible seems to indicate that we are judged based on what we have done, not on what God foreknew we would do in situation X,Y and Z. That being said I do think Molinism makes sense of other issues like the problem of prayer or the whole God’s plan vs mans freedom dilemma.ReplyDelete
bbigej, I don’t think atheists who find the problem of suffering compelling ever stop and think about what the world would be like if there were no suffering in the world. There would be no real sense of achievement, no responsibility, and certainly no genuine free will as we would only be able to do those actions which allow happiness and pleasure to flourish. I find the notion of such a world disturbing, everyone would be a delusional psychotic mess, in an eternal high, having never experienced anything which we today consider meaningful. Now one might object by saying “yah but there’s just so much suffering!” However, this objection seems pretty weak without a specific layout of the world in which there would be just as much meaning with significantly less suffering.
"I've worked as a researcher in a medical library. It's obvious you're poorly educated about cause and effect, especially in the medical field."ReplyDelete
Obviously, I'm not denying material causality! I'm just saying, clearly, not every cancer is brought about by the conscious decisions of humans who should know better, i.e, smokers (it would have been nice if an all powerful God could have made our minds more resistant to dangerous addictions). And people suffer greatly for it. Colds and flus just happen. Tumors just happen. I have one in my head (it's small and benign for the time being, thankfully) and I don't know how it got there. If people could consciously avoid all manner of horrible afflictions as you seem to think, then hardly anyone would ever get sick.
"Spare me your many skilled rationalizations. All this crap about "innocent human error" is nothing but a cover for the fact that someone screwed up -- nothing but the excuse used by a spoiled rotten society that sues McDonald's because it spilled hot coffee on ITSELF. and never wants to take the blame for any errors."
There is quite a qualitative difference between a contractor who decides to use inferior materials to cut costs while knowing it could very well be dangerous and one who accidentally and unknowingly punches the numbers in his calculator wrong. In either case, people are crushed to death and decapitated because your God does nothing about it.
"Spare me also the "all powerful" excuse. Next you'll ask God to change your TV channel so you don't have to press the remote."
There is also a qualitative difference between wanting a miracle for mundane tasks due to sheer laziness and wanting God's intervention so people do not suffer horrifying, cruel executions.
"I see you're also quite ignorant about execution methods. Hanging can cause intense suffering when someone fails to die because of it. Beheading was not practicable without sharp metal blades -- not exactly available in a pastoral society!"
I think anyone would rather take the chance of suffering for a few extra brief moments during a hanging than the guaranteed, prolonged torture of a stoning.
Now you want me to believe it was hard to get ahold of a sharp sword during the bronze age. Lovely. Of course, an all powerful God can't do anything about this, can he? What happened to the swords the Isrealites used during their genocides?
You're really straining yourself, here.
"Oh of course -- any punishment is undeserved and so cruel. Dah."
Clearly all these years of defending genocide, institutionalized slavery, patriarchy and misogyny have desensitized you to the horrors of the Bible. And even the horrors of modern times, as evidenced by your comment about my "Facebook whine" regarding child rape and murder.
"Stark? That circus clown? I read his book and it's as ignorant and as uninformed as you are. I wrote an entire rebuttal to it, and humiliated Stark in several entries here as well."
I seriously doubt that. Stark has massacred everyone who has published a negative review to his book on his website. though I haven't seen yours. Has Stark seen it and responded to it? I'd like to see it.
Moreover, the fact that I can wash my hands, get vaccinations, or run into a burning building at my own peril to save children does not absolve the Man with the golden syringe that cures and the flameproof suit of moral responsibility, especially if He stands by and does nothing. Which he often does.ReplyDelete
>>>Obviously, I'm not denying material causality!ReplyDelete
Yes you were, until I called you down on it and you realized you had to backpedal furiously.
>>>> I'm just saying, clearly, not every cancer is brought about by the conscious decisions of humans who should know better, i.e, smokers (it would have been nice if an all powerful God could have made our minds more resistant to dangerous addictions).
Like I said, that's just the whining of a typical spoiled modern who can't accept responsibility for their own actions and want to blame someone else when the consequences fall down on them. How pathetically childish of you to suggest that God should have "made our minds..." etc when it takes so many voluntary steps to pursue an addiction. Gee, maybe God should have designed our skin so that it repelled synthesized tobacco products, and designed our hands so that they wouldn't be able to close around the particular round shape of a cigarette! How pathetic!
>>>If people could consciously avoid all manner of horrible afflictions as you seem to think, then hardly anyone would ever get sick.
Um, no. Actually, they could do it if they took the time to do so. But the reality is, we don't -- we prefer to just take the risks. Which is our decision. Stop being a child and blaming God for not covering your butt.
>>>There is quite a qualitative difference between a contractor who decides to use inferior materials to cut costs while knowing it could very well be dangerous and one who accidentally and unknowingly punches the numbers in his calculator wrong.
Yeah, there's a difference in quality. But they're still both responsible for the error and should face the consequences. Grow up and deal with it and stop whining for God to make up for your mistakes.
>>>I think anyone would rather take the chance of suffering for a few extra brief moments during a hanging than the guaranteed, prolonged torture of a stoning.
I see you're also ignorant about stoning methods. As I said, done properly, it results in almost instant unconsciousness and thus minimal pain. In your mouth-foaming anger, you're assuming that the method used to prolong the event (e.g., using smaller stones) was the only way it was done.
>>>Now you want me to believe it was hard to get ahold of a sharp sword during the bronze age.
Yes it was, and your ignorance doesn't change that. Metal was difficult to obtain, expensive, and the technology to forge it was limited to royalty -- not found in a pastoral society in 1400 BC. But of course, you have a whine ready:
>>Lovely. Of course, an all powerful God can't do anything about this, can he? What happened to the swords the Isrealites used during their genocides?
First of all, learn to spell "Israelites". Second, learn to define "genocide" -- none of what is described matches that. Third, swords of that era were not made for decapitation; while the heavy English broadsword may have worked in a pinch for such effects, the smaller swords of that era would only have done a cruel hack job.
>>>You're really straining yourself, here.
No, you're just ignorant and immature is all there is to it.
><>>Clearly all these years of defending...
No, I've just realized that modern whiners like you who live in air conditioned houses with a 7-11 on every corner are thoroughly ignorant of the real world.
>>>Stark has massacred everyone...
Stark is as deluded as you are, actually. My review is available for a price. But there are samples of how I trashed him here -- and he ran from the field with his ego in flames.
>>>Moreover, the fact that I can wash my hands, get vaccinations, or run into a burning building at my own peril to save...
Yes, it does. Childishly whining otherwise doesn't change that. Here's a hint: Prime Directive.
That will be all as you're a waste of time. Grow up.
Did you fall out of Dawkins's hip?
There's no way you're just that much of a talking head?
If you're concerned about my soul, shouldn't you let me see the review for free? I'm genuinely interested. Put me in my place, once and for all.ReplyDelete
You don't think your soul might be worth three dollars?ReplyDelete
Didn't know you were a cheapskate too. Did that sort of bogus guilt trip mechanism work on your mommy and daddy?