Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
— C.S Lewis
Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
— C.S Lewis
This is such a convicting message. I do not think it answers the logical problem of evil, but it does provide a perspective that is desperately needed today. We’re too busy complaining about how God doesn’t do this or that but just who the heck do you think you are? What are YOU doing to help others? I’ll tell you what the problem here is: you are NOT a good person, no one is (Romans 3:10). I always see these pictures of starving children, only to find that God is blamed while people go purchase a BMW or a shiny new TV screen. If humanity was as “good” as society thinks it to be, there’d be no problem of evil. We have had CENTURIES of time to correct this problem but even with all our knowledge and resources, we have had nothing to show for it. Humans like to compare themselves to others, particularly when it comes to their “moral values’. Look, if your goodness is based on how you are NOT Hitler then your moral understanding is as stupid as someone who judges their running performance by how quickly they outrun toddlers.
Don’t be naive. First, educate yourself in what good and evil is. It all starts with the conscience, but that has been willfully corrupted by society today. Mankind is skilled in the art of self-deception. It’s easy for a person to not see their own corruption when their corruption has become their justification. What was once known to be wrong is excused in the name of happiness, pleasure, and rights. Sadly, I think too many are unwilling to educate themselves on these matters because they really don’t care if it is wrong or not. Which leads me to my second point: examine yourself. Don’t compare yourself to the standards of the world, compare yourself to God’s standard. Even those without God’s law, such as Aristotle, have recognized the intrinsic sinfulness of lust, envy, pride, and every sort of evil that is regarded as good today. How do students respond? They complain it is impossible to follow because the mean requires us to do the right thing in the right circumstances to the right people. They don’t raise intellectual objections, instead they reject it because that standard of perfection is impossible for them. Indeed, we want a standard that makes us feel good about ourselves.
If you want to live a lie, suite yourself, but that standard is already applied by unbelievers and it has not made the world any better. In fact, I’d argue that it has made it much worse. Lust has been treated as a commodity, and girls are treated as a prey to be used for their own sexual gratification. I see people raise questions such as “Why would God care if I masturbate at night?” and think this suddenly settles the issue. It’s a ridiculous question, given that the action in question is done for yourself when the organs are clearly intended for another person. By pleasing yourself, you’re depriving a future wife that has a right to that good at all times. Oh sure, you can excuse yourself by saying “She can still have sex with me and I can still watch my porn” but in effect, you may as well tie your wife to a bed and have sex with someone you met in the bar right in front of her and expect everything to be okay. You’re saying that she’s not enough to please you. Face it, you’re a disgusting perverted whore and you just don’t give a crap about anyone but yourself.
I do not apologize if the tone seems harsh, I think you’re too corrupt for your own good. The world needs to be convicted of their sin for what it really is. Another common sin is pride. You may be unwilling to accept what I have said simply because you do not want to think that “lowly” about yourself. Self-esteem is very important, so they say. That’s a load of vomit. You already love yourself enough, that’s the problem. Whenever you’re involved in a relationship, you probably think it’s about “you” and how she makes “you” feel happy. What happens when you don’t feel that way anymore? What happens when trials come and your relationship looks as if it is not working out? What usually happens with people like this is that they attempt to find happiness in some other girl. This leads to cheating, which leads to divorce. A relationship like that cannot work because you’re centered too much on your own pain, your own emptiness, and your own misery to focus on making her happy again. That’s pride at work, folks. I think Pascal puts the wretchedness of man so well:
“The greatness of man is so evident that it is even proved by his wretchedness. For what in animals is called nature we call wretchedness in man; by which we recognize that, his nature now being like that of animals, he has fallen from a better nature which once was his. For who is unhappy at not being a king except a deposed king? Who is unhappy at having only one mouth? And who is not unhappy at having only one eye? Probably no one ever ventured to mourn at not having three eyes; but anyone would be inconsolable at having none.”
In other words, our wretchedness is proved by our fallen state of unhappiness. No man would be unhappy unless they have fallen from a higher state. Instead, humanity has looked to the lower pleasures of this world to find the satisfaction that they desire. They never find true happiness because they’re too enslaved to lust, drugs, adultery, and the self to chose any differently. Even the “good” actions of men can be tainted by selfish motives. Someone could donate to charity to relieve their conscience, for example, without really doing it for their good. Others could do so because they want to be recognized or think this makes them special from the rest of the world. Good acts always seem to be tainted by something. It’s no wonder our works are like filthy rags to God (Isaiah 64:6). Don’t be surprised that you do not have a desire for God when you don’t truly desire righteousness. Everyone in their fallen state would prefer to please the self in whatever way possible. So we resist whenever someone like God tells us otherwise. That’s just how we are, but that’s also why we needed a Savior.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved”. 1 Corinthians 1:18
Throughout the centuries of our existence, we have experienced and committed countless atrocities that have brought about much suffering. There are times when the world looks as if evil has ruled over the innocent and brought favor to the wicked. They prosper as the righteous suffer. Evil becomes good and good becomes evil. These are perhaps the darkest moments of mankind and it is during these moments that we cry out for justice the most. Obviously, there’s something clearly wrong with the world as it is not what it ought to be. I think part of the problem is that we tend to only be genuinely concerned about this when some evil is done to us or those we care about. We may be sentimental toward those who suffer at the hands of evil but nothing is truly done to help them. Instead, we rely on others like the church or the government to take care of these things for us. We’ll look for someone to blame but we won’t look for a solution. And the solutions we look for often place too much hope in the goodness of men that it backfires into the exact evils we attempted to prevent (cf, liberalism, communism, socialism, etc).
Humanity has had centuries upon centuries to correct this problem. If we were inherently good, the problem of evil would have already been solved. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and our inability (and unwillingness) to correct this has rightly led some to seek salvation from a higher power. Skeptics often scoff at the experiential force of that need for God until it becomes convenient for them to use it as a tool against the existence of God. Our desire for justice in something greater than ourselves is like a double edged sword – it can provide us great hope but it can also be used to give us great contempt. There’s a real need for God at the metaphysical level (to ground moral values) and at the experiential level (to save us from corruption). To recognize God as the only possible solution can provide great hope but if we believe He has refused to actualize that solution, then we can just as easily be filled with great contempt.
I find this tension rather fascinating because it is this tension that is openly embraced by the Christian. We’re called to love at the cost of our lives and yet we also desire justice. How can this be? For the atheist, this is nothing but incoherent nonsense. I understand their complaint and would by no means suggest we should embrace blatant contradictions but because most atheists do not have objective moral values, there’s no tension within their worldview. Evil is just pitiless indifference, as Dawkins so eloquently put it. You may be inclined to think that the less tension a worldview has, the more true it probably is but it’s one thing to be intellectually consistent but another thing to be practically inconsistent with that worldview. Whenever atheists use the problem of evil, there tends to be some moral outrage toward our beliefs. If there are no objective values, where does that rage come from?
Atheists avoid this objection by pointing to the fact that they’re assuming the Christian worldview to demonstrate its self-refuting nature. This is true, but it still fails to explain their moral outrage. For now we’ll ignore their inconsistency and focus on strengthening their argument. Huh? Why would I do that, you ask? Because I think doing so will demonstrate the weakness of their argument. Don’t worry, I’ll explain how that works. The problem of evil begins by noting evils like rape, torture, murder, slavery, human trafficking, etc as reasons why a good God cannot(or probably does not) exist. Human life, after all, has value, so if God is all good, all knowing, and all powerful, how could He let this happen to us? Notice who’s suffering is being emphasized here – us. God, on the other hand, is painted as a being outside of this suffering. If you’re going to assume the Christian worldview, however, that is absolutely wrong. Regardless of whether you regard this as true, the Bible claims God so loved the world that “He gave His One and Only Son” (John 3:16) to suffer and die for our sins.
If you just asked, “So what?” then I’m afraid that’s because you fail to recognize how great of an evil this is. Think of how much you value human life to the point that it is used to question the very existence of God. According to Aquinas, a cause cannot give what it does not have. Whatever value that you see in the effect must exist in some form in the cause. If this is the case, then all of the souls that could possibly exist cannot be greater than the infinite value that can be found in God Himself. You may not personally value God but that is to be expected (Romans 3:11). At this point, it does not matter how you feel about God as the argument stands on its own rational merit. Given this context, the crucifixion is given a much more substantial meaning. If the Father sent Christ to suffer and die at the cross for the sins of men then that is indeed the greatest possible evil. He experienced the greatest shame, the greatest suffering, and the greatest injustice that mankind could ever conceive. Let’s turn this into an argument that I call the greatest problem of evil:
1. If the Christian God exists then he is omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good.
2. If God were omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good then His Son would not suffer the greatest evil.
3. His Son suffered the greatest evil.
4. Therefore, it is not the case that the Christian God exists.
By greatness, I am only referring to the quality of the crime and not the quantity. Ask yourself this: Would you send your only beloved wife to die for a murderer? Of course not. How about a hundred murderers? Probably not. But this is precisely what the Father did to His own Son – whom He shared perfect unity, love, and being with. This love is so great that it can only be qualitatively but analogously compared to the love that a man has for a woman. Yet it pleased the Father to crush the Son severely (Isaiah 53:10) because of our iniquities. What kind of sick and twisted God is this? How could He send and allow His Son to die for those who deserve to be punished? The depth of this evil is quite frankly unfathomable. No sickness, no loneliness, no sadness, no famine, and no evil can compare to the abominable act that the Bible portrays this as. It’s easier to focus on those lesser evils but come on, this is where the greater evil is at! It is the irony of ironies that the foundation for Christianity would actually be the greatest reason for His non-existence.
Fortunately for us, I doubt skeptics will appeal to this argument because humans do not value God as much as they value themselves and each other. It’s much more emotionally compelling to assume God has not suffered anything of value while we blame Him for the evil that we see today. I do not think my argument succeeds but if that is the case then neither will the other evils that humans experience. It is by knowing that good came from the greatest evil that we know that good can come from every lesser evil. For what evil can befall a world that compares to what came upon the son of God? Your sickness, your pain, and your loneliness is like a bucket of water being thrown into an ocean of His tears. Yet it is for that bucket of water that Christ died for. If you would only trust Him, that bucket could be drowning in the ocean of His love. Don’t think that the Father is too far above to see that you are in need. He came down because He cares enough to be our Savior. You will suffer in this life as Christ did but it is His pain that will comfort you and it is His death that will give you life.
Christians, how would you respond to this argument?
Skeptics, would you use this argument? If not, why not?
I guess I’ll be starting a mini-series where I’ll just blog my thoughts and/or any quotes from books that I’m currently reading. I hesitated to say this would be a series because then I’d feel obligated to really follow through with this, but I guess it’s not a bad idea to obligate myself because then I’ll have something to post!
After following Plantinga’s lectures, reading his papers, and hearing so much about his work, I finally dished out the money to purchase a couple of his books. I decided I wanted to start with his simpler work God, Freedom, and Evil.
So far I’ve read about 20 pages into the book. Plantinga starts off with a discussion of Natural Atheology (where philosophers present arguments against the existence of God) and the problem of evil. The first issue Plantinga tackles is the question “Why does God permit evil?” He cites Hume criticism that if God were benevolent, omnipotent, and almighty, then God would not allow evil to occur. This is the typical question that atheists will raise against the theist. Plantinga, however, asks an interesting question; one that I’ve never really thought of. If God has a good reason to allow evil, as many theists would claim, why should the theist know the answer to why God permits the evil? A lot of times when the theist replies, “Well, I don’t know why God allows evil, but I’m sure He has a good reason to do so,” the atheist will count this as a point against the theist (though I admit the answer might not be as satisfactory as the atheist [or anyone else] would like). But why should this answer somehow be a point against the theist? Plantinga observes, “The theist observes that God has a reason for permitting evil; he doesn’t know what that reason is. But why should that mean that his belief is improper or irrational?” (11).
The next question that Plantinga deals with is “Does the Theist contradict himself?” Here Plantinga presents John Mackie’s claim that the doctrines the theist would hold to are inconsistent. In response, Plantinga explores Mackie’s claim and explains the different types of contradictions there can be. In doing so, he breaks down Mackie’s claim to see in what ways he believes the doctrines are inconsistent, that is, does Mackie believe there is an explicit contradiction in what the theist holds to? Is there a formal contradiction? Platinga does a great job of explaining these differences, and it’s helped in giving me a primer on logic (need to get back into gear for my logic class!).
The set of propositions that Mackie claims theists hold to, explains Plantinga, is:
Plantinga shows there is no explicit contradiction contained within this set of propositions. When we take the contradictories of each proposition, we see that none of the contradictories are in the set. The contradictories are:
Next, a formally contradictory set “is one from whose members an explicit contradiction can be deduced by the laws of logic” (14). Plantinga then tries to see if the first set of propositions deduce a contradiction. In order to show if a given set is formally contradictory, more propositions or statements must be added to the given one to see if a contradiction can be deduced. Plantinga shows that Mackie provides these propositions and they are:
Immediately, point number 2 is blown out of the water. Plantinga notes that many theologians and theistic philosophers believe that there are limits to what God can do, namely, that God can only do that which is logically possible and not logical impossibilities like bringing about the existence of square circles or meat-eating vegetarians (17-18).
And this is as far as I’ve gotten. Plantinga is about to get into explaining his reasons against the proposition “A good thing always eliminates evil as far as it can”. I’m really enjoying this book so far. Plantinga is very straightforward and it’s not so difficult to follow this book. I can’t promise that my other read alongs will be as detailed as this one. There was just a lot of interesting stuff to chew on. If you don’t own the book, check it out on amazon and get yourself a copy. There’s only 112 pages, and if I devoted myself, I’d probably finish this book up in one day. I just have a lot of other reading commitments and reading assignments for my political philosophy and deductive logic class (woohoo!). Hope you enjoyed!
This video is simple and straight to the point. Gotta love how the free will defense is condensed to this simple video.