2019/06/25

Theodicy

Aqedah

The defining claim of atheism is that God doesn't exist, but if you listen to them long enough, you come to realize that atheists never argue against God's existence.

In fact, there are really only two basic arguments atheists make. The first rests on the observation that the universe seems to work just fine without divine intervention.

Not only is this a straw man, since Christians do not in fact deny secondary causes, it reinforces the cosmological arguments for God. Rules imply a rule-giver. Once the atheist grants the existence of universal principles, he can't deny that they have an origin without violating the law of cause and effect he's arguing from in the first place.

The other argument in the atheist's bag of tricks, and by far the weaker of the two, relies on appeals to the problem of evil.

Philosophers and theologians have been engaging with the question of why a good God allows evil--theodicy, to use the fancy term--since before biblical times. But as they do with the question of God's existence, atheists pretend Christians didn't come up with numerous solutions to the problem centuries ago and forge ahead as if they've discovered a silver bullet "gotcha" question everybody missed for years.

I've heard a lot of smart people say that the problem of evil posed a serious challenge to their faith. That's because arguments for atheism based on theodicy are rhetorical devices masquerading as dialectic. They derive all of their punch from evoking an emotional response in the target.

The question, "How could a good, all-powerful God allow children to starve?" doesn't even address the issue of God's existence. It assumes God exists and instead casts doubt on His goodness and/or omnipotence. Again, it's not really an argument for atheism. The point is to give believers a case of cognitive dissonance.

Now, one might argue that a creator who lacks perfect goodness and power leaves us with an imperfect demiurge. The obvious objection to that line of reasoning is that it just kicks the can one step further down the road, because a contingent demiurge still requires an Absolute First Cause.

Even more damning to the atheist wielding theodicy as a bludgeon, arguing from the problem of evil also assumes Christian morality. Blind evolutionary forces don't care if children starve. Such cases are neither good nor bad. They just mean those kids didn't have what it took to survive.

But our atheist takes it for granted that children starving is wrong, even as he accuses God of hypocrisy in order to undermine the believer's rationale for judging child starvation to be evil.

If we grant the premise that evil's existence refutes God's goodness and/or omnipotence, then God is not God. Therefore, His precepts do not bind in conscience. Therefore Christian morality is wrong. Therefore the believer was wrong to be scandalized by starving kids in the first place.

It's self-negating.

How do Christians resolve the problem of evil? As I mentioned above, scholars have had a long time to work on theodicy, and myriad solutions exist.

The simplest is this: God exists, and evil exists.

That answer might sound facile, but remember, it's up to atheists to prove those statements contradictory. They never actually do. They just glibly assume it.

They also pretend like there's some Scripture passage where God says evil isn't real, and His people will never suffer. In fact He says the exact opposite time and again. The Bible is the story of God's tireless efforts to deliver His people from evil, culminating in the Passion of Jesus Christ, which solves the problem once and for all by giving men a way to make suffering redemptive.

"But God created everything, right?" I can hear some of you say. "Doesn't that mean He created evil?"

The first part of that objection is correct. God alone has the power to create something from nothing. But whereas I've affirmed throughout this post that evil exists, that statement is only true in a metaphorical way.

It's the inverse of how God is said to exist as a matter of convenience. More properly speaking, God is Being. Since God is good, and God is being, good is being.

The flip side of that syllogism is that evil has no independent existence. Instead, evil is an absence of the good; a lacking of something that should be.

Where does evil come from? Remember that only God can create things. Men can't create anything. Or, phrased another, equally correct way, men can create nothing.

Human beings--and unfallen and fallen angels--are agents of causality. While we can't create ex nihilo, we can mar and destroy already existing goods.

It's men and fallen angels who bring evil into the world, not God. It's all on us.

Happily, bringing something out of nothing; good out of evil, is God's specialty. He's already taken the worst evil ever committed--His own sorrowful Passion and death--and turned it into the salvation of mankind.

O happy fault, that gained for us so great a Redeemer!

23 comments:

  1. The next objection (and note that they're moving the goalposts) is: Well why didn't God make things perfect so that they can't sin?

    Answer: Obedience lacks merit without the capacity to disobey. Otherwise, you're just an automaton.

    Note: Many atheists come to conclusion that they are just a meat robot running on software, so that nothing is their fault, so they aren't bad. This answer challenges that and makes them have to accept the burden that their acts, their choices, are either good (and so congruent with God's will) or evil (in rebellion against God).

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    1. That's one response to the Moist Robot Hypothesis. Lately, mine has been, "OK. We agree you're a soulless meat puppet with no will of your own. I won't question your lived experience. Don't question mine that I'm an ensouled human being made in God's image and likeness who's predestined to live with Him in glory forever while you return to nothing."

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    2. He loved you enough to give you the choice to reject him, which these people gladly do.

      Choice naturally means the option to do the wrong thing, to do evil. It's up to you. Hence, bad things happen.

      For people who pride themselves on being hedonists and Individualists I'm not sure why they would want a reality where sky daddy forces them to drop their beloved vices, but that's par for the course.

      Secularism makes you stupid.

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    3. That's similar to my answer on the problem of evil too. Being given choice/free will inherently means you must accept that man can and will choose evil. And that God allows man to make that choice, including the responsibility and consequences of it. That is the sacrifice man makes in being able to choose.

      At the same time, these facts also bring to light what they really want: Which is a Greater Force making the choice for them. A part of them knows that their vices and rebellion are evil, but they fear the choice to change just as much as the judgment that will come upon them if they don't change. They fear the suffering they must endure in the process as well. It's partly why so much of their Utopian beliefs and desires are simply easy, painless "solutions" that work like magic.

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    4. Pathological aversion to suffering is why we're in Clown World.

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    5. The other place of “evil” is more of an issue of perspective and circumstance. “How could God allow the volcano to destroy that city and kill all those people!?”

      Who decided to build next to the volcano?

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    6. Evil comes in two types: moral and physical.

      Moral evil happens when people choose to sin.

      Physical evil--natural disasters, disease, etc.--is a consequence of moral evil, specifically the Fall, which caused disharmony between man and nature.

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    7. ^ And these answers are rather clear and obvious. The trouble for many though is that they aren’t emotionally satisfying.

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  2. Funny how many atheists advocate "free thinking" and all end up thinking alike. My conversations with atheists have gone in much the same way.

    They always bring up Gandhi and others. Are you telling me Gandhi is in hell??

    Funny enough, The sequel to Deus Ex gave me an answer. God is the epitome of justice. The perfect fusion of justice/mercy. Whatever happens to Gandhi, my 2 year old daughter, etc, I can trust it will be just. What's the point in believing in a God who is perfectly just and perfectly merciful if you don't believe he will actually dispense both in perfect doses?

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    1. Props to Deus Ex.

      Priding themselves on being "free thinkers" is part of the atheist creation myth. They reject dogma, forgetting that dogma sets the parameters within which rational thought can take place. Without those boundaries, fallen intellects veer off into incoherent mental masturbation and finally end up under the sway of the passions. That's why all free-thinkers, i.e. appetite slaves, end up holding the same opinions.

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    2. Also, anyone who thinks it's unquestionably scandalous that Gandhi might be in hell clearly don't know much about Gandhi.

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    3. There are a number of questions where I've had to answer, "I don't know. I know that God is good, just, merciful, and loving, and so I know that whatever the answer is, God will be good, God will be just, God will be merciful, and God will be loving. And I am content with that knowledge and trust."

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  3. It's always a pleasure being told what objective good and evil are by people who don't believe objective good and evil exist.

    You still have people like Sam Harris trying to figure out how to circle that square when he can't tell me why anyone is compelled to believe murder is wrong beyond laws made by men who have no more rights to enforce truths than I do.

    If nothing has a purpose then nothing has a purpose. Period. No play-pretend. No word games. No "philosophy" that needs to be enforced on the masses to make "true". None of that changes the reality you have already asserted exists.

    Ten years of this juvenile idiocy is more than enough. Either swallow the black pill to your own assertions or admit you're too short for this ride and shut up. How much longer are we going to cede the floor to these moral midgets?

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    1. David Cullen cites Harris' failure to get an "ought" from an "is" after all these years as a major reason for his reversion to the Church.

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  4. Abraham gives the best answer to the problem of evil I've ever read. It's the same you came to. "Will not the judge of all the world do right?" Genesis 18:25.

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    1. You clearly noticed the Aqedah painting. Good eye!

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  5. Evil is proof God exists. Why do you think the PTB keep trying to erase the word.

    Reading Chesterton's Orthodoxy.

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    1. The Devil's greatest trick wasn't convincing us he doesn't exist. It was convincing us there's no such thing as sin.

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  6. In unrelated news apparently Richard Dawkins is releasing a new book about introducing Atheism, apparently having been asleep for the past decade where so-called new wave youtube atheists rose and died within the lifespan of an alcoholic fruit-fly as people were introduced to atheism and quickly realized it for the empty vacuous bullshit that it is

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    1. He's whistling past the graveyard. Atheism's days as a cultural force are numbered.

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    2. Think he’s just trying to cash in while he still can, or is he just that out if touch?

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    3. Knowing the answer would require paying attention to him.

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