Creationism Intelligent Design theistic evolution

Alister McGrath and theistic evolution

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Alister McGrath is a well-known Christian theologian, priest, and author of many apologetic books. In one of them, “The Dawkins Delusion”, he fiercely opposes the pseudo intellectual arrogance of Dawkins’ atheism. In general I appreciate much McGrath’s work in defense of theism. For this reason I sincerely regret the need to criticize some of his opinions about theistic evolution (TE), as expressed in his interview with Nigel Bovey,”The universe is not an accident.”

McGrath rightly supports the ontological and logical necessity of a Creator of the universe, who provides to it and to all of its beings all meaning and reality, and makes it something quite other than an “accident”, as the title of the interview makes clear.

Bovey asks: “When it comes to ideas about how the world started, many people think there are only two options – evolution or the Bible. Is that the only choice?”

McGrath answers:

“There are four main positions within Christianity” and lists them as if they were a continuum, all derived from the same considerations: Young Earth creationism, Old Earth creationism, intelligent design (ID) and theistic evolution (TE). […] Each of these ideas has its strengths and its weaknesses”.

It is important to note here that TE (in the mind of his proponents and in turn in McGrath’s) is an attempt to reconcile Darwinism — unguided evolution — with theism. It is not an attempt to reconcile evolution guided by God with theism. That would be a form of intelligent design.

The differences between YEC and OEC are mainly about the age of the Earth, so they matter little in this context. Creationism is compatible with ID, just as an emphasis on God as designer is compatible with God as creator. Moreover McGrath correctly recognizes that “ID argues that a purely Darwinian account of the world cannot give a total picture”.

Actually, ID as a scientific inference is not specifically “Christian.” Any orthodox theist can endorse ID. So it is a bit odd that McGrath includes it among the “four main positions within Christianity.” But that is a detail.

What doesn’t square at all in McGrath’s list is TE, which he appears to endorse and respect far more than is warranted.

Unguided evolution (whatever meaning we give it, and all the more so if we give it a meaning based on Darwinian evolution, which is what theistic evolutionists and McGrath mean) is a theory based on chance, on randomness, i.e. accidents. If “the universe is not an accident” — as he rightly believes — how can evolution, an engine of accidents, be an explanation of “how the world started”, with the same plausibility of creationism and ID? What has to do Darwin with the startup of the universe? Darwin wrote “on the origin of species”, not “on the origin of the universe”. Just Darwinism miserably fails in explaining the origin of species, it hardly sheds light on the origin of the universe. Some TEs claim that there was a sort of “Darwinian struggle” among the universes of the multiverse, and that the outcome of the struggle explains the unique fine tuning of the universe we live in. But here we are enrolled at the university of idiocy.

McGrath claims that:

“[TE] finds a lot of favour among Christian biologists and links in well with some parts of the Book of Genesis. […] Darwin saw his theory as reconcilable with the Bible.” [He is right when says:] “The Bible includes a number of different literary forms – history, prophecy, allegory, poetry… Each needs to be identified and interpreted in an appropriate way”.

But which parts of Genesis speak of a TE god who creates by chance, such that all living beings arose only thank to many small random variations and natural selection, as Darwin believed?

McGrath says “TE sees evolution as the way in which God providentially exercises his creative processes and brings the world into being.” Evolution is pure randomness — i.e. chaos — how could God create the world (= organization, the opposite of chaos) by means of chaos? It is like construction produced by destruction. TE is an inconsistent position that cannot be at the same level of creationism/ID, which is where McGrath puts it, perhaps too charitably.

If McGrath’s evolution is the result of God’s creativity, it cannot be Darwin’s evolution, or any unguided evolution. If evolution, as understood by TE supporters, is Darwinian, i.e. unintelligent, then it has nothing to do with God’s creativity, which is intelligent design. McGrath and theistic evolutionists cannot have both ways. As Scriptures say “one cannot serve two lords”.

TE differs from creationism and ID in that it doesn’t have “strengths and weaknesses”, as McGrath says, but “weaknesses” only. It is the impossible marriage between theism (true) an Darwinism (false).

What TEs want is “a god who refrains from poking his finger into the natural evolutionary process”. This way the work of creation is done by chance and necessity and “God” is only a label, useful for the purpose of attracting naive Christians deceived by “the power of evolution” today and the illusions of atheism tomorrow.

In these conditions, it seems euphemistic to say with McGrath that “Evolution is not, by definition, atheistic”. If chance and necessity cannot do it all a Designer is necessary.

To sum up, I would have liked McGrath, who is included in “The 20 Most Brilliant Christian Professors”, to be much more severe with TE.

The sin of association between God and other things is a major one. Mind you the thing associated (evolutionism) is pure falsity. God is Truth and to put together truth and falsity is sort of unforgivable conceptual short circuit. Atheist evolutionists have used the “Trojan horse” of the means of creation to dispense with a Creator / Designer, by providing their own “means” — chance and necessity — which don’t succeed.

A Christian theist facing these anti Christian blasphemies carries a major responsibility and shouldn’t list them among the “main positions within Christianity”.

As to the means used by God to create the universe he — to use few words — could simply remember the traditional dictum referred to God: “We created the Heaven and the Earth and what is between them only by means of the Truth.”

25 Replies to “Alister McGrath and theistic evolution

  1. 1
    bFast says:

    In my opinion, The position that God directly instituted the big bang is an ID position. Even the position that God instituted a universe generator (ie, multiverse) is an ID position. If the universe was designed to evolve life from the moment of the bang, it was still designed.

    The view that God produced a universe with this advanced of “design to evolve” technology built in requires a more amazing God than the God that tweaks along the way. As such, I have no theological problem with such a God. (At lease no more problem than with a UCD based ID God (no literal Adam), who already produces a lot of stress vis-a-vis the Bible.)

    I hold to ID, the belief that God twiddled along the way because of the evidence, not for theological reasons. If the evos can convince me with the evidence that twiddling along the way is unnecessary, then I will happily become as TE as McGrath is. I will still call myself ID, however, as we are still talking about a designed, tweaked out, universe.

  2. 2
    niwrad says:

    bFast #1

    I largely agree with you. Most cases you describe are built-in front-loaded evolution. As such, as you say, they are ID, even sophisticated ID. Unfortunately what TEs have in mind is not that. They think God stated some simple laws, then the Darwinian processes made the complexity. In the TE scenario God has a minor role while chance and necessity have the major role. It is this inversion of power that makes TE subversive, and eminently anti-theistic.

  3. 3
    tjguy says:

    bfast @1

    The position that God directly instituted the big bang is an ID position. Even the position that God instituted a universe generator (ie, multiverse) is an ID position. If the universe was designed to evolve life from the moment of the bang, it was still designed.

    I agree that this would qualify as an ID position, but it is a “god of the gaps” argument.

    Presumably the reason for claiming that it was all front-loaded is that without the front-loading it could never have happened without some kind of intervention.

    So that is the data. Now how to interpret the data.

    1) You could add Intelligence to the mix to save the evolutionary story – which is what you seem to be suggesting bfast. So this interpretation keeps the evolutionary narrative and just adds a Designer to the mix to solve the insurmountable difficulties of it happening without guidance.

    2) There is another interpretation that is possible. Since the data shows that it could never have happened without some kind of frontloading, then perhaps the data falsifies the hypothesis. So in this interpretation, the evolutionary paradigm is not rescued by adding a Designer to the mix. The paradigm is falsified per the evidence. This interpretation is every bit as valid as number one. Neither one can be tested. This would be the interpretation that creationists favor primarily because it fits better with the biblical historical record.

    The data is the same for both IDers and creationists, but the interpretation differs based on our starting point.

    ID, YEC, and OEC certainly all do stand together against the radical ideas of TE and the point made here in the article is spot on! Creation is one of the three great works of God for which He is praised for continually throughout the whole Bible. He reveals Himself through creation. It is always presented as a planned, conscious act of God designed to bring Him glory. Yet, TEs want to rob God of the glory due His name for His power, wisdom, planning, goodness, love, sovereignty, etc seen through His work of creation. God created they say, and yet, when you look at the details, He didn’t really create the world. It did it all on it’s own by totally unguided blind purposeless natural processes.

    The Bible tells us that God specifically created the earth to be inhabited. Is. 45:18 And, that creation reveals His existence, power and wisdom so that all men should be able to look at creation and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He exists. – Rom. 1:19-20

    Adopting a TE position invalidates these passages as well as the whole nuance of purposeful creation by Jesus.

    TE is a VERY dangerous position for Christians to adopt because it robs God of the glory due His name – and that is no little problem!

  4. 4
    groovamos says:

    I was over at Biologos and asked: if God had no part in the absolute stochasticity of random mutation, then was God surprised at what stochasticity could create, and then bust ass to come up with some previously unplanned souls to infuse into the spectacular creatures of randomness and its mindless genius.

    Someone over there called yours truly arrogant or some such and then they moved my question over to a new thread where nobody posted anything more. Probably too much work given an incoherent worldview.

    I never went back to post anything in the ensuing 2~3 years.

  5. 5
    Peter says:

    TE is obviously not science, since E is not science. TE is a practical approach to the mission of the church. The mission is to bring as many people to salvation as possible. I think TE is a compromise to maximize this goal. The church is just accepting contemporary science and using it to convert. Theologians are usually not scientists. And only scientists can bury E. Until that time expect theologians to us the most accepted science, TE.

  6. 6
    StephenB says:

    To argue that a purposeful, mindful God used a purposeless, mindless process to achieve a purposeful result is to tell the world that you are an idiot.

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    SB @ 6,

    I do not agree. It tells the world that you value your membership card in the “cool kids” academic club more than you value truth.

    If they actually believed TE, they would be idiots. I doubt many of them do.

  8. 8
    jerry says:

    To argue that a purposeful, mindful God used a purposeless, mindless process to achieve a purposeful result is to tell the world that you are an idiot.

    People use mindless processes to achieve purposeful results all the time (yearly floods on the Nile, pearl formations in oysters). The problem with evolution is that there is no evidence that such processes ever produced something meaningful in the evolutionary process.

    If the creator wanted it to happen, it could have happened. Since it didn’t, one has to look for an alternative explanation for the tinkering. Eric Metaxas discusses this in his book, Miracles.

  9. 9
    StephenB says:

    Jerry

    People use mindless processes to achieve purposeful results all the time (yearly floods on the Nile, pearl formations in oysters).

    Not the same thing. You are talking about a process that precedes the purpose for which it is being used. If God used evolution to create life, that purpose would have to precede the process, not follow it. For guided evolution, the design precedes the process. For Darwinian evolution, the process precedes the design (appearance of).

    If the creator wanted it to happen, it could have happened.

    No it couldn’t. It is not logically possible for the design to precede the evolutionary process [ID, Biblical Theology] and for the evolutionary process to precede the (appearance of) design, [Darwinian evolution]. It must be one or the other. Either the design comes first (guided evolution) or the process comes first (unguided evolution). It cannot be both at the same time.

  10. 10
    jerry says:

    StephenB,

    We have had this discussion before. There may be some misunderstandings. Go to

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-505202

    and there is a series of exchanges between you and I. Search for either your name or mine starting at this comment in the link to then skip to the appropriate responses to each other. This exchange deals with the OP.

  11. 11
    StephenB says:

    Jerry,

    We have not really covered this aspect of the topic. There are many ways to show that Darwinian evolution cannot be reconciled with Biblical Christianity. My latest example is just one of them.

    Either the evolutionary process precedes and shapes the design (Darwinisn, Neo-Darwinism) or the design precedes and shapes the evolutionary process (ID, Teleological Theism). It must be one or the other. It cannot be both.

  12. 12
    StephenB says:

    Barry

    I do not agree. It tells the world that you value your membership card in the “cool kids” academic club more than you value truth.

    If they actually believed TE, they would be idiots. I doubt many of them do.

    That may well be the better explanation.

  13. 13
    jerry says:

    We have not really covered this aspect of the topic. There are many ways to show that Darwinian evolution cannot be reconciled with Biblical Christianity. My latest example is just one of them.

    Either the evolutionary process precedes and shapes the design (Darwinisn, Neo-Darwinism) or the design precedes and shapes the evolutionary process (ID, Teleological Theism). It must be one or the other. It cannot be both.

    It can be both. I believe we have covered this before. Design can flow from random events if the random events are channeled by a previous design. So where is the design. There is an end product that is the result of random events that is complicated and has function and it is designed in what seems to be a random fashion but in reality is not.

    Why, because the random events are channeled so that only certain ones make it through leading to the designed entity. The reason for this is a previous design. I believe there is fantastic example of this right before our eyes. It is micro-evolution or the ability of organisms to adapt to seemingly random events. It is built in design that reacts to random events to aid the organism’s survival in the future. Not perfect by any means since organisms can go out of existence.

    The TE’s could say that the Big Bang was the first design instance. The initial conditions created boundary conditions that only allowed certain outcomes due to random events. One end result of this seemingly random process was very complicated, namely life.

    Other boundary conditions then steered life to more complex life forms but still within certain limits determined by the originally designed boundary conditions flowing from the Big Bang. This led to what we see today but apparently the result of random events but in reality part of an original design.

    Design (Big Bang) ==> Random events plus boundary conditions ==> Design (Life) ==> Random events plus boundary conditions ==> Design (advanced life forms including humans)

    Now do I believe this? No, because we would have seen a forensic trail indicating how this was accomplished. So the most logical conclusion is that the designer intervened at various times for a purpose. The purpose is unknown to us. It is not that the designer wasn’t able to design something that didn’t need intervention but because intervention was desired for some reason. Eric Metaxas has some thoughts on this which appear reasonable to me.

    Separate but related issue – I believe a lot of the support from TE’s for a non interventionist position and against an original design scenario guiding life is the theodicy issue. They somehow have to allow God off the hook for the evil created but what they missed is that there is really no evil that God created and the theodicy issue is moot.

    I know you are an advocate of the Fall as the source of unwanted events and I am not going to argue against that but my point is that even with the unleash of unfortunate events from the Fall there is no real evil in them and no logical way to accuse the Christian God of evil.

  14. 14
    Virgil Cain says:

    Will Provine quotes:

    In other words, religion is compatible with modern evolutionary biology (and indeed all of modern science) if the religion is effectively indistinguishable from atheism.

    and

    ‘Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear … There are no gods, no purposes, no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end for me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning to life, and no free will for humans, either.’

  15. 15
    niwrad says:

    jerry #13

    The TE’s could say that the Big Bang was the first design instance. The initial conditions created boundary conditions that only allowed certain outcomes due to random events. One end result of this seemingly random process was very complicated, namely life.

    If TEs say that to argue that not God rather chance creates organization they are wrong. Consider this simple example: God creates a dice (6 sides numbered 1,2,3,4,5,6). In this scenario we have exactly your premise “the initial conditions created boundary conditions that only allowed certain outcomes due to random events”. In fact the boundary conditions only allow certain outcomes (1,2,3,4,5,6, not e.g. number 7,8,9…).

    State that only number six is a “result very complicated, namely life”. Now the dice is thrown by chance. Number six (life) is the result. Could TE say that chance created life? Not at all. Number six (life) is one of the dice sides created by God. Therefore God created life, not chance. The dice throw is only a “secunda causa” that manifests a pre-existent God’s design.

    TEs erroneously attribute real creativity to chance and undervalue the role of God. The above example shows that real creativity is always of God only.

  16. 16
    StephenB says:

    Jerry,

    I wish the TEs had your intellectual integrity. It is frustrating that they will not provide an intellectual defense for their position and refreshing that you are willing to take it up for them. (I understand that you are not a TE)

    Recall that Darwinan evolution is a totally chance-oriented phenomenon from beginning to end. By definition, that process, and nothing else, must be responsible for bio-diversity as we know it. There can be no designer to stack the deck with favorable boundary conditions. If the deck is so stacked, then the process is not random. It may have random elements, but it is not a random process. The outcome is not the result of chance; it is the result of design.

    If, for example, I roll a marble through a glass tube at a 45 degree angle, I may certain that it will come out of the tube on the other side. While there are millions of possible ways that it may randomly bounce around and millions of possibilities for exactly how long it will take, those random elements have nothing to do with the fact that the process itself is not random. It is designed to allow the marble to pass through and only one result is possible. It will come out on the other side. A truly random process would allow for other outcomes.

    Or, again, If I deal five cards to you with the iron clad guarantee that you will receive four Aces and a King, you may be sure that the end result was a product of design and not the result of chance. If, on the other hand, I deal five cards without stacking the deck, there are millions of possible outcomes. A truly random process must always allow for many possible outcomes. If it doesn’t, it isn’t random.

    So it is with a role of two dice. There are many possible outcomes with each throw. If the outcome is guaranteed, that is because the dice were loaded, meaning that they were designed to produce only one outcome. This is true even with multiple rolls. I may throw the dice a million times, but I can never be infallibly certain that double fours will appear. Biblical theology does not allow for even a small probability that evolution might not produce the result that God intended. God’s omnipotence is not contingent on mathematical probabilities.

    By definition, then, the Darwinian process, absent any design, must allow for many possible outcomes. On the other hand, Biblically-compatible evolution can allow for only one outcome, which is the one that the Creator intended. A process that allows for many possible outcomes cannot also be a process that allows for only one outcome.

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    Jerry

    Separate but related issue – I believe a lot of the support from TE’s for a non interventionist position and against an original design scenario guiding life is the theodicy issue. They somehow have to allow God off the hook for the evil created but what they missed is that there is really no evil that God created and the theodicy issue is moot.

    What they miss is that it doesn’t matter whether evil is introduced directly or indirectly through a process. The issue is not how evil was introduced but by whom it was introduced. According to the Christian world view, man, not God, introduced evil into the world. Why TEs forget this essential fact is a mystery.

    I know you are an advocate of the Fall as the source of unwanted events and I am not going to argue against that but my point is that even with the unleash of unfortunate events from the Fall there is no real evil in them and no logical way to accuse the Christian God of evil.

    If I understand your position correctly, You hold that the only real evil is the loss of one’s immortal soul and that anything else is not really evil. Accordingly, all transient “evils” become insignificant in relation to the eternal evil of damnation.

    At this point, I would need some clarification since you have defined evil as “unwanted events.” Are not the trials and tragedies of this word unwanted events? To me, that definition is too subjective. There are many things that I want which may not be good for me; there are many things that I don’t want which may be good for me.

    For my part, evil may be defined as a privation of the good. The evil of disease, for example, is a privation of health, which is good. The evil of callous indifference is the privation of love. With respect to temporal problems versus eternal destinies, I would argue that any privation of any good is evil, including the goods and volitional acts on earth. If someone is on his way to hell, isn’t it evil behavior that placed him in that position. If the effect (Hell) is evil, is not the cause (sin) also evil?

  18. 18
    computerist says:

    If, on the other hand, I deal five cards without stacking the deck, there are millions of possible outcomes. A truly random process must always allow for many possible outcomes. If it doesn’t, it isn’t random.

    This is why in a evolutionary “by chance” explanatory model by definition injects an “infinite” amount of time and resources into the equation, flying spaghetti monsters, tooth fairies, unicorns etc…all have a high probability of existing. Arguments which therefore attempt to mock ID/creationism by conflating the designer with the flying spaghetti monster (or whatever) are self-defeating as their position demands that some powerful god-like entity likely exists as a natural consequence of their position.

  19. 19
    jerry says:

    Therefore God created life, not chance. The dice throw is only a “secunda causa” that manifests a pre-existent God’s design.

    This is what I have been saying. It is just that it appears to certain people to have happened without an interventionist design event.

    TEs erroneously attribute real creativity to chance and undervalue the role of God. The above example shows that real creativity is always of God only.

    You are assuming that they are a uniform thinking/believing group. I have run into a lot of them who believe that God is cause of all that has happened as far as life but that it happened by events set in motion at the Big Bang. So there is apparently a wide range of opinion as to what they think happened.

    My reading of the ones I have had discussions with, is that they believe the initial condition of the Big Bang was such that life had to appear and that human life had to appear. It was not a random happening but somehow had to happen. Most will just beg the question as to how this happened assuming some naturalistic process was the vehicle usually some form of neo-Darwinism. They assume it happened naturally but with some guidance by God. They don’t think of boundary conditions or random events but just that God made it happen somehow.

    I was one of them till I discovered the controversy and had thought that God used natural processes to guide things along but that man was a direct creation of God. I never thought too hard about how it happened.

    We like to use the term TE as all encompassing term for those who believe in God but not ID. There is a wide range of views out there, nearly all ill informed. From Wikipedia

    Francis Collins describes theistic evolution as the position that “evolution is real, but that it was set in motion by God”, and characterizes it as accepting “that evolution occurred as biologists describe it, but under the direction of God”. The executive director of the National Center for Science Education in the United States of America, Eugenie Scott, has used the term to refer to the part of the overall spectrum of beliefs about creation and evolution holding the theological view that God creates through evolution. It covers a wide range of beliefs about the extent of any intervention by God, with some approaching deism in rejecting the concept of continued intervention.

    I am sure you could point out some hard cored TE’s who believe God had little or nothing to do with it. But how typical are they? I pointed out one of the reasons for taking such a hard core stance was the theodicy issue.

  20. 20
    jerry says:

    StephenB.

    Recall that Darwinan evolution is a totally chance-oriented phenomenon from beginning to end. By definition, that process, and nothing else, must be responsible for bio-diversity as we know it. There can be no designer to stack the deck with favorable boundary conditions.

    I am sure some TE’s have that position but not the ones I have ran into. There is a spectrum of belief amongst them and many are probably ID without admitting it. I don’t keep up with what goes on here much anymore but at other places I have run into them and they would not hold such a position.

    Maybe somebody could do a survey of them to see what they actually believe, from little intervention by God to frequent intervention.

    I personally believe there has been intervention but not as much as a lot others. I am a big believer in the power of micro evolution to separate groups out over time but essentially that is the culling of gene pools, originally created by intervention, and few if any natural creations of coding regions for proteins.

    I could easily be persuaded otherwise but the research for this is probably 50-100 years away.

    Humans are too complicated to have arisen naturally or descended naturally and I believe are the result of a unique intervention.

    So TEs are all over the lot and some of them may hold the extreme position you listed. I understand a lot of them are not very rigorous in defense of their position and may be just espousing something to get along. Which is spineless.

  21. 21
    jerry says:

    StephenB,

    If I understand your position correctly, You hold that the only real evil is the loss of one’s immortal soul and that anything else is not really evil. Accordingly, all transient “evils” become insignificant in relation to the eternal evil of damnation.

    Yes.

    My background was advertising and I developed this position from my experiences in advertising. Essentially, we were developing products that solved problems people had. It became clear that at our present rate we had solved many of the onerous problems of mankind over the ages and we were now focusing on relatively minor ones in the products we were advertising and developing. But they were important to people and influenced the products they bought. it was clear that there will always be negative things in people’s lives but what was negative now is trivial compared to what previous generations thought was negative. Just look at the medical advances that have been made in the last 100 years and people are still unhappy with their medical care.

    We would rank the negatives and tried to focus on developing new products to remove these negatives and when we were successful, new negatives would become important. This led me to the understanding that all human problems were relative and individualistic and as some were solved, new ones popped up.

    This appreciation of the gradation of negatives along with some long discussions with people who had studied Christian theology led to our understanding of the term “evil” as essentially meaningless. There was only one real meaningful negative in the Christian view of life.

    At this point, I would need some clarification since you have defined evil as “unwanted events.” Are not the trials and tragedies of this word unwanted events? To me, that definition is too subjective.

    Perhaps. I have made the point many times that the term “evil” has no good definition. Few have taken up the task of providing a good one. Mainly because they will run into contradictions or arbitrary interpretations. The expression “unwanted events” or “unwanted consequences” are just ways to emphasize that point. Yes, they are vague and definitely subjective but so is any definition usually used for “evil.”

    Certainly the excruciating pain that can come from a brain tumor is an unwanted event but so is a stubbed toe. Does evil apply to both, one or neither? How about a 6 year old little girl with such a tumor who apparently lived in constant pain till she died after several months. (a real case where we have met the mother and father.)

    Death is unwanted but is death evil? Does the way one dies make the death evil? Does the age of the person that dies make it evil? Does the fact that thousands die due to a natural event make the event evil? It is very subjective but the point I want to make they are all finite events. Then there is issue of who causes these unwanted events. Is that what is evil?

    All this indicates that these unwanted events could be ordered by how unwanted they are. But often this is subjective and again all are finite and trivial compared to loss of salvation. Nobody seems to think the expression,

    “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

    is meaningful any more since what happens in this world is all that is important . But when this understanding of evil is applied to the theodicy argument, the logic falls apart.

    I would argue that any privation of any good is evil, including the goods and volitional acts on earth.

    Everything on earth is imperfect and any outcome will be imperfect so all are instances a privation of what is good and thus, are all evil? If you want to make the classification, so be it but all are trivial evils compared to what is promised by the Christian God. Remember it is the Christian God that is under assault with the theodicy argument.

    If someone is on his way to hell, isn’t it evil behavior that placed him in that position. If the effect (Hell) is evil, is not the cause (sin) also evil?

    We are entering in to some theological discussion that may vary widely even with Christianity and is not necessary for my argument. But here is my point of view.

    If someone is going to Hell in Christian doctrine they have essentially committed some very serious prohibited act that has not been forgiven. The key part of this is the lack of forgiveness. It is the lack of contriteness that is the issue not the act itself. If you want to make that connection, it is ok with me but it is not the act itself (no matter how heinous it is to everyone) but the defiance after the act that is the issue. Again it has nothing to do with my argument about theodicy.

  22. 22
    StephenB says:

    Jerry,

    Good discussion. Thank you.

    By definition, Neo-Darwinian evolution admits of no designing influence, including any designing influence that could establish just the right boundary conditions to produce the specific result intended by the Creator. That is why it is incompatible with Christian theology.

    By contrast, if a TE posits a Creator that did, indeed, set up boundary conditions that would infallibly produce biodiversity as we know it, then it is not the process that produced the result. It was the design of the process that produced the result. Put another way, the design told the process what to do. This formulation is compatible with Christian theology.

    By contrast, the new TEs are, for the most part, embracing what they call “evolutionary science,” which is synonymous with unguided, Neo-Darwinian evolution–a purposeless, mindless process that is liable to produce almost anything. With this scenario, the process alone is calling the shots. Such an unguided process cannot reliably produce a specific outcome that reflects the Creator’s apriori intent.

    ————————————————————————————————————————-

    The expression “unwanted events” or “unwanted consequences” are just ways to emphasize that point. Yes, they are vague and definitely subjective but so is any definition usually used for “evil.”

    Yes, “unwanted events” are subjective. By that standard, if something is unwanted by you and wanted by me, then that same something is both evil and not evil, which is a contradiction. And, again, unwanted events are also worldly, temporal events, which contradict your definition of evil as only that which is eternal.

    On the other hand, it is not correct to say that “any” definition of evil is subjective. On the contrary, my definition (which is not my invention, of course) is, indeed, objective. The “good” is objective, so any “privation of the good,” which is my definition of evil, is also objective.

    I certainly agree with your notion of a hierarchy of evils just as I would argue for a hierarchy of goods. Some people are more righteous than others; some are more evil than others. So, too, are their acts of greater or lesser degrees of nobility. Hell has a hierarchy; so does heaven.

    For you, however, acknowledging that hierarchy contradicts your definition of evil. If, as you argue, the only existing evil is that which is eternal, then there is no hierarchy of evils after all, since a hierarchy is made up of real things. If temporal unwanted events are not evil by virtue of not being eternal, then they are not evil and cannot be a part of a hierarchy of evil.

    Death is unwanted but is death evil? Does the way one dies make the death evil? Does the age of the person that dies make it evil? Does the fact that thousands die due to a natural event make the event evil? It is very subjective but the point I want to make they are all finite events. Then there is issue of who causes these unwanted events. Is that what is evil?

    Death is evil. The suffering that precedes death is evil. That is because death is a privation of a good, which is life, and suffering is a privation of a good, which is health. Deaths due to natural disasters are evil for the same reason. The ultimate cause of all suffering was an evil act by Adam. All evil acts cause other evils. The cause is evil; the effect is evil.

    Nobody seems to think the expression,
    “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
    is meaningful any more since what happens in this world is all that is important . But when this understanding of evil is applied to the theodicy argument, the logic falls apart.

    To exaggerate the importance of what goes on in this life at the expense of what lies ahead is a great mistake. That doesn’t mean that whatever goes on in this life is not important. Is it not important to choose the right world view? Is the decision to ignore God’s warnings about the afterlife not important?

    SB: If someone is on his way to hell, isn’t it evil behavior that placed him in that position. If the effect (Hell) is evil, is not the cause (sin) also evil?

    If someone is going to Hell in Christian doctrine they have essentially committed some very serious prohibited act that has not been forgiven. The key part of this is the lack of forgiveness. It is the lack of contriteness that is the issue not the act itself. If you want to make that connection, it is ok with me but it is not the act itself (no matter how heinous it is to everyone) but the defiance after the act that is the issue. Again it has nothing to do with my argument about theodicy.

    But you are saying that both the act and the defiance are not evil since they are both temporal events. According to the bible, though, some temporal acts are evil.

    –“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
    -“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil”
    –“Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever.”

    Notice that the last passage explains why temporal evils are evil. They lead to the ultimate evil. Meanwhile, my argument persists: Evil effects require evil causes, just as all effects require proportionate causes.

  23. 23
    jerry says:

    StephenB,

    I suggest you use what you consider the definition of the term “evil” and replace every use of the word with this definition.

    People desperately want to use the word “evil” but it is so subjective and vague that it clouds rather than clarifies any discussion. You use “privation of the good” as a definition. this leads to

    Death is privation of the good. The suffering that precedes death is privation of the good. That is because death is a privation of a good, which is life, and suffering is a privation of a good, which is health. Deaths due to natural disasters are privation of the good for the same reason. The ultimate cause of all suffering was an privation of the good act by Adam. All privation of the good acts cause other privation of the good. The cause is privation of the good; the effect is privation of the good.

    Starting to sound like gibberish. Now we have to define “good.” See where that leads in terms of understanding.

    I could make the point that death leads to the “Good” for many so is death then a privation of the good?

    I can also make the case that every moment of existence in this life no matter what the state is, is a privation of the good. So what is the difference between death, suffering and mundane ordinary life? Just a ranking of unwanted circumstances, all of which are finite in nature.

    “Do not be overcome by privation of the good, but overcome privation of the good with good.”
    -“Woe to those who call privation of the good good and good privation of the good”
    –“Turn away from privation of the good and do good; so shall you dwell forever.”

    Notice that the last passage explains why temporal privation of the good are privation of the good. They lead to the ultimate privation of the good. Meanwhile, my argument persists: privation of the good effects require privation of the good causes, just as all effects require proportionate causes.

    Substitute your definition of good in this passage and see what that gets us in terms of understanding.

    By maintaining A leads to B and then saying A is the same thing as B is nonsense. A is different from B. I made the point that the qualitative difference between A and B is infinite. And lots of what you call A has nothing to do with B. For example, you indicated that death is A or that sickness that causes death is A. How are either of these related to B or a cause of B?

    This is turning into mind games and I am not interested in pursuing this.

  24. 24
    StephenB says:

    Jerry,

    Now we have to define “good.”

    A good “for a thing” or a “good thing” is simply an act or an event that is consistent with what a thing is made for, that is, its nature. A good can opener is one that opens cans. A good pencil is one that writes. A good pencil is a bad can opener and it will destroy itself if it tries to be one.

    A good human is one that acts according to his nature, that is, the reason he was created. A good singular act for a human is one that is consistent with his nature, which would be consistent with the natural moral law and biblical principles, including the obligation to reconcile with God. A evil human is one that consistently acts against his nature, that is, who consistently performs evil acts, which will militate against the destiny for which he was made. All these points hang together. (A can opener cannot be evil, though a human can use it for an evil purpose. Only moral agents can be evil or perform evil acts).

    All the above constitutes an objective standard of good and evil. By contrast, your subjective definition of evil (unwanted events) simply doesn’t work. I have indicated that it is full of contradictions and you had no answer. Do you, in fact, have an answer for all those contradictions?

    By maintaining A leads to B and then saying A is the same thing as B is nonsense. A is different from B. I made the point that the qualitative difference between A and B is infinite. And lots of what you call A has nothing to do with B. For example, you indicated that death is A or that sickness that causes death is A. How are either of these related to B or a cause of B?

    Your analysis of cause and effect is flawed in this case. I will sum up how one evil thing can lead to another without violating the law of identity:

    “Sow a thought, reap an action; (Evil thought >> Evil action)

    sow an action, reap a habit; (Evil action >> Evil habit)

    sow a habit, reap a character; (Evil habit >> Evil character)

    sow a character, reap a destiny.” (Evil character >> Evil destiny)

    Notice that the definition of evil remains the same throughout. Is it really necessary for me to explain how the same cause/effect relationship applies to good thoughts, good actions, and so on?

    This is turning into mind games and I am not interested in pursuing this.

    I am sorry you feel that way.

  25. 25
    StephenB says:

    By maintaining A leads to B and then saying A is the same thing as B is nonsense. A is different from B.

    It is different in some ways, but not in all ways. A heated range top (A) causes the pan (B) to become heated. So A is different entity than B, but B now has the same quality as B.

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