Intelligent Design

God and Evil

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A terrible thing happened to me some years ago.  I ached so badly I lay down on the floor and cried and cried great heaving sobs of anguish, and as I gasped for breath between my sobs I repeated one word over and over, “why? why? why?” 

Why indeed?  When terrible things happen, whether a personal tragedy such as my own or a natural disaster in which hundreds of thousands perish, we seem compelled to ask, “Why did God let this happen?”  Before answering this question let me discuss two extreme and equally erroneous answers to the question from two opposite schools of thought.  One school I will call the “sadistic maniac” school and the other I will call the “amiable bumbler” school. 

The sadistic maniac school asserts that God actually causes horrible things to happen in order to accomplish his purposes.  God, they say, is utterly sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent.  If he wanted to keep something from happening he surely could.  We can assume, therefore, that when he does not keep a thing from happening it is because he wants it to happen, and it follows every event that has ever happened or ever will happen is specifically desired by God.  When my heart is broken or a tsunami wipes out a quarter million people, God wanted those things to happen.  Indeed, the hyper-Calvinist goes so far as to say that God creates some people for the very purpose of damning them to hell. 

The “amiable bumbler” school is repelled by the sadistic maniac school, and they go to the opposite extreme to avoid its implications.  God is love they say, and if this means anything it must mean he is omni-benevolent.  How can an omni-benevolent being be responsible for (far less specifically desire) personal tragedies or natural disasters?  He cannot.  It follows that God does not have absolute knowledge of and power to change future events.  Thus, open theists assert that God knows the future only in a probablistic, not an absolute, sense, and just like the rest of us he is waiting around to see how things are going to turn out.  And when bad things happen he slaps his forehead and says, “didn’t see that coming, hope no one blames me.” 

Adherents of both schools would have benefited from Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.  Chesterton takes for granted the fact that we cannot understand the universe (far less the God of the universe) fully, and efforts to do so lead quite literally to a sort of madness.  Using poetry as a metaphor for mysticism, he writes:

Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion . . . The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

Chesterton would be the first to admit that the internal logic of both the “sadistic maniac” and the “amiable bumbler” schools is unassailable, just as the internal logic of a madman’s arguments cannot be defeated:

If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humor or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.

Chesterton concludes that only the ability to hold truths that appear to be contradictory keeps us sane:

Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of to-day) free also to believe in them . . . Thus he has always believed that there was such a thing as fate, but such a thing as free will also . . . It is exactly this balance of apparent contradictions that has been the whole buoyancy of the healthy man. The whole secret of mysticism is this: that man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The morbid logician seeks to make everything lucid, and succeeds in making everything mysterious. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious, and everything else becomes lucid.

The sadistic maniac and the amiable bumbler schools are both wrong.  God is powerful enough to combine apparent contradictions in his person.  He is three, yet he is only one.  He is both immanent and transcendent.  He is sovereign, omniscient, omnipotent; yet despite the evil that exists in the universe he created, he is also omni-benevolent.  It never ceases to amaze me that skeptics are surprised when they are unable to fit God into neat human categories.  But if we could understand God completely, would we not be gods ourselves?  I know I am no god, so I am unsurprised to find that I cannot comprehend God in his fullness or understand fully how such contradictions can be combined in him.  Nevertheless, I am quite certain they are.

If God is neither a maniac nor a bumbler, what are we to make of evil?  Shortly after the Indonesian tsunami David B. Hart addressed this question in an extraordinary article in First Things called “Tsunami and Theodicy.” 

Hart notes that in the wake of the tsunami Christian writers had tried to “justify the ways of God to man, to affirm God’s benevolence, to see meaning in the seemingly monstrous randomness of nature’s violence, and to find solace in God’s guiding hand.”  Hart rightfully worries that efforts to discern how God might “use” evil to accomplish a “greater good” are bound to backfire:

Famously, Dostoevsky supplied Ivan [Karamazov] with true accounts of children tortured and murdered: Turks tearing babies from their mothers’ wombs, impaling infants on bayonets, firing pistols into their mouths; parents savagely flogging their children; a five-year- old-girl tortured by her mother and father, her mouth filled with excrement, locked at night in an outhouse, weeping her supplications to ‘dear kind God’ in the darkness; an eight-year-old serf child torn to pieces by his master’s dogs for a small accidental transgression.

But what makes Ivan’s argument so disturbing is not that he accuses God of failing to save the innocent; rather, he rejects salvation itself, insofar as he understands it, and on moral grounds. He grants that one day there may be an eternal harmony established, one that we will discover somehow necessitated the suffering of children, and perhaps mothers will forgive the murderers of their babies, and all will praise God’s justice; but Ivan wants neither harmony—’for love of man I reject it,’ ‘it is not worth the tears of that one tortured child’—nor forgiveness; and so, not denying there is a God, he simply chooses to return his ticket of entrance to God’s Kingdom. After all, Ivan asks, if you could bring about a universal and final beatitude for all beings by torturing one small child to death, would you think the price acceptable?

Hart responds to Ivan’s accusations by explaining that he has God all wrong.  God does not “use” evil to accomplish good.  Evil is a privation of the good.  It has no nature of its own and it plays no role in God’s determination of himself or purpose for his creation (though Hart does allow that, as everyone who has ever read the story of Joseph knows, God can bring good from actions men intend for evil).  As Christians, Hart argues, we are simply not allowed to take comfort from a “grand cosmic scheme” in which God balances out all of the good and the evil in the end, because that comfort would be purchased at an enormous price:  “it requires us to believe in and love a God whose good ends will be realized not only in spite of—but entirely by way of—every cruelty, every fortuitous misery, every catastrophe, every betrayal, every sin the world has ever known . . .”  We must not while trying to render the universe morally intelligible render God morally loathsome. 

Hart concludes: 

I do not believe we Christians are obliged—or even allowed—to look upon the devastation visited upon the coasts of the Indian Ocean and to console ourselves with vacuous cant about the mysterious course taken by God’s goodness in this world, or to assure others that some ultimate meaning or purpose resides in so much misery. . . . while we know that the victory over evil and death has been won, we know also that it is a victory yet to come, and that creation therefore, as Paul says, groans in expectation of the glory that will one day be revealed. Until then, the world remains a place of struggle between light and darkness, truth and falsehood, life and death; and, in such a world, our portion is charity.

As for comfort, when we seek it, I can imagine none greater than the happy knowledge that when I see the death of a child I do not see the face of God, but the face of His enemy . . . God will not unite all of history’s many strands in one great synthesis, but will judge much of history false and damnable; . . . He will not simply reveal the sublime logic of fallen nature, but will strike off the fetters in which creation languishes; and that, rather than showing us how the tears of a small girl suffering in the dark were necessary for the building of the Kingdom, He will instead raise her up and wipe away all tears from her eyes—and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain, for the former things will have passed away, and He that sits upon the throne will say, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’

Amen.  Evil never accomplishes some great cosmic purpose.  God hates it, and in no sense does he intend it so that he can use it to accomplish his purposes.  God did not intend for Joseph’s brothers to sell him into slavery.  He did not intend for Potipher’s wife falsely to accuse him of rape.  He hated the evil visited upon Joseph.  It is true that God worked in Joseph’s life to help him overcome the circumstances into which he had been thrust by the evil acts of others.  But most emphatically God did not “desire” those evil acts (or, far worse, specifically cause them to happen) to accomplish a greater good.  He accomplished the good in spite of those acts, not because of them.

Which brings us back to where we started.  After a while I stopped crying and picked myself up off the floor.  But I did not stop asking myself why? why? why?  Months passed.  At times I was half mad with grief and anguish as I wrestled with that question, sometimes literally groaning out loud as I tried to figure it all out.  I never did figure it out.  But quite unexpectedly I figured out something else entirely when I finally came to understand that I would never understand.  Evil is absurd and senseless, and my healing did not begin until I finally came to grips with the fact that I would never come to grips with what had happened, that I would never wrap my head around it and make sense of it all.  This realization was liberating.  Freed from the compulsion to figure it all out, I was able to get on with my life.

And what a life it has been.  For, as he has done for countless others before me, God has redeemed me from the terrible evil that brought me low.  As the prophet wrote, he has given me beauty for ashes and joy for mourning.  But please.  None of this (often well meaning but wrong nevertheless) cant about how God uses all things to work together for the good of the called.  The evil that happened to me was senseless and absurd.  God never intended that I should suffer that evil.  Yes, he redeemed my life and I am in a better situation today than I was in before the evil happened.  But let us never confuse God’s redemption with his original purpose.  He does not intend evil to happen that good may result.  To me, the very thought is absurd.

35 Replies to “God and Evil

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    The answer is that all humans who are here wanted to be here and take what this world of good and evil has to offer. We “eat of the tree of the experiential knowledge of good and evil”, as if were. (Part of the deal was having amnesia about who we are and why were are here. Otherwise the experience would lose it’s oooompf.)

    We wanted to be here.

    Question asked and answered.

  2. 2
    ute says:

    You say God did not INTEND many evil things.

    But at the same time, assuming you believe in an all powerful and knowledgeable God then surely he could have stopped them if he Intended to?

    I have troubles making sense of the christian concept of God.

  3. 3
    noam_ghish says:

    The only way for evil to not exist is to eliminate free choice. The only way to eliminate evil in the natural world (tsunamis, hurricanes) is to make the natural world perfect, which would also eliminate free choice. Free choice is better than a universe without life. God enjoys creating, and only life can create. Evil is a necessary fact of life. You can’t have life without evil.

  4. 4
    Meleagar says:

    I just don’t see evil as all that difficult to explain. God can only do what is logically coherent. In a world of duality, of X necessarily contextualized by not-X, not-good must exist. Not-good is what we call evil, just as we call non-light “dark” and non-truth “falsehood”.

    Logical coherence limits the extent of omnipotence and omniscience to that which is logically reconcilable to what exists. If free will exists, then god cannot force our behaviors, even though god may try to influence them. God cannot force us to believe; therefore, if god exists, and if we have free will, god cannot present such evidence that would coerce you to believe.

    Which is why belief in god, for those with free will, is always a choice.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    I found this video helpful;

    If God, Why Evil? (Norman Geisler) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vtOOPaNmJFY

  6. 6
    tyke says:

    The only way for evil to not exist is to eliminate free choice.

    Really? Is there no free will in Heaven then? Or does evil exist there too?

    You can’t have life without evil.

    But apparently you can have eternal life without it. Hmm.

    So which is it? Does Heaven have evil, or does it not have free will?

  7. 7
    junkdnaforlife says:

    Meleagar: “Which is why belief in god, for those with free will, is always a choice.”

    I would add to that the ability to love. We cannot force a person to love us. This has to be a choice. For us to love God, it follows that we must have free will to do so. Love and evil, both depend on, and exist as a product of our free will.

  8. 8
    Meleagar says:

    junkdnaforlife:

    Definitely. I just don’t think a lot of people have really even tried to reason these things through. As Mr. Arrington has said, some things are beyond reason and must be accepted as such, but I don’t think evil is one of them. Asking god to eradicate evil, IMO, is like asking god to eradicate one side of coin. It’s a logical impossibility given the existence of someone asking god to eradicate evil.

    There can be a state of all good & no evil, it just wouldn’t be identifiable as a “good” state. It would just be “what is”, an ubiquitous quality non-discernible due to lack of contextual comparison. To have free will and be able to choose good means being able to choose not-good. Otherwise, choosing good is not a choice; it would be the only option available.

    I may be wrong about this, but at least I’m always open to those who have better arguments for me to learn from.

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest: This week on Unbelievable? Christian Radio is a debate on Evil and God;

    William Lane Craig & AC Grayling debate at the Oxford Union in 2005. Does the existence of evil and suffering in the world preclude the existence of the Christian God?
    http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable

  10. 10
    Blue_Savannah says:

    We live in a fallen, sin-ridden world and we are surprised when evil happens?

    God does not cause evil, the ABSENCE of HIM does. When we reject God and His ways for OUR ways under the false premise ‘we know better,’ we cause pain and suffering to ourselves and others. God never said His people would not have to endure evil in this world, it’s a repercussion of free will, but He did say He would help us get through it.

  11. 11
    Chris Doyle says:

    Hello mike1962,

    I completely agree with you (post 1). I’m very curious as to how you arrived at that conclusion though. Through the Bible? Or elsewhere?

  12. 12
    Robert Byers says:

    This is not what historical Christianity teaches.
    The bible is clear on evil and Gods reply to it.
    In fact the book of job settled the issue.

    First God does no evil.
    Satan does all evil or anything like it.
    God constantly stops him.
    He only stops him because of love plus the plan to allow men to live long enough to come to be saved in the future eternity.
    life is a minor one night stand. Meaningless in light of eternity.

    Without God intervening constantly all mankind and earth would be destroyed in a flash. It would be justice in Gods eyes. For our rebellion and hatred against him.
    So he sent Jesus to save a few.
    God doesn’t protect us from death when he could because we must die because of justice and a failed earth.
    Premature death etc is just a special case.
    Old age is unnatural. He doesn’t stop it.
    So why stop anything.?
    Love and time for a chance to escape hell. A bigger threat.

    He says he allows things sometimes for special evil intentions or actions on mans part.
    or other reasons fitting in a bigger plan.

    by the way about the tsaumni .
    It did hit areas on earth where there is the most killing and hatred. In Sri Lanka and Indonesia and Malaysia the areas hit were known for fighting and malice between different identities.
    I don’t know but it is possible they received less protection because of this evil.
    The bible always talks about people in large numbers getting killed because of crime/sin.

  13. 13
    EvilSnack says:

    Calling God a “sadistic maniac,” for causing physical and emotional distress in the world, comes from a simple failure to understand why these evils are imposed.

    First of all, death, pain, and all imperfection are made needful by sin, because without these things we would have absolutely no way to learn how awful sin is. How could we ever learn the true horror of hatred, if every murder, torture, and lie motivated by hatred were stopped by the interposing hand of God? How do we learn that we were not made for this world if it is a splendid paradise for all?

    Second, death is needful, but we look upon it as something optional, and because we are bound in time, whereas God is not, we fail to see that every death, by whatever means, is merely the time and the manner in which God brings about what has always been planned. He is outside the story, and we are inside it, and thus are in no position to judge.

    Third, because God is omniscient, Satan, who may imagine that he is defeating God’s plan (either in general or with regard to specific people), is in fact playing into God’s hands at every turn. Satan’s apparent withdrawal for our world may be due to his realization of this; and yet ironically he made this choice at the exact moment that it best furthers God’s plans, because, again, God is omniscient. Satan has caused to be lost only those who would have been lost without his workings, but some of his workings have been turned, by God, into the means by which some are redeemed.

    Fourth, sin was permitted to happen because redeemed man is more glorious than innocent man. Jesus did say that there is more rejoicing for one who repents than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance.

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    semi OT: this video by Francis Chan, which I’ve listed previously, is sobering;

    Hell! We Can’t Afford To Get This Wrong
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qnrJVTSYLr8

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    Francis Chan book, in response to Rob Bell’s universalist book on hell, is now available om Amazon as of July 5th:

    Erasing Hell: What God said about eternity, and the things we made up – Francis Chan:
    http://www.amazon.com/Erasing-.....0781407257

    Product Description

    How could a loving God send people to hell? Will people have a chance after they die to believe in Jesus and go to heaven?

    With a humble respect for God’s Word, Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle address the deepest questions you have about eternal destiny. They’ve asked the same questions. Like you, sometimes they just don’t want to believe in hell. But as they write, “We cannot afford to be wrong on this issue.”

    This is not a book about who is saying what. It’s a book about what God says. It’s not a book about impersonal theological issues. It’s a book about people who God loves. It’s not a book about arguments, doctrine, or being right. It’s a book about the character of God.

    Erasing Hell will immerse you in the truth of Scripture as, together with the authors, you find not only the truth but the courage to live it out.

  16. 16
    lpadron says:

    Barry,
    The crucifixion of Christ is at least one exception to the statements: “evil never accomplishes some great cosmic purpose.” and “but most emphatically God did not “desire” those evil acts (or, far worse, specifically cause them to happen) to accomplish a greater good. He accomplished the good in spite of those acts, not because of them.”

    Isaiah 53 makes clear that God the Father planned the crucifixion and necessarily so.

    It took years for my issues with God to subside after a senseless tragedy of my own. I’ve no doubt that God planned that tragedy. It was part of His plan awful as it was. I finally reached the point where I had to trust He knew what He was doing and that He could resolve the logical problem even if I could not.

  17. 17
    Student_Roger says:

    Sorry to just drop in. I’m following this website for some time and I learned a few things from it. But this article triggerd me to post a reply for the first time. Here are some thoughts that are meaningful to me in this matter (sorry for some band English grammer).

    I’m curious what the bible says about the matter ‘Where does evil come from?”
    3 causes:

    (1) “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (New International Version, http://www.biblegateway.com )
    The world is under controle of the evil one. Satan is an enemy of God (that’s the meaning of his name). That he can offer all the kingdoms to Jesus shows he is the ruler of this world (Matthew 4:8,9). How can you offer something, if you do not own it? And isn’t his influence to be seen in the world of today?
    (2) We are sinful people. This alone wil cause trouble (Ecclesiastes 4:1 & Ecclesiastes 8:9)
    (3) Sometimes we are at the wrong time and at the wrong place (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

    According to the Bible evil does not come from God (James 1:13)

    The Question remains: “Why does God allow suffering?”

    But I don’t want to take up too much of the space here, but hopefully I did someone a favour.

    Kind regards,
    Roger

  18. 18
    Barb says:

    Ute: “You say God did not INTEND many evil things.”

    God does not intend any evil things, really. Many humans who want to foist the blame for everything that goes wrong in the world onto God forget that, as humans, they are gifted with free will and they cause much harm to themselves simply because they make the wrong decision.

    Sometimes it’s as simple as being in the wrong place at the wrong time; Jesus himself alluded to a disaster that occurred when the pool of Siloam toppled over and killed some people. God wasn’t smiting them; it was an accident.

    “But at the same time, assuming you believe in an all powerful and knowledgeable God then surely he could have stopped them if he Intended to?”

    He could have, and he promises to do so in the future. There is an issue that is before all humanity since the garden of Eden. Do we prefer rulership by God or rulership by humans? The early Christian writers noted that God “desires all to attain to repentence” and this is why things have continued. The Bible also explains that during a period of time called “the last days” there would be many problems (see Matthew 24:3-10; 1 Timothy 3:1-5).

  19. 19
    Barb says:

    Tyke: “Really? Is there no free will in Heaven then? Or does evil exist there too?”

    There is free will among all God’s intelligent creatures, including angels and seraphs. Evil does not exist in heaven since Satan was cast down (see Revelation 12:9-12).

    “But apparently you can have eternal life without it. Hmm. So which is it? Does Heaven have evil, or does it not have free will?”

    See above.

  20. 20
    tyke says:

    Barb, so you are saying that there can be free will without evil. That’s not what noam_ghish was saying.

    If God can create a realm (Heaven) where free will exists without the presence of evil, then that completely refutes noam_ghish’s claim that such a thing is not possible here on Earth.

  21. 21
    tgpeeler says:

    Regarding “free will” in heaven. I have thought about this a little bit and I think Tyke has asked a legitimate question. If it is logically impossible in time to have free will without the possibility of evil (and it is) and free will is required for love (and it is), then how can we have free will and love, yet no evil in heaven?

    I think it is for three reasons. First, the tempter will not be there thus there will be no temptation to evil on that score. Second, we will be in “resurrection” or everlasting bodies that are not corrupted by the fall so our very flesh will not tempt us to sin. Third, and perhaps most important, I think we will see clearly and not through a “mirror dimly” (1 Cor 13:12) and we will see, really see, things for how they are. In my own pathetic case, I am sure that I underestimate sin and the power of sin all the time. I think that we are so “fallen” that we don’t even realize how fallen that is. If it took what it took to atone for sin, the death of the humanity of the Creator, then probably sin is pretty awful even though it gets dressed up in cheap tuxedos by our society all of the time. (Fools mock at sin.)

    So how do we not sin in heaven yet have free will? I think of it this way (pardon the crude imagery). Assume that I am hungry and I am presented with the opportunity to eat a gourmet meal (the good) or a pile of excrement (the evil). Even in this fallen body I will ALWAYS choose the gourmet meal. How much more so, then, in heaven, where I will have no incentive or inducement or temptation to sin and I will also see the glory of God, will it be easy to avoid sin? I don’t think it will be hard to go without sinning at all. In heaven, of course. Here, I last about a minute at a time…

    The question perhaps remains: is it logically possible for us to sin in heaven? Maybe. But I know none of us will ever do it.

  22. 22
    rpvicars says:

    Tyke…you’re logic misses one point — the progress of God’s plan. God made man with a free will and evil resulted, necessarily. In His final judgment He will demonstrate his ultimate sovereignty over evil. Yet Free Will will remain. We will be free to love God fully, having seen and benefited from, his complete sovereignty over evil. The context of that love will eternally be a God who has redeemed His beloved from the evil they caused. We will eternally praise Him (sorry Barry) for his ability to use the evil of man for His good purposes (the Crucifixion, Romans 8:28), then destroy it forever in righteous justice.

    Free will and evil exist, but evil will end.

    God loves you…and He proved it in Christ.

  23. 23
    Barb says:

    Tyke: “Barb, so you are saying that there can be free will without evil. That’s not what noam_ghish was saying.”

    I scrolled up to re-read his post, which is as follows:

    “The only way for evil to not exist is to eliminate free choice. The only way to eliminate evil in the natural world (tsunamis, hurricanes) is to make the natural world perfect, which would also eliminate free choice. Free choice is better than a universe without life. God enjoys creating, and only life can create. Evil is a necessary fact of life. You can’t have life without evil.

    My point is that creation at one time was perfect. However, through the misuse of free will, it became imperfect. Suppose you had a computer but one of its electronic files was corrupted by an error (or virus) that someone had planted in an otherwise perfect program. That illustrates the effect of what Adam did when he deliberately disobeyed God, or sinned.

    Whatever copies you might make of the corrupted electronic file would be affected. However, all need not be lost. With a special program, you could detect and purge the corrupting error from your files and computer. Comparably, mankind has received a “virus,” sin, from Adam and Eve, and we need outside help to wipe it out. (Romans 5:12)

    A world with no evil and with free will can exist.

    “If God can create a realm (Heaven) where free will exists without the presence of evil, then that completely refutes noam_ghish’s claim that such a thing is not possible here on Earth.”

    Note what I said about heaven and Satan; the Bible clearly states that he moved between heaven and earth many times before being banished from heaven. Now, heaven is free from evil and the angelic creatures do have free will.

    Going back to the beginning, After the first humans sinned, the divine Judge ruled that they had forfeited any right to continue living. In the years until they actually died, Adam and Eve faced considerable suffering. It was suffering that they had brought upon themselves—the effects of aging and sickness, the struggle to eke out a living, and the grief of seeing their family shattered by jealousy and violence. (Genesis 3:16-19; 4:1-12) It is important to fix in mind where the blame for all that suffering primarily rested. They brought it on themselves.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest:

    Rob Bell and Hell (William Lane Craig)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQvqpO78IXA

  25. 25
    mike1962 says:

    Chris Doyle: I completely agree with you (post 1). I’m very curious as to how you arrived at that conclusion though. Through the Bible? Or elsewhere?

    Yes and yes. But this isn’t the place for such a discussion.

  26. 26
    Chris Doyle says:

    Understood Mike. Maybe you’d be so kind as to drop me a brief e-mail? You can get me on: ChrisLiamDoyle at hotmail dot com.

  27. 27
    mike1962 says:

    No problem

  28. 28

    Barry, Chris, Mike,
    All good points. But we are limited by our tools. James Fowler’s stages of religious development, styled after numerous copycats of Piaget, attempted to put religious Christians into 6 categories.
    1 – infant, no distinctions
    2 – child, magical
    3 – adolescent, black-and-white
    4 – college-aged, rational
    5 – middle-aged, paradoxical
    6 – ancient, guru

    In each of these categories, the problem of evil is addressed. #2 is something of a Zoroastrian, Marvel Comics viewpoint. The discussion of “free will,” IMHO falls into a tautological labelling characteristic of #3. Barry calls #4 a “hyper-Calvinism” since it attempts to rationalize the pain, but the dogmatic belief that somewhere, somehow there must exist a rational compensation for pain is more of a #3 position. Therefore
    Barry and several others, adopt a #5 view, and say how it is preferable to rationalistic #4. Voltaire famously ridiculed #4 position of Leibnitz, concluding that atheism was a better solution, so #5 is not always the successor to #4.

    I don’t know what to make of Fowler’s #6, and he puts only Jesus and Ghandi in that category, so I’ll ignore it.

    But perhaps there is another view of evil, and that is #1. Perhaps we are making a distinction that is incorrect. Perhaps pain is not the same as evil, nor is suffering an inexcusable negative. Doestoyevsky, after all, wasn’t promoting Ivan’s viewpoint, but Alyosha’s view that suffering makes us more like God. Maybe suffering is how we re-enter the Garden, how we repair the Fall, how we find the narrow gate.

    We don’t always make progress by following the light, sometimes we do well to avoid the dark.

  29. 29
    Mung says:

    God, as the story goes, cannot be responsible for death.

    Adam, so the story goes, is to blame.

    How, I ask, did Adam gain such power?

    As the story goes, eating the fruit would give Adam the knowledge of good and evil. And, in the day that he ate it, he would surely die. (Except that he did not.)

    Confusing bit, that.

  30. 30
    Clive Hayden says:

    Mung,

    God, as the story goes, cannot be responsible for death.

    Adam, so the story goes, is to blame.

    How, I ask, did Adam gain such power?

    Free will is how.

    As the story goes, eating the fruit would give Adam the knowledge of good and evil. And, in the day that he ate it, he would surely die. (Except that he did not.)

    Became dead in sin as the New Testament clearly discusses. A spiritual death, which is why believers are “born again”.

  31. 31
    Mung says:

    Free will is not an explanation for death. Free will explains the ability to make a choice. Free will does not explain what happens as a result of the choice.

    How did Adam obtain the power to impose a sentence of death on all of creation?

    How is it that God is absolved from responsibility for death because of Adam’s decision?

    Spiritual death. Now we’re talking.

    Not the same as physical death?

    So death, in scripture, can have at least two different meanings?

    Can we agree that being dead in sin is not a condition of physical death?

    People who are in fact alive, physically, can be dead?

    So what does it mean to be dead?

    At a minimum, it means two different things.

    Lazarus was raised from the dead.

    Jesus was raised from the dead.

    You were raised from the dead.

    Or perhaps your hope is in some future physical resurrection?

  32. 32
    Student_Roger says:

    Just a few comments, but might be offtopic:

    Free will is not an explanation for death. Free will explains the ability to make a choice. Free will does not explain what happens as a result of the choice.

    When a woman who is pregnant smokes it will physical harm her unborn child. Her free choice (or free will) is to smoke. The consequence is, it will harm her child. Her ability ‘to choose’ isn’t the explanation when her child is born with medical problems. But how she used her free will, is the explanation why her child has medical problems.

    Someone stated the above before in a post (in different words), but I couldn’t quickly find it again.
    ————————————

    How, I ask, did Adam gain such power?

    I think the word ‘power’ is an incorrect term. But I think I understand what you mean by that.

    According to Genesis 1:28, God wanted them to have children. So he would become a father for all the people. That also means he would have the responsibility for those children. This gives him the ‘power’ over his children. Because he sinned, that also meant his offspring was effected by that choice. Comment 23 has a nice illustration. In a nutshell: Romans 5:12.
    ————————————

    As the story goes, eating the fruit would give Adam the knowledge of good and evil. And, in the day that he ate it, he would surely die. (Except that he did not.)

    About the ‘dying part’. The sin affected their bodies. When they committed the sin, they were dying. So they began to die ‘in the day’ of their sin. Just like when you unplug a fan. It doesn’t immediately stop, it takes some time. But the moment you unplug it, it’s stopping. [This is a different view than posted in comment 30]

  33. 33
    Mung says:

    So the Scriptures speak of at least two ‘kinds’ of death, physical and spiritual.

    So how do we decide when physical death is meant, when spiritual death is meant, and when one is being used as a metaphor for the other?

    This same question can be asked of many things in scripture. Sun, moon, stars, fire, etc.

  34. 34
    Student_Roger says:

    So how do we decide when physical death is meant, when spiritual death is meant, and when one is being used as a metaphor for the other?

    A good question. Even the apostle Peter sad that it could be hard to understand the writings of Paul (2 Peter 3:16). But I would state that a lot can be understood from its context and careful reading. Comparing different scriptures about the same subject can shed light about its meaning. Many bible readers use a concordance.

  35. 35
    Student_Roger says:

    Barry Arrington says (in article):
    “He does not intend evil to happen that good may result. To me, the very thought is absurd”

    Ipadron says (comment 16):
    The crucifixion of Christ is at least one exception to the statements: “evil never accomplishes some great cosmic purpose.” and “but most emphatically God did not “desire” those evil acts (or, far worse, specifically cause them to happen) to accomplish a greater good.

    Here are my thoughts. I will try to make a distinction with the 2 comments by means of an illustration:
    (1) When someone shoots another person to kill him, that is an evil act. No good is intended. (2) But if the person who got shot survived, a medic may use a treatment that causes more pain (evil?) at the moment. But in this situation goodness is intended.

    I think situation (1) applies to what Barry Arrington states (but I can’t speak on his behalf). A medic is shooting someone to kill, because it allows him to do some good. That is an absurd situation.

    Situation (2) applies to ‘the death of Christ’. Some pain or evil was necessary to bring good.

    Hopefully I got the distinction right.

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