Intelligent Design Religion

Is God Really Good?

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Chapter 6, “Is God Really Good?” of my new Wipf and Stock book Christianity for Doubters is almost the same as the “Epilogue” of my 2015 Discovery Institute Press book In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design. What does the problem of pain have to do with intelligent design? A lot, I think, because after 40 years of promoting intelligent design, it is obvious to me that many of the strongest opponents of design, for all their talk about defending science, are completely immune to scientific arguments, they will never look objectively at the scientific evidence until they can find answers to some very legitimate theological questions they have, three of which I try to address in chapters 4,5 and especially in chapter 6 of the new book: if life is designed, why is it so hard?

The publisher’s flyer with preface and chapter 1 are here. See also sections 2.1, Why Evolution is Different, and 2.3, Why Similarities Do Not Prove the Absence of Design. (All used with permission of Wipf and Stock Publishers.)

6.1 Is God Really Good?

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is the question which Rabbi Harold Kushner, in his highly-acclaimed 1981 book When Bad Things Happen to Good People called “the only question which really matters” to his congregation. It is a question which has been asked by philosophers and ordinary human beings throughout the ages; if not the most-asked question, certainly the most passionately-asked. It was certainly the first question that occurred to me in 1987 when I was told that my beloved wife Melissa, 34 years old and the mother of our two small children (Chris and Kevin), had cancer of the nose and sinuses, and in 1990 when we discovered that the cancer had recurred. The suffering she bravely endured during those years was beyond description, from the aggressive chemotherapy treatments, each of which required hospitalization for severe nausea and other side effects, from the radiation therapy, and from three major surgeries. Before the last surgery, during which they would remove her left eye and half of her teeth, she said, well, many people would be happy to have one eye. The cancer recurred two months after this surgery and I was terribly depressed for many years after her death. Since I am a pretty logical person, it never occurred to me to ask “does God really exist?” but I certainly wondered, “is God really good?”

Melissa Wehmann Sewell (1953-1991)
Melissa Wehmann Sewell (1953-1991)

I think most people who claim not to believe in God, say this not because of any shortage of evidence for design in Nature, but because it is sometimes so hard to see evidence that God cares about us, and they prefer not to believe in God at all, than to believe in a God who doesn’t care.

Of course, Christians point to the life and death of Jesus as the ultimate proof that God does care about us, because he came to live and suffer with us. Jesus asked the same question we have all asked at some time in our lives: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But while it is comforting to think that, despite all evidence to the contrary, God really does care about us, that still does not explain why the world God made is sometimes so cruel.

A wonderful little article in UpReach [Nov-Dec 1984] by Batsell Barrett Baxter, entitled “Is God Really Good?” contains some insights into the “problem of pain,” as C.S. Lewis calls it, which I have found very useful. I will follow Baxter’s outline in presenting my own thoughts on this question, and I would like to begin with his conclusion: “As I have faced the tragedy of evil in our world and have tried to analyze its origin, I have come to the conclusion that it was an inevitable accompaniment of our greatest blessings and benefits.” In his outline, Baxter lists some examples of blessings which have, as inevitable consequences, unhappy side effects. None of these points is likely to make suffering in its severest forms any easier to accept, and we may be left wondering whether these blessings are really worth the high cost. But I believe they do at least point us in the right direction.

6.2 The Regularity of Natural Law

The laws of Nature which God has made work together to create a magnificent world of mountains and rivers, jungles and waterfalls, oceans and forests, animals and plants. The basic laws of physics are cleverly designed to create conditions on Earth suitable for human life and human development. Gravity prevents us and our belongings from floating off into space; water makes our crops grow; the fact that certain materials are combustible makes it possible to cook our food and stay warm in winter. Yet gravity, water and fire are responsible for many tragedies, such as airplane crashes, drownings and chemical plant explosions. Tragedies such as floods and automobile accidents are the results of laws of physics which, viewed as a whole, are magnificently designed and normally work for our benefit. Nearly everything in Nature which is harmful to man has also a benevolent side, or is the result of a good thing gone bad. Even pain and fear themselves sometimes have useful purposes: pain may warn us that something in our body needs attention, and without fear, we would all die young doing foolish and dangerous things, or kill ourselves the first time life disappoints us.

"...a magnificant world, of mountains and rivers, jungles and waterfalls..."
“…a magnificant world, of mountains and rivers, jungles and waterfalls…”

But why won’t God protect us from the bad side effects of Nature? Why doesn’t he overrule the laws of Nature when they work against us? Why is he so “silent” during our most difficult and heart-breaking moments? First of all, if we assume he has complete control over Nature, we are assuming much more than we have a right to assume. It does not necessarily follow that, because something is designed, it can never break down. We design cars, and yet they don’t always function as designed. When our car breaks down, we don’t conclude that the designer planned for it to break down, nor do we conclude that it had no designer; when the human body breaks down, we should not jump to the conclusion that God planned the illness, nor should we conclude that the body had no designer.

That we were designed by a fantastically intelligent super intellect is a conclusion which is easily drawn from the evidence all around us. To jump from this to the conclusion that this creator can control everything is quite a leap. In fact, I find it easy to draw the opposite conclusion from the evidence, that this creator cannot, or at least does not, control everything. Nearly everyone seems to assume that if you attribute anything to God, you have to attribute everything to God. And even if we assume he has complete control over Nature it is hard to see how he could satisfy everyone. Your crops are dry so you pray for rain—but I am planning a picnic. It seems more fair to let Nature take its course and hope we learn to adapt. Controlling the motions of all the atoms in the world so that nothing terrible ever happens to us, so that we always get what we most need, is probably not as easy as it sounds!

In any case, what would life be like if the laws of Nature were not reliable? What if God could and did stand by to intervene on our behalf every time we needed him? We would then be spared all of life’s disappointments and failures, and life would certainly be less dangerous, but let us think about what life would be like in a world where nothing could ever go wrong.

I enjoy climbing mountains—small ones. I recently climbed an 8,700 foot peak in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and was hot and exhausted, but elated, when I finished the climb. Later I heard a rumor that the Park Service was considering building a cable car line to the top, and I was horrified. Why was I horrified—that would make it much easier for me to reach the peak? Because, of course, the pleasure I derived from climbing that peak did not come simply from reaching the top—it came from knowing that I had faced a challenge and overcome it. Since riding in a cable car requires no effort, it is impossible to fail to reach the top, and thus taking a cable car to the peak brings no sense of accomplishment. Even if I went up the hard way again, just knowing that I could have ridden the cable car would cheapen my accomplishment.

When we think about it, we see in other situations that achieving a goal brings satisfaction only if effort is required, and only if the danger of failure is real. And if the danger of failure is real, sometimes we will fail.

When we prepare for an athletic contest, we know what the rules are and we plan our strategy accordingly. We work hard, physically and mentally, to get ready for the game. If we win, we are happy knowing that we played fairly, followed the rules, and achieved our goal. Of course we may lose, but what satisfaction would we derive from winning a game whose rules are constantly being modified to make sure we win? It is impossible to experience the thrill of victory without risking the agony of defeat. How many fans would attend a football game whose participants are just actors, acting out a script which calls for the home team to win? We would all rather go to a real game and risk defeat.

Life is a real game, not a rigged one. We know what the rules are, and we plan accordingly. We know that the laws of Nature and of life do not bend at our every wish, and it is precisely this knowledge which makes our achievements meaningful. If the rules of Nature were constantly modified to make sure we achieved our goals—whether they involve proving Fermat’s Last Theorem, getting a book published, finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, earning a college degree, or making a small business work—we would derive no satisfaction from reaching those goals. If the rules were even occasionally bent, we would soon realize that the game was rigged, and just knowing that the rules were flexible would cheapen all our accomplishments. Perhaps I should say, “if we were aware that the rules were being bent,” because I do believe that God has intervened in human and natural history at times in the past, and I would like to believe he still intervenes in human affairs, and even answers prayers, on occasions, but the rules at least appear to us to be inflexible.

If great works of art, music, literature, or science could be realized without great effort, and if success in such endeavors were guaranteed, the works of Michelangelo, Mozart, Shakespeare and Newton would not earn much admiration. If it were possible to realize great engineering projects without careful study, clever planning and hard work, or without running any risk of failure, mankind would feel no satisfaction in having built the Panama Canal or having sent a man to the moon. And if the dangers Columbus faced in sailing into uncharted waters were not real, we would not honor him as a brave explorer. Scientific and technological progress are only made through great effort and careful study, and not every scientist or inventor is fortunate enough to leave his mark, but anyone who thinks God would be doing us a favor by dropping a book from the sky with all the answers in it does not understand human nature very well—that would take all the fun out of discovery. If the laws of Nature were more easily circumvented, life would certainly be less frustrating and less dangerous, but also less challenging and less interesting.

Many of the tragedies, failures and disappointments which afflict mankind are inevitable consequences of laws of Nature and of life which, viewed as a whole, are magnificently designed and normally work for our benefit. And it is because we know these laws are reliable, and do not bend to satisfy our needs, that our greatest achievements have meaning.

6.3 The Freedom of Man’s Will

I believe, however, that the unhappiness in this world attributable to “acts of God” (more properly called “acts of Nature”) is small compared to the unhappiness which we inflict on each other. Reform the human spirit and you have solved the problems of drug addiction, drunk driving, war, broken marriages, child abuse, neglect of the elderly, crime, corruption and racial hatred. I suspect that many (not all, of course) of the problems which we generally blame on circumstances beyond our control are really caused by, or aggravated by, man—or at least could be prevented if we spent as much time trying to solve the world’s problems as we spend in hedonistic pursuits.

God has given us, on this Earth, the tools and resources necessary to construct, not a paradise, but something not too far from it. I am convinced that the majority of the things which make us most unhappy are the direct or indirect result of the sins and errors of people. Often, unfortunately, it is not the guilty person who suffers.

But our evil actions are also the inevitable result of one of our highest blessings—our free will. C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, says,

Free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having…. Someone once asked me, ‘Why did God make a creature of such rotten stuff that it went wrong?’ The better stuff a creature is made of—the cleverer and stronger and freer it is—then the better it will be if it goes right, but also the worse it will be if it goes wrong.

Why do a husband and wife decide to have a child? A toy doll requires much less work, and does not throw a temper tantrum every time you make him take a bath or go to bed. A stuffed animal would be much less likely to mark on the walls with a crayon, or gripe about a meal which took hours to prepare. But most parents feel that the bad experiences in raising a real child are a price worth paying for the rewards—the hand-made valentine he brings home from school, and the “I love you” she whispers as she gives her mother and father a good night kiss. They recognize that the same free will which makes a child more difficult to take care of than a stuffed animal also makes him more interesting. This must be the way our Creator feels about us. The freedom which God has given to us results, as an inevitable consequence, in many headaches for him and for ourselves, but it is precisely this freedom which makes us more interesting than the other animals. God must feel that the headaches are a price worth paying: he has not taken back our free will, despite all the evil we have done. Why are there concentration camps in the world that God created? How could the Christian church sponsor the Crusades and the Inquisition? These terribly hard questions have a simple answer: because God gave us all a free will.

Jesus told a parable about “wheat and tares,” (Matthew 13) which seems to teach that the weeds of sin and sorrow cannot be eliminated from the Earth without destroying the soil of human freedom from which the wheat of joy and goodness also springs. It is impossible to rid the world of the sorrow caused by pride, selfishness and hatred without eliminating the free will which is also the source of all the unselfishness and love that there is in the world.

If we base our view of mankind on what we see on the television news, we may feel that good and evil are greatly out of balance today; that there is much more pain than joy in the world, and much more evil than goodness. It is true that the amount of pain which exists in our world is overwhelming, but so is the amount of happiness. And if we look more closely at the lives of those around us, we will see that the soil of human freedom still produces wheat as well as weeds. The dark night of Nazi Germany gave birth to the heroism of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Corrie ten Boom and many others. The well-known play “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds” is about two sisters raised by a bitter mother who suffocates ambition and discourages education. One sister ends up following the path to destruction taken by her mother; the other refuses to be trapped by her environment, and rises above it. It may seem at times that our world is choking on the weeds of pain and evil, but if we look closely we will see that wheat is still growing here.

Again we conclude that evil and unhappiness are the inevitable by-products of one of our most priceless blessings: our human free will.

6.4 The Interdependence of Human Lives

Since it is our human free will which makes our relationships with others meaningful, his third point is closely related to the second, but Baxter nevertheless considers this point to be important enough to merit separate consideration.

Much of an individual’s suffering is the direct or indirect result of the actions or misfortunes of others. Much of our deepest pain is the result of loneliness caused by the loss of the love or the life of a loved one, or of the strain of a bad relationship. How much suffering could be avoided if only we were “islands, apart to ourselves.” Then at least we would suffer only for our own actions, and feel only our own misfortunes. The interdependence of human life is certainly the cause of much unhappiness.

Yet here again, this sorrow is the inevitable result of one of our greatest blessings. The pain which comes from separation is in proportion to the joy which the relationship provided. Friction between friends is a source of grief, but friendship is the source of much joy. Bad marriages and strained parent-child relationships are responsible for much of the unhappiness in the modern world, but none of the other joys of life compare to those which can be experienced in a happy home. Although real love is terribly hard to find, anyone who has experienced it—as I did for a few short years—will agree that the male-female relationship is truly a masterpiece of design, when it works as it was intended to work.

As Baxter writes, “I am convinced that our greatest blessings come from the love which we give to others and the love which we receive from others. Without this interconnectedness, life would be barren and largely meaningless. The avoidance of all contact with other human beings might save us some suffering, but it would cost us the greatest joys and pleasures of life.”

6.5 The Value of Imperfect Conditions

We have thus far looked at suffering as a by-product of our blessings and not a blessing in itself. And certainly it is difficult to see anything good in suffering in its severest forms.

Nevertheless, we cannot help but notice that some suffering is necessary to enable us to experience life in its fullest, and to bring us to a closer relationship with God. Often it is through suffering that we experience the love of God, and discover the love of family and friends, in deepest measure. The man who has never experienced any setbacks or disappointments invariably is a shallow person, while one who has suffered is usually better able to empathize with others. Some of the closest and most beautiful relationships occur between people who have suffered similar sorrows.

It has been argued that most of the great works of literature, art and music were the products of suffering. One whose life has led him to expect continued comfort and ease is not likely to make the sacrifices necessary to produce anything of great and lasting value.

Of course, beyond a certain point pain and suffering lose their positive value. Even so, the human spirit is amazing for its resilience, and many people have found cause to thank God even in seemingly unbearable situations. While serving time in a Nazi concentration camp for giving sanctuary to Jews, Betsie ten Boom told her sister, “We must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been here.”

In a letter to our children composed after she realized she had lost her battle with cancer, Melissa wrote:

While I no longer feel physically normal…in an odd sort of way, I feel even more human. I have seen and felt more suffering by myself and others around me in the last few years than I probably ever would have. I have seen children still in strollers hooked up to IV chemotherapy and young children, my own children’s ages, with monstrous tumors bulging from their necks. In the face of this unjust tragedy, they still had a sweet innocent smile on their faces. I have talked with young women and men my own age who are struggling with the reality of leaving their young children and spouses long before their responsibilities of parenthood are completed.

I have also discovered a deepness in relationships with others that I probably never would have otherwise cultivated…. I have seen the compassion and love of others towards me. I have witnessed how good and true and caring the human spirit can be. I have learned much about love from others during these times.

We might add that not only the person who suffers, but also those who minister to his needs, are provided with opportunities for growth and development.

C.S. Lewis concludes his essay on The Problem of Pain by saying “Pain provides an opportunity for heroism; the opportunity is seized with surprising frequency.” As Baxter put it: “The problems, imperfections and challenges which our world contains give us opportunities for growth and development which would otherwise be impossible.”

6.6 Conclusions

In Brave New World, Aldous Huxley paints a picture of a futuristic Utopian society which has succeeded, through totalitarian controls on human behavior and drugs designed to stimulate pleasant emotions and to repress undesirable ones, in banishing all traces of pain and unpleasantness. There remains one “savage” who has not adapted to the new civilization, however, and his refusal to take his pills results in the following interchange between “Savage” and his “civilized” interrogators:

“We prefer to do things comfortably,” said the Controller.

“But I don’t want comfort, I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.”

“In fact,” said Mustopha Mond, “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“Alright then,” said the Savage defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

If God designed this world as a tourist resort where man could rest in comfort and ease, it is certainly a dismal failure. But I believe, with Savage, that man was created for greater things. That is why, I believe, this world presents us with such an inexhaustible array of puzzles in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology and philosophy to challenge and entertain us, and provides us with so many opportunities for creativity and achievement in music, literature, art, athletics, business, technology and other pursuits; and why there are always new worlds to discover, from the mountains and jungles of South America and the flora and fauna of Africa, to the era of dinosaurs and the surface of Mars, and the astonishing world of microbiology.

Why does God remain backstage, hidden from view, working behind the scenes while we act out our parts in the human drama? This question has lurked just below the surface throughout much of this book, and now perhaps we finally have an answer. If he were to walk out onto the stage, and take on a more direct and visible role, I suppose he could clean up our act, and rid the world of pain and evil—and doubt. But our human drama would be turned into a divine puppet show, and it would cost us some of our greatest blessings: the regularity of natural law which makes our achievements meaningful; the free will which makes us more interesting than robots; the love which we can receive from and give to others; and even the opportunity to grow and develop through suffering. I must confess that I still often wonder if the blessings are worth the terrible price, but God has chosen to create a world where both good and evil can flourish, rather than one where neither can exist. He has chosen to create a world of greatness and infamy, of love and hatred, and of joy and pain, rather than one of mindless robots or unfeeling puppets.

Batsell Barrett Baxter, who was dying of cancer as he wrote these words, concludes: “When one sees all of life and understands the reasons behind life’s suffering, I believe he will agree with the judgment which God himself declared in the Genesis story of creation: ‘And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.'”

85 Replies to “Is God Really Good?

  1. 1
    Axel says:

    I know God exists, Granville, but I’m still glad you quoted your wonderful wife’s words about how had she learned so much from her atrocious illness and the agonies caused by her various treatments, including from others in the same tragic plight.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    Axel,

    Where do these creatures of light come from?

  3. 3
  4. 4
    mike1962 says:

    If “God” means the Ultimate Reality, then pain and pleasure are part of the deal. “Good” and “evil” is usually thought of as “pleasure” vs “pain.” So “God” is both, pleasure and pain, good and evil, a reality of contrasts, and not wholly “good” if “good” means “pleasure.”

    That’s that roller coaster you are on, folks, like it or not.

    Deal with it.

  5. 5
    harry says:

    Imagine the conclusion of great war that was fought by you and your countrymen for a noble cause. You were led by the son of the king who was always right there on the front lines and seemed to bear the brunt of much more of the required pain and toil than anyone else — pain and toil that was the price of victory. The king’s son had consistently kept some of the warriors close to him; they suffered more because of their proximity to king’s son, but he seemed to really want them there next to him.

    Everyone is now gathered in the great hall of the king where there will be an accounting of each warrior’s efforts in the great war. Everyone has a story to tell about some great experience of pain and suffering they had endured. Everyone but you. Things were never really all that bad for you. You were fine. You are embarrassed after hearing of the heroic suffering of others, especially of those of the king’s son and those closest to him.

    Life is a great war. There has never been a war with more at stake. The King of kings will be victorious through the sufferings of the cross. Those who suffered more in this life were those He wanted close to him. One day those who suffered with Him will be thrilled that they did.

    Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
    — Romans 8:17

    When you suffer remember that you can unite that suffering to the sufferings of Christ; it will then be fighting for a noble cause; the King’s son wants you close to Him in His own suffering.

  6. 6
    buffalo says:

    Excellent!!!! ***** stars.

  7. 7
  8. 8

    I broke at “Melissa wrote”.

    Thank you Granville

  9. 9
    Pindi says:

    I agree UPright. That is a beautiful letter that your wife wrote, Granville.

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    as to:

    I find it easy to draw the opposite conclusion from the evidence, that this creator cannot, or at least does not, control everything. Nearly everyone seems to assume that if you attribute anything to God, you have to attribute everything to God. And even if we assume he has complete control over Nature it is hard to see how he could satisfy everyone. Your crops are dry so you pray for rain—but I am planning a picnic.

    Dr. Sewell, might I suggest that you are not qualified for the job of God?

    Not to insinuate in the least that you are an atheist Dr. Sewell, especially considering your pain at your wife’s passing, but the argument you are making right there reminds me a lot of ‘Darwinian Theology’. A theology that is pervasive throughout Darwinian literature, Which is best summed up as:

    “atheists have their theology, which is basically: “God, if he existed, wouldn’t do it this way (because) if I were God, I wouldn’t (do it that way).”
    UD blogger

    C.S. Lewis, whom you quoted Dr. Sewell, also stated this:

    “If you think of this world as a place simply intended for our happiness, you find it quite intolerable: think of it as a place for training and correction and it’s not so bad.”
    – C.S. Lewis

    In other words, with God, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, that happens has a purpose for why it happens, regardless of the fact that we, in our finite abilities, can find no reason for why a particular tragedy might have happened.

    We simply, as finite human beings, are not qualified to know what God’s ultimate purposes are for us in this world and, more importantly, purposes for us in the world to come:

    Isaiah 55:9
    “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    The problem of pain/evil, and how we react to tragedy in our lives, was almost central to Dr. Neal’s following talk on her near death experience.
    At around the 15:00 – 17:00 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Neal spoke about how she, when in the presence of God, and from being able to see things from that much higher “omniscient’ perspective, finally understood why God allows evil in the world (i.e. she finally ‘got it’) and understood how our limited perspective on ‘evil’ severely clouds our judgments and our reactions to those tragedies in our lives. (The take home message is to trust in God no matter what comes your way)

    Dr. Mary Neal’s Near-Death Experience – (Life review portion starts at the 13:00 minute mark) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHXW1erHMtg

    Verse:

    Romans 8:28
    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

    In the following article, Eben Alexander states that “He (God) is right here with each of us right now, seeing what we see, suffering what we suffer… and hoping desperately that we will keep our hope and faith in Him. Because that hope and faith will be triumphant.”

    The Easter Question – Eben Alexander, M.D. – March 2013
    Excerpt: More than ever since my near death experience, I consider myself a Christian -,,,
    Now, I can tell you that if someone had asked me, in the days before my NDE, what I thought of this (Easter) story, I would have said that it was lovely. But it remained just that — a story. To say that the physical body of a man who had been brutally tortured and killed could simply get up and return to the world a few days later is to contradict every fact we know about the universe. It wasn’t simply an unscientific idea. It was a downright anti-scientific one.
    But it is an idea that I now believe. Not in a lip-service way. Not in a dress-up-it’s-Easter kind of way. I believe it with all my heart, and all my soul.,,
    We are, really and truly, made in God’s image. But most of the time we are sadly unaware of this fact. We are unconscious both of our intimate kinship with God, and of His constant presence with us. On the level of our everyday consciousness, this is a world of separation — one where people and objects move about, occasionally interacting with each other, but where essentially we are always alone.
    But this cold dead world of separate objects is an illusion. It’s not the world we actually live in.,,,
    ,,He (God) is right here with each of us right now, seeing what we see, suffering what we suffer… and hoping desperately that we will keep our hope and faith in Him. Because that hope and faith will be triumphant.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.....79741.html

    Here is an excellent sermon by Tim Keller that gets the Calvinist’s ‘God is omniscient we are not’ point across very well.

    Does God Control Everything? – Tim Keller – (God’s sovereignty, evil, and our free will, how do they mesh? Short answer? God’s Omniscience!) – video (12:00 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/MDbKCZodtZI?t=727

    As to free will in general, it is important to point out that although free will is often thought of as allowing someone to choose between a veritable infinity of options, in a theistic view of reality that veritable infinity of options all boils down to just two options. Eternal life, (infinity if you will), with God, or Eternal life, (infinity again if you will), without God. C.S. states that narrowing of an infinity of options down to two as such:

    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

    And exactly as would be expected on the Christian view of reality, we find two very different eternities in reality. An ‘infinitely destructive’ eternity associated with General Relativity and a extremely orderly eternity associated with Special Relativity:

    Special and General Relativity compared to Heavenly and Hellish Near Death Experiences
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbKELVHcvSI&list=PLtAP1KN7ahia8hmDlCYEKifQ8n65oNpQ5

    also see these following videos on youtube

    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the ‘Theory of Everything’ (Entropic Concerns)

    Albert Einstein vs “The Now” of Philosophers and “The Now” of Quantum Mechanics

    Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the Theory of Everything – Centrality Concerns

    Moreover, as far as science itself is concerned, there is empirical evidence strongly suggesting that God is indeed in control of everything that happens:

    New Mind-blowing Experiment Confirms That Reality Doesn’t Exist If You Are Not Looking at It – June 3, 2015
    Excerpt: The results of the Australian scientists’ experiment, which were published in the journal Nature Physics, show that this choice is determined by the way the object is measured, which is in accordance with what quantum theory predicts.
    “It proves that measurement is everything. At the quantum level, reality does not exist if you are not looking at it,” said lead researcher Dr. Andrew Truscott in a press release.,,,
    “The atoms did not travel from A to B. It was only when they were measured at the end of the journey that their wave-like or particle-like behavior was brought into existence,” he said.
    Thus, this experiment adds to the validity of the quantum theory and provides new evidence to the idea that reality doesn’t exist without an observer.
    http://themindunleashed.org/20.....at-it.html

    “Look, we all have fun ridiculing the creationists who think the world sprang into existence on October 23, 4004 BC at 9AM (presumably Babylonian time), with the fossils already in the ground, light from distant stars heading toward us, etc. But if we accept the usual picture of quantum mechanics, then in a certain sense the situation is far worse: the world (as you experience it) might as well not have existed 10^-43 seconds ago!”
    – Scott Aaronson – MIT associate Professor quantum computation – Lecture 11: Decoherence and Hidden Variables

    Double Slit, Quantum-Electrodynamics, and Christian Theism – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1127450170601248/?type=2&theater

  11. 11
    rvb8 says:

    This idea of man being a noble creation is a heartening one, and certainly one reinforced by literature, art, and indeed, every day good deeds. However, it is also one that is remarkably useful for individual survival. Also, if we look at the undeniable facts, 99.99999% of people are forgotten at death, including the microscopically sucessful ones such as Trump and co. This being the case,(that is the facts negating the dream) it seems as though this post is fantastically inward looking. The suffering of Mr Sewell and his astoundingly courageous wife, will, in the end, matter to Mr Sewell and his brave companion, and in the end, to no one else, as witnessed by the billions and billions gone before us: I’m ok with that, in fact it is a marvellously egalitarian and human condition.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    “99.99999% of people are forgotten at death”

    Forgotten by people, but not by God.

    Matthew 10:29
    Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.

  13. 13
    Rennie says:

    A lot of people, do not understand that God has put everything under the authority of man. The scriptures states this at many points throughput His word.

    We have been given dominion over His works and in Isaiah 45v11 He even states that we should command the works of His hands to be fulfilled. It’s up to us. But we are more interested in ourselves and our own gain that we do not see that we as believer is under His grace. Which means we are to cease from our own works i.e. worrying, stressing, fearing etc…

    God is inherently good, it is man who are rebellious and not exercising his God given authority through unbelief. Unbelief is simply not resting in His promise – His grace.

  14. 14
    DillyGill says:

    Life is designed for Gods’ purposes. We are a physical demonstration of spiritual principles. The great promise is that there will be justice for all and another life. This life is all about ‘the choice’. What we tie ourselves to here will affect our eternal destiny (my summation) With out this in mind (at least as an option) then it is very easy to raise accusations against God
    I have a daughter (four yeas old). When I discipline her or deny her something, I see her tears and yet I expect her to realise (at some point) that there is a purpose behind my actions and I expect her to trust in my good intentions even though I am denying her the thing she wants with all her heart at that particular point in her life. Yet I also know she can not see past the end of her own nose and can not see what I see. She just has to trust me. And yet what if she were to start shouting ‘you are evil for doing this to me’ what could she know or understand about my motives, does that make me evil just because she accuses me? I think we are like children in this life, we do not know enough to be making the sorts of accusations (against God) that are now common place and generally accepted. And what we do know shows life is designed so why should we even entertain the accusations against God of someone who has said in his heart God does not exist and has not even passed the level of baby!? Trying to palm off their desire to do right in their own eyes as a mere case of unbelief based on the wonky assumptions and rhetoric supplied by the philosophically flawed scientism crew!

    I am fairly convinced that the cure for cancer was found a long time ago (can’t prove this) and it is a natural cure that is not expensive. I believe that it is mans greed that prevents it being released and man putting his faith into the name of science (we need expensive machines and high priests to fix cancer surely), an institute that has been hijacked a long time ago (look at the foundations of modern medicine and the Rockefeller institute a family well known for its greed)

    We (especially I) live un-natural lives nowadays and it is getting harder and harder to live a natural life. I think a lot of ‘ill’ comes from this (and yet I seem to love it as well!)

    If we really, really, really believed that this life is not all there is (and we have good cause to imho) then we would understand why Jesus said, let the dead (spiritually) bury the dead (physically). It is painful for all to loose someone they love. Why would anyone like so many of the atheists I see posting, wilfully reject the evidence of design and whilst robbing people of their hope, they cast themselves as the brave truth warriors facing the bitter reality of life and calling the faith heads deluded and abusers of children for raising our own children with hope in their hearts when if life is designed (which it clearly is) it makes them thieves (stealing our rightful hope), the worst kind of child abusers possible and the most deluded and destructive people on the planet.
    Is God good? Yes. Life is designed (fact) There is hope in death (faith)

  15. 15
    Origenes says:

    Thank you, Granville.

  16. 16
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest to the tragedy of death and the hope that is found in faith:

    Both Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln were born on the same day and shared many strange similarities in their lives,

    “Both men lost their mothers in early childhood, both suffered depression and both struggled with religious questions. The two also had poor relations with their fathers and each lost a child in early childbirth. Lincoln and Darwin both share “late bloomers” disease: Neither found real success until their middle years — Darwin published The Origin of the Species at 50 and Lincoln was elected President one year later.”
    http://www.tressugar.com/Linco.....nk-1757730

    ,,,but the one common thing they shared that separated the two men drastically was the way they choose to handle the pain that happened in their lives. Darwin, though drifting away from God for a long while, was permanently driven away from God because of what he perceived to be the ‘unjust’ death of his daughter,,

    “The death of his daughter was a significant event in Darwin’s life, and certainly consolidated his belief that a bad world is incompatible with a good God.”
    http://askjohnmackay.com/quest.....ristianity

    (In fact, in Origin of Species, instead of relying on scientific evidence, as is popularly believed, Darwin relies primarily on faulty Theodicy to try to make the case for evolution).

    Charles Darwin, Theologian: Major New Article on Darwin’s Use of Theology in the Origin of Species – May 6, 2011
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....46391.html

    Whereas Lincoln, on the other hand, was driven from his mild skepticism towards God into a deep reliance upon God because of the death of his son.

    Abraham Lincoln’s Path to Divine Providence
    Excerpt: In 1862, when Lincoln was 53 years old, his 11-year-old son Willie died. Lincoln’s wife “tried to deal with her grief by searching out New Age mediums.” Lincoln turned to Phineas Gurley, pastor of the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington. Several long talks led to what Gurley described as “a conversion to Christ.” Lincoln confided that he was “driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I have nowhere else to go.”
    Similarly, the horrors of the dead and wounded soldiers assaulted him daily. There were fifty hospitals for the wounded in Washington. The rotunda of the Capitol held 2,000 cots for wounded soldiers. Typically, fifty soldiers a day died in these temporary hospitals. All of this drove Lincoln deeper into the providence of God. “We cannot but believe, that He who made the world still governs it.”
    His most famous statement about the providence of God in relation to the Civil War was his Second Inaugural Address, given a month before he was assassinated. It is remarkable for not making God a simple supporter for the Union or Confederate cause. He has his own purposes and does not excuse sin on either side.
    “Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war might speedily pass away…. Yet if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid with another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.”
    http://www.christianity.com/th.....99728.html

    Verse and Music:

    Luke 23:39-43
    One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
     But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
    Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
    Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    Need You Now – Plumb – live
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGIumjD6I3M

    Of supplemental note to God’s sovereignty and the problem of pain:

    “He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.”
    ~James Stewart~
    ———————————
    “It is a glorious phrase of the New Testament, that ‘he led captivity captive.’
    The very triumphs of His foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to sub-serve his end, not theirs.
    They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet.
    They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne.
    They flung him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King of Glory come in.
    They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy.
    They thought they had defeated God with His back (to) the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down.
    He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.”
    James Stewart (1896–1990) was a minister of the Church of Scotland
    —————-
    https://christcenteredteaching.wordpress.com/category/james-stewart/

    Supplemental note on the hope of life after death:

    Surprising Evidence for God: Near Death-Experiences by Sean McDowell – August 23, 2016
    Excerpt: To put it simply, I was stunned at both the quantity and quality of cases that pose a challenge for naturalism. My experience is not unique. In Near-Death Experiences, J. Steve Miller observes:
    “It’s important to note that most of these [NDE] researchers don’t come across as heralding their pet theological or philosophical positions. Most that I read began their research doubting that NDE’s involved anything spiritual but became convinced by the weight of the evidence.”[ii]
    http://seanmcdowell.org/blog/s.....xperiences

  17. 17
    Granville Sewell says:

    Where do these creatures of light come from? (Mung comment #2)

    I’ll tell you another story. One day at church in Austin, Melissa noticed her best friend was quietly sobbing during much of the service, afterward Melissa approached her and asked what was she crying about. Her friend said she was crying because Melissa had to go to M.D.Andersen that week and have her eye (and much of her face) removed. Melissa spent a good while trying to comfort her friend.

    One of the reasons I wrote this book (not the only reason of course) was as a tribute to Melissa, 25 years late. I have been very disappointed by sales (though of the few people who have read it, many have told me they really, really like it). But no doubt more people will read this column than will buy the book, so I can honor her here at least.

  18. 18
    Autodidaktos says:

    Dear Dr. Granville Sewell,

    Allow me to play the Devil’s Advocate here:

    You make the point that we cannot assume that God is in complete control of nature. However, God is not the creator of nature in the way a watchmaker is the creator of that watch — every particle on matter is at every moment directly sustained by the active causal power of God. This view is biblical, but it can also be proven via philosophical proofs such as the arguments from motion, efficient causality, contingency, gradations of perfection and teleology (by which I mean Aristotelian, not Paleyian teleology). Given that God is the cause of all being, everything lives and moves and has its being in Him and through Him.

    Regarding your point that our suffering is a consequence of the inexorable laws of nature, I would point out that they’re due to chance rather than necessity. Earthquakes or tsunamis, for example, are ultimately due to chancy, chaotic, random behaviour of the matter in the earth’s mantle. Similarly, floods and droughts are due to chancy, random behaviours of the atmosphere.

    Regarding free will, one might object that God can prevent the exercise of some choices freely willed, without this going against our ability to will. For example, a policeman who would prevent a man from mugging an old woman is preventing that man’s exercise of his free choice to rob, but he’s not abolishing his ability to decide to make that choice. Why does not God intervene likewise?

    Finally, while a thinking individual might prefer pathos and suffering to having one’s senses dulled with drugs, one can indeed have freedom and adventure without the absurd suffering we experience in the world. Don’t the saints in heaven delight in God and continue to have freedom, even though they no longer suffer? Is this not what we’re promised at the eschaton? If the end state is for God to wipe every tear from every eye and destroy death, the enemy of mankind, why is there death at all?

    Mind you, I’m merely being the Devil’s Advocate here. I have answers to these questions, but I’m afraid we might have to jettison the theodicy you present.

  19. 19
    J-Mac says:

    This is a very complex issue for most…

    I’m going to ask 2 questions to make my point… hopefully…

    1. Is a father good if he implements discipline that could make his children suffer to a degree to correct them?

    2. Is a father good if he allows his children to suffer through a surgical procedure so that hey can get better?

  20. 20
    Pindi says:

    J-Mac:

    My answers:

    1. no, a good father would never impose suffering on his children in the interests of discipline.

    2. no surgical procedure should involve suffering. That’s what anaesthetics are for.

    Note for auto’s benefit, this is my opinion..

  21. 21
    Querius says:

    I once saw a film in a physics class that had four people sitting on wooden chairs around a square wooden table. One person tried to roll a wooden ball to the person sitting across from them, however the ball curved and was caught by the person seated to the left. In turn, that person tried to roll the ball to the person across from them, but the ball again curved to the person on their left. And so on. The instructor stopped the film and asked for possible explanations.

    No, there weren’t any magnets. No, the table was level. No, there weren’t any grooves in the table. No, there wasn’t anything spinning within the ball.

    After we’d given up, the instructor started the film again.

    We watched as the camera angle changed, revealing that the entire arrangement was sitting on a large rotating platform. The ball was traveling in a straight line—it was the table that was rotating underneath it.

    I never forgot the lesson—neither the one in physics nor the one in our incomplete perceptions of God, and what’s going on behind the scenes.

    -Q

  22. 22
    J-Mac says:

    Pindi wrote:

    1. no, a good father would never impose suffering on his children in the interests of discipline.

    Well, there is always some kind of suffering if a restriction is imposed. Usually it involves mental suffering but that’s what a good father would do to correct his children…

    How about if children’s friends were scheming to kill someone? Wouldn’t you discipline them and restricted the association? What kind of suffering would that be?

    2. no surgical procedure should involve suffering. That’s what anaesthetics are for.

    Note for auto’s benefit, this is my opinion..

    Any surgical procedure involves suffering. You probably have never had one, that’s why you don’t get it.

    There is the mental part of suffering before the surgery: Anxiety
    There is the physical part of suffering: after surgery-pain, discomfort, lack of sleep, lack of appetite and so on…
    It is a measure of suffering you probably have no idea about…

  23. 23
    EvilSnack says:

    Is God really Good?

    He’s certainly better than any atheist.

  24. 24
    Seversky says:

    God is an atheist.

  25. 25
    anthropic says:

    BA77 10 “In other words, with God, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, that happens has a purpose for why it happens, regardless of the fact that we, in our finite abilities, can find no reason for why a particular tragedy might have happened.”

    So when Jesus condemned those who harm children, stating that it would have been better for them not to have been born, and comparing their fate to having a millstone put around their necks and cast into the sea, he was really condemning God?

    When God told Adam not to eat of the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, he actually made sure Adam did so?

    When God told Israel not to worship false gods, lest they be defeated and enslaved, He purposed that they do exactly that?

    Of such a supreme being, I must agree with Baudelaire: “If there is a God, He is the Devil.”

    Fortunately, that is not the God that the Bible describes.

  26. 26
    bornagain77 says:

    Anthropic, and again, might I suggest that you, like Darwinists and Dr. Sewell, also are not qualified for the job of God?

    God knew full well ALL the evil that would ensue when He decided to create creatures with free will but, in His omniscient sovereignty, chose to do so anyway because of the greater good that would ultimately be accomplished through that creation.

    Moreover, knowing what people will choose to do beforehand with their free will is not the same thing as forcedly causing them to choose their particular evil choices. Yet using their own evil choices to His own advantage to bring about His greater purpose is exactly what God has done:

    “It is a glorious phrase of the New Testament, that ‘he led captivity captive.’
    The very triumphs of His foes, it means, he used for their defeat. He compelled their dark achievements to sub-serve his end, not theirs.
    They nailed him to the tree, not knowing that by that very act they were bringing the world to his feet.
    They gave him a cross, not guessing that he would make it a throne.
    They flung him outside the gates to die, not knowing that in that very moment they were lifting up all the gates of the universe, to let the King of Glory come in.
    They thought to root out his doctrines, not understanding that they were implanting imperishably in the hearts of men the very name they intended to destroy.
    They thought they had defeated God with His back (to) the wall, pinned and helpless and defeated: they did not know that it was God Himself who had tracked them down.
    He did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.”
    James Stewart (1896–1990) was a minister of the Church of Scotland

    Genesis 50:20
    And as for you, ye meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

    At around the 15:00 – 17:00 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Neal spoke about how she, when in the presence of God, and from being able to see things from that much higher “omniscient’ perspective, finally understood why God allows evil in the world (i.e. she finally ‘got it’) and understood how our limited perspective on ‘evil’ severely clouds our judgments and our reactions to those tragedies in our lives. (The take home message is to trust in God no matter what comes your way)

    Dr. Mary Neal’s Near-Death Experience – (Life review portion starts at the 13:00 minute mark) – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fHXW1erHMtg

    Verse:

    Romans 8:28
    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

  27. 27
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest to free will, In the following video, at the 37:00 minute mark, Anton Zeilinger, a leading researcher in quantum mechanics with many breakthroughs under his belt, humorously reflects on just how deeply determinism has been undermined by quantum mechanics by saying such a deep lack of determinism may provide some of us a loop hole when they meet God on judgment day.

    Prof Anton Zeilinger speaks on quantum physics. at UCT – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3ZPWW5NOrw

    Personally, I feel that such a deep undermining of determinism by quantum mechanics, far from providing a ‘loop hole’ on judgment day as Dr. Zeilinger stated, actually restores free will to its rightful place in the grand scheme of things, thus making God’s final judgments on men’s souls all the more fully binding since man truly is a ‘free moral agent’ to the infinite extent possibly allowed in a Theistic view of reality.

    Moreover, in regards to free will, it is important to point out that although free will is often thought of as allowing someone to choose between a veritable infinity of options, in a theistic view of reality that veritable infinity of options all boils down to just two options in the end. Eternal life, (infinity if you will), with God, or Eternal life, (infinity again if you will), without God. C.S. states it as such:

    “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.”
    – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

    And exactly as would be expected on the Christian view of reality, we find two very different eternities in reality. An ‘infinitely destructive’ eternity associated with General Relativity and a extremely orderly eternity associated with Special Relativity:

    Special and General Relativity compared to Heavenly and Hellish Near Death Experiences
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbKELVHcvSI&list=PLtAP1KN7ahia8hmDlCYEKifQ8n65oNpQ5

    As to the scientific evidence itself for the reality of free will, Zeilinger himself helped solidify the inference to free will’s axiomatic position in Quantum Mechanics with this following experiment.
    In the following experiment, the claim that past material states determine future conscious choices (determinism) is directly falsified by the fact that present conscious choices are, in fact, effecting past material states:

    “If we attempt to attribute an objective meaning to the quantum state of a single system, curious paradoxes appear: quantum effects mimic not only instantaneous action-at-a-distance but also, as seen here, influence of future actions on past events, even after these events have been irrevocably recorded.”
    Asher Peres, Delayed choice for entanglement swapping. J. Mod. Opt. 47, 139-143 (2000).

    Quantum physics mimics spooky action into the past – April 23, 2012
    Excerpt: The authors experimentally realized a “Gedankenexperiment” called “delayed-choice entanglement swapping”, formulated by Asher Peres in the year 2000.,,,
    According to the famous words of Albert Einstein, the effects of quantum entanglement appear as “spooky action at a distance”. The recent experiment has gone one remarkable step further. “Within a naïve classical world view, quantum mechanics can even mimic an influence of future actions on past events”, says Anton Zeilinger.
    – per physorg

    You can see a little better explanation of the “delayed-choice entanglement swapping” experiment at the 9:11 minute mark of the following video:

    Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser Experiment Explained – 2014 video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6HLjpj4Nt4

    In other words, if my conscious choices really are just merely the result of whatever state the material particles in my brain happen to be in in the past (deterministic) how in blue blazes are my present choices on how to measure a particle instantaneously effecting the state of other material particles in the past? This experiment is simply impossible for any coherent materialistic presupposition that holds that my current thoughts are merely the result of whatever state the particles of my brain happened to be in in the past!

    Furthermore, in this recent video Prof. Anton Zeilinger mentions another recent experiment (2015-2016) in which the the freedom of choice loophole is closed:

    Prof. Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology lecture:
    Entangled Photons – from Bell Tests (closing all loopholes, including the freedom of choice loophole, at 16:40 minute mark) to Applications – Published on Jul 25, 2016
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzMdKCcCGDI

    Here is a more detailed explanation of the closing of the freedom of choice loophole

    Significant-loophole-free test of Bell’s theorem with entangled photons – Dec. 2015
    Excerpt page 5:
    By closing the freedom-of-choice loophole to one natural stopping point—the first moment at which the particles come into existence—we reduce the possible local-realist explanations to truly exotic hypotheses. Any theory seeking to explain our result by exploiting this loophole would require to originate before the emission event and to influence setting choices derived from spontaneous emission. It has been suggested that setting choices determined by events from distant cosmological sources could push this limit back by billions of years [46].
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1511.03190.pdf

    Here is a video lecture of the preceding paper:

    Marissa Giustina: Significant loophole-free test of Bell’s theorem with entangled photons – video
    Published on Jul 5, 2016
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgoWM4Jcl-s

    Moreover, as was briefly mentioned in the preceding paper, due to these recent advances in quantum mechanics, the materialist is now forced to claim that our free will choices, if they were determined, instead of being determined by the random jostling of the material particles in our brain, as atheists had originally claimed, is now forced to claim that our free will choices were somehow ‘superdetermined’ almost all the way back to the Big Bang itself:

    But why is the quantum world thought spooky anyway? – September 1, 2015
    Excerpt: Zeilinger also notes that there remains one last, somewhat philosophical loophole, first identified by Bell himself: the possibility that hidden variables could somehow manipulate the experimenters’ choices of what properties to measure, tricking them into thinking quantum theory is correct.,,,
    Leifer is less troubled by this ‘freedom-of-choice loophole’, however. “It could be that there is some kind of superdeterminism, so that the choice of measurement settings was determined at the Big Bang,” he says. “We can never prove that is not the case, so I think it’s fair to say that most physicists don’t worry too much about this.”
    per UncommonDescent post

    Closing the ‘free will’ loophole: Using distant quasars to test Bell’s theorem – February 20, 2014
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....112515.htm

    Moreover, if you truly believe that your free will choices were ‘superdetermined’ all the way back at the big bang, then I say welcome to Christianity since ultra-strict Calvinists have, for centuries, held to a ‘superdeterminism’ view of reality.

    Here is an excellent sermon by Tim Keller that gets the Calvinist’s ‘God is omniscient we are not’ position across very well.

    Does God Control Everything? – Tim Keller – (God’s sovereignty, evil, and our free will, how do they mesh? Short answer? God’s Omniscience!) – video (12:00 minute mark)
    https://youtu.be/MDbKCZodtZI?t=727

    Verse:

    –Deuteronomy 30: 19-20
    I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.”

  28. 28
    rvb8 says:

    BA said that God knew of the evil that man would bring to his creation, but chose to create man anyway because of the, ‘greater good that would ultimately be accomplished’. So, this end times death cult, was innaugerated by a God who knew about all that was to befall disease ridden children, tortured children, corrupt leaders and their people, rascist genocidal dictators and their victims, biblical-Koranical fanatics and their tedious followers, a planet barely able to sustain life, and the greedy men destroying it; and said “It is good”!?
    Hmm, seems like a mildly nonsensical deity to be praying to. At least the Hindus can point to their deity, it’s eating hay in the streets, and should be avoided by automobiles. In fact, sun worship should get a rebilling, like Hiduism it too can at least point to something as being worthy of being reveered; the sun!
    “Is God Really Good”, is the title of this piece. It was written by a loving husband, to try to understand the suffering, and death of his beloved wife. The answer to the title question is very simple. It is either, there is no God, or ‘No’!
    Is this nhilistic, bereft of hope, or is it ultimate misery? Again No! It is life, with all of its misery, happiness, joy and suffering; I like it! And please keep your tiny tedious God to your self, I don’t need Him/Her/It!

  29. 29
    bornagain77 says:

    Christianity is a death cult? Really?? Would not the term ‘death cult’ be much more appropriately assigned to your atheistic worldview since your atheistic worldview is the one that champions abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide (Singer, Dawkins)? Or does that just make too much sense for you?

    Ignoring all of rvb8’s superficial, and highly hypocritical, rhetoric against Christianity, and going to the meat of the matter, there are some major, self-refuting, fallacies within his ‘argument from evil’.

    First off, the argument from evil is a self-refuting theologically based argument, and is not a scientifically based argument. It is a self-refuting Theologically based argument since it presupposes the reality of objective morality, i.e. of God, in its premises in order to try to reach the conclusion that God does not exist..

    Stephen Meyer – Morality Presupposes Theism (1 of 4) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSpdh1b0X_M

    Stealing from God: Atheists Presuppose God for Morality – Frank Turek, PhD – 2015 – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWxBxDMTzjM

    The Moral Argument – drcraigvideos – 2015
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OxiAikEk2vU

    If Good and Evil Exist, God Exists: Prager University – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xliyujhwhNM

    “The strength of materialism is that it obviates the problem of evil altogether. God need not be reconciled with evil, because neither exists. Therefore the problem of evil is no problem at all.,,, And of course since there is no evil, the materialist must, ironically, not use evil to justify atheism. The problem of evil presupposes the existence of an objective evil-the very thing the materialist seems to deny. The argument (from Theodicy) that led to materialism is exhausted just when it is needed most. In other words, the problem of evil is only generated by the prior claims that evil exists. One cannot then conclude, with Dawkins, that there is ‘no evil and no good’ in the universe.,,,
    The fact that evolution’s acceptance hinges on a theological position would, for many, be enough to expel it from science. But evolution’s reliance on metaphysics is not its worst failing. Evolution’s real problem is not its metaphysics but its denial of its metaphysics.,,,
    Cornelius Hunter – Darwin’s God – pg. 154 & 159

    Moreover, instead of ever presenting any empirical evidence that Darwinian evolution is actually true, Darwinists rely primarily on this self-refuting, Theologically based, ‘argument from evil’ to try justify their ‘science’. A particularly telling example of Darwinian Theology masquerading as science is the following example:

    In the twisted world of Darwinian reasoning, Dr. John Avise used the fact that mutations are overwhelmingly detrimental, which is actually a VERY powerful scientific argument against Darwinian evolution being true, as a theological argument for Darwinism since, according to Darwinian theology, God would supposedly never allow such things as detrimental mutations:

    It Is Unfathomable That a Loving Higher Intelligence Created the Species – Cornelius Hunter – June 2012
    Excerpt: “Approximately 0.1% of humans who survive to birth carry a duplicon-related disability, meaning that several million people worldwide currently are afflicted by this particular subcategory of inborn metabolic errors. Many more afflicted individuals probably die in utero before their conditions are diagnosed. Clearly, humanity bears a substantial health burden from duplicon-mediated genomic malfunctions. This inescapable empirical truth is as understandable in the light of mechanistic genetic operations as it is unfathomable as the act of a loving higher intelligence. [112]”
    – Dr. John Avise – “Inside The Human Genome: A Case For Non-Intelligent Design”
    (Dr. Cornelius Hunter goes on to comment)
    “There you have it. Evil exists and a loving higher intelligence wouldn’t have done it that way.” –
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....it-is.html

    In his book, Avise also cites this

    “Another compilation of gene lesions responsible for inherited diseases is the web-based Human Gene Mutation Database (HGMD). Recent versions of HGMD describe more than 75,000 different disease causing mutations identified to date in Homo-sapiens.”
    John C. Avise – Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design – Pg. 57

    I went to the mutation database website cited by John Avise and found:

    Mutation total (as of May 6, 2016) – 179,235
    http://www.hgmd.cf.ac.uk/ac/

    And here is a recent paper from ENV that drives this point home

    A Billion Genes and Not One Beneficial Mutation – August 26, 2016
    Excerpt: Nature just published results of the Exome Aggregation Consortium (ExAC), the largest survey of human genes to date. (An “exome” is the portion of the genome that codes for proteins.) The exomes from 60,706 individuals from a variety of ethnic groups have been collected and analyzed. If we multiply 60,000 people by the 20,000 genes in the human genome (the lowest estimate), we get a minimum of 1.2 billion genes that have been examined by ExAC for variants.,,,
    ,,, we search(ed) the paper in vain for any mention of beneficial mutations. There’s plenty of talk about disease. The authors only mention “neutral” variants twice. But there are no mentions of beneficial mutations. You can’t find one instance of any of these words: benefit, beneficial, fitness, advantage (in terms of mutation),improvement, innovation, invention, or positive selection.
    They mention all kinds of harmful effects from most variants: missense and nonsense variants, frameshift mutations, proteins that get truncated on translation, and a multitude of insertions and deletions. Quite a few are known to cause diseases. There are probably many more mutations that never survive to birth. As for natural selection, the authors do speak of “negative selection” and “purifying selection” weeding out the harmful mutations, but nowhere do they mention anything worthwhile that positive selection appears to be preserving.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....03091.html

    Contrary to what Dr. Avise, and other Darwinists, may believe, such an overwhelming rate of detrimental mutations, and the sheer poverty of any unambiguously beneficial mutations that would counter such an overwhelming negative mutation rate, is NOT a point of evidence in favor of Darwinian evolution being true! In fact, it is a very powerful scientific argument against Darwinism being true!,,,

    Genetic Entropy – peer reviewed references
    http://www.geneticentropy.org/#!properties/ctzx

    Dr. John Sanford “Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome” – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eY98io7JH-c

    In a memorable turn of phrase, Lee Spetner says that anyone who thinks that an accumulation of mutations (information-losing processes) can lead to macroevolution (a massive net gain of information) ‘is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make it up on volume.’

    That this fact that a overwhelming rate of detrimental mutations is actually a VERY powerful argument against Darwinian evolution being true would even have to be pointed out to Darwinists is a sad testimony to how warped Darwinian theology truly is in regards to the science at hand.

  30. 30
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, Avise’s example of flawed Theology masquerading as science is hardly the only example of the flawed Theology that lies at the base of Darwinian science.

    Here, at about the 55:00 minute mark in the following video, Phillip Johnson sums up his, in my opinion, excellent lecture by noting that the refutation of his book, ‘Darwin On Trial’, in the Journal Nature, the most prestigious science journal in the world, was a theological argument about what God would and would not do and therefore Darwinism must be true, and the critique from Nature was not a refutation based on any substantiating scientific evidence for Darwinism that one would expect to be brought forth in such a prestigious venue:

    Darwinism On Trial (Phillip E. Johnson) – lecture video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gwj9h9Zx6Mw

    Here is a quote from the Nature article that tried to refute Johnson’s book. A quote that is blatantly theological:

    David Hull, reviewing Darwin on Trial for Nature, was equally severe with me for refusing to concede that Darwinism has finished off theistic religion for good. Hull emphatically proclaimed a Darwinist doctrine of God:

    “What kind of God can one infer from the sort of phenomena epitomized by the species on Darwin’s Galapagos Islands? The evolutionary process is rife with happenstance, contingency, incredible waste, death, pain and horror The God of the Galapagos is careless, wasteful, indifferent, almost diabolical. He is certainly not the sort of God to whom anyone would be inclined to pray.6”
    http://www.arn.org/docs/orpage.....ngould.htm

    In this following video Dr. William Lane Craig is surprised to find that evolutionary biologist Dr. Ayala extensively uses the theological argument of ‘bad design’ in his book to support Darwinian evolution and invites him to present empirical evidence, any positive evidence at all, that Darwinian evolution can do what he claims it can:

    Refuting The Myth Of ‘Bad Design’ vs. Intelligent Design – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uIzdieauxZg

    Perhaps some may think that these are just a few isolated examples of Darwinists improperly using Theology instead of scientific evidence. Yet, far from being isolated examples, bad liberal Theology was used extensively in Darwin’s book ‘Origin of Species’:

    Charles Darwin’s use of theology in the Origin of Species – STEPHEN DILLEY
    Abstract
    This essay examines Darwin’s positiva (or positive) use of theology in the first edition of the Origin of Species in three steps. First, the essay analyses the Origin’s theological language about God’s accessibility, honesty, methods of creating, relationship to natural laws and lack of responsibility for natural suffering; the essay contends that Darwin utilized positiva theology in order to help justify (and inform) descent with modification and to attack special creation. Second, the essay offers critical analysis of this theology, drawing in part on Darwin’s mature ruminations to suggest that, from an epistemic point of view, the Origin’s positiva theology manifests several internal tensions. Finally, the essay reflects on the relative epistemic importance of positiva theology in the Origin’s overall case for evolution. The essay concludes that this theology served as a handmaiden and accomplice to Darwin’s science.
    http://journals.cambridge.org/.....741100032X

    And flawed liberal Theology, instead of scientific evidence, continues to be used extensively today by leading Darwinists to try to support Darwinian evolution:

    Methodological Naturalism: A Rule That No One Needs or Obeys – Paul Nelson – September 22, 2014
    Excerpt: It is a little-remarked but nonetheless deeply significant irony that evolutionary biology is the most theologically entangled science going. Open a book like Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution is True (2009) or John Avise’s Inside the Human Genome (2010), and the theology leaps off the page. A wise creator, say Coyne, Avise, and many other evolutionary biologists, would not have made this or that structure; therefore, the structure evolved by undirected processes. Coyne and Avise, like many other evolutionary theorists going back to Darwin himself, make numerous “God-wouldn’t-have-done-it-that-way” arguments, thus predicating their arguments for the creative power of natural selection and random mutation on implicit theological assumptions about the character of God and what such an agent (if He existed) would or would not be likely to do.,,,
    ,,,with respect to one of the most famous texts in 20th-century biology, Theodosius Dobzhansky’s essay “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (1973).
    Although its title is widely cited as an aphorism, the text of Dobzhansky’s essay is rarely read. It is, in fact, a theological treatise. As Dilley (2013, p. 774) observes:
    “Strikingly, all seven of Dobzhansky’s arguments hinge upon claims about God’s nature, actions, purposes, or duties. In fact, without God-talk, the geneticist’s arguments for evolution are logically invalid. In short, theology is essential to Dobzhansky’s arguments.”,,
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....89971.html

    Nothing in biology makes sense except in light of theology? – Dilley S. – 2013
    Abstract
    This essay analyzes Theodosius Dobzhansky’s famous article, “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution,” in which he presents some of his best arguments for evolution. I contend that all of Dobzhansky’s arguments hinge upon sectarian claims about God’s nature, actions, purposes, or duties. Moreover, Dobzhansky’s theology manifests several tensions, both in the epistemic justification of his theological claims and in their collective coherence. I note that other prominent biologists–such as Mayr, Dawkins, Eldredge, Ayala, de Beer, Futuyma, and Gould–also use theology-laden arguments. I recommend increased analysis of the justification, complexity, and coherence of this theology.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23890740

    Moreover, as if the preceding was not more than enough to disqualify Darwinian evolution as a rigorous empirical science, denying the reality of God, and denying agent causality in particular, leads to the catastrophic epistemological failure of science:

    Darwinian evolution, and atheism/naturalism in general, are built entirely upon a foundation of illusions and fantasy
    Excerpt: Thus, given materialistic premises, people become illusions whose observations of reality are illusory.
    And why in blue blazes should anyone trust what illusions having illusions have to say about reality?
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Q94y-QgZZGF0Q7HdcE-qdFcVGErhWxsVKP7GOmpKD6o/edit

    This catastrophic epistemological failure for science found within Atheistic Materialism really should not be all that surprising. Modern science was born in Christian cultures of Europe. Born out of Theistic presuppositions as to the reality of our mind, which was presupposed to be made in God’s image, to understand and comprehend the rational order to which God had created (and still sustains) this universe.

    Science and Theism: Concord, not Conflict* – Robert C. Koons
    IV. The Dependency of Science Upon Theism (Page 21)
    Excerpt: Far from undermining the credibility of theism, the remarkable success of science in modern times is a remarkable confirmation of the truth of theism. It was from the perspective of Judeo-Christian theism—and from the perspective alone—that it was predictable that science would have succeeded as it has. Without the faith in the rational intelligibility of the world and the divine vocation of human beings to master it, modern science would never have been possible, and, even today, the continued rationality of the enterprise of science depends on convictions that can be reasonably grounded only in theistic metaphysics.
    http://www.robkoons.net/media/.....ffd524.pdf

    The Threat to the Scientific Method that Explains the Spate of Fraudulent Science Publications – Calvin Beisner | Jul 23, 2014
    Excerpt: It is precisely because modern science has abandoned its foundations in the Biblical worldview (which holds, among other things, that a personal, rational God designed a rational universe to be understood and controlled by rational persons made in His image) and the Biblical ethic (which holds, among other things, that we are obligated to tell the truth even when it inconveniences us) that science is collapsing.
    As such diverse historians and philosophers of science as Alfred North Whitehead, Pierre Duhem, Loren Eiseley, Rodney Stark, and many others have observed,, science—not an occasional flash of insight here and there, but a systematic, programmatic, ongoing way of studying and controlling the world—arose only once in history, and only in one place: medieval Europe, once known as “Christendom,” where that Biblical worldview reigned supreme. That is no accident. Science could not have arisen without that worldview.
    – per townhall –
    Several other resources backing up this claim are available, such as Thomas Woods, Stanley Jaki, David Linberg, Edward Grant, J.L. Heilbron, and Christopher Dawson.

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, it is high time you moved beyond outdated rhetoric on the problem of evil, all you are doing is showing that you do not understand moral good and how a world in which LOVE is possible requires a world in which genuine responsible rational freedom is possible. But then evolutionary materialistic scientism turns the conscious self into a perceived delusion, thus doing away with good, love, virtue, freedom dignity and all, ending in opening the door to a dark night of amoral manipulation and nihilistic domineering. As Plato warned against long since in The Laws, Bk X. Which you have obviously not read with understanding. It is time to turn away from a failed fantasy that thought it could seize upon science, sever it from its roots in the Judaeo-Christian heritage of our civilisation and build an atheistical utopia. Surely the ghosts of over 100 million murdered by atheistical states and the further ghosts of 800+ million slaughtered in the womb warn us that instead we have only achieved a new age of endarkenment. KF

  32. 32
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: 2350 years ago, Plato warned us in no uncertain yerms . . .

    Ath [in The Laws, Bk X]. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.-

    [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT, leading to an effectively arbitrary foundation only for morality, ethics and law: accident of personal preference, the ebbs and flows of power politics, accidents of history and and the shifting sands of manipulated community opinion driven by “winds and waves of doctrine and the cunning craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming . . . ” cf a video on Plato’s parable of the cave; from the perspective of pondering who set up the manipulative shadow-shows, why.]

    These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might,

    [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”) . . . ]

    and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality at the hands of ruthless power hungry nihilistic agendas], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral and/or nihilistic factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse and arbitrariness . . . they have not learned the habits nor accepted the principles of mutual respect, justice, fairness and keeping the civil peace of justice, so they will want to deceive, manipulate and crush — as the consistent history of radical revolutions over the past 250 years so plainly shows again and again], and not in legal subjection to them [–> nihilistic will to power not the spirit of justice and lawfulness].

  33. 33
    john_a_designer says:

    On naturalism there is neither an explanation nor a fix for man’s fallibility. However, from a Christian-theist perspective our falleness is rooted in our moral nature. And even though our falleness affects us epistemologically, there is no solution for our problems from the standpoint of reason alone.

    Francis Schaeffer explains it this way:

    “There was a space-time historic change in man. There is a discontinuity and not continuity in man. Man, made in the image of God and not programmed, turned by choice from his proper integration point at a certain time in history. When he did this man became something that he previously was not and the dilemma of man becomes a true moral problem rather merely a metaphysical one. Man at a certain point in history change himself, and hence stands, in his cruelty, in discontinuity with what he was, and we have a true moral situation: morals suddenly exist.”

    Naturalism has no solution for man’s moral dilemma, because naturalism reduces man to a machine and machines are amoral.

  34. 34
    mike1962 says:

    Is God Really Good?

    It depends on what “good” means.

    Usually, this is framed relative to suffering.

    Nobody would even ask the question, if nobody suffered.

    Suffering is what we care about, not abstract notions of “goodness.”

    Suffering exists. Consciousness can experience pleasure and pain. When you ask if God is “good”, what you are really asking is, “is God something that desires to maximize pleasure, joy, etc, and minimize suffering?”

    Nobody knows.

    The entire creation of the universe and existence of humans could be a colossal joke, and it could be largely an illusion, for the amusement of “God” and who knows what/who else? It could appear baffling and contradictory because it was intended to be so. Much or most of what you believe about reality could be completely illusory. Or maybe we are “God” playing a very elaborate virtual reality game, with temporary amnesia while we are incarnated into this world. There are all kinds of conceivable possibilities. Or maybe there is some higher purpose to it all that we simply cannot fathom. Maybe it has our best interests at heart. Maybe it doesn’t.

    Again. Nobody knows.

    At very least, human attempts at philosophizing over it all are probably a great source of amusement for anyone looking on “from above.” For if “God” and the “transcendent” reality genuinely transcends this universe and human reason, then human reason is never going to get to the bottom of ultimate questions. But, by all means, knock yourself out. In the mean time, may as well settle back and enjoy/survive the ride as best you can. And help others to do so, if you are so inclined. (I could add, go ahead and hurt others, if you are so inclined, but that would violate my sensibilities.)

  35. 35
    john_a_designer says:

    Nobody knows.

    The entire creation of the universe and existence of humans could be a colossal joke, and it could be largely an illusion, for the amusement of “God” and who knows what/who else? It could appear baffling and contradictory because it was intended to be so. Much or most of what you believe about reality could be completely illusory. Or maybe we are “God” playing a very elaborate virtual reality game, with temporary amnesia while we are incarnated into this world. There are all kinds of conceivable possibilities. Or maybe there is some higher purpose to it all that we simply cannot fathom. Maybe it has our best interests at heart. Maybe it doesn’t.

    Again. Nobody knows.

    That is an intellectually and morally bankrupt point of view. I sincerely hope you mean it as some kind of joke– though to be honest, if it is a joke, it is a really bad one.

  36. 36
    jerry says:

    Dr Sewell,

    Thank you for your personal story and a great article. The first is an example of true faith. Bought your book after reading your OP so one more sale.

    I have always been a believer in Leibniz’s “Best of all possible worlds” thesis. Despite the best attempt by Voltaire to mock the thesis in Candide; One must ask why would God do anything less than the best. It is our calling or quest to try to understand just why we live in this best of all possible worlds and why it is best. Why would any change actually be sub-optimal.

    While I don’t think we will ever know in this world all the reasons why our world is the best of finite worlds, we can surely try to understand.

    The theme of a recent homily was “Faith is the only meal ticket.” This brought back to me a discussion I had several years ago while teaching college. A Jewish adjunct and I shared an office. One night we started to discuss religion. He said that we must all have faith but faith only has meaning when there is doubt. The theme turned to doubt as central to religion and faith is how we overcome that doubt.

    Reason and evidence play a part but the final leap is always one of faith. While not a Christian, he pointed out that even some of the greatest saints had doubt but they also had faith.

    Now given that there is doubt in this world and I doubt that many would dispute that, doubt must be part of the “best of all possible worlds.” What kind of a world would we have if there were no doubt. If God and His nature were so certain and surely known what would his creations be like? And if it were so obvious there was not a God, what would the world be like?

    If God were certain, would we have free will? Theoretically, yes. But who in their right mind would violate the prescriptions of a God, certainly known. We wouldn’t execute free will and essentially be automatons. You get almost there in your last section. Any world where there was no doubt would be a sterile world. There would be no virtue or even any choice because we could only do what the certain God wanted us to. So no action would have value. With doubt and faith our choice take on new meaning and value.

    So we must live in a world where there is a knife’s edge between one view of the universe and another. Is the world materialistic or is it designed for an end? And are the numerous unfortunate circumstances in this world necessary so that this knife’s edge exists. Does the world have to look almost like random and that no caring person would design it as such. Certainly numerous people have argued that suffering points to one side of the knife’s edge while other have argued for their necessity in making life more meaningful.

    I agree with this later view of suffering but also argue that suffering is mainly necessary for the creation of doubt. Without doubt faith can not exist and without doubt our choices would be meaningless. So God creates what many call an imperfect world but it is necessary for it to appear imperfect for us to have a meaningful existence prior to another world. So maybe we are in what I call the “the perfect imperfect.”

    Anyway a possible addendum to your excellent chapter.

  37. 37
    Dionisio says:

    Dr. Sewell,

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  38. 38
    Dionisio says:

    Querius @21:

    Interesting example. Thank you.

  39. 39
    Dionisio says:

    Dr. Sewell,
    Not sure if this is within the topic of your excellent OP, but I thought some of your readers might find it interesting too.
    The book “Until the Final Hour” (subtitled “Hitler’s Last Secretary”), is mainly based on the personal stories written by Traudl Junge soon after the end of WW2. The story was edited by Melissa Muller for the German edition of the book and translated by Anthea Bell for the first US edition in 2004.
    The second paragraph on page 108 reads:

    Sometimes we also had interesting discussions about the church and the development of the human race. Perhaps it’s going too far to call them discussions, because he [Hitler] would begin explaining his ideas when some question or remark from one of us had set them off, and we just listened. He was not a member of any church, and thought the Christian religions were outdated, hypocritical institutions that lured people into them. The laws of nature were his religion. He could reconcile his dogma of violence better with nature than with the Christian doctrine of loving your neighbor and your enemy. ‘Science isn’t yet clear about the origins of humanity,’ he once said. ‘We are probably the highest stage of development of some mammal which developed from reptiles and moved on to human beings, perhaps by way of the apes. We are a part of creation and children of nature, and the same laws apply to us as to all living creatures. And in nature the law of the struggle for survival has reigned from the first. Everything incapable of life, everything weak is eliminated. Only mankind and above all the church have made it their aim to keep alive the weak, those unfit to live, and people of an inferior kind.’

  40. 40
    Dionisio says:

    Not sure if this is exactly within the topic of Dr. Sewel’s OP, but I thought some readers might find it interesting too.
    The book “Until the Final Hour” (subtitled “Hitler’s Last Secretary”), is mainly based on Traudl Junge’s personal stories, written soon after the end of WW2. The book was edited by Melissa Muller for the German edition of the book and translated by Anthea Bell for the first US edition in 2004.
    On page 243 Traudl Junge talks about her friend Luise Lanzenstiel:

    Luise was married to a pastor and had had six children. She was amazingly cheerful and steadfast. The family got through the Nazi period very bravely, without sacrificing their ideals. Luise told me she never once said “Heil Hitler” in all that time. The whole family were securely anchored in their faith, in an open-minded way — not at all bigoted. They always said grace before meals, which made me feel very awkward at first, but then I got to feel more and more like part of the family. I owe it to Heinz Bald that I have a substitute family today, because I am friends with those six children and thirteen grandchildren too. I’m their Auntie Traudl.

    With the Lanzenstiels, I saw for the first time what it’s like for people to have the strength of faith. I envied them very much for their ability to believe — it’s not a gift given to me. But they weren’t missionaries, they accepted me as I am. I’ve gone to Luise when I wanted to hide from the rest of the world. I felt safe with her, I knew I was with someone who understood me.

  41. 41
    Dionisio says:

    The book “Until the Final Hour” (subtitled “Hitler’s Last Secretary”), is mainly based on Traudl Junge’s personal stories, written soon after the end of WW2. The book was edited by Melissa Muller for the German edition of the book and translated by Anthea Bell for the first US edition in 2004.
    On page 244 Traudl Junge talks about Sophie Scholl:

    “At that time I must often have walked past the commemorative plaque to Sophie Scholl in Franz-Joseph-Strasse without noticing it. One day I did, and I was terribly shocked when I realized that she was executed in 1943, just when I was beginning my own job with Hitler. Sophie Scholl had originally been a BDM member herself, a year younger than me, and she saw clearly that she was dealing with a criminal regime. All of a sudden I had no excuse anymore.”

  42. 42
    mike1962 says:

    john_a_designer: That is an intellectually and morally bankrupt point of view. I sincerely hope you mean it as some kind of joke

    No, it isn’t. But you are more than welcome to splash around in the philosophical kiddie pool and give your strong reasons.

  43. 43
    Dionisio says:

    #39, 40, 41, addendum:

    The book “Until the Final Hour” (subtitled “Hitler’s Last Secretary”), is mainly based on Traudl Junge’s personal stories, written soon after the end of WW2. The book was edited by Melissa Muller for the German edition of the book and translated by Anthea Bell for the first US edition in 2004.

    On page 237, in relation to a story published by the magazine Quick in Munich, Traudl Junge wrote:

    I remember that one Shrove Tuesday the editorial office was working on a big story about several war crimes trials and executions in Landsberg. Only then I did find out, for the first time, details of what went on behind the scenes in the Third Reich. Above all, I discovered what lay behind the facades of people I had known as pleasant, cultivated companions. For instance there was Dr Karl Brandt, one of Hitler’s attendant doctors, whom I had thought an educated, humane man, but he was hanged in 1948 for taking part in medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners and practicing euthanasia. I could hardly grasp it.

  44. 44
    Dionisio says:

    Dr. Sewel:

    You asked a very interesting question:

    Is God Really Good?

    In order to answer that question accurately one would need to know at least what do you mean by “Good”.

    If we ask:

    Is this bread good?
    Is this car good?
    Is this chocolate good?
    Is that person good?
    Is that swimmer good?
    Is that apple good?

    what do we really mean in each case?

    What does “Good” mean in the case of this OP title?

    What is the “Goodness” standard to use as reference in this case?

  45. 45
    Querius says:

    Good is assumed by context as the opposite of evil. The question is not whether God is a type of chocolate or a swimmer.

    Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
    For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
    -Psalm 118:1 (NASB)

    Furthermore, we make highly unqualified judges of good and evil, having access to only perhaps 5% of the information necessary for an informed conclusion. That’s the point of my kal v’chomer argument in 21.

    Being armed with that 5% of information, imagine the presumptuousness of accusing God, who presumably designed the mind-boggling complexity of the living cell with all of its chemical cycles and genetic controls, of being a capricious idiot. Or in a self-righteous huff, accuse God of being “evil” based on our own, self-centered standards.

    If we barely understand some of how quantum mechanics works and are clueless about how life on earth began, how much less informed are judgments pronounced against God?

    -Q

  46. 46
    Granville Sewell says:

    Jerry (and others who expressed kind words): Thank you very much.

    Dionisio: “What does “Good” mean in the case of this OP title?”
    Perhaps “Is God Really Good?” was not the best choice of title, I used this because that was the title of the Baxter article upon which the chapter is based. What we are both really asking is, “Does God Really Care About Us?”

  47. 47
    Dionisio says:

    Granville Sewell @46

    Perhaps “Is God Really Good?” was not the best choice of title, I used this because that was the title of the Baxter article upon which the chapter is based. What we are both really asking is, “Does God Really Care About Us?”

    That’s very interesting.

    If God is the standard of goodness (as suggested by the Psalms verse Querius referenced @45 and many other verses in the OT and NT), then the OP question “Is God Really Good?” seems equivalent to asking ‘how good is goodness?’, doesn’t it?

    Regarding the suggested substitute question “Does God Really Care About Us?”, do the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection help to answer it?

  48. 48
    Dionisio says:

    Querius @45:

    Thank you for your comments.

    Apparently you misunderstood my questions and my whole comment @44. At least your second sentence gives that impression.

    Please, keep in mind my communication skills –both verbal and written– are rather poor. I’m still learning. If you don’t understand what I wrote and still want to understand it, just ask me. That might help me to see what exactly is confusing and correct it next time. Thank you.

    You may want to read #44 again and pay special attention to the last question @44. That’s the key. Also, the comment @47 may help too.

    BTW, the Psalms you quoted @45 helps to answer the last question @44.

    And yes, I agree with most of your comment on our judgmental capacity. That too relates to the last question @44.

    Basically, if there’s a standard or rule for measuring or judging, then shouldn’t it be a standard/rule giver?

  49. 49
    Dionisio says:

    Dear Dr. Granville Sewell,

    Since you’re a Math scientist too, I thought you would like to read this:

    I have a good friend who got his PhD in Math (Differential Equations). He currently teaches at an engineering institute. Back in high school he easily beat me and other colleagues playing chess, while he played blindfolded. We had to tell him our moves and he had to tell us his moves so we could move his chess pieces for him. Apparently he memorized the entire state of the chessboard after each move. Really cool, isn’t it?

    Perhaps that’s a natural capability he inherited from our evolutionary LUCA? Maybe a deleterious random mutation kept that nice feature from being passed to me? Or was it a beneficial random mutation what produced a novel functionality that he was lucky to acquire? Dunno. But in either case I was somehow left out of that ‘luck’ distribution list (LDL). Oh, well. 🙂

    As a busy professor and the grandfather of a bunch of kids, most probably he won’t read this commentary, but I’m sure he would confirm most of what I wrote about him, though he’s quite humble and might not like it. 🙂

    He helped me academically in high school. He’s the only student in our class who pursued a career in Math science, but no one was surprised by that. The rest of us ‘chose’ relatively easier paths. 🙂

    When my wife and I have visited them, his lovely wife has told us about him and their numerous family, but he is as quiet as he was when we were much younger and our wives were not around yet. One can tell High Math, the Queen of Science, is for the bright ones. The ‘commoners’ like me can only wish we could understand at least a little of what y’all do. 🙂

    But God has made us different, and only He knows exactly why. We just have to trust in Him. We believe He can use each of us according to the purpose of His will, in His time and for His glory.

  50. 50
    Querius says:

    Dionisio @48,

    Yes, I agree. My comments in 45 sound more harsh than I intended—sorry.

    The word “good” in Psalm 118:1 means fit, capable in the Greek Septuagint, a narrower interpretation of the Masoretic Hebrew word used. That verse and many similar ones deliver a strong, consistent message that God is the standard for goodness.

    To the ancient Hebrews, interpretations that deviate from this absolute would usually be attributed to the sovereignty and supremacy of God. Sometimes there would also be a hint of the limitations of our perception, attitude, or incomplete knowledge.

    To take an extreme example, Jesus was called “the man of sorrows.” His public life could be characterized by the words, intense, confrontational, frustrating, sorrowful, excruciating (literally), and short.

    Nevertheless, Jesus endured. As Hebrews 12:2,3 (NASB) states

    . . . the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    Did Jesus experience any justice? Was God good?

    -Q

  51. 51
    Autodidaktos says:

    jerry @36,

    The ‘best of all possible worlds’ thesis is flawed, not just because we can think of a better world (imagine a possible world where neither Adam nor Satan fell), but because no created entity can be such a thing. This is because created entities are finite, and finite things have only an infinitesimal reflection of the infinite perfection which is proper to God alone. Therefore, asking for the best of all possible worlds is like asking for the greatest possible natural number — there is no such thing.

    That said, does God always does what is best? Indeed He does, if by this we understand He creates everything such that each entity is designed to perfectly fulfill its telos. This doesn’t mean that secondary causes, i.e., created persons cannot frustrate that telos by their actions. That often happens, ergo, our present flawed condition.

  52. 52
    jerry says:

    The ‘best of all possible worlds’ thesis is flawed, not just because we can think of a better world (imagine a possible world where neither Adam nor Satan fell)

    I am not sure that such world’s are better. We do not know God’s objectives. It may be the world God created ensured a Fall once free will and doubt about consequences entered the picture. If not Satan or Adam then someone else. There is also something called the Felix Culpa.

    Therefore, asking for the best of all possible worlds is like asking for the greatest possible natural number — there is no such thing.

    Not if every other option is less optimal. The comparison to a natural number is not appropriate. We are dealing with finite entities here and finite entities can have maximums. We cannot begin to understand all the parameters that have to be built in and how God fine-tuned them.

    This doesn’t mean that secondary causes, i.e., created persons cannot frustrate that telos by their actions.

    These are definitely part of the design. Free will and doubt are built in and what else we do not know. It seems no matter how much we learn, doubt persists. The Intelligent Design community tries to frustrates the doubt by trying to prove a creator exists but somehow it doesn’t get there. If it did, the world would be incredibly different and I am not sure it would be better. But then again we do not know what better means in terms of God’s objectives.

  53. 53
    sean samis says:

    I got side-tracked by work and had to go off-line for a while, but when I came back it seems most of the threads I had been on are moribund anyway. And not much else interesting is being discussed; except for this.

    Some comments:

    1. For doubters, biblical accounts (such as Jesus’s plea to God “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) carry no weight. They are persuasive only to believers.

    2. Regarding the Regularity of Nature, Granville Sewell writes “First of all, if we assume [God] has complete control over Nature, we are assuming much more than we have a right to assume.” Wow. There goes the omniscient/omnipotent deity.

    This is, of course, ID’s pudenda: it guts the concept of God in order to save it.

    3. Regarding Free will, Sewell writes:

    I believe, however, that the unhappiness in this world attributable to “acts of God” (more properly called “acts of Nature”) is small compared to the unhappiness which we inflict on each other. Reform the human spirit and you have solved the problems of drug addiction, drunk driving, war, broken marriages, child abuse, neglect of the elderly, crime, corruption and racial hatred. I suspect that many (not all, of course) of the problems which we generally blame on circumstances beyond our control are really caused by, or aggravated by, man—or at least could be prevented if we spent as much time trying to solve the world’s problems as we spend in hedonistic pursuits.

    I think this is exactly correct. Then Sewell goes off the rails, writing:

    God has given us, on this Earth, the tools and resources necessary to construct, not a paradise, but something not too far from it. I am convinced that the majority of the things which make us most unhappy are the direct or indirect result of the sins and errors of people. Often, unfortunately, it is not the guilty person who suffers.

    We just don’t have the tools we need to make the world something even near a paradise. Our weakness and ignorance inevitably get in the way. If some God created us, they created us with these faults, and did not give us the tools to overcome them as much as we’d need to approximate a paradise.

    Sewell continues in error:

    But our evil actions are also the inevitable result of one of our highest blessings—our free will.

    I will not get caught in the futile debate over whether we actually have free will; TAKING IT AS A GIVEN, free will is not the cause of our failures. It is our ignorance and weakness that are. Blaming free will is an evasion; it enables the shifting of blame from the deity to us. But in fact, if our evil actions are the inevitable result of free will, calling it a gift or a “highest blessing” is absurd. If evil is its inevitable result then free will is a curse.

    If evil is the inevitable result of free will, it is because we exercise our free will under the twin constraints of ignorance and weakness. If we can only escape evil by abandoning free will, then it is no gift or blessing.

    Sewell wrote:

    The freedom which God has given to us results, as an inevitable consequence, in many headaches for him and for ourselves, but it is precisely this freedom which makes us more interesting than the other animals.

    Again, Sewell jettisons the idea of an omniscient/omnipotent God; and also jettisons the idea of a benevolent God: we suffer because his God is bored.

    Facepalm

    At this point I had to stop. Duty calls and what I’ve read so far offers little hope for a valuable idea yet to come in Sewell’s writing. Maybe later.

    sean s.

  54. 54
    mike1962 says:

    Granville Sewell: What we are both really asking is, “Does God Really Care About Us?”

    That’s not even good enough, because one could use the same words regarding cattle raised for the purpose of slaughtering and eating.

    See my post above.

    The matter is really suffering, and why God could ever possibly allow it, or how it’s even possible within the “it’s” ontological domain, if “he” is really what the classical theists defines “him” to be. (We who reject classical theism have no problem with this question.)

  55. 55
    Querius says:

    mike1962 wrote,

    The matter is really suffering, and why God could ever possibly allow it

    There are so many problems with that common viewpoint, which is based on ignorance, it’s hard to know where to begin! Please do not interpret this as an attack, but the possibilities are truly staggering!

    For each of these possibilities, there’s no way to disprove any of them objectively. For example:

    1. Maybe undeserved suffering absolves people of their flaws; deserved suffering teaches them not to be idiots. It’s simply karma.

    2. Maybe suffering is nature’s way of evolving compassion in higher animals. Is evolution a good thing?

    3. Maybe God always makes sure the suffering that people experience is offset by what they learn and how they develop spiritually.

    4. Maybe God is not the only actor here. Maybe God is trying to save humanity from a nasty wannabe God called Lucifer who is messing up big time.

    5. Maybe you would resent God constantly interfering with your free-will decisions every time your actions initiate a chain of events leading to someone’s suffering. Think of the butterfly effect in Chaos theory.

    6. If you believe that suffering is “wrong” or “evil,” then you’re making a God-like moral judgment based either on your personal opinions on some absolute natural law. Which is it?

    7. Suffering is necessary to motivate people to employ the scientific method and to prioritize their spending. Isn’t that a good thing overall?

    8. Living organisms reproduce, they do stuff and stuff happens to them, and they die. Do you personally feel morally obligated to make sure that every organism, every human in your span of access has a good time and doesn’t suffer? What percent of your net worth have you contributed so far to the people in Louisiana? Why are you holding God to a standard that you’re not willing to follow at your level of influence?

    9. Maybe suffering affects our genetic/epigenetic code, which results in additional variation or expression which in turn results in enhancements to the DNA of our offspring. Don’t you want humanity’s future generations to suffer less?

    10. What’s your honest preference: Do you want God to enable your lifestyle, or would you want a closer relationship with God?

    These are just a few of the possibilities.

    -Q

  56. 56
    sean samis says:

    Querius (re 55);

    Maybe God is just an evil bastard; maybe our suffering is just God’s entertainment.

    I’m not saying these are true, but there’s no way to disprove them objectively so that puts them on the same logical plain as your 10 possibilities.

    Possibilities that can never be disproved objectively are worthless.

    sean s.

  57. 57
    jerry says:

    For each of these possibilities, there’s no way to disprove any of them objectively.

    Maybe there in another interpretation. All activities affect us in different ways. Some we call suffering and we do not like them. But all these events are both finite and relative. Eliminate all the unpleasant things that you can think of that happen to people (what happened to Dr. Sewell’s wife would certainly be one of these.) What is left can be ranked on which is more desirable or pleasing to the person. Granted a lot of this will be subjective but there would be wide agreement on the least desirable and what is more desirable. Remember all are currently thought of as desirable. Science and technology have eliminated a lot of undesirable outcomes and promise to continue doing so.

    With only desirable outcomes available, the least desirable of these desirable outcomes would be viewed as suffering since there are much more desirable outcomes and to settle for the bottom of this list would be abhorrent to the person especially if other people were enjoying the more desirable activities. Now a God that allowed a world that had only these outcomes would be considered a “bad” entity for allowing all these sub-optimal outcomes.

    My point being is that all outcomes are relative and and all are finite. So what is called evil or suffering in this world is a very relative thing. They are also extremely finite. Some are just smaller or larger than others but all are extremely small.

    And relevant to my point made above, doubt is necessary to lead a meaningful life and the events we call suffering are just one class of the things necessary for this doubt to exist and for life to be meaningful.

    And if you are a Christian or have a similar view of an after life, then what happens here on this earth is trivial unless it interferes with attaining the desired after life.

  58. 58
    sean samis says:

    Jerry (re. #57)

    I think I could fairly summarize your point as “it could be worse.” The flip-side of that is that It Could Be A Lot Better. If my summary is in error, please do correct me.

    The relativity of suffering (or pleasure) is not decisive; and the finiteness of suffering is not decisive either.

    What is decisive is the apparent lack of justification or purpose to suffering. If God is both all-powerful and benevolent, our suffering appears to be both unjustified and pointless.

    sean s.

  59. 59
    jerry says:

    I think I could fairly summarize your point as “it could be worse.” The flip-side of that is that It Could Be A Lot Better. If my summary is in error, please do correct me.

    No, I am saying that what we consider undesirable is relative and trivial and will constantly change so what is “better” will be constantly changing. And we always want what is better. There will thus, always be undesirable events no matter what world we live in and we will complain about the unnecessary things that make our lives less pleasant and use them to criticize the God that allowed them.

    What is decisive is the apparent lack of justification or purpose to suffering. If God is both all-powerful and benevolent, our suffering appears to be both unjustified and pointless.

    I give the justification for why undesirable events exist. They must exist for a meaningful life and thus are definitely not pointless. Also they are all trivial in the Christian scheme of things.

  60. 60
    sean samis says:

    Jerry (re. #59)

    I give lots of justification for why undesirable events exist.

    Undesirable events? Was the holocaust merely an “undesireable event”? Is the current warfare in Syria merely an “undesirable event”?

    And no, like most, you give explanations, not justifications. There is a difference. Someone who robs a bank has an explanation: they wanted the money. But that’s not a justification. Explaining evil and suffering is trivial; providing a justification for a benevolent God’s complicity or acquiescence is impossible.

    You and others might be able to explain the why of suffering, but you cannot justify it. It is beyond justification.

    Just because things could be worse does not justify suffering or evil. Someone who keeps their children chained to a wall in the basement could claim that they at least fed them, it could have been worse.

    So what? It is bad enough of itself.

    You seem to imply that humans are whiney, that we’d never be satisfied, so it’s OK that God allows all manner of horror. That would be simply bizarre.

    Many believers seem to miss the import of the Problem of Evil; you included.

    The POE does NOT disprove the existence of any deity.
    It does raise serious questions about the Character of any Deity.

    And it discredits the claims of believers who trivialize evil and horror in their blithe attempt to exonerate their deity.

    sean s.

  61. 61
    jerry says:

    First,

    Thank you for your kind and charitable comments. It is such a great way to learn when one is so considerate and seeks out answers to their questions.

    Undesirable events? Was the holocaust merely an “undesireable event”? Is the current warfare in Syria merely an “undesirable event”?

    I use the term “undesirable event” because people use the term “evil” in many different and inconsistent ways. So I prefer to use the term “undesirable event” to emphasize the relativeness of what people like to use the term “evil” for. Stubbing your toe is undesirable. What happened to Dr. Sewell’s wife is undesirable. There are a lot of undesirable events in between that one would say are more or less undesirable. There are events that might be ranked as much worse too. At what point does the event become “evil?” Stubbing your toe is certainly not one of them. There is no good answer so I prefer the term “undesirable event” knowing that includes someone who dies of an agonizing condition. It is not mean to reduce the significance of the suffering one has but to show the relativeness of it.

    In ranking undesirable events one would certainly rank the Holocaust as very undesirable. But that and your example of the war in Syria is what is called a “moral evil” due to the willful acts of human beings.

    This is opposed to “natural evil” or acts of nature not due to any willful acts of humans. These are thngs such as earthquakes, tornados, floods, disease etc. These later types of events are what is usually attributed to the uncaring God. It is this latter type of undesirable event that has caused problems with the the supposably caring nature of a an All-Good God since He is in control of the forces that cause these events. The actual event that triggered this debate was the Lisbon earthquake on All Saints Day in 1755. Before that it was not much of an issue.

    If you don’t like my use of the term, I hope you understand why I use it. I am using it to clarify things not conflate irrelevant things. As soon as one uses the term “evil” they are conflating things.

    And no, like most, you give explanations, not justifications.

    Yes, I have provided an explanation for why God allows them to exist. My explanation is that they are necessary in order to create doubt, so that it appears as if the world is not under His control or His creation or that He is allowing undesirable things to happen without a cause. Your response indicate that this explanation is accurate. It seems to be creating doubt on your part.

    But what is the reason to have doubt? If there is a greater good by having doubt then there is for certainty, then that is a justification for what I call undesirable events. By the way, all the undesirable events are trivial in nature compared to the positive outcomes offered by the Christian God.

    So there is no reason to make the distinction you do between explanations and justifications because they could be essentially the same thing. If you want to disagree on that, so be it but I maintain that life must appear random enough to appear that there is no God, otherwise believing in God, is meaningless. If it was so certain that there is a God, then our actions would be very constrained and essentially not due to free will. We would live in a very different world.

    Many believers seem to miss the import of the Problem of Evil; you included.

    Well, I have been reading and studying this issue for over 25 years after I was introduced to the theodicy issue in a lecture. I have read several people’s ideas on this topic and the various way the term is used is one of the reasons I prefer not to use the term “evil.” It is always possible, however, to learn something new. But, you are not providing anything new and you are not responding to my arguments. They could certainly be wrong but you are not providing any reason why they are wrong. You are just making assertions.

  62. 62
    sean samis says:

    Jerry; (re. #61)

    At what point does the event become “evil?”

    When it is the unjustified, non-accidental infliction of a harm.

    In ranking undesirable events one would certainly rank the Holocaust as very undesirable. But that and your example of the war in Syria is what is called a “moral evil” due to the willful acts of human beings.

    Since God would be capable of interfering in willful human acts, God’s failure to do so (assuming God exists) renders God complicit in those acts; just as when a human is in a position to prevent a moral evil and chooses not to.

    If you don’t like my use of the term [undesirable event], I hope you understand why I use it. I am using it to clarify things not conflate irrelevant things. As soon as one uses the term “evil” they are conflating things.

    I understand your explanation for the term.

    But what is the reason to have doubt? If there is a greater good by having doubt then there is for certainty, then that is a justification for what I call undesirable events. By the way, all the undesirable events are trivial in nature compared to the positive outcomes offered by the Christian God.

    So there is no reason to make the distinction you do between explanations and justifications because they could be essentially the same thing.

    No. You have not provided a justification. You merely offer a possibility of a justification (If there is a greater good by having doubt then there is for certainty, then that is a justification…) without saying what that “greater good” is.

    I maintain that life must appear random enough to appear that there is no God, otherwise believing in God, is meaningless. If it was so certain that there is a God, then our actions would be very constrained and essentially not due to free will. …

    Your assertion is quite strange.
    If knowing that God exists makes belief in God meaningless, what is the “meaning” created by baseless belief in God?
    If baseless belief is optimal, why does any scriptural account of God exist?
    If God hides from us, then are we obligated to believe in God?
    Isn’t the point of moral codes to constrain our actions over and against our will.
    Does not the prayer go something like “Thy will and not mine…”?

    … We would live in a very different world.

    And that would be a bad thing why? A world without evil; a world where people do the right; are those not desirable to God? Are they not the GOAL?

    I think I know where you are going with this; that evil serves some purpose; that evil is instrumental. The BIG flaw in that argument is that it means God is INCAPABLE of achieving some goal (and is not even approximately all-powerful) or that the Evil IS the Goal.

    I am responding to your arguments: they are muddled; filled with bald assertions. But reading between the lines, your arguments imply that God is nowhere even near to all-powerful, or that God is just evil. I doubt you accept either implication, but then your arguments are confused.

    I also understand that you don’t like the word “evil” but I think it’s just the right word. Our world is full of “evil” (unjustified, non-accidental acts resulting in harms) and if there is a deity, they seem to be complicit in that evil.

    sean s.

  63. 63
    Querius says:

    Sean,

    Maybe God is just an evil bastard; maybe our suffering is just God’s entertainment.

    a. But you’re making an absolute judgment based on incomplete information and what *you* think is evil.

    b. If you think something is evil that must mean that you’re comparing it to something that’s good. Where did your awareness of good and evil come from? Animals aren’t concerned with good and evil.

    c. If God decided for some reason really be evil, would it make any sense to piss him off? Have you ever addressed a judge in a courtroom?

    I’m not saying these are true, but there’s no way to disprove them objectively so that puts them on the same logical plain as your 10 possibilities.

    Plane. Ok. But if you built a house with your labor and your materials, but didn’t like how it turned out, would it be evil for you to tear it down?

    Possibilities that can never be disproved objectively are worthless.

    That would include your objection as well. Statistics and big data are based on responding to possibilities that may or may not happen or be true.

    Odds are that God really does exist. If not, nothing matters anyway. Have you ever tried to ask God what he desires for you? Just asking.

    -Q

  64. 64
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    This was posted in another thread, but it seems applicable to this one too:

    Talking to a wall would be much more productive than replying to some of your interlocutors in this thread. 🙂

    But I assume you’re doing it for the anonymous onlookers/lurkers visiting this thread without commenting.

    Perhaps that’s a persuasive argument for using your interlocutors as a reminder for writing your interesting comments for the other visitors.

    In any case, thank you.

    BTW, some of your interlocutors might like to know that Norwegian Airlines is offering heavily discounted fares for trips to their beautiful fjords. Returning to their natural habitats seems very affordable these days. 🙂

    Banning doesn’t seem very polite, does it?
    It would be nicer if they voluntarily decide to get back to where they once belonged. 🙂

    However, in either case it would be a good riddance, because the hogwash they write shouldn’t be missed, except as motivational tools for writing for the serious readers. 🙂

  65. 65
    jerry says:

    When it is the unjustified, non-accidental infliction of a harm.

    A few comments

    That would cover a lot of very slight transgressions. For example, would it cover things meant to hurt someone socially or psychologically. Are the put downs you use in your comments examples of evil acts?

    Suppose the physical act or put down did not harm the person physically, socially or psychologically, but the intent was to harm. Is that evil? No harm, No Foul?

    In terms of physical acts it would essentially do away with a lot of sporting events such as American football where rough actions are the norm. I would tend to cut back on some of the football practices but certainly not the very rough play that people both expect and enjoy as player and as spectators. This also brings up what is the definition of “harm?”

    But the biggest problem with this definition is that completely ignores the main issue, the suffering due to natural processes. You may not be aware of the theodicy discussion but it centers on suffering from natural processes. There is a whole separate literature on moral evil and the issue of free will.

    Since God would be capable of interfering in willful human acts, God’s failure to do so (assuming God exists) renders God complicit in those acts

    You cannot be serious on this. You want God to be the cop on the beat, inside the household, the school room, the place of work, on the highway etc monitoring every action by humans. What an absurd world that would be.

    This is what I meant by a meaningless world where free will would essentially be non existent. Suppose God came down every Friday and punished those who committed an evil act by your definition. Maybe the first Friday only 50 people were punished severely as a warning. The next Friday 500 were equally punished to emphasize what was to be the desired behavior. My guess is that in about 4-5 weeks behavior would be so sterile that no one would be doing anything except what was a few proscribed actions.

    I also believe there would be no one who would not believe in God, or at least believe in a very powerful dude who knew what bad things everyone was doing and was taking action on these actions. There would be no virtue or noble acts since how could there be such when all you are allowed to do is a few things. Even these things that were initially allowed could be ranked by what was better or not and the low end would eventually be eliminated till only a few actions would be sanctioned. What would be the purpose of such an existence?

    No God, has to remain a mystery for life to be meaningful. We have to willing choose to do what is right.

    without saying what that “greater good” is.

    But I do several times, free will where virtue and belief and how we freely choose to lead our lives mean something.

    If baseless belief is optimal

    Who said anything about baseless belief. I said there couldn’t be certainty. That is not the same thing. I happen to think the evidence for a creator is pretty substantial and overwhelming. Such belief is far from baseless. How one gets to the Christian God is another matter and happens pretty much through revelation and reason. They are separate issues and neither is baseless.

    a world where people do the right; are those not desirable to God? Are they not the GOAL?

    What is desired is doing the right thing freely chosen otherwise it is not meaningful. You seems to want a world where there would be no free choice because it would be so obvious what one had to do. It seems like you are envisioning something like a world of Stepford Wives.

    Unless you have some more coherent objections, I will not answer any more. Thank you for your comments. It always helps to see what people object to and whether these objections have any merit or not.

  66. 66
    Querius says:

    Dionisio @ 64,

    Yes, sadly true. It reminds me of Matthew 25:24-29 (NASB)

    And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.”

    But his master answered and said to him, “You wicked, lazy slave, [so] you “knew” that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank . . .”

    “Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

    And this is the sorrowful end for those people who think they can justify themselves by accusing God.

    God is incredibly creative, loving, and aware. But He retains his sovereignty and warns us not to try to understand His thoughts, but rather just to trust Him that he has our ultimate and eternal salvation in mind.

    Lucifer, the failed “god of this world,” and his angels have been exposed and judged and the “Lake of Fire” was created to consume them (FWIW, the sun is a globular lake of fire). Naturally, they want to destroy as many humans as possible by getting us to believe their lies, accusations, and slander.

    So there’s sorting going on now to determine who wants to belong to the doomed god of this world, and who wants to belong to YHVH, the true and eternal God.

    -Q

  67. 67
    Origenes says:

    Querius: So there’s sorting going on now to determine who wants to belong to the doomed god of this world, and who wants to belong to YHVH, the true and eternal God.

    I don’t have any problems with this, as long as the ‘decision’ made by a person, within the context of this earthly existence, is not final. Life on Earth is obviously confusing for many people. For one thing, as you point out, people are being lied to.
    In order to make a fully informed decision one needs a different setting and (much) more clarity.

  68. 68
    Dionisio says:

    Querius @66

    And this is the sorrowful end for those people who think they can justify themselves by accusing God.

    Yes, sad. Pray for them. There’s hope some might still be rescued before it’s too late –as we were rescued by God’s grace, through saving faith in the redeeming power of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
    They’re created in “Imago Dei” as we were too. That’s the source of dignity all humans share. God loves us all.
    One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings.
    But then it’ll be too late for those who did not accept His graceful offer of reconciliation and eternal life in His glorious presence. The time is now. Later it might be too late.

    Now, regarding the ongoing discussions here, we may want to meditate on this:

    Proverbs 1:7
    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

    Proverbs 1:22
    “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

    Proverbs 14:7-8
    Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
    The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.

    Proverbs 15:2
    The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

    Proverbs 15:14
    The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly

    Proverbs 16:22
    Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the instruction of fools is folly.

    Proverbs 17:10
    A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.

    Proverbs 17:12
    Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.

    Proverbs 17:28
    Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

    Proverbs 18:2
    A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.

    Proverbs 18:6
    A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.

    Proverbs 20:3
    It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.

    Proverbs 23:9
    Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.

    Proverbs 24:7
    Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the gate he does not open his mouth.

    Proverbs 26:1
    Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.

    Proverbs 26:4-10
    Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself.
    Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
    Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
    Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
    Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool.
    Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
    Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.

    Proverbs 26:11
    Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.

    Proverbs 26:12
    Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

    Proverbs 27:3
    A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.

    Proverbs 27:22
    Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him.

    Proverbs 28:26
    Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

    Proverbs 29:9
    If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.

    Proverbs 29:11
    A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

    Proverbs 29:20
    Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

    Proverbs 30:32
    If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.

    Ecclesiastes 5:1
    Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.

    Ecclesiastes 7:5
    It is better for a man to hear the rebuke of the wise than to hear the song of fools.

    Ecclesiastes 7:9
    Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

    Ecclesiastes 7:25
    I turned my heart to know and to search out and to seek wisdom and the scheme of things, and to know the wickedness of folly and the foolishness that is madness.

    Ecclesiastes 9:17
    The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.

    Ecclesiastes 10:2,3
    A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.
    Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.

    Ecclesiastes 10:12,13
    The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.
    The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is evil madness.

    Ecclesiastes 10:15
    The toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city.

    Isaiah 32:5
    The fool will no more be called noble, nor the scoundrel said to be honorable.

    Isaiah 32:6
    For the fool speaks folly, and his heart is busy with iniquity, to practice ungodliness, to utter error concerning the Lord, to leave the craving of the hungry unsatisfied, and to deprive the thirsty of drink.

    Ezekiel 13:3
    Thus says the Lord God, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!

    1 Peter 2:15
    For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

    More suggestions:

    Psalm 14:1
    Psalm 53:1
    Psalm 74:18,22
    Psalm 92:5-7
    Psalm 94:7-9

    Proverbs 8:5
    Proverbs 10:14, 18, 21, 23
    Proverbs 12:15, 16, 23
    Proverbs 14:16
    Proverbs 15:7
    Proverbs 17:24
    Proverbs 18:7
    Proverbs 19:1

  69. 69
    Querius says:

    Origenes @ 67,

    Your observations are reasonable if people made their most important life decisions based on knowledge. But is this the case?

    Perhaps a good example of a life decision is choosing a mate. So here’s what most people do before making their final commitment:

    – Ask for a doctor’s report on general health
    – Request a financial report provided by a credit agency for assets, outstanding debt, spending habits, and net worth
    – Order a background check and request letters of recommendation
    – Have a frank discussion with the potential mate on personal aspirations and goals
    – Take a battery of personality tests for evaluation of mental health and compatibility
    – Interview family, friends, and past and present employers
    – Hire a private investigator to check whether they’re messy or neat, and what kind of internet presence they’ve created
    – Sign prenuptual agreements

    Isn’t that right?

    Did I miss anything?

    Some people are complicit in the lies that they choose to believe. Even scientists and scholars have trouble not filtering their information by what they desire to be true.

    Some things to think about.

    -Q

  70. 70
    Querius says:

    That’s quite an impressive list, Dionisio. So here’s my question. What makes people fools?

    -Q

  71. 71
    Dionisio says:

    Queries:

    What makes people fools?

    That’s an excellent question, but I don’t think I can answer it accurately.

    I understand a fool is someone who is not interested in acquiring wisdom nor finding truth. It’s a miserable creature, but many times unaware of his/her hopeless condition.

    For many years I was a fool myself. Still behave like one sometimes.

    As little children we have a strong sense of wonder that makes us search for answers to many questions in our young minds. Unfortunately that sense of wonder fades away as we grow older.

    At some point in our adult lives we all are fools. All without exceptions.

    I believe that it takes a supernatural event to pull us out of that oblivious ‘fool’ state.

    The wise person tests everything and holds onto what is good. It’s a good listener, is aware of his/her lack of knowledge.

    Back to your question, our natural human condition makes us fools. God makes us wise if we submit to His authority.
    I don’t know how much of that is our free will and how much is God’s absolute sovereignty. My mind is incapable of understanding how those two categories can be interwoven.

    I remember years ago I was having lunch with a group of engineers at work. One told us about an interesting experience he had at a university cafeteria, where the cashier was blind. He said the cashier asked him to tell what was on his tray. When he paid cash, he told the cashier the value of the banknote (paper money) he gave to the cashier to pay. At that point another colleague joked: “did you really tell the cashier what was on your tray and the value of the banknote?”
    Some people -including myself- laughed at the joke.
    But the guy who had told the anecdote did not understand the joke and asked: “of course! what else could I say?”
    The same guy who had asked the first question responded: “well, if there were not other people besides the cashier, you could have told him just one cheap food item that was available in that cafeteria, even if it was not on your tray. Then you would have given a dollar bill to the cashier telling him it was a $20. Thus you could have eaten free lunch and still made some profit.”
    Now the laughing got really loud.
    The storyteller jumped and said he couldn’t do that.
    At that point I was really shocked. I didn’t understand why he could not have done the suggested trick? I knew that was a very smart engineer, but this time he looked really stupid.
    The guy who asked the initial question asked: “why not? No one would have seen it!”
    The storyteller responded: yes, God was seeing it.
    I was totally shocked. Say what? Did I hear that right?
    I haven’t forgotten that moment. Back then it didn’t make any sense to me. Now I know why he could not understand the suggestive joke. Wisdom is directly associated with respect toward God. We want to do only things that please Him and bring glory to Him. That’s wisdom. Anything else is foolishness.

  72. 72
    Origenes says:

    Querius @69

    Your observations are reasonable if people made their most important life decisions based on knowledge. But is this the case?

    Obviously not. But that fact underscores my point. A choice has worth relative to the amount of awareness that is involved.

  73. 73
    Dionisio says:

    Querius

    #71 error correction:

    Misspelled “Querius” (apparently the editor adjusted it incorrectly).

    Sorry for that.

  74. 74
    Querius says:

    Would anyone object to a definition of a fool that included the following components:

    – Doing something anyway despite knowing better

    – Allowing base passions to override better judgment

    – Ignoring risks, consequences, obvious facts

    – Finding ways to justify behaviors and attitudes

    So imagine an young fellow getting romantically and financially involved with an older woman whose husband is currently in prison for violent armed robbery. The young man justifies his behavior to his friends

    “She’s lonely and abused. She needs love, companionship, and encouragement. I met her in a bar and I’m helping by keeping her off the streets.”

    Will this turn out well? Is the young man a fool?

    -Q

  75. 75
    Querius says:

    11. Quantum mechanics seems to indicate that information is the most fundamental reality of existence, and that there’s a good chance that we’re living in a simulation.

    If that’s true, then a simulation has a purpose, an outcome, and a judgment.

    Would it make sense for a simulation to allow injustices and its victims to clearly manifest themselves out of attitudes such as lust, greed, jealousy?

    What if it’s all on tape?

    Is it a reasonable possibility that God’s purpose is to expose and purge spiritual corruption by allowing it to continue and grow for purposes of demonstrating its outcomes beyond any reasonable doubt?

    Teddy Roosevelt once observed that the West had a magnifying influence on people. Merely selfish people became evil monsters; polite people became saints.

    -Q

  76. 76
    Querius says:

    Origenes asserted that

    A choice has worth relative to the amount of awareness that is involved.

    Consider the young man in my story above. Do you think greater awareness would result in him making a different choice?

    Have you ever tried to talk someone out of such a dangerous situation?

    -Q

  77. 77
    Origenes says:

    Querius @76,

    Consider the young man in my story above. Do you think greater awareness would result in him making a different choice?

    I can come up with scenarios, featuring greater awareness, where a different choice is likely. For instance, if it is the case that, as a consequence of his choice, harm will come to the young man’s family, he may very well make a different choice, if he is aware of that fact.

    Have you ever tried to talk someone out of such a dangerous situation?

    Yes, I have. And such talks typically involve attempts to expand awareness — pointing at things someone may have overlooked.

  78. 78
    Querius says:

    Were your talks successful?

    In my experience, the young man was aware of the risks but suppressed thinking about them. It wasn’t like,

    “Oh, I never thought that her husband would get out of jail, find out about me, and want to kill me. That possibility never entered my mind.”

    I’m proposing that people go into denial when engaging in risky, immoral, or illegal behavior despite their knowledge.

    This is true also in scientific fields. Take medicine for example. This is an interesting article about the history of hand washing:

    http://www.methodquarterly.com.....ndwashing/

    Do you think that doctors today are missing any information about germ theory, and that they would indeed wash their hands if only they knew about bacterial transmission?

    -Q

  79. 79
    Origenes says:

    Querius @78

    Were your talks successful?

    Unfortunately they were not.

    In my experience, the young man was aware of the risks but suppressed thinking about them. It wasn’t like,
    “Oh, I never thought that her husband would get out of jail, find out about me, and want to kill me. That possibility never entered my mind.”
    I’m proposing that people go into denial when engaging in risky, immoral, or illegal behavior despite their knowledge.

    An interesting observation, which, if correct, is in need of an explanation.

    This is true also in scientific fields. Take medicine for example. This is an interesting article about the history of hand washing:
    http://www.methodquarterly.com.....ndwashing/
    Do you think that doctors today are missing any information about germ theory, and that they would indeed wash their hands if only they knew about bacterial transmission?

    Baffling information. However, my simple point, wrt awareness, is that doctors today, who choose not to wash their hands, actually do make the choice to put their patients at risk. Unlike the doctors in the pre-Louis Pasteur days, who were unaware of their “choice”.
    IOWs the doctors today can be held accountable, not the doctors in the days before Pasteur.

    Similarly, there are people today who “choose” atheism, because, due to circumstances, they cannot see matters clearly. Like the doctors in the pre-Louis Pasteur days they don’t know what they are doing and are not actually making a choice.

  80. 80
    Dionisio says:

    Querius @75

    Teddy Roosevelt once observed that the West had a magnifying influence on people. Merely selfish people became evil monsters; polite people became saints.

    What does ‘evil’ mean in the given context and in general?
    What’s the origin of that term?

    Isn’t ‘selfishness’ an evil attribute?

    What does ‘saints’ mean in the given context and in general?
    What’s the origin of that term?
    Can one become ‘saint’ just by being ‘polite’?

    Thank you.

  81. 81
    Querius says:

    Sorry. I’ll see whether I can find the exact quote. It’s much better than my attempt.

    The gist was that the good in good people and the bad in bad people were greatly magnified when they moved to the Wild West. It was about the results of attitudes in less constrained environments.

    -Q

  82. 82
    Querius says:

    Oh yay, I found the quote, the hard way . . . from an actual book! 🙂

    All qualities, good and bad, are intensified and accentuated in the life of the wilderness. The man who in civilization is merely sullen and bad-tempered becomes a murderous, treacherous ruffian when transplanted to the wilds; while, on the other hand, his cheery, quiet neighbor develops into a hero, ready uncomplainingly to lay down his life for his friend. One who in an Eastern city is merely a backbiter and slanderer, in the Western woods lies in wait for his foe with a rifle; a sharp practice in the East becomes highway robbery in the West; but at the same time negative good-nature becomes active self-sacrifice, and a general belief in virtue is translated into a prompt and determined war upon vice.

    The Winning of the West, Vol. I
    by Theodore Roosevelt, 1889

    -Q

  83. 83
    Querius says:

    Origenes @79,

    Good observations. There must indeed be some sort of mechanism that suppresses what we know to be true.

    Contrast this with

    But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

    Luke 23:34 (NASB)

    This is a prayer from Jesus that expresses three things: (a) his compassion for those who were murdering him, (b) his acknowledging there ignorance for their actions, and (c) his absolving them of this particular action.

    This somewhat supports your point, I think.

    -Q

  84. 84
    Origenes says:

    Querius @83,

    Thank you for pointing that out. I never made the connection. This is an eye opener.

  85. 85
    Querius says:

    You’re welcome.

    And I meant to write their instead of there in (b). I hate it when I do that. 😉

    -Q

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