This is the final paper on the topic in the philosophy class (I think) – so next week, onto something new. 🙂
Last week in our philosophy course we were asked to partner up and argue the point of Atheism versus Theism. The discussion was to focus around the problematic or logical view of the existence of evil in light of an omnipotent, omnibenevolent God. The number one argument for the non-existence of God surrounds the problem of evil, which is basically stated as such:
God is all omnipotent (by definition of God)
God is omnibenevolent (by definition of God)
Therefore: God does not exist
This argument basis it’s assumptions on the idea that if evil exists it is both problematic and logically inconsistent with the existence of God (by definition, and in reality). In discussing this problem, there were so many ways to go about addressing the questions of concerns around the problem of evil, however, the primary focus that I had during this assignment (as the one arguing the Theistic perspective) was to neutralize the argument of evil.
Before making a final statement as to why I believe the Theistic position is most plausible, I would like to look at a couple different approaches for this discussion, some of them I used in my argument for Theism, and some were left out of the discussion for the sake of brevity.
I have recently been listening to a discussion on Atheism versus Theism as presented by a Boston College and Kings College Professor of Philosophy by the name of Pete Kreeft. Kreeft states in this particular lecture, that the number one argument against the existence of God is the problem of evil.
I think Kreeft makes a very intuitive statement when answering “Why does God allow evil”, by saying, “The answer must be someone, not just something. For the problem (suffering) is about someone (God—why does he… why doesn’t he …?) rather than just something. (Kreeft, 2003).” Kreeft in the end states that Jesus is the answer to the problem of evil.
However, because we were not in an apologetics course, and more specifically, because there has already been expressed in our courseroom varying beliefs on the exclusivity of Jesus Christ, I choose not to take this position in my argument.
Kreeft also has some very interesting lectures out on his site, one in particular where he uses the Lord of the Rings trilogy to discuss the problems and answers of evil, however, I haven’t listened to his presentation yet, and was in no way ready to take such a stance.
Another argument that is often employed is the greater good argument. This morning during our Church service we watched a video with Joni Erikson Tada. For those not familiar with Joni, she was injured in a diving accident when she was young, and has spent the last few decades as a paraplegic in a wheel chair; she is, as a result, acquainted with both mental and physical suffering. Joni made a statement that I tried to capture as closely as I could, and she said that God has rigged this world for disappointment, so that it would bring us to Him.
While this statement is amazingly powerful and personally uplifting to someone who has faith in the existence of God and a belief that He is the greater good, again, if someone is stuck in a myriad of doubt, in light of, or because of specific forms of pain and suffering, this argument may not be the best.
A third and very popular form of the argument for God and suffering is the “Free Will” argument. While this argument seems very intuitive, it has a number of philosophical problems our class wasn’t ready to deal with, and thus, I stayed away from this argument altogether (yet, I made a comment to one individual in light of the possible traps within this argument as we closed last week’s discussions).
When it came to discussing my beliefs on the problem of evil from a personal perspective, in my argument, I appealed to an amazing book by C.S. Lewis called Till We Have faces. In this book, Lewis outlines a magnificent rendition of the story of Psyche and Cupid, and puts a twist on it that left me amazed at the end of the book. The gist of his argument is that we cannot begin to fathom the reasons that God has for doing what He does, until we see him face to face. I used a similar example out of the Jewish book of Job.
However, in the end, I realized that for those who were coming at this from a point of personal suffering, no amount of answers were going to assuage them during their time of crises. Additionally, for those who were in the midst of intellectual rebellion against the arguments of the existence of God, still no argument would likely find solidarity.
As such, I decided to neutralize the argument of evil for the questioner. I took a position that is discussed by C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity, and one that I found out soon afterwards is championed by William Lane Craig. This argument is roughly as follows:
If God does not exist, there is no ultimate standard of goodness
Evil exists (which is defined as a privation of the ultimate standard of goodness)
Therefore: God exists
Now, truly someone could argue (and many do) that there is no ultimate standard of goodness, the problem is that there are then no grounds to argue that something is evil (if all evil is relative). C.S. Lewis states that it is simple proof when two argue over what is ‘right and wrong’ that they are intrinsically appealing to a standard which is found outside of themselves, and because all people engage in arguing ‘right and wrong’, then there is indeed a standard to be found outside of ourselves.
As a foundational piece of my argument I also discussed the ideas of a paradox. Many times, in our lives, there are paradoxical concepts that, without the fullest understanding, we might believe to be incoherent, inconsistent, or outright contradictory.
Through the final argument, my position was that while the historical argument put forth by John M. Frame in his book Apologetics to the Glory of God, seems to me, to be the most cogent form of the understanding of the problem of evil (at least to date), I must admit, that I will likely never be able to argue someone into this understanding, and therefore, by neutralizing the problem of evil, I have opened the door for the various forms of argumentation on the existence of God (like the Teleological, Ontological or Cosmological arguments in all their various forms).
While I am admittedly a Theist prior to, during and after this conversation commenced, I have a more rationalistic rather than fideistic view of religion, and thus, I maintain that the rational arguments still tip strongly in favor of the existence of God.
Kreeft, P. (2003, January 23). What is God’s answer to human suffering? Retrieved Feburary 10, 2008, from PeterKreeft.com: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/suffering.htm