I'm cross-posting this excellent article by my wife Alicia from her blog, The Old Mill.

'"The “Fall” (= original sin) is simple no explanation for this, because God was either not able to prevent the fall from happening…or, he did want this to happen, in which case he couldn’t be called “good”."

via The Immorality of Theodicies.

This is from a pretty shoddy article, but it does capture the essence of the overly-ambitious claims of the atheist’s version of the Problem of Evil.

We affirm that God did not want the Fall to happen.  It was against His will and desire for His creation, esp. mankind.  (Hence, He warned Adam and Eve against it.)  He did not want it in the simple sense.  In the simple sense, He was (and is) against it.

And that is the only sense in which we really know Him.  His moral character is against such things as the Fall, unjustified suffering, rape, murder, adultery, etc.  He is able to allow to happen things which displease Him.  We do not need to go beyond this.  In the spirit of theodicy some observe analogies with parents who allow their children to experience some pain because they know this pain is better than some worse pain/evil that would come if this present pain were avoided.  They are not pleased with the pain, but they are desirous of the result: the avoidance of greater evil.

God may be like this in some cases.  I would not know.  But if He is, it is beside the point.  If He allows things which displease Him, we need not speculate for reasons why.  We need not search for another thing that pleases Him more which would rationalize the allowance of the displeasure.  There is great mystery here, and we need not try to penetrate it.  Indeed, we cannot.

We need only recognize that allowing things which displease Him does not make Him “not good.”  That simply does not follow.  There is nothing in the definition of goodness (what definition could there be besides God’s character, a definition that is self-referential in any event?) that requires that a good God never allow things which displease him.  There is nothing that requires He have a greater pleasure or higher pleasure in mind if He does.  How could there be?  The atheists usually define goodness this way, but this is where we must cry foul.  There is no justification for a definition of goodness that excludes the possibility of allowing evil to happen.  That premise is invalid.

If a good person allows that which displeases him (esp. displeases his goodness), what is that to us?  Perhaps in a human case, we might ask questions.  We might put our fellow man in the dock, because we are competent to and are charged with the responsibility of judging our fellow men and their motives in cases where evil occurs.  But we judge them as participants, not as overseers or authors of a story.  When they enter that role, we withhold judgment.

So we have no grounds at all for judging God (!) if He allows that which displeases Him.  There is no logical violation of His goodness if we grant that He did not allow it because it pleased Him.  And by definition it doesn’t.  The atheist wants to create a situation where God cannot allow anything without pleasure on His part.  He wants to define the situation such that the very act of allowing something means God has pleasure in it.  But this is a non sequitur and the fallacy of the entire argument.  We know it is a non sequitur because we do not apply the same standard to human authors of stories or directors of movies.  This should be a large clue.

Otherwise, if the atheist is right, if goodness entails never allowing that which displeases Him, then we have a Stoic God.  We have a God who cannot feel sorrow or anger or displeasure.  We have a God who must always and everywhere be identified with the events of His creation, and identified positively.  That situation is nonsensical. It does not exist with respect to human authors of stories, so why should it exist with respect to God and His creation?  Scripture is full of accounts of God’s displeasure, God’s looking on at the things occurring in this world and in human history and feeling anger, displeasure, sorrow, and indignation at them.  The atheist would make the Christian God a less than human God, one who never experiences displeasure, anger, indignation, or sorrow.  We attribute these emotions to our limited potency.  If we were omnipotent, we tell ourselves, we would never experience displeasure, anger, or the rest. Wewould act to prevent anything which displeases or disturbs us.

Perhaps we would, but that does not mean the same is true of God.  It is also manifestly not true even of us.  We write stories and direct movies and write plays that contain things which, in themselves, displease or disturb us.  Playwrights and authors and directors are living proof that the atheist’s Problem of Evil is false.

God does not need justification for things which in themselves displease Him.  All He needs is the intention and the ability to make them right.  This is not a theodicy in the classic sense.  It does not justify evil’s existence.  It reminds us that even the worst evil can be reversed and undone by an omnipotent God.  And if this is so, then where is the Problem of Evil?  God takes no pleasure in evil, and He does not justify it.  Instead, He reverses, abolishes, and overcomes it.  He undoes it.

Evil is a challenge to God’s goodness, but not in the atheist’s understanding of that.  It is not a logical challenge, but an emotional and ethical one.  The atheist understands it as a decisive challenge — more than a challenge, “evidence against” God, or in the strongest formulations, proof against God’s existence. But it is none of those in itself.

Evil raises a challenge to God.  It introduces tension.  It demands that God act.  It calls for God to ride into battle and defeat it and heal His creation.  The Problem of Evil and all theodicy is really captured in God’s response to evil (or lack thereof).  If God never responds to the challenge, then evil has indeed finally contradicted Him, and He has conceded to it.

But He has shown us the end.  We know how it turns out.  We know He does act.  He answers the challenge of evil.  He destroys it.

The atheist wants the definition of goodness to require that God prevent all evil.  But it does not require this.  Goodness rather means that God undoes all evil.  He reverses it.  He makes it as though it never happened — more, He makes things better than if evil never happened.  He restores what was lost a hundredfold.  That is not a justification for evil.  That is evil’s abolition and destruction.  

If the existence of evil magnifies God’s triumph over it, what then?  Does this justify evil?  No, that is impossible.  Does it justify God?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But what really matters is that it cures evil, overturns it, heals it.  When evil has been utterly nullified and all its effects completely reversed (and then some!), there is no more Problem of Evil.  Evil has been swallowed up in good.  Death has been swallowed up in victory.  And that swallowing is complete.  No lingering doubt, no remaining regret, no old scars still nagging.

Good as new.

No.  Better.

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1/25/2016 05:33:41 am

The solution will fail if god is not bound by logic, but if he is bound by logic, it does not matter.


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