Further Thoughts on Good and Evil

thinker.jpg If you read the comments regarding Thoughts on Good and Evil, you notice that one commentator writes, “The Problem of Evil is the biggest problem theists have for the claim that god exists. Your argument doesn’t diminish it at all.”

The commentator (aka “The Spanish Inquisitor”) is an attorney, so he knows that people will ultimately decide what to believe on the weight of evidence. That’s exactly what happened in my case. I was fortunate enough to have both views presented to me during university days and made my decision based on what appeared more reasonable. I’ve not yet had cause to change that decision.

All we are doing here is presenting reasons for our worldview. I suspect neither the theist nor the atheist will ever “prove” anything. One of the more preposterous reasons atheists disbelieve is the existence of evil. Evil must exist in a world where people have choices – as we obviously do. We are not pre-programmed. We take in data and program ourselves. The ability to choose, and the existence of good and evil from which to make those choices, is an evidence of a benevolent God. The existence of evil is not a problem for theists, it is an essential.

If God forced himself and his power upon us, either for good or evil, we would be automatons and this discussion would not be happening. His intervention would force belief. But God has chosen to present himself in the remarkable writings collected in the Bible and in the intricate, ordered and astounding creation. He has chosen, in an amazing act of love, to live a life among us as Immanuel and in that form to show us the Father. He asks us to consider these things and make our decision. Will we believe in Him and love Him back?

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5 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Atheism/Theism, Culture Wars, Good & Evil, Jesus Christ, morality, Preaching/Teaching, Religion

5 responses to “Further Thoughts on Good and Evil

  1. At the risk of being considered a pest, what about non-conscious evil?Tsunamis, Hurricaines, AIDS, cancer, ebola, etc, etc? There are no choices involved with natural evil, other than those of god. Where do they fit in to free will, amazing acts of love, etc.

    And what exactly is wrong with forcing belief. Actually, to give some kind of unambiguous sign would not necessarily force you to believe. If you truly have this free will you folks keep using to rationalize away the obvious, such a sign would just make it easier to believe, it wouldn’t force the issue.

    Force comes into Pascals Wager, where Pascal felt that if you bet correctly, by forcing yourself to believe something for which there is no evidence, you’ll be rewarded.

    Again, sorry if I’m being a pest.

  2. inquisitor:
    these are very standard concerns and have been hacked away at for centuries by theologians.

    what i want to ask you though is why you think that natural disasters are evil? i ask not rhetorically, but because you must have a framework for that assertion. as a theist myself, i’m erring on the angle that considers these to not be evil at all—that my ‘feelings’ about these things do not necessarily qualify them as evil. a volcano is not evil. suffering is not evil. these things just ‘are’ what they are, and how we respond to them is where morality comes into play.

    Finally, the unambiguous sign doesn’t exist. Let’s say for arguments sake that this sign would have to be supernautral, then we know that no sign would be good enough for all. for arguments sake, Jesus performed miracles and was crucified for it. what could qualify as an unambiguous sign that could have universal appeal? i seriously doubt you could come up with something like that.

    just thoughts and i hope my tone is seen as conversational not condemnatory.

    pax

  3. It is an interesting discussion and one I have had many times with many people. Most of the time when you are dealing with an athiest they have spent little or no time in the scriptures which is the place where our God reveals Himself to us. I am reminded or Ray Vander Lans comment about the beginning of one of his Rabinical classes where the Rabi began the class by having one of the students quote the book of Genesis. Each time the student would get to the end of “In the beginning God – – -” the Rabi would stop Him and have him start over again. After the third or fourth time the Rabi said to the class “If you don’t believe that then there’s the door because none of the things we study in here will make any sense to you.” The Bible is full of information about people who will not believe or who will not believe without evidence. Thomas who knew Jesus was not willing to belive he was alive again even when he saw him until Jesus asked him to put his hands in his side and touch his hands where he had been nailed to the cross and stabbed with a spear. Jesus blessed Thomas for believing having seen but he blessed those who believe and have not seen even more. Believing is, was and always will be a matter of FAITH. Believing in something you have not seen. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Yet God has left every evidence not only of his existence but of his presence, his power, his glory, his authority, and his grace and mercy toward us his creation. This God I serve is passionate about his desire for me to be with him in an eternal place where things like earthquakes, fires and other disasters will have no sway over my existance. Something to hope for. God makes it hard for those who will not believe but says over and over that there will be MANY who do not and/or who will not, examples, the rich young ruler, casting your pearls before swine and in Romans Paul says that in spite of the evidence seen since the beginning of time in God’s creation there will be those who look at that and STILL do not believe. Our concern as Christians has to be what God insisted that we do through His Son Jesus.
    Go into all the world and preach the gospel (the GOOD NEWS MESSAGE) to every creature baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching them to believe all things that He taught us. Those who hear, believe and obey WILL BE SAVED and those who do not believe WILL BE CONDEMNED. It is such a wonderful plan, so beautifully conceived and delivered to us but to some it will be a stumbling block and to others it will be their salvation. Our choice – entirely.

  4. Kay

    It seems to me that the problem of evil affects the lives of believers and non-believers alike. To recognize something as ‘evil’ must imply that one is able to distinguish it’s opposite and identify something else as ‘good’. I may be naive but it is my impression that all people regardless of belief would be pretty much in agreement about what constitutes a really evil act or a good one. Doesn’t the possibility of comparison raise the idea of choice? If the idea of freedom of choice is not one of the fundamental things we believe about ourselves, then why do any of us care whether good takes place or evil?

  5. (OK. This is my third attempt to post this. If it doesn’t make it this time, I’m going to start thinking I’ve been banned)

    Stu

    No Problem. I enjoy Dwight’s site because of the civility here.

    What would you call the death of 100,000 people in a tsunami? Or the slow agonizing death by disease? If you think the word “evil” has too many intentional connotations, or implies a consciousness behind it, and you also assume that god created the earth and life, then what word would you have me use for the results of those two examples? If god has his hands in everything, if he is the cause of everything, then there is either intent or ineptitude behind both of those things, and I would still call it evil. Or bad. Or something decidedly negative, not neutral.

    If you want to say that tsunami’s are not caused by god or his imperfect creation, and instead agree with me that they are caused by the shifting of tectonic plates under the ocean, then what need do we have of god? If he can’t stop them, or at the very least warn us of when they are coming, why worship him? He does those people no good, and I certainly can’t respect that.

    Interestingly enough, it is not religion that has shown us the cause of tsunamis, nor has religion come up with the early warning systems we have in place in the Pacific, and could really use in the Indian Ocean. It is science that has enlightened us, and if people are saved in the future, it won’t be because god had anything to do with it, it will be man, through science and technology.

    As for the unambiguous sign, I agree it does not exist, but are you saying god couldn’t give us one? God is, by definition, supernatural. A supernatural event is just what I’m talking about. If it’s unambiguous, it will be sufficient for all, save the mentally deficient. It would be easy for an omnipotent god to come up with one. Here’s an example:

    We know through the study of physics and astronomy that in the natural world, the stars in the sky remain in the location they are in and do not noticeably move except over vast times frames, in the millions of years. All god would have to do is reposition the stars in the sky tonight to spell out the words, in English, “God Exists – and Jesus Too”. Once it was confirmed to me that it was not my brain misfiring, and all other possible natural explanations were ruled out, I would find that evidence to be somewhat unambiguous and irrefutable. Wouldn’t you? Do you believe that god does not have the ability to do that?

    Here’s another: Human limbs do not regenerate themselves. Never have. Have the Pope pray to god that all amputees in the world have their limbs regenerated. Now that would be a miracle. I’d believe after that. I certainly cannot believe in the sainthood of Mother Theresa because someone who prayed to her had his kidney stones go away.

    And if you’re going to tell me that he could, but won’t because he wants us to exercise our free will to believe in him, then all you’ve done if avoided the issue, and shifted it back onto me as being the mentally deficient one. That won’t work.

    Does he have the ability to relieve suffering, or doesn’t he? If he is the ultimate cause of all creation, is he not the ultimate cause of all suffering? Evil is just a word we humans use to describe something that is extraordinarily bad. The results of a tsunami are evil. The suffering and death the people of the Indian Ocean rim incurred was evil. If god had the power to prevent it, then he, too, is evil.

    If you ascribe all good actions to god, be it the rescue of the 9 miners in Pennsylvania a few years back, the result of a soccer game, the pay raise you’ve been praying for, the low death count after an earthquake, or anything else you think is good, then you must ascribe the bad things to god too. You can’t have it both ways.

    Please also accept this in the conversational tone it is offered.

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