Friday, January 23, 2009

Evil and Unjust Suffering as Evidence of the Non-existence of God.

I had meant to summarize this from RZ's book Beyond Opinion sometime ago, but had forgotten. He gives a couple of forceful arguments countering the atheist line that the presence of evil and unjust suffering is evidence against the existence of God. To be sure unjust suffering is a quandary that that can be tough to handle and understand even for the orthodox Christian, but there are logical arguments from both the existential and intellectual side.

The evidential argument given by atheists for the non-existence of God typically runs
  • there is evil in the world
  • if there were a God, he would have done something about it
  • nothing has been done about it
  • therefore, there is no God
From this there are two approaches the theist can take--and keep in mind the third point by the atheist is hardly self-evident--in refuting such the evidential argument against God.

Approach #1
  • Yes, there is evil in this world
  • If there is evil, there must be good (a problem the atheist has to explain).
  • if there is good and evil, there must be a moral law on which to judge between good and evil
  • if there is a moral law, there must be a moral lawgiver
  • for the theist, this points to God.
This argument, in my opinion, has a much stronger foundation than approach #2 because the atheist is operating from a Christian presupposition without even knowing it. Specifically, that there is antithesis (right and wrong, good and bad) from which to judge, and without the existence of a God there is no sufficient ontological foundation (or starting point) from which to derive evil and non-evil.

However, approach #2 is another good approach and uses the concept of free-will, or a conception of liberty that allows us to do as we wish.
  • there is evil in the world
  • there is also the reality of freedom to choose; and where there is freedom to choose, evil will always be a possibility
  • in fact, concepts of love and goodness are unexplainable unless there is freedom to choose
  • since love is the supreme ethic, its possibility necessitates freedom
  • where there is freedom, there will be the possibility of evil
  • this is precisely the paradigm of creation by God in the Bible
  • Therefore the biblical model of a loving God, who creates for the possibility of the supreme god, may be defended on reasonable and existentially persuasive grounds
Again, I prefer approach #1 to the above argument typically given from atheists because they are starting from Christian presupposition. They could easily argue that they don't need Christianity to have morality, and they are correct that atheists could have the same integrity, and more than a theist; however, they still are unable to find a point aside from God to which explain the existence of good/bad, moral/immoral, benevolence/evil.

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