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    God of Love and the problem of Evil

    The problem of evil, the argument that lead many people to atheism and the one that remains the most pressing source of doubt for many theists. Alternatively known as the problem of suffering, it is this argument that I want to talk about here. I have already made two threads on theism vs atheism debates a while back, both of which cover some popular atheist arguments and brief answers to them. (Check [1] and [2]) In concluding the triology, I want to go over the most powerful argument there is for atheism and briefly explain 3 possible alternatives a theist could take in answering it.

    There are, however, many different forms of argument from evil and each form can be divided further. Here, I will focus on a broad sketch of the evidential argument from evil and will leave the various other versions such as the logical problem of evil and other topics like the Euthyphro Dilemma or the Evil God objections to the potential replies so feel free to further the discussion below. The short essay will contain the following:

    - Presenting the Argument
    - Theistic Answers
    - Relation to Natural Theology
    - Concluding Remarks

    Presenting the Argument

    The evidential argument goes (broadly) as follows:

    1) There exists a terrible amount of evil
    2) If God existed he would prevented this evil
    3) He doesn't prevent this evil
    4) Therefore, God doesn't exist

    Now, let's clarify this (quite messy) sketch of the argument. Here, evil need not bear any form of theological meaning. You could substitute it with the word suffering and you wouldn't lose any strength. Also, when evil (or suffering) is mentioned, the focus is most on the special kind of evil called gratituous evil. Gratituous evil is a type of evil which happens for no good reason. It's a completely random, meaningless tragedy that could've easily been avoided but wasn't.

    Also, this argument isn't to be confused with the logical problem of evil which states that since evil exists God cannot exist or God most certainly doesn't exist. The evidential arguments states that since there is such evil as gratutious evil, it constitutes good evidence against God's existence and as such we are to go along with it.

    In a nutshell, the difference between the logical and evidential argument is that the logical says God cannot coexist with evil, while the evidential arguments says God can but it is highly unlikely that they coexist.

    Theistic Answers

    Libertarian Optimism

    More commonly known as "The Free Will Defense", this will be the first position I'll explore here. Before explaining the position in itself, it is necessary to explain two things. First is Libertarianism which is a philosophical position that humans have free will. The second is Optimism which is that the world we live in is the best world of all Libertarian optimism combines the two above mentioned positions into a view that God's freedom in creating the world was limited by human free will.

    It is because humans have free will to act in themselves that there is evil in the world and therefore suffering, both human and natural, in all it's measure is the result of humanity's misuse of their freedom. This is what libertarian optimism is. In a summed version the counter to the argument from evil is as follows:

    1) Humanity misuses free will
    2) The misuse of free will prevents God from creating an ideal world
    3) God has chosen the world with least possible amount of evil in it
    4) Therefore, an all-loving God and evil can plausibly co-exist

    The argument's first premise is based on libertarianism while the third premise is based on philosophical optimism. Second premise relies on the fact that it is impossible to make someone freely do something (for example you cannot make someone freely do good when they desire to do evil) thus rendering an ideal world impossible as well. Given these three premises it follows that God could in all his omnibenevolence create the best possible world even though this world holds a great amount of evil in it. While gratituous evil does exist, it is the smallest possible amount.

    When we go back to the argument from evil we see that the problem discounts the possibility of God not being able to stop this amount of gratituous evil. Given such a God it's not at all improbable that (all things same) the this God would coexist with evil. As such the argument fails.

    Skeptical theism

    The skeptical theist position goes as follows: given God's omniscience and our own cognitive limitations, it is impossible for us to know that God doesn't have a sufficient reason for permitting certain amount of suffering. The evil we consider pointless or gratitutious, the skeptical theist says, actually has a purpose which only God knows.

    Unlike libertarian optimism which concedes that there is gratituous suffering (suffering which has no goal) but this suffering couldn't have been prevented even by God, the skeptical theist denies the claim that there is gratituous suffering at all. All there is, it is argued, is evil which God has a good reason to permit. The reasons, however, are only known to God, so humans in all their incapacity cannot understand them. The counter to the argument from evil would be:

    1) God is omniscient and all-loving
    2) All evil serves a purpose
    3) Due to human limitations we cannot know this purpose
    4) Therefore, there is no gratituous evil

    This position insists that the atheist justifies the jump from „we cannot see the purpose“ to „there is no purpose“ and due to the inability of the atheist to do this the argument from evil fails because one of its premises is not justified.

    Theological Probability

    The final position I will go over here is the one from theological probability. Namely, this argument says that given certain theological dogmas and truths about God the existence of evil (gratituous or not) isn't something we wouldn't expect to see, therefore it doesn't make sense to say that since evil exists, God's existence is improbable.

    This position is, a lot more than the first two, dependant on the exact concept of God we're talking about. In the case of God I argue for (the christian God) this works quite well for there is an established set of dogmas that deal with the existence of evil such as the Fall according to which in there was originally no suffering, but after rejecting God humanity caused the ideal world to be impossible.

    The point is, this side would say, since evil is an integral part of a certain worldview it doesn't make sense to say that the existence of evil provides evidence against that worldview. The argument here would go as follows:

    1) If evil were something that doesn't fit with Christianity it would be evidence against it
    2) Evil fits very well with Christianity
    3) Therefore, evil doesn't make Christianity improbable

    Relation to Natural Theology

    After exploring some of the alternatives theist can take in answering the problem of evil, I'll now focus to a different aspect of the debate, one that actually doesn't deny any of the premises, but still denies that God's existence is improbable! This is done by looking at the full scope of evidence for the existence of God. Given that there are good arguments for God's existence which establish the existence of a transcendant intelligent, moral, powerful and free entity, the argument from evil, even if undermining the theistic beliefs is utterly twarfed by the positive evidence for the case of theism.

    To put it simply, even if the existence of evil would make theism less likely to be true, the good probability of there being a transcendant cause (established by cosmological arguments), an intelligent designer (established by fine-tuning arguments) and a morally perfect being (established by the moral and ontological arguments) the probability of there being a God, even with the great amount of evil is still more than high enough to be reasonably accepted.

    So long as any of the arguments from Natural Theology stand, the argument from evil cannot work at it's fullest potential, but considering how none of these arguments are a closed case and are all a matter of heated on-going discussion, the argument from evil will (for all it's worth) simply have to wait until these arguments are cleared up.

    Conclusion

    In conclusion, I went over a few ways of answering the broad evidential problem of evil which are all reasonable enough to be accepted even in abscence of any other arguments for God's existence because they reduce the strength of the defeater for the belief in God and the belief remains justified according to proper basicality of reformed epistemology. Still, in the event that these alternatives fail, we need not resort to atheism, for Natural Theology is a rich enough discipline to keep the belief justified despite the problem of evil.

    While the argument from evil is the most powerful argument against theism, in and of itself it isn't enough to justify atheism and requires something more to back it up. Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, there are no other arguments for atheism as good as it so the atheist side seems to have ran out of ammo.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    You summed it up well, as always.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Good analysis.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    My understanding was that God created good and evil. Otherwise, there is no purpose for free will if we can only do good.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Pumpkin Ninja View Post
    My understanding was that God created good and evil. Otherwise, there is no purpose for free will if we can only do good.
    From what I understand. God lets all these bad things happen to test to see who will remain faithful. All fall short.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Hyun ryu View Post
    You summed it up well, as always.
    Quote Originally Posted by JVenomStar View Post
    Good analysis.
    Thanks ^^
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Pumpkin Ninja View Post
    My understanding was that God created good and evil. Otherwise, there is no purpose for free will if we can only do good.
    Would this not make God an amoral being? I'm personally more fond with this view:

    Quote Originally Posted by JVenomStar View Post
    From what I understand. God lets all these bad things happen to test to see who will remain faithful. All fall short.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    The answer using Free Will fails because the concept of Free Will in itself is a logical fallacy in the face of God. And here is why: The common definition of God makes him/her Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient
    The problem here is that if God is Omniscient and Omnipresent, he/she would know or at least have the ability to know the outcomes of everyone's life even before they begin. If he/she did know then it'd mean I have no free will since I cannot alter what God has fated/seen.

    The skeptical theist approach is a double edge sword. It accuses the atheist of the very same crime it is committing, an argument from ignorance.
    The atheist truly can't know for certain the purpose of the suffering, but the same goes for the theist. How then can the theist be sure of the stand he/she has taken??
    The skeptical theist denies gratuitous suffering, accuses the atheist of having a limiting understanding and yet fails to prove that there is no gratuitous suffering. This is just a reverse argument from ignorance

    The Theological Approach is simply circular logic. For example you can't prove the existence of God to a non-Christian using the Bible. Because that'd require that I believe the Bible to be true.
    Whether I believe the Bible to be true or not, the existence of evil is clear to us all. So to prove the co-existence of God and evil you'll need more than the scripture and dogma.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Pumpkin Ninja View Post
    My understanding was that God created good and evil. Otherwise, there is no purpose for free will if we can only do good.
    Pretty much my words.

    Also, the evils around us can be stopped if all of us work together to put an end to it so the fault shouldn't be on a deity for our mess.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    You summed it up very well it was a very good read
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by LaGrim View Post
    Would this not make God an amoral being? I'm personally more fond with this view:
    Right, God allows evil on Earth to test us but he creates evil and good. He transcends all of his creations. Unless you believe good to be a property of God itself, which is an idea I like too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yata Mirror View Post
    The answer using Free Will fails because the concept of Free Will in itself is a logical fallacy in the face of God. And here is why: The common definition of God makes him/her Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient
    The problem here is that if God is Omniscient and Omnipresent, he/she would know or at least have the ability to know the outcomes of everyone's life even before they begin. If he/she did know then it'd mean I have no free will since I cannot alter what God has fated/seen.

    The skeptical theist approach is a double edge sword. It accuses the atheist of the very same crime it is committing, an argument from ignorance.
    The atheist truly can't know for certain the purpose of the suffering, but the same goes for the theist. How then can the theist be sure of the stand he/she has taken??
    The skeptical theist denies gratuitous suffering, accuses the atheist of having a limiting understanding and yet fails to prove that there is no gratuitous suffering. This is just a reverse argument from ignorance

    The Theological Approach is simply circular logic. For example you can't prove the existence of God to a non-Christian using the Bible. Because that'd require that I believe the Bible to be true.
    Whether I believe the Bible to be true or not, the existence of evil is clear to us all. So to prove the co-existence of God and evil you'll need more than the scripture and dogma.
    God knows the outcomes of what we do, you're right. But knowing something before hand does not necessarily mean they aren't the result of our free will. If a God were to give us free will yet still know the results before it happened, it would seem strange to just go with it all but that wouldn't be fair. There is no struggle or test, then, in our eyes at least, and so we still get to experience everything. I agree with the circular reasoning though.
     
         
    Last edited by Pumpkin Ninja; 01-12-2017 at 02:35 AM.

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    In honesty like William you are trying more to convince your self than forming an argument against popular belief.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Pumpkin Ninja View Post
    Right, God allows evil on Earth to test us but he creates evil and good. He transcends all of his creations. Unless you believe good to be a property of God itself, which is an idea I like too.


    God knows the outcomes of what we do, you're right. But knowing something before hand does not necessarily mean they aren't the result of our free will. If a God were to give us free will yet still know the results before it happened, it would seem strange to just go with it all but that wouldn't be fair. There is no struggle or test, then, in our eyes at least, and so we still get to experience everything. I agree with the circular reasoning though.

    I get what you're saying.
    The problem is that if God knows what we'd do then what we'd do has already been written. That'd then be fate because no matter what amount of free will we have, we'll still do all that God has known we'd do.
    Imagine there is a hell and heaven after here. Even before God created us he knew how our lives would end and whether we'd go to heaven or hell.
    So why would God create someone knowing very well the person would go to hell?? Do you get what I mean??
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Yata Mirror View Post
    The answer using Free Will fails because the concept of Free Will in itself is a logical fallacy in the face of God. And here is why: The common definition of God makes him/her Omnipotent, Omnipresent and Omniscient
    The problem here is that if God is Omniscient and Omnipresent, he/she would know or at least have the ability to know the outcomes of everyone's life even before they begin. If he/she did know then it'd mean I have no free will since I cannot alter what God has fated/seen.
    You're making a nice point here, thanks for that! This point, however, is not without it's problems. You seem to have an improper view of God's omniscience - knowing future contingents. You say that because God knows everything a person will do that person has been fated or destined to do this while the possibility of doing something else is merely an illusion.

    But I think this view is confused. God may indeed know everything a person will do, but this won't cause the person to do this something rather than something else. Instead the fact that the person freely chooses to do this will cause God to know that they have done this something and not something else. Worded differently, you're saying that if God knows something, that something is caused to happen by God's knowledge of this. I would counter that God's knowledge is that which it is and not something else because we made Him know that which He knows and not something else.

    The point I'm making is that God's knowledge is logically secondary to the world God knows. Just as how our knowledge of mathematics doesn't cause mathematics to be as it is, God's knowledge of our actions doesn't cause our actions to be as they are. We might as well have done something comepletely different and in that case, God's sum of knowledge would be different as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yata Mirror View Post
    The skeptical theist approach is a double edge sword. It accuses the atheist of the very same crime it is committing, an argument from ignorance.
    The atheist truly can't know for certain the purpose of the suffering, but the same goes for the theist. How then can the theist be sure of the stand he/she has taken??
    The skeptical theist denies gratuitous suffering, accuses the atheist of having a limiting understanding and yet fails to prove that there is no gratuitous suffering. This is just a reverse argument from ignorance
    Here I think it is necessary to explain a bit more about how the evidential argument from evil works, since you seem to miss something. The argument is a probability argument which aims to show that it's premises (and thus the conclusion) are more likely to be true than not. This means that unless the probability of gratituous evil existing is higher than not, the argument wouldn't work.

    Having said this, the sceptical theist need not eliminate the possibility that there is gratituous evil. Possibilities come cheap after all. What they need to do is simply show that we cannot say gratituous evil does really exist. Here the burden of proof is on the atheist to justify their premises. The skeptical theist is perfectly comfortable on not being able to prove the status of gratituous evil, for all that follows from this is that we cannot determine whether there is any or not - all bets are off.

    The burden of proof is on the one making a positive claim, namely there is gratutious evil. The sceptical theist doesn't really aim to prove there to be no such evil, but merely claims that we're not in a good position to evaluate whether there is evil or not. (You don't prove scepticism.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Yata Mirror View Post
    The Theological Approach is simply circular logic. For example you can't prove the existence of God to a non-Christian using the Bible. Because that'd require that I believe the Bible to be true.
    Whether I believe the Bible to be true or not, the existence of evil is clear to us all. So to prove the co-existence of God and evil you'll need more than the scripture and dogma.
    You misunderstand the position. It doesn't claim that the Bible or Christianity are true. It doesn't claim any worldview to be true. Instead, what it says is that if something is an integral part of a worldview, the mere existence of that something doesn't pose any evidence against this worldview. To put it simply, evil would provide evidence against a sort of God alienated from evil. The christian God is very familiarly tied to evil, therefore evil is exactly what we would expect given there were such a God.

    Whether there really is such a thing is left wholly untouched because the position doesn't rely on that. It's a simple manner of a worldview's integrity and what this worldview would imply. According to this position, the existence of God would not imply the non-existence of evil as this concept of God would tolerate evil. Therefore, the existence of evil says nothing against the probability of this God existing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yata Mirror View Post
    I get what you're saying.
    The problem is that if God knows what we'd do then what we'd do has already been written. That'd then be fate because no matter what amount of free will we have, we'll still do all that God has known we'd do.
    Imagine there is a hell and heaven after here. Even before God created us he knew how our lives would end and whether we'd go to heaven or hell.
    So why would God create someone knowing very well the person would go to hell?? Do you get what I mean??
    Ah, but now you're moving to a different question. We're no longer talking about whether God's omniscience is compatible with human freedom, but whether God's omnibenevolence is compatible with God's act of creation upon those who will, in all circumstances, reject God and doom themselves to hell.

    To answer this question though, we'd have to establish what God we're talking about? Say, I believe in God who decided to create the world with minimal guidance after the Fall had occured (here I am taking a heavily interpretive understanding of the Fall). Given such a God there would be no separate creation act for every individual. Given the Big Bang and evolution, God creates no single human, he creates them in a bulk!

    Given humanity's freedom and the lack of control God has on the process of creation, there would always be people who would betray God. Following this line of reasoning, all God can do in his omnibenevolence is go for the most optimal bulk - one that containst the smallest amount of people who go to hell. (This has been touched upon in the Free Will Defense part of the OP .)
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by HashiraMadara View Post
    In honesty like William you are trying more to convince your self than forming an argument against popular belief.
    An ad hominem? Quite hypocritical too, since you're actually the one always running away from any discussion on theism while convincing yourself your agnosticism is justified.

    Also, why you'd say Rowe is convincing himself is beyond me...
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by LaGrim View Post
    An ad hominem? Quite hypocritical too, since you're actually the one always running away from any discussion on theism while convincing yourself your agnosticism is justified.

    Also, why you'd say Rowe is convincing himself is beyond me...

    You are actually correct to say I run away from any theism argument. To contrast you jump at any given chance of theism discussion. My notion of belief is simply nothing more than just "THAT" and at least I don't try to make it anymore than just "THAT"
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by Pumpkin Ninja View Post
    Right, God allows evil on Earth to test us but he creates evil and good. He transcends all of his creations. Unless you believe good to be a property of God itself, which is an idea I like too.
    I do indeed believe good to be a property of God. My concern with God being an amoral being is that he's not necessitated to do things we're obligated by His commands which isn't bad in and of itself but does cause a problem when it comes to trusting such a God figure since nothing prevents Him from lying to us about himself (for all we know he could be a very powerful demon). Just something to think about when you get bored.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by HashiraMadara View Post

    You are actually correct to say I run away from any theism argument. To contrast you jump at any given chance of theism discussion. My notion of belief is simply nothing more than just "THAT" and at least I don't try to make it anymore than just "THAT"
    So since you're not interested in the argument why do you post here? To trash talk me? In that case I might as well report you now for spamming. Also, the black is completely baseless.

    And people here are actually supposed to know what "THAT" means to you?
     
         
    Last edited by LaGrim; 01-12-2017 at 10:00 AM.

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    There's evil and good in this world thanks to morals that are established. Us becoming more intelligent as beings and creating a civilization to move forward as a species we make it obvious that doing good equals progress altogether whereas evil obviously equals several steps back. I find it funny sometimes when people think evil and good are two things that are crafted for this planet and us by a Devine creator of all living things who's really written and the main character of a famous book (multiple books too) by a man, actually multiple men, yeah you know switch up the good ol word if we don't agree with it and create other religions and gods that'll indulge us (yep us, lol tiny teeny carbon insects on a little blue dot in space) instead of just realizing that good and evil is a product of morality system from being civilized and intelligent creatures based off amazing evolution throughout time and no irony intended but a blessing lol.
     
         

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    Re: God of Love and the problem of Evil

    Quote Originally Posted by LaGrim View Post
    So since you're not interested in the argument why do you post here? To trash talk me? In that case I might as well report you now for spamming. Also, the black is completely baseless.

    And people here are actually supposed to know what "THAT" means to you?
    Where do you get this energy?


    anyways:

    I am going nowhere fast if I keep on avoiding this. Keep it short, use logic instead of long self explanatory sentence:

    What is God.

    ^ This is our start.
     
         

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