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This Theologian Has An Answer To Atheistsí Claims That Evil Disproves God
The Federalist ^ | January 3, 2018 | John Sweeney

Posted on 01/03/2018 10:09:34 AM PST by Heartlander

This Theologian Has An Answer To Atheists’ Claims That Evil Disproves God

Taken at face value, the problem of evil appears to be a devastatingly convincing argument against the existence of the Christian God.

Many atheists today argue that the existence of suffering is powerful evidence against the all-good, all-powerful God of Christianity. Many philosophers, both Christian and atheist alike, believe the “problem of evil” to be the most persuasive argument in favor of atheism.

Dr. Peter Kreeft, a prolific author and professor of philosophy at Boston College, states in “Making Sense Out Of Suffering” that “the most powerful argument for atheism that I have ever seen anywhere in the literature or philosophy of the world” is the problem of evil as demonstrated by Ivan Karamazov in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s famous novel, “The Brothers Karamazov.” In the novel, Karamazov describes a child’s suffering in a manner so grotesque that after reading it even the most ardent believer would wonder how a good God could allow such evil.

Formally, the argument states that if God is all powerful, he could prevent suffering and, if God is all-good, he would prevent suffering. But, suffering exists, therefore the Christian God does not.

Sam Harris, a popular author and one of the “Four Horsemen of Atheism,” made this argument in a debate with Christian philosopher William Lane Craig. The so-called Four Horsemen, which also includes Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett, are not the first to make this argument, but they sure have done an excellent job of popularizing it among their followers.

Not So Fast, Four Horsemen

Taken at face value, the problem of evil appears to be a devastatingly convincing argument against the existence of the Christian God. It is emotionally and rhetorically compelling. However, according to Dr. Edward Feser, professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College, the “problem of evil” may not be all that it is cracked up to be. It is rhetorically effective but logically not so much.

In “The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism,” Feser, echoing Thomas Aquinas, notes that the first premise of the problem of evil is “simply false, or at least unjustifiable.” According to Feser, there is no reason to believe that the Christian God, being all-good and all-powerful, would prevent suffering on this earth if out of suffering he could bring about a good that is far greater than any that would have existed otherwise. If God is infinite in power, knowledge, goodness, etc., then of course he could bring about such a good.

Feser demonstrates his reasoning with an analogy. A parent may allow his child a small amount of suffering in frustration, sacrifice of time, and minor pain when learning to play the violin, in order to bring about the good of establishing proficiency. This is not to say that such minimal suffering is in any way comparable to the horrors that have gone on in this world. But the joy of establishing proficiency with a violin is not in any way comparable to the good that God promises to bring to the world.

In Christian theology, this good is referred to as the Beatific Vision: the ultimate, direct self-communication of God to the individual. In other words, perfect salvation or Heaven. Feser describes the Beatific Vision as a joy so great that even the most terrible horror imaginable “pales in insignificance before the beatific vision.” As Saint Paul once said, “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Your Argument Assumes Its Conclusion

I can already see the disciples of the Four Horsemen readying their keyboards, opening a copy of Dawkins’ “The God Delusion,” and preparing their response. An atheist may claim that he cannot possibly imagine anything in the next life that could possibly outweigh the Holocaust, children’s suffering, or any other instance of significant suffering in this world. According to Feser, this response is precisely the reason he states that the problem of evil is “worthless” as an objection to arguments in favor of the existence of the Christian God.

The problem is that the only way the atheist can claim that nothing could outweigh the most significant suffering on earth is if he supposes that God does not exist and therefore there is no Beatific Vision. But he cannot presume that God does not exist in the premise of an argument that aims to prove the conclusion that God does not exist. By doing so, he is begging the question, or arguing in a circle, and therefore does not prove anything at all.

As Feser goes on to demonstrate, the atheist is essentially stating: “There is no God, because look at all this suffering that no good could possibly outweigh. How do I know there’s no good that could outweigh it? Oh, because there is no God.”


TOPICS: Education; Religion; Society
KEYWORDS: catholic; christian; peterkreeft
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My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? A man feels wet when he falls into water, because man is not a water animal: a fish would not feel wet. Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying that it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist--in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless--I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality--namely my idea of justice--was full of sense. Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.

- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity pp. 38-39.


1 posted on 01/03/2018 10:09:34 AM PST by Heartlander
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To: Heartlander

Why do bad things happen to good people?

There is no real answer to this question, because it is a flawed question! The question assumes we are good. There really are no “good” people, so how in the world could any of us tell “bad” things from “good” things? The question we actually need to ask is: “Why would a good God let those trying to do His will suffer?” This question has real answers.

First, we need to review where we stand. We are fallen creatures, inclined to do wrong, and wrong thoughts and acts have bad consequences – sometimes for us – sometimes for others. And if God removed the bad consequences, we would never learn anything. Free will without consequences would just be a game, and God does not play games with our eternal souls. God is pretty firm on this – He did not make an exception even to relieve the suffering of His Son! The real wonder is that a world full of fallen creatures, making bad choices, doesn’t have more suffering in it than it does.

Secondly, who says suffering is bad? Not God. When a child is being punished, both he and his parents suffer: is that good or bad? And when he fails in school or in a play or in sports; works harder, then succeeds; we call that character building – but did the child suffer? Of course! A child’s frame of reference is today, ours is limited to this life – but God’s time frame is eternity. His training – His discipline – His focus – is eternal. Thus, we, like the child, are in a very poor position to weight the relative merits of temporal suffering.

And thirdly, what kind of a world would this really be if God’s people never suffered? Not one I would choose to live in. Just think: people would flock to be “God’s people” just to avoid suffering. They would all, of course, be very sincere! And if someone were suffering, it would be their own fault. Who would help? Who would care? All this sufferer has to do is join “God’s people”, and He will fix it! True love – real compassion – all empathy – would cease to exist. It is only as God’s people share in the lot of the world’s suffering that we can share His compassion and His empathy and His love with the world. It is a pity, but no other way will work.

But there is even a better reason we are sometimes tested in uncomfortable ways. God knows the strength of our faith, but we never will until it is used, or tested. This is the same principle as a runner or weight lifter working out before the competition – we will not be strong enough to rely on God when we really need Him if we have never had to trust upon Him along the way.

Finally, it really is through our weakness that God’s strength is revealed. For He will always provide the added measure when our reservoir is empty, and fills us with His grace and strength. Suffering, like death, holds great promise of God’s divine intervention into our lives – but never such that I would seek it. His future for us is far better than the life we have built here on earth. But for those enlisted to endure, there is a great and abiding promise that He will hold, nurture, and comfort us; and through it build us up and prepare us for eternal blessings.

So what are we left with? How do we respond when it is our turn to suffer? First, praise God that He cares and is in charge! That gets our mind and spirit started in the right direction. Then, give Him the problem and find others to support you in prayer. And be prepared to accept whatever He offers. Finally, share your hurts and blessing with others in the same boat. And who knows, you may be building your eternal character in God’s image, strengthening your faith muscles, and bringing a stranger to learn of His love.
Not bad. Not bad at all!


2 posted on 01/03/2018 10:13:01 AM PST by impactplayer
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To: Heartlander

I suppose the Bible isn’t enough of an argument against irrational atheists?


3 posted on 01/03/2018 10:16:03 AM PST by Jim 0216
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To: impactplayer

Why do good things happen to bad people?


4 posted on 01/03/2018 10:18:46 AM PST by PetroniusMaximus
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To: Heartlander
Your Argument Assumes Its Conclusion

A logical fallacy known a "begging the question".

The phrase "Beg[ging] the question" is, I think, one of the most misused phrases in modern English.

5 posted on 01/03/2018 10:22:20 AM PST by WayneS (An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. - Winston Churchill)
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To: PetroniusMaximus

Interesting! The ways of the world can indeed be profitable - in the short run. We tend to become what we focus on - spending a life focusing on this world can be very profitable . . . but focusing on the next even more so.


6 posted on 01/03/2018 10:23:39 AM PST by impactplayer
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To: impactplayer

“We are fallen creatures, inclined to do wrong, and wrong thoughts and acts have bad consequences – sometimes for us – sometimes for others.”

Just to spitball apologetic-wise, not to argue: what about natural disasters that cause suffering to a great many people? Where is the blame for such to fall?


7 posted on 01/03/2018 10:24:39 AM PST by LouieFisk
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To: PetroniusMaximus
Why do good things happen to bad people?


8 posted on 01/03/2018 10:25:01 AM PST by Simon Green
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To: PetroniusMaximus

That is the better question.


9 posted on 01/03/2018 10:25:15 AM PST by WayneS (An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last. - Winston Churchill)
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To: Heartlander

can’t just try to rely on or cling to a part of God’s word but all of it. Simple as that for atheist or for believers who don’t know how to respond.


10 posted on 01/03/2018 10:29:48 AM PST by b4me (God Bless the USA)
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To: Heartlander

Evil itself seems to have a malevolence of personality. That in itself seems to BOLSTER the idea of a Christian God, the Adversary of Whom is enraged to levels which do not seem natural or commensurate.


11 posted on 01/03/2018 10:30:29 AM PST by fwdude (Why is it that the only positive things to come out of LGBT organizations are their AIDS tests?)
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To: PetroniusMaximus
Why do good things happen to bad people?

I know you meant this in jest (at least, I hope so), but my pastor related a grand truth in this light, to wit: This reality is as close to Heaven as the lost will get and as close to Hell as a believer will ever be.

"To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright... "
-Matthew 5:45

12 posted on 01/03/2018 10:30:36 AM PST by rjsimmon (The Tree of Liberty Thirsts)
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To: Heartlander

Evil exists because humans are fallen and we sin. Where there is evil, there is sin. If something happens to a good person, there is still sinfulness that occurred at some point in the situation. And by the way “good people” DO sin. When illness happens, sometimes it is thru our own actions, sometimes because of original sin. God allows suffering because he gives us free will. We can do what we want, but suffer the consequences, we must. He allows suffering because it brings us (or should) closer to him. Offering up your suffering is difficult, liberating and redemptive. Suffering empties us of some earthly things, hence making more room for Him.


13 posted on 01/03/2018 10:31:36 AM PST by Allthesaints
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To: impactplayer

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

There are no good people so it is a moot point


14 posted on 01/03/2018 10:31:38 AM PST by AppyPappy (Don't mistake your dorm political discussions with the desires of the nation)
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To: Heartlander

What is it that God does? God creates; God chooses.

If we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we choose and create (within our own realm.) And if God has free will (without which, God could not be God), then God’s image and likeness must also have it. And that includes the ability to make bad choices.


15 posted on 01/03/2018 10:31:45 AM PST by TBP (Progressives lack compassion and tolerance. Their self-aggrandizement is all that matters.)
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To: Heartlander; All

Genesis 2:16-17 shows that G-d commanded Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, also giving Adam fair warning that there would be consequences if he did so.

Adam subsequently disobeyed G-d’s command and the rest is history.


16 posted on 01/03/2018 10:34:41 AM PST by Amendment10
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To: LouieFisk

Just to spitball apologetic-wise, not to argue: what about natural disasters that cause suffering to a great many people? Where is the blame for such to fall?

Blame really is beside the point - the fact is we (Christians) share in the worlds suffering in a fallen world, and the world - and we - benefit by our participation in that suffering. It really is that simple - but that does not make it any easier to live through.


17 posted on 01/03/2018 10:36:19 AM PST by impactplayer
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To: Heartlander

The above brought to the conversation via
Belief Net

18 posted on 01/03/2018 10:38:20 AM PST by V K Lee (Anyone who thinks my story is anywhere near over is sadly mistaken. - Donald J. Trump)
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To: Heartlander

it’s very simple- you can’t have true love without the possibility of being unfaithful- cheating- true love forsakes all others ie forsakes evil- and chooses to truly love the object of their affection. This is the sign of true love- total dedication to the one you love- forsaking all others- Without the possibility of choosing another- cheating- choosing evil- love would be nothing but a rote/mechanical exercise simply because there would be no chance of being unfaithful or remaining faithful- one would be forced to be faithful because evil would not exist with which to test the measure of true love- When one CHOOSES to forsake all others (ie the evil- cheating etc), that is a true testament to true love-


19 posted on 01/03/2018 10:38:55 AM PST by Bob434
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To: Simon Green
In May 1935, French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval allegedly asked Stalin to improve the situation of Catholics in the USSR so as not to provoke a quarrel with the Pope. At that, Stalin, with his brutal sense of humour, asked, “The Pope? How many divisions does he have?”

Fast forward to 2018- Stalin is moldering in a Christless grave, while the Pope is still around (nevermind the marxist currently in Peter's seat, think of John Paul II and Benedict XVI).

20 posted on 01/03/2018 10:39:33 AM PST by MuttTheHoople (Yes, Liberals, I question your patriotism)
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