In this video (titled Does The Universe Have Purpose?), William Lane Craig proposes the idea that evil actually supports God’s existence. Co-opting one of C.S. Lewis’s arguments from Mere Christianity, Craig thinks that evil is a departure from the way things ought to be – therefore there is a way things ought to be. For Craig, this demonstrates that there is a God who has and gives purpose. He doesn’t mean just any god either, but the Christian God specifically. How he’s picked Yahweh among the thousands of divine candidates, he doesn’t explain.
So let’s pretend the Earth was a paradise. That is to say, the same Earth with mountains, trees, birds, buildings, etc., but in idyllic existence. Picture a “heaven-like” Earth with no violence or war or evil. If such a world existed, think how difficult it would be to argue against the notion of an active, orchestrating deity. There is no lack of justice, there is no evil. Things are right. Even if God “hides” himself and withholds proof of his existence, the peace that envelopes the world would be a spectacle in his favor.
If the lack of evil would speak favorably to God’s existence, doesn’t the presence of evil undermine his case? The problem of evil only remains a problem if you want to keep God all knowing, good, powerful, and intelligent. A god who is all of those things can only violently clash with present ills and evils. Perhaps evil does show a “way things ought to be,” but in what way could that possibly excuse God from allowing it?
Christianity loves to present God’s relationship with us in terms of a family. Let’s continue the analogy. Who would let their child be ripped to pieces by animals, be slowly and cruelly tortured by other humans, allow sickness and starvation to wither them down to nothing – all while they had the power to stop it? And not just any power – All Power and All Goodness. If you had just a portion of God’s ability, you wouldn’t even break a sweat protecting people from evil. If only God were not so powerful, not so capable, not so knowing – then maybe we could entertain his possibility. But that ‘s the problem, he is just so eminently all-encompassing. It’s inexcusable.
Some Christians will respond that God allows evil so we can choose him. But you don’t need torture and pain in order to choose God. He could still help and protect people in so many ways. Maybe a person makes the decision/choice to rape and then murder someone. Does God really need to let the victim suffer? Why not just take them out of the world (or take the murderer out…)? Why not prevent it at the last moment? What does violent rape show anyway…his goodness? The usual response here is that God knows all/more than we do and so he knows best – or that God is mysterious. Great and mysterious is God’s goodness indeed if he needs to allow torture, violence, and evil to show how knowledgeable and kind he is. If this is the case, then consider perhaps he’s not as intelligent or wonderful as reported.
Freewill is simply not a defensible argument. Remember that Heaven is defined as a place that lacks evil, but also must necessarily contain freewill. Otherwise what’s the point of living here if we just become programmed robots in the very end? If that were the case, what a cruel joke we’ve all been played! It bears repeating: Heaven is free of evil and full of freewill – meanwhile evil remains a problem here on Earth. The place we all actually live. Freewill is clearly not the answer to the problem.
According to theological thinking, the world suffers because of sin. Why does the mud dauber paralyze and collect spiders to be slowly eaten alive in a cage? Or the parasitic wasp inject larvae into a caterpillar which later slowly slice their way out? Why do people need to starve and drown in tsunamis? Why does the male lion not pity its neighbor’s playful cubs? Why was Jillian Meagher assaulted, raped, and murdered? Or are there no miracles for insects, animals, and beautiful, kind, intelligent women?
If that sounds bleak, it’s because sometimes things are. Sometimes these things happen, and it’s truly awful. There is nothing good about evil and suffering and injustice. To think God allows evil so we can persevere and choose him is to think if there were no evil no one would strive to do anything. How bleak Heaven must look then.
Naturalistic theories offer robust explanations which produce clear predictions about pain and suffering in this world. Theistic thoughts fail to make predictions about evil and suffering, and they fail to define their terms and understanding of the world. To offer sin and freewill as reasons for the way the world is simply does not satisfy nor get at the crux of the issue. Hope for love, peace, and justice is not found within the pages of the Bible, it’s found in education, the spreading of knowledge and understanding, and communities of people who deeply care about doing good in this world when there’s simply no deity to answer.
Naturalistic theories don’t even explain why anything should be defined as evil. There is not reason that people dying in tsunamis should be a bad thing, in a world with no deity. It’s just nature doing it’s thing.
Why should rape be considered wrong in such a world? It’s just the fittest getting his way.
God could overcome evil, but to do so he would control every thought of man, and there would be no choices. Perhaps that is preferable in your view, but most would disagree.
” Remember that Heaven is defined as a place that lacks evil, but also must necessarily contain freewill. ”
You’re missing the point that heaven is full of people who have already chosen God. There IS a mystery here, but it’s not that hard to understand the part we need to understand. We are still in the testing stage here in the shadow lands. When the test is over, those who choose God will be holy enough that the temptation of evil will not longer be a problem in heaven.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, wildswanderer!
“Naturalistic theories don’t even explain why anything should be defined as evil.”
This is just a word game, a definitional trick. I say, “Look at all the suffering! How could a loving God…” and you say, “Ah, but without God, you have no basis to say that suffering is even a bad thing!” To ask why it is better not to suffer than to suffer is to hit philosophical bedrock with the shovel of a bad question. You may as well say, “Without God there can be no health industry. Who’s to say that people should not be sick, that it’s better not to be vomiting than to be vomiting?” Notice no one makes that argument. Once we agree that morality has something to do with wellbeing (by definition it must), we have a basis for objective moral appraisals. We are welcome to exclude the very few who will not agree to these terms (ironically, they will be divine command theorists!) from the conversation.
If the best argument a believer has against the problem of evil is, “Well, you need God even to call something evil,” then the problem stands stronger than ever. If the impetus is somehow on the unbeliever to explain precisely and in scientific terms why it is better not to suffer in order to explain that it would be better for God not to create and allow so much of it, then I don’t think we’re participating in the same conversation.
As to the point that the only alternative to widespread suffering, mass starvation, natural disasters, rape, and torture is that we’re all robots, that is a false dichotomy if I’ve ever heard one. God could easily allow free will, honor our choices to obey him, and…well, fill in the blank. Not create psychopaths. Stop the natural disasters. Etc. Now you’ll likely be tempted to explain that those are the wages of sin, etc., but that would be to change the topic. The point is that it is a FACT that we could both have free will (not be robots) and not live in a world that is rampant with unnecessary suffering. Whatever explanations you have to justify the suffering (I’ve heard them all) notwithstanding, that is a fact.
Thanks for visiting and commenting! I have a couple things to respond to:
“God could overcome evil, but to do so he would control every thought of man, and there would be no choices.”
Again, you don’t need evil in order for there to be choice. People could choose to do wrong without torturing each other. What choice does the victim have? What choice are drowning people presented? Not to mention, if someone chose to do wrong, why not stop it there? Why does the act of evil have to occur? Answer: it doesn’t.
And wouldn’t you rather be a robot than risk the chance of spending all eternity in Hell? I know you want to go to Heaven, but you might mess up. Seems risky.
I’m most confused by your closing paragraph, not least, I think, because nothing is well defined. Heaven is called mysterious, a place that won’t be “hard to understand the part we need to understand.” What does this mean? We’re in a “testing stage”. How do we know? Further, why is God so careless with our souls? If there’s a chance I could go to eternal punishment, I wish he wouldn’t play games. And yes, he is playing games if all this is just a “testing stage”. He shouldn’t chance something so important.
But I’m most confused by your last sentence. Are you saying there’s evil in heaven and people won’t have a problem resisting it? If I’m missing a point, surely it’s understandable why: Heaven, Salvation, and God are all ill defined. But I don’t think there’s an actual point to be missed.