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Why Wouldn’t God Perform More Miracles?

ShootingGun

If God is a God of miracles as theists claim, then why doesn’t he perform more to stop evil?

I must admit this is one question I’ve wrestled with in solidarity with my atheist friends.

My initial response is to recall the words of the prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD” (Is. 55:8). While I acknowledge this as true, it leaves me dissatisfied.

As a Christian I believe, with St. Paul, that God “works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28), but I’m still often left wondering if there is any sense in God not performing more miracles to stop evil.

Though this is a mystery, I think we can make some sense out of it.

Is God Really Idle?

Let’s begin by distinguishing between moral evil and physical evil. Moral evil is evil caused by the abuse of human freedom, i.e., sin. Physical evil refers to any sort of suffering, decay, or corruption caused by nature.

Now, if speaking of evil in general  (moral and physical), one response is to wrongly assume God hasn’t done anything. It may well be that God has already prevented and is preventing horrendous crimes or natural catastrophes that could wipe out the entire human race. There is simply no way, given our spatial and temporal limitations, to know he hasn’t already done this. As Norris Clarke says, “Our ignorance cannot be a basis for blaming God for what he is already doing” (The One and the Many: A Contemporary Thomistic Metaphysics, 288).

Let’s Not Obscure Things

If the question concerns physical evil in particular, one possible answer is that an overwhelming presence of miracles might obscure the supernatural character of the miraculous.

Consider a scenario where miracles are as common as rain. In such a scenario, it would be difficult (though not impossible) to distinguish between the supernatural and the natural, since we can only know the supernatural by contrast with the natural.

As philosopher Edward Feser points out in his lecture for the symposium “God, Reason, and Reality,” such difficulty lends itself to either of two extremes. One extreme is an occasionalist view of the world, a view that holds that God does everything directly without the cooperation of any natural causes. The other extreme is the view that there is no order to the universe at all, which has the potential to lead to an extreme David Hume–like skepticism, or even atheism, since causal regularity is needed to reason to God’s existence as manifested in St. Thomas Aquinas’s five ways.

So, one may conclude that God doesn’t will a more overwhelming presence of miracles to stop physical evil for the sake of not obscuring the distinction between the natural and supernatural orders of reality.

God Values Choice

What about moral evil? Why wouldn’t God perform more miracles to stop moral atrocities in the world?

One response is that it would violate his divine wisdom. Why would God make man with the capacity to choose good or evil in order to merit man’s eternal reward and then rob him of that capacity the second he chooses to exercise it? It doesn’t make sense.

This would be analogous to someone installing an air conditioning system in his or her home and then turning the system off every time it turns on to cool the house. (Having lived in Southern Louisiana the majority of my life, I can affirm this would be a stupid thing to do.) One might be inclined to ask, “Why did you install the air conditioning system in the first place?”

Similarly, it seems contrary to reason for God to create human beings with the capacity to choose for him or against him and then take away that capacity every time they choose to exercise it against him.

“But,” you may say, “perhaps God doesn’t have to take away man’s capacity to choose evil but could stop the evil effects of man’s bad choices—like changing a fired bullet into butter.”

The answer to this question is that God values the power of choice with which he created man. If God never allowed the choices of man to have bad effects, there would be no real value in man’s ability to do good or evil.  In this case the alternative of a bad choice would never be a real alternative. Why give humans the capacity to choose evil if there would never be any real effects from that choice? One might summarize the argument as follows:

If no real effects are possible from man’s choice, then there is no value in man’s power to choose good or evil.

But God values man’s power to choose good or evil.

Therefore, there must be real effects that arise from man’s power to choose good or evil.

It’s reasonable to conclude God doesn’t ordinarily perform miracles to stop bad effects caused by bad choices because he values the power of choice he desires man to have.

Conclusion

These answers by no means fully dispel the darkness of the mystery of why God doesn’t perform more miracles to stop evil. However, they do shed a bit of light that may help one navigate the darkness.

Karlo Broussard

Written by

After a three-year apprenticeship with Fr. Robert Spitzer S.J. PhD., nationally known author, speaker, philosopher, and theologian, Karlo works as a full time apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers giving lectures throughout the country on topics in Catholic apologetics, theology and philosophy. He holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in theology from Catholic Distance University and the Augustine Institute, and is currently working on his masters in philosophy with Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is one of the most dynamic and enthusiastic Catholic speakers on the circuit today. He resides in Murrieta, CA with his wife and four children. You can view Karlo's online videos at KarloBroussard.com. You can also book Karlo for a speaking event by contacting Catholic Answers at 619-387-7200.

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  • Ifeoma Ozodiegwu

    Thank you Karlo for the well-thought out post. As a Catholic, I also struggle with these questions. Can you provide any thoughts as to why God would even give man such power in the first place with the full knowledge that it would come with some choosing to do evil with its attendant consequences? If God is all-knowing and all powerful, He would know that this was going to happen and would have stopped it in the first place so that we will not be here discussing it in the first place.

    • Dorakin Warhammer

      We are not automatons. Maybe we have to have the capacity to love God in different ways - obedience, loving each other (chairty) and perhaps out of sincere gratitude like in Luke 7 "The Parable of the Two Debtors". If we were all made the same, maybe we couldn't learn to love God or grow to love God.

      • When we are saved and in heaven we would not be automatons or all the same either, but no evil will ever occur. Why not just skip to that state of affairs? Or is this another limitation on God's power?

        • Dorakin Warhammer

          We apparently were in Heaven or at least Eden. Then Adam and Eve screwed up. Not God's fault, but ours

          • David Nickol

            The question is why even Adam and Eve, who walked and talked with God, could "screw up" on earth, but allegedly those who make it to heaven can do no wrong? How can they be said to have free will?

    • I agree, why not just create the souls that would be saved directly into heaven.

      • Mike

        bc we're not angels?

        • Will we become angels after we die?

          • Mike

            apparently not. we will have new bodies and remain 'human beings' for ever and ever and ever.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    This edges into the question of the problem of suffering and evil, which I and many others have already written enough about elsewhere on here.

    So, ignoring the problem of suffering, I suppose the lingering question is then, is there any reason to think that God performs any miracles at all? I would think that the statistical nature of physical laws gives a good estimate for the probability that God will perform a miracle of a given magnitude, and then we can balance that probability against the evidence of a claimed miracle, to see how likely it is God that performed one.

    The same sort of analysis as: https://boltzmannbraindotorg.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/probability-of-the-resurrection/

    • Physical laws are not statistically variable in themselves. Rather statistics is required because of our inadequate control and/or knowledge of all of the variables. In transitioning from experiments in physics to biology, this becomes glaringly apparent due to the considerable variability of the biological material, which is nominally being taken as non-variable.

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        Laws that govern the macroscopic are almost completely statistical. Erwin Schrödinger gives a good overview of this fact, some great examples, and he discusses the consequences of this in the book "What is Life?" It's a book worth reading if you haven't already.

        Every single miracle in the Bible, in terms of the events as recorded, is entirely possible with the given laws of physics. They're just very unlikely. How much evidence would I require to believe that the red sea was parted at that moment? Enough to outweigh the prior probability of such an event happening due to the known laws of nature (unlikely, but not that unlikely).

        • Mike

          i kind of think that all talk of probability where miracles are concerned is misplaced some what. probabilities track naturally occurring events seems to me.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I'm open to a different heuristic for probabilities. What alternative system would you recommend?

          • Mike

            btw i had to look up def of heurisitc! not sure but gotta run now.

        • I mistakenly took the statistical nature of physical laws to refer to the statistical distribution of multiple measurements of one value of a parameter.
          In addition to the examples cited by Schrodinger, another example from physics where a parameter is of aggregate action, while randomness is imputed to individual action is that of radioactive decay.
          The classic example from biology is that furnished by Mendel with regard to flower color. In some plants, a pink by pink cross will yield the statistical distribution of 1:2:1 of white:pink:red offspring. The conclusion is not that the inheritance of flower color is ‘physically’ random. Rather, the conclusion is that the hereditary factors are subject to binary division in the formation of germ cells and recombination at fertilization.
          The imputation of randomness and the application of the mathematics of probability do not signify ‘physical’ randomness. Instead, they signify human ignorance of individual action, which is the level at which mathematical, i.e. logical, randomness is imputed.

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            I think that's all true. Schrödinger interestingly proposed that radiation was possibly the primary source of mutations in organisms, and so mutations (the driving force of evolution) were truly random as a matter of the fundamental physics. But DNA hadn't even been discovered when Schrödinger wrote that.

            Even so, the description even at the level of relatively simple molecules, like a cluster of water molecules, involves statistical ensembles. It's true that there's a complete description that doesn't have the statistics, but that complete description is too cumbersome and often not as illuminating as the coarser description.

            Like if we wanted to know what was happening in the Forum with Caesar. We could try to find out the location and approximate momenta of all the particles in the forum and within the light cone that affects the forum during the time of interest and evolve them forward. We'd be able to perfectly predict everything that would happen in the forum, but we wouldn't really understand any of it.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          How much evidence would I require to believe that the red sea was parted at that moment? Enough to outweigh the prior probability of such an event happening due to the known laws of nature

          But doesn't this lock you into never believing any purported facts that contradict the known laws of nature? How do you hope to ever falsify your current model of nature if you have fenced off observations that would contradict that model?

          I could imagine you might be willing to accept as fact certain things that contradict your model of nature if you experience those things directly, through personal experimentation rather than second-hand testimony. But I think that would still mean that you could only falsify your theories of nature through observations of your local neighborhood of space-time, which seems overly parochial?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Jim, that's a great question. I think then there are two different levels, which is what model is being used and what prior probabilities would be calculated using the model.

            Let's say that under different laws of nature, rivers part much more frequently. Then the probability of the river parting will be much higher under the new laws than under the old. There needs to be justification for using the new laws, some sort of geological or hydrological or physical evidence that suggests that these new laws describe nature better than the old ones. If those experiments favor the new laws, then the new laws can be used to calculate the probability of the red sea being parted (which wasn't all that unlikely to begin with, all things considered).

            Every miracle in the Bible, as described, could be reproduced under the current known laws of physics. Some are more likely than others. The Biblical testimony is sufficient to justify believing some of the claimed miracles but not others, because others are so unlikely, the testimony is not sufficient evidence to persuade.

            Now, maybe I should use a heuristic that's completely disconnected from the laws of nature. If I should, what would that heuristic be, and how would it work? Also, what clear errors about agreed-upon events does my heuristic make, if any?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I mostly agree with what you wrote and I think I have a similar basic heuristic. I think the key is an open-ness to letting one's model be dislodged and re-rooted in response to the data, and your comments speak to that.

            I guess I would say that experimentally derived justification is only one (very important) kind of justification for switching to "new laws". If by "laws" we mean things that entail repeatable regularities, then I think it is fine to insist on experimental verification. But if we want the word "laws" to refer more broadly to the underlying logic of reality, then I don't think we should pre-suppose that this logic must entail only repeatable (and therefore experimentally testable) regularities. I would want to leave room for a logic that entailed some once-in-a-universe, unrepeatable phenomena. The unrepeatable phenomena would need to all fit together in some coherent way, but they wouldn't need to be repeatable.

  • Lazarus

    As with all discussions of this nature, the explanations and rationalizations and possibilities leave much to be desired. I do not blame Broussard for this though. Either we accept (apparently) gratuitous suffering as a mystery, to be revealed and explained by God at some future time, or we accept what we see in the world, including the massive suffering in nature, as evidence against the existence of the Christian God.

    • Mike

      or we see the massive suffering as evidence against there not being any deity as otherwise we shouldn't be so bothered by it.

      • Lazarus

        People like Peter Kreeft try to counterbalance the problem of suffering with the problem of beauty, love, and so on. This does not work, as far as I am concerned. The problem needs to be addressed in isolation, not diluted by reference to other more positive aspects of creation.

        • Mike

          maybe there is no way to address it fully w/o pointing out countering balancing forces at play. to me it's never been a problem; weird as it is i've always seen God as more plausible the more i thought about holocausts and war crimes and other evils. reading the grande inquisitor chapter sent chills up my spine the evils described are told in such a chilling way. but all of those things to me only scream out for justice for divine justice - a child's body as it is being violated and butchered say is bad really really bad but that's not what really can cause us to lose our minds i don't think. its our through a glass darkly perception that something else something higher has been violated; something sacred has been defiled and that is what can cause a man to either go crazy or become a saint.

          i think kreeft also somewhere says that material evils are really a cinch as bad as they are like earthquakes etc but it's moral evils that get us really incensed.

          • Lazarus

            I understand that, and you've put that approach rather well.

            That of course places us squarely before the question whether that sense of, that need for, ultimate justice is from God or our wishful thinking. Why would we need to crawl through all of this to get to "divine justice". My most eloquent answer thus far is "dunno".

          • Mike

            why would we need to crawl through all that? $64M question. just seems to be part of the bargain.

            i don't know maybe whoever created us knows that in the end we'll make it out ok? maybe who ever created us loved us enough not to spare us any of the ugly details? if you love something set it free?

    • But even on the mystery horn of the response, I think it is still the case that this evil seems gratuitous, and this still inductive evidence against such a deity?

      • Lazarus

        I struggle to really convince myself that not at least some part of it is gratuitous. The closest I get to "solving" the problem for myself is to posit that this is really the only way that God could have created, and that the choice was between this and absolutely nothing, and that God chose this as better than nothing.

        That clearly leaves a ton of unanswered questions, raises some new ones and ditches quite a few traditional dogmas, but it's what I've got. Van Inwagen, David Bentley Hart, Plantinga ... none of their efforts really satisfies all of the questions.

        I have to say again that any Christian who is completely comfortable with this question simply does not understand the question completely.

        • "to posit that this is really the only way that God could have created,
          and that the choice was between this and absolutely nothing, and that
          God chose this as better than nothing.'

          If indeed it was the only way to create a cosmos then God is an observer to nature. There already is an order and He would be a participant in it, rather than the source of it.

          He could not have chosen between "absolutely nothing" because he existed. The choice would have to be between only god and god plus non-god. See the argument from Non-God objects.

          Thanks for your perspective, I find your comments always very reasonable.

  • David Nickol

    Of course, according to some, God performs miracles all the time. Our parish priest, a beloved man whom many considered very holy, began a campaign to get people to tithe (5% of income to church, 5% to other charities). Week after week on Sundays (my memory may exaggerate, I suppose) he told stories about people who started tithing and the "miracles" that resulted. The two I remember most clearly are that faulty old appliances in the home of one tithing family suddenly began to work without problems. In another family, the leaky roof that they would have had to replace at great expense stopped leaking. One of the clear messages was that tithing could be a good investment purely for the material benefits that would result. As the campaign went on, people began to be distressed that the only thing this formerly saintly man could talk about was money, and some people (including my mother) left the church. (She later returned.) Of course, the "miracles" that some people believe happen all the time are never verifiable.

    • Rob Abney

      Do you know what prompted your mother to return? Was it because of less talk about money and miracles? I wonder if she considered her return to be somehow "miraculous"?

      • David Nickol

        The point of the story is that Christians try to have it both ways. On the one hand, God is watching (and the saints, too) all the time and controlling even the most trivial of everyday occurrences. For example, if you can't find your glasses, you say a prayer to St. Anthony, and he will help you find them. There is hardly profession, cause, or activity you can think of that does not have a "patron saint" who is supposed intercede in some way with God to grant miracles. On the other hand, it is a great mystery that God is so "hidden."

        Regarding my mother, as best I can recall she started going to church again with my older sister. It may have been after my parents gave up their last house or apartment and moved in with my sister, brother-in-law, and my niece and nephew. If there was anything miraculous about it, no one ever told me! I don't recall any personal experiences of my own or members of my family that anyone claimed were miracles.

        • Rob Abney

          I always thought of the intercessions of the Saints in the same way you describe here, but I'm learning that there is another requirement for such intercessions to work, that is that the person must trust completely that such an intercession is possible. That is hard for most of us no matter where we fall on the faith scale from devout atheist to devout theist.
          A good example of such trust is described by St Therese of Lisieux in The Little Way.
          Unfortunately many of us have misunderstand the requirement for complete trust so we end up abusing the power that is available to us.
          I'm glad your mother returned to church. I also liked your other comment about purgatory, it presents us with one of the greatest practical uses of prayer, to pray for those in purgatory.

        • VicqRuiz

          It's another good example of the "everyday piety" of the working class parish versus the dispassionate urbanity of the Thomist scholar, which has been noted here many times.

          I doubt very much that Feser, or Barron, or Kreeft would write here on SN to the effect that a benefit of Catholicism is that one can pray to have one's leaky roof stop leaking.

          But my guess is that around the world, millions of the laity have prayed for similar "healings".

          • Mike

            it's good to pray for jobs for health for a good vacation etc. but what 'good' is and how it ends up looking may be very different.

          • VicqRuiz

            Can you tell good actions from evil actions by observation??

          • Mike

            yes

          • David Nickol

            I haven't a clue what you are trying to say here.

          • Mike

            you can't always get what you want; but if try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.

            just watched the big chill again.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            which has been noted here many times

            I've also seen this noted many times, and I have to say I don't really understand the point of such remarks. Catholicism is a very wide path (to use the Eastern term, it is what you might call a "Mahayanna"), with room for subtle intellects and great scholars, with room for so called "simple people" who are just trying to get through life as best they can, and with room, frankly, for some people who I would say are outright wackjobs. It is one big messy family.

            What I find ironic is that the people who are scandalized by this incredible diversity of perspectives within the Church are sometimes the same ones who complain that the Church enforces monolithic thought and toeing the line. Which is it?

          • VicqRuiz

            Jim -

            Was looking through my old Disqus file yesterday and realized that I'd neglected to answer you here.

            What I am bothered by (and you may have seen me comment on it here in the past) is that non-believers don't seem to be cut the same slack as believers do when it comes to supposed intellectual rigor.

            The Polish and Czech families who were my childhood neighbors were not Thomist or Augustinian scholars by the remotest stretch of imagination. From my observation, the God they believed in was very much a Big Guy in the Sky With a Beard, who doled out rewards and punishments according to rigidly defined schedule, and who could be placated only by a very specific series of ritual observances. Yet they were decent and honest people who I knew took their beliefs very seriously.

            I would never have told them that their faith was unsupportable because they hadn't read and refuted all the points made by Hume, Spinoza, Paine, or Popper. But the mirror image of that attack takes place at SN and similar sites all the time.

            I've been told many times that it's intellectually dishonest to "just not believe", by the same apologists who readily endorse the faith of those who "just believe".

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hi VicqRuiz,

            That's all fair enough. I hope I am not one who denigrates "simple honest disbelief", and I certainly hope I have never implied that it's intellectually dishonest to "just not believe". It has never been my intention to do so, in any case. As you correctly imply, plenty of believers and nonbelievers alike just don't have the luxury of extended philosophical reflection that many of the posters here seem to enjoy. Most people just need to get on as best they can with taking care of their sick parents, their barfing kids, their impatient customers, and all that. We should all be respectful of whatever "simple belief" or "simple disbelief" helps people get through the day with a degree of humanity.

            I would say though, that if one ventures into an internet forum like this with a somewhat sophisticated question or criticism (and most especially if one does so in an arrogant fashion, something we have seen plenty of in both directions), then one has to expect a somewhat sophisticated answer. This isn't exactly the heights of academia, but it isn't the old neighborhood of your youth either. In this forum I think it's fair to ask you to engage the best of theism, just as it's fair for you in this forum to ask me to engage the best of atheism.

            I know I don't do a lot to discourage the arrogant theist comments that we sometimes see here. I used to try to do it a bit, and I sometimes still do it a little, but I've come to think that probably the best use of my time is just to set a good example for what charitable engagement can look like. Their are just too many knuckleheads out there (on both sides) to do much more than that. I appreciate that you make a similar effort at charity.

            --Jim

  • Doug Shaver

    I must admit this is one question I’ve wrestled with in solidarity with my atheist friends.

    So, the existence of evil is a problem for theists, because it seems to be inconsistent with certain things that theists say about God. The proposed solutions are all, in one way or another, efforts to demonstrate that we are not justified in perceiving any inconsistency, that none of the apparent contradictions is a real contradiction.

    For those already convinced of God's existence, there must of course be such a solution, even if the community of believers has not yet found one that everyone is satisfied with. But for us who think there is no good reason to believe in God to begin with, the existence of evil is no problem at all and so does not even need a solution. That is one reason I rarely even attempt to use the problem of evil as an argument against theism.

    • Rob Abney

      But for us who think there is no good reason to believe in God to begin with, the existence of evil is no problem at all and so does not even need a solution.

      How can evil not be a problem? Is it because evil is subjective to those who deny an objective truth?
      It is a problem for theists, even though we can provide reasoning that supports our understanding, we still have the emotional problem of evil.

      • Doug Shaver

        How can evil not be a problem?

        My intended meaning was for the present context, not every possible context. I meant that the existence of evil is not inconsistent with God's nonexistence, and that being so, it raises no problems for atheists that are in any way similar to the problems it raises for theists.

        • Rob Abney

          OK.
          But it does raise a problem for atheists, how does evil exist if there is only subjective good and evil?

          • Doug Shaver

            The ontological status of abstractions is a philosophical problem. It is not strictly a theological issue.

        • Mike

          i think it is inconsistent with God's non existence bc otherwise we wouldn't get so worked up about holomodors holocausts etc.

          • Doug Shaver

            otherwise we wouldn't get so worked up about holomodors holocausts etc.

            That has been asserted. It has not been demonstrated.

          • Mike

            what do you mean by demonstrated? if there were no God we wouldn't be able to be profoundly outraged by mega evils like child rape and murder bc it would just be nature doing its thing.

          • Doug Shaver

            what do you mean by demonstrated?

            In this context, a demonstration is a logically valid argument showing that the antecedent proposition implies the consequent proposition, which means proving that the consequent cannot be denied without contradicting the antecedent. In this instance, the antecedent is "There is no God" and the consequent is "We would experience no feelings of outrage on witnessing moral evils."

            it would just be nature doing its thing.

            The notion that whatever is natural is morally acceptable is not a logical consequence of God's nonexistence. Therefore an atheist, qua atheist, can deny it without contradiction.

          • Mike

            you can deny it for most even the vast majority of evil but not for the worst of the worst. there are some things that are sacred and when they are defiled justice demands God/gods. w/o God there would only be nature and if nature decided to 'allow' torture of babies there would be no morality in it imho.

          • Doug Shaver

            you can deny it for most even the vast majority of evil but not for the worst of the worst.

            Prove it.

            if nature decided to 'allow' torture of babies there would be no morality in it imho.

            Humble or not, it is at this point of our discussion only your opinion. If you can assert it without proof, I can deny it without proof.

          • Mike

            if we are 100% material and therefore 100% subject to laws of physics/chem then determinism is true then we can't 'blame' anyone for anything. even the victim would just be 'responding' to a predetermined path/obstacle of sorts. there wouldn't be anything intrinsically bad about what happened to them. w/o any God or gods and only laws of science we are trapped in a vast mech machine w/o right or wrong.

          • Doug Shaver

            if we are 100% material and therefore 100% subject to laws of physics/chem then determinism is true

            Maybe, maybe not. But you're starting your argument with a premise not entailed by atheism.

          • Mike

            restated: if we are 100% natural and if nature is 100% governed by immutable laws. how about now?

          • Doug Shaver

            You asked, "what do you mean by demonstrated?" I guess I need to repeat my response, with emphasis:

            In this context, a demonstration is a logically valid argument showing that the antecedent proposition implies the consequent proposition, which means proving that the consequent cannot be denied without contradicting the antecedent. In this instance, the antecedent is "There is no God" and the consequent is "We would experience no feelings of outrage on witnessing moral evils."

          • Mike

            ok but you didn't answer my q: how can there be outrage over evil if we are 100% programmed so to speak?

          • Doug Shaver

            I have never said that we are 100 percent programmed, and so your question is irrelevant.

            And you are the one claiming that we cannot be outraged if we don't believe in God. Until you demonstrate the truth of that proposition, I am not obliged to explain how we can be. As long as you are free to say we can't be, without proving it, I am just as free to say we can be, without proving that.

          • Mike

            you haven't but if all there is naturalism then we must be. or else there is no underlying order and just blips of seemingly order like stuff happening.

            believing in God has nothing to do with it what mattes is if there is some supernatural realm/God/gods. i personally see no contradiction in saying that if all there is is nature and nature is 100% gov by immutable laws then we are also immutable and therefore totally determined and therefore there can't be 'right' 'wrong'.

          • Doug Shaver

            believing in God has nothing to do with it

            Then you're changing the subject.

          • Mike

            i don't think so. i just mean that believing in some order isn't nearly as important as whether said order exists.

          • Doug Shaver

            believing in God has nothing to do with it

            Then you're changing the subject.

            i don't think so

            You said: "if there were no God we wouldn't be able to be profoundly outraged by mega evils like child rape and murder bc it would just be nature doing its thing." If that statement were demonstrably true, then It would logically follow that all who believe there is no God are believing a contradiction if they are outraged by great evils.

          • Mike

            no bc there is God. it's like when Christians point out that atheists can be moral not bc they can ground morality in anything real tangible material but bc inspite of what they proclaim God really does exist.
            I am just saying that if there is no God then our outrage is just some blip some evolutionary crutch or whatever. and I am also saying that if there is no God I would expect less outrage generally speaking from everyone. and yet ppl are obsessed with moralizing it's almost all we do. talk about not judging geez we all ppl do it all the time. we are moral animals as someone once put it and I believe we live in a moral universe.

          • Doug Shaver

            I am just saying that if there is no God then our outrage is just some blip some evolutionary crutch or whatever

            You can say it until you're blue in the face. Repetition is not demonstration. It's not even argumentation.

          • Mike

            i see no reason to think otherwise.

          • Doug Shaver

            And I see no reason not to think otherwise.

          • Mike

            ok well we've exhausted this vein of analysis then.

            thx again and i look forward to sparring again in the near term.

          • Mike

            he summarizes my thinking nicely:

            "Now, as I argued in a post on relativism, moral relativism is really a kind of eliminativism about morality in disguise. At the end of the day, if moral relativism were true, then it wouldn’t be that moral goodness is a real feature of the world, but is relative to cultures or the like; rather, it would be the case that there simply is no such thing as moral goodness at all, but only the illusion of moral goodness. Now, for reasons like the ones just indicated, I would say that the same thing is true of moral subjectivism. If moral subjectivism were true, then this would entail, not that moral goodness is real, but really something subjective; rather, it would be the case that there simply is no such thing as moral goodness at all, but only the illusion of moral goodness."

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.ca/2016/07/bad-lovin.html

          • George

            ...because we don't want certain things to happen?

    • VicqRuiz

      The problem of evil is only an argument against those theists who believe in an omnibenevolent God. Believers in (selecting one of many) Huitzilopochtli would be untroubled by it...

      • Doug Shaver

        Believers in an omnibenevolent God are the only ones I know of who say unbelievers are going to burn in hell.

  • David Nickol

    The problem to me doesn't seem to be why God doesn't work more miracles. The problem is why (a) the God of the Old Testament and then (b) Jesus and even the apostles in the New Testament work miracles right and left, but today miracles (if they occur at all) are so rare and difficult to verify.

  • David Nickol

    There is another question theists might ask: Why does God work any miracles at all? What is wrong with creation that God has to tinker with it to make it come out right? If someone claims a miraculous cure of cancer, the question is why God let the person get cancer in the first place. Why did God fashion the world in such a way that he would have to break the laws of nature he himself established?

    • Rob Abney

      "What is wrong with creation that God has to tinker with it to make it come out right?"
      I've never known of anyone to ask such a question, but the answer could be that what is wrong with creation is that the creatures don't cooperate with the original plan.

      • David Nickol

        But according to the Catholic view, God deliberately made creatures that were quite capable of not cooperating with the original plan. Indeed, according to Catholicism, the people who were best situated and most disposed to follow the plan, and who knew God face to face—our "first parents"—deviated from the plan at the first opportunity. And what was God's response? According to Catholicism, as punishment he made human beings even more inclined to deviate from the plan.

        I have read people who suggest that there is a God, but that God does not intervene. Given the small, dubious, and largely insignificant alleged miracles, and given the horrors of human existence, it is much more comforting to me to conclude that God does not intervene at all than to imagine he helps people find their car keys or heals their leaky roofs and then sits back and lets the Holocaust happen. If God intervenes, then every instance of evil can only be viewed as a case in which he chose not to.

        • David Nickol

          P.S. If there really is a God, then I trust the he knows what he is doing. And who am I to question him? What I do question are the wholly inadequate theories of people who claim to be able to explain God's ways.

          • Rob Abney

            That's a good path to take, trust in God.

          • Doug Shaver

            That's a good path to take, trust in God.

            I know nothing about him except what people tell me, so what you're really telling me to do is to trust those people. But why should I?

          • Rob Abney

            Here's a list of who you can trust, you can trust God, you can trust other people, you can trust yourself. I can't tell you why you should trust other people, that is based on your experience with the other people in your life. I can guarantee that if you only trust yourself that you are fooling yourself. But to paraphrase David Nickol "...God knows what he is doing, who am I to question Him"

          • Doug Shaver

            You didn't answer my question.

          • Rob Abney

            You should trust at least some of those people who tell you about God because, in your own words "I know nothing about him".

          • Doug Shaver

            My admitting I don't know doesn't mean they do know. Those who claim to know contradict each other about what they know. Most believers in this forum say God wants me to become a Catholic. When I was a believer, a church I belonged to for some time assured me that all Catholics were going to burn in hell.

          • Rob Abney

            The Catholic Church doesn't say that you must be a Catholic but it teaches that to be a practicing Catholic is one of the surest means of salvation.
            There are quite a few churches that taught and still teach that Catholics will burn in hell, but they usually back their claim with unreasonable interpretations of scripture.
            If you seriously want to meet people who you can trust to tell you about God, you could try attending Mass and getting to know some of the people who are serious thinkers like you are.

          • Doug Shaver

            The Catholic Church doesn't say that you must be a Catholic

            I didn't say it did.

            they usually back their claim with unreasonable interpretations of scripture.

            That's what you say. They say otherwise. And I don't find either of your interpretations credible.

            you could try attending Mass and getting to know some of the people who are serious thinkers like you are.

            Will they tell me anything I'm not being told here?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, you will hear things that you don't hear here.

          • Doug Shaver

            But will they give me good reasons to trust them when they tell me what I should believe about God?

          • Rob Abney

            That will depend upon your criteria for what counts as good reasoning.

          • Doug Shaver

            It has been my consistent observation for about half a century that what believers regard as good reasoning is not so regarded by logicians.

          • Sample1

            One of my profs in college was a logician, I took logic and linguistics from him. Neat guy, but he would also be the first to say that his faith (he was Presbyterian) was not supported by anything he could teach in his courses.

            And so I agree with your observation.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            How could you trust him if he lived such a contradictory life, are you sure his logic was sound?

          • Rob Abney

            And yet all your logicians have not led you to God.
            How much time have you spent attending Mass? If none or neglible then your experience is incomplete and you've deprived yourself of a unique source of knowledge.

          • Doug Shaver

            And yet all your logicians have not led you to God.

            That does not look to me like a problem.

          • Rob Abney

            Why is it not a problem?

          • Doug Shaver

            I didn't say it wasn't one. I said it didn't look like one. What makes it look like a problem to you?

          • Rob Abney

            It looks like a problem to me because I would expect a good logician to lead to truth.

          • Will

            Maybe they did, and the truth is God doesn't exist ;)

          • Rob Abney

            Then their reasoning was faulty

          • Will

            Not if God doesn't exist is a true statement. The fact that you are confident he exists does not mean you are correct. Such a statement applies to everyone.

          • Doug Shaver

            Good logicians don't assume their conclusions. Logic is not about discovering truth. It is about checking for consistency between assumptions and inferences.

          • Doug Shaver

            How much time have you spent attending Mass?

            I would guess I've spent at least a thousand hours participating in church services of various kinds. Maybe half a dozen were Masses.

            If none or neglible then your experience is incomplete and you've deprived yourself of a unique source of knowledge.

            That could be true of any experience, of any kind, that I have never had.

          • Rob Abney

            I'm suggesting that if you attend Mass on a regular basis for a certain period of time that you will meet true believers who can share their reasoning with you. The primary reasoning that they will have that other christians do not have is that they will be able to show you their understanding of transubstantiation.

          • Will

            Do you believe cannibalism is wrong?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, you shouldn't eat the matter of another human.

          • Will

            That's why transubstantiation creeps me out, feels like cannibalism, and the drinking blood part reminds me of vampires. I don't complain if it's symbolic, but the Catholic Church isn't content with that.

          • Rob Abney

            Your reaction has been present since He told us to do it.

            66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
            67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
            68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

          • Doug Shaver

            I already know and understand what the church says about transubstantiation. Are you telling me that if I attend Mass regularly for a long enough time, I will get to know people who understand transubstantiation better than the church itself?

          • Rob Abney

            You don't understand transsubstantiation just because you've read about it, you need to experience it with people who live it. Try it Doug.

          • Doug Shaver

            Try it Doug.

            In a long lifetime, I have heeded that advice many times. Occasionally, I was glad I did. More often, I was not.

          • Rob Abney

            What will you do in this instance?

          • Doug Shaver

            Whenever the advice came from someone claiming to know something about God, I have always, without exception, ended up wishing I'd ignored it.

          • Rob Abney

            You didn't answer my question.

          • Doug Shaver

            I thought my answer was obvious. Considering what I told you, what do you think I should do with your advice?

          • Rob Abney

            I was just using one of the responses that I've seen you use here.
            What do I think you should do? I think you should go and then use the experience to bolster your comments here at SN. But be forewarned that there is potential that you might change your outlook.

          • David Nickol

            You don't understand transsubstantiation just because you've read about it, you need to experience it with people who live it.

            Well, of course, you can't experience transubstantiation, because even if it really occurs, there is no physical evidence for it whatsoever, by its very nature. It seems to me you are almost hounding poor Doug to go to Mass. You have a lot more confidence that merely attending Mass and mingling with believers will change Doug's mind. Of course, there is always a chance those who attend Mass will meet intelligent, dynamic, charismatic people whose faith is "contagious," but, first, the odds are against it, and second, it is equally true if he should attend a Methodist church, a synagogue, a mosque, or a Buddhist temple. My younger sister has been attending a Methodist church for years now, and as far as members engaging with each other and living out their faith together, it is far in advance of any Catholic Church I ever attended.

            I would say Strange Notions gives a better opportunity investigating Catholicism intellectually than attending Mass probably would. If you hear one thing from Catholic educators and others who deal with college-age and adult Catholics nowadays, it is that they are "poorly catechized." To expect to pick up a good understanding of transubstantiation from fellow attendees at Mass is somewhat of a fantasy. There was a survey of Catholics in 2008 that showed only 57% (down from 63% in 2001) believed Jesus was truly present in consecrated bread and wine. The remaining 43% believed only in symbolic presence. True, it was much higher (91%) in those who attended Mass at least weekly, but it was only 65% among those who attended at least monthly. (As someone educated in the 1950s and 1960s, I find it hard to understand Catholics who attend church monthly. Why go at all? But apparently a goodly number of Catholics who don't believe weekly attendance is necessary still go to church somewhat regularly.)

          • Rob Abney

            Why do you refer to him as poor Doug?
            I see him as a truth seeker who is educating himself with as much philosophical understanding as he can. And he may benefit from an encounter with the source and summit of Catholicism now that he is armed with more knowledge. I don't think those statistics matter when it is one individual that is of concern.
            I don't deny that other religions provide spirituality but only one has the Eucharist, that's why I recommended it to Doug.

          • josephPa

            He says he is our father and we are his children. Personal calamities shouldn't happen.

          • David Nickol

            For even the most loving earthly parents, the time comes to let their children take responsibility for their own lives and make their own choices, which at least some of the times will be mistakes. Parents can't live their children's lives for them, and it is rare that children want them to!

            Having said that, theists of all religions that I can think of over-promise on behalf of their God or gods—e.g.:

            And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the holy Spirit to those who ask him?

            And of course anyone who reads the news knows that parents sometimes treat their children abominably, beating them, selling them, starving them, or even murdering them.

          • Mike

            you must not have kids ;)

    • It's only "tinkering" if you presuppose a block universe. If on the other hand we live in a growing block universe, then God could just be continuing the creative process. It's also gratuitous to say that God would have to break the laws of nature to accomplish what you describe. Hume was only write to characterize things this way if the mechanical philosophy is true, and I think we have plenty of reasons to doubt it is true (vs. a good model in some domains). An alternative is spelled out by Kenny Pearce (PhD in Philosophy from USC) in Leibniz's theistic case against Humean miracles.

      • David Nickol

        Well, this may be an informed or even brilliant reply, but where does it leave people who are desperately hoping for a miracle and don't get one—say, a cure for cancer? And how does it reconcile them to the view that trivial miracles seem to occur all the time to certain kinds of "devout" Christians (e.g., the people in my parish whose roof stopped leaking when they began to tithe)? Your approach is highly intellectual, but I don't see any appeal to people who are actually struggling with real problems in their lives or real questions of faith.

        I suppose there is necessarily a difference between "everyday piety" and theology, but it is "everyday piety" that is lived by most Christians, including priests, ministers, monks, nuns, and brothers. And it is "everyday piety" one finds (for the most part) in church on Sundays and even in most spiritual writing—including the New Testament. So I don't think questions posed in terms of "everyday piety" can be reasonably answered by technical theological and philosophical responses.

        • I think you've mistaken my response to be something other than a criticism of your use of Humean laws of nature (as evidenced by "tinker" and "break the laws of nature").

          In another comment, I deal directly with some of the issues you've brought up, here. My response there is quite intellectual; the pastoral that I can provide is in the realm of being bullied and suicidal ideation.

          To expand a bit on the aspects unrelated to Humean laws of nature, the core tenet you seem to be propounding is that the evil actions on the part of some people shouldn't affect others more than a certain amount (whether zero or some fixed amount). Even if the US is carrying out evil such as the Sykes–Picot Agreement, the poor and oppressed should get a steady stream of miracles. It's a nice idea, but I don't think things are designed to work that way. We do not live in a morally individualist, morally atomist world. Until we grapple with that very illiberal notion, I think we're going to do a lot of wheel-spinning.

          • David Nickol

            In order for someone who is no longer living to be named a saint by the Catholic Church, it must be shown that a miracle (or two or three) has occurred due to the intercession of the person up for canonization. That is, someone still living must call upon the deceased candidate for sainthood, who must then intercede with God for a miracle on the living person's behalf. Do you believe this is the way reality works? I know you are not a Catholic, so I am not asking you to approve of the process for canonization. But do you believe the living can ask the dead to intercede with God for them, and that God grants a certain number of requests from the dead, the results being miracles?

            This is basically a "yes or no" question. I am asking it of you, but I welcome answers from any theist. The point of the question is to confirm the nature of at least one kind of miracle that many theists believe in.

          • Rob Abney

            Why are you proposing that the intercessor must be deceased?

          • David Nickol

            Why are you proposing that the intercessor must be deceased?

            Because I am discussing the canonization process, and only deceased persons can be canonized!

            I am not implying that people who are alive cannot ask others who are still alive to "intercede" for them (i.e., pray for them). It is done all the time. However, the primary topic here is miracles, not prayer. I am discussing a specific belief about how some miracles occur—by the intercession of saints (or candidates for sainthood).

          • Rob Abney

            I asked that because I had thought that miracles performed before their death could be attributed to their cause but it appears that only post-mortem miracles are considered now.

          • That is, someone still living must call upon the deceased candidate for sainthood, who must then intercede with God for a miracle on the living person's behalf. Do you believe this is the way reality works?

            I'm heavily inclined to say "no", but I should say that I've never engaged an educated Catholic on this matter, nor researched the matter.

  • The evidence to be explained here, on theism is the existence of harm and suffering of humans and perhaps animals, given a maximally powerful deity who does not want any gratuitous suffering or harm to occur to us.

    This means that either this type of Deity does not exist, or all harm or suffering that does occur to us is either perfectly justified for some other reason.

    Carlo has really only advanced one "other reason" and that is the idea that it would be worse for God to prevent such harms to humans because of the effect it would have on our choices. I have a couple of disagreements with this. One is that I do not agree that it would be worse to have God intervene to stop human cause harms. Eliminating all war, murder torture, all pain, all suffering, disease anxiety and so on, is a pretty big good and I am not clear on what the harm would be from eliminating these effects of human choices. Such a moral balancing is something humans would never consider moral in our own human context. Parents consistently need to weigh how much freedom to provide their kids against how to restrict this freedom to protect them. This is difficult given our limited faculties to know what humans will do and what will be the consequences. God has no such limitation and would be perfect at striking this balance. If God has indeed been performing miracles to limit the harm we impose on ourselves, it does not appear he is doing a perfect job of it. He has allowed millions to be massacred, tortured, raped, and it would seem done nothing at all to prevent this.

    The other issue is heaven. This is presumably a place in which humans will live and no evil will occur, and yet these souls have not lost any ability to choose. At some point, Christians believe there will be no more world, humans will be in heaven or in some understanding of Hell. I cannot think of any reason to not just create that state of affairs, not to create souls that he knows he will damn.

    But obviously the big response is natural suffering. I would say this accounts for most of human suffering. Every death or injury by disease, natural causes, or natural disaster. Preventing such evils would have virtually no effect on human choice.

    Obviously the response is skeptical theism, which is at best a stalemate, but I would say would lead to moral paralysis.

    • Rob Abney

      I cannot think of any reason to not just create that state of affairs

      The same conclusion that came to Job, its beyond our ability.

      • Skeptical theism. The reality of moral truth is so much beyond us that although we can determine that all human suffering can be prevented it is the perfectly moral thing to do to not prevent it.

        Thus it would have been worse if the deaths of all children from disease were prevented by God. So there is something else going on that would be thwarted if those children were cured.

        Given this, as a physician trying to heal a sick child, should you? If you do not and the child dies, God would not intervene and the child's death would be, on balance much better than if God had healed him. So how could you ever say that something is moral?

        • Mike

          maybe God wants US to learn to value children for/by our selves to some extent?

          • That lesson needs having millions and millions of infants that could be saved die? Would any parent of such a child agree? Do you think parents whose children do not die a painful death do not value their children sufficiently? Would you for a second agree that a parent with 10 children, when one gets sick, a doctor should withhold treatment and let it die, so that the parents and society would value the survivors more? If not, why would God withhold his cure?

          • Mike

            if no child died a terrible death then yes parents wouldn't value their child to the same extent i know i wouldn't. life is precious and special. no a doc should not withhold medicine but your analogy to God doesn't work i don't think. 2 very different 'agents' but i see your point and its valid. the problem of evil. but to me real EVIL points to God anyway; it defiles something sacred like a child's body or a father daughter relationship etc.

          • Will

            if no child died a terrible death then yes parents wouldn't value their child to the same extent i know i wouldn't.

            I'm quite glad I don't know you in real life. This says a lot about you.

          • Mike

            lol what a silly thing to say. deep breathes.

        • Rob Abney

          Who are you claiming uses such reasoning? It makes no sense that we should do nothing.

    • Mike

      depends on the kind of thing we are: if spoiled petulant children then yes stop all evils but if a person who ought to grow in wisdom and grace and love then you have to have evil in the mix. who has suffered more than eastern european jews and yet who is more accomplished and civilized? aka the man who hasn't suffered what can he know?

      • Really, so if you found a group of non-spoiled, non-petulant adults, who ought to grow in wisdom and grace, but had no evil in their society, you would think they need some evil?

        "who has suffered more than eastern european jews" the Chinese, the Cambodians, the Amalakites (all the Cananites the Jews exterminated). African child soldiers. All of the peoples in the path of the Mongolians under Ghengis Khan. The Russian people. Most American aboriginal peoples.

        "who is more accomplished and civilized?" The Japanese. The Danes, the Swedes, the Icelanders. The Swiss.

        "the man who hasn't suffered what can he know" everything except suffering.

        • Mike

          i am not saying that anyone has monopoly on suffering just that suffering seems to be a key ingredient in human flourishing. now many pages could be spilled on what exactly one means by suffering. suffice to say that over coming obstacles is something that is good for us i believe. we really do 'grow' as people virtues really can be practiced and honed and increased.

          • I would say suffering is the opposite of human flourishing.

            I think we can describe suffering pretty easily, as physical pain or mental anguish (emotions of sadness, fear, shame, anger).

            But obstacles are not the same thing as pain and suffering. Problem solving for example is a form of overcoming obstacles that need not involve any suffering. Suffering can be involved in gaining flourishing, it may even be unavoidable on naturalism. But there is no reason why this should be on theism.

            If this maximally powerful god exists should he not be able to create a state of affairs in which we can grow, and hone virtues perhaps any suffering, but almost certainly without as much suffering, by far ,as we experience now?

          • Mike

            you seem to hedge on the 'almost cert. w/o as MUCH suffering' part. I think that's wise of you. we all agree that some 'suffering/obstacles' are natural good to humanity to individual growth maturity adulthood whatever. it's that too much part that stings. you should read the grande inquisitor chapter of brothers Karamazov. he describes things so evil that it almost hurts physically to read it. I am convinced that supreme evil like goodness points to God and to me almost proves God exists or something like God. both are not natural totally unnecessary and seem like ad hoc add ons or whatever. those 2 things in life cause men to go insane or to become saints. there's something otherworldly imho about them. the one is terrifying evil but the other one is also not that easy to deal with. to me I would expect much much much less pure love and pure evil if there was no God or gods or force or whatever behind all of this.

          • I have read the Brothers Karamozov. I do not believe extreme evil points to a God that doesn't want there to be extreme evil and has the power to stop it. On naturalism none of this evil or good is surprising.

            It is surprising that God allows his creation to strike down so many of his beloved humans in such seemingly meaningless ways.

          • Mike

            interesting. to me this evil and good is EXTREMELY surprising if naturalism is true. if naturalism is true none of it is really meaningful, it's just nature doing its thing.

  • Probably the best attempt at a theodicy is one advanced by the New Apologetics group.

    Their argument is (if I recall) that God gave himself fully to creation. He delegated the responsibility of harms and evils to his created agents and the natural forces he created. God cannot prevent such harms now without removing his maximal gift.

    (Actually, it seems they just attribute natural evils to sin too. I think that is pretty weak, but I'd be willing to discuss.)

    http://newapologetics.com/the-solution-to-the-problem-of-evilsuffering

    • VicqRuiz

      God cannot prevent such harms now without removing his maximal gift.

      That would seem to rule out the possibility of miracles, and to deny any validity to intercessionary prayer.

      • I believe they would say those parts of the gift were given to angels.

        • VicqRuiz

          Every military officer learns very early in his/her career that one can delegate work, but one can never delegate responsibility.

    • neil_pogi

      evil and good laws operate in natural laws. if there is no evil, the balance in nature will fall apart. if all good, then the same thing will happen.

      the bible has already explained the introduction of evil in the universe (e.g. laws of entropy is another 'evil' because this laws subject all matter into decays, disorderly and chaos)

      without evil (e.g. killing, death, disease,) then the earth will suffer over-population

      so the universe is governed by these laws

  • VicqRuiz

    God doesn’t ordinarily perform miracles to stop bad effects

    That one little word is so important, Karlo. Why isn't God consistent in what he does and does not perform?

    • Mike

      who knows maybe he is consistent?

      • VicqRuiz

        If God's actions/inactions appear random to us, but are consistent according to some meta-standard which is unknowable to anyone but God, then any attempt to infer a moral standard from God's observed behavior seems pointless.

        • Mike

          maybe just not totally knowable.

        • neil_pogi

          some questions, if God is love, why he allows suffering?

          so to quote: '“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD”

        • This is a straw man. God can be understandable in part but not in full. Likewise, nature can be infinitely complex, but still increasingly comprehensible via Ceteris Paribus Laws.

    • If God were consistent in the way you require (very likely: perfectly characterizable by a finite formal system—e.g. scientific model), wouldn't he just be another force or set of forces, finally just as impersonal as gravity, E&M, etc.?

      • Not necessarily, no. The easiest way to be unlike an impersonal force is to be personal. Gravity acts with simple mathematical regularity; driverless cars also act with a sort of mathematical regularity, but it's a regularity that doesn't repeat itself and which we can only conveniently describe in terms of being mind-like. A God could be extremely regular and nevertheless very much more like a person than any simple mathematical regularity; for example, the God could miraculously answer prayers spoken in by an ordained priest during Mass for the bodily healing of someone who receives Communion at the Mass.

        • What must the priest do to be properly ordained, and what rules must the priest follow during Mass? You know that scientists sometimes have to be rigorously trained (after which they are 'ordained' with letters after their name), must have proper experimental conditions (they follow the right rituals), and then can ask only certain questions ("I would like the moon to explode" isn't going to get answered). Where is the key difference between what the scientist can do and what the priest can do, under this hypothetical scenario where God acts as you imagine?

          I'd also be interested to know what happens if God's desires are quite opposed to the supplicants'. For example, what if God wishes to undermine systems of oppression and the wealthy supplicants just want their sick to be healed?

          • It's a fictional, hypothetical scenario, not a real one. That means there are no correct or incorrect answers to questions about details that weren't determined in the story. If you want to add more details and backstory to the scenario, then you're free to do so. It might make a decent novelette, maybe reminiscent of Unsong.

          • In that case, I don't think you've provided a convincing case that the result of your hypothetical (i) is guaranteed to show personal causation; (ii) is guaranteed to capture all possible personal causation. That is, I think you've excluded very likely desires of God from possibly being manifested in a detectable way, and you've possibly constructed a scenario which could be used by scientists to develop a technological solution to merely satisfy extant human desires. (We would train priests just like we train doctors and churches would become clinics/​hospitals.)

          • I don't think you've provided a convincing case that the result of your hypothetical (i) is guaranteed to show personal causation; (ii) is guaranteed to capture all possible personal causation.

            So what? That wasn't the point of the hypothetical. You asked whether an interventionist God would have to be "just as impersonal as gravity, E&M, etc.?", and I gave an example that was not as impersonal as gravity, E&M, etc, due to being mediated through humans and high-level human concepts.

            Edit: The situation you imagine with technologists doing mass-Mass production is kinda fun. :) I suppose we'd be doing that in real life if the Mass had important real-world effects!

          • Are you sure that in the end, your hypothetical couldn't reduce to "just as impersonal as gravity, E&M, etc."? There's a lot we don't know about the placebo effect; perhaps some sort of ritual, when rigorously adhered to, has a markedly increased effectiveness. Maybe the way to ensure it is rigorously adhered to is through an accreditation system.

            Your point is taken, though, that maybe you got at some sort of distinction between 'personal' and 'impersonal'. Supposing that you have, what is the difference between your very limited scenario, and the one I provided:

            LB: I'd also be interested to know what happens if God's desires are quite opposed to the supplicants'. For example, what if God wishes to undermine systems of oppression and the wealthy supplicants just want their sick to be healed?

            It is as if your hypothetical allows the personal force to have some amount of deviation from a human, but only so much. We can pick the amount that has to be the same between the two, and investigate whether this is an implicit claim of self-righteousness. But of course, you are under no obligation to engage on this tangent.

          • Are you sure that in the end, your hypothetical couldn't reduce to "just as impersonal as gravity, E&M, etc."? ... maybe you got at some sort of distinction between 'personal' and 'impersonal'.

            Yes - I count humans as persons.

            (Also, I can't parse your last paragraph; please edit.)

          • Yes - I count humans as persons.

            Ummm, what prevents this:

            LB: [...] you've possibly constructed a scenario which could be used by scientists to develop a technological solution to merely satisfy extant human desires. (We would train priests just like we train doctors and churches would become clinics/​hospitals.)

            ?

            (Also, I can't parse your last paragraph; please edit.)

            The idea is that if you're really only allowing for a force that is a bit different from how humans work, then it might end up looking like the Wizard of Oz, where only humans are actually at work. It would be a personal force, but a human force. This is definitely not good enough for VicRuiz's comment to work.

  • Lazarus

    So many "what if's"....

    What if death is just a door to the afterlife, maybe for all sentient beings, and how you suffer and die is really just the ticket to get there? Assuming that to be true for the moment, would pain, suffering and death not then be something completely different from how we view that now?

    • neil_pogi

      i remember one text saying 'to suffer is to gain'

    • To go further, it is completely compatible with the evidence that you are the only real sentient being and everyone else is a philosophical zombie. You could be in a simulation to develop your character and see if by the end, you would be 'safe' to have around other human beings. Would you love them, or would you make excuses, scapegoat, blame-shift, etc.?

  • VicqRuiz

    “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the LORD”

    Which is why I try continually to treat my enemies with more charity than God does his. Often I fail, but I try not to make excuses for myself when I do so.

    • neil_pogi

      that's why you don't have to compare your thoughts with God's.

      just compare your thoughts with apes and ask him how it evolved

    • You do better than YHWH did with Nineveh?

      • Doubtless he does better than the story of YHWH's child-murder in Egypt.

        But yeah, regarding Nineveh, I'd guess VicqRuiz doesn't threaten to destroy his enemies unless they repent.

        • Doubtless he does better than the story of YHWH's child-murder in Egypt.

          That, or he just terminates the human life before the dictionary will permit the word 'child' to be used. But perhaps he is pro-life?

          It'd also be interesting to hear you say whether the Egyptians could have protected their firstborn from death. For example, could they have slaughtered lambs and put blood on their doorposts? Did they have the requisite empirical evidence to strongly suspect that YHWH could do what he claimed?

          But yeah, regarding Nineveh, I'd guess VicqRuiz doesn't threaten to destroy his enemies unless they repent.

          The US has never threatened to destroy its enemies unless they repent? I don't particularly care about whether @VicqRuiz:disqus in particular has been involved in this process, for he surely benefits from the nasty things the West has done.

          • That, or he just terminates the human life before the dictionary will permit the word 'child' to be used. But perhaps he is pro-life?

            I hope not. :) But rushing into a thornier controversy to avoid a clear moral issue (killing all firstborns of Egypt) seems a bit impractical.

            I don't particularly care about whether VicqRuiz in particular has been involved in this process, for he surely benefits from the nasty things the West has done.

            Ah, a contention that was not in dispute. Well then it appears nothing prevents you from agreeing with VicqRuiz that he treats his enemies with more charity than God does his.

          • But rushing into a thornier controversy to avoid a clear moral issue (killing all firstborns of Egypt) seems a bit impractical.

            Hey, if you're allowed to bring in issues you think are clear, so am I.

            RB: But yeah, regarding Nineveh, I'd guess VicqRuiz doesn't threaten to destroy his enemies unless they repent.

            LB: The US has never threatened to destroy its enemies unless they repent? I don't particularly care about whether @VicqRuiz:disqus in particular has been involved in this process, for he surely benefits from the nasty things the West has done.

            RB: Ah, a contention that was not in dispute. Well then it appears nothing prevents you from agreeing with VicqRuiz that he treats his enemies with more charity than God does his.

            I'm not at all sure I so-agree. Perhaps you can tell me how many US citizens have threatened to destroy the US's enemies unless they repent. What percentage would you apply? Let's note that one can act morally in a direct fashion, or through intermediaries—whether elected, or appointed by elected.

            Let us also suppose that VicqRuiz failed to protest when Anwar al-Awlaki was executed without a trial. Does he thereby tacitly condone it? It's not at all clear that al-Awlaki was given a chance to repent. He was just destroyed.

  • neil_pogi

    God has already made the greatest miracles of all:

    1. the universe
    2. life

    i think the miracles that we are seeing from the past, today or in the future were just that tiny compared to what i mentioned above

  • I think the only way to (i) say that God loves us in any way analogous to how we love others; and (ii) acknowledge a paucity of miracles, is to assert that we're in a time of abandonment, because we do not want God. French sociologist Jacques Ellul held this position, although he hoped that one day we would choose to want God more than our evils and falsehoods:

        Man wants no word of salvation, nor any true consolation (he accepts all the fictitious consolations, the escapes, the appeasements and amusements), perhaps because the true consolation would make him face up to the fundamental questions of his presence in the world and of his real responsibility, questions which he continually seeks to avoid. He drowns himself in a dreary and disguised despair. He dwells within his anguish, and his most cherished secret is that of his own disavowal. (Hope in Time of Abandonment, 63)

    What we want is perfectly captured by the atheist epithet "Sky Daddy", although I think it's a more accurate to say "Sky Grandpa". We want the grandfatherly treatment which overlooks our failings and showers us with gifts. For example, we won't admit what the West (and Russia) did with the Sykes–Picot Agreement. We can overlook what has been done to blue collar workers in the UK and the US, and instead of admitting how poorly they have been served by the political process, they can be further marginalized by picking out as their chief characteristic, their false attribution of the bulk of the problem to [illegal or not] immigrants.

    Chris Hedges, a liberal Presbyterian who denies that God exists, has argued† that a huge mistake made by Enlightenment folks was giving up the idea of original sin. This allows groups of people to deny that they are evil in any appreciable way, and because they actually are, this evil is externalized and horrific acts of violence are perpetuated. Maybe God is letting us learn what it really, truly means to deny original sin. Maybe he can't teach us this any other way (we've refused to actually learn the relevant lessons from the Bible or history), because for God to impose morality on us would be "Might makes right", which is false.

    We said, "We can do it by ourselves; we no longer need God!" Would it evil of God to let us find out the truth of this statement, not by divine word (which we had the free will to reject and did reject) but by empirical evidence?

    † Find the YouTube video "Chris Hedges on New Atheism, the God Debate, Science and Religion, and Self Delusion", and go to time index 3:06.

    • ...a time of abandonment, because we do not want God. ...

      ... Man wants no word of salvation, nor any true consolation

      I can see that as a conceivable story for why a God would allow excessive bad things to happen to people in general. But it gets really weird applied to the similar question: Why do bad things happen to good people?

      Presumably not everyone "wants no word of salvation, nor any true consolation". So in this story, apparently the God looks at all humans, takes a sort of average of their desire for him, and then treats individuals based on that average. Isn't that kind of a peculiar and unfair thing to do, compared to treating individuals based on their own desires?

      Or maybe the story goes that, despite the claims of many to want the God, virtually nobody truly wants him. It's technically possibly true, but it sounds like it's searching for a loophole to escape the obvious: suffering often isn't fair.

      • Why do bad things happen to good people?

        Good people? Good by what standard? Were your average "good person" to go to SlaveryFootprint.org, how many slaves would [s]he find works for him/her?

        Presumably not everyone "wants no word of salvation, nor any true consolation".

        Of course. But might there be certain limitations if most people are well-described in this way?

        So in this story, apparently the God looks at all humans, takes a sort of average of their desire for him, and then treats individuals based on that average.

        No, I don't think that's quite right. It's more that certain things cannot be done if the vast majority give God the middle finger. Past this, we need to ask whether what God can do in spite of such intransigence is heal amputated limbs, or something quite different. For example, something to undermine extant systems of oppressive power.

        Or maybe the story goes that, despite the claims of many to want the God, virtually nobody truly wants him. It's technically possibly true, but it sounds like it's searching for a loophole to escape the obvious: suffering often isn't fair.

        Maybe your [apparently] individualistic notion of [fair] suffering is just wrong. Suppose that instead, God created us to be in this together, such that a wrong choice by one person may only immediately affect other people. The hand might feel pain because the brain instructed it to touch the hot stove. Maybe "I am not my brother's keeper" is absolutely wrong; maybe merely "not harming" our fellow human beings is insufficient.

        Now, I still think there are loophole-ish aspects to Ellul's view, which I support. It does seem quite odd to suppose that God could possibly be doing the best he can, even if the goal is something intense like theosis. I have some ideas as to why things seem this way, having to do with notions of "how power should be used" which reduce to "Might makes right." But that is perhaps a different conversation.

        • Good people? Good by what standard?

          Yeah, I thought you'd take the morally insane option. I already addressed it:

          Or maybe the story goes that, despite the claims of many to want the God, virtually nobody truly wants him. It's technically possibly true, but it sounds like it's searching for a loophole to escape the obvious: suffering often isn't fair.

  • There is simply no way, given our spatial and temporal limitations, to know he hasn’t already done this.

    No way at all? That's a weirdly big claim. You're inviting us to imagine that your God could be intervening in the physical world all over the place and yet perfectly covering his tracks, never leaving us any trace that he was there. I guess it's the same type of claim as the creationists who say their God planted fossils as a test of their faith in a literal creation story. Technically possibly true, but it looks to others like dodging the obvious.

    • You're inviting us to imagine that your God could be intervening in the physical world all over the place and yet perfectly covering his tracks, never leaving us any trace that he was there.

      This could be a rather misleading statement. Science, by its very constitution, cannot discover teleological phenomena. No matter how hard it tries, it will never describe a telos because it has a priori decided that such things do not exist. I mention science because your language of "never leaving us any trace" smells strongly of "science couldn't detect it, therefore we should not think it happens". The only think science could see in God's actions is more impersonal law doing its thing.

      But suppose you have a category for God acting, yet in a way science could not detect. Suppose that you strongly reject scientism. How could we see God acting, without de facto presupposing that science could detect, characterize, and ultimately control these actions?

      • This could be a rather misleading statement. Science, by its very constitution, cannot discover teleological phenomena.

        It was your own choice to assume teleology into that. I didn't mention teleology, and don't believe in it, so obviously wasn't secretly referring to it.

        The article invites us to imagine God preventing cataclysms. There's no principled reason why that has to be kept hidden. Suppose I live in a small town beside a river, and far upstream a natural dam breaks. In this story, God intervenes and poofs the water away, saving the town. When geologists from the town go looking, they'll find plenty of evidence of the natural dam breaking, but no evidence that the water went anywhere. But we don't find that sort of thing. Nevertheless, this scenario serves as a counterexample to your weird dodge into teleology.

    • Craig Roberts

      The perfect crime. The obvious becomes hidden by the urgent investigation of the unseen that ignores the seen in a quest to see the un-seeable that is actually seeable. No 'God' could be so sublime as to hide in plain sight.

      He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' Harden the hearts of these people. Plug their ears and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, nor hear with their ears, nor understand with their hearts and turn to me for healing." (Isaiah 6:9-10)

      Sounds kinda cruel, doesn't it?

  • Why would God make man with the capacity to choose good or evil in order to merit man’s eternal reward and then rob him of that capacity the second he chooses to exercise it?

    Because that would be the morally right thing to do.

    But God values man’s power to choose good or evil. Therefore, there must be real effects that arise from man’s power to choose good or evil. It’s reasonable to conclude God doesn’t ordinarily perform miracles to stop bad effects caused by bad choices because he values the power of choice he desires man to have.

    From my perspective, you're just accusing your God of having bad values, then.

    • Because that would be the morally right thing to do.

      How did you come to know this thing?

      From my perspective, you're just accusing your God of having bad values, then.

      Can you avoid being accused of "Might makes right."? Your view of morality seems to be that the strongest person impose his/​her/​its will. God is, according to you, wrong for not imposing himself powerfully on all who would threaten to dissent. That sounds like totalitarianism.

      • Can you avoid being accused of "Might makes right."?

        Clearly not, since you do not hesitate to accuse. But your accusation is a groundless flight of fancy.

        Because that would be the morally right thing to do.

        How did you come to know this thing?

        Technically, you're wrong that I know it; rather, I believe it. If you're unclear, that distinction means that, while I have grounds for thinking it, I do not claim that the grounds are sufficiently strong to rule out other possibilities.

        Non-technically, I believe the following: (1) Permitting people to suffer in ways they have not deserved, where the suffering does them more harm than good even in the long run, when you could have prevented the suffering at no cost to yourself, is unambiguously morally wrong. (2) Children suffer in that way, which means that if there is a God he permits that.

        Do you disagree?

        As for how I historically/causally came to believe those things: (1) I've suffered, and (2) I've seen others suffer.

        • Craig Roberts

          God permits suffering for the greater good. The greater good being that naturally lazy complacent people are motivated more by the threat of suffering than the promise of rewards.

          • Will

            Let's consider the great Chinese floods of 1931

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1931_China_floods

            Nearly 4 million people died horribly by drowning, starvation and disease. To motivate lazy people you say?

            About 21,000 people starve to death every single day

            http://www.poverty.com/

            To motivate lazy people? Why not a pep talk or a divine appearance? Such a theodicy as "motivating lazy people" is downright silly.

          • Craig Roberts

            Let's try a pep talk? If you can't be motivated by the Bible you're going to need something a little stronger thank a 'pep talk'. How about death? There is such a thing as negative motivation.

            You say it's silly, but life confirms it. If there is a God, He has no problem torturing, and even killing people, at least indirectly, to get them motivated to do whatever it takes to live.

          • Will

            Who got motivated by the Chinese floods? The 4 million died. How do you motivate dead people? Who is motivated by the starving children other than a few people trying to get aid to the relevant countries?
            Who was motivated by the black death in Europe? They were already Christian. The black death did motivate some Christians to burn innocent people as witches.

            http://aladinrc.wrlc.org/bitstream/handle/1961/9878/Christian,%20Helen%20-%20Spring%20'11.pdf?sequence=1

            It makes sense undertheism. God is punishing us to motivate us for something...what is it? I KNOW WE NEED TO FIND AND KILL WITCHES!
            Quite logical ;)

          • Craig Roberts

            We look at individuals, and so we think, "How can you motivate dead people." God looks at mankind as whole and says, "I don't care if I have to drown everybody but Noah and his family to get mankind to straighten out."

          • Will

            God looks at mankind as whole and says, "I don't care if I have to drown everybody but Noah and his family to get mankind to straighten out."

            It didn't work, did it? Look at man after the flood. God failed if he was trying to straighten man out. I thought God couldn't fail.

          • Craig Roberts

            We look and say, "Hah! You failed." But God says, "You think I'm done?"

          • Will

            Lol, this is why we need weather people to watch out for floods and hurricanes. Every hurricane evacuation we thwart God's judgement :) Same could be said for vaccines and medicine, in general. We just need to start looking for asteroids so God doesn't surprise us...

          • Craig Roberts

            So true! Christians know that man is basically at war with God. And they propose a way to make peace. The problem is that God wants us to fight.

            "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." (Matthew 10:34)

          • Will

            P.S. the Meso flood Genesis refers to only affected Sumeria.

            https://ncse.com/cej/8/2/flood-mesopotamian-archaeological-evidence

            It didn't wipe out everyone but Ziusudra, it was a myth.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ziusudra

          • Craig Roberts

            Here's your 'pep talk':

            "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

            "The rich man replied, 'No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.'

            But Abraham said, 'If they won't listen to Moses and the prophets, they won't listen even if someone rises from the dead.'"

            And once again, prophecy is proven true by the atheists that deny it.

          • Will

            Abraham is wrong. I'd be fascinated to talk to someone I know was dead. Why would anything think someone wouldn't be motivated by a conversation with the dead? It's just an excuse not to do it, because it's impossible. A really bad excuse, that doesn't make any sense. If God himself showed up, that would be much better. Jesus convinced the disciples with pep talks, didn't he? What was Jesus's appearance to Paul on the road to Damascus, if not a pep talk by a dead Jesus. The New Testament clearly disagrees with Abraham, and rightfully so :)

          • Craig Roberts

            Ironically, I think you're right. Abraham says, "No." but after that Jesus does (supposedly) come back from the dead. It's just my personal opinion, but I think that he does not appear to 99.999...% of all people to preserve their free will and not crush them with culpability. Christians are fond of saying, "Hell is a choice! Love is a choice! Choose Jesus!" But you are right, Paul didn't choose to be knocked off his horse.

          • Will

            If I'm wrong, I'd certainly want God to knock me off my horse. Hasn't happened yet, can't be sure it never will. Who knows, if there is a complete divine plan, there could be reasons I'm not supposed to believe right now.

          • Craig Roberts

            Hah! Not me, I'd be all like, "You WHAT??? You want me to build an ark? Seriously? Ain't nobody got time for that!!!" or "Preach to the gentiles? They already heard the 'word' and thought it was stupid...JUST LIKE YOU TOLD US THEY WOULD!" or "If I didn't know any better I would swear you were trying to get me stoned to death. Well? Hmmmm?"

  • “But,” you may say, “perhaps God doesn’t have to take away man’s capacity to choose evil but could stop the evil effects of man’s bad choices—like changing a fired bullet into butter.” The answer to this question is that God values the power of choice with which he created man.

    Does it bother you that this is a post-hoc rationalization? (Not a rhetorical question.) This isn't revelation from the Church's Deposit of Faith; it's a justification that was dreamed up as a response to the problem of evil.

    • Can we avoid making any and all of what you describe as "a post-hoc rationalization"? I would be very interested in trying to characterize just what it is that said term describes. It seems to hint that we should have some a priori core of foundational belief, which cannot be modified (or added to!) in certain ways ever again (else one would have "a post-hoc rationalization").

      As to your question, the Bible makes quite clear that God is in general extremely reticent to override human choices. God wouldn't even redirect the actions of King David, who was "a man after God's own heart". Doesn't this choice of non-action on God's part indicate that he has certain values, which are relevant to this discussion?

      • As to your question, the Bible makes quite clear that

        I don't agree. On the textual level, consider the story of God hardening Pharoah's heart for a counterexample. On the interpretive level, consider the history of Protestantism as a complete debunking of idea the Bible makes anything clear that it doesn't explicitly say. (Or really, even when it does explicitly say, as in James 2:24 for Protestants or Matthew 23:9 for Catholics.) One of the reasons that I find Catholicism intellectually respectable is that, unlike Protestantism or Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism has a historically-tested, amply-demonstrated method of reaching consensus interpretations and sticking to them.

        It seems to hint that we should have some a priori core of foundational belief

        No, here you're flying off the rails again. I didn't tell the author what he should believe about this post-hoc rationalization, nor did I try to coerce his belief into any philosophical theory. I'm asking what he does in fact believe about it.

        • I don't agree. On the textual level, consider the story of God hardening Pharoah's heart for a counterexample.

          It is an exception that proves the rule. You can discover this by attempting to enumerate additional examples.

          On the interpretive level, consider the history of Protestantism as a complete debunking of idea the Bible makes anything clear that it doesn't explicitly say.

          Let's make this a test case of that claim of yours. How many other situations in the Bible can you find where God abridges a person's will?

          No, here you're flying off the rails again. I didn't tell the author what he should believe about this post-hoc rationalization, nor did I try to coerce his belief into any philosophical theory. I'm asking what he does in fact believe about it.

          What you describe as "flying off the rails", I describe as questioning the implicit idea that one can always avoid engaging in the natural kind of "post-hoc rationalization". That is an incredibly loaded term. I'm calling you on it. If you don't want to defend the use of the term, why don't you rephrase what you said in different language?

          • It is an exception that proves the rule.

            The phrase you allude to is not modern English and in fact means the opposite of how you use it. Updating the language, we get: An exception disproves the rule.

            What you describe as "flying off the rails", I describe as questioning the implicit idea

            Questioning an "implicit" idea that you concocted, not me, is only useful if you're the one suffering that mistaken idea. But even if you are suffering it, you bringing it up in the first place and attributing it to me still seems like flying off the rails to me.

          • The phrase you allude to is not modern English and in fact means the opposite of how you use it. Updating the language, we get: An exception disproves the rule.

            That's not what I find at Wikipedia:

            “The exception [that] proves the rule” is a saying whose meaning has been interpreted or misinterpreted in various ways. Its true, or at least original, meaning is that the presence of an exception applying to a specific case establishes (“proves”) that a general rule exists. For example, a sign that says “parking prohibited on Sundays” (the exception) “proves” that parking is allowed on the other six days of the week (the rule). A more explicit phrasing might be “the exception that proves the existence of the rule.”

            We're not dealing with naïve Popperian falsification here, whereby a single stray data point brings down an entire theory. I made an "in general" claim, not an "in every case" claim.

            Questioning an "implicit" idea that you concocted, not me [...]

            Then what on earth did you mean by "post-hoc rationalization"? When the term 'rationalization' is used in this sense, the connotation is typically negative, e.g. the primary definition of dictionary.com: rationalize: "to ascribe (one's acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that superficially seem reasonable and valid but that actually are unrelated to the true, possibly unconscious and often less creditable or agreeable causes." This definition implies that there is a better way to explain. Can you provide a better way to explain the quotation under discussion, one that isn't a rationalization?

            Surely you will allow your interlocutor to investigate charged language you use?

  • LHRMSCBrown

    Given that definitions here begin from the ground up, from Scripture's opening and defining themes and then proceed both upward and outward, it's not obvious that the charge of "ad hoc" can be justified.

    There's several approaches to evil and God's interventions. One of interest here might be this:

    The Free-Will Theodicy and Divine Intervention:

    Quote:

    The second theodicy is the free-will theodicy. According to the free-will theodicy, God is justified in permitting evil and its consequences because “he has to do so if he is to bestow on some of his creatures the incommensurable privilege of being responsible agents who have, in many areas, the capacity to choose as they will, without God, or anyone else (other than themselves), determining which alternative they choose.”

    When Adam partakes of the fruit in Genesis 3, the most severe charge brought against God is not that he caused Adam to sin, but that in making Adam significantly free God brought about the possibility that Adam might misappropriate his freedom and choose a course of action that is morally wrong. God is not responsible for Adam’s choices given that Adam was endowed in creation with self-determining free will.

    The ground for denying God’s causing evil is that human freedom is conceptually incompatible with divine determinism (not divine sovereignty).

    Otherwise stated, determined choices are not free. Solidifying a free-will theodicy usually requires assent to the idea that being significantly free is intrinsically valuable rather than fleshing out the value of freedom from how people exercise it, that is, from freedom’s instrumental value. If it is intrinsically better to be significantly free than not, then questions concerning divine decisions in creation are asked and answered; objections from the abuse of freedom are derived from a category confusion regarding freedom’s intrinsic value with the ends that come as a result of misappropriating it. Even so, we value human freedom instrumentally in that it enables us to choose a path for our lives, allows for unique contributions to the human story, and is the source and origin of relationship development. The dissonance about freedom is that we love its benefits and hate its deficits, at least as far as instrumental value is concerned.

    If we center the discussion on the consequences of freedom rather than what freedom is, it is far from clear that God has not faltered in his providence. After all, God could allow immoral actions and then remove the harmful consequences of those actions. Freedom is preserved, and intense suffering is avoided. While such a view agrees that freedom is valuable, it denies that allowing actions to have harmful consequences justifies permitting the free act. For example, if I freely burn down my neighbors’ house while they are on vacation, God can miraculously rebuild the house so that my neighbors never knew or dealt with the ramifications of their house being burned down. Freedom is preserved, and consequences are avoided. Consider the rape and murder of a five-year-old girl. There is nothing logically problematic with asserting that God permits the rapist to commit the rape and to succeed in her subsequent murder, during which God disables the girl from ever being conscious of her rape and strangulation— and revives her upon her death without her ever knowing anything happened to her. Freedom is preserved, and consequences are avoided. Since the visceral reaction against the free-will theodicy centers on the negative consequences of freedom’s application, let us call this new construal of God’s activity a “nonconsequence world.

    Several problems attend a nonconsequence world. First, the objection does not address the free-will theodicy at all but questions the lack of divine intervention. Notice that each suggestion indicates something God can do to mitigate the effects of free decisions, which says nothing at all about the nature of human freedom or the agent performing the act in question. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we allow the question about divine intervention to remain, and we suggest that God override the consequences of our actions while still permitting our freedom to exist full force. The scenario envisioned here makes our world much like the famous pleasure machine scenario — where all of our experiences are either directly pleasurable or transformed into a pleasurable experience. In such a world we would not have any recourse from committing horrendous evils because we would not know the seriousness of the ensuing harm from acting in such a way.

    Admittedly the moral status of actions is not governed solely by the ends of our actions; however, we certainly deliberate about the consequences of our actions upon the well-being of others and ourselves. In other words, the suggestion that God stamp out bad consequences, albeit a freedom preserving proposal, undermines our ability to make significant moral choices. Proponents of a nonconsequence world should expect God to make acts such as rape a pleasure for the victim either directly through the sex act or indirectly through psychological manipulation. In doing so, another critique is leveraged; the proposal effectually strips the moral accountability between the perpetrator and his victim [*relational* contours are expunged of *love*] as well as what the definition of rape entails. To use a less chafing example, suppose I steal my neighbor’s birdfeeder after a squirrel breaks my own. Before choosing to steal the birdfeeder I recognize that my action is morally wrong — I am not confused about the moral status of the action. Sometime after I steal the birdfeeder, my conscience gets the better of me; I return the birdfeeder to my neighbor (with a bag of birdseed as a gesture). The only discernible response I should receive from my neighbor upon my returning the birdfeeder is one of utter perplexity; for if God replaces the stolen birdfeeder to prevent the material and emotional harm caused by the action, then my ability to set things right will be completely undermined. My neighbor will have no concept of ever having been wronged or perceive any need for apology or remuneration.

    What is more, it is hard to see how I could ever actually discern that my action was worthy of reproach to begin with, for if God “undoes” the negative consequences of evil choices, then presumably the wrongdoer will benefit from this undoing as well. The line of thought is as follows: one of the harmful consequences of my choices is the effects these choices have on me. Not only is it true that malformed decisions adversely affect my character; the ability to concede one evil action makes it more probable that I will make another concession in my future deliberations and choices. In an effort to stall this decline of character, God must undo the harmful effects of my own choices on me. Such an action would be a literal divine recreation of my character such that any of my future wrong decisions would have nothing to do with my previous deliberations and choices. For this suggestion to pass muster, God would have to be the ultimate revisionist historian. These reasons, and more, provide compelling grounds to question the claim that God can undo the harmful nature of free decisions while guarding the integrity of freedom itself.

    Evans, Jeremy A. (2013-03-01). The Problem of Evil: The Challenge to Essential Christian Beliefs (B&h Studies in Christian Apologetics).

    End quote.

    Whether or not we grant "gratuitous" evil or not, it seems that our definitions begin from the ground up. Obviously "Trinity" combined with "Imago Dei" justifies irreducible volition, and, just as obvious, there is no number of possible worlds, or options, or whatever, which we can grant the created and volitional being (Man) which can sum to a threat to God's status as *GOD*.

    Just to offer more options, this may be of help:

    Granting gratuitous evil: Two PDF’s which are available are “THE NECESSITY OF GRATUITOUS EVIL” by William Hasker and also “The Existence and Irrelevance of Gratuitous Evil”, by Kirk R. MacGregor [ http://www.kirkmacgregor.org/uploads/pc_14-1_macgregor.pdf ]

    A brief excerpt: “The absurdity of the Greater-Good Defense is multiplied by its transformation of the universe into a philosophically overdetermined system….. Gratuitous evils are "simply a logically unavoidable necessity of contingent living in a freedom-permitting world." While God can surely use many [even all] of those individual acts of evil for our good, it does not follow that every act of evil that God allows, He allows for the purpose of accomplishing some greater good….. He allows acts of evil, even gratuitous acts of evil, because He values and honors the freedom of our will.”

    Lastly, it's not clear what reality would *be* in any real sense if we were to expunge "irreducible volition" such as we find within those processions of love's irreducible reciprocity within "Trinity" and hence within the "Imago Dei".