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Why Does God Allow Natural Disasters?

Natural evil consists of any deformity within the natural world that leads to suffering such as: natural disasters, diseases, predatorial animals, and bodily weaknesses.  This article will argue that natural evil can be plausibly explained by appealing to the free will of angels.

According to traditional Judeo-Christian thought, God created angels and gave them the freedom to choose between good and evil.  Furthermore, it is possible that the angels’ freedom could extend to choosing what the laws of physics would be for the universe.1

So some of the bad angels could have chosen laws of physics that the angels would know would result in natural evil. 

Of course, traditional monotheistic theology teaches that God is the only creator.  However, this explanation is not suggesting that there are other creators in the same sense that God is the creator (since only God gives things their existence and God is still the one creating the laws).  Rather it is suggesting that God did not entirely decide what the laws of physics would be, rather God put in place laws that were decided upon at least in part by the angels.2

One may wonder why God would allow this, but perhaps God wanted to allow the angels to help Him create the world (by helping decide the laws of physics) similar to how God wants to allow humans to co-create through procreation.  Co-creation allows creatures to participate in being like God.  In fact, it is part of God’s love to allow His creatures to participate in co-creating with Him, even though creatures may misuse that gift.

Of course, God could have limited the number of laws that the angels affected, but perhaps due to His love, God did not withhold His gift of co-creation from the angels, but rather He allowed the angels to help decide laws for throughout the universe.

Now the Judeo-Christian tradition does believe that God performs miracles that violate the laws of physics but if God worked miracles that violate the laws of physics all the time then God would simply be abrogating the laws that the angels decided upon.  Yet if the angels were truly given decision over what the laws would be and God were to choose to always override the harmful tendencies, then those tendencies would not have truly been put in place.  God would not have truly allowed the angels to co-create with Him. 

However God can sometimes choose to override the laws, but those are rare exceptions.  Perhaps God can only justify working a limited number of miracles in order to strengthen peoples’ faith and help them attain salvation3, but He cannot justify working miracles all the time, without overriding the tendencies that were put in place.4

One may still wonder why God did not just create everyone (humans and angels included) in heaven without the freedom to ever choose evil.  Yet, as has been argued by others, it would be unjust for God to force His creatures (human or angel) to conform their will to His without first giving them some chance at using their will as they choose.  So due to God’s justice, the first round of creation is where humans and (at least for some amount of time) angels can choose between good and evil.5

In conclusion, I think it is very reasonable to explain natural evil by appealing to some of the angels’ poorly choosing how to arrange the laws of physics.

Notes:

  1. For a discussion (and criticism) of Alvin Plantinga’s view on this see this post by Randal Rauser. For works that seem to endorse or be open to the idea that angels could be responsible for natural evil see: Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2005), 72-73; J.R.R. Tolkien, The Simarillion (New York:  Del Rey, 1977); David Bentley Hart, The Doors of the Sea:  Where was God in the Tsunami? (Grand Rapids Michigan: Eerdman’s Publushing Co. 2005); C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain found in The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics (New York:  Harper Collins, New 2007), 631-633.

  2. How this works, we don’t know.  However, since God knows the collective will of all the angels, He could create a universe with laws that reflects the angels’ overall will in how the universe will operate.  Some of the angels may have wanted the universe to follow God’s plan and while some did not want it to.  So God instituted laws that are a reflection of the combined collective will of all the angels.
  3. I am sure I have heard this explanation for the purpose of miracles given somewhere, but I am not sure where.
  4. A similar point is made about God arbitrarily drawing the line on how much He chooses to intervene in the world in Peter van Inwagen The Problem of Evil (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2006)
  5. For a similar response see Jimmy Akin’s article “Will We Have Free Will in Heaven?” 

Written by

Stephen Edwards is a high school and middle school theology teacher in Wisconsin. He earned a Master's in theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is a practicing Catholic who enjoys studying theology and philosophy as well as spending time with his family. He hopes to write more about the topic of theology and philosophy. He likes his beard.

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  • I have not come across this particular theodicy before, to the best of my recollection. But I accepted, many years ago, the fact that evil is not by logical necessity inconsistent with a morally perfect god, and so this article, in one sense, isn't telling me anything I didn't already know.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I am on board with some aspects of the basic argument here, but could I suggest the following:

    the Judeo-Christian tradition does believe that God performs miracles that violate the laws of physics ... God can sometimes choose to override the laws

    The word choice here gives a very distorted sense of the Catholic understanding of miracles throughout most of the history of the Church. The conception of miracles as violations is a relatively recent, mostly non-Catholic, innovation that only makes sense in a quasi-deistic / Epicurean framework where a distant God reaches into a world that is otherwise running on auto-pilot, tinkers around a bit, and then recedes from view. By contrast, Aquinas understood grace (including the grace of miracles) to build on and perfect nature, not to violate it. Supernatural events are rightly understood, as the word implies, as "extra-natural" or "natural plus", not as "nature being violated or put on hold".

    Relatedly, while I am open to the idea of angels somehow mucking up the Laws of Nature, I think emphasizing this possibility sort of takes away the whole "value added" of having angels in one's ontology. To my mind, the essence of angelic mediation is precisely that there is something "free" and non-law-like about the way that even the non-human universe behaves, and this non-human "free-ness" of the universe we call angels. To suggest that angels would work primarily by pre-adjusting the Laws of Nature is perhaps to re-inscribe an essentially deterministic view of the world that any reasonable believer in intentionality should not be conceding to. I think it might move the conversation in a more productive direction if we instead hypothesize that God-given (and therefore perfect and inviolable) Laws of Nature under-determine what actually happens in the universe, and that additional determination may come about via both human and non-human (angelic) intentional agency.

    • Stephen Edwards

      I agree that the use of the phrase "laws" may not be the best way to describe reality, but it is a term that many use and are comfortable with so I think it is helpful to work with that terminology. The argument could of course be re-cast using different terminology though.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        Thanks for the response Stephen.

        Just to clarify my own position: I am all in favor of talking about Laws of Nature. We need that concept in order to talk about reality. I am just saying that we can speak of Laws of Nature without suggesting determinism. My concern is that by emphasizing the possibility of Angels mucking about with the Laws of Nature themselves, one probably de-emphasizes the freedom that angels have to operate within the Laws of Nature. Angels (and humans, and God) can work within the Laws of Nature to produce outcomes that could not be predicted from the Laws of Nature alone, in the same way that a driver can pick multiple paths on the highway, all of which stay within the guardrails.

        Anyway, thank you for your contribution here!

        • Stephen Edwards

          I see.

  • Jim the Scott

    Natural disasters are the consequence of God creating a material universe. God could have made a better or worst universe but God is not required to make any universe. God could have made a universe without natural disasters but it would not be our universe and we would likely not be in it.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      God could have made a better ... universe

      1. Are we really in a position to know that that is the case?
      2. If God could have done better and didn't, then God is withholding love. Now, obviously God is withholding love in time; there could be no revelation of love in time if everything was revealed completely from the git-go. But if God withholds some love forever, then He simply is not the God of love. It's true that God has no obligation to completely reveal his love to us, as there can be no external constraint on God. Still, a pure love that partially withholds itself for all time is an oxymoron.

      • Jim the Scott

        As a Catholic and therefore a Classic Theist I am committed to the belief God doesn't owe me anything. Otherwise how is it He gives me Grace if He owes it too me?

        I am a Strong Atheist toward believing in any Theistic Personalist "god" and if God really was a Theistic Personalist moral agent I would say that everything Richard Dawkins says about that "god" is correct.

        > If God could have done better and didn't, then God is withholding love.

        You response is a clear contradiction and Jim if you are Catholic what you are claiming is a novelty. If you are a Protestant well.....so much for the Protestant claim to believe in Grace Alone over us "works salvation God owes us something" Romanist eh?

        >It's true that God has no obligation to completely reveal his love to us, as there can be no external constraint on God. Still, a pure love that partially withholds itself for all time is an oxymoron.

        Creating us is a gift. He need not do it.

        Everything God gives us beyond our nature is an additional gift that He need not give us. He need not give us the Beatific Vision. He could just send us to Limbo at death.

        You are arguing for a God who owes us. This is contrary to Trent and legacy of Martin Luther. I don't see how it is Christian?

      • Jim the Scott

        Jim I just read your other Post and I see you too are Catholic. Good we are on the same page there & have common ground.

        A miracle is God actualizing a thing in a manner not typical to it's nature. Like a burning bush that is not consumed. Or cause fire to freeze something rather then melt it. A super natural act is God actualizing a potency directly. Like causing Elijah's sacrifice to burn and be consumed which is a natural end to burning but God causes the fire directly instead of threw secondary agents.

        Other then that you are correct a law of nature is an observed regularity in thing because of their nature not some Platonic entity that causes things to behave a certain way.

        Anyway in regards to God and obligations. Jesus told us the parable of workers some of whom worked since dawn and others the last two hours before sunset all getting the same wage.

        God allows some people to be born get baptized then die five minutes later and go to heaven without having to deal with life. Some of us have to live life and risk Hell.

        Is that fair? Well if God has no obligations too us that is perfectly fair. If He is a moral agent well......that is not cool. Anyway it is His wages He may distribute them as he wishes.

        I can't love a God who is a moral agent as God. I can love a Saint but God is not a Saint and to imply He is one only more uber kind of diminishes Him.

        I can't bare that!

        Peace.

        Our Lady be with you.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I appreciate the conciliatory note, but you still seem to be arguing against points that I never made, so I would like to clarify.

          If you re-read what I wrote, I think you will see that I am not saying that God is obliged to do anything for us. I agree with you that there is no obligation on God's part. God is love, and love would simply cease to be love if it were obligatory or transactional. However, love would also cease to be love if it permanently withheld itself. It's not a matter of love being obliged to manifest itself in a particular way. It's just a matter of what love is.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well the thing is Jim I am arguing Aquinas' view there is no such thing as The Best of All Possible Worlds.

            http://www.aquinasonline.com/Topics/boapw.html

            God does NOT by your own standards "withhold love" by having made this universe and not a better one. Anymore then he withholds love by making me live and allowing others to die before the age of reason and go straight to Heaven.

            First it is impossible for God to create the "Best of All Possible Worlds" just as it is impossible for him to make 2+2=5. If God made a better world then this one well He could have still made an even better one then that.

            Someone might then say "Well isn't Heaven the Best of All Possible Worlds"? Well Heaven for all intensive purposes is the Soul gazing at the Beatific Vision which is the Uncreated God Himself fully revealed by the Power of Grace.

            God obviously can't create something un-created as that is incoherent, The Uncreated God Himself is the Best of All Possible Worlds.

            So I stand by my claim & submit it is Catholic Tradition.

            Cheers.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            OK, that linked material looks pretty good. I'll take a look. Thanks.

          • Have you come across Matthew Robert Adams' Must God Create the Best??

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No. Looks interesting and I will read it. Thanks!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That's a neat argument, and one that provides a new window into gratitude. By hypothesis, God could have created a more perfect world, but it might not have included me! And so God may have foregone the opportunity for a better world (maybe even the best possible world) just so that I could exist. That would be a very specific and gracious love indeed!

          • There's some very interesting stuff around the idea that adopting certain philosophies is tantamount to wishing you didn't exist. And yet, if you didn't exist you wouldn't be there to offer the critique. Self-hatred is rather non-trivial; psychologists around the country and perhaps across Europe know about it, but I suspect that body of empirical evidence has not been well-integrated into theodicy thinking.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            By hypothesis, God could have created a more perfect world, but it might not have included me! And so God may have foregone the opportunity for a better world (maybe even the best possible world) just so that I could exist.

            Let us take some person Dan who is blind in one eye. Could God have created Dan without the blindness and would Dan still be Dan? Is Dan better off with the blindness?

            Take another person Paul. Lets say Paul suffers from a sever anxiety disorder. Would Paul still be Paul without the anxiety disorder?

            Would not this world be better if Paul and Dan did not have their ailments? Would anything be lost if God did this? Would 20/20 Dan and anxiety free Paul still be Paul and Dan?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Would not this world be better if Paul and Dan did not have their ailments?

            It would certainly be locally better, in the neighborhood of Paul and Dan.

            Would anything be lost if God did this?

            I have no idea, and I can't imagine that anyone else does either. Everything is interconnected (and OK, perhaps God can somehow "disconnect" or dis-integrate reality, but that in itself has all sorts of implications), so how could we possibly know?

            Would 20/20 Dan and anxiety free Paul still be Paul and Dan?

            I don't know.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't know either. :-)

            Personally, I think it is strange to think of God as having choices. God must of necessity do whatever it is God does, because his nature is maximal. So if God created Paul, he would Paul in the best possible universe for Paul and those around Paul. (Maybe it would be the universe where Paul would have the best possible chance at salvation.)

            This doesn't seem to be the case though. That is why I would then inquire if something is lost by Paul not having some suffering. This is all very speculative though. All of these issues go away though, if I no longer speculate about a transcendent necessary being. :-)

          • Rob Abney

            Why do you think these issues go away if you don’t speculate? Are we all living in ignatius’ “youniverse”!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't have to speculate about what a necessary being would or would not do if I don't think a necessary being exists.

            I'm not sure what an Ignatius youniverse would be.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Some problems go away ... but others seem to surface, as far as I can tell.

            For example, the flavor of poetic naturalism espoused by Sean Carroll allows for the existence of "oughtness", but only as a convenient fiction. On a PN understanding of reality, it is valid to use colloquialisms such as: "innocent children ought not to starve", but that really just means that "we humans don't want innocent children to starve", and that in turn is just a convenient shorthand for expressing what, on deeper analysis, is revealed to be nothing more than complex collisions of atoms in the void.

            So then evil also can only be an epiphenomenon, one that ultimately, fundamentally, is not real. This very neatly solves every theoretical problem associated with the existence of evil: evil does not really exist, so there is no problem to solve. Yay!

            But does that not raise obvious problems? If evil is fundamentally illusory, then surely the solution is to see past the illusion. Illusions are surely not good in themselves, and this is all the more true if those illusions make us queasy. So then: dispel the illusion! See past it! See it for what it really is: just the collision of atoms in the void. But ... does anyone really believe that?

            I suspect that there are few, if any adherents of poetic naturalism who would actually look upon innocent suffering and propose that the solution is simply to see past the illusion. And yet, if PN is true, then why is that not, in fact, the solution?

            But maybe you subscribe to something other than Sean Carroll-style naturalism?

          • David Nickol

            This very neatly solves every theoretical problem associated with the existence of evil: evil does not really exist, so there is no problem to solve. Yay!

            That is not how I remember Sean Carroll, but it's been a while, so I will have to check and get back to you on that one.

            In any case, it is the Rob Abney argument that evil does not really exist. In the words of Wikipedia: "The absence of good (Latin: privatio boni) is a theological doctrine that evil, unlike good, is insubstantial, so that thinking of it as an entity is misleading. Instead, evil is rather the absence or lack ("privation") of good."

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Just a couple clarifications, if permitted. First, don't always trust Wikipedia as an authority. Second, I don't know where they got their definition of evil or how they get to say it is a theological doctrine. The definition of evil is a properly philosophical one, and in the A-T tradition it simply means the lack of a DUE perfection. It is not mere privation. It is a privation that can solely be understood in relation to a given nature. For example, it is good to be a horse. But to be a horse with a bad leg is not good. That is because it belongs to the perfection of a horse to have four good legs. If one is bad, that is the lack of the due perfection of having four good ones. That is a physical evil.

            Illness is a lack of the perfection of health which is proper to the well-being of an organism.

            Moral evil is commission of deliberate, free acts which are disordered to the nature of a rational creature. For example, for a man to get drunk is an act which "denatures" his rationality. Since man is a rational animal, his loss of reason is an evil. If he freely acts so as to make himself lose his reason, even temporarily, that is a moral evil.

            There is a lot more that can be said, but hopefully this will shed some light on the true nature of evil. It is not merely a privation. It is a privation of some quality that belongs to a given nature as part of its proper perfections.

          • David Nickol

            From what I know of the privation theory of evil, it has mainly been used to explain why God cannot be held responsible for creating evil. To my mind, that makes it theology rather than philosophy. In any case, that brief quote was not intended to define the matter, but rather to be a quick reminder of what Rob Abney and others have been arguing. My apologies if it did not do justice to the issue

            Illness is a lack of the perfection of health which is proper to the well-being of an organism.

            This sounds simple enough, but defining illness is an extremely difficult undertaking, and there is no unanimity of opinion among professionals (boldface added):

            At first sight, the answer to “What is a disease?” is straightforward. Most of us feel we have an intuitive grasp of the idea, reaching mentally to images or memories of colds, cancer or tuberculosis. But a look through any medical dictionary soon shows that articulating a satisfactory definition of disease is surprisingly difficult. And it is not much help defining disease as the opposite of health, given that definitions of health are equally tricky. The World Health Organization's claim that health is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, not merely the absence of disease or infirmity” (WHO, 1946) has been praised for embracing a holistic viewpoint, and equally strongly condemned for being wildly utopian: the historian Robert Hughes remarked that it was “more realistic for a bovine than a human state of existence” (Hudson, 1993).​).

            It might not be easy to articulate what a disease is, but we like to think we would at least all know when we saw one. Unfortunately, this is problematic as well. Notions of health are highly context-dependent, as human diseases only exist in relation to people, and people live in varied cultural contexts. Studies in medical anthropology and sociology have shown that whether people believe themselves to be ill varies with class, gender, ethnic group and less obvious factors such as proximity to support from family members.

            What counts as a disease also changes over historical time, partly as a result of increasing expectations of health, partly due to changes in diagnostic ability, but mostly for a mixture of social and economic reasons. One example is osteoporosis, which after being officially recognized as a disease by the WHO in 1994 switched from being an unavoidable part of normal ageing to a pathology (WHO, 1994). This has consequences for sufferers' sense of whether they are 'normally old' or 'ill', but more concretely for their ability to have treatment reimbursed by health service providers. . . .

          • Dennis Bonnette

            One must distinguish between two types of theology: (1) sacred theology, which is the science that deals with those truths known through supernatural revelation, and (2) natural theology, which is that part of metaphysics that deals with God's existence, nature, and relation to the created world.

            Usually, "theology," taken by itself, refers to the former. But the question of whether God must be responsible for evil is logically a matter for unaided reason to explore, and has traditionally been considered a question of natural theology, which is a part of philosophy, not sacred theology.

            As to the exact definition of health, that is irrelevant to the essential point that disease entails some lack of how things ought to be for an organism to survive well and prosper. Where one draws the exact line between health and disease may be confusing to man, but it is not a licit objection to the God who made human nature and knows what he intended.

            This reminds me of the Supreme Court justice who famously said that he could not define pornography, but he knew what it was when he saw it.

            When we are suffering pain and discomfort, or are well on our way toward dying, we know something is missing that we ought to have organically. The fact that we have trouble defining the perfect state of health is no licit objection to the definition of physical evil here, since whatever it is, there is a difference between being in "good shape" and having an evident lack of whatever it is that being in "good shape" entails.

            Evil, defined as the lack of a due perfection, retains its universal validity -- even if we sometimes are not sure how it applies in a given case, because of our own lack of precise knowledge. After all, if something turns out not to be evil, then where is the "problem of evil?"

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Subtle but good point. To draw the contrast correctly, I should have written: "This very neatly solves every theoretical problem associated with the existence of evil: evil is not fundamentally real, so there is no problem to solve. Yay!"

            That is, one can coherently say, within a theistic / privation framework, that evil is real (it is a real deficit), even if it does not really exist in a positive sense. By contrast, if "the good" and all teleological concepts are merely epiphenomenal, then putative evil is not even a "fundamentally real" deficit.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            That is not how I remember Sean Carroll, but it's been a while, so I will have to check and get back to you on that one.

            Please do!

            I've read a number of his blog posts with considerable care, so I'm fairly confident that I haven't fundamentally misrepresented his position. However, I haven't read any of his books, so I welcome the fuller context you may be able to provide from those.

            One thing you may be able to help with: he repeatedly distinguishes between what is "real" and what is "fundamentally real". I have trouble understanding the real-but-not-fundamentally-real category. I'm sure he would have no problem calling evil "real" (real in the same sense that baseball is real), but I am all but certain that he would not consider it to be "fundamentally real". From this, I gather that things that are merely "real" (but not "fundamentally real") are things that we can dispense with if they become problematic. For example, if baseball, on balance, is causing great anguish, we can just see it for the human construct that it is and stop playing. On your reading, would he say the same thing of all real-but-not-fundamentally-real things? If not, what distinguishes the reality of evil from the reality of baseball? If the perception of evil is causing great anguish, why can't we just train ourselves to stop perceiving it, the same way we could in theory train our culture to stop playing baseball?

            ETA: I don't mean to imply that Carroll has ever explicitly claimed to have solved or eliminated the problem of evil. My contention is rather that poetic naturalism, as he describes it, does eliminate the problem of evil, insofar as it does not even recognize evil as a fundamental aspect of reality.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            For example, the flavor of poetic naturalism espoused by Sean Carroll allows for the existence of "oughtness", but only as a convenient fiction.

            This problem doesn't really go away if you posit God. Why ought I do what God wills?

            I haven't read Carroll, so I'm not sure to what extent I would agree with what he things nor do I know what it is he exactly thinks.

            I would argue that our moral intuitions correspond in some way to morality and that morality is an emergent property of sentient beings. The moral oughts are emergent. It is good to prosper and self-actualize. It is a difficult question.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This problem doesn't really go away if you posit God. Why ought I do what God wills?

            Those are two totally different problems. I understand that theists are in a tough spot when it comes to defending particular moral theories and conclusions in any great specificity (though the broad strokes tend to be obvious without a great deal of theorizing, e.g. "innocent children ought not to starve"), but that is a very much a second order problem as compared to the PN problem of not even having a fundamentally real teleology. In the theistic framework, we can coherently say that evil is real even if we don't always know it when we see it, or don't always agree about it. In the PN framework, it's not just that we don't know what specifically is or isn't evil: we have to maintain that evil is not "fundamentally real" at all. In other words, the problem of evil for PN is precisely that there is no POE for PN. At least theism has a POE, for goodness sakes! :-)

            It is good to prosper and self-actualize.

            The "good" in that sentence sounds pretty absolutely normative and teleological to me, so I don't know if you can reconcile that with your own understanding of "oughts" as emergent phenomena. If "the good" is merely an emergent property of sentient beings, and if sentient beings are fundamentally just complex collisions of atoms in the void, then your statement has to be understood as just a convenient shorthand for something like:

            Complex constellations of atoms in the void exhibit the higher order phenomena of calling certain things "good" when they collide in the right a particular way.

            In other words, it becomes fundamentally a statement about what happens. It is no longer a statement about what should happen. Your "good" has been totally disemboweled in that framework.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            In my first reply, I assumed that with this question:

            Why ought I do what God wills?

            you were really trying to get at something more along the lines, "Why ought I do what theistic tradition or moral theologians tell me to do?"

            But if you really meant to ask exactly what you asked:

            In a theistic framework, you ought to do what God wills because "that which you ought to do", and "that which God wills for you to do" are two phrases with exactly the same referent. The question, "Why ought I do what God wills?" is very much akin to the question, "Why do triangles have to have three sides?"

          • And so God may have foregone the opportunity for a better world (maybe even the best possible world) just so that I could exist. That would be a very specific and gracious love indeed!

            I'll be thinking of you next time I see news coverage of some natural disaster.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I wrote "just so that I could exist", but I am just one particular product of that grace. The logic of the argument clearly leads to "just so everyone that exists could exist". So you need not think exclusively of me. But, gee, thanks.

  • Jim the Scott

    A Classic Theistic God needs a Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle. Why does God allow natural disasters is like asking why God gave us a yellow sun and not a purple one. It's not answerable. The issue is does the existence of evil disallow us from believing in an all powerful good God?

    I say yes as long as we realize God is not a moral agent. The idea God is a moral agent is a post enlightenment error not the ancient Classic view of God.

    From my notes. I copied this somewhere & edited it. I forget where?

    QUOTE God is not a moral agent and is therefore not morally imperfect

    In trying to demonstrate that God is not a moral agent, Davies draws our attention to the premise that God is 'Being Itself'. Yet for Davies if God is Being Itself (something which classical theism insists) something has to be done to distinguish Him from all beings otherwise He could not be 'God' in the classical sense. You should remember that classical theism puts forward a God who is 'transcendent' and therefore is removed or apart from His creation. For Davies the only way we can do this is to deny that God is ‘a being alongside other beings' and if He is not ‘a being etc' we cannot say that He is morally good or bad as we can say with human beings.

    A second reason for denying that classical theism is committed to regarding God as a moral agent brings us to the notion of obligation and duty. It is often said that a moral agent is someone able to do his duty, someone capable of living up to his obligations. Yet for Davies it is very difficult to see how the God of classical theism can be thought of as having duties and obligations. These normally confront people in social contexts, in contexts where there are other people around. Thus, I have a duty and obligation to turn up to work (something which my employer pays me to do) and you have a duty and obligation to come to my lessons in order that you may successfully pass your philosophy exam!

    Like Brian Davies, Huw Parri Owen takes up the view that the God of classical theism is not bound by such expectations. Owen writes: "God's creative act is free in so far as it is neither externally constrained nor necessary for the fulfilment of His own life." It must follow then that if God has no obligations or duties, then we need not think of Him as being a 'moral agent'.

    Davies third and final point centres upon the idea of success and failure. A moral agent is obviously one who can in some sense either succeed or fail. He can succeed if he acts morally where others have failed to do so, and he can fail if he acts immorally where others have succeeded. Yet for Davies it makes no sense to talk of the God of classical theism as succeeding or failing. One can only be said to have succeeded or failed against a background of success or failure, a background against which one can be judged to have succeeded or failed. Thus an author can be judged to have succeeded as a writer in the light of the history of writing.

    Now Davies point is simply this: if, as classical theism holds, God creates 'ex nihilo' ('out of nothing') then He can have no such background and therefore cannot be said to be even capable of succeeding or failing. Consequently, this implies that God is not a moral agent and the problems presented by the free-will defence are no longer insurmountable. God does allow my free actions without actually causing them (i.e. in the efficient sense) since unlike me He is not a moral agent! This attempt by Davies and Owen to absolve God from moral responsibility for suffering and evil is a bold and interesting one and serves to show that the accusation that God is morally imperfect can be challenged.

    • A Classic Theistic God needs a Theodicy like a fish needs a bicycle. Why does God allow natural disasters is like asking why God gave us a yellow sun and not a purple one. It's not answerable. The issue is does the existence of evil disallow us from believing in an all powerful good God?

      I don't think this is quite right. I think the problem of evil is really a cryptic way to ask why there isn't more redemption and reconciliation and restoration in the world. We Christians don't have to be perfect, but if we can't beat the average, there is reason to doubt that God is good, that he has given his followers any interesting power whatsoever (cf 1 Cor 4:19–20). See for example the following, by an atheist philosopher whom I respect:

      KP: So, is the problem of evil an insuperable obstacle for theists? The theist has to say with Julian of Norwich: "All shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well." In the end, even Hitler and pediatric cancer will turn out to have been necessary for the achievement of ultimate good. Now, I can see no reason or justification whatsoever for such an affirmation; indeed, it would be irrational for me to accept what seems to me such bizarrely unreasonable optimism. (Really, Julian, really?!?!). But is it necessarily unreasonable for the thoughtful theist to accept that eventually all will be well? How would I show this? I cannot let my feelings decide. I simply cannot see how any decent, intelligent person could possibly have voted for Donald Trump, but I know people of impeccable decency and intelligence who did. My best understanding is that the overall experience of thoughtful, reflective theists is such that, for them, evil cannot be the last word. The reality of a good God is for them more certain than the finality of evil. Is this unreasonable? How would you show it?

      Do you think mere words are going to convince someone of the power of redemption and reconciliation and restoration? Hopefully not. But then it is the evidence of lived Christian lives which either testifies to God's goodness or his badness/​absence. I stand firmly with Jacques Ellul:

          The difficult is precisely that one cannot say: "Certainly our practice is poor, but consider the beauty, purity, and truth of revelation." We have insisted on the unity of the two. We have to understand this. No recognizable difference exists apart from the life and witness of those who bear it. The life of Christians is what gives testimony to God and to the meaning of this revelation. "See how they love one another"—this is where the approach to the Revealed God begins. "If you devour one another, you do not have the love of God in you," etc. There is no pure truth of God or Jesus Christ to which we can return, washing our hands of what we ourselves do. If Christians are not conformed in their lives to their truth, there is no truth. This is why the accusers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were right to infer the falsity of revelation itself from the practice of the church. This makes us see that in not being what Christ demands we render all revelation false, illusory, ideological, imaginary, and nonsalvific. We are thus forced to be Christians or to recognize the falsity of what we believe. This is undeniable proof of the need for correct practice. (The Subversion of Christianity, 6–7)

      If Christians are not doing that, Paul's words describe them:

      You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Romans 2:23–24)

      When Christians are being terrible enough, when they are bearing too little fruit, others are warranted in questioning whether God exists or at least whether he is good. People don't need to see zero evil. They need to see evil redeemed, reconciliation, and restoration. Humans are very good at reasoning from some to all. But they need to see enough. Do they? Are they blind? Or are we perhaps in a time like Ezekiel 34? (Slaveowners in antebellum American South seem like good candidates for this; one can also examine Sublimis Deus and what came after.)

      • Jim the Scott

        >I don't think this is quite right. I think the problem of evil is really a cryptic way to ask why there isn't more redemption and reconciliation and restoration in the world.

        Davies say virtually the same thing but I am more interested in reconciling the existence of an all powerful good God with evil and I think this view clearly solves the problem the way Mathew Broddrick's character in the movie WARGAMES solved the problem of winning a nuclear war. The only winning move is not to play (the Theodicy game).

        This is a philosophical argument. It won't make you feel better if you are the parent of a murdered and raped child as Feser once said. That is not it's purpose.

        • Davies say virtually the same thing …

          Fascinating. Ever notice how frequently Jesus doesn't address the overt question, but instead drives at what he seems to think is the or at least an underlying issue? I don't meant to flatter myself, but I do think one can actually learn to do that thing better and better. I would give myself at least a "D+" on doing it.

          The only winning move is not to play (the Theodicy game).

          Do you think I'm playing? :-p

          This is a philosophical argument. It won't make you feel better if you are the parent of a murdered and raped child as Feser once said. That is not it's purpose.

          While I have some sympathy for this response, I have only some. I think Judaism and Christianity are supposed to be remarkably practical overall—much more than competing ideologies. The Enlightenment philosophes in general saw 'religion' as something for the weak, for those who could not handle 200 proof reality. The Bible is very different from this, and so is any Christianity I respect. Hurt at the emotional level which is not already countered at the emotional level is, in very situation I recall, due to bad theological beliefs. I'm not saying there is no battle in the emotional level if one "believes the right things"; instead I'm saying that if there is no battle and the outcome is "problem of evil", then one believes the wrong things. Make sense? Emphasis on "there is no battle".

          • Jim the Scott

            I am not suited for appeals to emotion & in principle I don't generally support emotional arguments. Emotions are chaotic and God doesn't have emotions. God's Love is not something He "feels" for us but something He Will's for us moved by His Divine Intellect. God's anger isn't Him feeling the hot rage of passion but His Will to Justice. God is Perfection Itself and passions are not perfections.

            We don't need Theodicies (in the Modern sense. Aquinas' followers use the Term "theodicy" but they use it to refer to the philosophical justification for belief in God not moral justification for God's actions or apparent inactions).

          • I am not suited for appeals to emotion & in principle I don't generally support emotional arguments. Emotions are chaotic and God doesn't have emotions.

            What do you think it means to love God with all of one's heart—in addition to soul, mind, and strength? Are you suggesting that emotions are nigh useless, or just that undisciplined emotions are a problem? (Edit: Or something else?) I would agree to the latter, but I would say that undisciplined thoughts can be just as much of a problem. I disbelieve that it is a sort of 'law of nature' that "emotions are chaotic". I've never seen this proven, nor well-argued for.

            As to divine impassivity, that has to reckon with Jesus' manifest behavior and character and that obnoxious verse which says "[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature" (Heb 1:3). Let's take Jesus at Lazarus' tomb and the verb ἐμβριμάομαι: just what does that say about our Lord? The word βριμάομα describes horses when they snort in anger, or men when they are fretting or being angry. If we compare translations of John 11:33, we find "he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled", or "he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled". That sounds dangerously like impassivity theology being used to distort the text.

            Here's a radical hypothesis of mine. I say that when one tries to read the Bible without emotion—and I'll wager I can do a pretty good job of that in comparison to many people—the result is mathematically degenerate. That is, without emotion there are multiple possible interpretations. The ability to jump between interpretations is a mechanism to dominate people; I saw this in middle school when the cool kids were able to alter interpretations in very specific ways to screw with social outcasts like me. Such jumping around has as one of its purposes to toy with a person's emotions, to jerk them around for purposes of amusement and/or control. Those with more lawless emotions are more capable of this interpretive dance. I don't mean to accuse, but the assertion "emotions are chaotic" is a legitimating tool for such people. What it entails is that the emotional turmoil inflicted upon victims is normal. I believe God despises this.

            There is an amazing scene in the cult classic Equilibrium that bears on this discussion. Spoiler alert. The movie is all about a society which has eliminated emotion through a drug because of all the badness it causes. One of the top enforcers stopped taking the drug and is put under a sort of emotional polygraph because he's going to meet the leader of that society. The polygraph shows his emotions are very present and the leader suggests that this is all according to plan. But the top enforcer decides that no, this is not how things will play out, and empties himself of emotion. The polygraph goes silent. And then he kicks ass. I can see the value of temporarily shutting down emotion (if that even makes sense—moving emotion out of consciousness is not necessarily the same as shutting it down). But I am skeptical that this is what God desires of us for much of our lives. I would hazard a guess that the reason to shut down emotion is to perfectly match evil adversaries and characterize them to a T so that one can then do this:

            For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Corinthians 10:3–6)

            How good are we at that, as Christians?

          • Jim the Scott

            >As to divine impassivity, that has to reckon with Jesus' manifest behavior and character and that obnoxious verse which says "[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature" (Heb 1:3).

            Jesus had human emotions from his human nature not his divine nature.

            I am a believer in the council of Chalcedon and disciple of Pope St Leo the Great. So I don't understand this vast document dump?

            I am not against loving God. I do love God. I don't love false understandings of him because I can't love error.

            Speak plainly and simply.

            > I don't mean to accuse, but the assertion "emotions are chaotic" is a legitimating tool for such people. What it entails is that the emotional turmoil inflicted upon victims is normal. I believe God despises this.

            Well I am not against someone on their death bed being moved by sentiment vs rationally to repent as that would be objectively good for them. But I don't think too many people can build a lifetime of faith on pure emotion sans reason.

            Luke you are a nice guy but Protestantism is in my mind is an error. It's not as bad as Atheism but it's not fully true. I can't and won't think of Christ or God in any manner that is not Catholic.

          • Jesus had human emotions from his human nature not his divine nature.

            I'm not sure I would wager my salvation on the doctrine of impassivity; would you? This is a test to see how strongly you believe divine impassivity. Would you prefer to be condemned to hell/​oblivion rather than worship a God who has [disciplined] emotions? What I'm really objecting to, here, is the idea that we can take some parts of who we are and say those are more like God than the other parts of who we are. I want to know the basis for this.

            I am a believer in the council of Chalcedon and disciple of Pope St Leo the Great. So I don't understand this vast document dump?

            Vast?

            Speak plainly and simply.

            People who say that God has thoughts analogous to ours but not emotions analogous to ours may be saying that in order to better dominate and oppress their fellow humans. My "vast" comment explained a bit of how this works.

            P.S. You do not appear to have learned "Speak plainly and simply." from the RCC. :-p

            But I don't think too many people can build a lifetime of faith on pure emotion sans reason.

            Do you think one can love God with pure reason and no emotion? (Since you're going to work off of one extreme, I'll work off of another.)

            Luke you are a nice guy but Protestantism is in my mind is an error. It's not as bad as Atheism but it's not fully true. I can't and won't think of Christ or God in any manner that is not Catholic.

            That's fine; I'm happy for others to judge me by my fruit and you by your fruit and more generally, Protestants by their fruit and Catholics by their fruit. I'm fully aware that there is no "neutral" judgment other than God's, but Jesus nevertheless commands his followers to judge trees by their fruit. I completely expect Catholics to have strengths and weaknesses and Protestants to have strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully I can be part of identifying these during my lifetime.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm not sure I would wager my salvation on the doctrine of impassivity; would you? This is a test to see how strongly you believe divine impassivity. Would you prefer to be condemned to hell/​oblivion rather than worship a God who has [disciplined] emotions?

            I don't see how any theistic personalist "god" with emotions and who is a moral agent can be God?

          • You seem to have presupposed that the essence of emotion is chaos. I realize that does not strictly flow from your "Emotions are chaotic", but it does provide me with a way to understand what you're writing. When I do that, I immediately hit a problem not only based on theological concerns (which I have voiced), because of the following science on emotions:

            When emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions. (Descartes' Error, xii)

            So when it comes to human thinking, it would appear that thinking is rather entwined with emotions! It is not at all clear to me that one can say that God thinks analogously to how we think, but does not feel analogously to how we feel. Indeed, I would like to suggest that the either/or here helped cause the rise of nominalism with Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. Nominalism is deeply related to voluntarism, with the balancing opposite of intellectualism. I find neither extreme to be a good place to rest. It gets worse. When the war is between intellectualism and voluntarism, voluntarism wins. Do you not see that our age is obsessed with power? I can elaborate, but I'm trying not to write a "vast document dump".

            I don't know what you mean by "theistic personalist "god"". What I do believe is that Jesus Christ Incarnate "is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." (Heb 1:3) You are welcome to introduce me to Catholic thinking on that verse.

    • Paul Vinci

      Very interesting argument . I am going to save this and use it in the the future

  • Jim the Scott

    Brian Davies(Philosopher and Priest) on Theodicy.

    "To be blunt, I suggest that many contemporary philosophers writing on the
    problem of evil (both theists and non-theists) have largely been wasting their
    time... They are like people attacking or defending tennis players because they
    fail to run a mile in under four minutes. Tennis players are not in the business
    of running four-minute miles. Similarly, God is not something with respect to
    which moral evaluation (whether positive or negative) is appropriate."END QUOTE

    God is not a moral agent people. God is metaphysically and ontologically good but he is not morally good in the unequivocal way a created human or angel is "morally good".

    • Suppose that we make a digital simulation with sentient, sapient beings. Should they view their creators as moral agents? I realize this is not directly analogous to how you understand God, but I suspect your answer to that question might shed some light on the matter.

      • Jim the Scott

        Well from John Searle I have learned to be very very skeptical a real A.I. is possible.

        So on that level I might regard it as an absurd question.

        OTOH by definition in that case you bring forth their "creators" would actually be moral agents and unlike God they would lack the Inconceivability the real God affords us. Plus their "creators" are only so in the equivocal sense. Maybe I could use a 3D bio printer or some weird as of yet to be invented future tech to "construct" a ready made adult human being using cloned tissue but I wouldn't be that person's "creator".
        I am just taking existing human biomass and making a human in an un-natural manner. I already made three people in the natural manner with help from my wife and I don't need a degree in genetic engineering nor violate the Laws of God and man.

        Humans are by nature creatures & moral agents we can be nothing else.

        God is neither.

        • That's all fine, but one reason to speak in terms of digital beings (problems with AI notwithstanding) is that we would be "God" in some ways to them:

               (1) omnipotent
               (2) omniscient
               (3) omnipresent

          And so, my scenario drives a wedge between those characteristics and what makes God essentially God. :-)

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't see how we would or could be? Why am I not then "god" too my children by this standard? I mean I am their Father and God is our Father etc?

          • I'm led to believe that people most strongly think of God via how they see their father. You had/have three kids; surely you know that things are awfully … merged while they are young, right? Many distinctions only really take shape during maturity.

          • Jim the Scott

            I am not sure where you are going with this Luke? You want to philosophically solve the problem of evil? Recognize the fact God is not a moral agent unequivocally compared to human moral agents. God is metaphysically and ontologically good but not morally good as we are morally good.

            All modern theodicies presuppose God is suppose to be morally good as we are morally good. Given God's nature as conceived classically that is incoherent.

          • I am not sure where you are going with this Luke?

            Your overall point appears to be that if we understand God correctly, then there won't appear to be a problem of evil. Is that correct?

            You want to philosophically solve the problem of evil?

            No, I want to carve out and discard understandings of God which are irrelevant to said "understand God correctly". So for example, the fact that God is omnipotent/​omniscient/​omnipresent may well be irrelevant to your point. If so, I think that is an interesting thing to point out. It may even be important.

            God is metaphysically and ontologically good but not morally good as we are morally good.

            Well, if God shaped everything about us, then surely he had complete control over what we would consider good vs. evil. I rarely see that acknowledged in discussions like this. God is all too often treated as a scientific hypothesis for the evidence, as if our grounding in reality (fact and value aspects) is something/​someone other than God.

          • Jim the Scott

            Still not getting your point?

            >Your overall point appears to be that if we understand God correctly, then there won't appear to be a problem of evil. Is that correct?

            Why is that a problem? That seems a truism.

            >No, I want to carve out and discard understandings of God which are irrelevant to said "understand God correctly". So for example, the fact that God is omnipotent/​omniscient/​omnipresent may well be irrelevant to your point. If so, I think that is an interesting thing to point out. It may even be important.

            I don't understand you here? I don't deny God's omnipotence/omniscience or his omnipresence. What do you want to discard?

            >Well, if God shaped everything about us, then surely he had complete control over what we would consider good vs. evil.

            Yes & no you need to qualify the question. It is too general & without agreed on definition fallacies of equivocation can pop up.

            >I rarely see that acknowledged in discussions like this. God is all too often treated as a scientific hypothesis for the evidence, as if our grounding in reality (fact and value aspects) is something/​someone other than God.

            It's a rational discussion of God via the science of philosophy and natural theology. Why should it be treated otherwise?

          • I think I will suspend this conversation for now, unless a third person chooses to step in and help grease the wheels.

          • Jim the Scott

            Well we are not on the same page theologically or philosophically. So that is best.

            Peace.

  • Rob Abney

    In conclusion, I think it is very reasonable to explain natural evil by appealing to some of the angels’ poorly choosing how to arrange the laws of physics.

    It doesn't seem to me that the laws of physics are poorly arranged when "natural disasters, diseases, predatorial animals, and bodily weaknesses exist", many of these events happen everyday without causing suffering. Suffering is only present when these cause "harm to man by thwarting his natural desires, or by preventing the full development of his powers" (from Catholic Encyclopedia definition of physical evil). As we have been discussing here, evil is present when there is an absence of good.

    • David Nickol

      Will there still be natural disasters after the Resurrection of the Dead? It is my understanding that all who are saved and are resurrected at the end of time will have physical bodies and will live in a physical universe (although presumably a transformed one). I don't take it as a given that natural disasters must, of necessity, exist in any version of a physical universe.

      • Rob Abney

        From Justin Martyr, The Resurrection of the Flesh in Its Absolute Identity and Perfection. Because the Belief of This Had Become Weak.
        "the raiment and shoes of the children of Israel remained unworn and fresh for the space of forty years; Deuteronomy 29:5 that in their very persons the exact point of convenience and propriety checked the rank growth of their nails and hair, so that any excess herein might not be attributed to indecency; that the fires of Babylon injured not either the mitres or the trousers of the three brethren, however foreign such dress might be to the Jews; Daniel 3:27 that Jonah was swallowed by the monster of the deep, in whose belly whole ships were devoured, and after three days was vomited out again safe and sound; that Enoch and Elias, who even now, without experiencing a resurrection (because they have not even encountered death), are learning to the full what it is for the flesh to be exempted from all humiliation, and all loss, and all injury, and all disgrace — translated as they have been from this world, and from this very cause already candidates for everlasting life; — to what faith do these notable facts bear witness, if not to that which ought to inspire in us the belief that they are proofs and documents of our own future integrity and perfect resurrection? For, to borrow the apostle's phrase, these were figures of ourselves; 1 Corinthians 10:6 and they are written that we may believe both that the Lord is more powerful than all natural laws about the body, and that He shows Himself the preserver of the flesh the more emphatically, in that He has preserved for it its very clothes and shoes."
        EDIT: That's from Tertullian not Martyr

        • David Nickol

          It's not clear to me how is answers the question I posed: Will there still be natural disasters after the Resurrection of the Dead?

          If natural disasters are necessarily a part of living in a material universe, then we can expect them after the resurrection of the dead. If natural disasters are only a part of living in this particular material universe instead of another, more hospitable, kind of material universe, then it is just stating the obvious to say natural disasters occur in our universe because our universe is the kind of universe natural disasters occur in.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It helps to always remember that this life is an entrance exam.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'll tell you how I conceive of it. I think there will still be the chaos of the sea (I sure hope so in any case; it is beautiful to behold), but I think we will have learned how to live and move gracefully (and safely) in it.

            I agree with Dr. Bonnette that our present inability to live and move gracefully in this world is part of the divine pedagogy (though, to nitpick, I have to confess I don't think the "exam" metaphor is really the best way to go). I liken it to watching my kids make their own artwork when they were younger. I could have stepped in, taken the crayon, said "no, that's not how you do it", and produced a technically "better" representation in a much shorter amount of time. But that "better" result would not really be better, because it would have been devoid of their participation, and that had infinite worth in its own right. Similarly, I am not convinced that things would be "better" if God had bestowed upon us a complete creation wherein we could already move gracefully amidst the chaos of the sea. I think our participation in that act of completion is what is desired.

          • Rob Abney

            The answer is yes there will be natural disasters but they will not thwart man's desires or prevent the full development of his powers. Instead of referring to them as disasters we'll just call it nature.

  • David Nickol

    Genesis 1:31: God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good. Evening came, and morning followed—the sixth day.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      But that doesn't sink the argument does it? If what God had made included freedom, he presumably found that freedom in itself to be good, even if it carried with it the possibility of deleterious side effects.

  • David Nickol

    Furthermore, it is possible that the angels’ freedom could extend to choosing what the laws of physics would be for the universe.

    The acid test, it seems to me, of any theodicy is how helpful it is in dealing with those who are suffering from a physical evil. When a loved one is dying of cancer, imagine trying to explain to them that it is because God subcontracted some of the work of creating the universe, and some bad angels sabotaged the laws of nature.

    As far as I am aware, the idea is invented out of whole cloth. Anything known about the creation of the universe necessarily comes from revelation, and I am going out on a limb here and saying there is nothing in revelation that even hints at God delegating any part of the act of creation to angels. Since (as acknowledged), no one but God has the ability to create, the scenario in the OP requires an omniscient God to accept the flawed input of evil angels into his creative acts. Frankly, the whole idea sounds like it belongs in a religion other than Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      The acid test, it seems to me, of any theodicy is how helpful it is in dealing with those who are suffering from a physical evil.

      Oh my God, I would hope not!! This is like saying that the loved ones of murder victims should determine legislation on capital punishment. Precisely because they are in emotional anguish, asking them to receive or engage in rational argument on the topic is totally out of place.

      Theodicy should be a theoretical response to a theoretical question that we can't help but ask. It is not meant to be part of an existential or therapeutic response.

      • David Nickol

        Theodicy should be a theoretical response to a theoretical question that we can't help but ask. It is not meant to be part of an existential or therapeutic response.

        While I agree in practice that trying to explain the problem of evil to someone who has just undergone tremendous suffering is rarely the right approach, nevertheless I wholeheartedly disagree with what you seem to be saying. I don't think one usually reads a book like C. S. Lewis's The Problem of Pain or Harold Kushner's When Bad Things Happen to Good People out of disinterested curiosity in a philosophical question. People who were raised to believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, all-loving deity want to know—when they themselves suffer, or when loved ones suffer—how it can be so.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          That's true, I agree.

          I don't think anyone ever really approaches any philosophical questions from a position of disinterested curiosity, and that's not what I meant to convey with the word, "theoretical". Maybe it would be better to say that theodicy is meant to be an intellectual response to an intellectual problem, as distinct from a compassionate response to an emotional crisis.

          To the extent that theodicy can remove intellectual stumbling blocks to faith in a loving God, and to the extent that faith in a loving God may help one weather a personal crisis, to that extent theodicy has a role to play in our response to crises. But even there, I'm not sure that removal of intellectual stumbling blocks per se should be expected to ultimately "make sense" of the situation. I think theodicy succeeds if it simply carves out the intellectual space wherein something else can happen. That something else is what I would understand to be an authentic perception of God's faithfulness, and an authentic response to God's grace. I think that is ultimately what people are looking for (even if they might not name it that way) when they read a book like The Problem of Pain.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      nothing in revelation that even hints at God delegating any part of the act of creation to angels

      If we are talking about the concept of incorporeal angels that Aquinas developed, maybe that is true. But if we conceive of angels in the more general Biblical sense of being messengers of God, I think that is less clear.

      In any case, Genesis certainly indicates a sort of dark non-human/pre-human freedom that exists in creation, in the form of the serpent. To my mind, that is the essential point.

    • The acid test, it seems to me, of any theodicy is how helpful it is in dealing with those who are suffering from a physical evil. When a loved one is dying of cancer, imagine trying to explain to them that it is because God subcontracted some of the work of creating the universe, and some bad angels sabotaged the laws of nature.

      What if I can produce a litany of evidence-based reasons for why cancer treatments are not vastly beyond where they are today? What if I can show that humans have been knowingly irresponsible for millennia, centuries, decades, and years? In other words: what if I can show that no matter the damage caused by bad angels, God has provided humans with every resource they need to fight back? Would this help at all? Note that this is just the "ministry of condemnation" (2 Cor 3).

      What if I can point to Jesus as the founder of my faith, my tradition, and that the founder was not above his servants like a king is above the servant who cleans the toilets? What if I can point to the idea of unlimited love and grace—in comparison to only giving people what they "deserve"—as a foundation of an entirely new order of humankind, one in which we go out of our way to help each other and deal (fully!) with our faults in the process? Were a sufficiently large group of such people to organize and work toward cures to disease and cancer, I wonder what would happen. Maybe God's power would be un-veiled (Hab 3:3–5). Maybe creation really is waiting to obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God—provided we suffer with Christ. (Rom 8:16–25)

      I don't think argument is going to do a whole lot for someone suffering from physical evil. Only action will prove worthwhile. Empirical evidence. Christians showing that God is engaged with reality instead of holding back. But God seems to insist on something absolutely obnoxious: that he work with humans instead of using them as tools. Humans don't seem to like that overmuch. :-/

      • David Nickol

        If I read you correctly, a dumbed down version of what you are saying is that Christianity gives us all the tools we need to mitigate or eliminate material evils if all we do is join together, work together, and love one another. I don't see how that is anywhere close to being true, although it would be a vastly better world if all of humanity worked together in love and peace and harmony.

        But God seems to insist on something absolutely obnoxious: that he work with humans instead of using them as tools. Humans don't seem to like that overmuch. :-/

        Who created humans, and why are they such as they are?

        • If I read you correctly, a dumbed down version of what you are saying is that Christianity gives us all the tools we need to mitigate or eliminate material evils if all we do is join together, work together, and love one another. I don't see how that is anywhere close to being true, although it would be a vastly better world if all of humanity worked together in love and peace and harmony.

          Were Francis Bacon et al justified in what they said that science could do? I envision using that style of justification for my own claim. (Your summary is probably sufficient for now.) I don't know how many generations this project would take, but if you were to take someone from the year 1600 and introduce him/her to 2000, I think [s]he would see tremendous progress and suppose that we could make it all the way. If however there has been some sort of downturn, a slowing, then perhaps there are correctable reasons for that. The only proof of course is to identify them and start correcting them, to see whether the course is righted.

          Who created humans, and why are they such as they are?

          I'm pretty sure YHWH did, without any help. This allows me to suggest that the potential is perfect, even if the actualization is problematic. Those who disbelieve that God set things up probably don't have license to suggest that the potential is anything like perfect. That in turn means we ought to expect less from ourselves. If I'm right, their imaginations are pathetic and damaging to humans. If they're right, my imagination is vainglorious and damaging to humans.

    • Stephen Edwards

      Not everything has to be found in revelation. However, the book of Job seems to indicate that angles are responsible for at least some natural suffering. Also, the New Testament indicates that spiritual powers are responsible for problems in the world for example Romans 8: 20 - 22

      "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now."

      Furthermore, some Church Fathers argued that demons were responsible for natural evil and their thoughts contribute to tradition which helps make up revelation.

    • ClayJames

      The acid test, it seems to me, of any theodicy is how helpful it is in dealing with those who are suffering from a physical evil. When a loved one is dying of cancer, imagine trying to explain to them that it is because God subcontracted some of the work of creating the universe, and some bad angels sabotaged the laws of nature.

      Every time I explain to my son why he has to get a shot, it does little to help him deal with the pain. I fail to see why how this acid test is helpful.

      Another problem with this test is that it can (and I should say should) push people away from naturalistic explanations and towards theistic ones. Clearly it is more helpful to tell your 6 year old dying of cancer that this is temporary suffering that even in the worst case will lead him to heaven than to tell him that as soon as his cancer overtakes him, he will cease to be and will lose everything he has and everyone he knows.

      For these and other reasons i reject your acid test.

      • David Nickol

        Another problem with this test is that it can (and I should say should) push people away from naturalistic explanations and towards theistic ones.

        I said, "the acid test of any theodicy . . . ." Do you understand the meaning of the word theodicy? By definition, a theodicy will deal with theism.

        • ClayJames

          So the question becomes why would an acid test regarding an explanation within theism not apply to other explanations in general?

  • Then this god would be cruel in his gift to angels, knowing it would cause such tremendous suffering to his creation, and uncariing in his refusal to intervene to significantly reduce the suffering caused by his delegates.

    Such a god is inconsistent with Catholic theology.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      If God has mediated freedom to creation via angels, and if all of creation will one day partake in that freedom in some glorious way, and if any impingement on that freedom would take away from that final glory, then the eventual benefit to creation may outweigh whatever price has been payed in terms of angelic screw-ups.

      Of course this is both speculative and optimistic, but I can't see how it is incoherent or inconsistent with Catholic theology.

      • Yes again it's just skeptical theism. Its trusting that god has some reason.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          I guess so, sure.

          To be clear, I don't think I am completely agnostic with respect to God's reasons for allowing evil. I would propose that we see plenty of "hints" in our own lives (perhaps enhanced by scriptural reflection, perhaps not) as to why a temporary allowance for evil might eventually bring about a greater good. I think we see "hints" toward a justification for evil, in that evil seems to be very deeply connected to freedom, and to the grace of allowing less than perfection, and to the particularity and finitude of love, and to the non-coercive nature of charity, and to a divine pedagogy wherein we undergo a sort of theosis. All of those things are hints in a particular direction.

          I would readily concede that my "hints in a particular direction" don't seem at all sufficient to address something like Auschwitz. So, in that sense I am indeed a "skeptical theist".

          Nonetheless I think my "hints" still provide sufficient reason for hope, so maybe I am not entirely skeptical.

          • David Nickol

            If there were no evil, all of the television programs I watch would be boring. :p

    • Stephen Edwards

      I tried explaining in the article the moral reasoning behind God allowing this. You may not think it is justified, but I think it is reasonable that God does not withhold His gift of freedom and participation in helping create. God may not be able to justifiably withhold His gifts. God can make up for suffering that occurs with heaven.

      • Again, I see no reason for such a gift, or how giving this freedom is worth all suffering. It seems not just unreasonable but wilfully negligent if not outright malicious.

        If you're real argument is skeptical theism, that's fine, but it's no justification for god's allowing suffering it's a recognition that you don't know.

        I certainly don't accept that god can "make up" for this in heaven. I don't think anything can make up for a parent losing a child to disease for example.

        • Stephen Edwards

          Well the reasoning that I offered is that it would be unjust for God to deny freedom to beings that at least for some time did not bound their will to His.

          And then secondly, that God must allow beings to partake of co-creation with Him.

          This then results in the there being natural suffering.

          I'm not saying that these things are so great that they are worth suffering, but rather that justice demands that God allow this because it is part of the reciprocal act of God's love/relation with His creatures.

          • David Nickol

            Well the reasoning that I offered is that it would be unjust for God to deny freedom to beings that at least for some time did not bound their will to His.

            According to some here, God is not a moral agent. So how could he do something unjust?

          • Stephen Edwards

            I think God is a moral being.

          • God has chosen to limit human freedom in this way so it cannot be unjust to limit the freedom of these angels.

            I get it you're saying all the pain suffering and evil is justified by God's need to gift angels the freedom to make such a treacherous world.

            I don't see that as being worth it.

            I see no reason why a god "must" do anything. Why not just create the universe himself?

            Justice demands that there be angels who create a world where children get fatal disease?

            This is a poor attempt to deflect the obvious flaws of this universe on theism by saying god isn't responsible, he delegated this responsibility.

            Its just skeptical theism.

          • Stephen Edwards

            God must be just. How this manifests is open to debate. I am suggesting that God must give creatures freedom between good and evil for at least some amount of time. Also, that God must allow creatures to co-create with Him. For the angels this means helping decide the laws of physics. Humans don't co-create this way because humans are already a part of the universe that has these laws. God could have conceivably withheld this gift from the angels, but it is part of the necessary reciprocal relation that God must grant to the angels. I am arguing that God cannot justly withhold co-creation.

          • It appears on your view god had really no discretion in how he created. He had no other good option but to create flawed creatures who who create a flawed universe that inevitably led to enormous amounts of suffering?

            So for example, creating the laws of physics himself in such a way as there would be less suffering, or creating morally perfect creatures, or creating much more resilient humans, were not open the him?

            Why not? Why do you insist he had to gift co-creation to angels. Why did he need angels anyway?

          • Stephen Edwards

            The creatures have free will which the misused. Not being able to choose evil would be better, but I am arguing that there has to be some time where creatures are not bound to only choosing good.

            He did not have to create angels, but it is not wrong for Him to create angels.

            Then I am arguing that since He did create angels He needed to give them the gift of co-creation because He cannot withhold that reciprocal type relation to participate with Him in creating.

          • Stephen Edwards

            It would be more perfect for creatures not to be able to choose evil at all, but I am arguing that God must for some time give them the freedom to choose not to conform their will to God's.

            Furthermore, while God did not have to create angels it is not bad that He did, but since He did, He must then allow them to co-create because that is part of the reciprocal nature of allowing other creatures to share in that gift.

          • Who is talking about choosing evil? We're talking about suffering from "natural"causes.

            Well according to you it's been catastrophic that he created angels because he delegated the laws of physics to them which has resulted in millions of humans suffering painful death and loss, but apparently the gift of co-creation makes it worth it? Not to me.

          • Stephen Edwards

            You use the words "worth it". I didn't argue that it's "worth it" in the sense that it is some great thing we should be happy about, rather that it is an issue of justice, even if we don't like the results.

          • Sure. It is clearly unjust to have parents of toddlers watch their children die, begging god to save them. It is unjust for hundreds of thousands to be wiped out through no fault of their own by disaster so that god can have angels use our universe as their sandbox.

            These evils are gratuitous, and god cannot contract out his liability out by giving angels control of design physics .

          • Stephen Edwards

            But that does assume that God can justifiably withhold the gift of co-creation, which He may not be able to do.

          • Indeed he may not exist at all and natural evil may be exactly what it seems to be: the consequence of laws of nature. Not the effect of a forced gift by an incompetent creator.

            Some omnipotence if he has to get angels to create the universe and they do a devastating poor job .

          • Stephen Edwards

            It wouldn't be a limit on God's power were He to allow the angels to help decide the laws. Again, God is the creator, but He perhaps must allow the angels to help decide what the laws are due to His love and sharing.

          • David Nickol

            It wouldn't be a limit on God's power were He to allow the angels to help decide the laws.

            Agreed. It just would have been a lapse in judgment.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Not if God has to allow this, due to His love and necessary sharing of His nature.

          • Stephen Edwards

            I am arguing that while yes it would be better for creatures to not be able to choose evil, God cannot justly force them to conform to that. Furthermore, that while God did not have to create angels, it is not bad that He did, but since He did He could not justly withhold co-creation from them.

        • ClayJames

          I certainly don't accept that god can "make up" for this in heaven. I don't think anything can make up for a parent losing a child to disease for example.

          I have a hard time believing that you really think this is true.

          Universe A: Parents live in a world where kids might die of cancer but know that after their death they would be reunited with them for eternity.

          Universe B: Parents live in a world where kids do not die of cancer but once they die, they cease to be and will never see their kids again.

          I have a hard time believing someone would truly pick B over A.

          • Universe A doesn't make up for it. Neither does universe b.

            Universe C. As soon as the kid gets sick. The parents pray and god heals the .child is much better.

            "Downside" is the creation of the angels is interfered with to save a child's life.

            Universe D, no diseases kill kids because god doesn't allow it.

    • ClayJames

      What is the difference between giving the angels free will and giving humans free will? Do you think God would be cruel by giving humans free will?

      • David Nickol

        What is the difference between giving the angels free will and giving humans free will?

        The issue is not with giving angels free will. It has always been taught in the Catholic Church that both men and angels were given free will. The issue is whether the angels were given a role to play in designing the laws of physics, whether bad angels deliberately sabotaged the universe, and whether God left in the defects they introduced out of respect for the free will of the bad angels.

        • ClayJames

          No, that doesn’t seem to be the issue in Brian’s post. He says that it is inconsistent with Catholic theology for God to give angels free will knowing they will make decisions that will lead to suffering and then not intervening to stop that suffering.

          This equally applies to human beings, that is why I asked why it’s not inconsistent with humans but somehow inconsistent with angels.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Here is another angle on why God made this world the way he did -- and in what sense this world accomplishes his perfect intention, even though there is ignorance, sin, struggle for survival, pain, and even atheism in it.

    The following two paragraphs are excerpted from the Epilogue of my book, Origin of the Human Species, pp. 212-213. I would have cited more, but don't want to violate the copyright on my own book!

    "Were God’s presence as evident as the noonday sun, who would dare defy natural or revealed moral laws? Still, how meaningful would be obedience? Moral virtue’s
    value is far greater when chosen for love of God and moral goodness, not from
    fear of certain punishment. Even so, hell motivates only believers, not atheists who deny its existence. As Fëdor Dostoevski aptly points out, if God does not exist, everything is permissible. Since naturalistic evolutionism is the near-universal refuge of atheism, an evolutionary world becomes a world where persons experience maximum moral freedom, including freedom to deny God’s existence and moral law. Those who choose moral evil can deny the moral order’s reality, just as they deny God. In seeking God’s truth, the morally good person must overcome evolution’s potential deception and grasp the underlying metaphysical need for a First Cause Who creates and sustains all of nature’s laws, including any evolutionary mechanisms."

    "Since human beings are free to reject God and His moral laws by embracing
    evolutionary naturalism, they can also fail to attain their last end, eternal
    happiness united with their Creator. Why does God permit such self-demolishing
    liberty? God respects a spiritual creature’s freedom even to allowing self-destruction. We might wish it otherwise, but God manifests His greatest glory and perfection by calling forth our greatest qualitative perfection. Free agents’ greatest qualitative perfection manifests when they choose moral good while self-deceptive evil beckons. Naturalism’s possibility, the unintended side effect of creatures’ maximum secondary causality, offers illusory emancipation from moral constraint. A world in which evolutionary naturalism appears a speculative possibility is perfectly designed for building the greatest saints."

    • Paul Vinci

      I like this , thanks for sharing .

      i am just reading and learning on this post . . There have been some great comments so fr

    • David Nickol

      Were God’s presence as evident as the noonday sun, who would dare defy natural or revealed moral laws? Still, how meaningful would be obedience?

      Is it not assumed that for Satan and the angels who started out good but eventually "fell," God's presence was as evident as the noonday sun?

      • Dennis Bonnette

        It is evident that the angels were capable of some form of self-deception through pride. The weakness of our flesh would arguably make us cower before manifest spiritual omnipotence. We were not present to observe the initial angelic conditions. But, we know all too well the fragility of our human corporeal state. I cannot speak for the angels, but I know that I fear the omnipotent Lord of All. And yes, I think it IS easier to sin when one convinces himself that there is no God to judge his actions.

        • David Nickol

          I must confess I find it difficult to accept that an all-loving God obscures the fact of his existence lest everyone know, love, and obey him too easily. You said in another comment that this life is an entrance exam. If so, the stakes (according to Catholic teaching) are extraordinarily high—eternal bliss versus eternal torment. And unlike the bar exam, the medical boards exam, or a driver's test, you only get one shot. But the claim is that God doesn't want the answers on the exam to be too obvious, otherwise everyone might pass. There's a great old song (great depending on who sings it!) called "To Know Him Is To Love Him." I don't get the argument that this is all too true of God, so he must stay hidden in the shadows.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is possible to look through the wrong end of the telescope in searching for God. The mere fact that something appears “difficult to understand” does not make it intrinsically unintelligible.

            I have long suspected that anyone starting with what is
            essentially some version of the problem of evil may never find the goodness of God to be coherent. The normal order of the philosophical sciences is to first demonstrate God’s existence through metaphysics, then determine his essential
            properties, and finally study his relation to the world in natural theology. Only after one is convinced of God’s existence, goodness, mercy, justice et cetera, can he hope to understand the problem of evil.

            We are in no position to judge God’s motives. It is precisely the extraordinary nature of the eternal reward (union with God) that demands in justice that it be given solely to the worthy. God’s justice and mercy also assures that no one is punished who does not fully deserve it for his own freely chosen sins. God wants everyone to pass the test, but this does not mean that all will deserve to do so.

            We are virtually asking God to obliterate our freedom in order to guarantee that all shall pass the test which is this earthly life. Plato insists that if any man knows the truth, he will act virtuously. That is true in the sense that if we knew perfectly the relation between our immediate act and our last end, we could never choose evil. But that would be to give the knowledge perfectly possessed only by those already in heaven or hell to those who are still taking the “test.”

            We are free to incline ourselves to the good or evil here and now, and that is all that is needed to determine what kind of person we choose to be. No one goes to heaven or hell without choosing his destiny, even if he does not grasp it fully in this life. The indifferent make their choice by not caring enough for the good to seek the truth and embrace it when found. God never unjustly judges those whose ignorance is not their own fault.

            I wish we all could be made like puppets to be “forced” to go to heaven. But then, God has the right to give man the choice to be a greater saint by being “blessed” to be among “those who have not seen and yet believed.”

            To recognize that God’s ways are inscrutable is not to say that they lack mercy, goodness, and justice. It is merely to grasp that we are not God ourselves, and thus, now “see but through a glass darkly.”

          • Rob Abney

            The normal order of the philosophical sciences is to first demonstrate God’s existence through metaphysics, then determine his essential
            properties, and finally study his relation to the world in natural theology. Only after one is convinced of God’s existence, goodness, mercy, justice et cetera, can he hope to understand the problem of evil.

            You nailed it here Dr. Bonnette!

          • It is possible to look through the wrong end of the telescope in searching for God.

            That's a wonderful metaphor; is it your own? It reminds me of the following I just read from Anne Inman:

            The premodern tradition as a whole believed that revelation filled out what could be known from human experience. It was only with the Enlightenment that evidence was required for revelation itself.
                The rationalist apologetic strategy adopted to meet this first challenge, as exemplified in the philosophy of Richard Swinburne, has tended to be deficient in two respects. It has exhibited a certain blindness to the general problem of how the finite human being can be said to apprehend the infinite God. If God, as other, as uncreated, or as ultimate reality, is beyond the limits of human comprehension, how can Christians claim experience or knowledge of God? Moreover, the quest for evidence runs the danger of denying God’s transcendence, or complete otherness. (Evidence and Transcendence, 35–36)

            What I find most ironic is that modernist philosophy gave birth to postmodernist philosophy, a key tenet of which is that modernism tends to blind us to the Other. The West learned through Colonization and the two World Wars that it wasn't actually the epitome of Reason and Morality and Civilization. It had to actually be open to something—someone—other than itself. The West had to become teachable. And yet, we still try to fit God in our boxes, to categorize him and measure him. We haven't learned our lessons. And if that's what we do to God, what are we going to do to fellow humans?

            Only after one is convinced of God’s existence, goodness, mercy, justice et cetera, can he hope to understand the problem of evil.

            I would like to quibble with this. What if one saw a group of Christians conquering evil and giving rise to reconciliation and restoration which blows secular strategies out of the water. Might that be an argument against the problem of evil?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think the atheist would say that it was wonderful that the Christians did good things, but he would still want to know why there was evil to conquer in the first place.

            That is the point at which the problem of evil would still need to be addressed by philosophical reasoning based on a proper metaphysical understanding of God and his essential properties and their relation to the world.

          • True enough. But without Christians actively making sufficient progress against evil, I doubt any theodicy will do the trick.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            As I point out above, Christians can be just as saintly as they possibly can, but atheists will still want a rational explanation as to why an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing God would be compatible with the presence of physical and moral evil in the world. As long as pain and suffering exist, and as long as some men, Christian or not, can do morally unspeakable things, the problem of evil needs to be addressed philosophically as I outlined above.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Unfortunately, regardless of whatever Christians do or do not do regarding evil or even with and to each other, the atheists will still want to know why physical suffering and moral evil can exist if God is all good.

            The behavior of Christians toward each other, even as in the case of that minor Thirty Years "Misunderstanding" might be used as an excuse for some people refusing to become Christian -- but it would not likely move an atheist one way or the other from his philosophical objections to the claim that God is all good, and yet, evil exists.

            The problem of evil must be addressed in natural theology. Still, the proper ordering of the questions is (1) whether God exists, (2) what are his properties, and (3) what is his relation to the created world. The problem of evil fits under the third topic and can best be understood rationally only after God's existence and goodness have been established. Only then can we best address this objection to God's existence and goodness with good hope of a satisfying rational solution.

          • I don't disagree that the cognitive is needed in addition to the embodied. We are creatures of language and rationality and not just of action and power. My point is more than whenever the language and rationality seem divorced from action and power, one has biblical warrant to get extremely suspicious. For non-gnostics, language and rationality have no meaning if they are 100% divorced from action and power. Here's a bit from John M. Oesterreicher's foreword to Claude Tresmontant:

                To the ancient Hebrews, then, truth is not an idea but a living thing. The very moment the children of Israel, fearing and trusting God, attend to His demands, truth springs out of the earth (Ps. 84:12). When they depart from the right way, truth stumbles in the market place, indeed vanishes and is missing from their midst (Is. 59:14–15). With an idol enthroned in the Temple, with false worship supplanting the sacrifice to the living God, with power subverting the true faith, “truth is cast to the ground” (Dan. 8:12). And in the fullness of time the unheard-of is heard: “I am the truth” (John 14:6). In Christ God reveals Himself and addresses man, not in empty words but in words that are deeds and love; in Christ God’s Word is made flesh and tents with us. Now the promise of promises is fulfilled. Salvation is come, truth lives among men. (A Study of Hebrew Thought, ix–x)

            Let me go a step further. One of the central contentions of the Bible is that there is a fundamental difference between:

                 (I) how reality currently is
                (II) how reality ought to be

            Theodicy must bridge that gap in its entirety. But if it cannot depend on any actions which have begun to bridge the gap, it will be an abstract thought-castle, uninhabitable by the majority of humans and especially the ancient Hebrews. If it can only depend on actions in the distant past, it takes on the hue of ancient myth, in the derogatory sense propounded by both fundamentalists and new atheists. Only if there is continuing movement from (I) → (II) will any theodicy be plausible to very many people. Furthermore, unless a given theodicy shows some sort of unique power to move us from (I) → (II), it will seem more like a just-so story than empowering truth.

            Consider an analogy. You have limited funding and you have to choose which scientific research project to fund. Will you not judge the promises of what will be obtained by the track record of the people making those promises? You don't have infinite funding, nor do you have infinite time. You can only pick the most promising candidate. Will you make your choice entirely on rationalistic grounds? Or will you also examine the empirical evidence, the track record? And if the track record was good for 10 years but bad for 20 years after, will you fund that person?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fully agree that Christians must embody their faith in actions and evident virtue if they want to attract others to their faith.

            But in the intellectual battle with atheists, the first line of offense is to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of theism and the rational defects of atheism. Otherwise, atheists might tend to think of Christians as benighted fools -- as they presently likely do.

            Once one is less rigidly committed to militant atheism, the attractiveness of sanctity may well prevail. Notice that even Christ worked miracles to prove his divinity despite his personal holiness. The Catholic Church holds that its claim to truth is proven by the miracles of Christ and his disciples. As such, the miracles serve the role of the rational evidence for supernatural claims for most people, it appears.

          • Rob Abney

            I must confess I find it difficult to accept that an all-loving God obscures the fact of his existence lest everyone know, love, and obey him too easily

            Great to hear, I think that will make a good confession, I hope the penance is light.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi David,

            Perhaps God came up with a way to know him that is accessible to all, from the greatest intellect to the lowliest simpleton, which is through faith. If knowing God was a matter of being smart enough, then some less knowledgeable folks might be unable to figure it out.

            If there was a persuasive enough intellectual argument that clearly proved God exists, it would have been made and repeated by now. In my opinion, Christians can offer reasons and provide evidence that points to God, but there is always room left for faith.

          • David Nickol

            Do you think atheists are people who willfully refuse to believe God exists by consciously or unconsciously lying to themselves about an insufficiency of evidence?

            It seems to me there are actually two conflicting viewpoints about the evidence for the existence of God. Some people, including some who have written here over the years, see God everywhere. And of course St. Paul in Romans 1:18-21 argues

            The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickednessp of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.

            Then there seems to be a view that God has kept himself just hidden enough so that people who do not want to believe in him are not "compelled" to.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi David,

            Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment.

            [Do you think atheists are people who willfully refuse to believe God exists by consciously or unconsciously lying to themselves about an insufficiency of evidence?]

            I really don’t know what atheists think, but my guess is there are many who are completely rational and genuinely don’t think God exists.

            What evidence (and/or reasons) would you need to convince you that God exists?

    • My apologies, but I want to question everything in this snippet of your excerpt:

      The following two paragraphs are excerpted from the Epilogue of my book, Origin of the Human Species, pp. 212-213. I would have cited more, but don't want to violate the copyright on my own book!

      Were God’s presence as evident as the noonday sun, who would dare defy natural or revealed moral laws? Still, how meaningful would be obedience? Moral virtue’s value is far greater when chosen for love of God and moral goodness, not from fear of certain punishment. …

      (1) I think the OT testifies to the fact that "fear of certain punishment" is in fact not a way to obtain moral virtue—of any kind. I cannot point to any time where that actually worked for more than a very short time in the recorded history (or for the pedants, "history" for the purposes of this conversation). Going to the NT, if it is the case that "perfect love casts out fear", then fear cannot be the basis for learning about and mirroring God's love. It may be preparatory; it may clear out brush, but it cannot be the basis.

      (2) I claim ignorance cannot possibly be a basis for meaningful freedom. Jesus said the very opposite:

      So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)

      Richard Swinburne also thinks that ignorance can be a basis for meaningful freedom; I like Anne Inman's response:

          Specifically, Swinburne claims he can establish that the probability that God exists is greater than one-half. He sees virtue in the fact that the evidence does not provide more compelling evidence, since he takes the view that if he were to argue for too high a degree of probability, then acceptance of the argument would necessitate belief in God, and a person's freedom to choose not to believe would be compromised: "If God's existence, justice, and intentions became items of evident common knowledge, then man's freedom would in effect be vastly curtailed."[31] The extraordinariness of this statement should not be lost on the reader. Swinburne seems to imply that human freedom is dependent upon a degree of human nescience. (Evidence and Transcendence, 17)

      In contrast to this, it is the Gospel which sets free and the Gospel is knowledge (in the Hellenistic sense, not modern "epistemological" sense), not ignorance. Instead, the correct model seems to be ability to hear: Mark 4:33, John 16:12, 1 Corinthians 3:2, Hebrews 5:14. We should have realized that we could not handle 200 proof Truth from the OT and how YHWH had to be shielded (recall Moses' veil); what we have in the NT is a different way of building us up in Truth, bit by bit, as we are able.

      (3) The display of raw power was useless when it came to Elijah on Mt Carmel (he had to flee Queen Jezebel immediately after). Throughout his ministry including right before the Great Commission, we have "but some doubted". Jesus warned about being misled by miracles, including possibly a resurrection (Mt 24:23–25, Revelation 13). Anything which presupposes that God being more "apparent", ceteris paribus, would improve things, is on shaky ground.

      (4) God being somehow hidden from us or otherwise obscure cannot be for our good; it's precisely the opposite in Daniel 2:11 vs. 2:27–28 and that pattern holds for the entire Bible. God desperately wants to be known; see for example Is 55:6–9 or the New Covenant passages: Jer 31:31–34 and Ezek 36:22–32. The only biblical reason I see for God not being close and apparent to us (Deut 4:7) is our rebellion, our unwillingness to have ever-deepening relationship which is the very sign that we are interacting with a person other than ourselves. It is the noetic effects of sin—Romans 1:19–25—which blind us to God.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        My whole point was not to suggest that God wants to be hidden from us, but that we live in such a world that it is possible to be an atheist -- IF we really want to be one. God reveals himself -- but only to those who have ears to hear and eyes to see. He still respects our freedom, even to blind ourselves willingly. Creating a world in which it is impossible to deceive oneself would eliminate the freedom to freely seek and find the truth that Christ promises to those who seek it. I am not denying the positive values of the Great Commission, but merely showing that this is a world in which it remains possible to deny the truth if one insists on doing so. We can become greater saints when the possibility of self-deception is freely refused because we love the good and keep our hearts open to it. It is evident that atheists abound who have closed their eyes to God's revealed and natural truths, and who do so through the error of scientism and naturalistic evolution. In overcoming that temptation to atheism, those who are saved merit greater blessedness in heaven. That was my primary point.

        God has good cause to permit an evolutionary scenario if that is his means to employ secondary causes to achieve his purposes on earth. Secondary causes manifest the power of God in that he is so powerful that he can even share true causality with creatures. A side effect of giving true secondary causation to creatures is the possibility that men would deny that God is actually behind their causality, and thus thereby to embrace atheism. That is where Darwinian naturalism comes in as a temptation to some men.

        • My whole point was not to suggest that God wants to be hidden from us, but that we live in such a world that it is possible to be an atheist -- IF we really want to be one.

          Yes, but why did it get this way? One possible answer is that Christians—of all stripes—have so neglected their Lord that they are no longer all that interesting in any of the ways that the world judges. We must always be careful of how the world judges, but has a single Christian first thanked God before accepting a Nobel Prize? I am told one Muslim thanked Allah first; have we been one-upped? Suppose an atheist were to encounter the following:

          But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. (1 Corinthians 4:19–20)

          A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)

          “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20–23)

          What should [s]he conclude, when judging Christian behavior by its own internal standards?

          In overcoming that temptation to atheism, those who are saved merit greater blessedness in heaven. That was my primary point.

          I can see an argument that those who believe when it is harder to believe will merit greater reward. On the other hand, if the "measure of faith" is actually just a gift, then maybe that argument falls flat. But I still want to question the "why?" of divine hiddenness (or not-obviousness, or whatever you want to call it).

          A side effect of giving true secondary causation to creatures is the possibility that men would deny that God is actually behind their causality, and thus thereby to embrace atheism. That is where Darwinian naturalism comes in as a temptation to some men.

          I'm going to be absolutely harsh on both of us—Protestant and Catholic—and suggest that had we not mass-murdered each other in the Thirty Years' War, maybe there would have been less reason to doubt that Jesus is God become man crucified by humans who thought themselves just and righteous, raised bodily on the third day by God the Father. I am wary of attributing too much blame to the atheist in all this. Paul told the Jews that the name of God was blasphemed among the nations because of them, not because of the heathens. Surely the same applies to those who claim to follow Jesus Christ, servant-king? (I only criticize because God's mercy and grace is infinite and freely offered.)

  • David Nickol

    I think it is very reasonable to explain natural evil by appealing to some of the angels’ poorly choosing how to arrange the laws of physics.

    What I find bizarre is that there are absolutely no grounds for taking this seriously. It has been called speculation, but speculation is "the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence." But what we lack here is not "firm evidence." We lack any evidence whatsoever. The only reason to entertain this "theory" at all is to try to explain alleged "poor choices" in the creation of the laws of physics. What were they? As far as I know, Christianity does not hold that God botched physics. If there is something wrong with the laws of physics, what is it? What law of physics would be different if God had not taken bad advice from bad angels?

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      We lack any evidence whatsoever.

      I think that is true in a strict sense, but even when there is a lack of positive evidence, one can have diagnoses by exclusion (for example, Alzheimer's Disease has until very recently only been diagnosed by exclusion (at least until autopsy), i.e. by observing that there is cognitive decline and ruling out non-Alzheimer's explanations for that decline).

      I think the OP is basically implying a diagnosis by exclusion argument along these lines:

      1. We "observe" natural evil. (Of course one can deny the reality of natural evil and acknowledge only the reality of pain and suffering; in that case there is no argument to made. But for those who believe that the world "ought not to have" pain and suffering due to natural disasters, there is real natural evil to be accounted for.)
      2. Because of the "ought-ness" or "lack-of-oughtness" of evil, some sort of intentional explanation is required. (Natural Laws might explain pain and suffering, but they are inherently dysteleological and so can't explain the "lack-of-oughtness".)
      3. The only intentional agents of any prominence within a theistic ontology are: God, humans, and angels.
      4. God, by definition, can't be culpable for any sort of evil (*).
      5. Humans seems like very unlikely culprits for natural disasters, since these involve the unfolding of processes that preceded the existence of humans.
      6. That leaves ... angels! Or maybe some sort of intentionally malevolent aliens from another galaxy, or something like that ... but what else is there?

      (*) Per Jim the Scott (and with help from Luke I think I now agree), one can go a different route at this point, at least if one buys into privation theories of evil. One can simultaneously hold that, 1. Evil is a real deficit in creation and that 2. God is the "reason" for that deficit, in the sense that God could have mitigated or "filled in" those deficits, and yet 3. God is not culpable for those deficits because (per the paper that Luke linked) those deficits may in fact be morally correct within a grace-centric understanding of morality, because those deficits may be precisely the means of grace by which we exist. (There is also Jim the Scott's argument that there can in principle be no moral norms by which to judge God, but I would like to think that God is at least somewhat understandable via moral analogy). If one goes this route, then perhaps there is no need to implicate any angels.

      • Stephen Edwards

        I agree with your assessment here Jim. It is more of a process of elimination given one's belief in God. So it is of course speculative, but it is putting forth a reasonable option given the circumstances.

  • Sample1

    Have you all gone insane? Probably not but it sure looks like it to me. Outside social pressure, in group conformity, politeness, and perhaps “X”, has persuaded anyone not seeing the madness in this article to abandon their right senses.

    Good grief!

    Mike

    • Mike

      for me it's pleasure success and the good life that tend to move me away from God whereas suffering, trials and the bitter sweet tragedy of life have the opposite effect.

      don't you find that to be true in your own life?

    • Rob Abney

      What are you objecting to? That angels had part in creation or that angels even exist. I'm guessing that it is about the existence of angels.

  • Stephen Edwards

    Well it is about reconciling God and suffering, it doesn't have to prove itself. It is about offering plausible possibilities.

  • Stephen Edwards

    The traditional answer about Adam and original sin is a separate question I think because that is about why humans are subject to death and concupiscence.

    However, I think it still needs to be explained why the universe has laws that leads to there being hurricanes etc. in the first place. Adam could have sinned and be subject to death, but I don't think that there would 'have' to be hurricanes etc. that he would have to contend with.

    The Bible also seems to indicate that natural evil could be the result of angelic interaction for example in the book of Job and New Testament writings like Romans 8: 20 -22.

  • Stephen Edwards

    The Great Red Spot doesn't affect us so I would not call it an evil since it doesn't lead to suffering, however given that we can be harmed and if we were to go to Jupiter it would affect us, I would say it is still reasonable to consider it a deformity within the natural system that needs to be explained.

    But that being said, it's up to you whether you adopt the solution offered in the article for natural evil, but I think it is a viable and to me plausible solution.

  • Stephen Edwards

    Well I don't think the events themselves are evil, but they can can result in suffering. So I think it is important to explain why there are such features in the universe. If you don't see it is as problem though then that is fine.

  • Stephen Edwards

    Well it is with both because I am wondering why God would create a world with natural events/tendencies that He knows will result in suffering at some point.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I don't want to get into a detailed analysis here, but the general point to remember is that if God chooses to make a physical world at all, he must make things composed of matter (and form). What is composed of matter is subject to decomposition, and hence, the possibility of evil (which is the lack of a perfection due to a given nature, as lameness is to a horse).

      God's only alternative was not to create a material universe at all -- and there go we humans, since we have material bodies! Yes, he could have just stopped with the angels.

      • Stephen Edwards

        But in the resurrection there will not be suffering of matter, even though we will still have a material body.

        • Rob Abney

          From Summa, Supplement Q85: "Now the human body and all that it contains will be perfectly subject to the rational soul, even as the soul will be perfectly subject to God. Wherefore it will be impossible for the glorified body to be subject to any change contrary to the disposition whereby it is perfected by the soul; and consequently those bodies will be impassible."

          • Stephen Edwards

            Is Aquinas saying that bodies will not change at all? Or is he just saying that bodies will not corrupt?

            If he is saying that they won't change at all, I would argue that Jesus moved and did things after His resurrection.

            If he is saying that they won't corrupt I agree, but then it shows that material bodies don't have to decompose, which is my point.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Good point. But that is after the effects of original sin have all been removed, not merely spiritually as in baptism, but also in the material effects as well. We must recall that Adam and Eve had the possibility of not dying, not the impossibility of dying. Original sin destroyed that preternatural immortality. So, they always had the metaphysical possibility of decomposition. It was just not realized as long as they remained in the state of grace. Following sin, that "protection" was removed. Following the resurrection it will not only be possible not to die, but "built in" that death shall be no more.

            For one thing, after the resurrection all in heaven will be fixed in the state of grace for all eternity.

            The underlying philosophical principle here is the basis of "Every man is mortal." It does not say that every man must die, but that every man can die because he is composed of matter and form, and hence, that that composition can be destroyed.

            But God, who is the Author of Life, has total dominion over what actually happens. Here again, though, we see that the presence of evil and suffering in the world arises from the creature's sin, not God's creative act.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Right.

      • George

        "What is composed of matter is subject to decomposition"

        Who created that rule?

        • Dennis Bonnette

          By definition, what is "composed" can be subject to "de-composition."

          But what this really means in an Aristotelian context is that what is composed of matter and form can be decomposed, i.e., the form can be separated from the matter.

          Yes, if you are an atomist, you don't accept hylemorphism, and so, for you nothing really exists above the atomic state.

          An atomist is himself merely a pile of atoms without any real existential unity. I made a video dealing with that:
          https://aleteia.org/2015/04/27/video-atheistic-materialism-does-richard-dawkins-exist/

          The topic is: "Does Richard Dawkins exist?"

  • Stephen Edwards

    But with those examples, food and rocks are chosen to be misused. We can't choose for there not to be hurricanes, diseases etc.

  • Stephen Edwards

    Well people can't always get out of the way of hurricanes or avoid diseases so easily.

  • Rob Abney

    The answer being: Tommy likes comic books.

    • Jim the Scott

      Tommy equates "God" with superman and wouldn't know 'Subsistent Being itself" from DC or Marvel.

      Of course Superman is a moral agent and a composite being and imaginary unlike God who is neither of those thing.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Wait ... God allows natural disasters because of kryptonite?

  • David Nickol

    I think most people know that John 3:16 reads as follows:

    For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

    Does the God of philosophy love? Of course, there are numerous other examples (especially in the Old Testament) in which God is depicted as expressing emotions such as anger, love, and regret. If God has no emotions, how are we to interpret such statements in Scripture?

    • Stephen Edwards

      I understand it that God loves as in 'wills the good of others'. He also has supreme care for others. But, His conscious state does not change because He is infinite and perfect. So He has emotions in an analogous sense, but there is no emotional change.

    • The idea that God is without emotion is called impassibility. But exactly what does this doctrine mean by 'emotion'? Let's first look at some scientific evidence:

      When emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions. (Descartes' Error, xii)

      This seems to nuke the idea that God works like our 'reason' devoid of our 'emotion'. I have never found this surprising, as Jesus says to love God with heart, mind, soul, and strength. Heart and mind are included. But it's possible that impassivity rules out an … arbitrariness of heart.

      I welcome further input by A/T folks on this matter. I've never particularly liked the doctrine of divine impassivity (partly because of exactly what you indicate), but perhaps what it really means is something rather different from what folks like you and I assume?

  • David Nickol

    I think the problem can be cleared up by realizing that the Red Spot is not a presence of red but an absence of blue and green.

  • The real question is, why does God allow the continued existence of such a wicked species as ours? It is only because God tempers his justice with mercy and forbearance that we are here at all. I myself would have annihilated humanity at the moment of the Fall. Fortunately for us, God is far more merciful than am I.

  • Rob Abney

    Fortunately for you, in your little world you are god.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      A late friend and former colleague of mine, Fr. Vincent Miceli, S.J., wrote a book in 1971, entitled, "The Gods of Atheism," in which he correctly pointed out that every time people get rid of the true God, they replace him with a new god of their own. See: https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Atheism-Vincent-P-Miceli/dp/0870000993

      In this excellent, readable work, he critiques some 17 modern atheistic thinkers, including Feuerbach, Nietzsche, Marx, and Comte.

      A classic case was that of the father of positivism and one of the founders of sociology, Auguste Comte, who invented his own secularist religion that perfectly imitates Catholicism with himself as the high priest or pope -- complete with seven sacraments of humanism and the Lady Clotilde, a deceased crush of his, who reprised the role of the Blessed Virgin!

      Yes, by the end of his life, Comte was clearly insane.

  • BCE

    If I agree, there is no god, where did the universe go wrong?
    The failures of god is the least effective atheist argument
    because you're not arguing god [did't get] "it right the first time" but that the laws of physics, chemistry and biology did.

  • Does not being killed or injured in a natural disaster (not to mention harm directly caused by other people) interfere with our free will? This seems to be something left out of the free will theodicy. Not to mention of course that this being possible doesn't make it probable.

    • Stephen Edwards

      Well I tried explaining this in the article. God does not interfere all the time.

      • Well yes, not all the time, but it still remains an issue for us.

        • BCE

          Good day Michael.
          I am not trying to convince you, nor Tommy of anything
          but new-be atheists and young people might read SN and
          atheists are adept at making clever jabs, so a non-response
          could be mistaken as concession.

          The study was not conclusive. While it showed an electrical brain
          response before a choice was made was not proof the subject wasn't choosing. There can be a lag, between decision, perception and
          coordinated response. There are other studies being made.
          Free will, decision making and learning remain under investigation.
          The study conceded signs of...a free won't.

          My own objection to the way atheists argue against "free will" is they
          often start with their own concept of "free" as if it means without
          conditions. Rather it's like ...buy two, get one free.
          An atheist mocking, then it's not "free will" misses an important point
          First, Christian except they are creatures, and have a nature, so
          they have never claimed "free" means outside of their nature.
          Second, while alive, they accept the body and soul are joined, so
          they don't discount brain activity.

          Which brings me to another observation.
          Atheists are inclined to use syllogisms
          i.e. if god is good,powerful, knowing
          but there is evil
          then god is either....

          The problem is they often don't follow the rules for making a
          valid syllogism( premise to conclusion)

          if I say...
          All plastic cups are blue
          you have a red plastic cup
          then......?
          then either not all plastic cups are blue or you don't have a red cup

          but if I say
          all dogs are brown
          you have brown shoes

          now notice you can't make a conclusion about dogs.
          That's often the problem with premises about god.
          As Russell and Boole noted, premises work well for math
          but not for moral arguments and where one doesn't understand sets.

          • I'm confused, having not disputed free will here, and I'll assume it for this topic. As for the rest, I'm not sure how that's relevant. You sure you're responding to the right person?

          • BCE

            Which Michael are you? since I was just commenting science has not settled the "free will" question and others presume what theists think"free will is" in response to the above "something left out of the free will theodicy"

          • I'm the one that addresed the free will theodicy. Still not sure how your comment relates though, as I haven't criticized free will. Maybe you feel I got it wrong as a concept? I'm not sure.

          • BCE

            if I said
            There was a storm and my son was killed by a falling tree.(natural disaster)
            and the article is about God, allowing disaster
            I might think you were asking
            just how free is free if god lets trees ..."not to mention other people" kill us

            my point...what definition of free will?
            and you forming a premise like...if God allows disasters....are we then free?

          • Okay. I assume libertarian free will here, so we "could have done otherwise" in any situation where it's physically possible to even act. The problem however is that even on this view, you aren't free when severely injured or dead. Our ability to act freely is greatly impeded then.

  • Jenna

    TO let us know we are all very fragile, we are all a breath away from the end, but the end is not the end, we shall all be resurrected. You will be, too! Amen? Jesus has already taken the lead! He died a horrible death (talking about disaster, right?), and he rose from dead!

    A lot of disasters are a result of human choices! We have all failed to respect the nature elements in which we chose to gratify our greed. Our carelessness with animals, and the environment, has caused a lot of deaths. We dumped toxins, emitted toxic fumes, abusing toxic fertilizers, getting rid of certain animals required in the ecosystem, fracking that disturbs the crust of the earth, developing on the swamps, can all add up for next disasters! Not the will of God!

  • Michael G. Siddle

    Sounds like nonsense to me. And who says natural disasters are evil anyway? They are just the result of natural occurences coinciding with human habitation. A massive earthquake in the middle of an uninhabited desert is just an earthquake. If it happens in a city it is classified as a disaster but the fact is it is just the natural movement of tectonic plates and nothing to do with evil or angels.

  • Isaiah 45:7 says: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things".
    The Biblical God takes credit for everything. The god of philosophy may not.

    • Stephen Edwards

      God is responsible for he creation of everything, but one can seek the reasons for why God creates the way that He does.

      • And if we can't figure out the reason, we continue to trust God and be at peace.

  • lroy77

    Why did God allow three Nor'easters in ten days? Why after 55 years, this person who has lived through dozens of storms finally had to go to a Red Cross shelter?

  • And any creator god does not merely allow suffering — suffering is built into the design. God is unavoidably directly responsible for all natural suffering in the universe. If:

    (1) God (an omnipotent, omniscience, omni-benevolent being) exists.
    (2) Natural evil exists.
    (3) God is the creator and designer of the physical universe, including the laws that govern it, then
    (4) Natural disasters, and the evil they cause, are a direct byproduct of the laws that govern our universe.

    In other words you can't claim that god is the creator and designer of the physical universe, including the laws that govern it — which is what basically every theist insists — and not also accept that natural evil is a direct byproduct of those laws. Natural evil cannot therefore be due to angles or demons tinkering with god's plan. Angles and demons would be the ones who actually created and designed the universe if that were the case. This post is ridiculous in its attempt to be taken serious.

    • Stephen Edwards

      I agree with your 1-4 points. In the article I said that God allowed the angels to help 'decide' the laws, not 'create' the laws.

      • (3) says "God is the creator and designer of the physical universe, including the laws that govern it," not angels. God still created and designed laws that have natural evil built into them. There is simply no coherent way to absolve god from natural evil. It's intrinsic to his plan.

        • Stephen Edwards

          Ok but again, I agree that God is the creator and designer of the laws. My argument is that the angels helped DECIDE what the laws would be. God took into account their desires for the natural world.

          • If the angels decided the laws, god wasn't the designer of it. That's like saying I design a car, but I outsource to my friend to decide the details of the engine. I wouldn't have designed the details of the engine.

          • Stephen Edwards

            A designer can take others' input into consideration, but regardless of what terms you want to use, I don't see any problem with a monotheist accepting the argument.

          • All that matters to me on this point is that on theism god is the sole cause and responsibility for all natural evil in the world.

  • Marier Villarreal

    I see this as a theory. A pretty fascinating one indeed.

  • Herrnhut

    Jesus said of the devil and Himself in John 10: "“I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."

    It is like the difference between night and day. The old covenant which is fading away and the new covenant is upon us. That is why in the Hebrew Bible, the word "yom" a day starts in the evening and then come the brightness of the sun. In the natural mind all cultures teach a day start with the morning. And then the world got worse and get into darkness. The ruler of the world has ingrained into the carnal minds naturally. That is why we blamed God for disasters, diseases, discontents,.....

    In God's Word and plan, the beginning "was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep" until the Son is revealed and the the world will be at rest with the brightness of His presence. So Pentecost is the point of change, the first twilight before the dawn.

    In the first Pentecost, three thousand people were killed by law (Levites) under the stone law. When the Pentecost was finally come, three thousand people were saved by Holy Spirit. "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." In the end of our chapter "Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." (Acts of Holy Spirit Chapter 2)