A Problem for the Problem of Evil

The problem of evil goes back at least to the time of Epicurus, and it runs like this. Why doesn’t God do something about the existence and reality of evil? Either He cannot do something about it, or He will not do something about it. If He cannot, then how is He omnipotent? If He will not, then how is He benevolent? In either case, an essential attribute of Deity is lost, and so there you go.

And so it is that the triumphant sophomore retires from the field, carrying the hnors of battle with him.

The apparent force of the argument lies in the stark alternative it presents, along with its steadfast refusal to continue reasoning in the same way. If you insist on marching in that direction, you have to go all the way off the precipice. Allow me to present yet another stark alternative.

Either there is a satisfactory (and satisfying) answer to the problem of evil, or there is not. If there is a satisfactory (and satisfying) answer, then farther along we’ll know all about it, farther along we’ll understand why. We need not know the answer now to know that there has to be one.

But if there is not a satisfactory (and satisfying) answer, then what follows? It means there is no God, and if there is no God, then there is no such thing as evil. Everything that happens just happens, things just are. If there is no such thing as evil, then there can be no such thing as a problem of evil. If there is no such thing as math, then there can be no math problems. Evil? Eh? What is that?

Put this another way. Either the problem of evil is sophistry, or becoming (what some have quaintly called) evil is just one more option among many.

Charging God with complicity with evil is therefore the first move of a sinner who wants to make room for himself to be complicit with evil.

Or in its starkest form, charging God with complicity in evil is complicity in evil.

109
Leave a Reply

avatar
 
22 Comment threads
87 Thread replies
3 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
26 Comment authors
Jill SmithKatechoJeffery Jay LowderMeMeGinny Yeager Recent comment authors

  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

Why, in a world of evil, is there goodness (or even neutrality)? Everything else devolves to the lowest common denominator, so why does Good exist?

Matt
Guest
Matt

The argument as you have laid it out here is not about god’s existence. God could just be cruel, or not omnipotent, or both.

Katecho
Member

Matt wrote: The argument as you have laid it out here is not about god’s existence. False. The argument, as Wilson has laid it out, is explicitly about God’s existence. Wilson wrote: If He cannot, then how is He omnipotent? If He will not, then how is He benevolent? In either case, an essential attribute of Deity is lost, and so there you go. … But if there is not a satisfactory (and satisfying) answer, then what follows? It means there is no God, and if there is no God, then there is no such thing as evil. If Matt,… Read more »

Matt
Guest
Matt

I don’t know if you are aware–I really don’t–but Christianity is not the only religion on Earth. The problem of evil cannot prove that there is no god, it can only prove the incoherence of a particular theology.

Katecho
Member

Matt wrote:

The problem of evil cannot prove that there is no god, it can only prove the incoherence of a particular theology.

Apparently, it can’t even do that.

I notice that Matt has not declared which god he is going to hide behind. Whatever god it is, it must be an evil one, or a weak one, right?

adad0
Member

Well, on the plus side, at least Matt is a monument to incoherence, separate from evil, theology or Deity! ; – )

Katecho
Member

Matt wrote:

I don’t know if you are aware–I really don’t–but Christianity is not the only religion on Earth.

Does Matt suppose that Epicurus formulated his “problem of evil” paradox three centuries in anticipation of Christ? Or perhaps Epicurus didn’t think Christianity was the only religion on earth when he presented the dilemma.

Ilíon
Member

Well, no, God cannot be “cruel”, for the same reason that he cannot be “evil” or “weak” –to wit: that it is logically impossible for God to be any of these things. Each of these is within the category “The Way Things Ought Not Be” … but to say that *anything* about The Ground of All Being ought not be is to spout mere incoherency.

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

This, of course, would only be part of a complete response. The other, harder part is to provide the satisfactory (and satisfying) answer.

prayersofadoration
Member

World’s shortest and best theodicy: It is good that there is evil. Without evil there would be no cross and the cross is the point of creation. In a purely good world there would be no demonstration of God’s wrath and mercy, two of his favorite things, and that would be bad.

I find atheists quite willing to dispense with good in theory, at least once they’ve finished arguing that God is bad.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Rob, how could the absence of justice or mercy be bad in a totally unfallen world in which people had free will and invariably chose to be loving and obedient? If you have (in this imaginary unfallen world) a child who is perfectly obedient and who radiates a beautiful attitude toward your authority, you would not wish for her to defy you so that there might be cause for justice and mercy.

prayersofadoration
Member

The problem would be we would not know God. If we know him perfectly but don’t know his wrath and mercy we don’t really know him.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

But think of prelapsarian Adam and Eve. If they had never fallen, wouldn’t they still have known God? And just think how lovely our lives would have been, living in loving harmony and being good all the time.

prayersofadoration
Member

It would be awesome and it would be worse than all the evil we currently have. We should trust God to know what he’s doing.

Tom
Guest
Tom

That’s a lovely notion (except for being outside the will of God)

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Tom, don’t we have to be careful to avoid any suggestion that God actually wanted Adam and Eve to sin?

John Callaghan
Guest
John Callaghan

O Felix culpa quae talem et tantum meruit habera Redemptorem!

But there is no reason why human nature should not have been raised to something greater after sin. For God allows evils to happen in order to bring a greater good therefrom; hence it is written (Romans 5:20): “Where sin abounded, grace did more abound.” Hence, too, in the blessing of the Paschal candle, we say: “O happy fault, that merited such and so great a Redeemer!”

Summa Theologica, III, Q1, A3, Reply to Objection 1

Vva70
Guest
Vva70

Tom, don’t we have to be careful to avoid any suggestion that God actually wanted Adam and Eve to sin?

Why? Wouldn’t it be sufficient to say that, as in the case of Joseph’s brothers, what Adam and Even intended for evil, God intended for good?

prayersofadoration
Member

Why? To protect God from responsibility? That’s pretty much what Job’s friends were up to. It requires the hidden assumption that responsibility is the same thing as guilt.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Shouldn’t we be careful not to question His sovereignty? To suggest that he allowed something to happen that didn’t purport to his will?

Christopher
Member

My quibble with this is that it does not make any distiction between evil and suffering.

prayersofadoration
Member

Distinguish away. Atheists usually prefer talking about suffering instead of evil. Christians think suffering is not necessarily evil.

Katecho
Member

Steele wrote: It is good that there is evil. Without evil there would be no cross and the cross is the point of creation. Perhaps another way of stating this point is to recognize that good and bad are not strictly opposites. A marriage, or a creation, that is merely absent of bad things is not automatically good. Many marriages are only “not bad”. The opposite of bad is “not bad”. God did not look over His creation and declare it “not bad”. We can also distinguish between good in the sense of tranquil, or untroubled, or undisturbed, and good… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

“God loves to display this transforming power over evil.”

Amen, Katecho.

adad0
Member

Evil gets played every day by God! I really do wonder why evil even gets up in the morning, though I guess it could just be pure spite!

jigawatt
Guest
jigawatt

Alternate version of Star Wars, with a “freethinking” Luke Skywalker:

“Sorry Obi Wan, I just can’t believe in a Force that would allow bad things to happen to good people.”

Fin.

John F. Martin
Guest
John F. Martin

I definitely don’t want to charge God with evil but I do trust that He uses it (Romans 8:28). Whenever I think rightly about God’s ways (Isaiah 55:8-9) I imagine Him playing chess 1000’s of games ahead of me while I’m still debating my opening move. Did God allow slavery so I’d understand Romans 8:15 / Galatians 5:1? Does God allow children to die so that we might feel the weight of Him sending His Son? Does racism exist as an antonym to all the “one another” verses? If those are some of the best reasons from my dark mirror,… Read more »

John F. Martin
Guest
John F. Martin

Thanks for making me look up Epicurus.

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

— The Epicurean paradox, ~300 BCE

Lucretius agreed:
“Had God designed the world, it would not be
A world so frail and faulty as we see.”

but

G. K. Chesterton said,
“People reject the idea of original sin when it is the
only doctrine of Christianity that can be empirically
proven.”
http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/webfm_send/636

somethingclever
Guest
somethingclever

I recommend God, Freedom, and Evil by Plantinga on this question.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

How do we make the jump to the idea that evil only exists if God exists? If everything just happens and there will be no ultimate meaning on a cosmic level, how does this imply that nonbelievers can’t attach immediate meaning to bad events or people in their lives? A lot of Asian people don’t believe in God, but have strong moral codes in which actions and dispositions are judged as virtuous or evil.

somethingclever
Guest
somethingclever

Without God there is not objective standard of evil. No subjective standard of evil matters.

Matt
Guest
Matt

There are many objective standards of evil. With no god, there is no absolute standard of evil, but why would this bother an atheist?

somethingclever
Guest
somethingclever

It probably won’t when he treats others badly, but when others treat him in a way he wishes not to be treated, it will bother him very much.

Matt
Guest
Matt

An atheist has, presumably, already made peace with the idea that there is no higher power to punish the bad people after death.

Katecho
Member

Matt wrote:

An atheist has, presumably, already made peace with the idea that there is no higher power to punish the bad people after death.

That’s by no means a given. The atheist may simply have taken the role of punisher into his own hands, rather than make any peace with the situation.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I know quite a few nonbelievers though they usually call themselves agnostics rather than atheists. They don’t seem troubled by the thought of no ultimate justice, and they are less likely than many other people to favor harsh penal law. They tend to rely on karma-using it loosely and not as religious tenet. Or, they are comforted by social sanctions and natural consequences. If you burn enough people in your business dealings, no one will trust you. If you are chronically adulterous, sooner or later you will be exposed and nice people won’t marry you. I can’t think of any… Read more »

bethyada
Member

But they likely have a much lower appreciation for the gravity of sin.

somethingclever
Guest
somethingclever

I really wasn’t talking about punishment. To get to punishment you have to establish something wrong happened first. A person being treated in a way he wishes he wasn’t is not enough to know if wrong has been committed.

It is interesting, though, that these people you describe have a better practical theology than their stated theology.

somethingclever
Guest
somethingclever

You’ve skipped a step. Before any thought of punishment (by God or otherwise), you must first establish a wrong has been committed. That he has been treated in a way he wishes not to be treated is not in itself sufficient reason to believe a wrong has been committed.

Katecho
Member

Matt wrote:

There are many objective standards of evil.

Matt could propose that evil is “anything that happens after 8PM”. That would be an objective standard in the most trivial sense, but also purely arbitrary. If Matt isn’t simply playing for some sophomoric empty victory then he’ll have to do better than this.

Why doesn’t Matt offer the standard that he believes in, and we’ll see if it has any objectivity or authority. I think I know why he doesn’t.

bethyada
Member

You’re equivocating on objective here. By objective standard of evil we mean a standard that is external and cannot be overruled. As such “objective standard” means much what you mean by “absolute standard”

Matt
Guest
Matt

“Objective” does not equal “absolute”. If you mean absolute, then just say that.

bethyada
Member

“Objective” implies an absolute comparitor when discussing morality.

When people say that morals are objective that mean that they apply to everyone regardless of whether the person holds them. They do not mean that they happen to apply to everyone (like the traffic laws).

Katecho
Member

Matt wrote:

With no god, there is no absolute standard of evil, but why would this bother an atheist?

It seems that some atheists have finally realized that, if they are going to daily put God on trial, they will need to appeal to something other than their private moral impulses. It’s bothersome to have others remind them that their search for a coherent authoritative standard continues.

Christopher
Member

If there is evil there must be good.
If there is good there must be a moral law.
If there is a moral law there must be a moal law giver.
If there is no moral lawgiver there is no moral law.
If there is no moral law there is no good.
If there is no good there is no evil.

Katecho
Member

This conclusion demonstrates why atheists who still cling to a category of evil are actually the ones who have a “problem of evil”.

demosthenes1d
Member

Evil only exists as an absolute, transferrable, binding category if God exists. However, as a social construction evil clearly exists in all systems. If I want to tell a Fijian who is sizing me up to be steaks then there needs to be an absolute standard. Many atheists get this. They hold that there is no absolute good and evil and that if Fijians like to kill and eat people and if they bury sacrificed children under the pillars of their great lodge then that is “good” for them and they can enforce those norms as they wish. However, people… Read more »

Katecho
Member

demosthenes1d wrote:

… so most atheists are like Rand or ETR argue that their parochial post christian morality is universal because science or consequentialism or utilitarianism or something….

Or rather they refuse to argue, as the case seems to be.

adad0
Member

‘Cho, Jill’s buddy, G. K. Chesterton once said that the reason people quarrel is because they don’t know how to argue.
For some atheists, I think they really do know how to argue, but alas, that is why they quarrel instead! ????????

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think a lot of people have no idea to argue in that they think it consists of vehemently stating an opinion without even listening to what their opponent has to say. When I was a teacher presiding over classroom discussions, I had a rule that before you could reply to your opponent, you first had to state in your own words the gist of his argument in a way that the other person accepted as accurate. You would be amazed at how difficult this is for many people. For one thing, it means that you actually have to listen… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jill Smith wrote:

If everything just happens and there will be no ultimate meaning on a cosmic level, how does this imply that nonbelievers can’t attach immediate meaning to bad events or people in their lives?

Attaching meaning to things, when one asserts there is no ultimate meaning, is the very definition of self-delusion. Such people might as well cut a log in two, burn one half in the fire, and bow down to worship the other half. It would make as much sense.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I can only answer that, Katecho, by going back to the atheists and agnostics I know who do not believe in an ultimate meaning. Nonetheless they have values and philosophies. Sartre said that if life is ultimately meaningless, all the more reason for the human to create his own value and purpose for his life. We are incurable signifiers and labelers, regardless of our religious beliefs. I like this, I hate that. Reading is good, killing lions is bad. For the most trivial events in our lives, we try to understand them. We judge them, and place them into the… Read more »

bethyada
Member

They do these things because despite rejecting God, God’s common grace still abounds. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust, the believer and the infidel. We don’t listen to atheist try and convince us that they do not need God to grow corn because biology and the water cycle. The fact that their corn grows and they rejoice in it all the while denying the God who causes it to grow does not mean that their claims are meaningful. Sartre said the things that he did because he rejected God. God didn’t immediately remove Sartre’s ability to… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jill Smith wrote: Sartre said that if life is ultimately meaningless, all the more reason for the human to create his own value and purpose for his life. “More reason”? I fail to see how reason has anything to do with such knowing make believe. I also fail to see why Jill is running cover for such nonsense. Jill Smith wrote: We are incurable signifiers and labelers, regardless of our religious beliefs. We are also incurable worshipers, even as some deny the only God who is worthy of our worship. The problem is not that they don’t signify, or label,… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Why you believe that I make no effort to witness to divine truth in my dealings with my nonbelieving friends is something probably only you can answer. However, I have found that forcing upon them presuppositions which they reject as contrived or not logical is not a useful method.

Katecho
Member

Jill Smith wrote: Why you believe that I make no effort to witness to divine truth in my dealings with my nonbelieving friends is something probably only you can answer. I never said Jill makes no effort, but her efforts appear to involve affirming these atheist and agnostic acquaintances in their delusions. A more compassionate approach would involve warnings to them against such self-delusion, with a critique of their worldview on its own terms. Jill Smith wrote: However, I have found that forcing upon them presuppositions which they reject as contrived or not logical is not a useful method. Why… Read more »

lndighost
Member

Katecho, I wholeheartedly grant all your points. But “Jill might show a bit more compassion”, apart from being presumptuous, is a bit rich coming from your online persona.

Katecho
Member

Indighost wrote: But “Jill might show a bit more compassion”, apart from being presumptuous, is a bit rich coming from your online persona. What Jill Smith described was multiple atheist and agnostic acquaintances of hers that she reports, without exception, continue to lead blissful lives, with happy marriages, good productive jobs, with ethics, charity, and not a worry about God. She has apparently carved out a functional safe space for them, in a completely uncritical fashion. However, compassion for their souls would not involve granting all of these things to them at face value. Is it reasonable for them to… Read more »

demosthenes1d
Member

Presumption 1: ” she reports, without exception, continue to lead blissful lives, with happy marriages, good productive jobs, with ethics, charity, and not a worry about God.” Reading Jilly’s discussion of atheists and agnostics whom she knows which evidence “ethical” behavior as the entire set. Presumption 2: “She has apparently carved out a functional safe space for them, in a completely uncritical fashion.” Projecting an uncritical stance onto Jilly. Presumption 3: “Affirming people in their sin isn’t love or compassion” Presuming that by noting behavior patterns Jilly is “Affirming” Presumption 4: “If we, knowing what we know about the Gospel,… Read more »

Katecho
Member

demosthenes1d wrote: Presumption 2: “She has apparently carved out a functional safe space for them, in a completely uncritical fashion.” Projecting an uncritical stance onto Jilly. I appreciate demosthenes1d willingness to correct me as a friend, and I hope that I would be willing to accept it with that intent, but I’m not yet convinced that I’m projecting or presuming. Jill Smith wrote: I can only answer that, Katecho, by going back to the atheists and agnostics I know who do not believe in an ultimate meaning. Nonetheless they have values and philosophies. Sartre said that if life is ultimately… Read more »

demosthenes1d
Member

“I appreciate demosthenes1d willingness to correct me as a friend”

No problem. I’m here to help.

Katecho
Member

Can demosthenes1d help point out anything critical in Jill’s phrasing of the situation with her atheist/agnostic acquaintances? I believe I’ve pointed out some examples of Jill’s attempt to legitimize their made up values, purpose, ethics, and meaning.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Katecho,​ ​you​ ​write:​ ​​ ​“Jill​ ​has​ ​had​ ​opportunity​ ​to​ ​clarify​ ​whether​ ​she​ ​actually​ ​thinks​ ​made up​ ​values​ ​and​ ​purpose​ ​and​ ​meaning​ ​are​ ​legitimate​ ​and​ ​reasonable,​ ​but​ ​she​ ​has​ ​yet​ ​to​ ​do​ ​so.​” ​​ ​I have​ ​grown​ ​wary​ ​of​ ​such​ ​invitations​ ​because​ ​I​ ​do​ ​not​ ​believe​ ​they​ ​are​ ​issued​ ​with​ ​charity​ ​and​ ​in good​ ​faith.​ ​​ ​A​ ​good​ ​faith​ ​invitation​ ​to​ ​engage​ ​in​ ​argument​ ​presupposes​ ​a​ ​willingness​ ​to​ ​find common​ ​ground,​ ​to​ ​concede​ ​a​ ​good​ ​point,​ ​to​ ​admit​ ​error,​ ​to​ ​examine​ ​one’s​ ​thoughts​ ​from another​ ​person’s​ ​perspective,​ ​and​ ​to​ ​refrain​ ​from​ ​irrelevant​ ​personal​ ​criticism.​ ​It​ ​does​ ​not interpret​ ​disagreement​ ​among​ ​Christians​… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jill Smith wrote: What​ ​you​ ​call​ ​“giving​ ​cover”​ ​to​ ​atheists’​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​belief​ ​is​ ​my​ ​own​ ​genuine​ ​belief that​ ​atheists,​ ​while​ ​mistaken​ ​about​ ​God,​ ​are​ ​not​ ​mistaken​ ​about​ ​everything.​ ​​ ​My​ ​faith​ ​requires me​ ​to​ ​rejoice​ ​in​ ​the​ ​good​ ​I​ ​see​ ​in​ ​my​ ​unbelieving​ ​friends​ ​and​ ​neighbors,​ ​not​ ​dismiss​ ​it​ ​as worthless​ ​and​ ​illusory.​ ​​ ​If​ ​my​ ​friend​ ​is​ ​a​ ​shining​ ​example​ ​of​ ​ethical​ ​conduct​ ​and​ ​love​ ​for neighbor,​ ​I​ ​must​ ​thank​ ​God​ ​for​ ​the​ ​grace​ ​that​ ​illuminates​ ​her​ ​life,​ ​even​ ​though​ ​she​ ​does​ ​not​ ​yet know​ ​the​ ​source​ ​of​ ​that​ ​grace​ ​by​ ​name.​ Jill is confirming her agenda to… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

“Jill is confirming her agenda to excuse and legitimize the values, purpose and meaning concocted by unbelievers.” You have chosen to cast my words into that sinister and unbecoming light, but what I actually did was express my rejection of your presuppositions. As I clearly stated, I do not believe that every nonbeliever is actuated by a conscious desire to suppress the truth or to deny God in order to enjoy a wicked life. Nor do I believe that religious unbelief, in itself, invariably deprives a person of the capacity to use logic, think clearly, to receive reliable information from… Read more »

demosthenes1d
Member

“They get married and have good jobs and go on happy vacations with their families. What they don’t seem to do is to despair because they don’t believe in God;” I wonder if your friends are smart and self aware enough to realize that they do these things because of their distinct cultural formation, which owes much to christianity? Would they look down on a Pakastani who kills his unvirtuous daughter? He is simply behaving in accordance with his cultural formation as well, and aligning his actions with his values. It is easy enough to float along on capital earned… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Demo, dearly as I love my friends, I would not rank all of them highly on self-awareness. But I have come to believe that self-awareness is an unusual quality, and the ability to imagine how one might have turned out given a different culture is even rarer. I have found that when I invite people to imagine how they would think about life if they were medieval serfs or pygmies or Marie of Romania, they look at me blankly and wonder if I am off my meds. But, at lunch with some of my unbelieving, or believing but Jewish friends… Read more »

Mike Metokur
Member

I’ve begun a book on this subject in which I make this same argument (not as the main thrust of the book).

Could I pass along the introduction to you? Perhaps as a book man yourself you could give some pointers for how a no-name can get himself a book deal.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0ByvJA3LicIcHYjdiaWJFSHBqNjg

John Callaghan
Guest
John Callaghan

St. Thomas Aquinas had the most succinct summation of the problem:

It seems that God does not exist; because if one of two contraries be infinite, the other would be altogether destroyed. But the word “God” means that He is infinite goodness. If, therefore, God existed, there would be no evil discoverable; but there is evil in the world. Therefore God does not exist.

Summa Theologica, Q1, Art. 3, Objection 1

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

He was one smart cat. Is the Catholic way around that problem the belief that evil has no separate existence except as an absence or perversion of the good?

And while you are here, John, would you mind telling me about how Anselm used the apple to prove the existence of God? It makes zero sense to me.

John F. Martin
Guest
John F. Martin

Jill, you had to make me look :) http://www.iep.utm.edu/ont-arg/

Aquinas and Plantinga are in there too!

John Callaghan
Guest
John Callaghan

I’ll admit that I’ve never found Anselm’s ontological argument very persuasive.

It is logically complete in the way that abstract mathematical proofs are logically complete. Aquinas’ famous five arguments share that quality while also being grounded in the world around us. Because of that, they feel more persuasive to me (and, I think, to most people).

Peter Kreeft does as good a job as anyone summarizing Anselm’s proof – though he does place it 13th out of the 20 arguments for God’s existence.

John F. Martin
Guest
John F. Martin

I’m going to go there only because my Pastor quoted Peter Kreeft the other day…

Based on his choices, reading about theology from Peter is kind of like someone coming to me for relationship advice. It doesn’t make sense.

I do like the breakdown of arguments as a launching pad into some further study! Thank you!

insanitybytes22
Member

The existence of evil does not surprise me at all. The existence of good however, just takes my breath away. God, and all that is good, does not belong in the equation anywhere, and yet quite clearly He is there. I have learned repeatedly,that outside the context of God, I cannot even weigh, measure, or discern the difference between good and evil. So quite simply, “evil” is what God says it is and “good” is what God says it is. Absent Him we are completely in the dark. Pitch black morality. There is a bit of Him in all people,… Read more »

Johnny Simmons
Member

I always want to ask the sophomore how he knows what God is like. But yeah, without Him, “evil” is just some electricity.

LJG
Guest
LJG

The problem of Job is more difficult.

John F. Martin
Guest
John F. Martin

First Jill sends me to Anselm for his apple, now I go to his namesake college for Job.

http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/royce.htm

“I studied Philosophy. I learned just enough to screw me up for the rest of my life.” ~ Steve Martin

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I’m glad we’re keeping you busy on this hot August afternoon! When you figure out what Anselm was going on about, you can tell me. The nuns use that one a lot to convince God’s existence, but I am not sure how many people have become Catholic from Anselm’s Apple!

I like the Steve Martin. I also like: “I talk to myself a lot. Sometimes I need expert advice.”

bethyada
Member

The problem of evil is more an emotional argument than an intellectual one. Intellectually it has little power: without God there is no evil. And with God there are several reasons evil (or potential evil) may exist. I suspect that in many cultures the presence of suffering usually leads to the question of why me, or the plea: help me God. It seems more that in the secular West that atheist try and turn it into a claim of God’s existence. As an emotional argument it is quite powerful. Suffering is hard and often seems meaningless. We don’t like hard,… Read more »

Ilíon
Member

Exactly.

bethyada
Member

As a the typical argument goes: Either He cannot do something about it, or He will not do something about it. The answer is he can and he will. The problem is that the “will not” is assumed to be immediate. But there are a host of problems with immediate. God will do something about evil. But he will do it at the right time. When one says, why does he not do something now? One response is how much does God intervene in? This neglects that God probably intervenes frequently in ways that we may not be aware he… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Some great points, Bethyada. In your post above this one, you say that without God there is no evil. My faith teaches that, but adds a step which you may have left out or which may not comport with your theology. We would say: There is no evil in God, only pure good. Evil is a succubus on the good; it does not exist in reality except in reference to the good, of which it represents a perversion or an absence. A shadow is derivative of the light, and without the light, the shadow cannot exist. Evil is therefore impossible… Read more »

john k
Guest
john k

So does this mean that God is helpless, and unable to prevent evil, in order to have human free will?

bethyada
Member

Jill Smith A shadow is derivative of the light, and without the light, the shadow cannot exist. Evil is therefore impossible without good. Because God is good and is the source of all goodness, evil is impossible without God. Is this what you believe? Evil is a privation of good but it is not unreasonable to thing of it as an abstract noun like we do for other things like love, and envy etc. But what I mean by without God there is no evil is that without a lawgiver there are no morals therefore nothing is good or bad,… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

“Charging God with complicity with evil is therefore the first move of a sinner who wants to make room for himself to be complicit with evil.”

It’s really not the non believers you have to worry about here, but rather those who believe God actually condones and enjoys evil.

Denise
Guest
Denise

Evil is not a created thing. Evil is a lacking or privation of good, spoiled good.

insanitybytes22
Member

Not that anyone cares, but I am not impressed with Thomas Aquinas at all. In fact, I think he did a lot of harm by rifting off of Aristotle and by trying to present faith in purely rational, logical terms. As a result we now have a whole lot of Christians with head knowledge but no heart knowledge, no actual relationship with the Lord,not really. As you can probably tell, I always get invited to all the cool kid’s parties. What can I say, it is what it is. Faith is not philosophy, it’s not reason, it’s not Greek thinkers,… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Hi MeMe, how do you know whether an individual Christian lacks “heart knowledge” or an actual relationship with the Lord? People are brought to the Lord in many ways, and the “Come to Jesus” invitation that softens many heart will leave others completely cold. Grace builds on nature, and for the very cerebral person, theology and reason lead to truth. There are people who can’t achieve faith until they have thought it through. And I don’t see anything wrong with that. I think that it is in the creative use of our minds that we resemble God, because our rationality… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

The summa is not a tough read. It’s just a primer really, a basic outline that he wrote to introduce people to faith. Milk, as he once said. How tragic that today we perceive it as hard,as some profound work of intricate wisdom. He never finished it. He had a close encounter of the God kind while writing it and he said his words had just turned to straw. So, I suspect even Thomas Aquinas would not be pleased with the way his work is perceived and handled today.

demosthenes1d
Member

You clearly have never read the Summa…

insanitybytes22
Member

I have read the Summa. I’ve also read dozens of books about Thomas Aquinas himself. He himself was displeased with his words, which should surprise absolutely no one, since a genuine Divine encounter pretty much turns all our words, our art, our music, to straw. Our own ability to communicate the experience becomes wholly (or Holy) inadequate.

demosthenes1d
Member

Not buying it. I know that Thomas considered the Summa to be “milk” but anyone who has grappled with a few pages (much less the entire thousands of pages long unfinished work) knows that it is far from a “primer.” I read part of a mathmatical proof from Von Neumann once. It was a very simple proof for him, “milk” I’m sure, but to me it was incredibly difficult. Likewise, the Summa – you are trying to punch way way above your weight here.

insanitybytes22
Member

Thomas Aquinas himself called it milk, he called it a primer. The fact that is seems so hard for us moderns, does not mean the work itself is hard or profound or particularly groundbreaking. It is a primer,milk ,intended to be an introduction to the basics. In crazy upside down world, we’ve now placed it up high on an idol somewhere, as if the Summa is now the end all and be all of faith. I wish we wouldn’t do that.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

MeMe, I haven’t read the entire Summa. Its logical structure, its citations from unfamiliar scholars such as Avicenna and Avrroes, its assumption that I’m familiar with the philosophies of the ancient world, and its compression of incredibly sophisticated thought all make it–for me–a tough read. I think you are perhaps the only person I have ever met who says she read the Summa and found it easy. If you are finding the Summa shallow, perhaps you are not swimming in the deep end. Perhaps you should challenge yourself and read it in Latin. It’s a primer because he wrote it… Read more »

demosthenes1d
Member

Jilly,

I hang out with a fairly literate crowd and I know exactly 0 people who have made it through the entire work. I find the format tiresome. I wouldn’t mind getting kreeft’s annotated version; but, of course, in 500+ pages he only makes it though a small portion of the Summa.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Hi Demo, I think I have known a couple of Dominican scholars who might have read all 3,022 pages. “Normal” people pick and choose. I’m pretty familiar with the arguments for the existence of God, the conditions which justify war, and his explanation for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist–I’ve read more, but those are the three about which I could still pass a comprehension test! I read an article which I found useful. The Dominican priest who wrote it advises you to begin with the life of Christ in Part III and then work backward using Aquinas’s… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

“It’s a primer because he wrote it in question and answer form, not because he intended it to be simple. It was intended for laymen as well as for seminarians and priests…”

No Jilly, it is not. It is a primer because he specifically called it that. It was written for laymen new to the faith. That fact is well documented.

The hero worship of Aquinas is not imaginary. Here you are right now having NOT even read it, defending the darn thing like one might defend an idol.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

MeMe,​ ​whatever​ ​St.​ ​Thomas​ ​Aquinas​ ​said​ ​about​ ​his​ ​purposes​ ​or​ ​intended​ ​audience​ ​does​ ​not change​ ​the​ ​character​ ​of​ ​what​ ​he​ ​wrote.​ ​We​ ​are​ ​not​ ​talking​ ​about something​ ​like​ ​“Mere​ ​Christianity”–an​ ​excellent​ ​work​ ​which​ ​really​ ​ did serve the purpose​ ​of​ ​presenting basic Christian​ ​truth​ ​to​ ​new​ ​believers​ ​or​ ​nonbelievers.​ ​​ ​The​ ​dozens​ ​of​ ​Aquinas biographies​ ​you​ ​read​ ​would​ ​have​ ​taught​ ​you​ ​that,​ ​at​ ​the​ ​time​ ​he​ ​was​ ​writing​ ​the​ ​Summa, Aquinas​ ​was​ ​director​ ​of​ ​studies​ ​at​ ​Santa​ ​Sabina​ ​Theological​ ​College.​ ​​ ​He​ ​was​ ​attempting​ ​to write​ ​the​ ​first​ ​full​ ​compendium​ ​of​ ​the​ ​faith,​ ​synthesizing​ ​Christian​ ​doctrine​ ​and​ ​scripture​ ​with​ ​the… Read more »

John Callaghan
Guest
John Callaghan

Jill, In fairness to St. Thomas, his Reply to Objection {n} paragraphs are sometimes addressing niggly little details that are brought up in the corresponding Objection {n} paragraph and so cannot avoid being hyper-technical. So, while the passage you quote is dense with terminology, St. Thomas does do a very good job of providing memorable analogies earlier in the same article to illustrate those terms. For example, in that Article’s main I answer that section, he uses examples to explain how to distinguish between “accidental” differences and “essential” differences: Now the differences that divide a genus, and constitute the species… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I agree, John, and I think that the Summa is generally accessible to a reasonably well educated reader who is willing to take time and trouble. And marginal notes are a great help!

I chose that passage, however, to dispute the assertion that the Summa is an easy read. It is not.

insanitybytes22
Member

“Atheist​ ​as​ ​well​ ​as​ ​Christian scholars​ ​hail​ ​the​ ​Summa​ ​as​ ​a​ ​supreme​ ​academic​ ​achievement,​ ​possibly​ ​the​ ​greatest​ ​academic achievement​ ​in​ ​western​ ​medieval​ ​thought.”

Well than, as long as the atheists and other “supreme academics” are well pleased, I’m sure it’s done it’s job.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

MeMe, you are all over the map on this one. First you don’t like Aquinas because you think he encourages an intellectual kind of Christianity. Then you don’t like him because he is so easy to read and over-rated, and doesn’t say anything profound. Then you don’t like him because some people think so highly of him. And now that fact that even atheists think well of his mind is some sort of negative. If you read the Summa, what is your actual problem with it? Why do you think it is over rated? But, even more, I wonder why… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

Jilly, I’ve already stated why I take issue with Aquinas, ” I think he did a lot of harm by rifting off of Aristotle and by trying to present faith in purely rational, logical terms. As a result we now have a whole lot of Christians with head knowledge but no heart knowledge, no actual relationship with the Lord….” “And now that fact that even atheists think well of his mind is some sort of negative.” Jilly, atheists are NOT believers. They are NOT just another denomination or something. If atheists think well of you, it is not necessarily a… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

MeMe, where did I suggest that atheists are Christians? Of course they are not, and most would be insulted at the very suggestion. I am well aware that, at the most basic level, atheists are not believers in the Christian sense. I can’t account for your other Catholic acquaintances, but you may be sure that I do not think atheists believe in the essential tenets of the Christian faith. There are no atheist Catholics. There are ex-Catholics who happen to be atheists. Do I believe that atheists can display fundamental Christian values such as truthfulness, courage, and kindness? Of course.… Read more »

Brendan
Guest
Brendan

The problem of evil is a misnomer. The real problem is the word “God.” In Judaeo-Christian terms the word “God” cannot refer to One who lacks either A) the power or B) the will to do good. To suggest otherwise is a category mistake.

Ginny Yeager
Guest
Ginny Yeager

A “satisfying” answer–now that is subjective, is it not.

Ilíon
Member

Exactly. And, of course, the one who demands that *he* must be satisfied that some evil is not gratuitous will *never* be satisfied.

It’s just another “Heads, I win; Tails, you lose” move.

Ginny Yeager
Guest
Ginny Yeager

I think the biblical answer to the presence of evil is straightforward. Our world is “bent” because God gave angelic beings and the first man and woman the ability to choose to rebel against Him and His Word. Perhaps the deeper question is why did He do that? The only answer I have is because He wanted to.

Jeffery Jay Lowder
Guest

Look. You theists believe that X, Y, and Z are evil. You theists believe that God is good. You theists believe that good persons are opposed to evil. So you theists need to explain why a god who is good (in your sense of ‘good’) would allow so much apparently pointless evil (in your sense of ‘evil’). If you can’t explain it, then that is a problem for the internal coherence of your worldview.