Monday, September 15, 2008

Theodicy Debate

the issues addressed by the previous poster deserve serious consideration. Thus here is a debate with a skeptic that deals with the major issues.

I received an email from someone who wishes to simply be known as "Alex." Alex takes to task my view on theodocy in which I develop mysoeterilogical drama


I came across doxa, and your site looks cool. After reading your theodicy
about "soteriological drama," I wanted to ask you: don't you think such a
theodicy renders Christianity completely unfalsifiable - and if it does,
does it bother you at all?

Not really, because I think it's a meaningless question. The problem with it is that Christianity is a world view. No world view is falsifiable in some neat little package that sums up everything thing a person can think or every way someone can look at the world. Falsification doesn't work that way. That's like saying is science falsifiable? Well if any particular scientific theory turns out wrong then it's just being tested as a theory, so science itself can never be falsified. Thus, that illustrates what I mean about a world view not being falsifiable. Aspects of world views might be falsifiable. Instead of looking for one magic bullet that will kill all of Christianity at once it seems more rational to look to chop up the sections and kill them one at a time (if you can).

If I understand it, the idea is that God's
existence simply must be in doubt in order for us to most efficiently
internalize moral virtues/rules. As such, your concept of soteriological
drama can be invoked to provide a sort of glib response to ANY
philosophical/scientific/theological objection to Christianity!

why Glib? What makes it glib? God's existence must be in doubt to internalize. Well that's reducing it to simplicity. It's not that God must be in doubt to internalize the good, if that were true not being falsifiable would be very helpful because it would mean could really internalize a lot. But the point is that to internalize the good we have to make moral choices. To make moral choices we have to have free will, to to have free will the choice can't be obvious.

The Bible
is full of contradictions? No problem, God put them there because if there
were no contradictions in it, it would be too easy to know that the
Christian God is real, and hence internalization of values would be

Of course I never said that. That would be an absurd idea, so he's just putting words in my mouth making assumptions of which he has no knowledge.Of course I deal with Biblical contradictions by appealing tomodels of revelation other than verbal plenary (aka "Inerrnecy").

Evil exists? Of course it does, God needs us to doubt so we can
internalize values.

He's still arguing from logical absurdity by reducing my argument to simplicity. So let's look at what I really say rather than leaving up to "Alex's" inaccurate understanding.

There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so obivioius, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impetus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truely beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

The argument would look like this:

(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil choices

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.

This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it.
Argument on Soteriological Drama:

(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probably all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; intetrsubective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.

Merely attributing internalization to doubt is clearly not part of my view. I connect one to the other at the point of making free will choices.

Argument from Non-Belief?; this doesn't pose a problem:
the fact that so many people don't believe in the Christian God gives us the
doubt that is required to efficiently internalize values. Et cetera.

What is "et cetera?" I wonder. But the problem of unbelief doesn't post any kind of problem anyway. That would just come under heading "the fallacy of appeal to popularity." Who cares if people doubt? who care if people believe? Neither one proves anything in and of itself.

concept of soteriological drama is similar to other christian responses,
like "God is mysterious," and "God needs us to have faith, faith is the
vestibule through which God chooses to deliver salvation:" these responses
work as responses to any sort of objection, and render Christianity
completely unfalsifiable. And if your soteriological drama concept sort of
innoculates Christianity from intellectual attack, is the intellectual
defense of Christianity disingenuous?

Here he resots to the informal fallacy of black is white slide. This works through finding two aspects of ideas that are totally different and asserting that they are the same because they bot invovles some of the same concepts. To accomplish this he pulls a bait and switch. Did you catch it? Here it is:

where he first assert that Sd is like other Christian ideas and then argues that those other ideas do x,y,and z. Without trying to prove it, he then asserts or leaves the impression made that SD must do that too since the ideas that it is like also do x,y, and z. the problem is Soteriological Drama is really not much like other ideas and he must show that it is like them in such a way that it produces the same effects!

He identfies ideas like "no one knows he mind of God" and "God requires faith" with Soteriological Drama, when it fact it's not like that at all; because those catch phrases are designed to deflect an attempt at really answering questions. Soteriological Drama is itself a pori an answer to questions about why God does things!

If we cleverly inoculate
Christianity such that it's unfalsifiable, and any sort of problem in it is
explained (away) through soteriological drama, are we being fair when
debating with atheists? I'd appreciate your thoughts.


The problem is that your use of falsifiability is indiscriminate. You seem to have hold a scientific sounding toy and can't wait to put into action. But it has to play some relation to the overall concept. One cannot just go around saying "that's unfalsifiable." You must show:

(1) What is to be falsified
(2) why do we want to falsify it?
(3) how does one falsify
(4) is science falsifiable?
(5) is materialism?

Now let's don't get confused here. Scientific theories are falsifiable, but not science itself. Why should Christianity itself be falsifiable? That would be like saying a world view as a whole would be falsifiable. But if we break down indivudal questions about Christianity and Christian belief many such questions will be.

The most important point is why should an existential experimentally oriented Philosophy have to measure up to a philosophical concept designed for persistent empirical observations?


Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,
Speaking of the Soteriological Drama, may I recommend a good read, my newly published Not even God: The Curious Partnership of God and Man. I think you'll appreciate the theodicy and the concept. check it out at
Take care, Bryan

Roman Dawes said...

Hi Joe,

I read with interest your web article on free will and the question of evil. When you get the chance, you should take a look at mine, which encompasses evil and pain. If you think that love and being are connected, and that love is an essential ingredient to being, I wonder what you'd think about love defined in part as the ability to suffer.

Roman Dawes