Sunday, June 13, 2010

Theodicy 3: Soteriological Drama, Divine Hiddenness

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On the Cadre Blog Chris Price  (Layman) a couple of weeks ago,  raised the issue of Divine Hiddenness. This issue fits in with Theodicy I think, because part of the divine hiddenness is the lack of explanation about the problem of evil.  J.D. Walters provides a summary of the argument in the comment section to the last post:

I think you [Mark] misunderstand how the argument from divine hiddenness is supposed to work. It generally goes like this: if the biblical God existed, due to his love he would make his existence more obvious. But he doesn't, therefore he probably does not exist. Notice the 'would' in that argument? How would Schellenberg or any other advocate of the hiddenness argument know to expect God's existence to be more obvious? They are taking for granted the Western classical conception of God, developed over centuries in dialogue with and reflection upon Scripture. Divine hiddennness is only a problem for certain conceptions of God, and the the conception of God targeted by Schellenberg's argument is the biblical God. Since Schellenberg has to rely upon this picture to figure out what God WOULD do if he existed, it is perfectly appropriate to look to the Bible for clues as to why God WOULD not make his existence obvious to all. The use of would in both arguments is exactly the same, and draws on similar sources.

As to your second point, remember that Chris says the severity argument explains a FACET of divine hiddenness; it is not the complete explanation, and perhaps it does not apply to everyone's experience of hiddenness. Remember also that one's relationship with God is diachronic: just because one is in a state of doubt now doesn't mean that one will be in a state of doubt for the rest of one's life, or that God will always be silent. I highly doubt that there are many people who search diligently for God all of their lives, making the kind of moral changes necessary to be receptive to God's presence (Paul Moser's The Elusive God should be consulted on this point), who will never experience even an inkling of His presence. God works in people's lives at different times and in different ways, so it is hard to generalize.
5/29/2010 01:53:00 PM

Schellenberg is the thinker who advances the argument that Walters and Price are trying to answer. But I have my own ideas of why God seems hidden to post people. Price's answer is that God is being compassionate by not forcing the obvious nature of himself upon those who are not yet ready. I think is a part of the answer but a larger part exists and this larger part is my answer on theodicy as well. This argument has been made, badly perhaps, by many atheists on the net for years. It's used by Richard Carierrer although I'm sure if it's used in the same form. Be that as it may, my take on the matter is not that God is giving us a break until we are reading to know the truth, although I'm sure that's part of it
but also because it would screw up God's purpose in creating if he revealed himself i an obvious way. If God revealed him in such a way as to remove all doubt then it would run counter to everything he purposed in creation. Schellenberg apparently assumes that God's love would motive him to reveal himself if he really existed. that's the answer Mark takes to it the issue:

J.D.:Notice the 'would' in that argument? How would Schellenberg or any other advocate of the hiddenness argument know to expect God's existence to be more obvious?

Mark: Because of God's love towards those who actively want to be in a relationship with him, and the nature of the parent/child relationship. Are you going to try to defend some form of skeptical theism here, whereby we're never in a position to be confident about what God would or wouldn't do? I think that's going to cause many more problems for traditional theism than it solves.

My assumption does not negate God's love as his primary motive, but it does suggest another competing motive that has to be satisfied as well and the resolution invovles doing things a certain way. The other motive I assume is that God wants a moral universe. I'm sure Christ and J.D. would not disagree. I do believe that love is the basis of the good, and therefore, of the moral so ultimately those are the same interest. Yet, I further assume that God's purpose in creating corporal life is to have free moral agents who willingly choose the good. Given that assumption God must work through the need to internalize the values of the good. The search for truth that culminates in a soeteriolgocal encounter with the divine is predicated upon the God desire that we internalize the values of the good. Said internalization is the piviot upon which turns the entire ontological/soeteriolgoical set up. Here are my assumptions:

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 impitus 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 truly believe 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.

Notice that my answers on this question take us into my answers on theodicy, that's because I see  the question as related to and part of the theodicy problem.

The argument that I make from these assumptions goes 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.


(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 the 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; introspective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.


In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.

This theory also explains why God doesn't often regenerate limbs in healing the sick. That would be a dead giveaway. God creates criteria under which healing takes place, that criteria can't negate the overall plan of a search.



Objection:

One might object that this couldn't outweigh babies dying or the horrors of war or the all the countless injustices and outrages that must be allowed and that permeate human history. It may seem at first glance that free will is petty compared to human suffering. But I am advocating free will for the sake any sort of pleasure or imagined moral victory that accrues from having free will, it's a totally pragmatic issue; that internalizing the value of the good requires that one choose to do so, and free will is essential if choice is required. Thus it is not a capricious or selfish defense of free will, not a matter of choosing our advantage or our pleasure over that of dying babies, but of choosing the key to saving the babies in the long run,and to understanding why we want to save them, and to care about saving them, and to actually choosing their saving over our own good.

In deciding what values outweigh other values we have to be clear about our decision making paradigm. From a utilitarian standpoint the determinate of lexically ordered values would be utility, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? This would be determined by means of outcome, what is the final tally sheet in terms of pleasure over pain to the greatest aggregate? But why that be the value system we decide by? It's just one value system and much has been written about the bankruptcy of consequentialist ethics. If one uses a deontological standard it might be a different thing to consider the lexically ordered values. Free will predominates because it allows internalization of the good. The good is the key to any moral value system. This could be justified on both deontolgoical and teleological premises.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number." I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can't help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don't love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological perspective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It's internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one's own life for the other.


Objection 2: questions
this whole argument I lifted from my website Doxa and this section I lifted from a discussion the CARM message board. It's part of the article on Doxa.

(from "UCOA" On CARM boards (atheism)

Quote:


In addition, there is no explanation of why god randomly decided to make a "moral universe".


Why do you describe the decision as random? Of course all of this is second guessing God, so the real answer is "I don't know, duh" But far be it form me to give-up without an opinion. My opinion as to why God would create moral universe:
to understand this you must understand my view of God, and that will take some doing. I'll try to just put it in a nut shell. In my view love is the background of the moral universe. The essence of "the good" or of what is moral is that which conforms to "lug." But love in the apogee sense, the will to the good of the other. I do not believe that that this is just derived arbitrarily, but is the outpouring of the wellspring of God's character. God is love, thus love is the background of the moral universe because God is the background of the moral universe.

Now I also describe God as "being itself." Meaning God is the foundation of all that is. I see a connection between love and being. Both are positive and giving and turning on in the face of nothingness, which is negativity. To say that another way, if we think of nothingness as a big drain pipe, it is threatening to **** all that exits into it. Being is the power to resist nothingness, being the stopper in the great cosmic drain pipe of non existence.

The act of bestowing being upon the beings is the nature of God because God is being. Those the two things God does because that's what he is, he "BES" (um, exists) and he gives out being bestowing it upon other beings. This is connected to love which also gives out and bestows. So being and love are connected, thus the moral universe is an outgrowth of the nature of God as giving and bestowing and being and loving.

Quote:
Thus the question isn't really answered. Why does god allow/create evil? To create a "moral universe". Why? The only answer that is given is, because he wants to. Putting it together, Why does god allow/create evil? Because he wants to?

In a nut shell, God allows evil as an inherent risk in allowing moral agency. (the reason for which is given above).


There is a big difference in doing something and allowing it to be done. God does not create evil, he allows the risk of evil to be run by the beings, because that risk is required to have free moral agency. The answer is not "because he wants to" the answer is because he wants free moral agency so that free moral agents will internatize the values of love. To have free moral agency he must allow them to:

(1)run the risk of evil choices

(2) live in a real world where hurt is part of the dice throw.

see my answers to atheist attacks on this idea in my essay: "Twelve Angry Stereotypes"

To apply this to the discussion between Mark and JD, Mark points out the argument is culpable unbelief. Honest seekers who just want to know are the issue, God is hidden from them in such a way that they can't find him as long as they are intelligent thinking people who want proof, whatever typical atheist self aggrandizement one cares to plug in at this point. But the conception broached by the argument assumes something about the nature of belief and what God is trying to do in creating believers. This assumes that belief is not a transformation of values or of one's relationship with being-in-the-world but merely adding a fact to the universe. We are going to know a new fact, there's an additional thing in the universe besides trees and frog's, and swizzle sticks and tooth brushes there's so a God. That is counter to what God is trying to do. Belief in God can't be just adding a fact to the universe because is not just a fact, God is not a thing and God si not a ting in the universe alongside other objects.God is the basis of not only the universe but of relationship to any sort of universe. Belief in God is a gestalt, its a global holistic sea change of one's understanding of the root relationship we have to being itself. When we come to believe in God we go from seeing ourselves as autonomous and alone to understanding ourselves as contingent creatures and part of a universal whole of contingencies. That realization is transforming and transformational. It requires a whole new revaluation of values, it requires internalizing the values of the good. Without that just telling people there's' a God, even if God himself told them, would be counter productive to the purpose for which we are created.

Mark's allegation of skeptical theism (above) in which are never sure of what God will do could not be further from my point of view. Quite the contrary I think God wants to bring us into such an intimate relationship that we will be so totally sure of God's love and concern and what he will do that we will never doubt. In fact this relationship is so strong and so intimate the Eastern Orthodox call it "deification." Not that the believer becomes a deity in his own right, but the identification of love between creature and creator is so strong its' called "dedication," being "Godacidzed" so to speak. Parent child relationship, however, is like all ratiocinated understanding of God only an analogy.


Mark also argues:


Here's an analogy. Suppose I tell you that I'm actually the queen of England. That seems preposterous: what are the odds that the queen of England is posting on this blog? Quite high, I say: I'm the queen of England, and this is my favorite blog -- so of course the queen is liable to post on it! Well, maybe this really is the queen's favorite blog. But it's extremely unlikely that I know anything about the queen's blogging preferences unless I really am the queen, herself. So if you have doubts about whether or not I'm the queen, my assurances about my (the queen's) attitudes won't go very far toward settling them.

The same thing applies in the hiddenness case. According to Schellenberg, it's unlikely that a loving deity exists. Your scriptures, which purport to come from such a deity, give reasons for why the deity remains hidden. Even if the reasons are good ones, it's likely that a loving deity would have those reasons only if a loving deity exists in the first place and is responsible for those scriptures. Since Schellenberg denies that any such being exists (and hence can be responsible for anything), it's illegitimate to appeal to those reasons.

Of the assertion of God's unlikelihood is typical atheist question begging.  The argument is so typically circular, it's really part of the overall atheist argument from incredulity: "I refuse to believe therefore it can't be true." Mark's a sophisticated thinker so he's not going to make that argument in a schlocky way. But that is the argument. He says God can only have those reasons if he exists, well that's obvious, he says "Since Schellenberg denies that any such being exists (and hence can be responsible for anything), it's illegitimate to appeal to those reasons." What kind of logic is that? Then I can win any argument merely by making a truth by stipulation and they despairing that "your reasons for thinking otherwise are only valid if I agree wtih them and since I don't, they are not!" Certainly it's not illegitimate to appear to any reason that one things is the reason, we can use them as empirical pointers via the experience of co-determinate that is recorded and thus forms part of the data in divine/human encounter.

Mark argues about the bible: "Thus to invoke the NT as a guide to what God would or wouldn't do is to assume from the outset that this sort of God in fact exists, which is to beg the question." Now there's another problem. The Bible informs our understanding of the divine in a metaphorical way becuase it's an account of divine/human encounters. It can't be taken as a Peterson's field guide to god watching, the companion volume Petereson's field guide to bird watching. That's why it's a narrative. The Bible doesn't'  lay down literalistic statements comparable to a Chilton's Automotive guide. The ultimate point of knowing God is to know God. We have to have a relationship and that has to be lived out. Only so much can be communicated in words on paper. What the Bible does communicate we can be fairly sure if instructive and helpful and in large part prescriptive but we can't approach it as an instruction manual, it's meant to prompt a relationship, not to dictate the content of one. The Bible is there to the relationship on track and to verify the validity of it, not to dictate every aspect.

Mark argues from a totally unfair position assuming the believer must be totally certain at all times, and why sense of doubt or problematic acceptance on the believer's part is automatically taken as proof of inauthenticity:

Because those people are pretty clear about how much they want to believe in God, how much suffering their doubts engender, and how desperately they wait for an answer to their prayers. See, e.g., those letters of Mother Theresa that were disclosed a few years ago. There are many, many people who undergo religious crises like hers that leave them faithless. I don't know if there are any psychological studies of them in the literature (I wouldn't be surprised if there are), but it's difficult, and more than a little suspicious, not to take at least many of their stories at face value.

Obviously he has not read much of the literature of mysticism. The inauthentic thing would be pretend the belief is an intellectual exercise than than an existential search, and that it does not vex and contains no problematic. My suspicions  are raised that Mark's concept of god is very much a cookie cutter of the atheist straw God and his criticisms are based upon typical fear of the subjective.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Meta, I just wanted to say that I've enojoyed the last few blog posts a lot. It's clarified things I've already thought and one blog entry I found right after having an uncomfortable religious discussion with a legalist relative of mine. It was helpful to know there's others who have come to similar beliefs and ideas.
runamonk

Metacrock said...

Hey runamonk, I am delighted to know you like my blog posts, especially the last three and that it helped you! that's tremendous.

I find it amusing that you sign "anonymous" and then put your name on it.

that's ok.

A Hermit said...

How free is a choice made without all the relevant information? If God exists and hides from us to make the choices less obvious that destroys free will, doesn't it?

Metacrock said...

A Hermit said...

"How free is a choice made without all the relevant information? If God exists and hides from us to make the choices less obvious that destroys free will, doesn't it?"

Meta:

that's an irresponsible and non responsive answer.

(1) I never said God is unfinable. He can be found, everything you need si there. you can make it easy and say "OK Go dI give up please help me and show me you are there" than except what you get as a response, don't reject the subjective. Don't deamnd he do it your way.

Or you can do it long and hard by study and reason go through all the arguments, but you have to be open to the possibility, which you are not and no atheist is. by the time one is willing to label oneself "atheist" one had decided to reject any evidence regardless of how good it is, and to demand his own way rather ever consider that he might be wrong.

Everything you need to find God is there. you just have to stop demanding that he surrender to you and you must surrender to him.

it's a struggle of the will. he wont lose. he shouldn't lose, he can't be the basis of all good and all that is and lose to your will, it cannot be.

(2) there is no "reliant" information that you can't get, if you take your will out of hte way and take our pride out and stop demanding that God surrender to you.

(3) The search is necessary, to make it more obvious would be to negate the search then you don't have the values of the good.

A Hermit said...

"that's an irresponsible and non responsive answer"

No, it's a legitimate objection to your soteriological drama; is a moral choice really a free choice if we don't have all the information required to make the choice?


"1) I never said God is unfinable. He can be found, everything you need si there. you can make it easy and say "OK Go dI give up please help me and show me you are there" than except what you get as a response, don't reject the subjective. Don't deamnd he do it your way.

Or you can do it long and hard by study and reason go through all the arguments, but you have to be open to the possibility, which you are not and no atheist is. by the time one is willing to label oneself "atheist" one had decided to reject any evidence regardless of how good it is, and to demand his own way rather ever consider that he might be wrong."


You're making an awful lot of (incorrect) assumptions about me. you're forgetting that I lived by faith for most of my life.

"Everything you need to find God is there. you just have to stop demanding that he surrender to you and you must surrender to him."

I surrendered everything in a way I see few who claim to be Christians doing. I know you don't like to hear that, and you refuse to believe it, but it's true.

"The search is necessary, to make it more obvious would be to negate the search then you don't have the values of the good."

The search is only of value is there are real, reliable answers. Appealing to mystery to answer a mystery, which is ultimately what you are doing here, is not an answer at all.

A Hermit said...

The other objection I have to this is the question of how the soteriological drama accounts for suffering which is not a consequence of moral choices...natural disasters, accidents, disease etc. One could argue I suppose that it's our response to such suffering which is important here, but this still doesn't address suffering which is beyond our ability to deal with, or in some cases even to apprehend. I've asked this question before and i don't think I've seen you even attempt to answer it.

So as I see it there are two major problems here:

1) An uninformed choice is not a free choice, therefore divine hiddenness is actually an obstacle to free will.

2)No accounting for suffering which is not associated with moral choices.

Metacrock said...

Hermit says:The other objection I have to this is the question of how the soteriological drama accounts for suffering which is not a consequence of moral choices...natural disasters, accidents, disease etc. One could argue I suppose that it's our response to such suffering which is important here, but this still doesn't address suffering which is beyond our ability to deal with, or in some cases even to apprehend. I've asked this question before and i don't think I've seen you even attempt to answer it.


Meta: That has come up a quite a bit. I've answered it many times.

(1) Yes, you got it, it has a part in the first answer because God can't do miracles to save us every time we are about to feel some pain because that would mean no search, since God's existence would be beyond question. I that's a perfectly valid answer because if the search is so important it has to be preserved.

(2) it also has a bearing upon the issue of living in a real world. In "this real world" we have nerves and senses and thus can feel pain. if we can feel pain we will feel it at some point so there's no way to stop it. We also have weather, whic accounts for a lot of the pain and misery of this sort (non moral) then we have disease which is an outgrowth of evolution.

(3) it also has a bearing on the nature of God. Perhaps he's not personal as we think of it, perhaps he's not a big man in the sky who can superintend everything all the time.


Hermit:So as I see it there are two major problems here:

1) An uninformed choice is not a free choice, therefore divine hiddenness is actually an obstacle to free will.

Meta: you can't really show in what sense it's uninformed. The issue that you say we are uninformed about is not germane to the issues that have to be known to make a decision. That's just like saying because we aren't told up front about he chemical make up of smog then we cant' make an informed decision about our taxes. Its' not relevant.



hermit2)No accounting for suffering which is not associated with moral choices.

Meta: that's irrational because it doesn't invalidate the reason given. you have to show how not knowing this one thing that's irrelevant to the issues invalidates the reasons stated in the theory, which it does not.

Metacrock said...

Hermit don't you remember telling me that ti doesn't' do any good for me to qualify my statements about atheists? you said that point blank. It's no good when I qualify them. so why not just make them blanket, they are true they should not be ignored if you wont accept qualifying them they you have to take then as blanket.

either way you are going to crap.

A Hermit said...

"Hermit don't you remember telling me that ti doesn't' do any good for me to qualify my statements about atheists? you said that point blank. It's no good when I qualify them."

I told you your qualifications are worthless when you follow them, as you almost always do, with angry, insulting generalizations about all atheists. I do wish you would read my comments more carefully.

I also told you that when you are objecting to an individual's behaviour you should address that individual's behaviour, not invent imaginary "hate groups" which inevitably metastasize into those all inclusive generalizations.

Responding to a couple of people being rude in a three year old message board conversation between people you don't even know by posting a picture of Nazis and labeling it "atheists" is an irrational, unqualified, generalized attack on ALL atheists, and you keep doing it.

Metacrock said...

I told you your qualifications are worthless when you follow them, as you almost always do, with angry, insulting generalizations about all atheists. I do wish you would read my comments more carefully.


why are you so concerned with the tender feelings of the bullies? you obviously don't care how your side treats people.

I also told you that when you are objecting to an individual's behaviour you should address that individual's behaviour, not invent imaginary "hate groups" which inevitably metastasize into those all inclusive generalizations.


translation: when it's atheists you should trivialize and write it off as one guy even though it's obviously the nature of the whole movement and all one must do to see that is go look at the message boards.

Responding to a couple of people being rude in a three year old message board conversation between people you don't even know by posting a picture of Nazis and labeling it "atheists" is an irrational, unqualified, generalized attack on ALL atheists, and you keep doing it.


minimize and trivialize. a couple of people, it's every single board there is, ever day all the time.