Thursday, December 07, 2006

Theodicy Debate

I recieved an email from someone who wishes to simpley 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 falisifiable? Well if any particular scientific theory turns out wrong then it's just being tested as a theory, so science itself can never be falisfied. 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 assuptions of which he has no knowledge.Of course I deal with Biblical contradictions by appealing tomodels of revleation 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" inacurate 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 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 complainance that would be the result of intimindation.

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 ultaimte meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internatlized.

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) Allowence of free chioces requires the risk that the chooser will make evil chioces

(4)The possiblity 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 purpsoe 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 entials. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclinded 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 tention exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultiamte goals, ends and puroses 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 probalby 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 internatilized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; intetrsubective, internal, not amienable 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 populairty." 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 knowst 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 innoculate
Christianity such that it's unfalsifible, 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 falsifiablity is indescriminate. 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 cocnept. One canonot just go around saying "that's unfalsifiable." You must show:

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

Now let's don't get confussed here. Scientific theories are falsifiable, but not science itself. Why should christinaity 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 Christainity and Christian belief many such questions will be.

The most important point is why should an existenial experitially oriented Philosphy have to measure up to a philosophical concept desinged for perscise empirical observations?


Anonymous said...

I see that in your article, you develop the concept of soteriological drama specifically to refute the problem of evil, so maybe you didn't mean it to be used for plenary refutation of every single objection that could possibly be raised against Christianity. But dont you think it applies just as well to (for example) bible contradictions as it does to the problem of evil?


Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

"I see that in your article, you develop the concept of soteriological drama specifically to refute the problem of evil, so maybe you didn't mean it to be used for plenary refutation of every single objection that could possibly be raised against Christianity."

>>>actually that's right. It doesn't fit all objections either. I don't think you quite understand the full argument, no offense. Becasue it's not saying that there are no clues as to belief. There has to be some basis upon which one can make a rational decision, but it can't be so compelling as to negate all doubt.

"But dont you think it applies just as well to (for example) bible contradictions as it does to the problem of evil?"

>>>No certinly not! that would be to propose the "inspired mistake." I'm the one who blew the lid off the inspired mistake.

Inspired mistake, this summer I was arguing with a fundy who actaully propposed that any mistakes in the Bible were "inspired mistakes" so that there are no mistakes, at least not any that God didn't plan for and allow. To me that jus sux because it means nothing can ever count against it.

We should be able to deal with Bible contradictions in terms of textual criticism and the nature of our theories of revelation. see my page on biblical revelation which I linked in the article where I answered your comments.