"The Peaceable Kingdom" Edward Hicks
A few posts ago I expounded upon a particular point pertaining to my theory about theodicy. That is why God allows pain, suffering, and evil. That answer is God allows the kind world we have so that we search for truth in our hearts and that because it enables us to internalize the values of the good. That answer has generated a firestorm in the comment section in a three way debate in which Kristen is fending off attacks by her self, taking on two vociferous (but fully human) posters at once: Hermit (of course, our answer to the loyal opposition) and Anonymous (yes, another Anonymous, who knows!?). But opponents are bright and clever and Kristen has been sloughing it out with them, but she's been staying in the ring trading punch for punch.
To set the stage, my take on the whole question of theodicy is the free will defense, but I have augmented that with my view about the need for internalizing the values of the good, to me this is the bottom line. It goes like this: God wants us to have free will so we will have a moral universe. Moral universe doesn't necessarily mean one in which nothing immoral ever happens, but one in which free moral agents willing choose the good. Now that is important because without that you don't really have a moral universe, you have to allow free will, meaning allow the risk of evil choices, in order to have a moral universe. So ironically to have a moral universe you have to risk a screwed up universe in which immoral things happen. This is because "moral universe" means " universe where moral decision making is part of the deal.
The reason it's important to allow moral decision making is because it's part of growth. God could make a world of robots who never disobey but that would not be a moral universe, because they would not be free moral agents, there would be no moral decision making. Through moral decisions we internalize the values of the good. To make moral decisions we must seek truth and answers to major questions all of which requires more internalizing of values. So the real bottom line of what God seems to want in creation is a universe in which free moral agents grow in their heart's choices of good over evil and in which they come to be wise, progressive, adult, mature citizens of the kingdom. The price God pays for that is the world has to be screwed up:
(1) The possibility of evil choices must be constant
(2) God can't end all threats of pain and suffering all the time or there would be no search. No search for what one already knows. If every time we almost hurt ourselves some magic force prevented it we would not to search for truth because we would know obviously what the truth is; vis God's existence at any rate. We would figure it all out.
(3) Pain and suffering must exist in such a world Because for God to act to stop them all the time would be a dead give away.
(4) It's no good saying but God could lessen the degree because perhaps he has. We don't have a really horrible planet to compare it to so we don't know what we've been spared.
The Typical Atheist answer to all of this is to multiply examples. They seem to think if they find the most heart rending ironic seeming form of pain then they have proved that God can't really be good. But that doesn't work because it doesn't answer the exact point about internalizing and the need for search. With that understood the point of allowing a world of suffering is always outweighed by negation of the greater harm of being robots. The problem of not having free will would always be a greater evil and you can't multiple enough examples to stack up to outweighing that.
There are a couple of other points to be made:
I1) Only God can calculate the pay off.
There are too many variables and we don't have the complexity (much less the location outside time) to understand the future and what the facts that must be weighed really are. Only God could figure out if loss of free will would outweigh the evils.
(2) We can trust God to make the best decision
We have no choice for one thing, but for another, God is proved worthy of out trust in the atonement and the things he's done in our lives (for those who are willing to corporate long enough to build trust). So we can trust that God is the only true and fair judge who could weight the balance sheet between harms and goods and choose if creation is worth it.
(3) Counter balancing pleasures.
You have the problem of pain you also have the problem of pleasure. Why are we able to indulge in a seemingly unlimited capacity for small and simple pleasures? We we can appreciate them seeming to a greater extent than other animals. we can philosophize about them and develop them, we can even enjoy their deprivation or delayed gratification. There are a veritable unlimited range of good things in life. This is not a night mare planet. Yet nightmarish things happen, but so do you wonderful things. Only God can judge the balance sheet.
Now let's look at some of the arguments being made. But remember: they haven't really come to terms with the point about internalizing the good.
Uh uh. What about the price innocents pay for the drama? Children killed in war or the Holocaust? Are they victims so that the rest of us can make choices? No thanks.
But that's just piling up the harms like I was talking about. it's more than just "so we can make choices." It's the nature of morality is. Children don't have to be hurt. It's not God hurts me. You choose to hur them, I choose to hurt them, humans choose to hurt kids and let them be hurt. We choose. the counter to that is taking away our ability to choose. Then we can't grow, we can't have spiritual maturity we can't understand the values of the good, we can't be good. It wouldn't mean anything to us that children aren't being hurt if we were unable to take the risk and the choices. But we do not have to choose to hurt them. It's irrational to blame God for giving us the right to choose things then blaming him because we make stupid choices.
What if the government took away your children every time they cried for any reason. "You want me to risk hurting my children feelings, no thanks, take them away don't let me be a parent." It's a risk, we have to take risks to make progress.
At that point Kristen reinforced the same point with a much longer argument.
I had argued that people choose to start wars so Hermit chimes in:
But those wars are, according to you, consistent with God's plan. You can't dodge God's responsibility for the carnage in your precious drama if He's the one who set the stage.Notice that he puts in terms of "wars are consistent with God's plan" as though God said "I think we should have wars..." I said wars are choice by humans and their bad choices. Hermit immediately takes the onus off humanity to choose righty and blames God for allows us to make choices, ignoring the whole concept of internalizing the good. In essence he's arguing aginst knowing the good, being free, making progress, being moral, making decison, being an adult. He thinks by tagging children on to it why that why has to outweigh any value. I have a feeling he would object to having having his kids taken away on the premisie they he made them sad at some point.
Kirsten makes the parent argument, you can't blame a parent everytime the kids don't like their deicsions. But then Hermit takes the onus off the paretns, by disrupting the parental analogy:
The parental analogy is a weak one, anyway; the God in Joe's drama isn't just a parent; He's allegedly the one who established life itself and all the conditions of life deliberately in order to produce the kinds of conflicts we see around us. Do you deliberately set up conditions in which your children will come into conflict with each other and then stand back to watch the battle unfold without intervening so they can "internalize" the lessons of that conflict? That's what the God of Joe's Soteriological Drama does...
I hope Ive been a better parent to my children than that.
So on the one had he wants to recognize that the parent analogy is limited when he can't answer the argument, on the other he wants to use it again when it helps him. He wants to argue that God is just holding back while conflicts brew like a bad parent who doesn't stop his kids stupid decisions, on the other hand he recognizes he's not really parent that's not really analogous but then he goes back to blaming him within the parental analogy. So he can't have it both ways.
Look at the irrational nature of the argument in the first place. I will show that this argument (about war and parenting) is nothing more attempt to multiply examples. He keeps the parent analogy going when he says God created "in order to produce the kinds of conflicts we see around us." That is a misrepresentation of the argument. I never anything about God wanting to set up conflicts or problems or suffering to order to do anything. I am not arguing that suffering builds character. Internalizing values build character bu tit' snot necessary that we suffer to do that, it is necessary that we seek, and to seek we have to live in a world where answers aren't as obvious as they would be if God sheltered us from all harm. That point has gone unanswered in all the comments our two loyal opponents make, but every time the issue is raised the slide back into the parent analogy; a good parent prevents trouble and stops his kids from fighting so god is not a good parent.Even though he's already admitted the parent analogy doesn't apply or has limited value.
This is nothing more than the old atheist fallacy of send the dead buys back in:
Atheist argues X
I beat the fu out of X
Atheist argues Y
I beat the fu out of Y
Atheist argues P
I beat the fu out of P
Atheist says "Yes, but here's X, you haven't beatin X."
But Atheists in this battle admitted X didn't apply that much (before using it again in the next breath). So let's take the parent analogy out of the debate because they admit it doesn't apply!
At his point I said:
but you haven't estabished that the balance sheet doesn't tally up on the side of allowing the drama. yes there' pain and suffering and evil but it would a thousand times more so where there no free will. We can't even understand the steaks but just with what little I do understand i would rather take all the pain I've had in life (I've had my share) and more than to save all that but have no free will.To all of this Hermit brings in the "why can't God just limit pain" argument which I dealt with above:
Without free will life would be totally meaningless.
So the balance sheet does tally and we don't have the knowledge or the insight to say it doesn't.
now can we lay wars at the feet of God as though human responsibility does not exist. This is just another ploy by those fully human atheists (human all to human) to evade their responsiblity for moral failure.
you are just saying "why did you have to make so I have to use self control? why can't you just force me when I want to be forced?
Free will is already limited in all kinds of ways. Making people just a little bit more empathetic so they wouldn't kill each, doesn't destroy free will any more than making some people genetically predisposed to homosexuality does.This is still avoiding the internalization argument. The need for free outweighs anything. It's the primary value because without it goodness would not exist on earth among humans. You can't good where there are no moral choices. Arguing God could limit the evil more than he does assumes that we know how much he does. There's an infinite amount of suffering we could be spared right now because God limits how much evil is around. There's no net argument there. That doesn't outweigh the internalization argument.
Then Hermit falls back to the "God sets the stage" arguemnt:
On the contrary, I put all the responsibility on humanity; it's you who want God to be responsible for the circumstances in which your "drama" plays out. I'm just pointing out that if God indeed set the stage then He has to take at least some responsibility for the pain and suffering and evil inherent in the drama.
This is quite odd because he contradicts himself twice in this statement. First he says he puts the whole responsibility on man. Ok argument over! Thanks for agreeing. O but wait, then he says if God set the stage he has to take some responsibility. But that contradicts saying that the responsibility is all man's. Why should God "take responsibility" for our choices just because he gave us free will? Does that mean the Department of Motor vehicles must take responsibility for giving me a drivers license, so I'm not to blame if I drive drunk and kill someone the guy at the license place has to lose his job? What do you mean "set the stage?" He created a world that works by natural means and can run on its own in that world being evolved who have free will and can reason for themselves, but they also screw things up a lot, but God is to blame?
Who says God doesn't "take responsibility" what's he supposed to do, turn in his halo? He designed a moral law in us so we have innate ideas of how to be good. He moved into history as one of us so we can get the idea of how to be by his example, he died on the cross to forgive us when we do screw up and he sent people he knows to tell us when we stop listening to him, he had his guys write a collection of works so we have a written text with the basic ideas in it, lots of examples of what happens when we do screw up. All of these things some humans mock, deride refuse to listen to, but it's God's fault for giving them mouths. Just like it was God's fault for giving man Eve. But the basic point itself does nothing to refute the concept of the need for moral universe, the need to internalize the good, and the fact that free will outweighs any harm because upon free will ride the whole of the moral universe.
as I said,
you are just saying "why did you have to make so I have to use self control? why can't you just force me when I want to be forced?
Kristen and Hermit argue some more about the nature of the parental argument, balme each otehr for bring it up ;-)
At this point Anon comes back take us to a new vista:
Hermit is raising the issue of natural evil, which, unfortunately, both Meta & Kristen have been avoiding. Meta's example of war is highly problematic--Stalin & Hitler start the wars, and innocents suffer. Diseases and genetic problems cause deaths. Sure, this may teach us lessons about peace over war or applyiong our brains to medicine and engineering rather than building nukes, but this is an awfully high cost--and thus an inefficient God. Simply claiming "you don't know the meaning of the term 'drama'" or arguing about parental analogies has done nothing to address this bigger issue that sticks in many people's craws.
I don't think Hermit actaully raised the issue of natural evil as such, except tangentially. But be that as it may, (if he wants credit for raising it I'll give it to him) I am not avoiding anything. First of all "natural evil" is a misnomer. Tornadoes, Hurricanes, famines, floods, diesiease these things are not "evil." There are no moral choices involved. They are "bad" they are suffering, we could call them "natural suffering." But they are not "evil" as such. Secondly, my answer does account for them:
(1) The are the result of the consqeunce of living in a real world.
In a world with weather, biology, and nerve endings, we are going to feel pain.
(2) That God does not immediately protect us form such things (not to say he never does) is because we have to have a world in which the answers must be sought in the heart.
Of course this goes back to the whole point of the overall soteriolgocail drama theory: to internalize the good we must live in a world where searching for ultimate truth is the point of life. If there were no natural disasters and callamities we would not need to search.
Note: this is not the same saying suffering builds character so God designed a world where we have to suffer. God created a world where searching is necesary. The extent to which harms are amiliorated is dependent upon us. We can chooose to make things better for people who suffer.
At that point the sketpics are going to bring back the attempt to multiply examples until they stack them up so high they outweigh free will. But that will never happen because without free will we could not appreciate the problems of pain. If we did not have a world in which we must search and thus risk evil choices and their consequences (one of which is no helping victims of natural disaster and disease as we should) if we did not have such a world but were choiceless robots we could not appreciate the pain we now feel as something wrong or bad the result of bad choices. To even have a grasp of a problem in relation to pain we have to have the kind of world in which we feel pain. Thus multiplying examples cannot ever outweigh the value of internalizing the good. Moreover, if there was no moral universe, a universe in which free moral agents internalize the good, then the suffering we do encounter would just be "noise" just part of the background of what is, rather than holding any special chatter as "the trials and transmutations of life."
But Anon seems to miss the point:
You contradict yourself, or at least your wording suggests as much. God doesn't allow suffering to teach us vs the point of living in such a world is to search for such answers. If God does not allow suffering, why is it there? Don't say free will. Do non-elites have free will in starting wars? Do people have free will in deciding whether their children will have genetic disorders that kill them? The a typhoon or tidal wave will wipe out a community?I didn't say God doesn't allow suffering. I was speaking to the wording Hermit has used that implies God specifically wants suffering to happen and God doesn't goes out of his way to cause it. God soes not cause any of it. It's only the permissive result of what God allows, which is our free will, and the resulting cause of our choices is pain and suffering. God has jsut easily dsigned into the system the means to negate such suffering, its' up to us to take advantage of it.
then he wants to press the issue, do the little unpowerful people have a choice in wars, doe anyone have a choice in floods? No but God isn't purposely starting each war or causing each flood. So this just amounts to multiplying examples. You an think up new outrages all day long they will never outweigh the nature of the good which is fostered by allowing a moral universe. This applies to all the stuff I said about the tally sheet and how only God can do the tally. None of that has been answered. now they are just bring the dead guys back again. They have not answered the argument but they want to keep bringing the stuff answered.
You could argue that the best we can do is search for lessons and answers in this context--that's perfectly valid, but then you have not solved the issue of why such suffering exists in the first place.I have. I have explained why it's allowed and that having it still outweighs the consequence of not having it. The greater evil would be stasis: no moral progress, no learning, no choice, no free will, no moral universe, no good. you are trying to make phsyical the wrost thing that ever ever ever ever be. It's not. I admit it's hard to see that when you set concerete suffering against theoretical loss of free will. But if you think about it ihas to outwigh. Because otherwise the horrific nature of the concrete suffering wouldn't even matter to us. In order to give your arugment any philosophcial significance or any theologcial significance you have to concede to my point.
Then Anon fallas back into Old athist saws.
"And the conclusion that the ancients came to in the Book of Job was that it's just not that simple-- bad things aren't always deserved, but it's possible to have faith and trust in God anyway, knowing that our understanding is limited and God's is not."Anon:
Or the Book of Job had an answer--God is not all-powerful. In which case, many people's "faith" has to be reexamined.
but clearly that's not the answer the book of Job embraces. Othersie the whole "who hung the north over an empty place?" Monologue would make no sense. The real point of the book is the wager, the meaning of which is "we can't know the answer. There could be a logical asnwer that we just don't think of." Putting in terms of a wager is not important, that's just a Maguffin. It could be anything. It's a plot device to fill an unimportant gap in the plot. The reasl answer in my view, the real thing the maguffin stands in for is internalizing the good.
So if God is not all-powerful, where does God fit in this picture? And what happens to Joe's entire framework? What do we do with "natural evil"? I don't see an answer here.We have to bracket that discussion as it is a lot more tricky than you think. But I am not freaked out by the concept that God is limited by logical necessity. Nor is it logical to think that limited omnipotance is any kind of disproof of God. "Some people will have to re exaine their faith," but so what? Some people will have to do that just to read the discussion we are having.
After Kristen mounted a fine defense of Job it all comes back to the same old "bring the dead guys back to battle" fallacy of the atheists, and once again they try to stack up and multiply exmaples:
Neither you nor Joe can explain to me why letting millions of helpless children die of AIDs serves to edify the human race, and I'm just not impressed with appeals to ineffable plans that we "just can't understand...
Now it's millions. Holy multiplication Batman. But yes, it has been. It has been so explained. because having a moral universe (which is predicated upon free will) outweighs everything else. You can stack up up to seven billion dying in horrible agony and all the ecologial disasters possile and it still wont outweigh the importnace of a moral universe, because without that the pain and suffering you are stacking up become just a pile a meat. The only thing that makes the suffering real human agony that requires an answer is if is part of a universe in which the vlaues of the good matter. If we can't internalize the values of the good and grow as spiritual beings then we are just mindless little orgnaizism stuting and fretting our time in the petry dish and like so much scum at the bottom of the shower we go our sipmle way and are no more.
the only thing that gives it human dignity and the kind of moral authroity that you want it to have is that it happens in a moral unvierse. yes it is a celestiral catch 22.