Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Does the problem of evil/pain warrant unbelief?


. Poster at Secular Outpost, argues that there are two uses of the problem of evil/pain but one use overshadows the other,. He says it not only can the argument be used to assail Christian belief as irrational but it can also be used to warrant unbelief. In the latter case one would forgo picking on Christian beloief and merely justify unbelief,

The problem of evil can be used in two different ways.  It can be used offensively; that is, in an attempt to criticize and undermine theistic belief, to show that theism is false and that belief in God is unfounded. But it can also be used defensively, i.e., to show that atheism is epistemically warranted, justified, or reasonable.  Of these two distinct uses, the first is by far the most common. But I think that the almost exclusive use of the problem of evil as part of an offensive attack has obscured the value of the defensive use. Used defensively, the problem of evil can serve as the basis for additional arguments against many versions of Christianity.[1]
This is really an analogous to the move I make of arguing for belief as rationally warranted rather than proving the existence fro God, I'm afraid I must agree with this latter view, We can argue down the notion of Christian belief as irrational even against the POE/P but I think it is true that unbelief could be warranted in this manner, The problem is there are differing degrees of warrant, surely. It may still be possible to argue that the warrant for belief is stronger and to produce a turn around argument.

He argues that the existence of "a fully rational and informed theist" does not add much to the question:
 Let’s also assume that it is possible for a person to be an informed theist without having made some error in logic or reasoning, or deliberate ignoring relevant evidence. We can call this person afully rational and informed theist. One question we can ask is what relevance the existence of fully informed and rational theists have to the question of whether God exists. I would suggest that the answer to this question is: not much. The existence of such individuals does not provide much by way of evidence that God exists nor does it provide evidence that God does not exist.[2]
Yet he finds that the existence of a fully informed and rational atheist makes a difference, so it;s the opposite. "Such a person has dutifully considered all of the relevant arguments for the existence and non-existence of God and ... has made no errors in logic or reasoning, and has not deliberately ignored any relevant evidence. Despite this, the atheist sees no reason to abandon her atheism."[3]

It seems to me that the existence of such people is very relevant to this question. If God exists, then there is a perfect being who loves every individual and, given the enormous value of a relationship with the perfect being, must want to have a relationship with every individual that is capable of having such a relationship. Given that believing in God is necessary for having such a fulfilling relationship, God must not want any person to believe that he does not exist.

Like much of the argumentation on the SOP this one inspired by J.L.Schellenberg (Argument from Divine Hiddeness). God's divine hiddenness is morally wrong because it means condemning well meaning seeking people who just haven't put it together in the way believers do, that is unjust and thus immoral, The Christian God cannot be unjust or immoral. 
Given that the atheistic belief of such atheists is non-voluntary (and so cannot be deliberately changed), ... Thus, the conjunction of beliefs that I have describe (that God exists; that God punishes, allows to be punished, etc. people who don’t believe in God; and that there are non-theists turned fully rational and informed atheists) is inconsistent.
 "What does seem very relevant, for reasons that are implicit in what I have written here, is whether there are any non-theists turned fully rational and informed atheists. It strikes me that the various versions of the argument from evil show us that it is possible to be such an atheist."

It seemed to me at first that he was saying two uses for POE the latter being warrant unbelief rather than attacking belief. But then he seems to go after Plantinga and thus stretch the warrant for unbelief into an a priori disproof of belief. So it appears to turn out that there are not really two uses but it;s just a matter of weather one wishes to attack or defend. While I do grant that a rational warrant derived from the realization of an inconsistency in the rejected position is a indictment of that position, I think there are three major issues that mitigate this position and while they don't disprove the warrant they might imply that belief in God is better warranted,

I have three observations that I think blunt the force of his argument:

(1) he assumes that logic is the only way to know truth but God's existence could be intuitive and the atheist cold be denying the intuitive

He clearly sets up the notion that an atheist who studies the issues and reasons flawlessly  is blameless. Clearly he sees reasom and logic as the hallmarks of truth. But what if belief and culpability for unbelief is not matter of reason and logic alone but induces an intuitive sense? What if it is the rejection of this intuitive sense that is the most serious sin of all. Certainly reasoning in a flawed manner can't be a sin. That does not require moral decision.Since an intuitive sense involves the same sort of internal conscience faculty as moral this might signal the possibility that there is a similar process at work.,Rejecting the sense of God;'s reality placed upon the heart may be a moral issue, and at least it constitutes another form of knowledge that has to be addressed. This highlights the fallacy of his argument in the aspect that he ascribes blamelessness to reason and logic, One who has considered the arguments as matters of logical puzzle working is blameless and salvation worthy. But this completely overlooks a moral obligation  to believe which is one of the first things one shucks in becoming an atheist. It also asserts that there are other methods of knowing truth which of course logicians don't want to hear.

(2 ) we could make different assumptions  assumptions about hell

His assumption is that the price of failing to comprehend God's reality is eternal damnation. There is no true obligation to believe in that, No creed spells out such an obligation, I argue that the Bible does not really teach eternal conscious torment as punishment.[4]  .  seems to include annihilation in the classification of unjust consequences, Yet that's what they are opting for when they choose to be atheists, Now of course they like to think they don't choose to be atheists, but I did, I recall thinking "Ok I'll be an atheist," I'm not saying that in itself is blameworthy. I'm only saying that annihilation is not necessarily unfair, It's a just solution fort one who does not qualify for the goal of eternal life and yet doesn't merit damnation. 

 Yet I'm not even saying this definitely the issue. If one truly has been brutally self honest and sought all avenues and reasoned flawlessly and feels no tinge of intuitive sense of God then an atheistic response may not met with any sort of blame or reprisal.  It is only logical that if two aspects of doctrine are inconsistent we should change the doctrine and bring it into conformity with the most basic principle, I think the most basic Principe about God is love, That's why they call it "liberal" theology.

(3) POE/S is justified given the importance of soteriologocal drama [5]

I agree that the problem of evil is a serious issue it something we must maintain and be aware of and always seek to deal with. It is not the knockout t punch a lot of atheists assume. It is inconsistent that God as described in christian theology would allow pain and suffering. But that does not mean there can't be mitigation reasons that make the allowance of pain, suffering, and evil necessary. The major mitigation is the necessity of the search, God puts upon the heart a desire to seek him. That's why the psalm says the fool has said in his heart there is no God, not the fools has reasoned logically there is no evidence for God. The Bible asserts that when onev goes down the path of reason there is confidence that one will find god, "come let us reason together," Of course this is not always the case but the fool is only brought int it where the influence upon the heart is shut off.

God is not hidden. There is no exclusion of thinking but the real battle ground of faith is in the heart. Reason's role in salvation is like that of philosophy in positivism.It is there to clear away the clutter so that science (in this case the heart) can do it's work.The difference is we are not clearing away the clutter for science we are clearing it away for the heart. The search the soteriological drama as I call it, is crucial. If God shut down all source of pain and protected us from ever hurting we would not need to search for truth, But the search is how we internalize values of the good, So the search must go on. Thus the general allowance of  POE/S is necessary, That's why there is no gratuitous evil. Even calamity that has no moral consequence is justified because preventing it woudl negate the search, no one searches for what is obvious and if God eliminated all pain we would cleanly know without a doubt there;s a God. That's not hiding it's just the necessity to search.

Finally salvation is not just a matter of  ascent to be like, it involves a commitment of one;'s life to God, But we can't do that without belief. At least in Christian perspective. Just asserting there is or is not a God is only a first step toward relationship with God which is the point of salvation. Paul intimates that one who follows the good is following Jesus defacto (Rom 2:6-14), so salvation is not just av cut and dried matter of intellectual assent to a proposition. Yet it' not merited but a free gift of grace.

[1] , "How to Use the Argument From Evil." Secular Outpost, Oct. 19. 2016, blog\

[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid, all quotatiojs of Thibodeau from this article
[4] Joseph Hinman, "Why I don't believe in Hell" Doxa, website URL: 
http://www.doxa.ws/Theology/hell.html  (access 10/25/16)
[5] _______ "Soteriologiocal Drama," The Religious A Priori, website
(access 10/25/16)
see also "Twelve Angry Stereo Types"

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