The Problem With Answering the Problem of Evil

The Problem With Answering the Problem of Evil

The Problem With Answering the Problem of EvilThe problem of evil is perhaps the most common objection non-believers have to the existence of God. If God is allegedly all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow the horrific evil we witness in history or in our daily lives? Is He too weak to stop evil, or simply unwilling? Does the existence of evil negate the reasonable existence of God? Like many short, rhetorically powerful objections to God’s existence, there are sound and adequate responses theists can offer, but few that can be articulated with brevity. Any attempt to answer the problem of evil is called a “theodicy” (from the Greek theos “god” and dike “justice”): “a vindication of God’s goodness and justice in the face of the existence of evil”. Like many of the criminal cases I work as a detective, the case for God’s existence (given the presence of evil) is a case made cumulatively.

All of my cold cases are circumstantial cases made by assembling a large variety of evidences pointing to the same conclusion. The cumulative nature of my cases requires jurors to consider the collective whole, rather than any isolated piece of evidence. In fact, no single piece of evidence in a cumulative circumstantial case may be all that convincing when considered on its own. But when it is added to the other evidences pointing to the same conclusion, the totality of the case becomes overwhelming. This is the difficult nature of circumstantial cases. They are time consuming, both in their development prior to trial and in their presentation before a jury.

In a similar way, the answer to the problem of evil is cumulative and often difficult to develop (and time-consuming to present). It requires us to consider a number of evidences pointing the same conclusion, and to prepare for the attack any one of these evidences is likely to experience when skeptics attempt to isolate them from the larger case. Any effort to defend the existence of God from the problem of evil must address and include the following cumulative set of truths:

The Relationship Between Moral Evil and Human Freedom
Our theodicy must articulate the nature of love and God’s desire to create a world in which love is possible. True love requires that humans have the ability to freely choose; love cannot be forced if it is to be heartfelt and real. Freedom of this nature is often costly. A world in which people have the freedom to love and perform great acts of kindness is also a world in which people have the freedom to hate and commit great acts of evil. You cannot have one without the other, and we understand this intuitively.

The Relationship Between Human Suffering and the Nature of God
Our theodicy must also articulate the nature and values of God and the temporary nature of our temporal lives. As difficult as it may seems in times of suffering, our response must at least address several important aspects of God. (1) A good God values character over comfort. Creature comforts are temporary, but character transcends time. (2) A transcendent God understands that ‘love’ is the perfect balance between mercy and justice. We, as humans, often hold a very temporal understanding of love; we think of love as that warm instantaneous feeling, that lustful desire, or that passionate season of romance. But God understands that true love transcends the moment and often requires discernment, discipline and judgment. (3) An eternal God provides humans with an existence beyond the grave. We usually want our desire for comfort, love, mercy and justice to be satisfied in this life (and immediately if at all possible!) But our pursuit of immediate gratification often leads us to do things that are ultimately harmful to ourselves and to others.

The Relationship Between Natural Evil and God’s Existence
Our theodicy must address the sometimes hidden or obscured causes of natural evil (like earthquakes, tsunamis or even birth defects. We must address a number of collective factors: (1) God may tolerate some natural evil because it is the necessary consequence of a free natural process that makes it possible for freewill creatures to thrive. (2) God may also tolerate some natural evil because it is the necessary consequence of human free agency. (3) God may permit some natural evil because it challenges people to think about God for the first time. (4) God may permit some natural evil because it provides humans with the motivation and opportunity to develop Godly character.

The Relationship Between Immoral Christian Behavior and a Moral God
Our theodicy must be prepared to defend the existence of the Christian God, in light of the sometimes immoral behavior of “Christians”. While history may include examples of “Christian” groups committing evil upon those with whom they disagreed, a fair examination will also reveal they were not alone in this sort of behavior. Groups holding virtually every worldview, from theists to atheists, have been mutually guilty of evil behavior. The common denominator in these violent human groups was not worldview; it was the presence of humans. Regardless of worldview, humans will try to find a way to justify their evil actions. The question is not which group is more violent but which worldview most authorizes and accommodates this violence.

The Relationship Between Our Understanding and God’s Actions
Our theodicy must address the nature and actions of God through history, particularly when God has commanded the destruction of particular people groups. It’s easy for us to judge the words and actions of God as if He were just another human, subject to an objective standard transcending Him. But when we judge God’s actions in this way, we are ignoring His unique authority and power: (1) If there is a God, all of creation is His handiwork. He has the right to create and destroy what is His, even when this destruction may seem unfair to the artwork itself. (2) If there is a God, all of us are His patients. He has the wisdom and authority to treat us as He sees fit, even when we might not be able to understand the overarching danger we face if drastic action isn’t taken. (3) If there is a God, He is more concerned about saving us for eternity than He is about making our mortal lives safe.

The Relationship Between Evil and Eternity
Our theodicy must also address our limited view of reality. If the Christian worldview is true, we are eternal beings who will live forever. Our experience and understanding of pain and evil must be contextualized within eternity, not within our temporal lives. Whatever we experience here in our earthly life, no matter how difficult or painful it may be, must be seen through the lens of forever. Our eternal life with God will be a life without suffering, without pain and without evil. As our eternal life with God stretches beyond our temporal experience, whatever suffering or injustice we might have experienced here on earth will seem like it occurred in the blink of an eye.

The Nature of Objective Evil and the Existence of God
Finally, our theodicy must recognize the futility of any objection to evil unless we can first ground the definition of good and bad (right and wrong) in the existence of a transcendent source for such concepts. If evil is simply a matter of personal or cultural opinion, we could eliminate evil by simply changing our minds. If notions of evil transcend each of us personally and apply to all cultures regardless of location or time in history (like the claim, “it’s never OK to torture babies for the fun of it”), we’ve got to discover the transcendent source for our definitions. There can be no transcendently sufficient definition of evil unless there is a transcendent standard of righteousness. Evil, as a concept, ceases to have meaning unless it can be compared and measured against an objective standard of virtue. Those who complain about evil see it as more than personal opinion, but to do so, they must borrow their objective standard from a transcendent, theistic worldview.

Any adequate response to the problem of evil must robustly address the collective, cumulative case. Even in trying to briefly reconstruct the case, I’ve exceeded the word count I typically use for my daily blog. This is the problem with answering the problem of evil. While the objection can be stated in a sentence of two, the response cannot. This shouldn’t surprise us; when a defendant says simply, “I didn’t do it; I wasn’t there,” the necessary response from the prosecuting team will take weeks to articulate. But when we’re done, the cumulative case will be persuasive, even though any one small piece of this case may be less than convincing. This is the nature of cumulative cases, and this is the nature of our theodicy.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, a Christian Case Maker, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity and ALIVE

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21 replies
  1. Luke says:

    This is a far better attempt than the previous one. I’m glad the professor granted a re-write. :)

    I think each point here could be given a counterpoint, but I don’t see the sense in doing that. I think the overall picture could also be challenged with a similarly big-picture counterpoint. Again, I don’t see the sense in doing this.

    I’d like to ask the audience here though… am I the only one who doesn’t see love as a free-will choice?

    I know there has long been a philosophical discussion about the free-will of belief, but it seems like in the world of apologetics this is taken for granted. If you held a gun to my head and threatened to kill me unless I stopped loving my children then and there, I’d be dead. I could lie and say I had stopped, but that’s about it. I couldn’t actually do it. What kind of free-will is that? (I’d also note: I never made a choice to love them in the first place, it just happened. I find it hard to believe I’m unique in this.)

    And wouldn’t a love that could be stopped and started on a whim be kind of, well, cheap?Personally, I like the fact that my love for my kids and my wife transcends me. I can’t imagine anyone thinking that this is a bad thing (though apparently Mr. Wallace and many others do).

    (When I say on a whim, I realize that we can make seemingly free choices through deep thought and analysis, but I can’t think of examples where one could not also just decide to make that choice without any analysis — on a whim. So I’d argue that any free-will choice can be made this way, we just may choose to handle it differently.)

    I’d like to hear some thoughts on this.

    I’d like to ask about another general thought. If we accept that free will is needed to achieve some level of good, we should also accept that some good can be generated through the prevention of seemingly unnecessary suffering, though the argument would be that this level is lower.

    We can label the second, no suffering and no free will as goodness level NS. We can label the level of goodness achieved through free-will and suffering as FW. We can then say that FW – NS = some added value of goodness. We should also accept that an omnipotent and omniscient deity can create a level of goodness at infinity (or at least approaching infinity — I’m not a math person beyond PEMDAS). Lets call this level I.

    So G-d is either obligated or chooses to enforce goodness level FW.
    NS either does not meet the obligation or is not the choice of G-d.

    Either FW = I, or G-d is not obligated to enforce a level of goodness above above FW, or G-d chooses not to enforce a level of goodness above FW.

    So why is FW what we might call the Goldilocks zone of goodness? It seems to me that any proper defense would have to give some rational for this. I have never seen this answered in either a professional or amateur philosophical context.

    (I know Alvin Platinga’s response to the problem of evil is something like FW = I, but quite frankly that’s just an unjustified assertion and I think one would be quite right to be incredulous. This argument also assumes that free-will is the only thing an omnipotent being can do to raise the level of goodness above NS, but I have never seen justification for this claim.)

    Anyway, that’s a bit of rambling…

    Luke

    Reply
  2. Luke says:

    Just to throw out another thought. In general there is one objection to the free will defense that strikes me as quite strong.

    If we say that freewill is of some positive value, then by allowing someone to murder a child (for example), the amount of free will is diminished. If the free will of the killer is so important as to be inviolable, why is the free will of the child so easily violable?

    I think this is a significant challenge. In my mind, I can only come to one answer (I’d love to hear others). Because both agents have freewill, but one is able to kill the other, neither has had their free will violated by G-d.

    That sounds good, but we are often told that G-d is the creator of life, therefore he can end it. This is used often enough that I can quote the very article above. Mr. Wallace said: If there is a G-d, all ofcreation is His handiwork. He has the right to create and destroy what is His, even when this destruction may seem unfair to the artwork itself.

    So this brings up the question. Did those killed by G-d or at his command want to die? If not, did G-d not violate their free will by killing them (or having them killed)?

    If free will is so valuable as to be inviolable even to G-d (unlike life), why does he indeed violate it?

    This is a contradiction, which may have a resolution (any ideas?), but it undermines a core premise (the value of free will).

    Even if we leave that problem aside — let’s say I’ve misunderstood, we are lead to a confusing set of conclusions:

    1. Free will is a higher good than life itself. (Since G-d will allow the extinguishing of life if oreder to preserve free will.)

    2. G-d can take life, but cannot violate free will.

    3. People are allowed to violate free will (they may be punished for it — maybe — but the action itself is allowed).

    4. G-d is omnibenevolent, seeking the highest value of good. Therefore He cannot act against His nature and violate free will.

    5. It follows from 1,2,3 and 4 that while G-d can violate the lower good life, He cannot (as in: is unable to) violate the higher good of free will. Therefore man can do something which an omnipotent G-d cannot.

    Does this not put man above G-d in some sense? How could that be right?

    Let’s agree to ignore all of that though and move on to a different yet related point.

    While the term free-will is often used, it is more correct to say limited free will (or as Platinga puts it ‘significant freedom’) as in not total free will or freedom. I’d love to dunk on a 12′ hoop. I can’t. I cannot exercise my will in this way. You can easily think of a million such limitations (you’d like to fly, I can tell!).

    So G-d has control over what we have the ability to do. This gives the possibility of arranging a world with the same amount of free-will and significantly reduced suffering, if not a complete lack of suffering.

    Take rape, for example. A horrific act of one actor’s “free-will” overriding another’s.

    Yet G-d knows who will want to rape. G-d controls the abilities of those who will want to rape. Could G-d not simply make every rapist weak and every targeted victim strong, to the order that the rape simply cannot take place. This seems relatively simple, no?

    The rapist may want the rape, but lack the ability.
    (Just as I may want to dunk, but lack the ability.)

    This not only reduces suffering without limiting free-will, it actually increases the exercise of free-will as the rape victim’s will is now not violated. (In other words: more free-will is exercised and less free-will is violated. If free will adds value to a world’s goodness, goodness is increased.

    You can go through this and imagine just about any evil being stopped without a violation of free will.

    Okay, I’ve written far more than I intended. I think about this problem a lot, and will probably write a book about it one day (don’t you steal my ideas and publish before me!). :)

    I’d love to hear any interesting thoughts you readers may have.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  3. Charles says:

    “So this brings up the question. Did those killed by G-d or at his command want to die? If not, did G-d not violate their free will by killing them (or having them killed)?”

    Luke,

    Now this is just my feeble understanding but with regard to your question I think we need to also consider who it was God was exterminating. The wars waged by Saul and again by David against the Amelikites, Anakim and Rephaim were to rid the earth of Nephelim seed. In other words; these nations were comprised of the giants who were the offspring of fallen angels. They weren’t fully human. It is, arguably, also the reason the human lifespan was condensed to 120 years so the seed and, thus, influence of the Nephelim could be completely wiped out. It has been said that they taught humans the art of war, competition, agriculture and prosperity through enslavement; virtually inventing poverty.

    If this is true then it should follow that God was perfectly within his rights to rid humanity of the impurity of creatures who never were given free will. So He hasn’t violated His own nature. As I recall; Angels do not share the luxury of not directly obeying God as they are eternal but not immortal. We, on the other hand, are comprised of mortal flesh that ambulates an an immortal soul (consciousness?) meant to act on God’s behalf in the earth. Again, this is just a layperson understanding.

    Sin as a result of the pride of satan, the fall of Adam and Eve and the Nephelim interbreeding and influence have stained humanity. God seems to desire purifying (sanctification) and extracting (salvation) Humans from a world wrought with many unspeakable horrors and evil. So the fact that evil exists should punctuate the existence of good and give hope for salvation with God forever.

    Reply
    • Stephen B says:

      “They weren’t fully human… perfectly within his rights to rid humanity of the impurity of creatures…”

      Isn’t this basically the same justification Hitler offered for the Holocaust?

      Reply
  4. Charles says:

    Luke,

    I also wanted to point out that, again just my feeble understanding, the world we all live in subjects us all to the same potential for evil, horrendous and depraved things to happen. The Christian faith is one that doesn’t “let us off the hook”, so to speak. It is said in Scripture that God is no respector of persons and that he rules over the just and the unjust alike (paraphrasing).

    So being all lumped in together the only things that differentiate the believer is purpose and response. The rapist violating the free will of his/her victim is a matter we potentially all deal with regardless of our belief or lack of belief. The difference, I think, would have to be in the seeking of purpose. Our worldview will determine our response and the response will have either a negative or positive physical result but will also carry spiritual implications for both rapist and victim.

    The point I’m making grinds down to believers understanding the relationship humans have with one another and the purpose we serve in the world as the “big picture” or God’s plan. God’s plan is the Believer’s code. If there is no code to live by then any response to any situation is neither right nor wrong and life just becomes survival.

    In contrast; humans seem to inately strive to live and living requires purpose. So evidently; the events that occur from day to day must carry some meaning to which our response will prove who we really are and what we really believe. If one truly believes in the God of the Bible he/she will look there for answers and allow God to “order their steps”. If one doesn’t truly believe or refuses to believe then their steps are subject to thier own judgments and whims of the world (good, bad or ugly) regardless of worldview.

    In closing, God doesn’t impose His will on the free will of humans. In fact; the very concept of Love prohibits this because for Love to be what it is requires a free will decision. I agree with you that we can’t help but love our children but they can decide whether they love us or not. I think, in the same way, God can’t help but Love us but we can decide whether we love Him or not.

    Thanks luke, I hope that all makes sense.

    Reply
  5. Charles says:

    “Isn’t this basically the same justification Hitler offered for the Holocaust?”

    No. What Hitler was doing was justifying genocide based on a contrived hierarchy of humanity based on Darwin’s theory. It was the stuff of textbooks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when people believed in the evolution of “superior races”.

    The Nephilim were the fallen angels who mated with human women in Genesis 6. Their offspring were the giants that comprised these nations that God wanted wiped out. According to the Book of Enoch the Nephilim were said to have taught humans various things like war, competition, agriculture and architecture along with polygamy and various other immoral things. They did this in exchange for copulation with human women whom they found sexually attractive.

    Reply
  6. Stephen B says:

    “No. What Hitler was doing was justifying genocide based on a contrived hierarchy of humanity based on Darwin’s theory.”

    Where did you hear that, Charles? It’s not true. Hitler clearly expressed that he thought he was doing the Lord’s work in targeting the Jews, and the justification he gave was similar to what you said above: the Jews weren’t fully human, they were impure.

    As for Darwin, Hitler was essentially a Creationist – he rejected that speciation took place. “A fox remains a fox, a goose remains always a goose”, he said. The Nazis actually banned books on evolution.

    Reply
    • dpatrickcollins says:

      Hitler’s Table Talk, a revealing collection of the Fuhrer’s private opinions, assembled by a close aide during the war years, shows Hitler to be rabidly anti-religious. He called Christianity one of the great “scourges” of history, and said of the Germans, “Let’s be the only people who are immunized against this disease.” He promised that “through the peasantry we shall be able to destroy Christianity.” In fact, he blamed the Jews for inventing Christianity. He also condemned Christianity for its opposition to evolution.

      — Was Hitler a Christian? http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/facts/fm0110.htm

      I think it would be a big mistake to deny the evolutionary and atheistic trends of his time that both influenced Hitler and that he used to legitimize his hatred and genocide of the Jews, and equal folly to try to categorize him as a Christian (let alone a Creationist). This one-dimensional thinking is no different than saying all atheists are immoral.

      But to your point, Hitler did dehumanize the Jewish people in order to both allow and justify the horrific acts that were the Holocaust. The question in my mind is not whether the Nephilim or any other species is unfit to live, but rather what rights does God have over his creation?

      I welcome your thoughts.

      Reply
      • Stephen B says:

        dpatrickcollins, I never said Hitler was a Christian. I said he: “was essentially a Creationist – he rejected that speciation took place”, and you’ve said nothing in reply to contradict that, bar that you think ‘it would be a big mistake’ to deny the influence of atheism and evolution, without saying why. The influence on Hitler of European anti-semitism and in particular the writings of Martin Luthor are well-documented.

        By contrast, you reference Table Talk – a controversial source, and Dinesh D’Souza, another questionable source!

        The table-talk has Hitler saying such things such as: “I shall never come to terms with the Christian lie. . .”, “Our epoch will certainly see the end of the disease of Christianity”.

        The problem with these anti-Christian quotes is that the German text of the table-talk does not include them, they were made up by François Genoud, the translator of the French version, the very version that English translations rely on!

        Even if you believed the table-talk included the anti-Christian quotes, nowhere in the talk does Hitler speak against Jesus or his own brand of Christianity. On the contrary, the table-talk has Hitler speaking admirably about Jesus. Hitler did, of course criticize organized religion in a political sense (as do many Christians today), but never in a religious sense. But the problems with using Hitler’s table talk conversations as evidence for Hitler’s apostasy are manyfold:

        1) The reliability of the source (hearsay and editing by the anti-Catholic, Bormann)
        2) The reliability of multiple translations, from German to French to English.
        3) The bias of the translators (especially Genoud).
        4) The table-talk reflects thoughts that do not occur in Hitler’s other private or public conversations.
        5) Nowhere does Hitler denounce Jesus or his own brand of Christianity.
        6) The “anti-Christian” portions of Table-Talk does not concur with Hitler’s actions for “positive” Christianity.

        Finally, even if you dismiss all of Hitler’s references to ‘doing the Lord’s work’ as mere lies to get the German people onside, you’re still left with the conclusion that the German people supported anti-semitism, and Hitler’s other policies, due to their Christian faith. This makes your problem 30 million times worse, as it’s the whole of Germany rather than just one man!

        Reply
  7. Charles says:

    “Where did you hear that, Charles? It’s not true.”

    I admit I don’t know much about Hitler. I posted based on what I’ve always understood (feeble as it may be) about Nazi ideology in that Hitler claimed to be Catholic but didn’t really believe in God. If you are right then I stand corrected and I apologize if I was misleading. My intention was to make a point that Hitlers transgressions were, in fact, different from ancient Middle Eastern history.

    What I do know from Scripture as well as the likes of the Book of Enoch (previously included but now non-canonical) and other traditions is the Israelites were dealing with some sort of ultra intelligent, giant race of beings that were given to all sorts of evil and immoral acts. Many people believe the ancestors of these giants, the Nephilim, were responsible for building the Pyramids in Egypt, South America and China. Again, they are also said to have given humanity a technological “jump start” as prior to 5000 years ago there weren’t any significant advances other than simple tools and crude textile materials like loin cloths.

    Now, personally, I don’t know how much of this is true; but I am just relaying some of what I’ve come across in the past. I’m not trying to suggest that I believe in “Ancient Alien” theories but some of these things are quite intriguing.

    Hitler committed atrocities to human beings; this much is true even though some still believe it never happened there is living evidence. As for ancient history we have to go by a lot of circumstantial and ever emerging archeological evidence. So, like I said, I’m not trying to be disengenuous but I think there is something to be said about why God would want to exterminate whole groups of people in a seemingly contradictory way. It would go against His nature to arbitrarily destroy part of His creation for such a trivial reason as wanting to promote one race over another. However; for Scripture to harmonize and still be in line with the nature of God it would make sense if what I initially posted was true.

    I hope that clears things up.

    Reply
  8. Luke says:

    Charles said:I admit I don’t know much about Hitler. I posted based on what I’ve always understood (feeble as it may be) about Nazi ideology in that Hitler claimed to be Catholic but didn’t really believe in God. If you are right then I stand corrected and I apologize if I was misleading.

    This blog needs more people like Charles.

    Charles, to answer your post, I would only say that the wars you mention are hardly the only example of G-d killing or commanding to kill. I think the story of the flood and Noah’s ark will always be the prime example in which G-d killed not just almost the entirety of humanity, but almost all sentient beings.

    I’m not saying this was wrong, or not within G-d’s right, just that it’s incompatible with the idea that free will is inviolable even to G-d.

    It only shows that simply saying “well, G-d gave us free will and that is a greater good which He would not violate” is at the very best too simplistic. Simplified ideas have their place, but I am myself not sure that I know the deeper answer (I try to) and I know that I have never read one, despite reading a lot about this subject. None of that says the problem of evil is not a solvable one, just that while I could throw out a lot of words to answer it, I personally know that if I’m honest, I don’t have a good answer.

    Luke

    Reply
  9. Charles says:

    Luke,

    You’re too kind.

    Luke said, “I’m not saying this was wrong, or not within G-d’s right, just that it’s incompatible with the idea that free will is inviolable even to G-d.”

    My question to this is would you think it is imposing for God to reveal His Commandments to the world as its Creator? I mean; He created a harmonious order and it was humanity that rebelled against that order so we had the “free will” to disobey. But because it was contrary to the order that was preset for harmony there were fatal consequenses.

    Save for the nations that I mentioned; and again if I am correct, God always sent prophets to warn nations that were blatantly rejecting Him. God hated what the Ninevites were doing but spared them in spite of sending Jonah, who failed to warn them, all because they had a corporate change of heart. God’s wrath seems to fall in line with who He is because He is the source and essence of all of creation. It seems to me that it took ultimate power for God to incarnate Himself in flesh in order to redeem what I believe is His greatest creation; humanity. But He did so, in a unique way, to maintain His attributes as Creator of all that is and stay consistent with His Word.

    Again, I hope that makes sense. I don’t think it was too simplistic but I’d like to hear what you think.

    Reply
  10. Luke says:

    Charles asked: would you think it is imposing for God to reveal His Commandments to the world as its Creator?

    I’m sorry Charles, but I don’t understand the question. Could you try rewording it, perhaps. I’d like to answer, but I’m just not sure what you mean.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  11. Terry L says:

    [A]m I the only one who doesn’t see love as a free-will choice?

    …If you held a gun to my head and threatened to kill me unless I stopped loving my children then and there, I’d be dead. I could lie and say I had stopped, but that’s about it. I couldn’t actually do it. What kind of free-will is that?

    Hello, Luke!

    I’m never sad to see your name on a post… I know whatever is underneath is going to be thought-provoking, regardless of whether I do or do not agree with it!

    To respond thoroughly, I’d have to know precisely what you mean by: “love”, and “free-will choice”. But I think I can contribute a little based on common understandings of the words.

    First of all, I’ll point out that “love” is a verb. It’s something you do, not something you have. As such, it requires an action.

    You can have the most intense “loving” feelings anyone has ever had about your kids, but if you never take time for them, never see that their needs are met, never see that they are well-educated, I contend that you do not love them at all! That “love” is all about you… it’s more pride than love; true love is all about the beloved!

    Your hypothetical terrorist above, if he’s using “love” in the true sense, isn’t telling you to “stop having loving feelings.” He’s telling you to quit showing love to your children. Now I suspect that you would have a very hard time doing that… but you could do it. You might even succeed for a few hours… maybe a few days…. It is, after all, physically in your power not to feed your children, or to spend time with them at night before bedtime.

    And it is your love for them that would drive you to attempt to do for them what is right, even at the risk of your own life.

    What kind of free-will is that? It’s the BEST kind! It’s the kind that considers the needs of the beloved more important than those of the lover. It’s the kind that says, “I love you! If I must choose between my own life, and your well-being, then call the undertaker, because YOU are more important!”

    It’s the kind of love that Jesus showed to us on the cross.

    You would CHOOSE death over failing your children… but many unfortunately would not. We’ve heard the news stories just this week of the woman who attempted to drive into the ocean with her kids (including one unborn child) in the vehicle with her. I don’t know her circumstances… perhaps there were some mental issues going on and she didn’t realize what she was doing, but you can take your pick of many more so-called “parents” who have abused and murdered their own offspring. They had a choice as well, and they chose NOT to love their kids.

    If, on the other hand, you meant that your terrorist meant that you should stop feeling love toward your kids, then I agree… you can’t stop feelings on a dime. You CAN change feelings, over time, but it takes a lot of time and hard work. But this “feeling” is not what the author is talking about.

    I quote, “A transcendent God understands that ‘love’ is the perfect balance between mercy and justice.” Neither mercy nor justice are real unless the manifest themselves into action. The executioner who straps the condemned murderer into the electric chair but never pulls the switch executes no justice. The governor who feels merciful but doesn’t pick up the phone to stay the execution shows no mercy. Without action, you have nothing worthy of discussion; and it’s the same with love.

    Reply
  12. Terry L says:

    Luke:

    it’s incompatible with the idea that free will is inviolable even to G-d.

    What do you mean by this? I’ve tried to piece it together by reading through the posts, and I can’t put my finger on what exactly you’re saying here.

    Stephen:

    Dinesh D’Souza, another questionable source!

    I’m curious… why do you call him into question? Is it because of scholarly failure (and not just because he’s a theist), or because of his recent alleged moral indiscretions? I don’t follow D’Souza, so I’m not aware of any details at all about him, or his private or academic life. I know who he is, and that’s about it…

    you’re still left with the conclusion that the German people supported anti-semitism, and Hitler’s other policies, due to their Christian faith.

    This is a pretty broad conclusion given the evidence you have. And even then, it says nothing about what Jesus actually taught… but only how this group of people interpreted what he taught.

    Hitler was essentially a Creationist

    Just goes to show that even maniacs occasionally get something right! ;)

    “They weren’t fully human… perfectly within his rights to rid humanity of the impurity of creatures…”

    Isn’t this basically the same justification Hitler offered for the Holocaust?

    Even if this is true, Hitler isn’t God. Hitler did not create life… he had no right to take it without divine justification. While you point out below that he made reference to “doing the Lord’s work”, that doesn’t mean that he was actually under a mandate from God to kill millions of people.

    Reply
  13. Charles says:

    “I’m sorry Charles, but I don’t understand the question. Could you try rewording it, perhaps. I’d like to answer, but I’m just not sure what you mean.”

    Luke,

    I’ll try to explain a little better. Was it imposing for God to give commandments to humans knowing we would disobey them? In other words, God must have known that we would rebel yet He saw fit to give us “instructions” that we obviously could never fully live by.

    My thinking has been since God knew the outcome prior to even creating our existence he employed consequences (action/reaction) that could serve as catalysts for certain purposes we can’t always foresee. And, like any good parent; He knows what each of His children are capable of and prone to. So would you think that was imposing for God to “engineer circumstances” by allowing us to choose obedience or disobedience to achieve an outcome that was preset before he created us?

    I hope that made better sense. Thanks.

    Reply
  14. Luke says:

    Charles,

    You said:He knows what each of His children are capable of and prone to. So would you think that was imposing for G-d to engineer circumstances by allowing us to choose obedience or disobedience to achieve an outcome that was preset before He created us?

    I think I am confused by your use of the word impose, that is I am not sure how you mean it.

    I looked at Webster, and while there are several meanings, the one that I think would yield the most interesting questions would be “to affect someone or something by using your authority”

    (The other meanings like force something harmful upon, make less sense.)

    So to rewrite your question: So would you think that G-d was affecting us through his authority by engineering circumstances which allowed us to choose obedience or disobedience, in order to achieve an outcome that was preset before He created us?

    Now I realize the other reason I am condused. I am not sure what you mean by an outcome that was present. Do you simply mean foreseen? Or that the outcome actually existed (which I suppose would mean the consequences of everything resulting in that outcome already existed).

    I hope that clarifies my confusion perhaps I haven’t even guessed the definition of impose you were going for.

    To do my best to answer what I think you’re asking — did G-d affect our choices by the way he engineered his creation — I would think that yes.

    I think it’s undeniable that humans in general (meaning with very few exceptions) feel that certain things are wrong (rape for example). Orthodox Christian thinking is that “G-d wrote the law on our hearts” and if that’s correct than I think it again undeniable that that feeling or instinct or whatever you’d like to call it affects our choices.

    Another example might be something like Amos chapter 4, where G-d created hunger and drought in order to incite certain feelings (returning to G-d). I would say this would fit under the definition of using His authority to to affect people.

    I hope that goes along the lines of what you were asking, but I’ll be glad to expand on anything or clarify if asked.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Charles says:

      “Now I realize the other reason I am condused. I am not sure what you mean by an outcome that was present. Do you simply mean foreseen? Or that the outcome actually existed (which I suppose would mean the consequences of everything resulting in that outcome already existed).”

      Luke,

      Yes, what I was driving at was that the results of our circumstances are, by us, unforseen. The desired outcomes may or may not exist within the confines of our individual purpose but the ultimate outcome (the “Big Picture”) already exists.

      Reply
  15. Luke says:

    Terry asked:What do you mean by this?

    Terry asked this about my statement: it’s incompatible with the idea that free will is inviolable even to G-d.

    Terry, I’m not sure if you’re asking about the first idea (the incompatibility) or the second (the inviolability), but I’ll give a very short answer to both and you can follow up if necessary.

    Inviolability: It’s often said that free will is a greater good, therefore by allowing free will, G-d allows a greater good — even though this also allows rape and murder and the Holocaust. The reason I say free will inviolable is that if we accept that G-d’s nature is to seek good and G-d cannot go against his nature (it would be illogical), then G-d cannot violate free will.

    Incompatibility:Unless we accept that every man, woman and child (and every other sentient being) who died during the great deluge wanted to die, then G-d violated their will.

    I hope that helps.

    I think you also asked me a question earlier (about the nature of love perhaps), which I likely won’t have time to answer today, but will when I am able. I apologize. (I think I also owe Mike an answer on another thread.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply

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