edited November 2008 in Faith Issues
I was in a discussion in my philosophy class and somehow we ended up on the topic of evil in the world and why God allows it. For human evil the answer is simple and that is that God gave us a free will. But when we got on to natural disasters such as tsunamis the question became more difficult for me to argue. Our T.A. started saying that God must therefor be a jerk if he allows thousands of people to be killed. God can easily save them all and prevent it so why doesn't he. Is God the one who creates natural disasters or is it just nature at work? I know these types of questions are too big for us but any type of help would be great.


  • I really don't like the thread title because it is put as a statement, please revise it or start a new one. Suggestion: A controversial discussion during the philosophy course.....
    The bad word used denounces the discussion as vulgar, not a 'philosophical' one.

    gmankbadi has probably answered this type of wrong reasoning at least in part in a previous thread, it's to be found among the replies:

    This kind of discussion may unfortunately lead to either denial of God's presence or claiming Him to be unjust.... An obvious sign of impending human decadence.

    The latest estimations for man made war casualties in Iraq tell that a total of more than 1800000 people were killed. In essence, what they think is humans have the right to do such things but not God the Creator who holds the keys of life?!?

    Besides devastating wars, fact is many catastrophes are caused by humans as a result of environmental misuse, underground detonations, weather manipulations and foolish experiments.

    The world is bad because of the curse that Eve and Adam have brought on Earth after they fell for the devil's deception. It is not the way things were in the Garden of Eden, is it?

  • Yeah this is a tough question, but the thing is we'll never be able to get a definitve answer simply because we aren't God.

    The reasoning athiests like your T.A. seemed to be proposing goes like this:

    1. Evil things happen.
    2. If God is all-good, then He wants to stop evil from happening.
    3. If God is all-powerful, then He can stop evil from happening
    4. God isn't stopping evil.
    5. Therefore God is either not all-powerful or He does not want to stop evil, both of which would make Him not God.
    6. Therefore, God cannot exist.

    That reasoning leaves out the possibility which seems to make the most sense: God wants to end our suffering but cannot because it would mean breaking the laws He Himself instituted.
    [quote author=John_S2000 link=topic=7306.msg96866#msg96866 date=1226100523]
    The world is bad because of the curse that Eve and Adam have brought on Earth after they fell for the devil's deception. It is not the way things were in the Garden of Eden, is it?

    I agree. Part of the concept of free will is the creation of both evil and good. God created a universe with the possibility of evil, but it was us who made that possibility an actuality with the Fall. If we did that and then God just said "Oh its OK, I know you didn't mean it." then what kind of God would He be? Our actions have consequences which God has to uphold  BUT:
    God's ultimate answer to our suffering was the Crucifixion. We know that God definitely knows and cares about our suffering, but if the problem of evil was simple enough for God to have simply clicked His fingers and made it disappear, He wouldn't have died on the Cross and suffered Himself. He chose to partake of our punishment. But the Crucifixion is only half the story, the other half is the best part, the Resurrection. So God is not only ackowledging our suffering, He is offering a solution. The ultimate solution doesn't lie on this world. The world is not about to suddenly stop being a corrupt place, the solution to suffering lies outside of this world and like He said, He is the WAY the truth and the life.

    Hope that helps a bit

    Pray for Me!
  • Unworthy,

            Philosophy instructors always attempt to take a stab at the foundations of the Christian worldview, in particular. Perhaps, since the Christian worldview tends to provocate the most religious restriction in terms of one’s individual sacrifice. I believe Johns2000 and epchoise_ai_nan are on the right track with their reasoning. Obviously the providential decree that God initiates is not causally related to the acquiescence or rejection of God’s molding instruction thereafter. Man's free acts are established on the basis of God's morally-endowed permissiive decree, not enactment on will. What is veraciously interesting in your philosophy advisor’s reasoning is that an invocation of Moral Law is necessarily called in order and insurmountably awakened by the mere assumptions of the rebuttal. The starting point of the comment that “God must therefore be a jerk if….” suggests that it is actually evil of God to permit certain atrocities within the framework of our uniquely formulated, yet tiny world.
            I can recall the story of a university student, who rather irate one day at a Christian philosopher’s claim that God was morally perfect, stood up and exclaimed that God could never truly exist since the evil in the world was so exhaustively imminent. The professor merely looked at the student rather pithily and asked if he believed that there really was such a thing as evil. The student replied in the affirmative, to which the professor further questioned with whether or not the student therefore believed that there must also be such a thing as good. The student, now begging to suspect that the conversation was ensuing into some rhetorical entrapment, timidly responded, “why, yes”. Thereafter the philosopher unleashed his devastating analysis of the responses he was pitched. “Well”, he replied, “then you if you believe that there is such a thing as good and evil, than you must believe that there is such a thing as a Moral Law by which to differentiate good from evil, correct?”. “Yet, if there is a moral law, then there must be a Moral Law giver……for, if there is such a thing as evil, then there must be such a thing as good, yet if there is such a thing as good and evil, then there must be a moral law to differentiate the two, yet if there is such a thing as a moral law there must undeniably be such a thing as a Moral Law Giver….but isn’t that Whom you are trying to disprove and not prove?” Both the student’s and the philosopher’s points can be well taken.
          By definition, good and evil are inherent traits of moral values. Now, moral values can only ostensibly exist if there is a colossal recognition of an absolute Moral Law, and thus, a God from Whom that Moral Law emanates. Therefore the claim that God can act in a vile manner given a particular set of background information (apparent evil and suffering), presumes that He exits in the first place. Yet, if God’s existence is a requisite in the claim’s logical cogency, then how can the skeptic raise the claim in the forefront against Him? That would be equivalent to having an individual say that it is utterly unfair that he should exist in a universe where the universe holds life-permitting properties. For, if the universe did not hold the efficacy of its life-permitting properties, the individual would never begin to exist to even lodge the complaint. The question dishonorably self-destructs. Correspondingly then, your advisor’s own claim is really not as puissant as he makes it out to be from the start.
         Taking into consideration, then, that your advisor must first borrow from the Theistic worldview in order to debunk it, the question then posed is not really one of whether natural disasters are initiated or merely permitted by God, but really should read more like, “Does God have any moral sufficient reasons to permit gratuitous evil such as natural disasters or creaturely free devastating devices?” Now in antithesis to the atheist’s often all too dubious presumption, the question is one which the skeptic must openly prove with an absolute negative. What the majority of skeptical laymen and professors alike seem to misunderstand in purporting such a negative claim, is where precisely the burden of proof ultimately lies. The Theist may wholeheartedly consent to the question with an affirmative response and need only assert a single logically coherent possibility that would suffice for a morally sufficient reason to lay the claim untenable. However, it is not merely enough for the skeptic to give one possibly morally insufficient reason (as your advisor has so chauvinistically attempted to do) for his reasoning to hold water, but it is necessary that he give an absolute aggregate of logically sufficient reasons for why God could never have a morally sufficient reason.
         Now, I find such a task preposterously difficult, if not impossible for the skeptic to accomplish. The skeptic would literally need to survey all of the possible domains of thought of the entirety of God’s infinite omniscience and magnitude of intellect to answer such a question! Yet, that majestically defies the capability of finite, limited man. For, your advisor would either need to tap into the mindset of God Himself, or take a giant leap of empirical faith into the realm of philosophical arbitrariness in order to launch any sort of counter-response. Nevertheless, leaning towards the former alternative would establish a meta-fictional scenario where your advisor played the role of God while leaning towards the latter alternative succumbs to enormous credulity founded on purely unsound reasoning and speculation. There is simply no affordable means by which the skeptic may uphold the definitive claim that God holds no morally sufficient reasoning for permitting evil and suffering in the world. Until the skeptic can show a logical inconsistency between gratuitous suffering in the world and God’s banking on morally sufficient reasons for permitting such suffering, the rebuttal at hand disseminates into scraps of mere wishful thinking and indefensible speculation.

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