The problem of evil is certainly one of the greatest apologetic issue that Christians face today. In a postmodern world, people’s questions, objections, and problems with the Christian worldview are usually connected to the reality of evil in the world and their attempts to harmonize this reality with the seemingly contradictory notion of an all-powerful, all-good God. So valid is this issue that Ronald Nash, the late evangelical philosopher, said a few years ago (and I quote him loosely), “It is absurd to reject Christianity for any reason other than the problem of evil.”

We must be careful not to relegate this problem exclusively to the intellectual realm. I think that J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig have it right when they say we must distinguish between the intellectual problem of evil and the emotional problem of evil (Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 536). The intellectual problem of evil asks, “Is it possible for a good, all-powerful God to exist in a world where evil is present?” The emotional problem of evil asks “Why would God allow such a thing as _______?” See the difference? One question is concerned with the objective coherence of God and evil, the other is concerned with the subjective coherence of God and evil.

While I think the primary issue today is more with the emotional problem of evil, I do believe that the intellectual problem is one that must be faced before the subjective problem can be dealt with with integrity. Therefore, I believe that the two can be distinguished, but should not be separated.

The foundation for both, comes from this syllogism:

1. If God is all powerful (omnipotent) and
2. If God is all good (omnibenevolent)
3. Then His goodness would motivate Him to use His power to eradicate evil.

The intellectual problem of evil is easier to answer since evil’s existence does not, in reality, present a logical contradiction as the syllogism suggests. In other words, the conclusion is not a necessary conclusion, only a possible one. While God could use His power to eradicate evil, His goodness does not necessitate such an act. The following will attempt to explain.

There are three possible defenses to the problem of evil:

1. The free-will defense: Many would say that God cannot create a world where there is true freedom, yet determine all that happens. In other words, being all-powerful does not mean that God can do anything. There are many things that God cannot do. For example, God cannot make a square circle, He cannot make a rock so big that He cannot pick it up, He cannot sin, He cannot commit suicide, and He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). In short, God cannot do anything that is inconsistent with His character and He cannot harmonize logical contradictions (since they are by definition that which are beyond reconciliation). It would be a logical contradiction to say that God can create a world where true freedom exists, yet evil is guaranteed not to exist.

Positives:

  • It does seem consistent with the very idea of personhood, which requires some degree of freedom.
  • God is not ultimately responsible for evil.

Problems:

  • True libertarian freedom is a difficult notion to sustain, both biblically and philosophically. While we make free choices, we make them based on who we are, which is not completely self-determined.
  • This seems to give ultimate control to human freedom, thereby diminishing the sovereignty of God.
  • This does not seem to adequately deal with the problem of natural evils (hurricanes, floods, droughts, etc).

2. The greater good defense: Others would say that God has a transcendent purpose that ultimately legitimizes all evil, even if our understanding of this purpose is absent. What might seem like meaningless suffering and pain to us is actually serving to produce transcendent good. For example, what Joseph’s brothers meant for evil (selling him into slavery out of envy), God used for good (preservation of the nation of Israel). While what the Jewish leaders did to Christ was evil (crucifying Him on a cross), it served God’s purpose as a transcendent good (redemption of humanity).

Positives:

  • Strong biblical support.
  • Keeps God sovereignty intact.
  • Brings meaning to suffering even if we don’t understand its end purpose.
  • Analogies in our own experience (discipline of children, the pain of a workout, surgery).

Problems:

  • Can seem rather cold as a subjective defense of personal pain and suffering.
  • Would seem that God could find a better way, especially when the evil is so atrocious (loss of children, pedophiles, severe depression).
  • It is hard to conceive of any possible good that can be found in certain evils (prolonged suffering of those buried alive, miscarriages that are not even detected, suffering and pain among heathens who never hear the Gospel, etc.).

3. Evil defines good defense: This argument would propose that evil itself is a conduit through which good can find a definition and reality in contrast to its opposite. In other words, one cannot recognize, define, or appreciate good without evil. God allows evil so that good can be seen more clearly. As when a diamond is placed against a black background one can better appreciate its beauty, so when good is placed in the background of evil one can understand its true goodness. Other examples may be found in the assumption that without evil circumstances, there can be no acts of bravery, heroism, and self-sacrifice. Therefore, evil creates opportunities for good to present itself as truly good.

Positives:

  • Gives evil a purpose.
  • Finds analogies in real life where people find distinct dignity as they rise above humanities natural evil inclination toward selfishness through outstanding acts of sacrifice.

Negatives:

  • Seems like a rather cold way for God to define good.
  • The assumption that good cannot be defined or recognized without evil is hard to accept. Did God himself not know good until evil was present?
  • Does not explain meaningless suffering and pain or natural evils.

While I have presented these options as mutually exclusive, they are not. In fact, I don’t know of any who will actually defend the Christian worldview with regards to the problem of evil by offering any one of these alone as sufficient. Most will emphasize one more than another.

I believe that all of these have their place so long as they are defined correctly. I believe that human freedom is the ultimate cause for the genesis of evil (natural or moral). Yet I also believe that God is in providential control of all things, including evil, having a purpose which He reveals at His own discretion. I also believe that part of the good that comes from the allowance of evil is the opportunity for us to see true righteousness in all its beauty.

Whatever position that we take, we must be sensitive to the magnitude of this issue, especially today. We must also approach these issues with great humility, knowing that the problem of evil is a problem precisely because it causes great pain and suffering. Discouragement and disenchantment with God when evil is present must not be looked down upon with a smug attitude of theological elitism. Theological understanding mixed with some degree of agnosticism (i.e., not knowing) is vital. This should prepare us to face our own upcoming evils with deep roots. It should also give a foundation for tender comfort to those in pain.

Romans 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

1 Peter 4:13 “But to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”

Hebrews 2:10 “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    38 replies to "A Brief Primer on the Problem of Evil"

    • tyler m taber

      Christians claim God caused–or brought into being–all things. However, God couldn’t have cause evil because–as Craig and other have asserted–evil isn’t a thing. It is, so to speak, a lack of goodness.

      Thankfully, Christianity does claim to solve the problem—in the return of Christ where we can have perfected bodies in the new heaven/earth.

    • Wm Tanksley

      tyler, that’s not a bad point… But this “lack of goodness” seems to be very real, and suffuses all experience, and perhaps in some respects suffuses all of nature. I don’t think it can be dismissed so easily. One argument against dismissing it is that criminal charges can be brought against people for both active and passive crimes — commission, and omission. If God knew that his creation would be missing important “good”, but He created it anyway, then He would be liable for negligence.

      Now, we agree that’s preposterous, but my point is that the fact that evil is a privation doesn’t immediately free us from the problem of evil; it simply becomes part of the case to be argued.

      Thankfully, Christianity does claim to solve the problem—in the return of Christ where we can have perfected bodies in the new heaven/earth.

      Brilliantly said. THAT is exciting to read!

      And on a more personal scale, God gives us not only the Law, which is good; but also the Gospel, so that we can be forgiven and brought into that goodness.

      -Wm

    • EricW

      However, God couldn’t have cause evil because–as Craig and other have asserted–evil isn’t a thing. It is, so to speak, a lack of goodness.

      By extension, this means that the devil, the epitome and personification of evil in its fullest and purest and quintessential form, is absolute non-existence.

      Note that I did not write “absolutely non-existent” – though I guess I could have.

    • EricW

      To continue:

      In Romans and Galatians Paul writes that the mindset of (or the mind set on) the flesh is death, and the mindset of (or the mind set on) the Spirit is life and peace, and refers to the works/deeds of the flesh. He writes about a war between the flesh and the Spirit, and the contrast between the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The power and life of the Spirit enables one to overcome the deeds of the flesh. Conversely, without the Spirit one is enslaved to the power of sin that causes one to do the deeds of the flesh.

      Two powers are seen at battle here; one isn’t referred to as the presence of virtue with the other being referred to as simply the result of the absence of said virtue. The flesh/sin has its own existence and power; it is not characterized as simply the absence of goodness.

      Or so it seems to me.

    • Philip Stallings

      The problem of evil does not represent a “problem” for God. We can see that God in his sovereignty works through the evil actions of men to bring out His purpose. By design evil does not possess the same amount of power that a Holy eternal God possesses. There are many examples in the Bible whereby God, having predetermined the particular actions that were inherently evil, works out His ultimate purposes. The most prevalent example is the crucifixion of Christ. Acts 2:23 “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” and again concerning Christs’ crucifixion, Acts 4:28 “For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.” Concerning Job Calvin writes, “…whatever men or Satan himself devise, God holds the helm, and makes all their efforts contribute to the execution of His judgments” (Inst. 1.18.1). The doctrine of providence is certainly seen retrospectively and should represent comfort for the believer presently and hope for the future. Although evil exists it does not impose its fangs into the purposes of God and does not derail God’s omnipotence in directing all things for Himself. Ephesians 1:11 Ephesians 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” When evil occurs we should take care that its end is what God has in view in that it ultimately accomplishes His purpose. We must be humble and not view God as our “Satan Clause” and with wisdom repeat the sentiment of Job in 2:10 “…shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil”, knowing that God is directing the evil actions of men to forward His purposes and mature a people for Himself.

    • […] Primer on The Problem of Evil by C. Michael Patton Read the Article Here […]

    • Wm Tanksley

      That “evil explains good” is very hard to understand. If I’m reading it right, it means not that good is defined in terms of evil (which is the assumption that CMP has to make in order to say “Did God himself not know good until evil was present?”), but rather that evil is the schoolmaster that teaches us about what good is. God doesn’t need that schoolmaster; He knows Himself. I suppose, with this understanding, I can accept this as a possible purpose for evil… But it’s very subtle, and IMO absolutely requires other purposes for the presence of evil.

      To me, the general explanations for the presence of evil all start with your #2: the Greater Good defense. Explanation #1 simply claims that the Greater Good is man’s libertarian freedom; explanation #3 claims that the Greater Good is man’s education. Given that, I would structure the argument very differently than CMP did. There’s one root rationale: that God _must_ have had some good reason for allowing the presence of evil, and that reason must fulfill the purpose of a Greater Good; and then branching out from that there are guesses at what that Greater Good might have been.

      There are also some explanations that are NOT related to Greater Good. For example, some say that God works to minimize evil, but it’s beyond any possibility to entirely eliminate evil from a creation that’s not part of God. (Hmm, technically, this could be considered a Greater Good argument in that there’s some appeal to the idea that a transcendent Creator is a Greater Good than a panentheistic creation.)

      I think there’s some benefit to seeing to whom the Greater Good gives benefit. The benefit of Libertarian Free Will accrues entirely to the creatures; the benefit of Greater Glory accrues entirely to God. Both can be defended entirely consistently on those grounds. (It’s useful to defend the idea of Greater Glory because God Himself is the greatest good; while it’s useful to defend benefits to the creation, because they also suffer from evil, and compensating them directly seems — at first blush — fair.)

      -Wm

    • Wm Tanksley

      By extension, this means that the devil, the epitome and personification of evil in its fullest and purest and quintessential form, is absolute non-existence.

      But that’s not a Christian doctrine of the devil; that’s simply dualism. The devil is NOT the “personification of evil”, and there is no such thing as a pure or quintessential form of evil. There can be no personification of evil, because personality is good. There can be no essential form of evil, because form is good. There can be no ultimate existence of evil because ultimately, existence is good: existence is either a gift of God, or it’s God himself Who exists.

      So this extension cuts itself down; there’s simply no way to logically sustain it.

      -Wm

    • EricW

      So, why is “logicalness” a requirement for defining evil? I thought that was Mr. Spock’s domain. 🙂

    • D. L. Rutledge

      This “problem” (rather question) always seems to peak up when related to Christianity. If it seems intriguing that theologians have been unable to adequately present a universal answer to this problem than I think it is all the more intriguing that humanists and anti-theists have not come up with their own definition or answer to evil. While Christians have the Bible to help them construe how to regard evil, humanists do not have much to work with except for blithe and uncertain takes on science or scientifically compatible philosophy (which is not satiating because many philosophes have come to sad and nihilistic conclusions over the centuries about morality, etc.). Try taking this usually one-sided problem and point it back at humanists, and anti-theists and observe how they respond. It is often amusing.

    • Wm Tanksley

      Two powers are seen at battle here; one isn’t referred to as the presence of virtue with the other being referred to as simply the result of the absence of said virtue. The flesh/sin has its own existence and power; it is not characterized as simply the absence of goodness.

      You’re looking at the battle between the spirit and the flesh; but either both are metaphorical and intended to connote our own old and new natures, or one denotes the Holy Spirit while the other denotes our physical body (or something closely related to that). If the first, neither one is intrinsically evil, but rather one is corrupted. If the second, the body is the creation of God, and so neither is “the absence of goodness” nor “has its own existence and power.”

      -Wm

    • Kent

      At the risk of being heretical, might another piece be that not all pain, not all death, not all disaster, not all suffering, is evil.

      This flows from the free-will and greater good defenses. Not simply that we have a free will, but that God created us to be in a free will love relationship with him. Not simply that God has a transcendent good, but that good is to birth us as His children. Call it the redemption defense.

      Here are a few clues;
      Death before the Fall It appears that billions upon billions of plants and animals died prior to the advent of Man upon this earth (unless you take the Young Earth position, which I don’t.) Their lives and deaths helped prepare the planet for human habitation by processing the atmosphere and soil and providing raw materials like oil and limestone.

      Faith God did not create these thing by fiat, in an obvious way in any case. There is no incontestable smoking gun that proves his presence. Therefore to know him we must trust him by faith with our incomplete knowledge. How else could we come to him in love?

      Jesus God entered into our suffering because He knew ultimately it would be worth the price.

      I do not believe the problem of pain can be intellectually reconciled with the notion of God. But by faith we both affirm the sobering reality of Evil and the overwhelming reality of God who is Good.

    • Lars

      The best defense I’ve seen yet is Open Theism. This, of course, is just a more thorough variation of the free-will defense. To me it seems both scriptually and philosophically sound. Check out Gregory Boyd’s book, ”Satan & the Problem of Evil”.

      http://www.amazon.com/Satan-Problem-Evil-Constructing-Trinitarian/dp/0830815503

    • Z. J. Kendall

      Here’s the Jonathan Edwardian defense, which I support (because I don’t find the free will defense compelling at all).
      http://beforefoundation.com/2009/02/jonathan-edwards-on-the-necessity-of-evil/

    • Wintery Knight

      You only covered one version of the problem of evil (deductive) and two theodicies. There’s a lot more to it than that.

      http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/everything-i-know-about-the-problems-of-evil-and-suffering-in-a-4-page-essay/

      I go over a short 4-page essay that has the deductive and inductive versions of the problem, with more theodicies. (I think I stole one them “character formation” from Nash’s book “Faith and Reason”)

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    • Wm Tanksley

      I don’t think Open Theism is as much a defense against the Problem of Evil as it is a carrying through of the argument by Libertarian Free Will to its logical conclusions — perhaps I could summarize that if it’s good for God to shift His sovereign free will to us sometimes, it would be even better for Him to do so most of the time.

      Open Theism adds nothing whatsoever to the argument that the Libertarian Free Will hypothesis didn’t already bring; and if you deny that LFW is possible and/or desirable, OT loses all of its support. (I’m not trying to deny that here, although many reading this know that I generally do.) The only thing it does is proceed logically from the starting point.

      I don’t see how to NOT reach the endpoint of Open Theism if one decides that Libertarian Free Will solves the problem of evil. I don’t go there because I don’t start there.

      -Wm

    • Laurie M.

      A helpful synopsis. Thank you.

    • #John1453

      Re post #5 and God “creating evil”

      The word translated “evil” in the Bible does not mean morally evil or wicked or sin. The Hebrew word is [ra’], meaning something that is “not good” or “spoiled” or “trouble” or “adversity”, e.g., Jeremiah 24:2 “One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad” The fruit is bad not because it is wicked but only in the sense that it is not good to eat.

      Proverbs 15:10 “Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.” “Grievous” does not mean not evil, in fact, in this context the correction isa good thing. This word [ra’] is used here to illustrate an unpleasant (bad) experience from the point of view of him being corrected, and cannot mean sin in this instance. It means a bad experience, an experience that is not good to him that receives it, even though ‘ultimately’ it is for their good.

      regards,
      #John

    • EricW

      Genesis 2:9d …and the tree of the knowledge of good and bad […v’aytz hadda-at tov (good) va-ra (and-bad)], as some translate it.

      (Though my old lexicon gives “wicked”, and “fatal/deadly” and “calamitous” and “sad” and “ill-favored” as other meanings, and lists “wickedness” and “harm, injury, calamity” as substantival uses of the word.)

    • EricW

      I know in Jewish thought and teaching one is said to be involved in the conflict between responding to yetzer ha-tov (the yetzer tov) and yetzer ha-ra (the yetzer ra):

      http://doggo.tripod.com/doggyetzer.html

      “The yetzer tov is the moral conscience, the inner voice that reminds you of God’s law when you consider doing something that is forbidden. …

      The yetzer ra is more difficult to define, because there are many different ideas about it. It is not a desire to do evil in the way we normally think of it in Western society: a desire to cause senseless harm. Rather, it is usually conceived as the selfish nature, the desire to satisfy personal needs (food, shelter, sex, etc.) without regard for the moral consequences of fulfilling those desires.

      The yetzer ra is not a bad thing. It was created by God, and all things created by God are good. The Talmud notes that without the yetzer ra (the desire to satisfy personal needs), man would not build a house, marry a wife, beget children or conduct business affairs. But the yetzer ra can lead to wrongdoing when it is not controlled by the yetzer tov.

      There is nothing inherently wrong with hunger, but it can lead you to steal food. There is nothing inherently wrong with sexual desire, but it can lead you to commit rape, adultery, incest or other sexual perversion. …

      People have the ability to choose which impulse to follow: the yetzer tov or the yetzer ra. That is the heart of the Jewish understanding of free will.”

    • Mike Beidler

      Michael:

      You write, I believe that human freedom is the ultimate cause for the genesis of evil (natural or moral).

      I believe that you’ve said you hold your convictions regarding the creationism debate (YEC vs. OEC) with a loose hand. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) But if you truly wrote what you did above regarding human freedom as being the “ultimate cause” of natural evil, it appears to me that you have no choice but to be a young-earth creationist. (Don’t worry; I’m not going to mention the “e” word. 😉

      Do you also see YEC as a logical conclusion of your belief?

    • #John1453

      re post 21 on evil prior to Adam

      Given that angels (e.g. Satan) are generally presumed to have fallen before Adam did, it would be incorrect to assert that Adam is the source of all sin.

      Hence, death prior to Adam’s sin could be the result of angelic evil.

      Or, it could be argued that animal deal is not an evil, but rather an intermediate state of affairs created by God. Animals do not experience pain in the same way that we do, and that difference is arguable sufficient to remove it from the category of “evil” in the sense of something that God could not do because of His perfect nature.

      Also, W. Dembski has just had a book published in which he apparently argues for past causation of evil. That is, though Adam’s sin happened at a particular time, it was in fact the cause of evils that occurred earlier in time than his sin.

      Consequently Michael is not forced into the YEC camp.

      regards,
      #John

    • Wm Tanksley

      The word translated “evil” in the Bible does not mean morally evil or wicked or sin.

      That’s not strictly true. You claim that ‘ra’ cannot mean moral evil, but in fact it can. Its meaning encompasses atrocities that are the result of human sin, such as a military siege on a populated city, as well as unpleasantness, corruption, natural disasters, and many other things. I’m sure you meant that it does not primarily mean moral evil, but neither does the English term which is the focus of the term “the problem of evil”; in fact, the generic problem of evil is often considered in multiple parts.

      And this ambiguous range of meaning is why the problem must be addressed in the context of verses like Lamentations 3:38: “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that everything comes – both calamity and blessing?” (alternate translation: both good and evil). I like how the NET translates it as “calamity”, as no doubt you do; but in case you’re thinking that the usage “calamity” abstracts God from the results of evil human choices, consider the immediately prior verse: “Whose command was ever fulfilled unless the Lord decreed it?” Human commands are the result of human will: pure will, unsullied by physical possibility or (often) from moral rectitude.

      This does not make the problem simpler, but we cannot stretch Biblical data merely to make a problem simpler.

      -Wm

    • Wm Tanksley

      Given that angels (e.g. Satan) are generally presumed to have fallen before Adam did, it would be incorrect to assert that Adam is the source of all sin.

      Good point. By this argument Adam was not the source of evil, and hence not of the problem of evil. On the other hand, to the extent you take that argument seriously, you also remove the ability to attribute the problem of evil to man’s free choice, which means that evil against man can not be justified because it’s required in order for man to enjoy free will.

      I personally find the argument unconvincing for two reasons: first because so many of the things we identify as evil seem to be intrinsic features of the creation, present from the Big Bang; and second because it seems to me that many of the seemingly evil features of the universe seem designed, not random. Should we give credit to Satan for designing those features, or did God design them as a curse? If the latter, why does the curse seem to stretch back… (See below.)

      Hence, death prior to Adam’s sin could be the result of angelic evil.

      Not according to the Bible. The only verses in the Bible that give guidance on the connection between sin and death are explicit that death is tied to man’s sin.

      Or, it could be argued that animal death is not an evil, but rather an intermediate state of affairs created by God. Animals do not experience pain in the same way that we do, and that difference is arguable sufficient to remove it from the category of “evil” in the sense of something that God could not do because of His perfect nature.

      I think this heads in the direction of a more sustainable argument. Here is a deep study promoting it.

      I think the argument is good for reducing the raw strength of the argument, but I don’t think it defeats it. God isn’t “okay” or “tolerable”, He’s good, and by His nature, Love. I think we have to face facts in dealing with this; it’s good to correct people when they exaggerate the size of the problem, but it’s bad to respond by minimizing the problem; it actually reduces the glory of God, and could even lead others to a loss of faith if they were to believe you and then be disillusioned by the reality of pain.

      Also, W. Dembski has just had a book published in which he apparently argues for past causation of evil. That is, though Adam’s sin happened at a particular time, it was in fact the cause of evils that occurred earlier in time than his sin.

      That blows every definition of causality out of the water, doesn’t it? By definition, it’s the kind of statement for which one could never have any possible physical evidence. It would require some direct Biblical evidence, and I just don’t see that.

      Consequently Michael is not forced into the YEC camp.

      I do think…

    • Jason C

      People have referred to the old earth and the big bang as things problematic to the libertarian free will defence against the question of evil.

      Perhaps therefore we should cease trying to marry our theology to hypotheses from the world of science which are at best human models about how things might be, that can and should be altered and revised as further information comes to hand.

      Wedding theology to the science of today is destined to make a widow of her tomorrow. We only need to turn our minds back to the trial of Galileo to see how the church becoming entranced with a certain scientific viewpoint (in this case Aristotelian geocentric ideas) can easily turn a hypothesis into a “necessary” part of a theological position.

      The YEC position, irrespective of your beliefs about its scientific merits, is a biblically consistent view that is immune to attacks from the “problem of evil”. The fall and judgement model makes sense of both moral evil (we are rebels against God from birth) and natural evils (we live in a cursed Earth). It also avoids the incoherency of Dembski’s “judgement before sin” approach.

    • #John1453

      re posts 24 – 26

      My primary point was that the options outlined by CMP were not exhaustive and that one is not necessarily forced into the YEC camp. How successful the options are is another matter, but they are at least plausible enough that many people do believe them.

      Tanksley is correct re “ra”, I meant that it does not necessarily mean moral evil, though when used in respect of what God does it cannot mean moral evil (which was my point).

      IIRC, the only death introduced by Adam was the eventual spiritual and physical death humans.

      The degree to which YEC is Biblically consistent depends on what is meant by “biblically consistent” in terms of content and scope of that concept. In relation to some restricted aspects, yes, but in general I would disagree that YEC is Biblically consistent. The main problem with YEC is that it makes a mockery of God’s creation, in that it only works if God has created with “apparent age”. Given that YEC was never part of orthodox belief but a recent invention by the Seventh Day Adventist prophetess, later popularized by others and then adopted nearly holus bolus by Morris, its not a position that warrants serious consideration as a solution.

      regards,
      #John

    • […] A brief primer on the Problem of Evil […]

    • #John1453

      I would argue that the YEC position is neither Biblically consistent, nor makes sense of how Genesis deals with evils. Were all carnivores suddenly redesigned as soon as Adam sinned? Would he have even recognized as the same an animal that had been changed from herbivore to carnivore? Did all insect pests suddenly arise? And all harmful bacteria and viruses suddenly start existing as a new creation?

      Furthermore, before critiqueing Dembski’s argument as “incoherent” it might be worth people’s time to actually read it. If professional philosophers are giving it good reviews and a thumbs up, there must be something to it.

      regards
      #John

    • Wm Tanksley

      Furthermore, before critiqueing Dembski’s argument as “incoherent” it might be worth people’s time to actually read it.

      Good point, John. I retract my critical statement. The summary given here seems incoherent, and I can’t imagine a form of the argument that’s coherent, and I’m not going to buy his book given those facts (even though I own and enjoyed his “Intelligent Design” book); but I’ll concede that constitutes a failure on my part, not Dembski’s.

      Let me also state for the record that you’ve made some good clarifications that I haven’t responded to because they’re so right that a followup would be an anticlimax.

      (Huh, it looks like I didn’t click the post button when I replied to the YEC post. How annoying.)

      If professional philosophers are giving it good reviews and a thumbs up, there must be something to it.

      I saw his page of back-page props, but I didn’t see any reviews from philosophers. I’d like to see that; where can I go?

      -Wm

    • #John1453

      RE post 30. William, it’s nice to be agreeing on something, finally, though it doesn’t have the same spark as our disagreements. 😉

      I can’t recall where I read the positives from philosophers (though if I come across them again I’ll repost here or on your blog (which I haven’t gotten around to posting on). However, IIRC, Moreland gave it a positive review and said that anyone who deals with the problem of evil will have to interact with Dembski’s book.

      regards,
      #John

    • cherylu

      # John,

      You may have addressed this elsewhere in some other thread, I don’t know. You made this statement, “I would argue that the YEC position is neither Biblically consistent, nor makes sense of how Genesis deals with evils. Were all carnivores suddenly redesigned as soon as Adam sinned?…..”

      I am wondering what you do with the statements in Genesis 1 that says God gave the herbs of the ground and the fruit of trees as food to man and all the green herbs to “everything in which is the breath of life”? He named all the beasts of the earth, the fowl of the air and everything that creeps on the ground. There is absolutely no mention of any creature, man or otherwise being a carnivore there. If they were all designed as herbivores, wouldn’t it have taken some major change to turn a large share of them into carnivores? The kind of change you don’t seem to think happened?

    • Wm Tanksley

      John, I agree; disagreements are so much more exciting :-). I hope you do get time to critique my only substantial blog post; I’ve put the blog on the back burner for now, but I’ll put my full attention on it if it gets any comments.

      I read Moreland’s blurb; it’s a nice recommendation (it appears to have been written only as a back-cover blurb, since there’s absolutely nothing else like it on any other site), but it’s not a review, and doesn’t even start to consider the philosophical issues. There doesn’t seem to be any mention of any of his concepts by any actual philosopher — the closest I found was a YEC objecting in great detail, and he only considered the length of Dembski’s timeline, not its ordering.

      At the very least, I have to say that Dembski has a HUGE philosophical issue on his plate, if he wishes to overturn the chronological nature either of causality or judgment.

      It’s also a little odd that someone attempting to defend libertarian free will would cite a person who thinks that God judged an entire universe based on free will actions which hadn’t been determined at the time the judgement was enacted. Formally speaking, even if God *knew* that man would choose to sin, he wouldn’t bring about any of the consequences (effects) of that sin outside of His own knowledge until after the sin is actual: otherwise, anyone (say, an angel) looking at the universe would immediately know that man _was_ going to sin, because a good God wouldn’t place a curse on a universe without sin.

      -Wm

    • Wm Tanksley

      There is absolutely no mention of any creature, man or otherwise being a carnivore there. If they were all designed as herbivores, wouldn’t it have taken some major change to turn a large share of them into carnivores? The kind of change you don’t seem to think happened?

      cherylu, the problem is that one can’t build an entire doctrine on one verse — and one especially can’t build an entire doctrine on a verse that gives “absolutely no mention” of the disputed topic.

      The fact is that there’s no verse that gives any hint that God entirely redesigned large sweeps of creation as a result of man’s sin. Therefore, any conclusion that there was such a redesign would have to be strongly supported by some other evidence (perhaps philosophical, perhaps scientific). And all the other evidence points elsewhere.

      This suggests that a good course of action is to consider other interpretations of the disputed text.

      -Wm

    • Wm Tanksley

      I’ve responded critically to a few arguments I disagree entirely with. To be fair, here’s a response to one that’s very much closer to my own viewpoint:

      Here’s the Jonathan Edwardian defense…

      The problem with this specific defense is that it assumes a need within God to reveal His wrath against sin, and such a need makes no sense if there’s no sin within God, since God could have no need that was not eternally met in the Trinity. God didn’t create in order to meet a need within Himself.

      We have to first establish that God is right to create even though He knows that His creation will be at least exposed to sin and evil, and possibly corrupted by that sin and evil.

      It seems clear that God knew about the presence of evil, because God chose us “before the foundation of the world” to be conformed to His image — which means that there was a certainty that we would be at a point of not being thusly conformed. (I’m following Eph 1 very closely here, in a way that I think both Calvinists and Arminians can agree on.) So open theism isn’t an escape, even if we suppose that God gives up His detailed knowledge.

      I need to stop so I can get other things done today. Am I making sense?

      -Wm

    • cherylu

      Willim, Re comment # 34,

      I believe there are other verses that speak to this issue. In Genesis one God repeatedly called His creation “good”. Then when He was done creating, He looked at all of it and called it “very good”. If we go over to Romans 8, we read that God subjected “the whole creation” to vanity, futility, frustration, etc. depending on the version you read. In other words, the creation was no longer “very good”. Why was that so? He says that the very creation will be set free at the same time that the sons of God are manifested. That is connected in these verses with the redemption of our bodies and our glorification. And of course what we are being set free from is the results of sin–that is made plain by the context of these verses. Would this not then very likely hold true for the rest of creation too? If that is not the case, you are left to come up with another reason altogether that is not even hinted at in the context of these verses as to why God’s “very good ” creation was subjected to futility. The context of the chapter certainly seems to say that it was because of man’s sin.

      And then of course there are the verses in Isaiah 11 and 65 where God is telling us about the new heavens and the new earth. These are the famous verses that speak about the lion laying down with the lamb, etc. And the lion’s food is said to be straw–not meat. He goes on to say that they will no longer harm or destroy. Since this is obviously the ideal, does it not suggest a very strong possibility that this is the way God’s “very good” creation was in the beginning before He subjected it to futility? Specially since He makes a point out of telling us in Genesis one that the food for all animals was to be the green herbs?

    • Mike Beidler

      Cherylu,

      In Isaiah 65-66, how do you explain the presence of physical death in the “new heavens and new earth”?

    • cherylu

      Mike,

      Good question. I think I have to agree with the commentators I have read that actually place this time in the mellenial reign of Christ where there evidently is still physical death. After the final judgement, it says in Revelation that there will be no more death, pain, sorrow, or crying. So, as I understand it, this would have to be the case. Unless, of course, you are to assume that there still is physical death in eternity. Which means that I Cor 15 makes no sense at all when it speaks of being raised immortal.

      However, I don’t think that changes the picture painted here of animals laying down in harmony with others that used to be their prey. Or the statement that the lion will eat straw. Or the final statement that they will no longer hurt or destroy. Animals devouring each other would certainly come under hurting or destroying it seems to me! And as we know, all of those animals are not likely to lie down together or feed together if they are going to turn on and devour each other.

      And, by the way, the animals not harming seems to include people. Notice the little child putting his hand into the viper’s den.

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