Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Problem of Evil:
II. Where Did Evil Come From?

I am following Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks discussion in When Skeptics Ask on the problem of evil.

The comment that started me thinking on this was:

To me, the "problem of theodicy" is one that offers a devastating and unrebuttable logical argument against the notion that a god could be omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and omni-benevolent (all-loving) all at the same time, and yet evil in the world could still exist. Few Christians (in my experience), be they Catholic, Protestant, Mormon, or any other variation, would stipulate that their idea of God excludes any of those attributes. Yet when I have presented the theodicy problem to them, I must confess the cognitive dissonance they experience when confronted with the logical inconsistency therein has been painful to watch.
While this issue has never caused my any discernable dissonance - I think he is right that the existence of evil is a difficult theological problem

In the last post I looked at the question of "What is Evil?". I believe evil is not a "thing-in-itself" because is a lack of something - good. This meant that we do not define folks by their evil (what they lack) but by their good (what they have). However, there are many people who lack far more than they have - folks who are "pure evil" or, in other words, lack nearly any good impulse. This brings up the next question:

Where did evil come from?
In the beginning was God and He was perfect. Then the perfect God made a perfect world. How did evil come into play? Let us summarize the problem this way:
  1. Every creature God made is perfect
  2. Perfect creatures cannot do what is imperfect
  3. So, every creature God made cannot do what is imperfect
. . . Some have concluded that there must be some force equal to God or beyond his control. Or maybe God isn't good after all. But maybe the prolem lies with the conception of perfection itself.
  1. God made everything perfect
  2. One of the perfect things God made was free creatures
  3. Free will is the cause of evil
  4. So, imperfection (evil) can arise from perfection (not directly, but indirectly through freedom)

Geisler examines the truth that what makes men morally perfect is choice - we are free to chose what we do. This is because it allows us to love freely; because forced love is rape. Also, if we have no choice there is no morality at all - the concepts of moral and immoral are meaningless without choice.

God's moral choice in creating us with moral choices allowed the possibility of evil - because freedom can only really exist if we can chose either good or evil.
That doesn't make Him [God] responsible for evil. He created the fact of freedom; we perform the acts of freedom. He made evil possible; men made evil actual. Imperfection came through our abuse of our moral perfection as free creatures.
Geisler defines free will as follows:
. . . a better definition is that it is the ability to decide be­tween alternatives. Desire is a passion, an emotion; but will is a choice between two or more desires . . . Freedom is not in unlimited options, but in unfettered choice between whatever options there are. As long as the choosing comes from the individual rather than an outside force, the decision is made freely. Free will means the ability to make an unforced decision between two or more alternatives.
The social/political ramifications of this are that we were created to make free choices between good and evil; and we are responsible for those choices.
When we sin, ultimately we (by our wills) are the [first] cause of the evil we do. -- Geisler
Neither the Devil or anybody else forced the act (or it wasn't free - and therefore had no moral content whatsoever). However, God is good and perfect so . . .

The Next Question: Why Can't Evil Be Stopped?
Series Link

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How to debate charitably (rules are links to more description of rule):
1. The Golden Rule
2. You cannot read minds
3. People are not evil
4. Debates are not for winning
5. You make mistakes
6. Not everyone cares as much as you
7. Engaging is hard work
8. Differences can be subtle
9. Give up quietly