Friday, August 15, 2008

The Problem of Evil:
V. Does There Have to be so Much Evil?

I am starting the fifth post in a series on the apologetics surrounding whether or not God's existence, or at least His existence as a good God, can be disproven because of the existence of evil. I have been following Norman Geisler and Ronald Brooks treatment of the issue in When Skeptics Ask

This has not been a series about:

  • what is, or isn't, evil;
  • what we as humans in general (or Christians in particular) should, or shouldn't, do about evil; or even
  • what God plans to do about evil
even though I have grazed some of those issues. It has just been about whether God is proven not to be all-knowing, all-loving, and/or all-powerful because evil exists.

Up to this point, the series (other than positing the existence of a God) has been pretty distant from an exposition of Christianity per se -- and pretty distant from anything remotely resembling evangelism. This one may cross that line somewhat -- and for those following the series (particularly at Street Prophets) who would like to not cross that line feel free to skip this post. In fact, I almost didn't write it at all.

One of those arguments about God not being all-good is from the existence of hell in Christian theology. Geisler:
The extent of evil poses a problem. Surely there doesn't have to be this much evil to fulfill God's purposes. Couldn't there have been one less rape, one less drunk driver? That wouid have made the world better. And, of course, that "one-less" theory can be extended until there is no evil at all. This can even be taken to the extreme case: What about hell? Wouldn't it be better to have one less person in hell? Since both of these questions have the same answer, lets deal with the extreme case.
  1. The greatest good is to save all men.
  2. Even one person in hell would be less than the greatest good.
  3. Therefore, God cannot send anyone to hell.
To answer this objection, we go back to the subject of free will. It is true that God desires all men to be saved, but that means that they have to choose to love Him and believe in Him. Now, God can't force anyone to love Him. Forced love is a contradiction in terms. Love must be free: it is a free choice. So in spite of God's desire, some men do not choose to love Him. All who go to hell do so because of their free choice. They may not want to go to hell (who would?), but they do will it. They make the decision to reject God, even though they don't desire punishment. People don't go to hell because God sends them; they choose it and God respects their freedom.
"There are two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in hell, chose it." -- C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
Now if that is how eternal destiny is decided, then it is not one person in hell that is evil; it is one more than is really necessary (i.e., one who did choose God but was sent to hell anyway). Granted, a world in which some men go to hell is not the best of all conceivable worlds, but it may be the best of all achievable worlds if free will is to be maintained [my emphasis]. Likewise, the world might be made better by one less crime, but it must be left to the would-be criminal to make that choice.
Social/political: Society, parents, etc. also cannot force folks not to do evil. As Geisler points out, it really is the person doing the evils decision. Certainly, there are things society can, and cannot, do in order to limit the instances of evil folks choose to do - but it still comes down to the choices folks make everyday.

Next question: Does God actively encourage good and constrain evil?
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