Saturday, April 11, 2009

Did God Create Evil?

God created all things.
Evil is a thing.
Therefore, God created evil.

Love is not evil.
An all-loving God would not create evil.
Therefore, God is not all-loving (he's evil).

That is quite devastating to Christianity, isn't it? The argument is logically valid. If you agree that the premises are true, then you can't escape the conclusions.

I have heard a few people use this argument to disprove the existence of the all-loving God of Christianity. It seems that this argument is quite solid. Logically, it is sound. But, there is one flaw, not in the logic, but the truth of one of the premises. What's really neat about arguments is that if you can show one premise to be false, all conclusions that follow it (are dependent on it) may be tossed out. Any conclusions above it (not dependent on it) are safe, though.

What's great is that the problem premise in this argument is the second premise. "Evil is a thing". So, we don't have to accept either of the conclusions. Since I want to claim that "evil is a thing" is false and that "evil is not a thing", I need to make an argument. So here it goes:

I want to start by defining what the opposite of "evil" is. Good. "Good" is not a thing either. It is a description of God's nature. God has a moral nature that is good. God is not subject to "good" (otherwise "good" would be greater than God, making it God) and God does not determine "good" (if he did, then "good" would be arbitrarily determined- God could have made rape good). Instead "good" is a description of God's moral nature. God knows what His moral nature is, so He can tell us what is "good" and what is "evil". This is called the moral law.

Based on this, an absence of "good" would make something "evil". I want to clarify this, though. Just because something is "not good" does not mean that it is "evil". For instance, take the colors black and white. They are opposites. If presented with the color gray, it would be perfectly acceptable to say that it is not white, but it would not be acceptable to say that it is black. Many things are morally neutral. Such as your choice of ice cream. A choice or action does not cross over into the "evil" category unless it is "actively working or standing against" God's moral law or nature.

God created humans "in His image" (the imago dei) . One of the properties of God's image is the recognition of what is "good" and "evil". However, when sin entered into the world, that ability was clouded. I'll go more into this in a future post on the depravity of man.

Humans can discern "good" from "evil" on their own (Romans 2:14-15). Many secularists can make an argument for how (not why) they determine "good" from "evil"- they observe human behavior and nature. But that can only go so far, mainly because human culture changes and what is perceived as "bad" will one day change to "good". Some areas that seem gray may actually be black or white. Since our discernment has been clouded by our sin, we need to refer to God's revelation (the Bible) to help us determine more concretely what is "good" and what is "evil".

Once we recognize that God's standard of good cannot be met; and no matter how hard we try, our good deeds will not restore our relationship with Him, we recognize the need for a Savior. Once we recognize our need and humble ourselves to the point of accepting Jesus as our Savior, then we allow Him to reveal to us even more about His nature and what "good" is.

For more information, I recommend these:

Podcasts
Just Thinking
Defenders
Reasonable Faith
Straight Thinking
Apologetics.com Radio Show
Stand to Reason

Books
Without a Doubt by Kenneth Samples
Beyond the Cosmos by Hugh Ross

15 comments:

  1. If I understand correctly, the components of God's nature are not real things?

    Argument 1:
    Real things must be indivisible(cannot be divided further) or must be composed of other real things.
    God's nature is composed of descriptions so it can be divided further.
    Therefore, God's nature is not indivisible.
    God's nature is composed of descriptions that are not real things.
    Therefore, God's nature is not a real thing.

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  2. I'm not following you.
    Are you making this argument or are you saying that I'm making this argument?

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  3. Just playing with your words to formulate an argument that God's nature is not real.

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  4. I don't see how that could even be possible. Because any argument that you pose could be used against you to say that your personality doesn't exist either.

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  5. Not necessarily.
    I could say my personality is divisible or composed of real things, I think both of which are true.

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  6. What's the difference in your personality and God's nature?

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  7. Personalities are composed of real things like observable traits. By your argument, God's nature is composed of unreal things. A thing composed of unreal things cannot be real.

    You say "good" and "evil" are not things but are descriptions of God's nature. First, I want to point out isn't a description a thing? Second, based on that reasoning....

    Argument 1:
    Real things must be indivisible(cannot be divided further) things or must be composed of other real things.
    God's nature is composed of descriptions so it can be divided further.
    Therefore, God's nature is not indivisible.
    God's nature is composed of descriptions that are not real things.*
    Therefore, God's nature is not a real thing.

    *the premise with the asterisk is based on your argument saying "good" is not a real thing, and by implication all descriptions are not "real things". Therefore since God's nature consists of descriptions which are not real things, then God's nature is not a real thing.

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  8. I think you misunderstand me. I am not saying that "good" is not real. I am saying that it is not a "thing". By "thing" I'm talking about tangible objects that can be directly observed. It is not a tangible object that can be directly observed, but it is real.

    I am also not trying to argue that God's nature is a "thing" either (based on my description above).

    Further I would not argue that my personality is a "thing" because a personality cannot be directly observed. The effects of the personality are what we experience (same with God's nature). But I am not saying that my personality is not real.

    Does this make sense?

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  9. Can something that is not a thing direct/affect real things?

    What is the method of causality at work then?

    Rather than thing, I think the word "matter" might be better. Because an idea is definitely a thing. Because by your definition that something that cannot be directly observed is not a "thing", language no longer makes sense. A noun is a person, place, or thing. Matter is observable phenomena.

    But there is a causal problem.... namely how do non-material things affect and interact with material things?

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  10. "Matter" might be closer to what I'm saying, but it goes a little too far. When I say "thing", I am talking about something that exists as part of what God has created (physical and metaphysical). "Good" is not part of what God has created; therefore neither is the absence of "good", which is "evil". (In a nutshell)

    I agree that there exists an issue as to discovering the mechanism that allows non-material things to affect and interact with material things. But I don't see it as a problem of happening. We have thoughts everyday that affect our behavior, but thoughts are not material.

    Does this help you understand me better?

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  11. Yes. My last 2 cents.

    1. My intro to Philosophy paper was on the problem of non-material things having causation over material things. I drank a bottle of Jack Daniels and postulated an invisible web like internet wi-fi that is not observable but allows causation.

    2. Modern neuroscience would say that thoughts are basically material. they are products of the physical brain.

    When you think of something, we can observe through PET scans and other methods which parts of the brain are active and where these thoughts are being generated from. The same goes with feelings; neurotransmitters and the brain regions activated give us insight to what you are feeling. We may not have a detailed explanation of the process of volition; but the march of science goes ever onward. Behavior is an observable facet of thought. The root cause of thought, understood by modern neuroscience, is not an immaterial mind but rather the physical brain. I think the empirical evidence is pretty strong for this position.... And it does pose a challenge for Buddhism (which Mahayana Buddhisms gets around by the postulation of the alaya-vijnana among other things).

    Neuroscience and materialistic epistemology do have one limitation though; describing qualia. For example, we can know a person is happy by observing them with PET scans and MRI type technologies, but we cannot know what they are subjectively feeling. But subjectivity was never the realm of science - and this is where religion and philosophy shine.

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  12. PET scans can tell what endorphins are being released to cause a certain sensation, and what part of the brain is triggering that release. However, PET scans (or any other scientific instrument) cannot tell us what the content of the thoughts that are causing that part of the brain to initialize and maintain the release of the endorphins.

    Science has not shown evidence that thoughts or their content are the result of the physical. There is nothing, that Buddhism or any other religion that posits the metaphysicalality of the mind or consciousness, to "get around".

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  13. Brain imaging tells us more than that endorphins are released. They can tell us to some extent the content of thoughts (but not in the sense of qualia); and the brain structure that is actively being used can tell us what kind of thoughts are being processed and how the information is being processed. I agree it won't show qualia, but it can sure show a lot.

    Science HAS shown evidence that thoughts and their content are a result of physical processes. It HAS NOT shown that thoughts and their content are affected by metaphysical processes.

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  14. They can't show the content of the thought at all. You're right they can show the "kind" to the limit of "happy", "sad", "angry". But that is inferred by the area of the brain and the endorphins that are released.

    Here's the content of a thought: "The house cat just died."

    For the child who is attached to the cat, he would be sad and maybe even angry (depending on the cause of death).

    For the owner of the house who cannot stand having the cat because it reeks and tears up everything, he would be relieved and maybe even happy.

    For each of the people who had that thought, different parts of the brain and different endorphins would be released. Science can tell the emotions caused by the content the thought brings, but it can tell the content at all.

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