The Instigator
unitedandy
Pro (for)
Winning
13 Points
The Contender
Rednerrus
Con (against)
Losing
6 Points

The Problem of Evil (PoE)

Do you like this debate?NoYes+1
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 4 votes the winner is...
unitedandy
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/4/2011 Category: Religion
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,199 times Debate No: 18615
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (58)
Votes (4)

 

unitedandy

Pro

Definitions

God - An omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent personal being who created the universe and is concerned with the well being of His creatures.

Evil (minimalist account) - (At least) anything which causes suffering, pain, disability and death.

(Note: Even though the notion of evil as an extensive and controversial one, it is merely to avoid controversy and semantics that I restrict myself to this definition of evil.)

Introduction

The Problem of Evil (PoE) is widely regarded as the biggest challenge to belief in a God of the kind described above. In this debate, my role is to present a version of this argument, and to defend it against Con's objections. The type of PoE I will present is the evidential form, which states that while evils themselves are not necessarily logically incompatible with God, the existence of gratuitous evils present what most recognise as a very powerful argument against the existence of God:


The WSA Evidential problem of evil (1)

(P1) If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.

(P2) There is lots of evil in the world.

(P3) Much of that evil is not logically necessary for any adequately compensating good.

(C) Therefore, there is no God who is all powerful and all good.


Defending P1

P1 states that in order for an evil to be reconciled with God, it has to be "logically necessary for an adequately compensating good." This means that the evil cannot be avoided, and that the reason for permitting outweighs preventing the evil. For example, those with tooth decay have reason to permit an evil (painful drilling) if this is the only way to relieve them of a greater evil. Such an evil would be compatible with the conditions of P1, iff this relieved the pain in the most efficient way possible. Likewise, goods like free-will are said to be so valuable that God has a morally sufficient reason to permit them, even in the face of horrendous evils. So what reasons do we have for believing P1 to be true. As Christian philosopher Daniel Howard Snyder remarks,

"on the face of it, the idea that God may well permit gratuitous evil is absurd. After all, if God can get what He wants without permitting some particular horror (or anything comparably bad), why on earth would He permit it?" (2)

Almost all Christians and atheists agree on this point, because not only is the attributes of God seemingly logically inconsistent with the existence of gratuitous evil by its very definition, but the denial of P1 leads to massive problems elsewhere.


Defending P2

If P1 is virtually undeniable, P2 is even more so. The fact is that there are many things which cause suffering, pain, disability and death. Indeed, there are many things which cause all 4. In short, there is lots of evil in the world. There is torture, there is rape, murder, and a host of natural evil, from floods to droughts. However, in my defence of P2 it is merely sufficient to establish that these things exist and do so in abundance.

I'll say very little else of P1 and P2, because I don't seriously expect Con to deny either that gratuitous evils are incompatible with an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent being, nor do I expect Con to deny that evil exists in our world - that much is obvious. Rather, the objector to the PoE most commonly aims to direct fire at P3, that there are actually existing evils which are not logically necessary for an adequately compensating good, and it is to this which I know turn.



Defending P3

P3 states that some evils in the world are not logically necessary for an adequately compensating good - they are gratuitous (in the sense that I am using the term). An all powerful being is able to prevent the evils that occur, and an all good being is obviously willing, so the question becomes, is there always justification for the evils in the world, in the ways described above? The answer, I think, is quite clearly, no. Consider the examples of mass murders, torture, rape and other unimaginable cruelties in Indonesia, under Suharto, in Pinochet's Chile, in Stalin's Russia, Pol-Pot's Cambodia, or in Nazi Germany, and many, many more. What possible reason could there be for this horrendous evil? What compensation can there be for such barbarism? The short-term costs of such evil are so frighteningly high, so intuitively horrific and so apparently unnecessary that to attempt to justify it would is a tremendously difficult and, I suspect, an insurmountable task. Yet there is more.

In conjunction with moral evils, there are natural evils, one of which is described in the following example:

"Many babies each year are born with Down's syndrome. Most of these babies, with normal paediatric care, will grow up healthy. A significant number, however, have intestinal obstructions that will kill them if they do not receive an operation. Without the operation, dehydration and infection will cause these babies to wither and die over a period of hours and days. Today this operation is relatively simple, but not long ago these babies could not be saved . . . This baby (one born in the past with this) suffers for days, then dies." (3) (Sinnott Armstrong,2004, P84).

Another example given by Rowe is that of animal suffering:

" Suppose in some distant forest lightning strikes a dead tree, resulting in a forest fire. In the fire a fawn is trapped, horribly burned and lies in terrible agony for several days before death relieves its suffering. So far as we can see, the fawn's intense suffering is pointless." (4)

Now given the examples above, does it remain rational to affirm that these evils are logically necessary for an adequately compensating good? Well, it certainly is hugely problematic to even suggest scenarios which would plausibly deal with the with suffering and death of a child in such a circumstance as above. We know (beyond reasonable doubt) that this child suffers. We know that if God exists, then this suffering must be necessary for an adequately compensating good (as P1 states). Yet what is also abundantly clear is that the prolonged suffering and inevitable death of this child and thousands like them brings absolutely no conceivable benefit whatsoever, let alone that the compensatory for this evil AND that this in turn be logically necessary. As Rowe points out:

"In light of our experience and knowledge, of the variety and scale of human and animal suffering in our world, the idea that none of this suffering could have been prevented by an omnipotent being without thereby losing some greater good or permitting an evil at least as bad seems an extraordinary, absurd idea, quite beyond our belief." (5).


Now, of course, the PoE, being as old as it is, has attracted all sorts of solutions to try and puncture its intuitive, emotional and intellectual grounding, but the all the solutions I have heard thus far fail on so many different levels, but I'll let Con present the reasons he finds persuasive and we can discuss it further.

Conclusion

In order to refute the argument, Con must deny at least 1 of the 3 premises, assuming he accepts that the argument is logically valid. In order to do, he must present both a plausible and coherent account of why the argument is unsuccessful. I invite him to make his case, closing with the words of the prominent Christian scholar N.T.Wright:

"If you think you have solved the problem of evil, lie down. It will pass." (6)

Sources

1,3. God? Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, William lane Craig and Walter Sinnott Armstrong, 2004, Oxford University Press, p84.
2. Howard-Snyder, Daniel, and Frances Howard-Snyder. 1999. "Is Theism Compatible with Gratuitous Evil?" American Philosophical Quarterly 36: 115-29.
4, 5. Rowe, William, The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism, American Philosophical Quarterly 16: 335-41.
6. http://commonsenseatheism.com...... (debate can be found here).
Rednerrus

Con

Definitions



God - Though I accept Pro’s definition of God, I will specifically define God as the Christian God, the God described in the Bible. I will only be defending the Christian God as it is my position that only the Biblical God is internally coherent and defensible, especially against arguments like the problem of evil.

Evil - Like Pro said, this subject is extensive and controversial. I can argue that Pro does not have a rational basis for his definition of evil outside the Biblical worldview, but that is not what this debate is about. In order for Pro to use this argument against the Biblical God, he must also define evil the same way the Bible defines evil.

I will not minimize or undermine evil, or argue that evil is not actually evil in God’s perspective. In fact, the Christian definition of evil is much more extensive and serious than how Pro defined evil. Evil is real and evil is ugly.

Having said that, the Problem of Evil is an INTERNAL critique of a worldview where God, as defined, exists in a world where evil also exists. I will treat this debate as such and I will be defending the Christian God. Pro, therefore needs to argue within the Christian Worldview.

If Pro disagrees and claims that he can define “evil” outside the Christian Worldview, then I'd gladly debate him about if morality and ethics presuppose God or not instead. Pro after our last debate stated that he does not want this debate to to lead to another TAG debate. The only way that is possible is if he treats the PoE argument the way it was meant to be, an INTERNAL critique of a specific system of beliefs.


Classic PoE

The PoE argument basically argues that the existence of evil makes the existence of an all-powerful, and at the same time, all-good God illogical.

The classic PoE argument is summed up by philosopher David Hume,
“Is [God] willing to prevent evil but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able but not willing? then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?” (1)

Pro, however, accepts that the presence of evil is not a logical problem for God’s existence (I don’t completely agree with his reason). Pro argues, using the Evidential PoE argument, that it is the presence of “gratuitous” and “unnecessary” evil that is incompatible with the existence of God.


Evidential PoE

(P1) If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.

(P2) There is lots of evil in the world.

(P3) Much of that evil is not logically necessary for any adequately compensating good.

(C) Therefore, there is no God who is all powerful and all good.


Pro is correct when he said that P3 is where the debate is. And I will argue that P3 is completely arbitrary.


Short Refutation


Without even criticizing the errors in P1, one can refute this argument by pointing out that P3 is arbitrary.
According to P1, evil is not incompatible with God as long as that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good. P3 however, states that much of the evil that exists are not logically necessary for any adequately compensating good. But according to who? To Pro.

Pro does not know how these “gratuitous” evil are logically necessary for any adequately compensating good, so he concludes absolutely that they are unnecessary!
This is a text book argument from ignorance and argument from self-knowing.

P3 erroneously assumes that if there are logically good reasons for the “gratuitous” evil that exists, then surely Pro would know them and right away. P3 excludes the possibility that Pro simply does not know why "gratuitous" evil are logically necessary, due to his limited perspective, knowledge and time. P3 is an arbitrary and unsubstantiated personal conjecture, and/or is an intellectually arrogant claim.

P3 shows that "the problem really is Pro’s lack of trust and belief in the all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful God, which is what he is trying to disprove, making the argument circular." (2)


Long Refutation

Though P3 is the main argument in this syllogism, the errors in P1 are the foundations of this fallacious argument. P3 depends on P1 and P1’s flaws evolve into bigger flaws found in P3.

(P1) If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.

P1 looks good at first glance and you would think that any Christian would agree with it, but with further examination, especially with the examples that Pro gave, you will see that there a fundamental errors in this premise.

P1 is very man-centered and not God-centered. Man-centeredness is a consistent trait of unbelievers. Pro in explaining P1 exemplified this. Pro correctly maintains that the existence of evil is not incompatible with God, so long as that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good. Which sounded good, until he gave his tooth decay analogy.

What you will notice in his tooth decay analogy is that Pro is already presupposing a criteria for what is logically necessary:

1. Evil has to bring immediate, obvious “good” results, that Pro himself can immediately observe.

If Pro observes something evil that did not immediately result into a greater good or if it seems TO PRO that that evil did not accomplish any good, then it is an unnecessary evil.

2. Evil’s end “good” result must benefit the receiver of that evil, specifically in a physical, materialistic, tangible way. Basically, not God’s, but man’s purpose and satisfaction is the ultimate determiner of what good is.

Note that I was putting quotation marks on “good”. The reason is I can easily play devil’s advocate and press Pro to prove absolutely that those "good" results are indeed the greater good. The same problem will arise, his finite knowledge, perspective and time, prevents him from knowing this kind of absolute information.

P1 is really saying, "If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good... good that we all see, know and understand."

I would reword P1 to this, and this is also the proper solution to the classic PoE argument:

P1 God is all-powerful and all-good, God must have a morally sufficient reason to allow the evil that exists.

The most important thing to remember here is that the all-knowing God whose wisdom is infinitely beyond ours, knows what these morally sufficient reasons are, and whether we ourselves know them or not is irrelevant.




(P2) There is lots of evil in the world
.


In the Christian worldview where absolute morality exists, yes.



(P3) Much of that evil is not logically necessary for any adequately compensating good
.


After criticizing the flaws in P1, the arbitrariness of P3 is much clearer than it was in my short refutation.

Once we correctly establish P1:

(P1) God is all-powerful and all-good, God must have a morally sufficient reason to allow the evil that exists.

We have to ask ourselves why P3? If according to P1, evil can exist if God has a morally sufficient reason to allow it, why would we then infer that "gratuitous" evil is not logically necessary for any adequately compensating good, or that, God does not have a morally sufficient reason to allow "gratuitous" evil? Because we don’t know the reason? That’s silly!

Every example Pro gave in his defense of P3 can be refuted by simply going back to P1, that the almighty, all-loving, all-wise God has morally sufficient reasons for allowing them to happen. The fact that Pro does not know what the reasons are, is completely irrelevant. Pro is simply appealing to emotions by giving examples of terrible evil that he then arbitrarily claims are unnecessary.

I trust in the all-wise God, Pro illogically thinks HE is all-wise.



(1) Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, ed. Nelson Pike (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merill Publications: 1981), p. 88
(2) Me
Debate Round No. 1
unitedandy

Pro

Introduction

In my response, I will show not only that Con’s approach leaves the PoE unmoved, but that, taken to its logical conclusion, his response destroys the basis for his own worldview. As we seem to agree that evils exist, I will take it that Con accepts P2, and will only defend premises 1 and 3.

As regards to the definition of evil, I will use it in the broad sense it is typically used in the PoE. Unless Con believes that gratuitous suffering (if it exists) would not present a problem for God, then this isn’t really an issue.

Defending P1

Con laid out 3 criticisms of P1, but none of these criticisms hold much water. One of these criticisms is that Con asserts that P1 has to assume that humans have epistemic access into the reasons God has for permitting evil. But this is false. All P1 states is that if God exists as defined, gratuitous evils do not exist. Whether these evils are inscrutable or not is simply irrelevant for P1, and this only come to bear in the argument in reference to P3. As for Con’s reformulation, I insist that we stick to the initial presentation of P1. This because the original P1 explains the necessary conditions for evil to be morally permissible - that it must be logically necessary for an adequately compensating good, just like in the analogy, the only way to relieve pain was to drill one’s teeth. Now, on the analogy, Con criticises it as being “man-centred” because he claims that the analogy shows that the compensatory good must be immediate and benefit in a “physical, materialistic, tangible way”. All the analogy aimed to show was merely a sketch of an example of P1, but Con took this in the most uncharitable light possible. The goods could be spiritual (e.g. salvation), mechanical (free-will) or physical (reducing greater pain). All I ask is that Con plausibly show the evil to be logically necessary and the good adequately compensatory, but as I said before, this disagreement seems to be primarily directed at P3. All P1 does is to say that the evils in world have a morally sufficient reason (in the way that I specified with), and unless Con disagrees either that the evils a) have to have adequate compensation somehow, and b) the evils permitted be necessary to obtain this good, we both seem to accept P1.

In short, most of the criticisms of P1 conflate it with P3, and from a few misunderstanding of what P1 entails.

Defending P3

Con’s primary attack of P3 is that of Sceptical Theism (ST), a position which claims that due to one’s ”limited perspective, knowledge and time”, we simply cannot bridge the gap between the appearance of gratuitous evils, and the fact of gratuitous evils. In order to reject this criticism of Con, I will begin by addressing a few minor criticisms of P3 that he gives to supplement ST. Firstly, the PoE does not necessitate that one know (in the strict epistemic sense) that gratuitous evils exist. Rather, as Rowe stresses, the contention is whether it is reasonable to believe that they do (1). Thus, Con cannot be content merely to address my argument as one would the logical PoE. Second, Con charges that the PoE is an argument from ignorance, but even principal advocate of ST Wykstra dismisses this as a bad criticism for two reasons. Firstly, because P3 doesn’t conclude gratuity merely on no apparent morally sufficient reason for these evils. Rather, it says from all that we know of these horrendous circumstances, we are unable to even to conceive (much less identify) why these evils are logically necessary for any good at all. This inability to even conceive of these evils being morally justified is a hugely persuasive reason to affirm P3. Secondly, because as Wykstra puts it:

“For if an instance of suffering appears not to have a point, that is a reason for thinking it has no point.”(2)

Further, he calls such a principle a “primary and indispensable principle of justification”, and providing at least prima facie evidence for P3, which Con must address (3). Con’s last minor criticism is that God must have morally sufficient reasons to permit evils, given His existence. But this is precisely the problem, God’s existence is at stake! It simply does no good to simply assume evils are justified because God exists, when His existence is questioned on the basis of gratuitous evils.

As for ST, there are several reasons to reject it as plausible in dealing with the PoE, some of which have been touched on already. A few more reasons to disregard ST is that it seems to imply that even if all sentience in the universe experienced the most horrendous suffering imaginable until death, this would not render God’s existence any more unlikely (4). But this is absurd. If postulating God has any implications, then surely the nature of the world is of primary concern. This blind dismissal of evil, however prevalent, simply leaves us with a conceptual black hole. Second, surely a wholly good being would comfort us in times of suffering, ensuring us of the necessity of these evils, even if their purpose was somehow unknowable, much like a parent comforts a child (5). But this is not apparent either. Additionally, even the appearance of gratuitous evils leads to perhaps the greatest evil - nonbelief. Thirdly, the postulation of unknowns to explain greater goods begs the question. Who’s to say that these unknowns won’t create even more difficulty for the theist, much less that the compensation is logically necessary for an adequately compensatory good? Assuming that the problem solves itself somehow is not an answer we can take seriously. From these 3 reasons and the 2 above (the solution being inconceivable and the prima facie case for justifiably believing P3 because of the appearance of gratuitous evils), we can already dismiss ST, in reference to the PoE. But what of its further implications?

ST and theism

ST creates huge problems for the theist:

Moral paralysis - Given ST’s insistence on our cognitive limitations on suffering, our ability to make moral choices is eroded by the same scepticism that the believer applies (unsuccessfully) to the PoE. So decisions like saving our hypothetical baby for its horrendous pain are simply off limits for the advocate of ST, for how can we know that relieving the suffering of this child is the right thing to do, given these limitations?

"the result is that, if I were to take sceptical theism seriously, I should be morally paralysed." (6)

Moral depravity - Likewise, ST’s agnosticism about moral justification can lead to us not only failing to condemn moral abominations, but to believe that such actions are morally permissible:

“If one accepts that God could have reasons beyond our ken for permitting the rape and murder of children, then how can one reasonably deny that God could have reasons for commanding us to do that which we have outweighing reasons not to do?” (7)

Lastly, sceptical theism not only undercuts Reformed Epistemology (which Con holds to) by emphasising the limitations of our cognitive faculties and undercutting our trust in them, while also denying us us any mechanism for a host of beliefs Con holds, such as believer salvation, because of our scepticism in God's actions:

"for all we know, everything turning out for the best includes all those who believe in Christ being annihilated at the moment of death." (8).

Conclusion

Not only does ST fail to deal with the PoE, but it presents a huge challenge to theism on its own terms.

Sources

1 Rowe, 1979, p338
2,3 http://www.calvin.edu...
(P149-150)
4,5 http://www.springerlink.com... (P79-92)
6 http://www.bowdoin.edu... (P12)
7 http://www.tandfonline.com... (P86-87)
8 Wielenberg, E. ‘Skeptical Theism and Divine Lies.’ Presentation at the Pacific Meeting of the American Philosophical Association, Vancouver, British Columbia, 2009
Rednerrus

Con

Intro

In this round I will further explain that P1, if properly explained, makes P3 pointless and thus refutes the argument.


Correcting P1

(P1) If there were an all-powerful and all-good God, then there would not be any evil in the world unless that evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good
.


Like I said in the 1st round, this premise looks good at first glance. What I criticized was Pro's erroneous explanation of it, given his tooth decay analogy and in light of his adherance to P3.

I am perfectly fine with sticking to the wording of P1, so long as the explanation of it is correct, ie. that the all-powerful, all-good God has a morally sufficient reason to allow the evil that exist.


Pro's tooth decay analogy however showed that P1 is loaded. In Pro's analogy and explanation of P1, Pro designated himself (and humanity) as the ultimate determiner of what is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good. He arbitrarily presupposed criterias for what is logically necessary; basically it has to satisfy HIS intellect, and HIS judgement. If it does not, he deems it absolutely illogical and unnecessary.
I pointed out that his criteria is:

1. Man-centered because it seems like his explanation of what is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good, has to benefit the receiver of evil and that it has to do so in an obvious, tangible, immediate manner.

The problem here is that God's morally sufficient reason does not have to be to compensate and benefit the evil reciever in an immediate, obvious, tangible way (like healing, salvation, free-will, etc), OR AT ALL. The ultimate good is the glory of GOD not of man.

2. Arbitrary and intellectually arrogant, due to Pro's and the whole of humanity's limited knowledge, perspective, time, observation, etc. Pro does not know absolutely what God's actual purpose is to allow the evil that exists. He just arbirtarily claims that the evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good when it evokes HIS approval.

If Pro wants to say now that P1 "does not assume that humans necessarily have epistemic access into the reasons God has for permitting evil", then I will drop my criticisms of P1. But Pro in the same paragraph, asks me to, "plausibly show the evil to be logically necessary and the good adequately compensatory." Of course I can give him a general response; ie. God's glory and love will ultimately be displayed, but of course Pro being the ultimate authority in his worldview, will determine for himself, if that reason is morally sufficient or not. Perhaps Pro will ask me, how allowing evil, especially gratuitous evil, will accomplish this. The answer is we don't know exactly, but God does.


P1 is only true if God, not Pro, is the ultimate determiner of what is morally sufficient or logically necessary. If Pro accepts this, then P1 is the conclusion. P2 is assumed in P1 and P3 IGNORES P1.




Refuting P3

(P3) Much of that evil is not logically necessary for any adequately compensating good.


Skeptical Theism

(Much of what Pro said about skeptical theism is irrelevant, since Pro wrongly accused me of being a skeptical theist. I will only touch on the relevant points.)

I did not deny the fact of "gratuitous" evil at all. Im not even skeptical about it. It exists and it is ugly. I know that gratiutous evil exists, as a matter of fact, the Bible says that MAN is gratiutously evil. Our limitation is not that we do not not know what evil, gratiutous or not, is. Our limitation is our knowledge of the reason why God allows them in the first place.
I did not betray my epistemology, in fact that is what I am exhibiting in my criticism of the PoE. We know good and evil ONLY because God revealed what they are. What we don't know; God's reasons for allowing evil, we do not have the ability to determine for ourselves. Pro is actualy the one who is irrationally being a skeptic of God, in his INTERNAL critique. He doubts if the all-good God does indeed have a morally sufficient reason to allow evil, since he is unable to see and understand it. As if Pro is capable of determining if the ultimate moral judge is doing what is morally right or not. As you can see, Pro denies God form the outset.


What I criticized in P3, both in my short and long refutations, is the way Pro arbitrarily asserts that there are no logical reasons for an adequately compensating good for this category of evil. In other words, Pro assumes that God does not have a morally sufficient reason to allow gratiutous evil. This is nothing but an unsubstantiated arbitrary claim. Pro's personal opinion!

Pro fallaciously argues from ignorance and self-knowing. Pro claims that because he himself does not know and understand why God would allow a child to be born with Down Syndrome, or why God would allow an animal to be trapped in a forrest fire and suffer, that there must be absolutely no morally sufficient reason for God to allow it to happen. This is completely arbitrary and intellectually arrogant.

“For if an instance of suffering appears not to have a point, that is a reason for thinking it has no point.”


"from all that we know of these horrendous circumstances, we are unable to even to conceive (much less identify) why these evils are logically necessary for any good at all."

"it seems to imply that even if all sentience in the universe experienced the most horrendous suffering imaginable until death, this would not render God’s existence any more unlikely (4). But this is absurd. If postulating God has any implications, then surely the nature of the world is of primary concern."

Here, Pro gives more arbitrary and intellectually arrogant statements that demonstrate my point. They fallaciously assert that if "WE are unable to even conceive why these evils are logically necessary for any good at all", or if an instance of suffering APPEARS TO US, to not have a point, then these horrendous evil are indeed absolutely logically unnecessary and it is "absurd" for God to allow them.

This completely ignores P1, that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil (any category) that exist, whether we know what the reason is or not. Man not knowing everything that God knows should be rationally expected. But much of Pro's defense of P3 stems from the wrong assumption that man has absolute observation, judgement, and knowledge. That man is the ultimate determiner of good. That man is God.

ST and theism

Everything Pro said here are simply bad theology. God is sovereign, while man is still accountable and responsible. We are taught in the Bible to abhor and flee from evil but ultimately rest in God's sovereignty. The believer is not skeptical, but on the contrary, he is called to TRUST that God knows what the heck He is doing.


Conclusion


The PoE is supposed to present a LOGICAL problem for the existence of God. It is supposed to argue that the existence of (gratuitous) evil makes God's all-knowing and all-powerful characters internally incoherent. It fails to do that no matter what version of it. P1, when understood properly, refutes the problem.

What we see is that the PoE is actually a PSYCHOLOGICAL problem for both the unbeliever and the believer. As Dr. Greg Bahnsen, a Christian philosopher and apologist, said,

"We can find it emotionally very hard to have faith in God and trust His goodness and power when we are not given the reason why bad things happen to us and others." (1)

The difference is the believer, by God's grace puts his faith in God's goodness, power, and wisdom, while the unbeliever takes it as an insult to his intelligence and autonomy. Dr. Bahnsen adds,

"He refuses to trust God. He will not believe that God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil which exists, unless the unbeliever is given that reason for his own examination and assessment. To put it briefly, the unbeliever will not trust God unless God SUBORDINATES Himself to the intellectual authority and moral evaluation of the unbeliever" (2)



(1), (2) Bahnsen, G. "ALWAYS READY"
Debate Round No. 2
unitedandy

Pro

Introduction

I must admit to be rather dismayed at Con’s last post. Not only has he merely sought to repeat what I corrected in my last round, he doesn’t even seem to understand the content and implications of his own position. His post seems to be rushed, complete with spelling mistakes and general misunderstandings of both my and his position. In my last round, all I have left to do is to readdress criticisms of the PoE I have already tackled, and to enlighten Con with regards to his OWN position.

Defending P1

Con here yet again tries to change the wording of my first premise, and that claims that, given his rewriting of P1, it ignores P3. Well, sure, if Con wants to rewrite my argument, then I’d imagine P1 may indeed ignore P3. Perhaps if he rewrote my whole argument, he could even get an argument for theism. The problem here is that this is simply straw-manning again. I explained why I preferred my version of the argument, and insisted that my wording of MY premise be used, and I gave support for this in my last 2 rounds. One of the reasons for this (though not the only one) was that Con’s rewrite wasn’t even a conditional statement - it assumed that God exists! Next, Con reintroduces 2 criticisms I dealt with in my last post. With his first point, he says that what is gratuitous is man-centred, and we can simply not make a judgement. But the problem here is that P1 is a conceptual point, so his application of ST (though he would deny it) is simply inapplicable here, and only grounds for denying P3 (which I said last time). With regards to the nature of the compensatory goods, again these just examples, not an exhaustive list. Yet again, Con just takes this in the most uncharitable light possible. Then he seems to suggest that gratuitous evils may be compatible with God. Now, you can’t say that all evil has a morally sufficient reason, and then say that some evils are gratuitous. This is a contradiction in terms. Besides, I gave several arguments in defence of P1, and Con has yet to respond to any of them. With regards to evils being inscrutable, I responded to this last time by saying that this was relevant only to P3, and then gave some reasons to doubt Con’s ST case. His second criticism again just repeats that we are unable to determine if evils are really gratuitous because of our limited time, perspective and so forth. But I responded to this last time by saying that this only applies to P3, because whether we know evils are inscrutable or not is wholly independent of the truth of P1. Given the lack of engagement with P1 in his last round, it gives me an opportunity to bolster P1 with additional conceptual analysis. God is defined as:

Omniscient = God knows anything logically possible
Omnipotent = God can do anything logically possible
Omni benevolent = God is morally perfect

Given these attributes, God knows, can and wants to prevent any evils. Now given that, any evils which do exist do so necessarily because God allows them or because he doesn’t exist. Now if God exists and allows evils, it must be (given that he is morally perfect) that He has morally sufficient reason to do so. If the permitted evils are not logically necessary or have no adequately compensating good, then again God does not have a morally sufficient reason to permit them. This is all that P1 states. It seems that given the definition of God at the beginning of the debate, God is not compatible with gratuitous evil any more than a bachelor is compatible with marriage.


Given the strength of P1, with both the prima facie plausibility and the initial and extended conceptual analysis given, as well as having no rational reason to doubt it, it seems we are compelled to accept that if God exists, gratuitous evils (as defined) do not.

Defending P3

Here I tried to be charitable, and equate Con’s position with ST:

“According to skeptical theism, we should never regard it as likely that we'd spot God's morally sufficient justification for permitting some evil, and hence our failure to spot a justification is never evidence that God doesn't have one.” (1)

Con has said things like:

“Pro does not know how these “gratuitous” evil are logically necessary for any adequately compensating good, so he concludes absolutely that they are unnecessary!
This is a text book argument from ignorance and argument from self-knowing.”

“The most important thing to remember here is that the all-knowing God whose wisdom is infinitely beyond ours, knows what these morally sufficient reasons are, and whether we ourselves know them or not is irrelevant.”

Notice that these positions are more or less identical, except that Con wrongfully applied these criticisms to P1, when they should have been directed at P3, which I dealt with when I was defending P3. The problem now is that Con seems to be denying that he employed ST, saying that I wrongly concluded that he was a sceptical theist, and thus ignoring my defence and my section regarding the implications of ST. Emphasising our ”limited perspective, knowledge and time” to combat P3 is precisely ST, as are the statements above and so all the criticisms of ST, and all the implications of ST do unfortunately apply to Con, and eviscerate his own worldview. At this point, Con has successfully managed to doubt his own doubts about the PoE, but it gets far worse. He says:

“I did not deny the fact of "gratuitous" evil at all. Im not even skeptical about it. It exists and it is ugly. I know that gratiutous evil exists, as a matter of fact”

Now, the most charitable way I can read this is that Con means evil, as opposed to gratuitous evil (at least as defined in P1). If evil is gratuitous, then, by definition, God has no morally sufficient reason to permit it, otherwise it wouldn’t be gratuitous! So only the most liberal interpretation of this allows Con to escape him to repudiate his own case! Next, he seems to criticise my definition of evil, but as I said, I mean evil in the broadest sense. Unless he thinks that the example of suffering I provided aren’t things God would wish to prevent ceteris paribus, then we have no problem, and I have shown this from P1. In any case, ST does not allow him to define evil according to the bible because he can’t assume God’s motives due to his "limitations"!

There were also a bunch of points Con dropped regarding P3:

1. 5 criticisms of ST
2. Replies to his 3 minor criticisms of P3
3. Four reasons to affirm P3 (prima facie case, non conceivability of a morally sufficient reason, examples of gratuitous evils, distinction between knowledge and reasonableness).

Extend all arguments.

In short, given we have overwhelming reason to affirm P3, and no standing objection to it, we are simply have to conclude that much of the evil in the world is not logically necessary for an adequately compensating good. With this crucial premise affirmed, the argument (at least for the purposes of the debate) is sound.

ST and Theism

Here Con just ignored each of the problems inherent with ST:

1. Moral paralysis
2. Moral depravity
3. Extended theism

Extend all arguments.

Conclusion

Yet again, the criticisms of the PoE just don’t survive scrutiny. Indeed, Con’s confused and contradictory responses present more problems to Christianity than the PoE. I’d like to thank Con and the readers in advance for the debate.

Sources

1. http://prosblogion.ektopos.com...

Rednerrus

Con

Intro

Pro is using the same tactics as he always uses. Instead of dealing with the actual refutation that I presented, he basically takes the argument, puts it in general category that comes with baggage that I don't carry, and argues that that system as a whole has many problems. Then he claims that I dropped a bunch of points, which I didn't. It's not my method to refute every statement that my opponent makes. I summarize the main points and respond to them.


Pro has not offered any new arguments. I will conclude this debate by again showing that:

1. P1 is loaded with Pro's presuppositions that I do not accept, as it is irrational to do so.
2. P3 by itself is arbitrary and intellectually arrogant, and is actually unnecessary if P1 is rid of Pro's inconsistent assumptions.


Refuting P1

I said that I'm perfectly fine with the way P1 is worded as long as it isn't loaded. Pro misunderstood why I was rewording P1. I wasn't simply changing his argument to basically argue for him. What I was doing is showing that P1 is flawed, and Pro can not force me to accept it just because he says "almost all Christians and atheists agree on this point".

I do not accept P1, not the way Pro explained it, nor should anyone.


"Con’s rewrite wasn’t even a conditional statement - it assumed that God exists!"

Yes. I do not and will not accept P1 unless it assumes God exists. Pro seems to forget that the PoE is meant to be an INTERNAL CRITIQUE, so OF COURSE it has to assume, for argument sake, that God exists! Pro's P1 does as well, only difference is that Pro himself speaks for God. Pro does not even know how to properly use the argument that he is using. You have to assume the whole system if you are to do an internal critique of it.

Pro apparently does not agree with my rewording/explanation of P1, but he wants me to accept his. Then I might as well just accept his assertion that God does not exist. I did not ignore his defense of his explanation of P1, I refuted it.


“you can’t say that all evil has a morally sufficient reason, and then say that some evils are gratuitous. This is a contradiction in terms.” -Pro

This is odd, since what I’ve been trying to point out to Pro is that, you can’t say (P1) that all evil has a morally sufficient reason, and then say (P3) gratuitous evil do not.
It seems that the problem here is that Pro is using the word “gratuitous” in a more literal sense as in, “unreasonable”, where as I’ve been defining it as, “overly gross, APPEARING to be unreasonable”.

“Now if God exists and allows evils, it must be (given that he is morally perfect) that He has morally sufficient reason to do so. If the permitted evils are not logically necessary or have no adequately compensating good, then again God does not have a morally sufficient reason to permit them. “ -Pro

Again, Pro here shows that (P3) the latter sentence, completely ignores (P1) the former sentence.


P1 Issues

1. Pro in P1, does not simply say that, “if God exists and allows evils, it must be (given that he is morally perfect) that He has morally sufficient reason to do so.”
What Pro really means is that, “...it must be that He has morally sufficient reason to do so, and we would surely know the reason!"

2. Pro in P1, states that evil is not necessarily incompatible with the existence of God if the evil is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good, but Pro, not God is the ultimate determiner of what is logically necessary for an adequately compensating good.

a. Evil is logically necessary if we see that the receiver of evil is compensated with a greater good as a result.

b. Evil is logically necessary if the end good result is immediately observable and evokes Pro’s approval.

This is what Pro wants me to accept. These errors are the basis for P3's flaws.

God has a morally sufficient reason to allow the evil (all evil) that exists, whether we know the reason or not. Pro is not the judge of whether God’s reasons are morally sufficient or not, and he is also not qualified to determine absolutely if evil is logically necessary or not, due to his limited perspective, knowledge, and time.

If Pro can be consistent and stick to his statement that, P1 “does not assume that humans necessarily have epistemic access into the reasons God has for permitting evil" without making a complete 180 by then demanding the believer to “show the evil to be logically necessary and the good adequately compensatory”, he'll render P3 pointless.


Refuting P3

I will start by again clarifying that Pro and I have not been using the word “gratuitous” exactly the same. Pro uses it as “literally without reason or justification” while I am using it as “APPARENTLY without reason or justification.”

However, my argument still stands.
P3 by it self is an arbitrary and intellectually arrogant ASSERTION. It is actually irrational for anyone to make an ABSOLUTE metaphysical statement such as P3. It basically CLAIMS that much of evil is not logically necessary, because Pro does not know the purpose of these evil. This is an argument from ignorance and self knowing folks, and Pro has not given any rational basis on why P3 should be universally accepted, or even how he can possibly know that P3 is absolutely true.

P3, in light the loaded P1, basically claims that some evil is unnecessary because it does not meet Pro's arbitrary criteria. The all-knowing God is completely taken out of the equation of the INTERNAL critique, Pro assumes that he's all-knowing. The possibility that Pro is ignorant of God's purpose for allowing evil, is precluded.

ST

I tried to google ST before my last post, since I was unfamiliar with the term but could not find a good description of it. I still maintain that I do not hold to ST based on what Pro stated ST teaches.
There are some similarities yes, but Pro is strawmanning me here by categorizing one view in a whole system of ST, and then arguing against the points of ST that I don't even hold.

I do not doubt God's goodness at all, in fact that is where I rest. I am not at all agnostic to moral justification. What I've been arguing is that God has MORALLY SUFFICIENT reason for the evil that exist. I do not know exactly HOW it is morally sufficient, but I do know, given God's goodness, that it is IN FACT morally sufficient. I did not deny our knowledge of good and evil. That much is REVEALED to us, in scriptures and through common revelation. These are theological issues that can be resolved by studyinging the Bible.


Conclusion


"If you think you have an argument against God, lie down. It will pass." (1)

Pro failed to give a rational basis for his PoE argument. He simply asserts in P3 that much of the evil that exists are not logically necessary, therefore God does not have a morally sufficient reason for them. This is backwards thinking. God has a morally sufficient reason for the evil that exist, therefore ALL EVIL has a logical God given purpose, whether we know what it is or not is irrelevant.

Pro's PoE argument is based on mere assumptions. Is God supposed to be refuted by a personal conjecture? All Pro did is tell us what we already know, that although He knows God, he does not acknowledge Him as God. Pro wants God to subject Himself to Pro's intellectual authority and moral evaluation.

When encountering evil that is hard to accept, the unbeliever refuses to trust God's goodness and like Job, demands God to explain Himself. God will ask the unbeliever, as He asked Job,

"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who determined its measurements--surely you know!"

The believer on the other hand rests in God's goodness and declares Romans 8:18-39, with confidence.

I will end with this, the worst evil in history is the murder of the Son of God, Christ Jesus. Not only did God allow this, but He preordained every detail of it. He did so in order to show the fullness of his glory and to demonstrate his perfect love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.



P.S. PoE is the unbeliever's problem.

(1) Me
Debate Round No. 3
58 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Rednerrus 5 years ago
Rednerrus
wiploc,

LOL holiness does not mean Christians like him.
Holiness means God is
1. separate, unique, unlike any other, set apart, in class of His own
2. morally pure, omnibenevolent <--- this one would be holiness if we were debate God's holiness.

You mentioned that God would not be omnibenevolent if He allowed evil, even for morally sufficient reasons. I disagree. My position is still Tri-omni God exists logically with evil.

My argument will be different based on your syllogism though.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
I'm not about to debate god's holiness. I don't even know what it means. I think it means that Christians like him. Something like that.

I'm going to debate whether he can be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, and still coexist with evil.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
Andy wrote:
: Wiploc, the PoE you laid out sounds like the logical PoE. This argument is flawed.
: As long as it is even logically possible for God to have a morally sufficient reason
: to allow the evil, then the conclusion that God does not exist does not follow.

That's confused. I'm not arguing about morality. I don't claim to understand morality. If I said,
1. God is all-powerful,
2. God is all-knowing, and
3. God is morally perfect, therefore,
4. God does not exist,

then you would have a case. But that's not my argument.

: For this reason, most proponents of the PoE use the evidential PoE, usually with the caveat
: that the evils relevant are gratuitous, which is a much more rigourous problem,

Less rigorous. It's inductive. You never reach a firm conclusion. The logical PoE proves that tri-omni gods do not exit. Period. That's more rigorous, not less.

: Anyway, good luck to both of you guys.

Thanks.
Posted by Rednerrus 5 years ago
Rednerrus
wiploc,

yes that is the original PoE, and my answer to that is kinda like what you mentioned, that God has a morally sufficient reason for allowing the evil that exist. But this does not take away from His omnibenevolence (Holiness is a HUGE part of God's character). God is still not the one committing the evil. He's only made providence for them. I guess that could be our debate. Whether God remains Holy despite Him allowing evil.
Posted by Rednerrus 5 years ago
Rednerrus
Wiploc,

You're Im not following your car analogy at all, I've head that somewhere though, I think Dan Barker. But I think you're basically asking what my rationale is for my argument. It is from the Bible. I know from the Bible that God is sovereign over all things, that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good. I know from the Bible that evil exists. The logical conclusion is that God has a morally sufficient reason to allow the evil that exists. This is the answer to the original PoE. Which I believe untitedandy accepts.

My debate with united was about his claims to gratuitous evils. I argued that in P1 united determined his own criteria for what is not gratuitous evil, then in P3 claimed that some evil are gratuitous. But my problem with that is it assumes that the Bible is wrong from the beginning. It assumes that P1 is limited to what unitedandy himself understands and accepts as logically necessary evil.
Posted by unitedandy 5 years ago
unitedandy
Wiploc, the PoE you laid out sounds like the logical PoE. This argument is flawed. As long as it is even logically possible for God to have a morally sufficient reason to allow the evil, then the conclusion that God does not exist does not follow. For this reason, most proponents of the PoE use the evidential PoE, usually with the caveat that the evils relevant are gratuitous, which is a much more rigourous problem, as it eliminates the theist's ability to merely retreat to the possible, though it does admit to being probablistic, as opposed to proving God does not exist.

Anyway, good luck to both of you guys.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
Red wrote:
: wiploc,
:
: Im looking forward to our PoE debate,

Me too.

: I'm really curious on how you formulate your PoE argument.

Now you've seen a version of it.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
Red wrote:
: If you assume God does not exist, or that the Bible is lying from the beginning,
: then of course you won't believe what "God" says about himself. But then, it
: defeats the whole purpose of the PoE argument. If you are debating about the
: character of God, you not then say, "well we don't even know if God exists or
: if he's telling the truth." Those 2 premises are part of the debate. It's circular.

An omnipotent god could prevent all evil if he wanted to.
An omniscient god would know how to prevent all evil if he wanted to.
An omnibenevolent god would want to prevent all evil if he could.
If a god wanted to prevent all evil, and knew how, and could easily do so, then there would be no evil.
Therefore, if evil exists, then there is no omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god.

This is bulletproof, undeniable. A fact.

Whether gods exist, whether the bible is lying, those don't come into it. It's just a fact.

Your position may be that god is omnipotent and omniscient, but that he has moral reasons for not being omnibenevolent. That's a respectable position. Many people share that position. I am not prepared to attack that position. But none of that changes the fact that a tri-omni god cannot coexist with evil.

If evil exists, then tri-omni gods do not exist.

That's an unassailable fact. Saying that I don't have my mind right is a distraction, not a rebuttal.

Whether gods actually exist is irrelevant to the question.

What we know from the problem of evil is this: If gods exist, and if evil exists, then none of the gods are omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
Red wrote:
: So I disagree with you, the PoE is about Christianity's internal coherence.

Point taken.

: I never admitted that some evil are unnecessary. I only said that some evil SEEM gratuitous on face value.

You sure seemed to, about the point where you abandoned the scare quotes around the word "gratuitous." But I can accept that this was a misunderstanding.

: : "You keep saying that. Can you give us any reason to agree with you?
: : Until you actually try to persuade us of something, you haven't even
: : shown up for this debate."
:
: Again, PoE is an internal critique. Im only asking you to agree with me
: FOR ARGUMENT SAKE, to follow the logical conclusion of my worldview.

We get it. I get it, anyway, and I assume everyone else does too.

Unitedandy says the problem with the car seems to be in the carburetor. And your response is that you have perfect faith that the car won't start because of a defective rear view mirror. So that's got our attention. Tell us why we should believe it's the mirror. Or tell us why it doesn't really seem to be the carburetor.

If you stop with telling us that the problem lies in the mirror, then you haven't given us reason to agree. You aren't debating; you're only offering an opinion, and a cryptic one at that.

Now, because my carburetor/mirror analogy is poor, let me assure you again that we get it: God could have reasons for hurting people, and his reasons could be such as seem good to him, and so long as they seem good to him, you don't care what they seem like to us.

But they still look bad to us, which is what this debate is about: whether they look bad.

Look at it this way: Would you accept your logic in any other debate? If you argue that abortion is wrong, will you grant me victory for my comeback, "Not if you have perfect faith that abortion is right"?
Posted by Rednerrus 5 years ago
Rednerrus
wiploc,

Im looking forward to our PoE debate, I'm really curious on how you formulate your PoE argument.
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by NewCreature 5 years ago
NewCreature
unitedandyRednerrusTied
Agreed with before the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Agreed with after the debate:-Vote Checkmark-0 points
Who had better conduct:-Vote Checkmark-1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:-Vote Checkmark-3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: I find this version of PoE weaker than the original PoE. P1 applies to P3, like Con pointed out. Pro did not defend P3. Saying hat gratuitous evil exists is an unsupported claim, which is Con's main argument. Pro instead took the offensive and attacked ST which is irrelevant to the debate, P3 in particular.
Vote Placed by Illegalcombatant 5 years ago
Illegalcombatant
unitedandyRednerrusTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:-Vote Checkmark-2 points
Total points awarded:42 
Reasons for voting decision: Using Point system, 4:2 to Pro. See comments section for RFD.
Vote Placed by wiploc 5 years ago
wiploc
unitedandyRednerrusTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:--Vote Checkmark2 points
Total points awarded:40 
Reasons for voting decision: Possibly the best PoE argument I've ever read, by both sides. Pro argues persuasively that if evil looks gratuitous, that is evidence that it is gratuitous. Con grants that evil looks gratuitous. Con says he has faith, though, and that Pro is for not having faith. Not a persuasive comeback. Pro points out that if we shouldn't believe on the evidence, then we should ignore whatever evidence might cause us to have faith in god. Con had no good comeback.
Vote Placed by kkjnay 5 years ago
kkjnay
unitedandyRednerrusTied
Agreed with before the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Agreed with after the debate:--Vote Checkmark0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:50 
Reasons for voting decision: "P.S. PoE is the unbeliever's problem." Poor arguments by Con. Only used bible as sources for his arguments. Used circular reasoning. Pro wins.