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If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H
Gormley


Chapter 6, The Problem of Evil

The problem of evil is how an all-good God who has the power to help the innocent won't do so. The innocent suffer.

The sixth chapter of the Handbook of Christian Apologetics proposes a solution to the problem of evil.

It spells out three different arguments against God from the existence of evil.

The first says that any evil refutes a good God which assumes that evil is a thing and God must have evilly made it.

The second says that needless evil proves there is no God - needless is not referring to all evils but ones that are clearly wanton.

The third says that bad things happening to good people refutes God. Atheism, we are told, affirms all three.

For this discussion it is necessary only to deal with the first. It is not only the first but the essential one. It is the basic one. Two says that some evils are needless so it is close to it. The third merely says that all evil that happens to good people is needless so it is close to it too.

The atheist argument is, God is all good. God has boundless power. Yet evil exists. Is God not able to stop evil or is he unwilling? Evil exists therefore either God does not exist or is not all good.

Nothing in this necessarily calls evil a thing. The believers say that God alone is goodness and mercy and compassion so evil is just what lacks these powers. Evil is not a force but a good that is not good enough and misses the mark and which feeds on good like rust on iron.

The book propounds the view of Augustine that evil is not a thing is defended. It says that evil is just a perverted good. But perversion has to be as real as good for good to be perverted. If you see evil as a bad equation like 2+2=3 and all evils are bad equations for they make good add up to less good then you see evil as a real thing for 2+2=4 is as real an equation as the first though it is right and the first wrong. Fear is always an evil thing in itself even when it leads to good for the good is not a part of the fear but a result. Fear is not simply a good thing that has fallen short. There is nothing good in it by itself. The Handbook says that if Augustine could be refuted then the argument that all evil proves there is no God works for it would mean that God did create evil. At least if you say evil is an absence of good then you can say God did not create it but created good only. So if evil is real then there is no God! Hear hear! The reason God cannot make what is evil when evil is not just a falling short and cannot make it even for a good purpose is because it is wholly useless by definition. What is fully evil is fully useless. What is partly evil is partly useless. Evil in so far as it is evil is totally useless. If evil is part of some good it should not be there and is still fully useless.

The Christians say there is no real evil just what man does. This has a hidden premise. It is saying that an all-good and all-powerful God has the right to make earthquakes or let people to go live in dangerous places which man does not have. It is a sin for man to do that but not God. This is a double-standard. It does not matter what the purpose is or if people have their own responsibility. Those are not the point and saying they are just adds to the insult. Even if the argument were right there is something inhuman about a human being thinking that way. We are not the kind of beings that should be saying things like that. We have too much blood on our hands. It would be like a killer virus saying its a shame people have to die. It is not right to exploit human evil as an excuse for blaming human nature for evil so that you can believe in a good God.

Don't let yourself be blind to the fact that out of compassion for suffering people we need an answer to why they may suffer though there is a God and so blaming them and saying there is no evil except what they have made is callous.

The doctrine that evil is not real but just good in the wrong place indicates that suffering and evil are not real but thinking they are is the problem. Are we believing that because it is true or because we want to open the door to believing in God? It would be evil to abuse the suffering of others in order to get to a faith position. Faith in God is not God. Saying that evil is not real - ie not so bad after all - is just what a race like ours that does not do enough for others or want to do a lot would say. It is cruel to say that people screaming in agony are doing the worst thing: believing and feeling it is real. It is victim-blaming.

The book says that nobody has the right to say there is too much evil. In other words, was a holocaust that saw six million tortured and killed too much or would one that killed six thousand still be too much? Few would argue with me that things donít have to be as bad as the six million being barbarously tortured and killed and that their reply is callous and shows that belief in God is a curse. They are telling us not to say where the line can be drawn for we cannot know that. Their response is actually evil itself for it is dismissive of the horrendous evil.

Not knowing where to draw the line is not the point. The point is that there is more suffering than there needs to be when most of us will never get the chance to be that evil. Notice too that if you say that God is right to allow things like the Nazi Holocaust with its appalling evil because there is nowhere to draw the line then you are saying that God does not know if it is right to let man be that free and still he does it. This is not the behaviour of a good God. A good God would not take the risk of letting us go that far. We have a right to know why he lets it go that far for it is me or you who could suffer because of it. To say as Christians do that we do not have this right is to say that the thing I am most sure of my own existence and how it is treated (by God and by implication by humankind too) is none of my business and that is fanaticism for I am less sure there is a God and that he can be trusted than I am that I exist. All evil breeds evil so too much evil breeds too much and God cannot allow it.

Not being able to draw the line may mean you don't want to be able. If so you are cruel. Also, we are talking morality not practicality. You cannot say the huge amount of innocent suffering should have been tolerated by God just because it seems not practical to draw a line! That amounts to you using the suffering as a prop to believe.

Suffering is a thing. It is total madness to say that suffering is the mere absence of wellbeing. The defence then must deny that suffering is really evil. That to any sane person proves that the defence and the belief in God it requires are themselves evil. If suffering is not evil then nothing is evil and it is as good to be bad as it is to be good!

The problem with a good God allowing evil to happen is that evil is by definition that which should not be. Evil can be understood by believers as the absence of good or the absence of God. Evil tells us there is no God. It is not that we must try and decide why an all good God might let evil happen but that we must ask why God would let evil exist when it is all about telling us there is no God?

The Handbook of Christian Apologetics defends the excuse that God never made evil so we can't complain about him making evil on page 132. Thankfully it confesses that if evil is a being, real or an entity like a power or force then the idea of an all-good God is decisively refuted. So far so good, but there is this problem. A God who withholds power to let evil happen is no different from one that makes evil forces. He is still trying to cause harm. It follows then that whether evil is a power or not, God is still not all-good. The point is not WHAT evil is but THAT it is. Belief in God requires us to ignore that so such belief is evil and opens the heart to embrace it. To try and stop people perceiving that the problem is that evil is is really trying to make them water down their perception of evil and its seriousness. To argue that suffering is something okay because it is not a thing is callous and an attempt to condone evil.

Depression as an experience of totally worthless existence and despair exists. It of all things seems useless before God so how can he let it happen? He makes depression - depression is a power. We must see how insulting the argument for God is.

If the defence explains how God can let evil happen then it is saying that evil being misplaced good is perfectly acceptable to God in some way. Bad porridge is perfectly acceptable when it is all you have got. Otherwise there is no point to the argument. So God is evil after all! God himself becomes a necessary evil.

You may care if God hurts you deliberately. Or you may care if he has to. A god becoming man to abuse a child on purpose rouses hatred the way one who has to do it does not.

A God who has to hurt you but who does it with a bad intention is a possibility. This is like the dentist who is totally professional but glad to be able to hurt you.

Chances are you want to think God has the best of intentions. Why is it so important to you that God has good intentions to you? It is not up to you do speak for everybody else. You cannot assume everybody should want God to have good intentions towards them even if he hurts them. So it is about you. It is selfish to want to think good intentions from God are about you for that implies you think you are something special and other persons matter less.

The claim that God is so good does not hold water for the belief that he has to evil take place damages us and is us inviting evil in. There is no problem of evil - its more than a problem. It is a refutation of God from evil.