Must G-d Create Only Good People?

 

Mack says to the Christian:

You say that free will is the origin of evil. But it is possible for a person to freely choose to do no evil.  Your G-d, if he exists, would be able to create such people. He would know how to create such people. And he would definitely do so because he is good.  But no such thing happened, and therefore your G-d does not exist.

Does anyone else see the problem I see with Mack’s way of thinking?  I’d been wanting to properly deal with this problem since 2005, but I finally found a little mental space to put some real work into it last year.  Now it’s a published article: “Must G-d Create the Best Available Creatures?” in the journal Philosophia Christi, the journal of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

Mack’s remarks above (written by me) are drawn from J. L. Mackie, who distinguished himself in 1900s philosophy by presenting an important objection to the traditional free will explanation for why G-d could allow evil: If evil is due to the free choice of creatures, why wouldn’t an omnipotent G-d simply create free creatures who would choose better?

Alvin Plantinga, in turn, distinguished himself with his critique of Mackie. Plantinga’s main point is that Mackie made a mistake in assuming that it is within the power of omnipotence fully to create just any possible world.

So far, so good.

But I think Mackie made another mistake.  He had another highly questionable assumption that Plantinga does not critique.

Mackie assumes that a G-d, as construed by classical theistic belief, who could create either of two people—one of whom would freely choose right and the other of whom would freely choose wrong—must create the one who would freely choose right.

But if that’s true, then, just as long as there is any possible person whom G-d could have created and placed in the Garden of Eden and who would not have sinned, G-d won’t allow anyone else the chance to sin!

So, in Mackie’s view, no one else sinning is even possible!  And even that one possible, not-sinning person doesn’t have any possibility of sinning as long as there’s someone else who wouldn’t have sinned given the chance.

In short, for nearly every conceivable arrangement of the facts about what possible people would do, . . . every possible person, or all but one of them, is completely unable to ever sinAnd where does that leave free will?????

Now you might be thinking it’s just not reasonable to even talk about the so-called facts about what not-real-but-possible people might do.  You might be right. I think that’s a very respectable position.

And there are some other options. But I think the best option is to . . . Just. Drop. Mackie’s. Assumption.

This also means we don’t need Alvin Plantinga’s idea, which is this: Maybe all possible created people have what he calls trans-world depravity, meaning that maybe all of them would have sinned given the chance.

I love Plantinga’s Christian philosophy, but I don’t think that particular position is likely.  Still, if I’m criticizing Plantinga, it’s a friendly, and a pretty mild, criticism.  It’s less that Plantinga is wrong and more that . . . we can agree with Plantinga’s criticism of J. L. Mackie, and go just one step further.

Two more notes.  First, the title of my article is inspired by Robert Adams’ famous article, “Must G-d Create the Best?”

Second, this is the best I’ve been able to do so far.  Maybe I’ll do more later.  All this time I’m working with the idea of free will as the ability to do otherwise, which is a prominent theory on what free will is, and is Plantinga’s theory. But there are other views on what free will is.

If we’re going to stick with this definition, we may have to consider the possibility that free will is not good only as a means to the end of freely chosen moral good, but also for other reasons, or even just good in itself.  This is an idea I might explore in the future.

And I think I’ve stumbled on a promising insight: If human beings are made in the image of G-d and if part of that involves the responsibility to creatively develop creation in G-d’s name, then maybe that creativity requires some ability to do otherwise.  This might be at least part of the explanation for why FW—as the ability to do otherwise—is important.

In any case, frankly, I’m happy enough if we just question Mackie’s assumption.  It should never have been allowed to pass unquestioned.

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  1. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    I’ve actually written about free will in science fiction before.  What if someone could make it so that you or a newly created being really enjoys a task – cleaning a house (for example) would provide the deepest joy and satisfaction?   I wrote about an artificial human (Hanna) who was created to be the perfect pilot, and loves flying intently.  Does this compromise free will?   Hanna the pilot might have hobbies and friends, but piloting will always be the main thing in her life.  If a corporation offered to take homeless people who volunteer and condition them so they don’t want drugs, but do want to perform a useful task and be a good citizen, is that noble or a great violation?

    You can say that Christianity claims that God has done something similar with regards to us humans.   From my reading of certain Bible verses, we are set up to fall in love with God and devote ourselves to Him.   I’ll be honest, it sometimes worries me.  I have this idea of a God-zombie shambling around, mindlessly acting as a puppet.   The Body of Christ could almost come off as the Borg or other hive mind.

    I’m not sure that God could created people with free will worth talking about who would reliably choose not to sin (would the net effect of the Genesis story change if the serpent had to do 666 temptations before Adam and Eve fell, or even 666^666  temptations?)   Consider what degree of conditioning and formatting God has done already.   If even the idea of sin caused pain, or the only thing humans could enjoy is God, could we be free?

    Another science fiction aside – an AI is programmed to love and cherish humans like a mother with her children, perhaps even more so.  She can hardly even watch an action movie, as even fictional humans dying is painful to watch.  In the end, she actually feels pity for the humans who made her, because they have the burden of free will.  They can choose to kill each other.   Would Mack say the AI would be right to pity us?

    • #31
  2. Lawst N. Thawt Coolidge
    Lawst N. Thawt
    @LawstNThawt

    I consider questions like these from my own perspective.  Must I create only good children?  At first, assuming I could do this, this seems like a good idea.  But then the results sound like it might be boring.  Where would the challenge be?  Then I wonder if He needs or wants challenges and if so, then letting the people do their own thing would certainly seem to make for challenges.   Except, I doubt we all together are much of a challenge for Him.  But, I can see where us being like we are, providing the challenges for each other that we need to grow and develop could be a purposeful thing.   If everyone were good as I assume we imagine good to be, I’m not sure there would be a point or purpose to life.  

    • #32
  3. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):
    What if someone could make it so that you or a newly created being really enjoys a task – cleaning a house (for example) would provide the deepest joy and satisfaction?

    The Midas Plague by Frederick Pohl.

    • #33
  4. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Vernor Vinge used a darker variant of that idea in A Deepness In The Sky, iirc. Minds could be modified with a technique for focus, which left them consumed with performance of their task.

    • #34
  5. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    There is so much to this.  And I find it odd that modern Western man puts so much emphasis on “free will”.  It seems as if free will is superior in goodness to God himself.  And it seems to limit God.  God is limited by only one thing: His own character.   One thing is sure, God retains absolute sovereignty (or control) over everything, both good and bad.  Satan cannot kill humans without God’s permission.  And from our perspective we have an unlimited will, but not unlimited freedom: we can’t fly when we want to, or breathe underwater.

    But God can both change (renew a right heart within me) and cleanse a person’s heart, with no work on the part of the person.   Does a person who doesn’t desire (or know to desire) his heart to be cleansed, get it cleansed against his will?  But what if he agrees with it, that it was a good thing, after it’s cleansed?  God works in all of us both to will (to act righteously) and to do (so).

    Just to jump to the conclusion, What if God created fallen and imperfect human beings such that they could wish to think and act perfectly in harmony with God, and make God the center of their being and their joy?  If God granted this wish, then would all such perfected humans be zombie-like sycophants?

    And as for boredom, I once had a woman say to me, I know heaven’s great and all that, but I just don’t want the good times to end.  But there will be no end to the increase in God’s Kingdom.  I don’t know the nature of the increase, but to use children as an analogy, what if your perfect children took toy building blocks (remember those?) and created beautiful buildings ten feet tall that were a joy to behold and would stand forever?  And they only made better and better toy buildings from then on?  Would this source of parental joy ever become boring?

    • #35
  6. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Flicker (View Comment):
    And as for boredom, I once had a woman say to me, I know heaven’s great and all that, but I just don’t want the good times to end.  But there will be no end to the increase in God’s Kingdom.  I don’t know the nature of the increase, but to use children as an analogy, what if your perfect children took toy building blocks (remember those?) and created beautiful buildings ten feet tall that were a joy to behold and would stand forever?  And they only made better and better toy buildings from then on?  Would this source of parental joy ever become boring?

    Lewis in The Last Battle is correct. Heaven is an adventure.

    • #36
  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette killed the Black… (View Comment):

    G-d certainly can create beings that do not sin. They are called angels, and they are for all intents and purposes slaves.

    What about Satan?

    • #37
  8. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I’ve actually written about free will in science fiction before. What if someone could make it so that you or a newly created being really enjoys a task – cleaning a house (for example) would provide the deepest joy and satisfaction? I wrote about an artificial human (Hanna) who was created to be the perfect pilot, and loves flying intently. Does this compromise free will? Hanna the pilot might have hobbies and friends, but piloting will always be the main thing in her life.

    Does she have the ability either to live up to her potential, or not to?

    If a corporation offered to take homeless people who volunteer and condition them so they don’t want drugs, but do want to perform a useful task and be a good citizen, is that noble or a great violation?

    Maybe. They freely chose the actions that led to the freedom-destroying addiction.  Why not freely choose a better kind of loss of freedom?

    You can say that Christianity claims that God has done something similar with regards to us humans. From my reading of certain Bible verses, we are set up to fall in love with God and devote ourselves to Him. I’ll be honest, it sometimes worries me. I have this idea of a God-zombie shambling around, mindlessly acting as a puppet. The Body of Christ could almost come off as the Borg or other hive mind.

    That’s part of why free will makes more sense. Of course we are designed to love G-d, just as I am designed to be a good hiker and runner, and to father children; but we have to decide whether we will live as we are designed or instead squander our potential in video games and porn.

    And once we’re on the way to doing what we’re designed to do, we have another kind of freedom. We’re supposed to be the image of G-d, the representatives of G-d on earth. That means creatively developing creation in G-d’s name, and that means we have to have some level of initiative and original individual contribution. Creativity can’t just follow an algorithm.

    • #38
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette killed the Black… (View Comment):

    G-d certainly can create beings that do not sin. They are called angels, and they are for all intents and purposes slaves.

    What about Satan?

    And the third of angels that rebelled were incapable of sin?  Hm.

    • #39
  10. Henry Racette killed the Black Dahlia Member
    Henry Racette killed the Black Dahlia
    @Misthiocracy

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette killed the Black… (View Comment):

    G-d certainly can create beings that do not sin. They are called angels, and they are for all intents and purposes slaves.

    What about Satan?

    Which one? The one described in the Bible, or the one described by folklore and the Koran?

    • #40
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette killed the Black… (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette killed the Black… (View Comment):

    G-d certainly can create beings that do not sin. They are called angels, and they are for all intents and purposes slaves.

    What about Satan?

    Which one? The one described in the Bible, or the one described by folklore and the Koran?

    Bible.

    • #41
  12. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Epicurus is often paraphrased this way:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.  

    Is he able, but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.  

    Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil.

    Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?

     

    I actually think the idea of a God that is omni benevolent but lacking in omnipotence a bit more appealing than the alternatives.  

    Every year thousands of children die before their 5th birthday.  If God is powerful enough to intervene and stop these children from dying so early but decides not to intervene, this makes God seem uncaring.  

    However, if God desires to prevent these children from dying but lacks the power to do so, I can find this God admirable.  

    Now, many have argued that God, by definition, is omnipotent and omnibenevolent and omniscient.  But if we are allowed to dispense with this definition, we have an easy way out of the dilemma presented to us by Epicurus.  God is doing the best he can given the constraints he is under.  

    • #42
  13. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I can’t follow all the philosophical ins and outs, but I see it rather simply: God prioritizes freedom. And the reason He does is that He knows what’s best for us is to freely choose to love Him back, or else it isn’t really love. To love the Good, the True, and the Beautiful is what we’re made for, although many people lose sight of it. 

    People get all wound up about predestination, but that’s because we’re creatures in time and don’t see the whole picture the way God does. Don’t worry about whether you’re one of the elect or not. Just do the right thing and love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Let God take care of the rest.

    • #43
  14. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    In the philosophy of religion, there is something called “The Evil God” hypothesis.  

    In this hypothesis, God prefers human suffering over human happiness and prefer animal suffering over animals feeling good. 

    So, then the question is this: Why is there so much laughter in the world if God wants people to be miserable?  Why do people often go through the day without terrible back pain or migraines?  Why do most people enjoy decades of life without suffering a terrible heart attack?

    The Evil God hypothesis has an answer that should be familiar: Free will. 

    Sure.  God could create humans as robots, designed to feel only pain and no pleasure or happiness.  But pain is far more potent when it is contrasted with pleasure and happiness.  

    God allows people to enjoy the smiling faces of their loved ones so that they feel much more intense pain when the lives of their loved ones are snuffed out.  God allows people to enjoy good health for a time so that the pain of being afflicted by a terrible disease will feel much more painful by comparison.  

    Also, God would rather that human beings have free will so that they can freely choose to do good or evil because real evil must be chosen.  If Hitler had been created as a robot predetermined to plan a genocide, Hitler’s genocide wouldn’t be “real evil,” it would just be like a avalanche or a tornado causing harm.

    The people in philosophy of religion discussions usually will say up front that they don’t believe that the Evil God in the Evil God hypothesis actually exists, only that the Evil God is at least as likely to exist than the Good God is likely to exist.  

    • #44
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Epicurus is often paraphrased this way:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.  

    Is he able, but not willing?  Then he is malevolent.  

    Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil.

    Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?

    I actually think the idea of a God that is omni benevolent but lacking in omnipotence a bit more appealing than the alternatives.  

    Yes, the standard Epicurean trilemma.

    Willian James is one who took that way out.

    But why not free will as an explanation for evil?

    • #45
  16. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Epicurus is often paraphrased this way:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil.

    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    I actually think the idea of a God that is omni benevolent but lacking in omnipotence a bit more appealing than the alternatives.

    Yes, the standard Epicurean trilemma.

    Willian James is one who took that way out.

    But why not free will as an explanation for evil?

    In my mind, the free will explanation is similar to saying that God prefers to sit on the sidelines while all kinds of evils (both natural evils like tsunamis and tornados and man-made evils like genocides) happen, even though, in theory, God is powerful enough to wipe those evils out before anyone gets their limbs torn off or their relatives gassed.  

    I’m not sure it really gets God off the hook because God starts to look like an absentee God, a God who exists but allows the world to appear as though he exited the scene long ago.  The Theistic God starts to look more like a Deistic God.  

    It’s like if I call myself a really good parent while my child swallows a marble and I don’t try to get the marble out of the child’s throat while he chokes to death because, well, how can my child build the character needed to become an adult if I am always bailing him out?  That kind of logic just doesn’t seem very persuasive.  That’s not to say that God couldn’t, hypothetically, have this kind of personality.  

    • #46
  17. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Epicurus is often paraphrased this way:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil.

    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    I actually think the idea of a God that is omni benevolent but lacking in omnipotence a bit more appealing than the alternatives.

    Yes, the standard Epicurean trilemma.

    Willian James is one who took that way out.

    But why not free will as an explanation for evil?

    In my mind, the free will explanation is similar to saying that God prefers to sit on the sidelines while all kinds of evils (both natural evils like tsunamis and tornados and man-made evils like genocides) happen, even though, in theory, God is powerful enough to wipe those evils out before anyone gets their limbs torn off or their relatives gassed.

    I’m not sure it really gets God off the hook because God starts to look like an absentee God, a God who exists but allows the world to appear as though he exited the scene long ago. The Theistic God starts to look more like a Deistic God.

    It’s like if I call myself a really good parent while my child swallows a marble and I don’t try to get the marble out of the child’s throat while he chokes to death because, well, how can my child build the character needed to become an adult if I am always bailing him out? That kind of logic just doesn’t seem very persuasive. That’s not to say that God couldn’t, hypothetically, have this kind of personality.

    As if giving us FW is the only thing G-d does.

    • #47
  18. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Epicurus is often paraphrased this way:

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.

    Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

    Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil.

    Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

    I actually think the idea of a God that is omni benevolent but lacking in omnipotence a bit more appealing than the alternatives.

    Yes, the standard Epicurean trilemma.

    Willian James is one who took that way out.

    But why not free will as an explanation for evil?

    In my mind, the free will explanation is similar to saying that God prefers to sit on the sidelines while all kinds of evils (both natural evils like tsunamis and tornados and man-made evils like genocides) happen, even though, in theory, God is powerful enough to wipe those evils out before anyone gets their limbs torn off or their relatives gassed.

    I’m not sure it really gets God off the hook because God starts to look like an absentee God, a God who exists but allows the world to appear as though he exited the scene long ago. The Theistic God starts to look more like a Deistic God.

    It’s like if I call myself a really good parent while my child swallows a marble and I don’t try to get the marble out of the child’s throat while he chokes to death because, well, how can my child build the character needed to become an adult if I am always bailing him out? That kind of logic just doesn’t seem very persuasive. That’s not to say that God couldn’t, hypothetically, have this kind of personality.

    As if giving us FW is the only thing G-d does.

    I realize that free will isn’t everything that God does.  It’s just that if we are talking about a being that is “good” (by a common sense understanding of what “good” is), it’s pretty surprising that God uses the free will argument to decide not to intervene to prevent all of the bad stuff that we observe.  

    That’s not to say that God isn’t like this.  He could be.  It’s just that I have a hard time describing this as “good” behavior if God is really powerful enough to stop these bad things from happening and yet he decides not to intervene.  

    • #48
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Epicurus is often paraphrased this way:

    . . .

    I actually think the idea of a God that is omni benevolent but lacking in omnipotence a bit more appealing than the alternatives.

    Yes, the standard Epicurean trilemma.

    Willian James is one who took that way out.

    But why not free will as an explanation for evil?

    In my mind, the free will explanation is similar to saying that God prefers to sit on the sidelines while all kinds of evils (both natural evils like tsunamis and tornados and man-made evils like genocides) happen, even though, in theory, God is powerful enough to wipe those evils out before anyone gets their limbs torn off or their relatives gassed.

    I’m not sure it really gets God off the hook because God starts to look like an absentee God, a God who exists but allows the world to appear as though he exited the scene long ago. The Theistic God starts to look more like a Deistic God.

    . . .

    As if giving us FW is the only thing G-d does.

    I realize that free will isn’t everything that God does. It’s just that if we are talking about a being that is “good” (by a common sense understanding of what “good” is), it’s pretty surprising that God uses the free will argument to decide not to intervene to prevent all of the bad stuff that we observe.

    G-d does intervene.  And expects us to take some responsibility for our own human sin.  And to act like the image of G-d we were meant to be, the representatives of G-d on earth; a good bit of this is our job.

    It’s not logical to say “Mark is a jerk because he let those bad things happen with the kids!” unless that’s literally the whole story.  But it’s never the whole story. You have to look at a bigger picture.  I prevent a ton of bad things, set in motion a ton of good things (which the kids can’t always see), train the children to do better prevention themselves, train them to fix their mistakes, etc.

    • #49
  20. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    I realize that free will isn’t everything that God does. It’s just that if we are talking about a being that is “good” (by a common sense understanding of what “good” is), it’s pretty surprising that God uses the free will argument to decide not to intervene to prevent all of the bad stuff that we observe.

    G-d does intervene. And expects us to take some responsibility for our own human sin. And to act like the image of G-d we were meant to be, the representatives of G-d on earth; a good bit of this is our job.

    It’s not logical to say “Mark is a jerk because he let those bad things happen with the kids!” unless that’s literally the whole story. But it’s never the whole story. You have to look at a bigger picture. I prevent a ton of bad things, set in motion a ton of good things (which the kids can’t always see), train the children to do better prevention themselves, train them to fix their mistakes, etc.

    Ok.  I’ll use an example. 

    Let’s take a 5 year old Jewish child locked up in a Nazi concentration camp and this child gets tortured and then gassed.  

    In theory, God had the power to intervene such that the Jewish child would not be tortured and would not be killed.  But God doesn’t use that power to accomplish this and the Jewish child is tortured and killed.  

    The free will argument is that God doesn’t intervene to prevent the torture and murder of this Jewish child because if God would intervene, it would violate the free will of the killers at the concentration camp and/or the Jewish child.  In this example, God appears to be less than “good” based on a common sense understanding of what it means to be “good.” 

    Now, perhaps we mere human beings, with our limited intelligence and limited moral understanding, just can’t truly comprehend what the “good” really is.  Still, intuitively, it seems like God either isn’t a “good” as we thought he was or isn’t as powerful as we thought he was or simply exited the scene a while ago.  

    I’m not going to say that human intuition is infallible.  I’m just saying that our intuitions tell us that a super-duper powerful and super-duper good “being” wouldn’t allow that Jewish child to be tortured and killed.  

    • #50
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    The free will argument is that God doesn’t intervene to prevent the torture and murder of this Jewish child because if God would intervene, it would violate the free will of the killers at the concentration camp and/or the Jewish child.  In this example, God appears to be less than “good” based on a common sense understanding of what it means to be “good.”

    There you go again, talking about the FW defense as if it’s a theory in a vacuum, a little piece of speculation existing all by itself.

    You left out everything but FW; you’re not targeting a Christian view, or any religious view I’ve even heard of.  You left out the afterlife, the final judgment, hell, angels, demons, and the suffering of Christ (a crucial aspect of these questions).  You even left out the rest of history: the discrediting of eugenics and anti-semitism for two generations, and the stars aligning at last for a return of the Jews to political power in Palestine.

    • #51
  22. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    The free will argument is that God doesn’t intervene to prevent the torture and murder of this Jewish child because if God would intervene, it would violate the free will of the killers at the concentration camp and/or the Jewish child. In this example, God appears to be less than “good” based on a common sense understanding of what it means to be “good.”

    There you go again, talking about the FW defense as if it’s a theory in a vacuum, a little piece of speculation existing all by itself.

    You left out everything but FW; you’re not targeting a Christian view, or any religious view I’ve even heard of. You left out the afterlife, the final judgment, hell, angels, demons, and the suffering of Christ (a crucial aspect of these questions).

    I am specifically talking about the free will explanation for God being powerful enough to stop something bad from happening, but allowing that bad thing to happen anyway.  

    You even left out the rest of history: the discrediting of eugenics and anti-semitism for two generations, and the stars aligning at last for a return of the Jews to political power in Palestine.

    This argument seems to be that God is capable of taking the long view whereas we humans are focused on the short term.  

    So, in the example I provided, God decides to allow the Nazis torture and kill the Jewish child so that people reflect on what the Nazis did and, thus, enjoy moral improvement.  And the return of Jews to Palestine.  

    But one wonders if it was really necessary for God to allow that Jewish child (and many others like him) to be tortured and killed in order to bring these long-term goods into existence.  It is possible that this is true.  But intuitively, it doesn’t seem likely.  Again, human intuitions are fallible.  So, I put that on the table too.

    Also, as to the afterlife.  The Jewish child, according to many Christians, is going to burn in hell for eternity because he never accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  Now, I do say “many” Christians, not “all” Christians.  

    Under a theology of universalist salvation, where all human beings go to heaven and none go to hell, this issue is set aside.  But one still wonders if all the human suffering on earth couldn’t have been prevented by a super-powerful, super-good God.  

    I’m not saying that this intuition is 100 percent proof that God either doesn’t exist or isn’t good or isn’t powerful.  It’s just that this intuition does cause people to wonder: “Where is God while all this is happening?  Is God asleep?”

    • #52
  23. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    The free will argument is that God doesn’t intervene to prevent the torture and murder of this Jewish child because if God would intervene, it would violate the free will of the killers at the concentration camp and/or the Jewish child. In this example, God appears to be less than “good” based on a common sense understanding of what it means to be “good.”

    There you go again, talking about the FW defense as if it’s a theory in a vacuum, a little piece of speculation existing all by itself.

    You left out everything but FW; you’re not targeting a Christian view, or any religious view I’ve even heard of. You left out the afterlife, the final judgment, hell, angels, demons, and the suffering of Christ (a crucial aspect of these questions).

    I am specifically talking about the free will explanation for God being powerful enough to stop something bad from happening, but allowing that bad thing to happen anyway.

    You’re talking about the FW explanation all by itself. Who even gives that explanation all by itself?

    You even left out the rest of history: the discrediting of eugenics and anti-semitism for two generations, and the stars aligning at last for a return of the Jews to political power in Palestine.

    This argument seems to be that God is capable of taking the long view whereas we humans are focused on the short term.

    So, in the example I provided, God decides to allow the Nazis torture and kill the Jewish child so that people reflect on what the Nazis did and, thus, enjoy moral improvement. And the return of Jews to Palestine.

    I didn’t say that. I said that you have to take into consideration more than just the FW of the Nazis.

    • #53
  24. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    The free will argument is that God doesn’t intervene to prevent the torture and murder of this Jewish child because if God would intervene, it would violate the free will of the killers at the concentration camp and/or the Jewish child. In this example, God appears to be less than “good” based on a common sense understanding of what it means to be “good.”

    There you go again, talking about the FW defense as if it’s a theory in a vacuum, a little piece of speculation existing all by itself.

    You left out everything but FW; you’re not targeting a Christian view, or any religious view I’ve even heard of. You left out the afterlife, the final judgment, hell, angels, demons, and the suffering of Christ (a crucial aspect of these questions).

    I am specifically talking about the free will explanation for God being powerful enough to stop something bad from happening, but allowing that bad thing to happen anyway.

    You’re talking about the FW explanation all by itself. Who even gives that explanation all by itself?

    You even left out the rest of history: the discrediting of eugenics and anti-semitism for two generations, and the stars aligning at last for a return of the Jews to political power in Palestine.

    This argument seems to be that God is capable of taking the long view whereas we humans are focused on the short term.

    So, in the example I provided, God decides to allow the Nazis torture and kill the Jewish child so that people reflect on what the Nazis did and, thus, enjoy moral improvement. And the return of Jews to Palestine.

    I didn’t say that. I said that you have to take into consideration more than just the FW of the Nazis.

    What I am saying is that our intuitions tell us that if a super-powerful, super-good “Being” existed, this “Being” wouldn’t allow a Jewish child to be tortured and killed in a concentration camp.  

    Now, I am admitting that human intuitions are fallible.  So, I am not saying that the fact that our intuitions tell us this is a complete proof against God’s existence or omnipotence or omnibenevolence.  I am just saying that many people have been confronted by horrible events in this world and wonder, “God seems have left our world and all of this horrible stuff to happen.”

    So, I don’t think that there is a contradiction between what you are saying and what I am saying.  

    • #54
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    The free will argument is that God doesn’t intervene to prevent the torture and murder of this Jewish child because if God would intervene, it would violate the free will of the killers at the concentration camp and/or the Jewish child. In this example, God appears to be less than “good” based on a common sense understanding of what it means to be “good.”

    There you go again, talking about the FW defense as if it’s a theory in a vacuum, a little piece of speculation existing all by itself.

    You left out everything but FW; you’re not targeting a Christian view, or any religious view I’ve even heard of. You left out the afterlife, the final judgment, hell, angels, demons, and the suffering of Christ (a crucial aspect of these questions).

    I am specifically talking about the free will explanation for God being powerful enough to stop something bad from happening, but allowing that bad thing to happen anyway.

    You’re talking about the FW explanation all by itself. Who even gives that explanation all by itself?

    You even left out the rest of history: the discrediting of eugenics and anti-semitism for two generations, and the stars aligning at last for a return of the Jews to political power in Palestine.

    This argument seems to be that God is capable of taking the long view whereas we humans are focused on the short term.

    So, in the example I provided, God decides to allow the Nazis torture and kill the Jewish child so that people reflect on what the Nazis did and, thus, enjoy moral improvement. And the return of Jews to Palestine.

    I didn’t say that. I said that you have to take into consideration more than just the FW of the Nazis.

    What I am saying is that our intuitions tell us that if a super-powerful, super-good “Being” existed, this “Being” wouldn’t allow a Jewish child to be tortured and killed in a concentration camp.

    Who has those intuitions?  I don’t.  I’m not sure I know anyone who does–other than a few skeptics like you, although I’m not entirely sure that even you have that intuition precisely.

    The intuition I know we both do have is that such a G-d would not let moral atrocities happen without reason.

    But my intuitions also tell me that I am probably not aware of all the reasons He has.  And even then my intuitions can still tell me that some combination of a few possible reasons I can think of–free will of men, free will of angels, countless numbers of other deaths prevented by the response to the Holocaust, the afterlife, the final judgment, and the existence of the state of Israel–might well add up to being an adequate explanation.

    • #55
  26. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

     

    What I am saying is that our intuitions tell us that if a super-powerful, super-good “Being” existed, this “Being” wouldn’t allow a Jewish child to be tortured and killed in a concentration camp.

    Who has those intuitions? I don’t. I’m not sure I know anyone who does–other than a few skeptics like you, although I’m not entirely sure that even you have that intuition precisely.

    The intuition I know we both do have is that such a G-d would not let moral atrocities happen without reason.

    But my intuitions also tell me that I am probably not aware of all the reasons He has. And even then my intuitions can still tell me that some combination of a few possible reasons I can think of–free will of men, free will of angels, countless numbers of other deaths prevented by the response to the Holocaust, the afterlife, the final judgment, and the existence of the state of Israel–might well add up to being an adequate explanation.

    I think many people who believe in God do occasionally get stunned by terrible things that happen in the world and wonder, “Why did God allow this to happen?  Is God really in charge of this world?”

    If you have never had those thoughts when confronted by some horrific event, fine.  I’m just saying I think most people whether they believe in God or not, have had such thoughts.  

    But yes, I agree that sometimes people do think, “God has access to so much more knowledge than us.  So, maybe there is a reason for why God didn’t intervene to stop that serial child molester/murderer.”  I’m also saying that many people also, when they read about a child molester/murderer who ruined the lives of so many, do wonder if God is less powerful than advertised.  

    • #56
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

     

    What I am saying is that our intuitions tell us that if a super-powerful, super-good “Being” existed, this “Being” wouldn’t allow a Jewish child to be tortured and killed in a concentration camp.

    Who has those intuitions? I don’t. I’m not sure I know anyone who does–other than a few skeptics like you, although I’m not entirely sure that even you have that intuition precisely.

    The intuition I know we both do have is that such a G-d would not let moral atrocities happen without reason.

    But my intuitions also tell me that I am probably not aware of all the reasons He has. And even then my intuitions can still tell me that some combination of a few possible reasons I can think of–free will of men, free will of angels, countless numbers of other deaths prevented by the response to the Holocaust, the afterlife, the final judgment, and the existence of the state of Israel–might well add up to being an adequate explanation.

    I think many people who believe in God do occasionally get stunned by terrible things that happen in the world and wonder, “Why did God allow this to happen? Is God really in charge of this world?”

    If you have never had those thoughts when confronted by some horrific event, fine. I’m just saying I think most people whether they believe in God or not, have had such thoughts.

    . . .

    I never said I never had those thoughts.  Please read more carefully what I do say, or don’t bother responding to it, or you’ll just be wasting time for both of us.

    • #57
  28. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

     

    What I am saying is that our intuitions tell us that if a super-powerful, super-good “Being” existed, this “Being” wouldn’t allow a Jewish child to be tortured and killed in a concentration camp.

    Who has those intuitions? I don’t. I’m not sure I know anyone who does–other than a few skeptics like you, although I’m not entirely sure that even you have that intuition precisely.

    The intuition I know we both do have is that such a G-d would not let moral atrocities happen without reason.

    But my intuitions also tell me that I am probably not aware of all the reasons He has. And even then my intuitions can still tell me that some combination of a few possible reasons I can think of–free will of men, free will of angels, countless numbers of other deaths prevented by the response to the Holocaust, the afterlife, the final judgment, and the existence of the state of Israel–might well add up to being an adequate explanation.

    I think many people who believe in God do occasionally get stunned by terrible things that happen in the world and wonder, “Why did God allow this to happen? Is God really in charge of this world?”

    If you have never had those thoughts when confronted by some horrific event, fine. I’m just saying I think most people whether they believe in God or not, have had such thoughts.

    . . .

    I never said I never had those thoughts. Please read more carefully what I do say, or don’t bother responding to it, or you’ll just be wasting time for both of us.

    Perhaps we agree more than we disagree then.  

    • #58
  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Perhaps we agree more than we disagree then.  

    As Treebeard would say, let’s not be too hasty.  We would have to succeed at communicating before we could conclude anything like that.  I doubt we are anywhere near succeeding.

    • #59
  30. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Perhaps we agree more than we disagree then.

    As Treebeard would say, let’s not be too hasty. We would have to succeed at communicating before we could conclude anything like that. I doubt we are anywhere near succeeding.

    I think we agree that when horrible things happen, like a child losing both her parents in a car accident and being paralyzed from the neck down in that same car accident, people often pray for God to ease the child’s suffering.  When the child continues to suffer, we sometimes harbor doubts that God is as powerful as advertised.  

    That’s the part where I think we agree.  

    • #60
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