Friday, April 02, 2010

God Vs. Evil

This is DAY 7, the final day of a seven-day discussion of issues raised on my Facebook wall by some non-theist friends.

Before I jump into my final topic, let me first say that I’ve appreciated the opportunity to interact on matters of faith. I'm not sure what I’ve had to say was exactly what everyone else who was responding wanted me to address (though if I could figure out what that was, I might give it a shot … so be sure to leave your thoughts/questions/comments below, please); but I have enjoyed the exercise.

Thanks is due to Elizabeth and David, who seem to have read closely and shared generously their thoughts to interact with this discussion. I appreciate the effort they put into it.

I don’t know whether or not this discussion has been helpful or clarifying to anyone else, but examining the reasons for what I believe has been a healthy exercise for me. One of my friends has accused me of being “brainwashed” when I was 8, and it’s true that that was when I made my first confession of faith. I know there are folks (like C.S. Lewis) who become believers later in life, as the result largely of an intellectual quest; and I’m sure there are lots of folks (like me) who become believers early in life, but who nonetheless go through times of doubt and questioning and seeking to understand whether what we really believe makes sense or not. It's easy to get handed "faith" by our parents, but the reality is in order for it to be meaningful it has to be made your own. Ultimately your parents' faith means little when you are confronted with the challenges of life.

For me, as I have gone through that process of making faith my own, I have been rewarded with progressive revelation of the reality of a God who loves me and is present in my life. I have seen him at work in many people around me. I have benefitted from compelling philosophical arguments for the existence of God. I have been convinced by the veracity and consistency and power of scriptural testimony. And I have experienced God's personal interaction in my life, in thousands of small ways and in lots of larger ways as well. All of these things, working together, have for me made the case for a God who is there.

I realize I am not going to convince anyone else to become a believer through such arguments. I confess that I’m not a good enough arguer (it's not my gift) … and I don’t really think that’s how it happens, at any rate. All I can really do is share what he has done in my life and hope that this contributes to their own tipping point.

The Problem of Evil

One of the things I think faith stakes a claim on is Paul’s statement in Romans: “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” (And yes, Elizabeth, I realize this is “begging the question” … but, given the assumptions that I have laid out, and the evidence that convinces me personally that God is there and seeking to make himself known to us through His Word, it makes good sense to pay attention to statements like that.) The problem of pain, the existence of evil in a universe created by a sovereign God, is a significant intellectual challenge to many people. C. S. Lewis devoted a book to the subject, The Problem of Pain, which I would invite you to read.

I think it’s clear from the historical account that God didn’t actually create evil – he created beings who chose evil. (And in choosing evil, beings with reasoning brains apparently have an amazing capacity to rationalize that choice by simply dismissing God’s standards as “antiquated mores.”)

But did an omniscient God know, when He created beings with a free will to choose him or reject him, that we would reject him, would choose a path of evil, and as a result pain and injustice would occur in his creation? Of course he did, that goes to the very definition of omniscience. Did he choose to create anyway (for a reason that I don’t understand)? Yes, obviously. We’re here, aren’t we?

Scripture states these things very clearly: that God is not the author of evil, he is not evil, he hates evil, he does no evil. He did not create it. He created angels, he created us, in His own image, and we chose evil. Only God alone knows whatever else he created in heaven and earth, which may have chosen evil, or maybe not; we don’t know. He created a lot of innocent stuff (our planet, for example) that has been tainted or corrupted by the evil we or the angels have chosen to do. Does that mean God is the author of evil? Scripture says no. Let God be true, and every man a liar. My choice: to trust the truth, or to say the truth is a lie and to trust the lie.

It always breaks down to freedom, and my choice. I am free to trust or not, to accept or reject. No one (not even God, without violating the principles that are true to his nature as God) can force his will on me and force me to choose.

Well, I guess God could force his will and turn me into a robot. But then we wouldn’t have free will, and the capacity to truly love him, would we? And that seems to be what he is after in all this.

Why? I don’t know. That’s just the way it is. Maybe I’m an idiot for believing he is there, for trusting him, for loving him. But I don’t think so. I realize there are smart people on both sides of this particular fence. I take comfort that smart people like Aristotle and Plato, Galileo and Kepler, Newton and Copernicus, Bacon and Descartes, Kierkegaard and C. S. Lewis, and many others as well, are, as far as I can tell, on my side of the fence. And I am troubled by the fact that smart people like Friedrich Nietzsche and Carl Sagan are, as far as I can tell, on the other.

And of course there are lots of smart deists somewhere in the middle ground between theists and non-theists, Albert Einstein being one example.

But, honestly, I am more troubled when I learn that people I know, like and respect, people who are obviously and admirably intelligent and well-spoken, are apparently planting themselves on the other side. My hope and prayer would be that my own testimony might somehow contribute to an honest reassessment of that choice.

However: Believing what I believe to be true about the universe and free will, I can’t see how it could possibly be any other way. Everyone is free to choose, God made us that way. Smarts have very little to do with it, apparently.


Dave Eagle said...

Thanks Larry for sharing your reasons for faith, I do wish sometime we would be able to discuss some of these reasons without having someone else answer for you. I do like delving into these theological ideologies but on a matter of personal reasoning not what someone else has been taught is absolute. We all know if it was absolute then their would be only one religion or no religion at all.

kris said...

Hey Larry - I've appreciated reading this series - and discussions behind the scenes. I'm not a debater either - but I it's good to know why we believe, what we believe. The bottom line is: faith isn't debatable. No one is going to argue me out of my stance on life - or belief system. I'm open to hearing and learning - but God has done too many very large and impossible things in my life and made Himself too real to ever doubt that He is present and working in daily life.

I respect the viewpoints given on this page and your facebook. I will just toss out that a good debate is not filled with venom, personal attacks and slanderous character assaults. Whatever points may have been made to folks reading along, were lost in the distasteful and rude diatribe. I don't understand the need for that in a healthy debate.

It's a free country. We have our own minds to dissect the Word, information and studies. There's no need to throw a rock at someone and tell them they are stupid.

Thanks again for your time on this, Larry. :) K

Elizabeth Grattan said...

Just who was abusing liberty? Only David and myself and you have commented.

You do still beg the question. And your argument about free will is not biblical. The text states clearly that no man can thwart god. To suggest you worship a god that you can control is heresy. And that is exactly what you claim when you pretend that you can override this gods alleged plan.

Really Larry, your words just sound like the same rehashed statements that come from theists. It's what you have been TAUGHT in a very limited sphere of influence and something that you have had ingrained in you.

The concept of evil, or good and evil derives from the ancient philosophers attempting to grasp behavior. That's it. There is no evidence of universal morals nor is there any evidence that "evil" or "good" or "bad" exist. Again, outside of personal preferences and mores/norms/law/expectation in community or relationship the terms are meaningless.

I truly do feel sad for you. Because you say you have investigated - but you haven't. You are trapped in a world you refuse to let go of, and you don't hold on due to a reasoned search that make sense. You hold on out of a loyalty.

It's very expected you would. Again, it's difficult to have to handle the reality that your "god" is no more than an illusion you have had instilled in you for a long long time. Coming to terms with the truth based on ACTUAL evidence would turn your world upside down. It would, quite frankly, cost you too much. In fact, it could break your mind to have to release such a belief system.

But until you realize that your arguments and rational for this belief system are lacking, you will just keep up the delusion. :/

Einstein wasn't "in the middle" either.

Appealing to authorities to try to say "well, those guys believe so..." is not wise at all.

Smarts should have something to do with it. To pretend you only need this delusion and not actual investigation is just... sad all the way around.

Hopefully, someday, you will see that the "light" is nothing more than your mind accepting a reality that is false.

Dave Eagle said...

Thanks Larry for sharing your reasons for faith, I do wish sometime we would be able to discuss some of these reasons without having someone else answer for you. I do like delving into these theological ideologies but on a matter of personal reasoning not what someone else has been taught is absolute. We all know if it was absolute then their would be only one religion or no religion at all.

kris said...

Larry - thanks for taking the time to post this series. While I'm not a "debater" at heart either - it's been good to dive into what I believe and why. And what I'm left with in a lot of instances are simply matters of faith. God has done too much in my life - overcome impossible obstacles - for me to doubt it was Him. Period.

Isn't that what your very first post on Facebook was about? Faith?

I completely respect the right to choose. To believe or not believe. Or lie somewhere in between. Healthy debate and dialogue surrounding these things are often incredible discussions. I don't understand why so much of this (in the comments) was so personally attacking. When someone disagrees with us or even lays out an incorrect premise, I doubt very much that in real life we would slap their cheek, call them an idiot and beg them not to reproduce. After that, I'm guessing the person stopped listening.

We all have the right to choose. And to speak. Why are manners lost in the midst of that?

Happy Easter, Larry. Thanks again for the thougtful posts. :)

Larry Short said...

Thanks everyone for your posts. I apologize for not putting them up sooner, the blog was supposed to notify me by email that they were there, but it didn't for some reason.

They should all be up now.

- Larry

Elizabeth Grattan said...

Kris, I find it interesting that you thought the comments were rude and yet didn't have anything to say about the ad hom attacks Larry made in his actual pieces?

And yes, I'd say the same things in person that I do online. And the beg to not reproduce was a comment made to someone in jest. You know, it's called wit. When a person makes a comment as idiotic as that one did, it was a good come back.

Disagree and call that "no manners" all you like. No skin off my back.

You say you won't ever doubt because of what "god" has done for you. It's the same problem Larry has, you credit a "god" and begin with concepts of mystic and go from there. The only way to ensure it is really "faith" you have, is to get objective. After all, if Ephesians 2:8 is correct, it shouldn't matter if you doubt, ever.

kris said...

Elizabeth - I don't think wit is acerbic in nature. I find your tone to be just that. My prerogative as a blog reader. And yours to continue to communicate that way. Regarding Larry's comments, I'm not sure I saw it the same way - but that won't surprise you. I'm sorry if the words cut that way though. I know Larry and his character - his intent would never be to wound.

As for faith - it's an individual journey. I have followed your blog for a few years now - and enjoyed your wit and candor. I have related deeply, prayed meaningfully, laughed at your humor, and felt your pain. I also cried when you wrote about burning your bible. My heart hurt over that one.

I have many friends who are non-believers. I get it. In my own little life, I have faced great doubt. Interestingly, your blog has helped me move away from that and back toward God.

We are all on a journey. I think, at least where words are shared on paper without tone or eye contact, extra care should be used - and peace should always be the goal.

Speaking of peace..I'm out. :)


Elizabeth Grattan said...

Kris... you can't read "tone" in text. You apply a subjective lens in reading my words vs Larry's ignoring what isn't tone, but is instead clear ad hom. You don't need a lens to see ad hom, just logic. I didn't say they "cut". I said they were ad hom.

Not sure why it would "hurt" to read about a bible being burned. It has no impact on you what so ever.

That you say you are drawn "back to your god" shows you can't apply critical thinking. (which we knew because you didn't recognize the ad hom fallacy).

As for extra care... it's hardly extra care when you in a pious standing suggest what you do regarding my words over others. You are playing red rover and picking the theist over non believer. I get that. It's been indoctrinated in you to do that. Gotta stick with the "family". The statement I have "friends who are not believers" sounds like the bigoted "I have friends who are jews/blacks/pick your prejudice".

You either acknowledge that you build a chasm and divide (and did so in your comments) or you don't.

Larry Short said...

Everyone, please be aware that Google (or whoever owns Blogger now) is not consistently alerting me when I get posts. So, I'm not ignoring you, I just have too much going on in my life to be checking all the time.

So, rather than assuming the worst, I suggest sending me a quick email when you make a post, so I'll be sure and get it published quickly. Thanks!

kris said...

Elizabeth - I find you to be incredibly rude. And you find me incredibly small-minded. I get that.

I won't be reponsding to anything further on this thread - but I do wish you well.


Elizabeth Grattan said...


Because clearly it isn't rude to call someone rude simply because you add your own preconceived subjective experiences to your interpretation of their text.

Yes. Small minded indeed.

What I wish for you is that you (and Larry) and all those trapped in this delusion eventually start applying critical thinking skills so you can escape the addiction of religion.