Home » Christian Darwinism, theistic evolution » Here’s one bad reason for rejecting ID …

Here’s one bad reason for rejecting ID …

… theistic evolution/Christian Darwinism.

I rarely write about religion on Tuesdays, but this got shoved in my (news writer Denyse O’Leary’s) face recently, and makes a nice illustration of a bad reason for opposing ID, for Sal’s files of bad arguments against ID.

A scientist contacted me about a technical matter related to writing (no surprise, I write for a living).

He, a religious man, had been thinking about science in relation to his faith for some years. I asked him what he thought about the ID theorists. He said that they demeaned God by making God responsible for bad designs, of which—he says—there are a great many in the world.

I pointed out that in an imperfect world, even the best designs can only be optimal, not perfect. But never mind, for now let’s assume there are lots of suboptimal designs.

So then God isn’t responsible for them? Who is?

Evolution, he said. Of course, he means Darwinian evolution. (Natural selection acting on random mutation produces the whole world of life, as it were, by accident.)

And God isn’t responsible for that? Well, he admitted I had him there. Then he started blathering about how nature could somehow be inside God and …

I was tempted to just hang up. If he wants to be a pantheist, he had better go join a religion that takes pantheism seriously. But professional courtesy required me to answer the technical questions asked of me.

Before that, however, I asked him this question:

Have you ever encountered a passage in the Bible, where Moses is arguing with God on Mt. Horeb? Moses is (understandably) trying to get out of returning to Egypt to confront Pharaoh. He offers the fact that he isn’t much of an orator (or, depending on your interpretation, has a speech impediment). God replies,

Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

Now, can we all please just take our “Bible” glasses off for a minute and look at what is being said here?

Here at the heart of one of the most significant encounters in the Torah, God explicitly and unequivocally takes complete responsibility for causing some to be blind and others to see. It is not an accident. He causes it.

Are you listening, Christian Darwinist? There is no religious argument against ID based on imperfection if your starting point is the Jewish or Christian religion. God says he both invented the eye, before which Darwin trembled, and deprives some of sight. So isn’t it just a little bit, well, arrogant of you to misrepresent information theory-based critiques of Darwinism in order to defend God from an accusation he admits to?

Look, I don’t think the ID controversy is about religion as such at all. But if some insist on dragging religion into it, I wish they had the moral decency to represent God as he says he is.

Of course, some people might respond by saying they wouldn’t worship a God like that. It is entirely up to them if they take it upon themselves to be wiser than God, and refuse to worship. I thank God if they live some place where they have the religious freedom to choose that.

I also think that they are closer to the heart of things than the theistic evolutionists/Christian Darwinists. They are at least listening to what the Bible actually, unambiguously, represents God as saying about imperfections in life forms.

That is better than writing their own theistic evolutionist/Christian Darwinist Bible and using it to bash critiques of Darwin that they don’t understand, don’t want to understand, and feel compelled to misrepresent.

Sal, file under: If you are an observant Christian or Jew, note that God takes responsibility for designs that didn’t work (Ex 4:11). Such flops are not a religious argument against design in nature if you adhere to either of those religions.

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70 Responses to Here’s one bad reason for rejecting ID …

  1. Thank you for the anecdote and your very well-articulated rebuttal. I just edited my OP to include this in my list of bad arguments for rejecting ID. :-)

    Amazing how many Christians argue from the gospel according to Darwin rather the Bible.

    Thanks!

  2. Good thoughts.

    I think the verse’s reference to “make” can also be interpreted in the sense of “allows” them to be mute or blind, etc. In other words, it isn’t necessary that God reaches in and personally messes something up in each and every case, but he allows it.

    Further, and I think this is really your larger point, if God made the whole system, set up the parameters, chose when to intervene and when not to, then, yes, in a very real sense He makes himself responsible for it all.

    So your point is spot on. Faulty design, or cruelty in nature, or things that make us squeamish — these are not arguments against God. They are only arguments against a caricature of God that supposes God should, if He were to exist, place us in a state of endless comfort, blessed with eternal sunshine and flowers. Nowhere in scripture is there any suggestion that mortal life will or should be like that.

    So one can be disappointed in God if He doesn’t meet one’s expectations, and may even refuse to believe in such a God. But to think this constitutes a powerful argument for God’s nonexistence is incorrect.

  3. I disagree that God is responsible for human disabilities.

    Looking at the question again: In the Bible, Exodus 4:11 reads: “Who appoints the speechless or the deaf or the clear-sighted or the blind? Is it not I, Jehovah?” Does this mean that God is responsible in every case for such defects as deafness and blindness?

    No, as this would be out of harmony with God’s whole personality. The Bible tells us: “With evil things God cannot be tried nor does he himself try anyone.” (Jas. 1:13) His acts are always purposeful. Never does he bring calamity upon a person without good reason. He is the source of “every good gift and every perfect present.” (Jas. 1:17) “Perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.”—Deut. 32:4.

    In harmony with this, we see that it was by their own choice that the first human pair, Adam and Eve, lost their perfection and hence their ability to produce perfect children. (Job 14:4) As their descendants married, more and more imperfections began to be manifest among humans, including physical defects such as blindness and deafness. Because he has allowed this to develop, Jehovah God could speak of himself as ‘appointing’ the speechless, the deaf and the blind. (Compare Romans 8:20, 21.) Moreover, he fully understands such handicaps and their causes.

    Also, Jehovah God has not shielded persons from the sad consequences that disobedience can bring on the physical organism. God’s unchangeable law is: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) Thus children born of incestuous relationships may be born defective; they may be blind, deaf and otherwise handicapped from birth. Persons indulging in sexual immorality may contract a venereal disease leading to their becoming blind, deaf or even insane. The same might be true of children born to a woman infected with venereal disease.

    When it is in agreement with his purpose and ways, Jehovah God can literally cause people to become blind, deaf or speechless. Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, is an example of this. When Zechariah expressed doubt upon learning that he would become father to a son by his aged wife Elizabeth, the angel Gabriel said to him: “You will be silent and not able to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their appointed time.” (Luke 1:20) Zechariah was then for a time made mute, not able to speak until the circumcising of his eight-day-old son.—See also Acts 13:8-11.

    Still another way in which God “appoints” the speechless, the deaf and the blind is in a spiritual sense. If people choose to be deaf and blind to his message, he permits them to persist in unbelief. This was the case with unfaithful Israel in the time of Isaiah the prophet. Isaiah was told: “Go, and you must say to this people, ‘Hear again and again, O men, but do not understand; and see again and again, but do not get any knowledge.’ Make the heart of this people unreceptive, and make their very ears unresponsive, and paste their very eyes together, that they may not see with their eyes and with their ears they may not hear, and that their own heart may not understand and that they may not actually turn back and get healing for themselves.”—Isa. 6:9, 10.

    Since Jehovah God knew the heart condition of the unfaithful Israelites, he foreknew that they would fight against his message. The more Isaiah would call Jehovah’s word to their attention, the more they would harden themselves against it. In this way Isaiah’s prophesying revealed or made evident the full extent of their spiritual blindness and deafness. The effect of this was as if they had been made spiritually deaf and blind.

    Hence, in view of what Jehovah God has done and can do, the Scriptures speak of him as ‘appointing’ the speechless, the deaf and the blind. But he is not directly responsible for all cases of such physical handicaps. These physical defects have come about mainly through God’s permitting a sinful human race to come into existence. In a few cases and for specific purposes Jehovah God caused physical blindness and speechlessness; he has made spiritual blindness and deafness to become manifest in those who fail to exercise faith in his word or message. On the other hand, he has also granted spiritual sight and hearing to those seeking to do his will and, through the rulership of his kingdom by Christ, will free humankind from all physical handicaps.—Isa. 61:1, 2; Rev. 21:3, 4.

  4. Denyse

    Thank you for this post. This ties in with my conversation with TJGUY on another thread the other day about perfect creation. God told us up front things where made good, very good and not so good. God takes full responsibility for ALL natural evil and He says so a few times in the Bible another example;

    Isiah 45:7 “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.”

    What God does not take responsibility for is moral evil because we have been given free will to choose good from evil.

    A God that tells me right in the beginning that things are going to be good, very good and not so good, that is a God worth trusting because His word is consistent with my experience here on earth! Things are sometimes good, very good and not so good…..

  5. The bible teaches everything went from perfection to imperfect at the fall. Our immune system went bad and everything else. there is no bad design but bad redesign from a system working outside a creators hand. Its just on automatic since the fall.

  6. Robert

    Where in the Bible did it ever say it was perfect? Citation please? Perfect creationism is a man made myth just like Darwinian evolution!

  7. Denyse,

    I rarely find myself in agreement with you, so when it does happen, it’s worth noting.

    You are right about the Bible. It depicts a God who is absolutely and unambiguously the source of much suffering and evil, for humans and animals alike.

    It continually amazes me that so many Christians who are adamant in asserting the truth of the Bible seem determined not to believe in the God who is actually depicted therein.

    The God of the Bible is not perfectly loving and perfectly merciful; far from it.

  8. KeithS

    Then please enlighten us how you would create a universe where creatures have the ability to choose freely?

    Do you understand that in a perfect universe you will not be able to exercise your free will?

    Example;

    I want to kill you because you said I was fat. In a perfect universe you can’t die. So you can not get killed and I can’t kill you. So now my choice to kill you is being prevented by the fact that you can’t die.

    Another example of the problem with a perfect world.

    I love rugby, and in a perfect world my team will win every single game every single time. Now how will that work in a perfect world for supporters of other teams?

    Since everything is always perfect we will also never have an opportunity to use our emotions, you will always only have a single emotion and you will not be aware or even capable of anything else.. How is that going to work? Can you love or hate when there you only a single emotion or nothing?

    What about a car accident? In a perfect world it will never happen so would I ever have to make the choice to assist the victims of the car crash?

    The list of problems with free will and a perfect universe is endless….

  9. So what you’re really angry about Graham is the fact that God gave you free will…

    The alternatives are; mindless zombies, or to not exist at all. I prefer option 1, a less than perfect world that allows me to choose freely.

  10. Andre,

    Do you think this is the best of all possible worlds?

  11. No I do not, this is a temporary universe, it has good, very good and not so good with the promise that the universe after this one will be perfect.

  12. I do however believe that for a universe that can sustain biological life and allow its creatures like you and me to have free will it is about as optimal as it can be.I base it on two observations… Since I do not know of any other these reasons are sufficient.

    1.) I am alive
    2.) I can exercise my free will

  13. Andre – how would doing without earthquakes/malaria/dementia limit our free will or ability to be alive?

  14. The alternatives are; mindless zombies, or to not exist at all. I prefer option 1, a less than perfect world that allows me to choose freely.

    How about the option: a less-than perfect world in which the capacity to choose evolved?

    That’s my choice ;)

  15. Elizabeth

    All good except that evolution is an effect not the cause itself. So what caused evolution?

  16. keiths said:

    The God of the Bible is not perfectly loving and perfectly merciful; far from it.

    According to what standard of perfect love and mercy? There is no grounds to make such a statement from a materialist perspective. It cannot be anything other than emotional pleading/rhetoric.

  17. I suggest that we have no means available to us to rationally judge whether or not the world, as it is, is “perfect” or the “best” of all possible worlds because we do not have anywhere near the kind of information it would take, or the kind of perspective it would take, to make such a judgement.

    Materialists who make such an argument can only be making appeals to emotion, because their view is that no such standard exists. Theists that believe God to be the source of good, and the innate manifestation of good, must rely on faith (in that premise) that the world is the way it is, and must be, for a good purpose.

  18. Andre:

    All good except that evolution is an effect not the cause itself. So what caused evolution?

    Depends whether you want a more proximal or more distal cause.

    Proximally, what causes evolution is self-replication with heritable variance in reproductive success in the current environment (as well, as, it turns out, as heritable phenotypic variance not correlated with reproductive success, but Darwin didn’t know that).

    What caused the first entities able to self-replicate with heritable variance is at present unknown – but chemistry and physics were certainly involved. Whether divine tinkering was also involved is not known. Almost certainly, non-divine tinkering was not involved.

    What caused physics and chemistry is known to some extent – it’s a result of certain features of our universe.

    What caused those features is, AFAIK, not known.

    I should make it clear that nothing in science can rule out divine involvement. Science may however be able to rule out non-divine intelligent involvement.

  19. Elizabeth

    Nice reply, I’m happy to see that you are not ruling out a uncaused cause. In this cause and effect universe, an uncaused cause is the best current explanation regardless of what people’s feelings might be about the uncaused cause.

  20. Elizabeth

    “Science may however be able to rule out non-divine intelligent involvement.”

    I like this statement very much! you’re so right it ain’t natural!

  21. William #17

    I suggest that we have no means available to us to rationally judge whether or not the world, as it is, is “perfect” or the “best” of all possible worlds because we do not have anywhere near the kind of information it would take, or the kind of perspective it would take, to make such a judgement.

    I am not convinced. Consider the 2004 earthquake that killed nearly 250,000 people of which, of course, a large proportion would have been children and babies. It is very hard to see how the universe would not have been a better place without that earthquake.

  22. I am not convinced. Consider the 2004 earthquake that killed nearly 250,000 people of which, of course, a large proportion would have been children and babies. It is very hard to see how the universe would not have been a better place without that earthquake.

    That would be of some value in a debate if you could offer an objective standard by which “the universe” could be judged on whether it was “better off” or not. Many environmentalists consider the world a better place the fewer humans that exist. From a materialist perspective, the loss of those humans is of no more comparative value than all the wildlife that died, and there is no “better” or “worse” standard – physics does what physics does.

    You’re stealing a concept, Mark Frank. All you are using here is emotional pleading, counting on theists to be as outraged as you at the idea of a god that lets countless innocent people – including children – die & suffer.

    Any reasonable person would immediately spot the flaws in your comment; how can anyone of our perspective claim “the universe” would be “better off” with or without that earthquake?

    You are welcome to express your sentiment, but sentiment does not a rational argument make.

  23. Elizabeth

    Nice reply, I’m happy to see that you are not ruling out a uncaused cause. In this cause and effect universe, an uncaused cause is the best current explanation regardless of what people’s feelings might be about the uncaused cause.

    We simply cannot do that, scientifically. In any case, as far as we can tell, modern physics explicitly posits “uncaused” particles.

    In my view, ID should focus on “intention” rather than “intelligence” or cause.

    The issue, to my mind, is not between “Intelligent Design” and “Unintelligent Design” but between “Intention” and “Non-intention”.

    I think the great mistake ID makes (and I blame Dembski) is in looking for a pattern that signifies “Design” rather than a pattern that signifies “Intention”.

    Behe always had a better argument, and arguments that say that the ribosome, for example is unevolvable, or that functional proteins are unevolvable, are much better than arguments that say “500 bits it isn’t chance!”

    Darwinian evolution can do lots of things (including create functional features that serve a teleonomic purpose), but there are some things it can’t create (self-replicators, for instance, and possibly some kinds of self-replicated things).

    The focus on poor old Darwin, who was a great man and a great scientist, is bad for both Darwin and ID. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Darwin’s theory. It just doesn’t do what some people claim, and what others claim they claim, which is rule out an Intentional Designer.

  24. #22 William

    Are you seriously arguing that the death of 250,000 innocent people might not be a bad thing?

  25. Elizabeth:

    In my view, ID should focus on “intention” rather than “intelligence” or cause.

    We do, Elizabeth. Intelligent Design means intentional design by some aganecy.

    Darwinian evolution can do lots of things (including create functional features that serve a teleonomic purpose),

    Evidence please. Your continued bald assertions are meaningless here, Lizzie. They may work on your forum, but not here. Here you have to provide evidence for your claims.

  26. Elizabeth:

    Proximally, what causes evolution is self-replication with heritable variance in reproductive success in the current environment (as well, as, it turns out, as heritable phenotypic variance not correlated with reproductive success, but Darwin didn’t know that).

    Darwinian evolution requires the variance to be happenstance.

    Science may however be able to rule out non-divine intelligent involvement.

    Science has ruled it in.

  27. LoL! We wouldn’t be alive without earthquakes. We need plate tectonics. We wouldn’t be alive without them.

    If people choose to live in earthquake areas that is up to them.

  28. Andre writes, Where in the Bible did it ever say it was perfect? Citation please?

    Did you even read my post? You know, the one with all the scriptures?

  29. Barb

    Not once does the bible say creation is perfect, it says it is good, very good and not so good. That is in English, the Hebrew word use is tov, that means functional. There is nothing in scripture on a perfect creation, nada, zip, zero.

  30. I am not convinced. Consider the 2004 earthquake that killed nearly 250,000 people of which, of course, a large proportion would have been children and babies. It is very hard to see how the universe would not have been a better place without that earthquake.

    That is an understandable perception, but if humans in a sense are the enemy of God, then the more difficult question is why we being evil are given grace…

    Here is an excerpt from my essay Malicious Intelligent Design and Questions of the Old Testament God

    But how then can God find such guilt in little babies that He should feel justified in destroying them in the way the children of Israel carried out His judgment? One solution is to say that God doesn’t find guilt in the children, and that they died for some other reason. For those that accept ID is true, but don’t believe the Bible is God’s word, a solution is to say that the children of Israel were murderers and that the Old Testament is just spinning their acts of genocide to be something good. Surely everyone has an opinion on the matter, and I will not venture to say who is right or wrong. Few answers are consoling, and perhaps the right answer is even terrifying.

    How is it possible God finds guilt in a little baby? I will venture my humble opinion by saying God left answers for us in the pictures of intelligently designed biology. When we exterminate other creatures for our own good will and pleasure (like that rat or cockroach), we don’t think of ourselves being unjust, in fact, just the opposite. Hard as it is to accept, perhaps in the scheme of things, humans apart from God’s mercy and love, are like those detestable cockroaches which we give no thought to exterminating.

    Did the cockroach suffer cruelly when I terminated its life? Yes, but in the scheme of what I view as the greater good, my malicious act toward the cockroach was a good thing. He may not think so, but I do. In like manner perhaps, we are a lot less “good” in the universal scheme of things than we suppose.

    What, if in fact, we are the villains in the Divine Drama without realizing it. God’s grace is the grace that enlightens us to our true position in the scheme of things. Apart from his mercy, perhaps we’re not as deserving of His goodness as we presume. So if God terminates someone’s life, even if by human standards it seems horribly cruel, in the end that is not the standard by what He judges as good or bad. Sometimes we don’t know if the suffering is because of one’s guilt in God’s eyes or if God had a higher purpose (as was the case in Jobs life).

    Thus when God ends the life of humans violently (be it through natural disasters or wars or plagues), he has a right to do so. He may recruit the forces of nature, microbes, humans or various malicious intelligent designs to execute judgment. That is my view, and it is not a popular one, but if the intelligent designer of life is the intelligent designer of the plagues that destroyed Egypt and the plagues that will continue to injure humanity, it would seem He is an Intelligent Designer that is to be feared.

    The question then is how we can find it in ourselves to love a God who can do these things? This would almost seem like asking a cockroach to worship me after I just exterminated its family! Now, if we feel we deserve a good life and heaven, I suppose it would be hard to love God, but if we feel we deserve a bad life and hell, and instead are granted eternal life, our viewpoint changes, and it becomes possible to love God.

    But, those are my views, and I don’t mean to argue that they should be the views of the readers, or that I’m even close to being right. I’m sure many will find my solution to the problem of malicious design and an Old Testament God an awful solution. That’s fine, but we can’t run away from the evident fact of malicious design, and if the Intelligent Designer is the Old Testament God, we can’t run away from the fact of the malicious designs he has created in this world.

  31. Joe

    LoL! We wouldn’t be alive without earthquakes. We need plate tectonics. We wouldn’t be alive without them.

    You mean God is unable to make plate tectonics happen without earthquakes? Not so omnipotent after all.

    If people choose to live in earthquake areas that is up to them.

    What an extraordinary thing to say. What choice did the children have? Or the adults who were too poor to live elsewhere and lived hundreds of miles away from the earthquakes without any idea that it might cause an unprecedented tsunami.

  32. Mark Frank said:

    #22 William

    Are you seriously arguing that the death of 250,000 innocent people might not be a bad thing?

    I see you are doubling down on your appeal to emotion. I made no such claim on my part. I am pointing out the flaw in your “argument”, which is that you are making an emotional appeal that has no substantive basis. What is your criteria by which you judge what is “better” or “worse” for the universe? Or, are you claiming that in all possible perspectives, those deaths make the universe “worse off”?

    As I said, in the views of some extreme environmentalists, the death of 250,000 humans is a good thing, and makes at least the world a better place. That’s not my position, but it is **a** perspective. Without an absolute standard by which “better” or “worse” can be substantively measured, all we are left with are your attempts to manipulate others emotionally.

    Is there or is there not an absolute standard by which we can measure if the universe is a “better” or “worse” place after any event?

  33. Mark Frank:

    You mean God is unable to make plate tectonics happen without earthquakes?

    I didn’t say anything about God. Nor does the fact that earthquakes happen mean that God is unable to prevent them.


    If people choose to live in earthquake areas that is up to them.

    What an extraordinary thing to say.

    What a typical non-response.

    What choice did the children have?

    I would say they had plenty of choices as there are places that are not in earthquake zones.

    Or the adults who were too poor to live elsewhere and lived hundreds of miles away from the earthquakes without any idea that it might cause an unprecedented tsunami.

    How much money did the first hominds that left Africa have? That’s the standard story, right? Out of Africa (without any money, ie very poor).

    And if you are going to live near the ocean then you had better understand it. If not you do so at your own peril.

  34. Earthquakes provide us with valuable scientific data. Why would God rob us of that?

  35. Andre @ 29:

    The thought of perfection is expressed through Hebrew terms drawn from such verbs as ka·lal? (perfect [compare Eze 27:4]), sha·lam? (come to completion [compare Isa 60:20]), and ta·mam? (be completed, come to perfection [compare Ps 102:27; Isa 18:5]). In the Christian Greek Scriptures the words te?lei·os (adjective), te·lei·o?tes (noun), and te·lei·o?o (verb) are used similarly, conveying such ideas as bringing to completeness or full measure (Lu 8:14; 2Co 12:9; Jas 1:4), being full grown, adult, or mature (1Co 14:20; Heb 5:14), having attained the appropriate or appointed end, purpose, or goal (Joh 19:28; Php 3:12).

    For correct Bible understanding one must not make the common error of thinking that everything called “perfect” is so in an absolute sense, that is, to an infinite degree, without limitation. Perfection in this absolute sense distinguishes only the Creator, Jehovah God.

    Perfection of any other person or thing, then, is relative, not absolute. (Compare Ps 119:96.) That is, a thing is “perfect” according to, or in relation to, the purpose or end for which it is appointed by its designer or producer, or the use to which it is to be put by its receiver or user. The very meaning of perfection requires that there be someone who decides when “completion” has been reached, what the standards of excellence are, what requirements are to be satisfied, and what details are essential. Ultimately, God the Creator is the final Arbiter of perfection, the Standard-Setter, in accord with his own righteous purposes and interests.—Ro 12:2

    As an illustration, the planet Earth was one of God’s creations, and at the end of six creative ‘days’ of work toward it, God pronounced the results “very good.” (Ge 1:31) It met his supreme standards of excellence, hence it was perfect. Yet he thereafter assigned man to “subdue it,” evidently in the sense of cultivating the earth and making the whole planet, and not just Eden, a garden of God.—Ge 1:28; 2:8.

  36. I find the same attitude Denyse describes amongst TEs, who personify evolution as a free agent (literally) to distance alleged “bad design” from God – as if a designer isn’t responsible for his machine running amuck. But I also find the attitude amongst Creationists and IDers – because it’s the norm in Evangelical Christianity now, though it once wasn’t.

    Barb above says that for God to bring blindness would be against his character – yet I thought we learned his character from the Bible, and Exodus is in that Bible. It lives up to the biblical claim that God’s ways are higher than ours – so how come we scream blue murder whenever that’s shown to be the case? Ex 4.11 doesn’t mean that God is not loving towards his creation, because the Bible says he is: and if we can’t fit those two facets of God together it’s not up to us to censor our Bible to suit our preferences, or what we were taught in Sunday School.

    Eric reinterprets “make” as “allow” – so I suppose the passage where God says, through the prophet, “I create disaster” (=bara as in “God created the heavens and the earth”) really means “I allow diaster to create itself”? If the Spirit meant “allow”, why didn’t he say so?

    I note that Paul, in Cyprus, pronounced that the hand of the Lord was against Elymas the sorcerer, and he became blind for a time.

    Now, was that God “allowing” blindness to strike just at that fortuitous moment, or was God acting out of character, or was the Apostle God appointed for the Gentiles sinfully producing a psychosomatic disorder on his very first important foreign preaching date?

    Or alternatively, have we lost the Bible’s sense of awe at both the kindness and sternness of God. Is it not good to accept that in creation, as in the death of Eli’s sons, “He is Yahweh. Let him do what seems right to him”? Better, surely, than putting him in a box of our own making.

  37. William #32

    You sound a bit like a moral relativist.

    I could set about justifying why the death of 250,000 people is wrong but that is potentially a lengthy discussion. If you agree it is wrong then we don’t even need to have that debate.

    Do you agree it is wrong or not?

  38. Death is not wrong. Without death we would over populate and run out of resources.

  39. #38 Joe

    That’s fair enough – let me rephrase that

    William do you agree that the premature violent death of 250,000 people is a bad thing?

  40. It would all depend on how they died. And even then it may be tragic, but that doesn’t make it bad. Hopefully we learn something from it, and that would turn a tragedy into something positive.

  41. And if you want to talk about “premature violent death” just look at abortions.

  42. You sound a bit like a moral relativist.

    Now, you’re trying to characterize me instead of responding to the point I made and the question I asked you.

    I could set about justifying why the death of 250,000 people is wrong but that is potentially a lengthy discussion. If you agree it is wrong then we don’t even need to have that debate.

    You either have a standard for making such a judgement, or you do not. What is your standard?

    Do you agree it is wrong or not?

    I’m not sure how “wrongness” works into the issue of whether or not the “universe” is a “better” place with or without the earthquake. Is it “wrong” if the universe is made a worse place? By what standard?

    You are now trying to deflect; you expressed your view, and I asked you to support your view. Whether or not I agree with you has nothing to do with whether or not you can support your view.

    What is the basis for your judgements about what is “better” for the universe, and what is right or wrong about such loss of life?

  43. William do you agree that the premature violent death of 250,000 people is a bad thing?

    By what standard do you judge such deaths “premature”? I don’t consider death a bad thing at all. I don’t consider violence necessarily bad. You have to provide some conceptual context for the words you are using, Mark. “Bad” by what standard?

    Why do you keep refusing to provide the standards by which you have made all these value judgement? You expressed a view, I challenged you to back it up. The questions you are asking me have nothing to do with providing a source or a context for the value judgements in your statements.

  44. ‘And if you want to talk about “premature violent death” just look at abortions.’

    Spot on! As ever, brutally to the point, Joe!!! You bring us all back to reality, again and again. No blandishments, no periphrases. Pity you’re a Buddhist. You and Christ would have got on like a house on fire, I reckon.

    Just Googled, ‘periphrasis’, to check I’d got it right. The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives the following hilarious example.

    I suppose, ‘at this moment in time’, distinguishes it from ‘at this moment in momentousness’, however superfluously.

    Loved that ‘orgy of periphrasis’! The Latins love to use ten or more clauses where two or three would suffice, and there’s a lot more of the Continental in you Yanks than I’d realised.

    The French and Italians would take Hemingway to have been a semi-illiterate person, unless you told them his economical style was deliberate, and might even have its merits.

  45. William

    Not sure what a conceptual context is or why I have to provide it. The real context is of course the tsunami of 2004 . I believe the premature death of 250,000 people in that tsunami to be a bad thing because many of them will have suffered, because many of them will have lost the opportunity to live fruitful lives, and because life is valuable in itself.

    Now – do you think it was a bad thing or not?

  46. Is God really responsible for the disasters that bring so much human suffering and loss around the world? Is he to blame? When we speak of natural disasters, we are not simply speaking of dramatic displays of natural forces. Every year there are thousands of earthquakes, large and small, and dozens of storms, cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and other violent phenomena that do nothing more than become statistics in some record book. However, when such events cause great destruction of life and property and the disruption of the normal way of life, they become disasters.

    The Bible identifies Jehovah God as the Grand Creator of all things, including the natural forces of this earth. (Genesis 1:1; Nehemiah 9:6; Hebrews 3:4; Revelation 4:11) This does not mean that he causes every movement of wind or every rain shower. Rather, he has set in motion certain laws that govern the earth and its environment. For example, at Ecclesiastes 1:5-7, we read about three of the fundamental operations that make life on earth possible—the daily rising and setting of the sun, the unchanging pattern of winds, and the water cycle. Whether mankind is aware of them or not, for thousands of years these natural systems, and others like them, involving the climate, geology, and ecology of the earth have operated. In fact, the writer of Ecclesiastes was calling attention to the great contrast between the unchanging and endless ways of creation and the transitory and temporary nature of human life.

    Note what the book Natural Disasters—Acts of God or Acts of Man? has to say: “There is no evidence that the climatological mechanisms associated with droughts, floods and cyclones are changing. And no geologist is claiming that the earth movements associated with earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunami (earthquake waves) are becoming more violent.” Similarly, the book Earthshock observes: “The rocks of every continent contain a record of innumerable major and minor geological events, every one of which would be a catastrophic disaster to mankind if they occurred today—and it is scientifically certain that such events will occur again and again in the future.” In other words, the earth and its dynamic forces have more or less remained the same throughout the ages. Hence, whether or not some statistics indicate an increase of some forms of geologic or other activity, the earth has not become uncontrollably violent in recent times.

    Authorities have recognized that human activities have made our environment both more prone to natural disasters and more vulnerable to them. In the developing nations, a growing need for food forces farmers to overcultivate what land they have or to reclaim land by clearing away vital forest covering. This leads to serious soil erosion. Expanding population also hastens the growth of slums and shantytowns haphazardly built in unsafe areas. Studies have shown that the poorer nations suffer disproportionately higher death rates from natural disasters than do the richer nations of the world. Natural forces may have provided the triggers, but it is human activity—social, economic, political—that must bear the responsibility for the large difference in the loss of life and destruction of property that resulted.

  47. Five words: William Lane Craig, John Lennox.

  48. 48

    Andre
    It was presented to the reader that creation was from Gods mind and it was perfect. No death no ugly etc.
    It is only the rebellion that brought destruction and a groaning creation.
    The bible clear on this point.
    We only survive because Of gods love to give us a second chance. Hes going out of his way with evil mankind. Babies are evil too according to the bible. Its innate.
    Anyone who lives, gets food, gets married has been givin a extra kindness while also being given time to prepare for eternity. What really matters.
    Satan is trying to destroy everything and we deserve destruction but God largely helps us for to keep us around long enough to get saved and have some taste of his love. However stuff happens.
    Defining god by the stuff is a absurdity if the equation is understood.

  49. @Jon Garvey

    Thank you for #36. When questioned about his choices or actions, God’s typical response is something along the lines of, “Um, perhaps we should revisit once again who you are and who I AM.”

    Nowadays, we don’t tend to create anthropomorphized images of God with our hands. Instead, we create laughably limited constructs of God in our minds every time we say something like, “Well, the God I believe in would never…”

    God never comes across as codependent in Scripture when revealing who He really is. He doesn’t appear to struggle with self-doubt or demonstrate any interest in our approval. We would do well to engage with Him as He presents Himself instead of trying to refashion Him into some smaller shape that we find more user-friendly. He accepts us for who we are. Can we not at least attempt to return the favor?

  50. @Mark Frank

    There is none good but God.

    His is the only standard that matters when judging good and bad.

    We have neither the qualifications nor credentials to judge Him.

    Therefore, only God can say whether what happened to those 250,000 was a good thing or a bad thing.

  51. I have never before commented on an article on this site (and probably never will again). Although I generally enjoy reading the discussions, I really have never had much to add. That being said…this topic hits near and dear to my heart and I thought for once I might join the conversation. It is safe to say that I am nowhere near as intelligent as most (from both sides) on this forum, but what I do know I have come by honestly. I have written far more than intended; for which I do apologize.

    Some on this forum have asked a valid question that I think everyone asks him/herself when seeing a disaster on the news. “Why?” Not just “why them?” or “why me?” or “why now?” but just why in general? Why should humanity be subjected to such evil? Mark has chosen as an example the 2004 tsunami which claimed the lives of 250,000 individuals. He claims that the “premature death” of these people is “a bad thing” because they suffered and because they lost the opportunity to live meaningful lives. I believe these points have been addressed by other contributors in part, but I would like to frame the discussion in a different way.

    First he needs to define what he means by “premature”. Premature by whose standard? Is there some sort of unwritten rule that defines when a life has been fully lived? Is that rule defined further by age alone or is the content of the life important? Is 80 years a long enough life? What about 90?

    The above question is of course unanswerable from a human perspective. However, if God exists, then He just might be the right entity to decide such questions. If God exists then by nature of his existence, He is sovereign. If He is sovereign, then He has the authority to create and destroy at will. Just as governments are empowered to create an enact laws (and even in areas of justice or defense take lives)so too is He empowered by his very nature to act as He sees fit on His creation. This is the reason behind the commandments surrounding murder. Humans do not have the authority to make such decisions, God does.

    But all of this begs another, more important, question: Why do we think it is bad for people to die (specifically “innocents” who die unexpectedly or violently)? There really isn’t anything in a materialist worldview that demands such a position. You can point to a Darwinian explanation of preservation of species and what not…and you may be on to something…but if that is the case, the materialist should recognize that it isn’t really wrong for people to die, it is just evolution producing in them the emotion that will most likely lead to the survival of the species. And if that is all it is then why bother asking the question at all? It doesn’t matter, nothing does. Back to the point at hand, why is it wrong for innocents to die? The Christian will point to the idea that humans are created in the image of God, and as such have a certain intrinsic worth, they were created so it seems, with eternity in mind. I don’t see anyone crying over all the chickens that died in the tsunami, but why not? Why are we more valuable?

    Another issue is the idea of “bad” or “good” which Mark brings up. I feel like other contributors have done a good job of addressing the fallacy of holding to a materialist worldview and calling something good or bad so I won’t bother rehashing old arguments that from what I have seen have never been refuted.

    However, this does bring up a valid point about God’s character. How can a god who is supposedly good sit back and watch things like this happen. Doesn’t the suffering prove He isn’t so good after all? This is a very common objection, and on the surface it is a valid concern. I think when you dig deeper you see the true Character of God shine through. I am going to lay out some points as I see them, I may not be correct on all points, I am certainly not perfect….

    God is good- He is good because without Him there would be nothing to call “good” and it is merely the absence of His characteristics that we refer to as “evil”. Because God is good he allows choice, and because of choice evil is possible. God, because He is good cannot tolerate evil, but also will not limit choice. Therefore, we live in a world where choice, evil, and subsequently justice are present.

    Man is not good- I am not saying that everyone you meet is on the same level of evil as, say, Pol-Pot. However, it can be easily observed that people at their most basic levels are all a mix a of good and evil. Everyone has fallen short of Gods standards and for that matter they often fall short of their own standards as well. That puts us in a funny predicament, because God cannot tolerate even a little evil, so we are removed from His presence. Spiritual death is therefore the direct result of sin, and physical death a necessary prerequisite for continued reproduction of humanity as well as population and resource management.

    God is patient-The old testament portrays God as being incredibly patient with the transgressions of mankind. God gives the Amekilites four hundred years to repent before finally “driving them out” in judgment (read “Is God a Moral Monster for a full treatment). God gives Pharaoh multiple attempts to repent(and successively harsh punishments) before He had enough. God gave Israel time to repent from their sins (sacrificing children and what not) before sending them in to exile. And finally, God has given the entire world time ( Aprox. 2000 years and counting) to accept His forgiveness before sending a final judgement. Now, in a world where God is patient and free will exists you must expect a certain level of evil behaviour. That is why arguments against God from the existence of man made evil fall short. The alternative is judgement, and interestingly enough, when God does step in to stop evil behaviour (usually only in extreme instances), critics are quick to complain that God is being a bully and how dare He yada-yada-yada…

    So why the need for natural evil? Some have postulated that it is a natural mechanism to keep the evil of humanity in check. A few scientists have suggested that the natural evil is necessary for life even to exist on Earth (earthquakes perform a vital role, etc). Some have suggested that it was sin itself that caused “all of creation to groan”. C.S. Lewis seemed at least to imply in “The Problem of Pain”, that perhaps Satan’s fall was responsible. My suggestion is that natural evil exists because the world wasn’t meant to be free from pain, but was meant to carry out God’s purpose, which is to ultimately bring redemption to humanity. I think most Christians agree that at the very least man is subjected to the natural evil because of the fall, natural evil just doesn’t seem present in the garden, though IMHO it probably is already present in the rest of the world.

    Jesus warns that natural disasters, disease and famine must occur, and furthermore, that we shouldn’t let our hearts be troubled by such things. He doesn’t say that they are “good” or that God caused them as such, but that like birth pains they must take place before the culmination of His plan. That is the key point that I am trying to make. Not that we shouldn’t feel upset when we see suffering (Jesus himself wept over the coming destruction of Jerusalem), or that we shouldn’t feel that somehow it just isn’t right. It isn’t right. But there may be more at work then we understand.

    This brings us back to the Goodness of God. Now, if God were good you would expect a solution, a remedy for the predicament we find ourselves in. After all, everyone is in the same boat. Everyone dies. Every single person you will ever meet or have ever met or has ever lived will die. Does it really matter if it is in a tsunami or in a hospital bed? What is 80 years of life versus an eternity of nothingness?Does it matter if we experience pain (especially if there is nothing after death, there would be no memories of the pain, so why does it matter)?

    …and that of course brings us to the person of Jesus. Jesus, who knew what it meant to be human, who wasn’t some distant god showering down thunderbolts on humanity. Jesus, who wept at the death of his friends, who was tempted in every way, who endured pain and suffering, who died all alone while his mother and his best friends watched. They could no more have imagined how God would use such an event for good as you and I could understand how God could use an event like the tsunami for good. But He did.

    That is how I choose to frame my understanding of the world, and I hope it at least helps to articulate in your mind how Christians make sense of such events. I have closed my eyes and imagined what was going on in the mind of a young girl as she is being swept away by the 2004 Tsunami. Terror is too kind a word for what she must have experienced: thrashing, violence, screams all engulfed the last few minutes of her life. It was terrible. But what if after all the pain and suffering there was morning? What if she awoke to see her Creator? What if He wiped her tears and held her close? What if he explained to her why the tsunami had to happen? What if she really did gain her life by losing it? Well, then it seems that it really was only a tragedy from our very limited perspective.

    In the end there are really only two possible worldviews as I see it. There is the worldview that sees death as the often brutal end to an otherwise pointless life. And then there is the worldview in which death is just the beginning, a doorway, if you will, to the real existence which has been locked away in our soul, just out of reach until one day the door is opened and the invitation to enter granted.

    I chose the second view, and I believe the evidence validates such a view…I could be wrong of course…but I am well aware of the fact that if I am wrong I will never know, and furthermore, that it will have all been meaningless anyway.

  52. Phinehas, TheScrub

    Thank you for your comments. Both of you make the point that apparently horrendous events such as the 2004 Tsunami (or the malaria plasmodium which kills about a million people a year – the a large proportion of them children) may not be bad things because only God can understand the full implications.

    Suppose science advances to the point where it can stop such a tsunami or eliminate malaria at a low cost and you are responsible for deciding to implement it. Would you hesitate on the grounds that only God can understand whether it is really a bad thing?

  53. My niece died on 1st April this year after a long fight against cancer and despite having undergone surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and all the support modern medicine could offer. Despite, too, the support and prayers of her family and friends. She was 35 and leaves her partner alone with their five year old son.

    The only way I can reconcile myself to such tragedy is accept that such events are random and without malice. I’m glad I don’t have to torture myself having to reconcile some creator God allowing suffering because of some “greater” plan.

    Good question Mark. Why spend money on ways to eliminate disease when it’s all part of God’s plan. Do those who believe this sleep at night?

  54. Mark Frank:

    Suppose science advances to the point where it can stop such a tsunami or eliminate malaria at a low cost and you are responsible for deciding to implement it.

    That would be great because it would mean we finally accepted Intellignet Design.

    Would you hesitate on the grounds that only God can understand whether it is really a bad thing?

    Umm we have to take care of ourselves. We are responsible for our lives, not God nor any designer.

  55. I am kept up at night by such thoughts. I have wrestled with them for most of my life. I really do sympathize with your position on suffering. I am comforted when I read the Psalms, the very human authors struggled with the very same concepts. I am comforted further by the words of Christ “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, for I have overcome the world”

    Alan, I am truly sorry for your loss. My cousin passed away last year after just three days of life. The pain is immeasurable. You console yourself by accepting there is no purpose to any of it and perhaps you are correct. I (and his parents as well) console myself in the hope that his life was not meaningless and that he now resides with his creator. It doesn’t stop the earthly pain for sure, but the hope is that He has wiped the tears from my cousin’s eyes, and that someday he will wipe mine away as well. Life is fragile.

    I absolutely do believe in spending money on eliminating disease. I believe we don’t spend nearly enough. There is no christian law against charity, or against relieving suffering, in fact the opposite is true. There is no reason for anyone to go hungry or for anyone to die of malaria for that matter. We have the resources to eliminate world hunger, but greed prevents it from happening. Think of the parable of Lazarus, sitting outside the rich man’s gate. He went hungry, and eventually died. God could have fed him, but didn’t because the resources for that man to eat had already been provided, but were being horded by the rich man. It was the greed of the rich man that led to suffering, and as such Lazarus’ hunger stood in judgement of the rich man. At the end of the story of course, the poor man is provided for and cared for by God (for eternity at that) and the rich man is led to judgement. The question I have for you is if there is no meaning to life why do we bother expending so much energy trying to keep people alive? Why should it even make us sad when total strangers pass away?

    Mark’s question about the tsunami stopping machine. If it existed, I would use it. I have never believed that God directly causes natural disasters. Again, there are no christian laws against mitigating suffering. My position is that we live in a broken world, a world where decay and destruction exist. A world ruled by sin and ultimately by death. Whether or not you believe in God you cannot deny that death is a fact of life, there is no escaping it. That doesn’t mean there is no hope, but rather that our hope lies in what comes next. Consider the words of the apostle Paul “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”.

    I believe the answer to why doesn’t God eliminate suffering is that He will. He has promised as such. But that for now He tolerates it because the world is fallen and fragile, I don’t think He directly causes natural evil, but I do believe the death of each individual works within His ultimate plan. When Jesus is asked directly whose sin is responsible for a man’s blindness, He responds not by blaming the man, or even by blaming God, but instead He heals him (as He will eventually heal all) and declares that the man’s blindness did have a purpose, even though it was previously known only to God. He IS after all; and I am not.

    Thanks for indulging me. I understand these are difficult questions that deserve thoughtful responses. I also don’t believe we will fully have the answers until after this life. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully…” 1Cor 13:12

    Have a good day!

  56. TheScrub

    I certainly don’t want to challenge your religion and the comfort it gives you. You seem like a thoroughly nice person who deserves the comfort.

    I will pick up on just one point because so many people here seem to thing a materialist life lacks meaning.

    The question I have for you is if there is no meaning to life why do we bother expending so much energy trying to keep people alive? Why should it even make us sad when total strangers pass away?

    The answer is so simple. We are humans and it is our nature to care about such things. I believe that nature is the result of genetics and culture. But that is not a justification. It is a cause. Preventing suffering and saving life need no justification. They are ends in themselves just like a mother’s desire to protect her offspring. If someone offers a justification (whether it be the communist manifesto or the Bible) then that opens up the question – so if that justification were proven wrong then would you say suffering and death were not bad things?

  57. For what it’s worth, TheScrub, here is my old theodicy – it’s still serviceable, even if I don’t need the theo part any more :)

    I’d say that we need to distinguish between evil and harm.

    An evil act is one done by a moral agent with the intent to cause harm.

    Harm is damage to a perons’s hopes, dreams, capacities, happiness, comfort.

    Not all evil acts succeed in causing harm. A few inadvertently do good.

    Not all harm is caused by evil acts. Not all harmful effects do no good as well.

    Harm is a direct result of the way the world works. We die because life would be impossible without death. We hurt because pain is how we know to avoid harm. We are drowned because the rain falls and the winds blow and the tides rise. We are crushed because gravity pulls things on top of us. We are diseased because pathogens thrive, and DNA is delicate. DNA is delicate because of the properties that allow us to exist.

    A harm-free physical world would be a square circle, a one-handed clap, a koan. Harm is the flipside of physical existence. Existence is what we may attribute to God.

    But as moral agents, we ourselves are responsible for the intentional evil we inflict on others.

    And we shouldn’t. That’s why we call it a “sin”, or, in secular terms, a “crime”.

    But only if we think that God has intentionally inflicted harm on us is there a “problem of evil” in the natural world. If we don’t – if we consider that harmful, but unintended, events are simply the working of the physical universe that gives us our physical existence we need not attribute evil intent to God, but simply accept them as the price of physical existence.

    But of course, you then have to ignore large chunks of the Old Testament to make that work.

  58. Mark Frank:

    We are humans and it is our nature to care about such things.

    That is only if we were designed that way. Under darwinism we wouldn’t expect that.

    Save lives so they can use up valuable resources? That is not the darwinian way

  59. Elizabeth:

    But as moral agents, we ourselves are responsible for the intentional evil we inflict on others.

    We are only moral agents if we were designed that way. There isn’t any darwinian morality.

  60. @Mark Frank

    Thank you for your comments. Both of you make the point that apparently horrendous events such as the 2004 Tsunami (or the malaria plasmodium which kills about a million people a year – the a large proportion of them children) may not be bad things because only God can understand the full implications.

    I watched the Caught on Camera series on the 2004 tsunami. It was heartbreaking. While the numbers were staggering, it was the individual stories that really got to me. I believe that God is involved at the individual story level. I believe that God cares about each one more than I ever can.

    The Bible presents suffering and death in a very different light. Death is more about separation than the sort of finality that is typical in more secular perspectives. And believers are encouraged to rejoice in suffering. These ideas can be twisted (and have been), but if you want to engage what the Bible says with an open mind, I think you will find that the ideas hang together very well.

    In any case, my theology doesn’t believe that the 2004 tsunami was an act of evil on God’s part, and apparently your theology doesn’t believe that God exists, so whose theology is it that we are actually discussing? Some theology that you insist I ought to hold even though you do not?

    Suppose science advances to the point where it can stop such a tsunami or eliminate malaria at a low cost and you are responsible for deciding to implement it. Would you hesitate on the grounds that only God can understand whether it is really a bad thing?

    No.

  61. Liz:

    An evil act is one done by a moral agent with the intent to cause harm.

    Harm is damage to a perons’s hopes, dreams, capacities, happiness, comfort.

    I think you have to be careful here. The surgeon will not refrain from causing harm to tissue and harm to temporary comfort. Her intent will be to harm in the short term for the sake of an increase in long-term health.

    This is the mindset demonstrated by early church leaders. You have to remember that their lives were pretty rough even before you throw in being persecuted for their faith. If anyone has had a reason to question God’s intentions, surely they would have a decent claim. Yet we see the Apostle Paul saying things like, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

  62. Yes indeed, Phinehas, hence the Hippocratic injunction: First do no Harm.

    I’m not saying ethical questions are easy. But I am distinguishing between evil, which, I suggest, must involve intent, and harm itself, which may or may not be a result of evil (and can even be a result of good intent).

  63. Joe:

    There isn’t any darwinian morality.

    No, and there isn’t any newtonian morality either, or quantum morality, or biochemical morality, or relativistic morality.

    There is just plain morality – the way we behave towards each other.

  64. Elizabeth:

    There is just plain morality – the way we behave towards each other.

    That can mean anything. Some people kill other people. Some people steal from other people. Some people abuse other people. Some people help other people.

    My point is morality is moot if darwinain evolution brought us here.

  65. Joe:

    My point is morality is moot if darwinain evolution brought us here.

    And my point is that it isn’t.

  66. You didn’t make any point.

  67. @ TheScrub

    Sorry not to respond earlier. The threads churn over so rapidly here that I find it hard to keep track.

    We obviously disagree about religion but, thankfully, for the most part, this no longer generally considered an excuse for violence, war and oppression.

    I believe the answer to why doesn’t God eliminate suffering is that He will. He has promised as such. But that for now He tolerates it because the world is fallen and fragile, I don’t think He directly causes natural evil, but I do believe the death of each individual works within His ultimate plan.

    I do wonder why God doesn’t just cut to the chase and dispense with the real world altogether! There have been alternative dogmas. The Cathar heresy, so efficiently put down by the Catholic church, proposed that the real world is too evil to have been created by God and is instead the creation of Satan. God’s creation was the next world and getting there involved a kind of abstention from worldly pleasures – the consolamentum. One of my difficulties with religious dogmas is that there are so many to choose from and only one or none can be correct.

  68. Phineas

    In any case, my theology doesn’t believe that the 2004 tsunami was an act of evil on God’s part, and apparently your theology doesn’t believe that God exists, so whose theology is it that we are actually discussing? Some theology that you insist I ought to hold even though you do not?

    All I dispute in this thread is statements to the effect that we are unable to judge whether the tsunami was a bad thing (which is not the same as saying it was an evil act) because we don’t have the knowledge or ability to judge as God does. If that is not part of your theology, and you think we are able to assess whether the tsunami was a bad thing then we are in agreement.

  69. With regard to the question of theodicy, seeing things ‘sub specie aeternitatis’ is everything.

  70. Whenever atheists complain about God’s allowing pain and suffering, sometimes long-drawn out agony, in the world, I don’t recall ever hearing an acknowledgement that, in that very matter, in his acceptance of his own crucifixion, the historical, flesh-and-blood Christ ‘led from the front’.

    ‘Take up your cross daily and follow me’, sounds the most unlikely of PR slogans, yet it has had some success. A great deal more than atheism.

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