Why I Said Skeptical Theism Is For The Birds

Peter Hurford recently said it was “misleading” to say he’d recanted the POE without including his “new position.” I replied that I was confused because I linked directly to his new position. I also said I felt that he might be confused, implying that I don’t think he still thinks the POE works, but rather that skeptical theism (hereafter ST) undermines key theist tenets. This is even more confusing when considering that Peter used ST to defang his newly-formulated POE. Look, right here:

…it seems that Skeptical Theism is very damaging to the Bridging Premise—we simply do not have the knowledge to know whether these things are truly unjustified, or even say that the justification is unlikely. Thus we are arguing “I don’t see any reason God would allow this suffering,” and expecting that to matter, when really we aren’t in any position to draw a conclusion from our personal lack of insight, just like the person who doesn’t see germs.

Thus the Problem of Evil, as traditionally conceived, fails. However, if we take Skeptical Theism a bit further, perhaps we can break it…

There is no “bridging premise” in any traditional POE that I’m aware of. This so-called bridging premise is the fifth premise of Peter’s reformulated POE. Unless I’m missing something, he just said that his reformulation also fails. So, I guess when Peter says the POE still works, he means that it works because it commits the theist to embracing a position which undermines their meta-argument. Okay, that makes sense, but I actually think that’s a little misleading.

He then introduces three standard objections to ST, but for some reason labels that section as, “Three New Problems Of Evil.” Peter alludes to three states of affairs that he thinks logically obtain given ST, namely, that such undermines “any inference to a good God” and our “ability to know God’s intentions,” rendering us “unable to select a specific religion, because selecting a religion requires us to know about how God would choose to reveal himself.” However, objections to ST are not POE arguments. Peter still hasn’t provided a POE that succeeds. He offers a 6-premise argument demonstrating (in his opinion) that God is not omnibenevolent, but an argument purporting to prove God is not omnibenevolent is not a POE argument. He writes,

Either way, theism is caught in a dilemma that spells further doom and gloom.

…but this is either severe overconfidence or a genuine oversight. Proving that God cannot be omnibenevolent hardly disproves God. Theism is not caught in a dilemma even if Peter’s argument survives (which, as we’ll see shortly, it doesn’t). That God might not be omnibenevolent is no reason to accept atheism. You can’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Moving along, Peter describes ST as the position that,

…we simply aren’t in a place to know whether this higher good exists or not, because God is so far ahead of us.

Right off the bat we should note a subtle but important difference between Peter’s characterization of ST and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy to whom he links:

Skeptical theism is the view that God exists but that we should be skeptical of our ability to discern God’s reasons for acting or refraining from acting in any particular instance. In particular, says the skeptical theist, we should not grant that our inability to think of a good reason for doing or allowing something is indicative of whether or not God might have a good reason for doing or allowing something.

Did you spot the difference? Peter’s version grants the believer a license to doubt whether a higher good actually exists, whereas IEP’s only grants license to doubt the claim that inability to discern the good warrants the assumption that it doesn’t exist. Peter’s version should definitely be rejected by any Bible-believing person. After all, it is perhaps the central biblical tenet that God is good (Mark 10:18). Further, the Bible also says that Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

Where is there room for doubt? Either God is good, all the time, or not. It’s Boolean. This is straightforward biblical exegesis. Those who take the Bible seriously cannot concede that we aren’t in a place to know whether a higher good actually exists, because if God is good, then a higher good must exist. To doubt thus is to seemingly deny the aforementioned Scriptures. Further, those who take the Bible seriously shouldn’t react to the POE with blasé inability to conceive of a higher good. After all, it’s all clearly spelled out in Scripture (Rev. 21:4).

What about the IEP’s version? Does any Bible-believing person have reason to reject it? I believe they do. Simply put, ST is to metaphysics what Russell’s Teapot is to science. Consider the similarities between,

For all we know, there might be a teapot orbiting Jupiter.

…and,

For all we know, God might have a reason for allowing seemingly gratuitous suffering X.

Christians, is this really the argument you want to make? If anybody believes they can make a principled distinction between those two lines of reasoning, now is the time to speak up.

I would like to clarify that although I have used skeptical theism as a rebuttal in various arguments with atheists, that’s only because it is a legitimate response to show that the POE is impotent. However, there’s an importance difference between winning arguments and demonstrating the truth. A valid argument cannot be honestly used if committing to its premises undermines arguments further up the line. This is where I remind you that ST is not necessary to defang the POE, and that I’ve already defanged it here. Here’s a modified sketch:

  • 1. A good God would only permit suffering if there was a higher good;
  • 2. Suffering is temporal and transitory;
  • 3. The joy God promises is eternal and immovable;
  • 4. Eternal joy equates is a higher good compared to temporal suffering;
  • 5. A higher good exists;
  • 6. It is not necessary to invoke ST to defang the POE.

There’s no need to retreat and say, “Oh, I’m sure God has a higher good, I just don’t know what it is.” The Bible says God has given us everything we need for godliness, and that’s why Christians should use their swords. So, what about Peter’s argument?

  • P4: If actual suffering exists, God cannot be known to be omnibenevolent.
  • P5: If we can’t know about God’s motivations (Skeptical Theism), God cannot be known to be omnibenevolent.
  • P6: If no set of explanations (theodices) can justify all the suffering we observe, then either (a) actual suffering exists or (b) we can’t know about God’s motivations.
  • C7: Therefore from P4 through P6, if no set of explanations can justify all the suffering we observe, God cannot be known to be omnibenevolent.
  • P8: No set of explanations can account for all the suffering we observe.
  • C9: Therefore from C7 and P8, God cannot be known to be omnibenevolent.

P5 is easily dispensed with. ST isn’t the position that, “we can’t know about God’s motivations.” This is a strawman characterization of ST. As the IEP citation clarifies, ST is the position that, “our inability to think of a good reason for doing or allowing something is [not necessarily] indicative of whether or not God might have a good reason… (brackets mine). We *CAN* know about God’s motivations because they are plainly revealed in Scripture. God’s motivation is an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin. God’s motivation is that we would repent and give up sin so He can welcome us to this eternity. If we refuse, we are hostile to the sinless eternity God desires, and an omnibenevolent, just God could not allow sin to persist indefinitely. As for P6, no theodicies are needed. It is sufficient to point out that an eternity of joy outweighs the temporary sufferings we currently observe. P8 is false. I’ve just given an explanation that can account for all the suffering we observe.

Therefore, ST is not necessary to rebut the POE, and Peter’s attempt to salvage the argument fails.

184 Comments

  1. Ronin says:

    cl,

    I assume you believe there is sin in this world, and that you also believe believers can quench the Spirit; if yes, then, I think those are two good reasons to [at the very least] accept the following:

    If there is a God, he knows much more than we do about the relevant facts, and thus it would not be surprising at all if he has reasons for doing or allowing something that we cannot fathom.

    Source: http://www.iep.utm.edu/skept-th/

    Which is backed by Scripture (Isaiah 55:8-9),

    8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
    Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.
    9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    So are My ways higher than your ways
    And My thoughts than your thoughts.

    Source: NASB

    With regards to your “teapot” and “seemingly gratuitous suffering” comparison I would have to say, “To my knowledge there has been no teapot observed by science, but I have observed “seemingly gratuitous suffering”.” So, what now?

    Lastly you wrote:

    We *CAN* know about God’s motivations because they are plainly revealed in Scripture.

    Yes, and some of those motivations “seem” suspect to me when I am being honest with myself. I am not sure how in-depth you dive into to Scripture but some of the stuff can and is interpreted in different ways where it can affect ones own interpretation of God’s character. So, while you may willy-nilly assert we “CAN” know God’s motivations (I am assuming you mean in a positive manner) through Scripture; from my own experience the things that we think we “know” may vary depending on the theology one brings to the table.

    That’s all I got for now since I am heading to the movies. Later…

  2. cl says:

    …I am heading to the movies.

    Sounds fun. What movie?

    …two good reasons to [at the very least] accept the following:

    You seem to think I deny ST’s central premise. I don’t.

    With regards to your “teapot” and “seemingly gratuitous suffering” comparison I would have to say, “To my knowledge there has been no teapot observed by science, but I have observed “seemingly gratuitous suffering”.” So, what now?

    The existence of the “seemingly gratuitous suffering” is not what’s being questioned. The existence of the higher good is being questioned. Of course, you could say, “I’ve seen a higher good, but I’ve never seen a teapot orbiting Jupiter,” but I don’t think that changes much. At the end of the day, the theist and the teapot-ist are both relying on promissory notes, but my whole point is that the theist doesn’t have to, and quite frankly, I don’t understand why you’d take issue with that (if you are, as it seems).

    I am not sure how in-depth you dive into to Scripture but some of the stuff can and is interpreted in different ways where it can affect ones own interpretation of God’s character.

    Of course people interpret Scripture differently. However, does any Jew, Christian, Catholic, etc. believe that God is not good?

  3. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    Sounds fun. What movie?

    I went to see Lockout with my buddies.

    The existence of the “seemingly gratuitous suffering” is not what’s being questioned. The existence of the higher good is being questioned.

    Questioned by who? Peter’s argument(s) or your “regular” ST?

    …At the end of the day, the theist and the teapot-ist are both relying on promissory notes, but my whole point is that the theist doesn’t have to, and quite frankly, I don’t understand why you’d take issue with that (if you are, as it seems).

    Please, the theist can and should accept certain things in the Bible which have been verified by archeology, the historical record, experience, etc. What sort of evidence does the teapot-ist have for his/her modus operandi? Further, if you are just trying to boil this down to section 3 of your “sketched” argument; one of the requirements to accept 3 is faith. Now what? It’s a promise that has not come to pass. Even more for me is the fact that I loathe Calvinism and its tenets, since they lead me to question God’s character; therefore, I am fine with remaining agnostic about certain aspects of God’s character, because the Calvinist could be right. Yet, I am open to the fact that there are certain things I try to “reason” away for emotional reasons.

    Finally, you nor Peter can have your cakes and eat them too. If he (Peter or any atheist for that matter) does not want to interact with the God of the Bible (since He is the one you are defending) he needs to take high road and cease using the hay (as you pointed out above). On the other hand, you cannot speak of certitude when discussing “faith”.

  4. cl says:

    I must say, I’m a bit perplexed here. I’m getting the feeling that you feel like your beliefs are being attacked or something. What’s motivating you here? Is there something beyond the pursuit of cold reason?

    Questioned by who?

    The proponent of the POE. In this case, Peter.

    Please, the theist can and should accept certain things in the Bible which have been verified by archeology, the historical record, experience, etc. What sort of evidence does the teapot-ist have for his/her modus operandi?

    Archaelogical / historical verifications have no bearing the existence of a higher good. They are two completely unrelated subjects. As for evidence, the teapot-ist has something almost identical to the theist: a promissory note based on extant observations. The teapot-ist has, “But planets have things orbiting them.” The theist has, “But other instances of suffering have higher goods.”

    Further, if you are just trying to boil this down to section 3 of your “sketched” argument; one of the requirements to accept 3 is faith. Now what?

    The overwhelming majority of theists have faith that God is good, and will deliver. How is that a problem? Besides, even if they didn’t have this faith, the logical argument can still be made. We simply ask, “Is an eternity without suffering a higher good than temporary suffering?” If yes, how can the POE stand?

    Even more for me is the fact that I loathe Calvinism and its tenets, since they lead me to question God’s character; therefore, I am fine with remaining agnostic about certain aspects of God’s character, because the Calvinist could be right.

    Are you implying either 1) that Calvinists believe God is not good; or, 2) that Calvinists deny an eternity without suffering? If not, how does the Calvinist interpretation have any bearing on the argument?

    Yet, I am open to the fact that there are certain things I try to “reason” away for emotional reasons.

    With all due respect I’m getting the feeling this might be one of them. Your comments are usually always grounded in logical progression and devoid of emotion but it’s still unclear to me why you’re actually objecting here.

    On the other hand, you cannot speak of certitude when discussing “faith”.

    See what I mean? The only allusion to “certitude” in this post is that I am absolutely certain of four things: 1) the overwhelming majority of traditional monotheists believe God is not good; 2) the overwhelming majority of traditional monotheists believe God’s promise of an eternity without suffering; 3) an eternity without suffering is a higher good than temporary suffering; and, 4) appeals to skeptical theism are unnecessary to defang the POE.

    Why *SHOULDN’T* I be certain of those things? What am I missing? To phrase it another way, what do you stand to lose if you accept everything I’m saying?

  5. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    Archaelogical / historical verifications have no bearing the existence of a higher good.

    True, but here is what I said,

    …the theist can and should accept certain things in the Bible which have been verified by archeology…

    I said “certain things” at this point I am not imposing any theist to accept the existence of a “higher good”. In fact, what I am saying is that a theist has to have faith in [heaven] this higher good you are alluding to in your “sketched” argument.

    The overwhelming majority of theists have faith that God is good, and will deliver. How is that a problem?

    It’s not a problem, and I believe we have reasons to believe He will deliver.

    We simply ask, “Is an eternity without suffering a higher good than temporary suffering?” If yes, how can the POE stand?

    A [finite] potential eternity (God would be the only one without a beginning and end) without suffering would be a higher good, correct. The POE wouldn’t stand IMO.

    However, you had written,

    God’s motivation is that we would repent and give up sin so He can welcome us to this eternity. If we refuse, we are hostile to the sinless eternity God desires, and an omnibenevolent, just God could not allow sin to persist indefinitely.

    I am going to go out on a limb and say that if Calvinism is true the above is false, and your sketch argument would have to be further advanced to see if this “higher good” would apply to everyone.

    With regards to this:

    Are you implying either 1) that Calvinists believe God is not good; or, 2) that Calvinists deny an eternity without suffering? If not, how does the Calvinist interpretation have any bearing on the argument?

    No, I think Calvinists believe their view of God renders a good God, but I certainly do not endorse that their view produces a good God. With regards to 2 I would think Calvinists approve of your argument.

    You also wrote:

    With all due respect I’m getting the feeling this might be one of them.

    That’s cool, I am open to the criticism. If I am wrong I will admit it to you. We will see where the discussion takes us.

    Your comments are usually always grounded in logical progression and devoid of emotion but it’s still unclear to me why you’re actually objecting here.

    Thanks.

  6. Adamoriens says:

    Hi Cl. This quote is interesting:

    As for P6, no theodicies are needed. It is sufficient to point out that an eternity of joy outweighs the temporary sufferings we currently observe. P8 is false. I’ve just given an explanation that can account for all the suffering we observe.

    What exactly do you mean by “outweigh”? My understanding is that only a fairly stringent moral situation can meet the standard for one good to outweigh another. Since God is postulated to be all-powerful (constrained only by logical possibility), perfectly knowledgeable (God will not mistakenly identify what are goods and what are evils), and morally perfect (he will not fail to act on his knowledge of the good), it follows that for a good to outweigh an evil, the evil (or some evil equal or worse) must be logically necessary to bring about the good in question, and the good must be sufficient to warrant the evil.

    Does an immovable eternal bliss justify our current temporary sufferings? That remains an open question. It seems to me that the particular sufferings we observe were not logically necessary for God to bring about the perfect afterlife (assuming skeptical theism is false), such that your theodicy does not meet the standards for “outweighing.” In other words, God’s addition of pleasure and goodness to the universe in whatever amount do not justify whatever temporary suffering, unless that suffering were logically necessary to bring about eternal joy. Even if it were, we might agree with the deontologists that duties supersede consequences, but that’s really a discussion for another day.

  7. cl says:

    Ronin,

    …what I am saying is that a theist has to have faith in [heaven] this higher good you are alluding to in your “sketched” argument.

    I understand. How does that affect the discussion? Why are you pointing out that a theist has to have faith in the higher good?

    I am going to go out on a limb and say that if Calvinism is true the above is false, and your sketch argument would have to be further advanced to see if this “higher good” would apply to everyone.

    I don’t understand. What Calvinist tenet should I consider, and why would it’s truth entail the falsehood of my premise?

    That’s cool, I am open to the criticism. If I am wrong I will admit it to you.

    I know, I’ve never doubted that. It’s just that I don’t know what we’re even arguing about. I’m honestly at a total loss there. I don’t see where we disagree, or why, or if we even do!

  8. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Hello back.

    What exactly do you mean by “outweigh”?

    Whether we evaluate by tokens or agents, an eternity of suffering is “more good” hence a higher good than temporal suffering. It’s a rudimentary attempt to quantify “good.”

    My understanding is that only a fairly stringent moral situation can meet the standard for one good to outweigh another.

    I agree.

    …for a good to outweigh an evil, the evil (or some evil equal or worse) must be logically necessary to bring about the good in question, and the good must be sufficient to warrant the evil.

    To me, an eternity without suffering is sufficient to warrant the allowance of temporary evil, and I think it’d be difficult to conceive of a principled quantification that suggests otherwise. As for the “logically necessary” part, I think that if the higher good is a race of beings who have known sin and rejected it in favor of righteousness—an empirical demonstration of the disorder that ensues when we disobey God—then allowing the evil is logically necessary. It’s logically impossible to consciously, freely reject that which we are unaware of.

    This is where my POE-related writings are going to be heading from here on out, for the most part. In particular, I’m interested in that whole “Problem of Heaven” thread we had going on CSA a few months back. Skeptics often ask, “How is heaven going to be sinless?” and that is a question I think I have a unique answer for. At least, one I haven’t come across in the literature yet.

    Does an immovable eternal bliss justify our current temporary sufferings? That remains an open question.

    Well, if it’s an open question, then the POE cannot possibly be a closed argument. Personally, I don’t think it’s an open question. I think that like all value questions, it’s intrinsically tied to the desires of the agent (in this case God). I’ve been going through books like crazy lately, discarding any that I don’t see fit, and creating a new stack of ones I intend to keep for the rest my life. As the owner of those books, the ones that make the cut are completely at my discretion. Nobody else can make an objective case showing that my values are wrong. I value what I value. Similarly, I respect God’s right as Creator to value what God values, and to discard what God doesn’t value–especially if the latter is hostile to what God values, as is the case with unrepentant sinners.

    It seems to me that the particular sufferings we observe were not logically necessary for God to bring about the perfect afterlife…

    I’ve got some opinions there, but I’d definitely like to flesh them out as opposed to giving you a quick response.

  9. joseph says:

    “Problem of Heaven” thread we had going on CSA a few months back. Skeptics often ask, “How is heaven going to be sinless?” and that is a question I think I have a unique answer for.

    Our first discussion. I am genuinely intrigued. I’ll have to go back and remind myself of how I argued, the shame being, I come across as a berk when I read myself.

  10. Adamoriens says:

    To me, an eternity without suffering is sufficient to warrant the allowance of temporary evil, and I think it’d be difficult to conceive of a principled quantification that suggests otherwise. As for the “logically necessary” part, I think that if the higher good is a race of beings who have known sin and rejected it in favor of righteousness—an empirical demonstration of the disorder that ensues when we disobey God—then allowing the evil is logically necessary. It’s logically impossible to consciously, freely reject that which we are unaware of.

    Perhaps you have unified this theodicy elsewhere, but here there is an odd disconnect. On the one hand, you have eternal bliss fulfilling the “outweighing” requirement, and on the other, you have the knowledge necessary for significant free will fulfilling the “logically necessary” requirement. But from where I sit, neither are connected together. Eternal bliss (so far as we know) does not logically require humans to make a free choice that is informed in a particular way, and thus it does not require evil to occur. And the knowledge humans have gained from committing evils (which allows them to more significantly choose the good) certainly cannot justify committing those evils. Not unless there was a straight, logically exclusive line from “being able to do whatever temporary evil, or suffer whatever temporary evil” to “experiencing eternal bliss.” So we are still left wondering whether, say, the cruel mutilation of children is logically necessary for eternal salvation. With respect, I don’t think you’ve resolved this problem in the least.

  11. Ronin says:

    cl,

    Let me put the “faith in heaven” bit aside and I will try to clarify what I meant later. For now, let me try to elucidate my claims with regards to your argument and Calvinism. Here is a sketch of your argument.

    1. A good God would only permit suffering if there was a higher good;
    2. Suffering is temporal and transitory;
    3. The joy God promises is eternal and immovable;
    4. Eternal joy equates is a higher good compared to temporal suffering;
    5. A higher good exists;
    6. It is not necessary to invoke ST to defang the POE.

    I am assuming if 1-4 are accepted we are saying this higher good would be designed for everyone who has lived, lives, and will live in this world, yes? If yes, I am also presupposing when you wrote this,

    God’s motivation is that we would repent and give up sin so He can welcome us to this eternity.

    you are saying God would like all to be in eternity, correct?

    I will wait for your response before I continue as I do not want to misrepresent your argument.

  12. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    On the one hand, you have eternal bliss fulfilling the “outweighing” requirement, and on the other, you have the knowledge necessary for significant free will fulfilling the “logically necessary” requirement.

    Not quite: as I said, it’s the empirical demonstration of the disorder that ensues when we disobey God. That’s the knowledge that is logically impossible to obtain with allowing free choice. Any other day of the week, atheists and skeptics champion empirical knowledge as the best possible demonstration of truth. That commitment requires them to accept this statement lest they wish to plead specially.

    Eternal bliss (so far as we know) does not logically require humans to make a free choice that is informed in a particular way, and thus it does not require evil to occur.

    God could have made humans without the ability to choose good or evil, but if God wants humans to experientially understand the disastrous effects of evil with empirical certainty, such that they might know the absolute necessity of faith, he must tolerate some evil. There is no way around that.

    And the knowledge humans have gained from committing evils (which allows them to more significantly choose the good) certainly cannot justify committing those evils.

    I would agree with you that it doesn’t justify the agent’s commission of said evil, but I disagree that the knowledge gained doesn’t justify God’s allowance of said evil.

    With respect, I don’t think you’ve resolved this problem in the least.

    With equal respect, I don’t think you’ve fully thought through what I’m saying. Or, perhaps I’m not explaining myself clearly, but, when I look back over what I’ve written, it seems pretty clear to me. IMHO, although it definitely deserves elaboration and I will do so in a future post, this paragraph alone is sufficient: God could have made non-free humans without the ability to choose good or evil, but if God wants free humans to experientially understand the disastrous effects of evil with empirical certainty, such that they might know the absolute necessity of faith, he must tolerate some evil. There is no way around that.

  13. cl says:

    Ronin,

    I am assuming if 1-4 are accepted we are saying this higher good would be designed for everyone who has lived, lives, and will live in this world, yes?

    Some people say that (universalists), and if that’s the case my argument is even stronger, but I personally don’t believe in universalism. On my view the higher good does not apply to all who live, lived or will lived.

    you are saying God would like all to be in eternity, correct?

    Yes, I do believe that God wants all to choose life, that’s straightforward biblical exegesis (1 Tim. 2:4).

    I will wait for your response before I continue as I do not want to misrepresent your argument.

    Thanks, I think that might be the way to go. I should do that more often. I’ll usually respond to all pertinent parts of a comment when sometimes I think I should step back and constrain a discussion to one specific question.

  14. One concession I will make is my general aversion to your posting style is unreasonable. I’ve noticed that Ronin has something of a toned-down version of this style, featuring such preliminaries as: “Don’t think that I’m going to let you off with …” So, I’m concluding that this is simply the Christian style, and my extreme distaste is intolerant.

  15. Sorry, filed in wrong thread.

  16. CL,

    Let’s say God gave only a single eternal life, and subjected all the billions of people who have lived to a hell on earth. Your argument would still succeed because an eternity outweighs any finite number.

    This is, after all, what your answer comes to: there’s no real evil in the world because the finite is infinitely smaller than the infinite. With this justification, it’s unnecessary to maintain that the suffering in the world is unnecessary; the point is no longer necessity but consequentiality. There’s no need to apologize for what’s inherently devoid of cosmic significance.

    But you do try to justify, and the inconsequentiality of the mundane would seem to undermine what justifications you attempt. The attempted justifications concern what humanity learns, but does the experience can’t teach what you claim. A human doesn’t learn that evil results from disobedience to God because the result of disobedience–reduced to complete insignificance by your cosmic calculus–isn’t evil: those results, however horrendous, aren’t evil because they’re as insignificant as the other harms God forces us to endure.

    Let me note that this argument is set up for equivocation. You have contradictory themes: suffering is inconsequential and suffering is justified, and you are likely to shift between them in the course of argument.

  17. Some people say that (universalists), and if that’s the case my argument is even stronger, but I personally don’t believe in universalism. On my view the higher good does not apply to all who live, lived or will lived.

    No it’s not; you’ve got to obey Cantor’s rules for playing with infinities, and the infinities you’re comparing are equal.

  18. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    Some people say that (universalists), and if that’s the case my argument is even stronger, but I personally don’t believe in universalism. On my view the higher good does not apply to all who live, lived or will lived.

    I was not implying universalism, actually. Perhaps I should have been clearer. I am not trying to assert that all get to go to heaven, but that all (perhaps a better word is a lot) get a “crack” at this “highest good” (except for those who cannot exercise consciousness; these sorts of cases might have to be weighed differently). Does that make sense?

    Yes, I do believe that God wants all to choose life, that’s straightforward biblical exegesis (1 Tim. 2:4).

    Okay, I think so too, but I’ll wait to see if what I wrote above makes sense.

  19. cl says:

    Ronin,

    Yes. Makes sense.

  20. Adamoriens says:

    Not quite: as I said, it’s the empirical demonstration of the disorder that ensues when we disobey God. That’s the knowledge that is logically impossible to obtain with allowing free choice. Any other day of the week, atheists and skeptics champion empirical knowledge as the best possible demonstration of truth. That commitment requires them to accept this statement lest they wish to plead specially.

    There are two ways I can read this argument. The first is about the need to gain moral knowledge through acts of various moral value (including acts of evil). I can’t see that this is cogent given your view of non-natural moral facts, since understanding how something is wrong does not depend on that something actually occurring; understanding the concepts involved and some imagination is sufficient for understanding. Even a moral naturalist doesn’t need to experiment with murder to know that it is wrong. Not saying that this is what you’re getting at- just being thorough.

    Another way is to read you as saying that evil needs to occur for us to be properly motivated to seek out God (here I assume that disobeying God and doing evil are one and the same), and that the experience of evil impresses us all the more to seek out the good.

    Since we’re really talking about moral motivation here, we could distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Being intrinsically motivated is being motivated by knowledge of the good in itself. Being extrinsically motivated is being motivated to do the good by non-moral factors- whether we or those profit from doing the good, for example.

    The trouble here is that intrinsic motivation (if it’s coherent) cannot, by definition, increase with the sensory experience (or, the actual occurrence) of evil. Even worse, the connection between disobeying God and experiencing evil (I assume that this is what you mean by “disorder”) is rather loose; the evil prosper and the good suffer. Would it not be a more emphatic demonstration of the need to obey God if disobedience correlated with suffering? But no such correlation is observed, so I wonder why our world is ordered so sub-optimally in respect of this goal. When I view the moral disorder of the world, am I not simply reduced to intrinsic motivation?

    There might be other objections here too. Atheists and skeptics champion empiricism because of certain background views about our epistemic position in the world. But given God’s power, he could easily put us in an epistemic position where the experience of evil is not necessary (ie. a priori knowledge similar to basic logic or something). Given the limits of experiencing evil for the purpose of motivation, though, this objection isn’t even necessary.

    Or I could read you as saying something about the value of moral significance, in which case I would deny that my having the ability to inflict horrendous evils enrichens my moral experience appreciably.

    One last complaint; your theodicy doesn’t address evils not immediately associated with moral failure ie. natural evils. That tsunami and disease victims are fallout from some moral failure (such as the Fall) is not empirically-supported. Very well, anyway; the best we can do is reference to Scripture, it seems. In which case, disease and seismic shifts are not justified by their role in informing us about the danger of disobedience to God.

  21. Ronin says:

    cl,

    Alright. Would it be true that in order for God to be good [as asserted in 1] all (“all” is tricky word to use but see the next sentence to further understand the thought process) would have the ability to make a conscious choice to either accept or reject God, since 3 would be an effect which depends on having the ability to accept God? If certain people cannot make a conscious choice to accept God, and these individuals are denied 3 we have a reason to doubt certain aspects of 1. Does that make sense?

  22. cl says:

    Yeah, that makes sense, but I doubt a good God would leave people hanging. Take for instance a person who never had the consciousness in this life to make a decision (birth defect, accident, etc.). Wouldn’t a good God give them a chance?

  23. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    Yeah, that makes sense, but I doubt a good God would leave people hanging.

    Yeah, I doubt God would do that too.

    Take for instance a person who never had the consciousness in this life to make a decision (birth defect, accident, etc.). Wouldn’t a good God give them a chance?

    Right (I believe God would consider them somehow), I was going to present a similar idea to what you wrote but you beat me to it. However, that’s the problem I have with Calvinism or any other theological strain which supports a view that humans are totally depraved and God does not “change” their nature in order for them to accept Him. Hence, my point, if the God of Calvinism is true your argument is affected; because, 1 would come into question (God being “good”), and 3 is not even relevant for those who cannot choose God. Does that make sense?

  24. cl says:

    Ronin,

    However, that’s the problem I have with Calvinism or any other theological strain which supports a view that humans are totally depraved and God does not “change” their nature in order for them to accept Him.

    Well yeah, but as far as I understand it, they mean God doesn’t toy with people’s nature in this life. Right? That’s different than, say, God granting an invalid some post-mortem consciousness to have a discussion, know what I mean?

    Hence, my point, if the God of Calvinism is true your argument is affected;

    How so? My argument suggests that we don’t need skeptical theism in order to defang the POE. All we need to do is argue that an eternity of good outweighs the temporal suffering. Don’t let Stephen R. Diamond muddy the waters, there’s only one infinity under consideration given universalism. It’s almost as if he doesn’t know what that word means.

    Anyways, I see what you’re saying, don’t get me wrong. You’re saying, “If Calvinism is true we have reason to doubt 1,” but even if it turned out that Calvinism was true and everything else was the same, my argument would still work. There would still be a higher good. It would just be the case that our moral intuitions were wrong in that regard (meaning we thought “God is good” means everybody gets a chance, but it didn’t turn out that way). That wouldn’t refute the argument, at least, not that I can see.

  25. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    Well yeah, but as far as I understand it, they mean God doesn’t toy with people’s nature in this life. Right?

    Not quite. Let’s look at what RC Sproul claims,

    A cardinal point or Reformed theology [Calvinism] is the maxim: “Regeneration precedes faith.” Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order to believe.

    Source: Chosen By God, page 72. (emphasis is mine)

    To me, this means that unless God “regenerates” one cannot put their faith in God. So, unless I am missing something my objection(s) still stand(s).

    …but even if it turned out that Calvinism was true and everything else was the same, my argument would still work. There would still be a higher good.

    I am not saying there would be no “higher good,” but I am saying this “higher good” would only be for a selected group, and those who missed out on this “higher good” missed out on the higher good through no fault of their own, since they were left in a state where they could not choose God. Therefore, we have reason(s) to doubt 1.

  26. cl says:

    Ronin,

    I am not saying there would be no “higher good,”

    Okay, so do you agree with the original post, then? Specifically, do you agree that—regardless of whether Calvinism is true—we don’t need to appeal to ST to defeat the POE, and that it is sufficient to identify the higher good?

    If not, I’m having trouble seeing how your objections impact the overall argument my sketched-out argument is intended to support. Could you run through it?

  27. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Sorry, I lost you in the fray here.

    since understanding how something is wrong does not depend on that something actually occurring;

    Do we have reason to accept that as true? What makes you think my belief in “non-natural” (a term that certainly needs unpacking) moral facts would require me to accept that? The evil “actually occurring” is the ultimate proof that God is right and we are wrong. To me, this seems impossible without allowance.

    Even a moral naturalist doesn’t need to experiment with murder to know that it is wrong.

    That’s only because they live in a world where murders already occur, but would that hold if there had never been any evil? Said moral naturalist already sees the destructive effects of murder all around us, right? For that reason, they are—in a very real sense—part of the experiment already, wouldn’t you say?

    Would it not be a more emphatic demonstration of the need to obey God if disobedience correlated with suffering?

    It ultimately does, we just can’t always identify every step of the causal chain, and the results aren’t always immediate.

    There might be other objections here too.

    Well, to say there might be “other” objections implies that the ones you left stand, but I don’t see that they do. I think you’d need to sketch out a fuller response.

    But given God’s power, he could easily put us in an epistemic position where the experience of evil is not necessary (ie. a priori knowledge similar to basic logic or something).

    How so? You can’t know what strawberry ice cream tastes like unless you sample it. Sure, somebody could use language or logic to describe it to you, but you can’t know unless you taste. Similarly, you can’t know that disobedience leads to suffering unless you’re allowed to disobey and suffer.

  28. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    Okay, so do you agree with the original post, then?

    I partly agree with your post and only concede 1 & 3 if Calvinism is NOT true. If Calvinism is true, how could you hold to 1 (given what I have explained above)? It does not matter the Calvinist believes God is good, because there are reasons to doubt God is good should Calvinism be true; so, I am having trouble seeing what you want me to run through.

    …and that it is sufficient to identify the higher good?

    I suppose it would be sufficient for those who get the opportunity to choose whether or not they get this “highest good”. Is it sufficient to simply say, “There is a higher good but it is not objectively based?” I would say, No.

  29. Adamoriens says:

    Since it’s the evidential argument from evil we’re talking about, any theodicy to defuse it should explain the amount and types of evil we experience, not just it’s existence alone. It strikes me odd to think that the enormous amount of suffering we experience is precisely that required to demonstrate the danger of disobeying God. This problem is especially exacerbated by the admission that the correlation between suffering and disobedience is not emphatically observed:

    It ultimately does, we just can’t always identify every step of the causal chain, and the results aren’t always immediate.

    If empirical verification of the need to obey God is what we’d expect given God’s existence, why do we lack it in the most important time of our consciousness (ie. when our eternal destiny is in the balance)?

    With respect to moral knowledge, God is morally perfect and perfectly morally knowledgeable, all without needing to commit, permit, or observe evil. Therefore, any limitation on our having moral knowledge without the expedience of committing whatever evil we want is artificial. Is there something logically incoherent about a race of immortals understanding that the malicious termination of a mortal is wrong? When they encounter their first mortal, is there any reason to think they couldn’t be sufficiently morally equipped?

    Well, to say there might be “other” objections implies that the ones you left stand, but I don’t see that they do. I think you’d need to sketch out a fuller response.

    I don’t see where you’ve answered my question about natural evil. Let me rephrase:

    Not only does suffering fail to correlate significantly with disobedience to God, relative to the individual, there is no (emphatic) empirical demonstration that suffering would cease were disobedience to cease. Likewise, there is no emphatic empirical demonstration that it was disobedience that brought around suffering in the first place. For that we rely on scripture and dogma.

    Therefore it seems to me that, if your theodicy were what we’d expect of God, our present world is a very poorly ordered place.

  30. cl says:

    Ronin,

    But what I’m saying is that the remnant would be the higher good. Therefore, even if Calvinism is true, the higher good obtains.

    Adamoriens,

    If empirical verification of the need to obey God is what we’d expect given God’s existence, why do we lack it in the most important time of our consciousness (ie. when our eternal destiny is in the balance)?

    I don’t think we lack it. The proofs are all around us. Look at our world. Look at all that results from killing, theft, dishonoring our parents, overwork, greed… all those things God told us not to do.

    Is there something logically incoherent about a race of immortals understanding that the malicious termination of a mortal is wrong?

    No, but they could never *KNOW* this was true until they observed it. Without being allowed to observe it, they—just like today’s skeptics—could always retort, “But God, I don’t believe you,” and the only way God could prove it is by allowing it.

    Not only does suffering fail to correlate significantly with disobedience to God, relative to the individual, there is no (emphatic) empirical demonstration that suffering would cease were disobedience to cease.

    I disagree, strongly. Wouldn’t suffering decrease if more people obeyed God’s decrees, not to murder, not to steal, not to bear false witness against one another?

    Where does this leave us? I realize it’s been a while since this discussion was fresh, so we might need to backtrack a little. Either way, thanks for the continued input.

  31. Ronin says:

    cl,

    But I am talking about 1 & 3 in your argument and you are talking about 5. Wouldn’t an arbitrary God affect 5 where 5 would be lesser when compared to Universalism, Molinism, etc.?

  32. Adamoriens says:

    Hi cl. Welcome back.

    You make some good points, so I’m going to toss most of those objections for now. What I’d like to know is how this sort of theodicy fares better than others against Rowe-style arguments. For example, there is a considerable class of evils which we cannot directly attribute to the moral failure of humans; this is why I say that suffering would not cease were obedience to God to increase (though I concede that suffering would be diminished overall). And this class of evils is precisely what Rowe’s argument begins from.

    It still seems to me that moral evil is not required for moral knowledge. I wrote:

    Is there something logically incoherent about a race of immortals understanding that the malicious termination of a mortal is wrong?

    You responded:

    No, but they could never *KNOW* this was true until they observed it. Without being allowed to observe it, they—just like today’s skeptics—could always retort, “But God, I don’t believe you,” and the only way God could prove it is by allowing it.

    Either you contradict yourself, or you differentiate between “understanding” and “knowing.” Anyway, I remain curious as to how you see God’s moral knowledge; how did he acquire it without committing evil or allowing others to? Presumably he’s had it all along, no?

  33. cl says:

    Ronin,

    I think I finally see the source of our contention. You seem to imply that God can only be good if all are saved, whereas I state that God is good if and only if there is a higher good. I don’t think all need to be saved in order to have a higher good. Sure, the “higher good” under universalism would be quantitatively “more good” than the “higher good” under Calvinism, but either way, we still have a higher good, therefore P1 remains true.

  34. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    For example, there is a considerable class of evils which we cannot directly attribute to the moral failure of humans; this is why I say that suffering would not cease were obedience to God to increase (though I concede that suffering would be diminished overall).

    I disagree because on my view, suffering entered the world precisely because of human moral failure, and this includes natural suffering. On my view, all suffering is directly attributable to moral failure. Therefore, if there was no moral failure, there would be no suffering, natural or otherwise, as there would be no need for death.

    It still seems to me that moral evil is not required for moral knowledge. [...] Either you contradict yourself, or you differentiate between “understanding” and “knowing.”

    I don’t see that I’m being inconsistent or contradictory at all. I don’t differentiate between “understanding” and “knowing,” at least, not in the context of this argument. Both mean “awareness of an objective fact” as used here. By “moral evil” I refer to moral facts, i.e., that certain actions are, in fact, morally evil. Given that clarification, why shouldn’t moral knowledge be dependent on empirical evidence in the same way any other knowledge is? Recall my argument which you responded to a few months back:

    P1 Facts are objective;
    P2 If they exist, moral facts are objective in the same way other facts are objective;
    P3 Moral facts exist;
    P4 An omniscient, omnibenevolent God would have perfect access to the set of moral facts;
    C A system of morality dictated by an omniscient, omnibenevolent God is therefore the best system of morality possible.

    Per P2, it follows that moral facts require empirical confirmation in the same way other objective facts do, since they are objective in the same way other facts are. We can’t know scientific facts without empirical confirmation, right? Is there a good reason to make an exception for moral facts?

    I remain curious as to how you see God’s moral knowledge; how did he acquire it without committing evil or allowing others to? Presumably he’s had it all along, no?

    I’m not sure I’d say God acquired it. As omniscient Creator, God would know beforehand. I’m not saying empirical confirmation is necessary for *ALL BEINGS* to know the truth. That stipulation only holds for less-than-omniscient beings.

  35. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    I think I finally see the source of our contention. You seem to imply that God can only be good if all are saved, whereas I state that God is good if and only if there is a higher good.

    Incorrect, I am not saying God has to save at all. I pointed out that in Calvinism we have thus:

    A cardinal point or Reformed theology [Calvinism] is the maxim: “Regeneration precedes faith.” Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order to believe.

    Therefore, those who God does not regenerate could never chose Him. For the God of Calvinism to expect people to choose Him without “regenerating” them is suspect at best.

  36. Ronin says:

    I had written: “Incorrect, I am not saying God has to save at all.” It should be “Incorrect, I am not saying God has to save all.”

  37. cl says:

    Ronin,

    Man, this is tough as ever. Don’t give up though. If you do, we’ve wasted a lot of time. I’m confused because at #28 you wrote:

    If Calvinism is true, how could you hold to 1 (given what I have explained above)? It does not matter the Calvinist believes God is good, because there are reasons to doubt God is good should Calvinism be true

    I interpreted that to mean, “if Calvinism is true, not all will be saved, thus there are reasons to doubt God is good,” but your most recent response suggests either that I may have misinterpreted your remark, or that your sentiments have evolved somewhat since #28.

    At any rate, if Calvinism is true, what reasons do we have to doubt 1?

  38. Adamoriens says:

    I disagree because on my view, suffering entered the world precisely because of human moral failure, and this includes natural suffering. On my view, all suffering is directly attributable to moral failure. Therefore, if there was no moral failure, there would be no suffering, natural or otherwise, as there would be no need for death.

    I imagine your view is a consequence of the dogma of the Fall. But dogma doesn’t demonstrate anything to us with empirical certainty. My point is that, when confronted with many evils, we are not impressed with the need to be good, but rather by the disorder and chaos of the universe. And this doesn’t appear to be an irrational reaction.

    But if this considerable amount of evil is ineffective in demonstrating the need to obey God, then the theodicy itself is ineffective.

    I’m not sure I’d say God acquired it. As omniscient Creator, God would know beforehand. I’m not saying empirical confirmation is necessary for *ALL BEINGS* to know the truth. That stipulation only holds for less-than-omniscient beings.

    I wonder if you could delineate how we acquire moral knowledge, and why the only logically possible way we (or sentient creatures of equal value) could possess it is as you describe. After all, God is only bound by logical possibility.

    From your line of argument, it would appear you agree that my moral knowledge could be improved were I to commit more various and heinous crimes. This is an odd ethic.

  39. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    But dogma doesn’t demonstrate anything to us with empirical certainty.

    Of course it doesn’t. You said (and I’m paraphrasing) that obedience would decrease suffering related to moral evil, but not natural evil. I replied that obedience would have prevented the suffering that results from BOTH moral and natural. In terms of responding to Rowe-esque arguments, all that matters is whether this is logically sound, and it is. So Rowe-esque arguments stand defanged.

    My point is that, when confronted with many evils, we are not impressed with the need to be good,

    Your use of “we” implies that I also share that impression, but I don’t. When I’m confronted with so-called natural evils, I *AM* impressed with the need to be good, and there are many others like me.

    …if this considerable amount of evil is ineffective in demonstrating the need to obey God, then the theodicy itself is ineffective.

    It *IS* effective though, that’s the whole point. Consider judgment day. God says, “Okay humans, you see all the evil that resulted from your refusal to obey me? Does that not effectively demonstrate the need to obey me?” Would you say no?

    I wonder if you could delineate how we acquire moral knowledge,

    Via experience. When we see our brother crying because we punched him in the face over nothing, we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that doing so causes harm and qualifies as moral evil.

    …and why the only logically possible way we (or sentient creatures of equal value) could possess it is as you describe.

    Because we can’t know what strawberry tastes like until we taste it.

    From your line of argument, it would appear you agree that my moral knowledge could be improved were I to commit more various and heinous crimes.

    Not at all. You already know those heinous crimes are morally evil.

  40. Ronin says:

    cl wrote:

    Man, this is tough as ever. Don’t give up though. If you do, we’ve wasted a lot of time. I’m confused because at #28…

    We can take as long as you like. That said, post #28 flows from and does not contradict post #25; unless, you are seeing something I am not.

  41. Adamoriens says:

    Of course it doesn’t. You said (and I’m paraphrasing) that obedience would decrease suffering related to moral evil, but not natural evil. I replied that obedience would have prevented the suffering that results from BOTH moral and natural. In terms of responding to Rowe-esque arguments, all that matters is whether this is logically sound, and it is. So Rowe-esque arguments stand defanged.

    My apologies if I haven’t grasped your theodicy. Here is what I understand:

    It would be a valuable state of affairs if humans were to enter heaven through free moral choices. The moral knowledge required for right moral choice, then, requires both total moral freedom and the permission of moral evil. This is because (the best) moral knowledge only comes about through the experience of evil. Given that moral facts are identical to God’s commands, the occurrence of evil demonstrates what disobedience to God looks like.

    My objections:

    Sufficient moral knowledge can be had prior to the occurrence of evil. If God can act in a right way without committing or permitting evil, why can’t we? What is it about his type of knowledge that would make it deficient in humans? There seems to be nothing incoherent about humans or beings of equal sentience having a priori moral knowledge; many think that humans have exactly this. Indeed, you point to harm as a moral evil- but this is not something to be learned from experience so far as I can tell.

    It *IS* effective though, that’s the whole point. Consider judgment day. God says, “Okay humans, you see all the evil that resulted from your refusal to obey me? Does that not effectively demonstrate the need to obey me?” Would you say no?

    Yes. If disobedience to God “is” moral evil, than we don’t need to commit moral evil to know what disobedience to God looks like- both concepts refer to the same thing.

    Your use of “we” implies that I also share that impression, but I don’t. When I’m confronted with so-called natural evils, I *AM* impressed with the need to be good, and there are many others like me.

    I mean to say that when we are confronted by such evils, we (I) are (am) not impressed with the moral failures that caused them; for that we rely on dogma. Not the emphatic demonstration we expect given your theodicy.

    I wonder if you could delineate how we acquire moral knowledge,

    Via experience. When we see our brother crying because we punched him in the face over nothing, we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that doing so causes harm and qualifies as moral evil.

    “Harm is evil” is moral knowledge. We only need a rudimentary understanding of physics and the human body, and perhaps the occasional experience of pain to know what will bring harm. We don’t need bayoneted newborns or roasting deer.

    But those extreme instances are what we’re trying to explain.

    From your line of argument, it would appear you agree that my moral knowledge could be improved were I to commit more various and heinous crimes.

    Not at all. You already know those heinous crimes are morally evil.

    So did Cain. God held him responsible for the first murder.

  42. Whether there can be a priori knowledge.

    What is knowledge? On one account, popular with epistemologists, knowledge is belief attained through a reliable mechanism. It seems to me this doesn’t exclude, as a matter of logic, innate knowledge, but in practice innate beliefs aren’t reliable. For instance, we have innate fearful beliefs about things not warranting fear.

    So, to give humans innate knowledge, what would be necessary is to purge our misguided innate beliefs. As to a deity, I suppose omniscience would count as a reliable mechanism (if you leave out the “mechanism” part).

  43. But cl’s argument that you learn aggression is “evil” by committing it and observing the reaction of your victim–that appeals to another innate belief. Who knows that making someone cry is bad? That isn’t any more self-evident than that hitting them is bad. After all, the child hits precisely in order to hurt. Learning that hurt results is uninstructive.

  44. cl says:

    Ronin,

    The problem is that I still don’t understand your objection and/or argument. If Calvinism is true, what reasons do we have to doubt 1?

  45. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Your last response is quite lengthy, so I’m only going to address the biggest disconnect at the moment. I said,

    It *IS* effective though, that’s the whole point. Consider judgment day. God says, “Okay humans, you see all the evil that resulted from your refusal to obey me? Does that not effectively demonstrate the need to obey me?” Would you say no?

    …and you replied (bold mine),

    Yes. If disobedience to God “is” moral evil, than we don’t need to commit moral evil to know what disobedience to God looks like- both concepts refer to the same thing.

    Really? So, if God were to return to Earth tomorrow, point to the widespread greed, corruption, suffering, wars, pollution, etc. and say, “See humans, here is the undeniable proof that you need to obey me or else this bad stuff will result,” you *WOULDN’T* consider God’s case effectively demonstrated? Why not? What would it take to convince you that we need to listen to our Creator?

  46. cl says:

    Stephen,

    Learning that hurt results is uninstructive.

    There are two types of morally evil act on my view: ones where the agent knows they are doing something wrong (the child who hits “precisely to hurt” as you allude to), and those who don’t know they are doing wrong. For the child who hits “precisely to hurt,” of course learning that hurt results is uninstructive. However, think about the thief who doesn’t think it’s a big deal to steal from his neighbor. Then let’s say God allows somebody to steal from him, so that the thief experiences the same privation his theft inflicted on his neighbor.

    Would you say that was instructive?

  47. Ronin says:

    cl,

    Carry on then, because I am at a lost where to go from here.

  48. Adamoriens says:

    Really? So, if God were to return to Earth tomorrow, point to the widespread greed, corruption, suffering, wars, pollution, etc. and say, “See humans, here is the undeniable proof that you need to obey me or else this bad stuff will result,” you *WOULDN’T* consider God’s case effectively demonstrated? Why not? What would it take to convince you that we need to listen to our Creator?

    When God commands a prohibition on murder or lying, we don’t need to subsequently murder and lie to confirm that we ought to obey God. That was implicit in the command itself. In this respect, nothing is gained from the permission of moral evil save for extrinsic motivation.

    The force of your scenario derives from the presence of God; this would improve extrinsic motivation rather than moral knowledge (I assume that God has already issued commands, and that, as per Christianity, each person has sufficient moral knowledge thereby to be held responsible for their sins).

  49. think about the thief who doesn’t think it’s a big deal to steal from his neighbor. Then let’s say God allows somebody to steal from him, so that the thief experiences the same privation his theft inflicted on his neighbor.

    Would you say that was instructive?

    Not in the sense of supplying new knowledge. Someone might abstain from thievery because he “knows” it’s morally wrong; someone else might abstain because he empathizes with the victim. The first can come without the second: otherwise, how explain that empathy can keep us from murdering, despite our never experiencing being murdered. Learning that it harms you to be robbed doesn’t prove it harms others. One can still believe one is somehow special–more sensitive, more deserving–than others. As per Admoriens, this effect doesn’t really relate to knowledge.

    And the same issue arises for empathy-based altruism as for “moral” knowledge. Why couldn’t a deity give us a stronger innate sense of empathy, so that we are able to empathize without our experiencing victimization?

  50. cl says:

    Ronin,

    What do you mean you’re at a loss? Can’t you just answer the question? What reasons do we have to doubt 1 if Calvinism is true? You answering that question is the only way this discussion can proceed.

    Stephen,

    Not in the sense of supplying new knowledge.

    You’re wrong. The point is simple and clear: sometimes it takes somebody “wronging” you to realize that you’ve wronged others. That doesn’t mean there won’t ever be an exception (cf. the sociopath you allude to). Nonetheless, we’re getting off track here. The original point is that the only way God can conclusively prove our need for obedience is to allow us the chance to disobey and observe the results. This is science, not “morality.”

    Why couldn’t a deity give us a stronger innate sense of empathy, so that we are able to empathize without our experiencing victimization?

    Why is it always the fault of the deity? Why can’t we just do as we’re told?

    Adamoriens,

    You didn’t answer the question, so, I don’t think we can make any progress, which is unfortunate, because I really liked where this was going. Will you consider answering the question? Do you really not think that the sum of suffering effectively demonstrates the need to obey? If not, why not?

  51. Ronin says:

    cl wrote:

    What do you mean you’re at a loss? Can’t you just answer the question? What reasons do we have to doubt 1 if Calvinism is true? You answering that question is the only way this discussion can proceed.

    Dude, I feel like we are wasting time here, why continue? I mean, when I re-read posts #18, #19, #21, #22, #25, and #28 [along with the other posts] I have already given reason(s) as to why I doubt 1 in your argument if Calvinism were true. You agreed with post #18 in post #19, right? Posts #25 and 35 give an example of a what I briefly discussed in posts #18, what more do you want?

  52. cl says:

    Ronin,

    …I feel like we are wasting time here, why continue?

    I don’t mind spending a few minutes per comment in the hopes of solving what seems to be a major problem communicating. To me, it’s worth it. That said, in #18, your objection was that God could not be called “good” if not all get a “crack” at the higher good, correct?

  53. Adamoriens says:

    You didn’t answer the question, so, I don’t think we can make any progress, which is unfortunate, because I really liked where this was going. Will you consider answering the question? Do you really not think that the sum of suffering effectively demonstrates the need to obey? If not, why not?

    The whole sum? Of course not; there is plenty of evil that cannot be plausibly attributed to moral failure. Even if there were not, it would be morally repugnant to use people as mere means to an end, more so when that end is just a cosmic “I told you so” moment. It would be disgusting if parents, schools or governments behaved in this manner, much less God.

  54. Ronin says:

    cl,

    Fair enough. Let’s see, you wrote,

    That said, in #18, your objection was that God could not be called “good” if not all get a “crack” at the higher good, correct?

    Yes and no (I say “no” here because I went from “all” to “a lot” later in that post), here is what I wrote,

    I was not implying universalism, actually. Perhaps I should have been clearer. I am not trying to assert that all get to go to heaven, but that all (perhaps a better word is a lot) get a “crack” at this “highest good” (except for those who cannot exercise consciousness; these sorts of cases might have to be weighed differently).

    (I added italics and bold for emphasis.)

    One of the reasons I differentiated from “all” to “a lot” is: people with [i.e.] mental disorders and/or mentally incapacitated cannot be held to the same standard as a person who has no disorder and/or no incapacity and is capable of making a choice in accepting Christ.

    An individual who cannot make a conscious choice because their incapacity should not be held accountable for not being able to make that choice, correct? Well, let me quote RC for the third time,

    …unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ.

    In fact, the Calvinist believes God will never regenerate some people. Yet, these individuals are going to be held accountable for not choosing Christ. Noting what Sproul wrote above, why should I not doubt 1 when considering the God of Calvinism?

  55. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Of course not; there is plenty of evil that cannot be plausibly attributed to moral failure.

    With all due respect, you seem to be misunderstanding the question in light of the Biblical premises I’m arguing from. YOU might personally be skeptical of the claim that ALL suffering resulted from the Fall, but if we are to evaluate the Bible for logical consistency, we must evaluate it on it’s own terms. I’m asking you to grant the Biblical premise and then answer the question accordingly, in hopes of showing MY logical consistency given the Biblical premises I accept.

    …it would be morally repugnant to use people as mere means to an end,

    Oh come on, society does this all the time! Employers use employees as means to an end. Politicians use constituents as means to end. Hell, it even works the other way. Employees use employers as means to an end. Parents use children as means to an end (chores). What’s so bad about that?

    It would be disgusting if parents, schools or governments behaved in this manner, much less God.

    Why? Parents often behave in this manner, precisely for the benefit of their children. Children often can’t realize the consequences of their actions, and are often wont to obey their parents, right? Right. You can’t deny that. For that reason, many parents will allow their children to experience a little pain in order to learn a lesson. As one example, my daughter constantly haggles our cat and pulls his tail, and no matter how many times I tell her not to, she continues. Well, one day I decided I would just back off and let her do it, and soon thereafter she got scratched. Guess what? She doesn’t haggle the cats as much anymore. For a second example, see here. So I guess according to you both me and my dad are repugnant moral monsters?

    But all that is only secondary. Let’s try it this way:

    God: “I have given you eternal life on this awesome planet, all you have to do is obey me or else death and suffering will enter the picture and the planet will not be as awesome anymore.”
    Man: “Wow, thanks God, that’s really awesome, but… is it really true that death and suffering will enter the picture and the planet will not be as awesome anymore? I mean come on God, it’s just an apple.”
    God: “Yes, man, it is as I say. Trust me. Please obey, for the benefit of all creation. I do not want to see the horror that will result from your disobedience, nor do I want my creation to have to endure death and suffering.”
    Man: “Well, I think I’ll disobey anyways.”
    God: “Okay, that’s your choice, but now you have to reap what you sow.”

    Fast forward X years and Y suffering (where X and Y are large numbers), and God has returned to judge man

    God: “You see, man? All these wars, all this moral evil, all these natural disasters… this ALL resulted because you chose to disobey me. Do you now understand the dire necessity of obedience? Have we not effectively demonstrated the dire necessity of obedience to my commands?”

    Now, are you REALLY going to tell me you’d say no? If that’s the case, I honestly shocked, as I’ve always had you pegged as one of the most consistent, forthright guys in the blogosphere. This is empiricism. This conclusion is inescapable.

  56. cl says:

    Ronin,

    If you don’t mind let’s proceed until you can respond with a yes and only a yes. As I understand it, you’re saying that God cannot be considered good given Calvinism because “a lot” of people wouldn’t get a “crack,” right?

  57. Ronin says:

    cl,

    I am not boiling my response to a mere “yes” or “no” since I believe you failed to fully represent my objection(s).

    You wrote:

    As I understand it, you’re saying that God cannot be considered good given Calvinism because “a lot” of people wouldn’t get a “crack,” right?

    Yes, but the reason I said that is: the God of Calvinism will judge people who He decided not to regenerate, but then, decides to judge them while never giving them a chance.

  58. cl says:

    So, in other words, your answer is yes. You simply assumed I didn’t understand the reasoning behind your answer. I did. Sheesh. Work with me a little here. There’s an oft-overlooked verse about letting one’s “yes” be “yes” and their “no” be “no.” We’d all do well to heed these words. Without clear “yes” and “no” people leave the doors open for all sorts of obfuscation and back-peddling. Without clear “yes” or “no” we lack firmly cemented goalposts. You know this.

    At any rate, my 1 doesn’t state, “God is only good if most or all get a crack at salvation.” My 1 states only, “A good God would only permit suffering if there was a higher good.” Since we have a higher good here, 1 is fulfilled, is it not?

    Sure, I agree with you that Calvinism seems unfair, and I myself find it hard to square with verses like 1 Timothy 2:4, but can you see why I don’t think your objection is germane to the topic at hand? It seems to have nothing to do with the ramifications of accepting skeptical theism in response to POE arguments.

    OTOH, if you think your objection *IS* germane to the topic at hand, can you explain why?

    I’m not trying to haggle you here. I’m trying to understand, parse through things, and see if what you’re saying actually impacts the argument I made in the OP. I don’t see that it does. It seems tangential.

  59. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    You simply assumed I didn’t understand the reasoning behind your answer.

    Did I?

    There’s an oft-overlooked verse about letting one’s “yes” be “yes” and their “no” be “no.” We’d all do well to heed these words. Without clear “yes” and “no” people leave the doors open for all sorts of obfuscation and back-peddling. Without clear “yes” or “no” we lack firmly cemented goalposts. You know this.

    And, I gave you a “yes” but I added my caveat. I am not sure why you think I just needed to accept your ultimatum of a “yes” or a “no,” since we have been going in circles.

    At any rate, my 1 doesn’t state, “God is only good if most or all get a crack at salvation.”

    I suppose it would be great if you could clarify what you mean by “good” in your 1.

    My 1 states only, “A good God would only permit suffering if there was a higher good.” Since we have a higher good here, 1 is fulfilled, is it not?

    What sort of value does the “higher good” in your 1 have for the individual who will never be regenerated? In other words, your claim of a “higher good” under the God of Calvinism is meaningless unless you are one of the ones who is regenerated, because the higher good will never be real for a person who has been exempted from regeneration. In fact, the lack of the “higher good” even in possibility is telling. Your 1 hinges on the assertion that God allows suffering only if there is a higher good. Well, how is this “higher good” relevant in reality or in possibility to those who will never be regenerated by the God of Calvinism? Don’t they suffer too?

  60. cl says:

    It’s not an ultimatum. I just get sick of the wishy-washyness and quite frankly you’re one of the last people I expected that from.

    Well, how is this “higher good” relevant in reality or in possibility to those who will never be regenerated by the God of Calvinism?

    It’s not, but I don’t see how this matters, as earlier you said it didn’t matter if everybody partook of the higher good or not. My 1 doesn’t say, “God is good if and only if everybody gets a crack at salvation.” My 1 says, well.. forget it, I’m not going to repeat myself.

    And again, this is complete derailment from the original topic. For whatever reason, you simply refuse to address the argument on it’s own terms.

    You’re right, this is a total waste of time.

  61. Ronin says:

    It’s not an ultimatum. I just get sick of the wishy-washyness and quite frankly you’re one of the last people I expected that from.

    Right?

    It’s not, but I don’t see how this matters, as earlier you said it didn’t matter if everybody partook of the higher good or not.

    And? The higher good remains a possibility for them under Molinism and Arminianism even if it does not come to reality.

    And again, this is complete derailment from the original topic. For whatever reason, you simply refuse to address the argument on it’s own terms.

    Whatever you say bud.

  62. cl says:

    What? It’s true. I asked you to explain how your objection was germane to the skeptical theism issue. What you’re talking about is a tangential issue, a completely different approach of trying to evaluate whether God is good or not. Now, you can show me wrong, and if you do, I’ll gladly apologize and pick up the ball again, but that’s up to you.

  63. Ronin says:

    I asked you to explain how your objection was germane to the skeptical theism issue.

    What skeptical theism issue? You spent an entire post trying to convince Christians that skeptical theism is not necessary when addressing the POE. In your post you gave your “sketched argument” [which includes 1] as part of an explanation as to why Christians should NOT appeal to ST. Unless, I missed something you are claiming a good God would ONLY allow suffering if X, which would be a major part in your argument. I am questioning how X is real or possible [since there is no sort of potential] for some in Calvinism. You, however, do not think it’s an issue; that’s you, but I think it is an issue and I believe I have reasons to doubt your 1 if Calvinism is true. However, as I wrote before, carry on.

  64. cl says:

    …you are claiming a good God would ONLY allow suffering if X, which would be a major part in your argument.

    Yes. That’s correct.

    I am questioning how X is real or possible [since there is no sort of potential] for some in Calvinism.

    X is real and possible because the higher good obtains whether Calvinism is true, or Universalism on the other end of the spectrum. Given Calvinism, that God doesn’t regenerate everybody doesn’t negate the undeniable fact that God still regenerates many. Therefore, a higher good obtains regardless of our theology. There is still a higher good even if God doesn’t regenerate everybody.

  65. cl says:

    You spent an entire post trying to convince Christians that skeptical theism is not necessary when addressing the POE.

    That’s correct. It’s not necessary. For Christians to nilly-willy say, “Oh, hum, I agree to all this evil, but God *MUST* have some sort of reason, I just don’t know what it is…” that’s a load of unbiblical chutzpah. Straight up.

    Skeptical theism is not necessary, whatsoever. It’s a cop-out that does more damage than good, and atheists like Hurford are correct to call it out as such.

    If you disagree, demonstrate otherwise. Demonstrate why skeptical theism *IS* necessary to defang the POE. Trust me, I’ll listen.

  66. Adamoriens says:

    With all due respect, you seem to be misunderstanding the question in light of the Biblical premises I’m arguing from. YOU might personally be skeptical of the claim that ALL suffering resulted from the Fall, but if we are to evaluate the Bible for logical consistency, we must evaluate it on it’s own terms. I’m asking you to grant the Biblical premise and then answer the question accordingly, in hopes of showing MY logical consistency given the Biblical premises I accept.

    Well, perhaps this is where we divide ways. I’ve taken your theodicy at face-value and tried to evaluate it on moral grounds; if you’re correct in that this theodicy is implicit in Christianity, then I find morally implausibility implicit in Christianity as well.

    Out of curiousity, though, what is the biblical support for your theodicy? Is there some passage from which you adduced this God-justifying reason?

    Oh come on, society does this all the time! Employers use employees as means to an end. Politicians use constituents as means to end. Hell, it even works the other way. Employees use employers as means to an end. Parents use children as means to an end (chores). What’s so bad about that?

    I should append, “in this manner.” It seems to me that people are not to be made to suffer, or permitted to suffer, when that suffering brings about no sufficient good for themselves and when it takes place without their consent. Even pain-neutral control without consent is taken to be wrong (rape, slavery). Perhaps, even permission of consensual suffering without sufficient justification is wrong (ie. the self-mutilation among teenage girls).

    Why? Parents often behave in this manner, precisely for the benefit of their children. Children often can’t realize the consequences of their actions, and are often wont to obey their parents, right? Right. You can’t deny that. For that reason, many parents will allow their children to experience a little pain in order to learn a lesson. As one example, my daughter constantly haggles our cat and pulls his tail, and no matter how many times I tell her not to, she continues. Well, one day I decided I would just back off and let her do it, and soon thereafter she got scratched. Guess what? She doesn’t haggle the cats as much anymore. For a second example, see here. So I guess according to you both me and my dad are repugnant moral monsters?

    There are booboos, and there are the mutilated and burnt corpses of millions. Are the tortured, shredded bodies of your children logically necessary and sufficiently justified by the need to learn the danger of disobedience toward God?

    Sure, I can deny that.

    God: “I have given you eternal life on this awesome planet, all you have to do is obey me or else death and suffering will enter the picture and the planet will not be as awesome anymore.”
    Man: “Wow, thanks God, that’s really awesome, but… is it really true that death and suffering will enter the picture and the planet will not be as awesome anymore? I mean come on God, it’s just an apple.”
    God: “Yes, man, it is as I say. Trust me. Please obey, for the benefit of all creation. I do not want to see the horror that will result from your disobedience, nor do I want my creation to have to endure death and suffering.”
    Man: “Well, I think I’ll disobey anyways.”
    God: “Okay, that’s your choice, but now you have to reap what you sow.”
    Fast forward X years and Y suffering (where X and Y are large numbers), and God has returned to judge man
    God: “You see, man? All these wars, all this moral evil, all these natural disasters… this ALL resulted because you chose to disobey me. Do you now understand the dire necessity of obedience? Have we not effectively demonstrated the dire necessity of obedience to my commands?”

    It’s a striking narrative. No such exchange takes place in the Bible, though. The most that God told Adam and Eve is that they would die if they ate or touched the fruit. The serpent does behave in the manner you ascribe to Man, introducing some doubt as to whether disobedience from God would really kill them. But Eve’s motives (in the NIV, anyway) are rather pure; the fruit was beautiful and looked good to eat, and “desirable for gaining wisdom.” Interestingly, Eve accuses the serpent of deception in the aftermath and God appears to agree, punishing it and the rest of its offspring for the offence.

    All that aside, there’s something weird about God permitting the suffering of the innocents so he can have a satisfying “I told you so” moment. If we’re making stuff up whole-cloth, I can come up with something more ethically plausible.

  67. Ronin says:

    X is real and possible because the higher good obtains whether Calvinism is true, or Universalism on the other end of the spectrum. Given Calvinism, that God doesn’t regenerate everybody doesn’t negate the undeniable fact that God still regenerates many. Therefore, a higher good obtains regardless of our theology. There is still a higher good even if God doesn’t regenerate everybody.

    So, in other words, just because there this “higher good” it negates the fact that this higher good is meaningless and valueless for some in Calvinism. Since this higher good exists and as long as one person experiences this higher good it voids the implications of meaninglessness for those who this higher good was never an option for. Yeah, I am not seeing what you seeing; honestly, I am content to agree to disagree with you.

  68. Ronin says:

    That’s correct. It’s not necessary. For Christians to nilly-willy say, “Oh, hum, I agree to all this evil, but God *MUST* have some sort of reason, I just don’t know what it is…” that’s a load of unbiblical chutzpah. Straight up.

    Well that is because not all Christians accept the writings in the Bible uncritically. There are verses that can certainly bring me question God’s character and what reasons God had for doing X. Straight up.

  69. cl says:

    Well that is because not all Christians accept the writings in the Bible uncritically. There are verses that can certainly bring me question God’s character and what reasons God had for doing X.

    Uh… since you weren’t straight up there, I have to ask: are you implying I don’t think critically about Scripture?

  70. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Honestly, in all our months of exchange, I’ve never seen you once act this way. I’ve never seen you shy away from a straight-forward answer to a question. Unfortunately, we can’t make any progress until you either admit that the suffering we observe is sufficient to demonstrate the need to obey God, or explain why it is NOT sufficient to demonstrate said need.

    The question is, if God were to return today and say, “Humans, the world you’ve lived in is the type of world that results from disobedience,” would you—or would you not—consider that an effective demonstration of the need to obey God? It’s a Boolean question that demands an honest, “yes” or “no” answer. That you find it “weird” or “repulsive” is beside the point.

    All that aside, there’s something weird about God permitting the suffering of the innocents so he can have a satisfying “I told you so” moment.

    …but you’re twisting my words, and that’s something else I’ve never seen you do. God isn’t permitting suffering BECAUSE God wants to have some sadistic, egomaniacal “I told you so” moment. On my view, God is permitting suffering so—and only so—a remnant can be saved and fully comprehend, with empirical certainty, the utter need to obey God at every turn, such that we can actually have an eternity of sinless creativity with God. The latter is only possible given full obedience.

  71. Adamoriens says:

    Right, I’ll take a break.

  72. SRD: Not in the sense of supplying new knowledge.

    CL: You’re wrong. The point is simple and clear: sometimes it takes somebody “wronging” you to realize that you’ve wronged others. That doesn’t mean there won’t ever be an exception (cf. the sociopath you allude to). Nonetheless, we’re getting off track here. The original point is that the only way God can conclusively prove our need for obedience is to allow us the chance to disobey and observe the results. This is science, not “morality.”

    I accept your simple fact. The question is what does it prove? What we’re discussing is whether a deity could have supplied a person with the information sufficient to rationally compel that person to accept the deity’s command. That this is the topic is shown by your analogy to knowing the taste of a strawberry without tasting it. You contended, in other words, that it is impossible to learn that something is wrong without experiencing the wrong. [If I'm mistaken about how strongly you take the analogy to taste, then I've misunderstood you.]

    Showing that in fact people don’t sometimes realize they’ve done wrong until they’re shown it by being victims of the same wrong doesn’t show that the information was previously unavailable to them. It only shows that they were motivated to use it. In fact, the best scientific explanation of this effect is empathy. Empathy doesn’t teach you anything; it supplies the incentive to access your knowledge (if you’re a moral realist) or just to act kindly (if you’re not).

  73. “It only shows that they were motivated to use it. ”

    Should be unmotivated

  74. Let me make the point stronger.

    the point is simple and clear: sometimes it takes somebody “wronging” you to realize that you’ve wronged others. (added emphasis)

    To sustain your position as I understand it–that experience is logically necessary to understand that something is “evil”–you need always instead of “sometimes.” Sometimes could be justified in that we don’t need experience for each incident. But you must assert–again, unless I misunderstand–that experiencing harm is a necessary part of learning that something is harmful. This doesn’t correspond to the current understanding of “moral” development; more importantly, it can’t be justified, as a matter of logic, by an account of moral knowledge anchored in experience.

  75. “–that experience is logically necessary to understand that something is “evil”–”

    I should say know rather than understand, since I think the possible distinction was the subject of a disagreement with Admoriens.

  76. Adamoriens says:

    Honestly, in all our months of exchange, I’ve never seen you once act this way. I’ve never seen you shy away from a straight-forward answer to a question. Unfortunately, we can’t make any progress until you either admit that the suffering we observe is sufficient to demonstrate the need to obey God, or explain why it is NOT sufficient to demonstrate said need.

    The question is, if God were to return today and say, “Humans, the world you’ve lived in is the type of world that results from disobedience,” would you—or would you not—consider that an effective demonstration of the need to obey God? It’s a Boolean question that demands an honest, “yes” or “no” answer. That you find it “weird” or “repulsive” is beside the point.

    To be fair, you’ve also failed to answer quite a few of my questions.

    Yes, that would be a sufficient demonstration that we ought to obey God (given ordinary moral obligations). Indeed, rather more than sufficient.

    …but you’re twisting my words, and that’s something else I’ve never seen you do. God isn’t permitting suffering BECAUSE God wants to have some sadistic, egomaniacal “I told you so” moment. On my view, God is permitting suffering so—and only so—a remnant can be saved and fully comprehend, with empirical certainty, the utter need to obey God at every turn, such that we can actually have an eternity of sinless creativity with God. The latter is only possible given full obedience.

    I apologize. But from the top:

    Why is suffering necessary for moral knowledge?
    Why is empirical certainty the only logically possible kind?
    Why is sinless creativity only logically possible given suffering?
    If Christians persist in sin while knowing why suffering exists, then isn’t some greater empirical certainty than we have now must be necessary to motivate us sufficiently for moral perfection?
    If so, why weren’t Adam and Eve offered this revelation?
    And if it’s revelation that we come to depend on in the end, whence cometh the need for empirical certainty and suffering in the first place?

  77. With all due respect, you [Adamoriens] seem to be misunderstanding the question in light of the Biblical premises I’m arguing from. YOU might personally be skeptical of the claim that ALL suffering resulted from the Fall, but if we are to evaluate the Bible for logical consistency, we must evaluate it on it’s own terms. I’m asking you to grant the Biblical premise and then answer the question accordingly, in hopes of showing MY logical consistency given the Biblical premises I accept.

    Well, that answers one of my preceding questions: why can’t Peter assume what is only reasonably believed? Except, you surely can’t expect Peter to answer that question in his blog. (Or can you, since perhaps he seemed to answer you?)

    But if you want to subject your logical coherence to fair attack, I think you must provide a larger circle of belief. For one thing, your beliefs apparently include established scientific conclusions. One would have to know how you situate the Fall in a reputable biology. When did humans actually emerge from infra-human animals, where the progression is held to be gradual? How did what evolutionists call a species of ape find itself ensconced in the Garden of Eden?

    Short of this, it seems to me that there are better ways to test your consistency than against a utilitarian standard, since even I know the God of the Bible is no utilitarian. I’d be interested in whether you can consistently explain how God is just in punishing the future descendents of Adam and Eve for their sins. Or how was God just in killing 10% of the Egyptian youth for the crimes of an absolutist Pharaoh?

  78. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    To be fair, you’ve also failed to answer quite a few of my questions.

    Actually, I think that’s being quite unfair, because in #50 I explained that I wanted to focus on this single issue until we had clear resolution on the question of whether the sum of suffering effectively demonstrates the need to obey. Now that we have clear resolution, I’ll answer all your questions in #76, plus any additional questions should you be willing to point me to them. As for these questions, I’m just trying to give short, straight, unequivocal answers, so I apologize beforehand if one or more thoughts aren’t sufficiently fleshed out for you. I’d be happy to elaborate on any of them.

    Why is suffering necessary for moral knowledge?

    For the same reason experiments are necessary for empirical knowledge.

    Why is empirical certainty the only logically possible kind?

    It’s not. For example, we have mathematical certainties (2+2=4), and observational or experiential certainties (we saw the Twin Towers fall).

    Why is sinless creativity only logically possible given suffering?

    It’s not. God engaged in sinless creativity, as did Adam and Eve before the Fall.

    If Christians persist in sin while knowing why suffering exists, then isn’t some greater empirical certainty than we have now must be necessary to motivate us sufficiently for moral perfection?

    No.

    If so, why weren’t Adam and Eve offered this revelation?

    N/A (because I replied “no” to the previous question).

    And if it’s revelation that we come to depend on in the end, whence cometh the need for empirical certainty and suffering in the first place?

    Because we disbelieved revelation the first time around, thus making empirical certainty necessary, even if it wasn’t God’s first choice or best-case-scenario.

  79. Adamoriens says:

    Hi cl,

    Why is suffering necessary for moral knowledge?

    For the same reason experiments are necessary for empirical knowledge.

    Isn’t a command from God sufficient for knowledge?

    Why is sinless creativity only logically possible given suffering?

    It’s not. God engaged in sinless creativity, as did Adam and Eve before the Fall.

    Then suffering is not justified by an eternity of sinless suffering, where justification for God’s allowing evil has two components:

    1. Justifying good outweighs evil.
    2. Evil is logically necessary to bring about justifying good.

    If Christians persist in sin while knowing why suffering exists, then isn’t some greater empirical certainty than we have now must be necessary to motivate us sufficiently for moral perfection?

    No.

    Do you mean to say that we have empirical certainty sufficient to motivate us for moral perfection (if so, why aren’t there any morally perfect humans)? Could we have done with less suffering and yet have sufficient empirical certainty? Why not one less tortured innocent? Why not ten?

  80. Adamoriens says:

    Also, what is the biblical basis for the historical portion of your theodicy?

  81. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Isn’t a command from God sufficient for knowledge?

    It’s sufficient to know God doesn’t want you to do X, it’s not sufficient to experience the real-world consequences of doing X.

    Then suffering is not justified by an eternity of sinless suffering, where justification for God’s allowing evil has two components:
    1. Justifying good outweighs evil.
    2. Evil is logically necessary to bring about justifying good.

    Can you flesh that out more for me? I want to be sure I understand exactly what you’re arguing there.

    Do you mean to say that we have empirical certainty sufficient to motivate us for moral perfection…

    Yes. You and I both agree that the evil / suffering we observe is sufficient to prove the absolute necessity of obedience to God.

    if so, why aren’t there any morally perfect humans?

    Because we still live in a fallen world. We still inherent flawed DNA. We’re still born in sin. Most importantly, we’re still subject to influence from evil principalities. Revelation says God will remove all these things after Judgement, and then we will have morally perfect humans.

    Also, what is the biblical basis for the historical portion of your theodicy?

    I’m not sure what you’re asking there.

  82. Adamoriens says:

    It’s sufficient to know God doesn’t want you to do X, it’s not sufficient to experience the real-world consequences of doing X.

    I take it that God’s issuing a command is sufficient for knowing what we ought to do or ought not to do. If so, then experiencing the fallout from doing X can only be motivationally helpful (if the fallout is personally adverse, anyway); it tells us nothing we didn’t already know about our moral obligations.

    Can you flesh that out more for me? I want to be sure I understand exactly what you’re arguing there.

    I misspoke. I mean to say, “suffering is not justified by an eternity of sinless creativity.” Earlier, you wrote:

    On my view, God is permitting suffering so—and only so—a remnant can be saved and fully comprehend, with empirical certainty, the utter need to obey God at every turn, such that we can actually have an eternity of sinless creativity with God. The latter is only possible given full obedience.

    Here, you explain that suffering is permitted so and only so a fraction of humanity can have an eternity of sinless creativity with God. But now you concede that, at the very least, sinless creativity is possible (perhaps not an eternity of it?) without suffering. If that’s so, then the good of eternal etc. can be brought about without suffering, and thus would’ve been if there were a God. But perhaps you mean to claim that human’s freely choosing to obey is a critical part of the justification?

    Yes. You and I both agree that the evil / suffering we observe is sufficient to prove the absolute necessity of obedience to God.

    Not quite. I believe that moral reasons are all-things-encompassed reasons for actions, such that the absolute necessity of moral action is inherent in moral norms themselves. Thus, I don’t chuck my moral considerations when the consequences selfishly favour my doing so. Ideally, anyway.

    As I see it, the consequences of my actions may give me addtional reasons to do the moral action (thus additionally motivating me), but I already had sufficient reason to act morally. My point of agreement with you is that the fallout from widepsread moral evil gives us additional reasons to do moral good.

    Because we still live in a fallen world. We still inherent flawed DNA. We’re still born in sin. Most importantly, we’re still subject to influence from evil principalities. Revelation says God will remove all these things after Judgement, and then we will have morally perfect humans.

    In other words, God’s intervention is necessary and sufficient for an eternity of sinless creativity. It turns out that suffering isn’t necessary (I don’t know if you agree with this yet, but there it is), or even sufficient, to bring about an eternity of sinless creativity. This seems like a theodicy in its death-throes.

  83. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    If so, then experiencing the fallout from doing X can only be motivationally helpful (if the fallout is personally adverse, anyway); it tells us nothing we didn’t already know about our moral obligations.

    That seems mostly correct, but I think we do learn something new about our moral obligations: that they are grounded in truth (ala moral realism) as opposed to arbitrary and open to doubt and/or negotiation.

    But now you concede that, at the very least, sinless creativity is possible (perhaps not an eternity of it?) without suffering.

    You either read me with too much liberty, or I misspoke. I recall saying, “God engaged in sinless creativity, as did Adam and Eve before the Fall.” Engaging in sinless creativity as Adam and Eve did, is not a substitute for empirical knowledge of the ramifications of disobedience. Or, stated differently, that they engaged in sinless creativity before the Fall doesn’t provide them with an experiential understanding of why they need to obey God at every turn.

    If that’s so, then the good of eternal etc. can be brought about without suffering,

    Only if God would’ve made humans without morally significant free will, but it seems to me that humans with morally significant free will, who understand evil and it’s consequences, and consciously reject it, might be more valued by God than a race of unfree beings.

    Not quite.

    Your reply at #76 wasn’t “not quite,” but (bold mine), “Yes, that would be a sufficient demonstration that we ought to obey God (given ordinary moral obligations).” Now you say “not quite.” Can you explain the apparent discrepancy?

    As I see it, the consequences of my actions may give me addtional reasons to do the moral action (thus additionally motivating me), but I already had sufficient reason to act morally.

    I see it that way, too. Adam and Eve had sufficient reasons to obey God and act morally before the Fall. However, they didn’t have sufficient understanding of what disobedience would bring. Only morally significant free will can provide that opportunity. Would you agree or disagree?

    In other words, God’s intervention is necessary and sufficient for an eternity of sinless creativity.

    You make it sound as if God’s intervention is the sole necessity. That’s not what I’ve wrote.

    This seems like a theodicy in its death-throes.

    Well sure, if you misrepresent the argument as, “God’s intervention is necessary and sufficient for an eternity of sinless creativity,” but that’s not what I’m saying. In argument form (and I’m a bit rushed on this so don’t be surprised if I end up tweaking it):

    P1) Morally significant free will entails the choice to obey or disobey;

    P2) Empirical knowledge (read, “experience”) of the ramifications of disobedience establishes the necessity of obeying God’s commands;

    P3) Empirical knowledge of the ramifications of disobedience is logically impossible without morally significant free will;

    C) God must allow morally significant free will (and all subsequent suffering) if the necessity of obedience is to be empirically confirmed.

    I’m pretty sure you accept P1. I know you accept P2. I’m also pretty sure you also accept P3. Why deny the conclusion?

  84. Adamoriens says:

    Hi cl. Thanks for the prompt reply.

    That seems mostly correct, but I think we do learn something new about our moral obligations: that they are grounded in truth (ala moral realism) as opposed to arbitrary and open to doubt and/or negotiation.

    I think we’d have to articulate a specific meta-ethic to have consensus on this. Given some sort of divine-command/communication theory, we know that there’s a knowledgeable and truthful being who has made commands, which are certain to reflect the moral fact of the matter (perhaps because his commands determine moral facts, or because they accurately report pre-existing facts etc.). As such, we know that they are grounded in truth. Any doubt, negotiation or accusations of arbitrariness would be irrational unless there were some mitigating considerations about God’s commands (skeptical theism, etc.)

    Your reply at #76 wasn’t “not quite,” but (bold mine), “Yes, that would be a sufficient demonstration that we ought to obey God (given ordinary moral obligations).” Now you say “not quite.” Can you explain the apparent discrepancy?

    No. I’m a bit muddled here and there.

    Were I to rescue that statement, I would characterize the “ought” as a pragmatic ought; “if you want to reduce suffering, start obeying God.” In that sense, it’s unclear
    what “sufficient” could mean. In other words, though, God’s demonstration of the causal link between disobeying him and the sum of human suffering should motivate us to start obeying him, but that we ought to have been doing that already is known.

    I see it that way, too. Adam and Eve had sufficient reasons to obey God and act morally before the Fall. However, they didn’t have sufficient understanding of what disobedience would bring. Only morally significant free will can provide that opportunity. Would you agree or disagree?

    Hmm. I thought that Adam and Eve were told that disobedience would bring about the manifest sufferings we’ve witnessed? Is revelation insufficient for knowledge?

    So I would disagree. It seems to me that revelation is sufficient, or perhaps merely better insight into causality and human psychology. There seems to me no valuable reason for morally-free creatures to have such poor powers of observation and inference as humans do.

    P1) Morally significant free will entails the choice to obey or disobey;
    P2) Empirical knowledge (read, “experience”) of the ramifications of disobedience establishes the necessity of obeying God’s commands;
    P3) Empirical knowledge of the ramifications of disobedience is logically impossible without morally significant free will;
    C) God must allow morally significant free will (and all subsequent suffering) if the necessity of obedience is to be empirically confirmed.
    I’m pretty sure you accept P1. I know you accept P2. I’m also pretty sure you also accept P3. Why deny the conclusion?

    I think I’m okay with P1. In fact, I’ve probably said as much on my blog. But given my foregoing reasoning, P2 is false. The necessity of obeying God’s commands is established by the inherent nature of God’s commands full stop. Ramifications of disobedience, if pragmatically deleterious, provide additional motivation to act rightly. P3 is fine, although it would be a good point to start a splinter-discussion (for example, if evil demonstrates to humans that they ought to be good, aren’t they ultimately inclined toward the good? If so, then doesn’t their unbalanced inclination restrict their freedom? If not, then how would perfect inclination toward the good restrict freedom? and so on).

    Two points of contention with C:

    1. Why all subsequent suffering? This is what I should’ve been asking all along, since it is the types and intensity (“horrendousness”) of sufferings which bothered Rowe, not suffering as a category of experience. Could empirical confirmation of the need for obedience co-exist with the occasional or regular intervention of God?
    2. I guess this is not so much a bone of contention as a “taunt.” I can accept the conclusion and maintain the argument from evil, merely by pointing out that P2 requires an “only” to prefix it. For if the pragmatic necessity of obedience could be established in other ways, sans suffering, God would surely act in those other ways instead.

  85. cl says:

    As such, we know that they are grounded in truth.

    Sure, now, but would we really *KNOW* this if we were never allowed to test them? I’m saying we wouldn’t. What would you say? Do you really *KNOW* what a tree is like if you’re blind?

    Were I to rescue that statement, I would characterize the “ought” as a pragmatic ought; “if you want to reduce suffering, start obeying God.”

    Understood. I would add to that. Primarily, if you want to live, start obeying God. If you don’t care about living, do your own thing and live it up for the short while you can. It’s an either / or offer: obey God and live, disobey God and die. It’s a total no-brainer for me. I want to live.

    In that sense, it’s unclear what “sufficient” could mean.

    Well, in my original sentence, “sufficient” meant that the suffering we observe confirmed the necessity of obedience. You seemed to agree with that then, but now, you seem to be distancing yourself from that agreement.

    In other words, though, God’s demonstration of the causal link between disobeying him and the sum of human suffering should motivate us to start obeying him, but that we ought to have been doing that already is known.

    Understood. That doesn’t seem to conflict with anything I’ve written. On my view, God is just allowing us to prove ourselves wrong. Had God not allowed this, we’d always be able to express some variant of the sentiment, “Well, I don’t know God… is it *REALLY* that bad to steal? To lie? To murder?” We’ve been given thousands of years to conclusively demonstrate the truth of God’s decrees, and that truth seems pretty undeniable, even if there are a few commands we don’t see the immediate ramifications of (i.e. commands against homosexuality or wearing clothes made of two different fabrics).

    Hmm. I thought that Adam and Eve were told that disobedience would bring about the manifest sufferings we’ve witnessed?

    They were told that disobedience would bring death, and later, the Israelites were given a pretty thorough explanation of the suffering sin would bring if they failed to obey.

    Is revelation insufficient for knowledge?

    This goes back to what I said earlier: revelation is sufficient to establish awareness of what God does not want done. In that sense, I’d say revelation is sufficient for understanding. However, only experience is sufficient to establish awareness of *WHY* God doesn’t want certain things done. To continue the blindness analogy, if you’re blind, somebody can reveal (read: explain) to you what a tree is like. However, only seeing the tree will establish full awareness of what a tree is.

    But given my foregoing reasoning, P2 is false.

    Now I’m really lost. So, your answer to the aforementioned question, “is the suffering we observe an effective demonstration of the need to obey God?” … is no longer “yes?” It seems we’re right back to square one. Earlier, you said yes. Now, you seem to say no—else how could you deny P2—but I’m in the dark as to what’s changed. I still want to address what you’ve said towards the end of your last comment, but for now, I’ll leave it here until I have a better understanding of where you really stand on P2, and why.

  86. Adamoriens says:

    Well, in my original sentence, “sufficient” meant that the suffering we observe confirmed the necessity of obedience. You seemed to agree with that then, but now, you seem to be distancing yourself from that agreement.

    The necessity of obedience is a moral one, and depends on nothing apart from the nature of God’s commands themselves. The pragmatic necessity of obeying God would only be sufficiently established by suffering if good action satisfied our desires on the whole (and, alternately, evil action frustrated them).

    This raises an interesting question; what if we have evil or moral ambiguous desires on the whole? In that case, evil action would satisfy our desires (in the case of humans possessing evil desire on the whole), or morally ambiguous action would satisfy our desires (in the case of humans possessing morally-ambiguous desire on the whole).

    If all this is cogent, then inherent in your theodicy is the thesis that humans have morally-benevolent desire on the whole. Does this cohere with traditional Christian doctrines?

    Understood. That doesn’t seem to conflict with anything I’ve written. On my view, God is just allowing us to prove ourselves wrong. Had God not allowed this, we’d always be able to express some variant of the sentiment, “Well, I don’t know God… is it *REALLY* that bad to steal? To lie? To murder?” We’ve been given thousands of years to conclusively demonstrate the truth of God’s decrees, and that truth seems pretty undeniable, even if there are a few commands we don’t see the immediate ramifications of (i.e. commands against homosexuality or wearing clothes made of two different fabrics).

    My interest is in whether any such doubt would be strictly rational. Do we really need to back up things that an honest and omniscient person tells us? If such doubt is irrational, then the addition of suffering is doubtful to suddenly produce a rational reaction.

    As far as experience goes, we only need enough to correctly and justifiably perceive that there is an honest, omniscient being communicating with us. Is suffering a necessary component of that experience?

    They were told that disobedience would bring death, and later, the Israelites were given a pretty thorough explanation of the suffering sin would bring if they failed to obey.

    I’m not sure how to read this; if it’s an admission that Adam and Eve were not fully informed of the ramifications of disobedience (ie. not only their own deaths, but those of suffering billions), then the problem of natural evil arises again. They only knowingly broke the command to refrain from the forbidden fruit, and so cannot be held morally blameworthy for the whole host of evil consequences they could not be expected to have foreseen.

    This goes back to what I said earlier: revelation is sufficient to establish awareness of what God does not want done. In that sense, I’d say revelation is sufficient for understanding. However, only experience is sufficient to establish awareness of *WHY* God doesn’t want certain things done. To continue the blindness analogy, if you’re blind, somebody can reveal (read: explain) to you what a tree is like. However, only seeing the tree will establish full awareness of what a tree is.

    That depends on the depth of revelation. God could’ve endowed us with meticulous visions of unsavoury outcomes, or with superior powers of inference and knowledge of human psychology. In short, the tree analogy breaks down because full awareness of a tree is possible without sensory organs entirely; God. There’s no reason God couldn’t have passed that awareness on to other sentient creatures.

    Now I’m really lost. So, your answer to the aforementioned question, “is the suffering we observe an effective demonstration of the need to obey God?” … is no longer “yes?” It seems we’re right back to square one. Earlier, you said yes. Now, you seem to say no—else how could you deny P2—but I’m in the dark as to what’s changed. I still want to address what you’ve said towards the end of your last comment, but for now, I’ll leave it here until I have a better understanding of where you really stand on P2, and why.

    On my view, suffering neither establishes nor confirms the need to obey God; that was already established by the command itself. That suffering ought to (rationally) pragmatically incline us toward good action is contingent on our having good desires on the whole.

  87. joseph says:

    Interjecting briefly it seems that something is amiss, if God is required by the conscious community, to demonstrate everyone of it’s claims with empirical evidence. As a test subject my vote would be to limit the test to a small number, then extrapolate. Also I never gave consent to being used as an experimental subject.

  88. Adamoriens says:

    I’ve thought something similar about Richard Swinburne’s explanation for natural evil. He argues that some instances of natural evil are necessary for us to know how to commit moral evils ie. accidental poisonings and crushings are necessary to know how to murder. If that’s the case, then it seems to me that a single/few instances of natural evil are all that is necessary.

  89. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    I’m not sure how to proceed here. I don’t see that you’ve provided any rational reason to reject P2. For example,

    …suffering neither establishes nor confirms the need to obey God; that was already established by the command itself.

    How so? Isn’t the command only sufficient to establish the fact that God wants us to do X and refrain from Y? How can the mere issuing of a command import experiential knowledge of consequences?

  90. Adamoriens says:

    How so? Isn’t the command only sufficient to establish the fact that God wants us to do X and refrain from Y? How can the mere issuing of a command import experiential knowledge of consequences?

    Supposing that consequentialism is true, we need to know the consequences of our actions to know how we ought to act to satisfy our moral norms. Humans begin with meagre knowledge of moral norms, social norms, and the physical world, and also suffer from some warping biases, gaining knowledge of how the world and society works through slow and sometimes painful accumulation of experience.

    I suggest that this is not the only way, that there are other, better, means of knowledge. Since God has total knowledge of all possible consequences, his communications to us about what we ought to do are as sure as our trust in him. If we were otherwise endowed with superior knowledge of our world through, say, intuition from birth, we’d have much less need of suffering to know what the likely consequences of our actions would be.

    Of course, theistic moral theories often go further, ascribing moral duty automatically to whatever God commands, an even higher obstacle to the idea that moral duty can only be known through suffering.

    So, in summary: P2 is false where “establishes” is understood in an exclusive sense ie. only experience establishes the necessity of obedience. And P2 is weak where “establishes” is not understood in that way; I could agree that, yes, suffering empirically affirms the need to obey God (or act goodly, whichever you prefer), whilst pointing out that humans could have sufficient moral knowledge without suffering, and that this is the state of affairs God would bring about instead. QED, suffering is not justified by the good of moral knowledge.

    Also, I should emphasize the implication of overall human benevolence in your theodicy. A Calvinist who subscribes to total human depravity would have to disagree that good action, all things considered, pragmatically satisfies our desires. Indeed, my understanding is that all Augustinean Christianities have a characteristically low view of human nature, suggesting that the pragmatic satisfaction of human desire in its natural state would involve evil action.

  91. cl says:

    I’ve written responses to everything I felt pertinent in your last comment, but if you don’t mind I’d like to hone in on a single item:

    Since God has total knowledge of all possible consequences, his communications to us about what we ought to do are as sure as our trust in him.

    I agree, but *WE* don’t have total knowledge of all possible consequences, so how can *WE* be sure that these communications are sound?

  92. Adamoriens says:

    I agree, but *WE* don’t have total knowledge of all possible consequences, so how can *WE* be sure that these communications are sound?

    This is why I asked earlier whether suffering is necessary to justifiably believe that there is an honest, omniscient being communicating with us. If it is, then Adam and Eve cannot be held morally responsible for their disobedience. If it isn’t, then the commands of an honest, omniscient being can be trusted to reflect our true moral obligations.

  93. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    If it isn’t, then the commands of an honest, omniscient being can be trusted to reflect our true moral obligations.

    Adam and Eve, or you and I for that matter, *CAN* be sure that doing X and refraining from Y can be trusted to reflect our true moral obligations, simply on account of God’s issuing said commands—but I’m not asking how we can know God’s decrees reflect our true moral obligations. That’s taken as a given in my argument. Rather, I’m asking how Adam and Eve, or you and I, can be *SURE* that disobedience to our true moral obligations yields undesirable circumstances. You seem to be saying that we can know this simply because God’s commands are trustworthy, but how can we know God’s commands are trustworthy unless we’re allowed to test them? Put another way:

    God: thou shalt not steal.

    Us: okay God, we understand that you don’t want us to steal, but *WHY* shouldn’t we steal? It doesn’t seem like anything bad would happen just because I take my neighbor’s goat.

    God: don’t do it because it will bring a whole host of undesirable circumstances.

    Us: but God, will it *REALLY* bring these circumstances?

    God: yes.

    Us: but what if it doesn’t?

    God: trust, it will.

    Us: but isn’t it possible that it might not?

    God: well, I’m not advising you to do it, but if you do, you will see the proof for yourself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, and don’t expect me to cover your ass if you decide to willfully disobey what I say. If you go your own way, the results are on you.

    Do you see what I’m getting at here? We already know that “thou shalt not steal” reflects a true moral obligation, but how can we know that breaking the obligation will result in undesirable circumstances, unless of course we’re allowed to taste and see?

  94. Adamoriens says:

    Do you see what I’m getting at here? We already know that “thou shalt not steal” reflects a true moral obligation, but how can we know that breaking the obligation will result in undesirable circumstances, unless of course we’re allowed to taste and see?

    If we know our moral obligations, then we already know what we ought to do. Breaking our obligations may well lead us to experience undesirable circumstances which then motivate us toward obedience, but as I said before, Christianity seems to imply that we have a naturally defective set of desires to begin with, such that disobedience overall satisfies our natural desires.

    So the question is really whether all suffering is justified by how it motivates us toward obedience to God. Since God is omnipotent, it follows that the exact distribution and intensity of suffering that we know of is the best way, or at least equal to any other way, to motivate humans toward obedience in their present epistemic state (as I recall, you ruled out the aid of divine revelation earlier), and that the value of motivation sufficiently outweighs the horror of suffering.

    Do you think that’s the reasonable thing to believe? Can you see why I might find that dubious?

  95. cl says:

    If we know our moral obligations, then we already know what we ought to do.

    Well yeah, but that’s not what I’m asking.

    So the question is really whether all suffering is justified by how it motivates us toward obedience to God.

    Not really. The question is epistemological and empirical, not normative. The question is, if God were to return today and say, “Humans, the world you’ve lived in is the type of world that results from disobedience,” would you—or would you not—consider that an effective demonstration of the need to obey God?

    Do you think that’s the reasonable thing to believe?

    Do I think it’s reasonable that our tattered history proves the absolute necessity of obedience to God? Yes. Absolutely.

    Can you see why I might find that dubious?

    No, I honestly can’t. Earlier you said yes to the question. Later you said no. Most recently you seem to waver somewhere in between. So, no, I have no idea why you first agreed with but now doubt what appears to me as straightforward, undeniable logic. I’m desperately trying to understand. :)

  96. Adamoriens says:

    The question is epistemological and empirical, not normative. The question is, if God were to return today and say, “Humans, the world you’ve lived in is the type of world that results from disobedience,” would you—or would you not—consider that an effective demonstration of the need to obey God?

    If it’s not a normative question, whence cometh “need”? Selfish human desire? According to Christian doctrine as I understand it, the satisfaction of selfish human desire is the source of moral evil to begin with.

    Do I think it’s reasonable that our tattered history proves the absolute necessity of obedience to God? Yes. Absolutely.

    That’s not the question I asked. Rather:

    Is the exact distribution and intensity of suffering that we know of the best way, or at least equally good as any other way, to motivate humans toward obedience in their present epistemic state? And equally importantly, does the value of motivation sufficiently outweigh the horror of suffering?

    No, I honestly can’t. Earlier you said yes to the question. Later you said no. Most recently you seem to waver somewhere in between. So, no, I have no idea why you first agreed with but now doubt what appears to me as straightforward, undeniable logic. I’m desperately trying to understand. :)

    To my recollection I have never affirmed that:

    1. Suffering is the best way (or equally good as any other) to encourage moral motivation in humans (or sentients of equal value).
    2. Suffering is outweighed by the good of morally favourable motivation in humans (or sentients of equal value).

    You’ve been asking me about a truncated version of (1):

    3. Suffering is an effective way to encourage moral motivation in humans.

    It’s true that I’ve wavered on this question, in the main because it’s an empirical question that I lack the resources to answer. Of late I’ve just taken to asking whether (3) can cohere with Christian doctrine, since it’s commonly understood that only God’s grace can encourage moral motivation ie. man’s natural desires incline toward evil, suffering or not. As an aside, one also wonders whether the inhabitants of hell are more morally-motivated then those of heaven.

    And my answer has also changed depending on what question I thought you were asking. Suffering required for normative knowledge? No. Suffering required for moral motivation? No. Suffering effective for moral motivation in humans? I don’t know.

    Has this been an aid to clarity?

  97. joseph says:

    @Adamoriens & CL,

    Another question that this sort of “need for empirical knowledge” solution to the problem of evil poses is something like:

    “Do I, myself, have to commit all moral wrongs to know they are bad, or at some point am I just going to have to take God’s word for it that somebody, somewhere, at some point in time did it and it didn’t work out well. As God’s completely in charge of the universe it makes it possible for God to forge any evidence perfectly anyway, I’ll never be able to test any of God’s proofs, all I have is God’s word.”

  98. joseph says:

    Thinking more it seems like common categories of sin, and there consequences, such as murder, adultery, fornication, collecting sticks on the sabbath, loaning money for interest, war, rape, wearing clothes consisting of two different types on fibre, incest, violence etc, have been done millions of times. Why does it need further evidence?
    Each specific kind of murder? So for example plain patricide’s been done, but what about patricide using a teacup? Or a weapon that has not been invented yet?

    Do we need one instance of everykind of sin? In a way then I suppose I ought be thankful to all the highly original sinners out there, exploring the possible kinds of sin, as they are actively bringing God’s Kingdom nearer…

  99. Adamoriens says:

    Another question that this sort of “need for empirical knowledge” solution to the problem of evil poses is something like:

    “Do I, myself, have to commit all moral wrongs to know they are bad, or at some point am I just going to have to take God’s word for it that somebody, somewhere, at some point in time did it and it didn’t work out well.

    I don’t think cl is actually arguing that moral evil has to occur in order to know that we ought not to do it.

  100. joseph says:

    Adamoriens,

    , but how can we know that breaking the obligation will result in undesirable circumstances, unless of course we’re allowed to taste and see?

    What am I missing/conflating/oversimplifying?

  101. For fun, I finally offer a response to the OP in my new essay “Heaven, Coddling Gods, and Other Theodicies”.

  102. Adamoriens says:

    …but how can we know that breaking the obligation will result in undesirable circumstances, unless of course we’re allowed to taste and see? What am I missing/conflating/oversimplifying?

    Who cares? We already have compelling reason for action in our moral obligations.

  103. joseph says:

    OK, Clearly you don’t sorry for wasting my time.

  104. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Who cares? Well, if you don’t, then, no need to continue.

  105. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    I’m not sure, but I think “joseph’s” last remark was meant for me. I wouldn’t read too much into it.

  106. joseph says:

    Adamoriens,
    It was meant for you.
    Simply, CL did seem to mean:

    that moral evil has to occur in order to know that we ought not to do it

    If you don’t care:

    Who cares? We already have compelling reason for action in our moral obligations.

    Then my writing of two, or three, paragraphs was a waste of my time, which i regret. Of course it was unsolicited, so I am not, nor am I implying I should be, annoyed with you.

    CL
    You’ve both said you’re “not biting” and started putting my name in quotation marks without explanation. I thought it simpler to cease talking to you.

  107. cl says:

    I would also note that Adamoriens’ remark means our entire engagement in this thread was a waste of time. Not happy with that, but… so it goes. Maybe somebody else can benefit. Then again, maybe what I just wrote isn’t completely true: I’ve benefitted from the challenge, because I see that even after all that, no good answer was supplied. To say “who cares” is to throw in the towel completely, IMHO. I’m actually a bit shocked because Adamoriens has always struck me as one of the most serious debaters out there.

    joseph,

    You’ve both said you’re “not biting” and started putting my name in quotation marks without explanation.

    Because, quite frankly, I’m not sure whether you’re one who comments in earnest, or just another shenanigan related to twimfanboy and my many haters / detractors. Granted, you’ve stuck up for me at times, and I appreciate that, whether it was in earnest or not, but the way you fanned the flames over there has really caused suspicion. I’m sorry, I just didn’t know what else to do. These virulent, spiteful atheists are now dragging innocent people into their web of hate, and I don’t take it lightly. All related to blog comments, too. Pathetic.

    What would you do if you were me, both in the context of the twimfanboy thing in general, and my newfound hesitance towards you in particular? Maybe I’m just being overly paranoid. If the scare quotes annoy you I’ll stop doing it. Just let me know.

  108. joseph says:

    CL
    Frankly I don’t know how to prove that I am even the same commenter from five minutes ago. I know you can have a look at my IP address but I am sure that could be fakes. The use of quotations around my name annoys me because I have no practical means of refuting them.

    Yes I fanned the flames, frankly your “experiment” excuse deserved it, or if it wasn’t an excuse then you naivety deserved it, as did the video games episode. You said yourself, and now it seems to have been disingenuous, that you “loved” the site.

    Also I have to face two interesting challenges:

    1. Both sides say I am a sock puppet.

    2. You’re withdrawing from discussion with me after I actually tried to give a damn about your welfare.

    In terms of “dealing” with TWIM Fanboy, just try to lessen the traits he laughs at.

    Have fun with this fanboy, I am off for a pint with Mr.Crocodile.

  109. cl says:

    joseph,

    In the interest of keeping things organized, I replied here.

  110. Adamoriens says:

    Hi Joseph. You wrote:

    Do I, myself, have to commit all moral wrongs to know they are bad, or at some point am I just going to have to take God’s word for it that somebody, somewhere, at some point in time did it and it didn’t work out well. As God’s completely in charge of the universe it makes it possible for God to forge any evidence perfectly anyway, I’ll never be able to test any of God’s proofs, all I have is God’s word.

    Perhaps some sort of ethical intuitionism requires evil to occur and provoke a pang of conscience which we take as moral knowledge, but given the existence of God, there is no reason to think we are restricted to intuitions alone for our pool of possible moral epistemologies. And of course we must have some moral insight to rationally trust God.

    Thinking more it seems like common categories of sin, and there consequences, such as murder, adultery, fornication, collecting sticks on the sabbath, loaning money for interest, war, rape, wearing clothes consisting of two different types on fibre, incest, violence etc, have been done millions of times. Why does it need further evidence?
    Each specific kind of murder? So for example plain patricide’s been done, but what about patricide using a teacup? Or a weapon that has not been invented yet?
    Do we need one instance of everykind of sin? In a way then I suppose I ought be thankful to all the highly original sinners out there, exploring the possible kinds of sin, as they are actively bringing God’s Kingdom nearer…

    We don’t need to murder to know that it is wrong. It seems to me that an understanding of some concepts and a little imagination suffices. If it works for God…

    Adamoriens, It was meant for you.
    Simply, CL did seem to mean:
    that moral evil has to occur in order to know that we ought not to do it.

    Cl seems to imply the contrary in post 93:

    We already know that “thou shalt not steal” reflects a true moral obligation, but how can we know that breaking the obligation will result in undesirable circumstances, unless of course we’re allowed to taste and see?

    You also wrote:

    If you don’t care:
    Who cares? We already have compelling reason for action in our moral obligations.
    Then my writing of two, or three, paragraphs was a waste of my time, which i regret. Of course it was unsolicited, so I am not, nor am I implying I should be, annoyed with you.

    You and cl passed over the second portion of that response:

    We already have a compelling reason for action in our moral obligations.

    Both of you ask:

    How can we know that breaking the obligation will result in undesirable circumstances, unless of course we’re allowed to taste and see?

    My first response was, “who cares?” Take it as a flippant way of asking:

    Why should I care? Does being knowingly immoral result in a valuable circumstance, such that I’m supposed to account for it?

  111. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Why should I care?

    Because I thought you were earnestly trying to understand the argument, as I was earnestly trying to understand your objections. I fear we might be too far gone on this one, but only time will tell.

  112. cl says:

    joseph paraphrased me as saying,

    that moral evil has to occur in order to know that we ought not to do it.

    No, that’s not what I’m saying. Adamoriens has interpreted me correctly. The command itself is sufficient to know that we ought not do something.

    A toddler understands that a parent doesn’t want them to stick their hand on a hot stove. They understand this via inflection and posture of their parent. However, the toddler doesn’t understand the ramifications of sticking their hand on a hot stove. They simply could not understand the ramifications without actually experiencing them. Such is logically impossible.

    I, of course, was that dumb kid who stuck his hand on the stove.

  113. Adamoriens says:

    Because I thought you were earnestly trying to understand the argument, as I was earnestly trying to understand your objections. I fear we might be too far gone on this one, but only time will tell.

    I explained the context of that comment. Charity, please.

    A toddler understands that a parent doesn’t want them to stick their hand on a hot stove. They understand this via inflection and posture of their parent. However, the toddler doesn’t understand the ramifications of sticking their hand on a hot stove. They simply could not understand the ramifications without actually experiencing them. Such is logically impossible.

    Are you arguing that suffering is intrinsically valuable?

  114. cl says:

    You come at me with “who cares,” and I’m the one who’s failing at charity? Okay, kinda odd but… I guess I’ll keep trying. I asked:

    How can we know that breaking the obligation will result in undesirable circumstances, unless of course we’re allowed to taste and see?

    You need to answer that, and not “answer” in the sense of answering a question with another flippant question, but an actual answer. Either we can know for certain without empirical confirmation, or we can’t. That’s what I need to know from you in order to proceed. I submit that knowing for certain without empirical confirmation is logically impossible. What do you think?

    Are you arguing that suffering is intrinsically valuable?

    No. I don’t believe in intrinsic value. Value requires a valuer.

  115. Crude says:

    cl,

    I’m a little late here, but I thought I’d throw this in.

    For all we know, there might be a teapot orbiting Jupiter.
    …and,
    For all we know, God might have a reason for allowing seemingly gratuitous suffering X.

    Christians, is this really the argument you want to make? If anybody believes they can make a principled distinction between those two lines of reasoning, now is the time to speak up.

    I only glanced at Ronin’s replies, but I’ll put in my own.

    One distinction would be that we have independent evidence for God’s existence, as well as for God’s traits, particularly the traits in question. Philosophical/metaphysical demonstrations (yes, they can be disputed, as can anything – but if you accept them, you accept them), which are compatible with seemingly gratuitous suffering, are one example.

    Another would be if there were any examples, even hypothetical, of seemingly gratuitous evil for which a reasonable higher good was later realized. This starts to get a bit abstract since it’s dealing with individual concrete cases, but I think it’s a distinction all the same.

    A third would be that God, being God, is practically guaranteed to (due to His traits, particularly His knowledge) do things that are inscrutable to us. We only need to go as far as humanity to see that – have you ever encountered some human who did something that you thought was pointless, then later discovered it had a point? (Imagine someone unfamiliar with computers looking at a programmer’s work, for example.)

    That’s not to say your replies aren’t valid, or that one could argue that skeptical theism is unnecessary. But I think it’s in a far better position than you seem to think, and I don’t think the teacup comparison holds up under scrutiny.

  116. cl says:

    Crude,

    Unfortunately I was never able to grok Ronin’s objections. I tried, but, I just couldn’t.

    It seems to me you’re saying we *CAN* make a principled distinction because we already have instances of suffering that have higher goods. Right? If so, I agree such instances exist. I also agree that we have instances of man-made objects which orbit planets. So, I’m not sure what that accomplishes. After all, there *REALLY COULD* be a teapot orbiting Jupiter if, say, some NASA astronaut got mad and threw their teapot out the window and it drifted accordingly.

    My point is that we don’t need to appeal to skeptical theism at all. We don’t need to point to Bambi getting struck by lightning and say, “Well, I don’t know, God might have a good reason for that.” In fact, I tend towards the position that there is no corollary higher good at all. I simply accept the maxim that sin entails real, genuine, irrevocable loss. I could be wrong, it might actually be the case that Bambi got struck by lightning so she wouldn’t wander in a road and cause a family of 5 to swerve off a cliff, but on my view, all we have to say is, “God is allowing this suffering because Eden Restored is a higher good,” then leave it at that. I mean, why can’t God restore Bambi, too?

    Atheists like Hurford tend to frame the debate like this: unless every instance of suffering has a corollary higher good, we have grounds to doubt God’s existence. I think that’s bunk. I think that so long as the final state of affairs is a higher good than the current state of affairs, we have a higher good and all suffering is justified. End of story. Empirical. Numerical. Etc.

    Of course, then there’s the question, why must suffering be justified? Really, when you get down to it, the atheist can’t even lift the POE off the ground unless they tacitly accept the assumption that suffering can have no place in God’s scheme, whatsoever. I don’t think that’s tenable at all. I think it’s an inherent appeal to emotion that betrays logic, despite all pretenses otherwise. “Oh, suffering is so terrible, ergo no God.”

    Lastly, note the contradiction: the atheist who is consistent with their worldview shouldn’t even feel any moral outrage about suffering, whatsoever. The very fact that they feel moral outrage about it suggests that they don’t really believe the universe was meant to be an indifferent atomic billiard dance.

  117. Crude says:

    cl,

    It seems to me you’re saying we *CAN* make a principled distinction because we already have instances of suffering that have higher goods.

    Well, I said one thing along those lines. But what was important was that we had (or I think it’s clear we’ve had) instances of apparent gratuitous suffering, or apparent gratuitous (X), that later on turned out to not be gratuitous after all. (As opposed to all instances of suffering or X automatically being viewed as non-gratuitous.)

    If so, I agree such instances exist. I also agree that we have instances of man-made objects which orbit planets. So, I’m not sure what that accomplishes.

    Because each of those man-made objects are disconnected from the teapot, whereas each of the instances of ‘looked gratuitous, but really wasn’t suffering are still connected to God. This is difficult to get across, but I’ll try my best: imagine you see me, 3-4 times, doing something that seems gratuitous. 3-4 times, I turn out to have a very good reason for doing so. Time 5 rolls around. I just plain tell you “I have a good reason for doing that”. Is the belief that yes, I actually do have a good reason for what I did despite it seeming gratuitous, automatically on par with the teapot claim?

    My point is that we don’t need to appeal to skeptical theism at all.

    I understand your move here: you’re saying skeptical theism isn’t necessary. And I think your argument has merit. I just don’t think the ST is on the teapot level. Put another way: I think both responses screw up the atheist argument badly.

    I’d agree, at a glance, with your further arguments against the POE move. Really, this reminds me of an argument I get in often. The atheist says, “Believing in the God of the Christianity is like believing in Zeus”. Most theists respond that the God of Christianity is utterly unlike Zeus in various ways. I agree absolutely. I just also happen to think the atheist is in a sorry position with respect to Zeus (or the Zeus-like) too.

  118. Ronin says:

    Crude,

    That’s not to say your replies aren’t valid, or that one could argue that skeptical theism is unnecessary. But I think it’s in a far better position than you seem to think, and I don’t think the teacup comparison holds up under scrutiny.

    I actually did not get to expand on the teacup comparison, but I think it’s a dud. Nevertheless, I think cl’s attempt to “defang” the POE by way of his “argument” is ambitious. However, that’s besides the point, when he writes:

    There’s no need to retreat and say, “Oh, I’m sure God has a higher good, I just don’t know what it is.” The Bible says God has given us everything we need for godliness, and that’s why Christians should use their swords.

    It seems to me he is tossing up the hay against the ST. What does the existence of evil have to do with guidelines about godliness in the Bible?

    Moreover, cl writes in his conclusion:

    We *CAN* know about God’s motivations because they are plainly revealed in Scripture. God’s motivation is an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin. God’s motivation is that we would repent and give up sin so He can welcome us to this eternity.

    God’s “motivations” are interpreted differently by different camps, and these interpretations affect the character of God (which cl is defending). Call these interpretation the result of sin, pride, etc. Okay, but none of those things change the fact that depending on how one interprets the Bible a variety of God(s) with different attributes is the result. Thus, I wrote (post 21):

    If certain people cannot make a conscious choice to accept God, and these individuals are denied 3 we have a reason to doubt certain aspects of 1. Does that make sense?

    And cl responded with, “Yeah, that makes sense, but I doubt a good God would leave people hanging” (post 22). Well, that’s exactly what Calvinism proposes. Therefore, since it is possible for the God of Calvinism to be the one true God I have reasons to doubt cl’s argument, and I am well within reason to remain a ST.

  119. Adamoriens says:

    How can we know that breaking the obligation will result in undesirable circumstances, unless of course we’re allowed to taste and see?

    I submit that knowing for certain without empirical confirmation is logically impossible. What do you think?

    God knows for certain without empirical confirmation. Given that we trust him as a source for our moral obligations, we can trust him to describe the after-effects of disobedience accurately. Alternatively, he could’ve endowed us with far greater powers of perception, inference, and introspection.

    But this is all moot. It is not morally permissible to allow moral evil (the worse kinds, at the very least) so that people can explore their own psychological reactions to it. Given that humans are a low sort (according to Christianity, anyway), breaking of obligations are likely to result in circumstances they find desirable. Having then learned nothing new about moral norms (or about themselves, really), one has to wonder what higher purpose is served by having allowed them to murder and torture.

  120. cl says:

    Crude,

    But what was important was that we had (or I think it’s clear we’ve had) instances of apparent gratuitous suffering, or apparent gratuitous (X), that later on turned out to not be gratuitous after all.

    Of course. Likewise, I think it’s clear we’ve had instances of apparently ludicrous scientific claims that turned out to be not so ludicrous after all. In fact, we already have space trash. We already have man-made objects orbiting our planet. Is it really that far-fetched to suppose one might make it to another planet, especially when you consider that we’ve actually sent craft to Jupiter? Hell, I think NASA should send a teapot to Jupiter just to shut smart-alecky atheists up. I could see it now: “Well guys, I guess we can’t use that argument anymore!” LOL!

    Is the belief that yes, I actually do have a good reason for what I did despite it seeming gratuitous, automatically on par with the teapot claim?

    No, but isn’t that a loaded example? In the real world, we observe many instances of apparently gratuitous suffering, and we also observe many instances of apparently gratuitous suffering that actually had a higher good. In fact, we can’t reliably estimate which subset is larger, so I’m not sure your logic holds. Haven’t you created a bit of a toy example where the priors for a good reason are unfairly high?

    Put another way: I think both responses screw up the atheist argument badly.

    I agree. My argument is the back-up for the atheist who rejects ST. Taken in tandem, they’re a one-two knockout punch. Although, I am somewhat persuaded by what I’ll call the “moral paralysis” objection to ST. Say you’re walking down the street, and you see somebody torturing a baby. ST commits you to the possibility that there might be a higher good at stake, and therefore, stopping the torturing might thwart the higher good. Whereas on my logic, we should *ALWAYS* step in, because there is no corollary higher good to torturing a baby. My argument is immune to such objections, and I see that as an advantage over ST.

  121. cl says:

    Ronin,

    Nevertheless, I think cl’s attempt to “defang” the POE by way of his “argument” is ambitious.

    Wow, scare quotes and all, eh? ;)

    It seems to me he is tossing up the hay against the ST. What does the existence of evil have to do with guidelines about godliness in the Bible?

    I’m unfamiliar with that phrase, “tossing up the hay.” Although, I can see how that line confused you. The existence of evil doesn’t have anything to do with guidelines about godliness. What I meant was, the Bible already gives us what we need to formulate a godly response here. All Christians need to do is draw their sword, i.e., revert to the Bible’s clear answer instead of inventing theodicies and appealing to mere possibility of a higher good no matter how gratuitous the suffering sounds. The Bible tells us that the final state of affairs will be better than the current state of affairs. Therefore, we have a higher good. We don’t need to speculate that Bambi getting struck by lightning might prevent a car of 5 from swerving off a cliff because Bambi ran in the road.

    God’s “motivations” are interpreted differently by different camps, and these interpretations affect the character of God (which cl is defending).

    Yes, but there is no disagreement, whatsoever, on the PERTINENT motivation: that God aspires an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin. Can you show me a single school of Christianity that would deny that statement?

  122. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    God knows for certain without empirical confirmation.

    Correct, but *WE* don’t.

    Given that we trust him as a source for our moral obligations, we can trust him to describe the after-effects of disobedience accurately.

    When a father tells his child, “Don’t go in that cupboard or something bad will happen,” even if the child believes the father, doesn’t the child naturally wonder, “could it *REALLY* be that bad if I open the cupboard?” If the child opens the cupboard and gets busted in the head because something heavy fell out and hit him, doesn’t the child realize, “Wow, pops was right, I should listen to what he says?” IOW, doesn’t the child end up with empirical confirmation of the parent’s trustworthiness? Isn’t empirically confirmed trustworthiness more stable than empirically unconfirmed trustworthiness?

    Clear, “yes” or “no” answers to each question will really help me understand where you stand.

    Given that humans are a low sort (according to Christianity, anyway), breaking of obligations are likely to result in circumstances they find desirable.

    I disagree. God tells us the wages of sin is suffering and death. What human would rather suffer and die than live in sinless eternity?

  123. Ronin says:

    cl,

    I’m unfamiliar with that phrase, “tossing up the hay.”

    How is this? You are erecting a straw man against the ST.

    Yes, but there is no disagreement, whatsoever, on the PERTINENT motivation: that God aspires an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin.

    So? The mere fact that God offers “an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin” is not a get out of jail free card for you. How God chooses to attain that eternity is what is being questioned here. Oh, and BTW [once again] you agreed with me on post 22.

  124. Adamoriens says:

    When a father tells his child, “Don’t go in that cupboard or something bad will happen,” even if the child believes the father, doesn’t the child naturally wonder, “could it *REALLY* be that bad if I open the cupboard?” If the child opens the cupboard and gets busted in the head because something heavy fell out and hit him, doesn’t the child realize, “Wow, pops was right, I should listen to what he says?” IOW, doesn’t the child end up with empirical confirmation of the parent’s trustworthiness?

    I don’t know; you’d have to tell me how the child responded to being bludgeoned. Running the stove analogy and the “committing moral evil as being burnt” metaphor, and given the fallen human condition, the child may just as well (given Christianity, will probably) find that burning herself and others is immediately pleasurable and useful. In that case, the girl would think, “no, Daddy was wrong. Burning myself is good,” or she would rationalize that Daddy actually wanted her to burn herself, or she would simply not care what Daddy wants very much anymore. But it would be abhorrent if the parent knew that his daughter enjoyed self-immolation and the burning of others, and still refused to intervene.

    Given that humans are a low sort (according to Christianity, anyway), breaking of obligations are likely to result in circumstances they find desirable.

    I disagree. God tells us the wages of sin is suffering and death. What human would rather suffer and die than live in sinless eternity?

    I didn’t ask about what they ought to find desirable, or what they would find desirable if they truly trusted God’s revelations. It’s a straightforward observation that humans frequently find moral evil pleasurable and useful.

    Besides, aren’t you of the opinion that divine revelation is insufficient/inferior for encouraging right behaviour?

  125. cl says:

    Ronin,

    You are erecting a straw man against the ST.

    Nonsense. I have not characterized ST as something it is not. If you’re going to make an accusation like that you need to at least back it up. You need to say something like, “cl characterized ST as X, but it’s actually Y,” and if you decide to go that route I’ll ask that you quote me directly.

    So?

    So, my argument can stand regardless of which strain of Christianity we’re dealing with, because no Christian doubts that an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin is a higher good.

    Oh, and BTW [once again] you agreed with me on post 22.

    Your question @21 was related to whether or not God can be called good. This is a separate issue than whether or not an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin is a higher good. You’re making it sound like I “agreed” to something I didn’t.

    The mere fact that God offers “an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin” is not a get out of jail free card for you.

    It’s an immediate ender to POE discussions. Is an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin a higher good than the current suffering? WRT to the POE, that’s the question. By saying, “So?” you seem to have just affirmed that, yes, an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin is a higher good. If you don’t believe an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin is a higher good, then say so directly. Else, run the logic yourself:

    1. Suffering is only justified if it has a higher good;

    2. An eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin is a higher good;

    3. Suffering is justified.

    If you want to allege that my argument is false, you need to show either A) that one or premises are false; or, B) that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises.

  126. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Sorry. If you’re going to continually avoid the questions you’re just wasting both of our time.

  127. Adamoriens says:

    As I said, my answer is: I don’t know. Does the child regard being hit in the head as a bad thing?

  128. cl says:

    I asked you three questions. Which one(s) don’t you know the answer to? They’re all very straightforward questions that can be answered without invoking any (a)theist ramifications.

  129. Ronin says:

    cl,

    So, my argument can stand regardless of which strain of Christianity…

    In your own mind, yes.

    It’s an immediate ender to POE discussions. Is an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin a higher good than the current suffering?

    It is? First of all, the POE entails a problem for any theist, because it brings question to the character of God. Unless you been under a rock that is the problem with evil. But, you somehow think you bypassed this with your argument? Buddy, the POE is about God’s character; so, God’s goodness is what’s a stake. You go on ahead and keep on ho-humming how you got this…

  130. cl says:

    Ronin,

    I don’t mind snide remarks at all, but you have to back it up with *LOGIC*. It’s time to put up.

    First of all, the POE entails a problem for any theist, because it brings question to the character of God.

    And, what is the fork? Does not the atheist say that God’s character can still be called “good” if there is a higher good, a purpose for allowing the suffering? Yes or no? If yes, and if a higher good can be shown, then does it not logically follow that God’s character can still be called good? Please, comply with the questions. Don’t just fire back vitriol, it ain’t gonna help any of us. Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” If you do, it will speak for itself, and it will tell me much more about your objections and your actual position than mockery suggesting you think I’m totally oblivious to the power of your objections.

    You go on ahead and keep on ho-humming how you got this…

    Thanks Ronin! That’s like, *SO* productive! Tee-hee! Go ahead, keep getting angry and flanking me without providing one scintilla of logical argument. If you can’t even put your criticisms into a reasoned argument or question, there’s nothing else I can do. I guess mockery is your last resort.

  131. Crude says:

    cl,

    No, but isn’t that a loaded example? In the real world, we observe many instances of apparently gratuitous suffering, and we also observe many instances of apparently gratuitous suffering that actually had a higher good. In fact, we can’t reliably estimate which subset is larger, so I’m not sure your logic holds. Haven’t you created a bit of a toy example where the priors for a good reason are unfairly high?

    Well, that wasn’t my intention. I wasn’t arguing that the instances of apparently gratuitous suffering that turned out to have a higher good is larger than the instances of apparently gratuitous suffering, period. I was just trying to draw a distinction between the ST claim and the teacup – it seems to me the ST claim is more plausible given a number of factors. Insofar as the ST is saying “I can’t see an explanation for this gratuitous suffering, but I bet there is one”, instances of apparently gratuitous suffering that did turn out to have a higher good – or really, purposeless looking actions that did turn out to have a purpose – seem to be evidence in his column right away.

    Although, I am somewhat persuaded by what I’ll call the “moral paralysis” objection to ST. Say you’re walking down the street, and you see somebody torturing a baby. ST commits you to the possibility that there might be a higher good at stake, and therefore, stopping the torturing might thwart the higher good. Whereas on my logic, we should *ALWAYS* step in, because there is no corollary higher good to torturing a baby. My argument is immune to such objections, and I see that as an advantage over ST.

    I don’t think this example flies, at least in the particulars with the Christian ST. On Christianity, that torture should be stopped. On Christianity, you should always step in – maybe short of a direct command from God. Now, you may step in and fail. Maybe, no matter your efforts that baby is going to be tortured, for purposes beyond your knowledge. But you’re not paralyzed with regards to action.

  132. Ronin says:

    cl,

    Does not the atheist say that God’s character can still be called “good” if there is a higher good, a purpose for allowing the suffering? Yes or no?

    Yes. My turn. Do you believe this “atheist” would still say God is “good” IF God prevented this “higher good” from being attainable/having value/being real from others who suffered?

    Thanks Ronin! That’s like, *SO* productive!…

    Hey, no problem. You are not a real peach either.

  133. cl says:

    Ronin,

    Not so fast, you skipped the second question: If yes, and if a higher good can be shown, then does it not logically follow that God’s character can still be called good?

    You are not a real peach either.

    You came at me with fire for nothing other than holding my ground, and until now you’ve refused to answer the most direct and basic of questions. So I treated your mockery dismissively. If that means I’m unpeachy in your eyes, oh well, I’ll wear that label.

  134. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You came at me with fire for nothing other than holding my ground, and until now you’ve refused to answer the most direct and basic of questions. So I treated your mockery dismissively. If that means I’m unpeachy in your eyes, oh well, I’ll wear that label.

    That’s BS! I refused to answer your questions? That has been my frustration all along. YOU trying to isolate your questions to your own presumptions as if your argument is that narrow. Here is a PRIME example:

    If yes, and if a higher good can be shown, then does it not logically follow that God’s character can still be called good?

    You say I am not willing to answer with a yes or a no, but the narrowness of your question is leading me to accept things I may reject. *IF* you are you saying there is a higher good, and this higher good trumps how God implements the higher good. Then, I would want more information before I proclaim God is good. What would you like me to do? Accept all your assertion, just because?

  135. Adamoriens says:

    Hi cl. You wrote:

    I asked you three questions. Which one(s) don’t you know the answer to? They’re all very straightforward questions that can be answered without invoking any (a)theist ramifications.

    This one:

    If the child opens the cupboard and gets busted in the head because something heavy fell out and hit him, doesn’t the child realize, “Wow, pops was right, I should listen to what he says?” IOW, doesn’t the child end up with empirical confirmation of the parent’s trustworthiness?

    I could answer, if only I knew how the child responds to being hit in the head.

  136. Cl: Atheists like Hurford tend to frame the debate like this: unless every instance of suffering has a corollary higher good, we have grounds to doubt God’s existence. I think that’s bunk. I think that so long as the final state of affairs is a higher good than the current state of affairs, we have a higher good and all suffering is justified. End of story. Empirical. Numerical. Etc.

    Empirical? Numerical? What do you mean?

    I do frame the story like that, because that’s what it means for suffering to be justified. If you have an instance of *pointless* suffering (especially pointless suffering of large and extreme extent) and a being who is capable of getting rid of it but does not, then my definition of “all-good” means that being would get rid of that suffering.

    Even if the final state of affairs is better than the current one, why bother to include pointless suffering in this current one? For the purposes of this debate, I’d like an answer to either that question, or an argument that the suffering in question is not pointless (and thus has a corollary higher good), or a defense of Skeptical Theism that would allow God to be *knowably* good.

    …And that final state of affairs sure is taking its sweet time getting here from my perspective, I might add — any eta on this, or reason why it would take a certain period of time? What could a God be waiting for?

    ~

    Cl: Of course, then there’s the question, why must suffering be justified? Really, when you get down to it, the atheist can’t even lift the POE off the ground unless they tacitly accept the assumption that suffering can have no place in God’s scheme, whatsoever. I don’t think that’s tenable at all. I think it’s an inherent appeal to emotion that betrays logic, despite all pretenses otherwise. “Oh, suffering is so terrible, ergo no God.”

    The idea of suffering requiring justification is implicit in the idea of an “all-good”, “all-powerful”, “all-knowing” God as I would define it. If the suffering wasn’t justified by a higher good, then any all-good being would want to get rid of it. Thus suffering can have a place in God’s scheme, but whatever the function of this suffering is would be its justification.

    Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by “all-good”, if you think God is “all-good”?

    ~

    Cl: Lastly, note the contradiction: the atheist who is consistent with their worldview shouldn’t even feel any moral outrage about suffering, whatsoever. The very fact that they feel moral outrage about it suggests that they don’t really believe the universe was meant to be an indifferent atomic billiard dance.

    How many different times are you going to repeat this? This is getting to be frustrating. We’ve been down this road several times now — a lack of God / telos doesn’t mean we can’t bring purpose to our own lives by valuing states of affairs and being motivated to bring them about.

    ~

    Crude: I understand your move here: you’re saying skeptical theism isn’t necessary. And I think your argument has merit. I just don’t think the ST is on the teapot level. Put another way: I think both responses screw up the atheist argument badly.

    Do you think skeptical theism allows God to be knowably good? If so, how?

  137. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Okay… first let’s clarify: what are your answers to the other two?

  138. Adamoriens says:

    Hi cl. I’m guessing you mean these questions:

    If the child opens the cupboard and gets busted in the head because something heavy fell out and hit him, doesn’t the child realize, “Wow, pops was right, I should listen to what he says?” IOW, doesn’t the child end up with empirical confirmation of the parent’s trustworthiness? Isn’t empirically confirmed trustworthiness more stable than empirically unconfirmed trustworthiness?

    1. I don’t know.
    2. I don’t know.
    3. Probably. Little ambiguous, though. Do you mean to ask whether we have more reason to trust God after we find that disobedience brings about dissatisfaction of our desires?

  139. Ronin says:

    Peter,

    You asked Crude the following:

    Do you think skeptical theism allows God to be knowably good? If so, how?

    I think ST leaves the possibility open for God to be good. And, any individual who takes the Bible seriously might have to be open to the idea that God could be arbitrary, which could bring doubt(s) to His goodness. For example [I am especially thinking of verse 11],

    10 And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she had conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; 11 for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 Just as it is written, ” Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated” NASB Romans 9:10-13.

    Yet, all this could be due to Paul’s theological schema, and/or part of God’s mysteries, etc.

  140. Ronin says:

    cl,

    Your wrote:

    If you want to allege that my argument is false, you need to show either A) that one or premises are false; or, B) that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises.

    No, you NEED to clarify what you mean by,

    1. Suffering is only justified if it has a higher good;

    Are you talking about all the suffering or not. If you are talking about all suffering (it will include all people who suffer, suffered, and will suffer); then, you need to show how the following is PERTINENT in your argument,

    2. An eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin is a higher good;

    for those who suffer but do not get to taste this higher good? If God allows suffering because He has a higher good in place, how God brings about the reality and efficiency of this higher good IS important as it will portray the essence of His character, since His reason for allowing suffering IS this higher good.

  141. cl says:

    Hey all. I don’t have much time right now, but I just wanted to make a quick reply to Adamoriens.

    Adamoriens,

    You said you “don’t know” in response to #1, but I think that’s blatantly false. I think that you’re hedging for some reason. The answer to the question is clearly yes. We’ve all experienced this. Well, at least all of us who ignored a warning at some point or another, only to have the negative results of the warning come to pass. To say you “don’t know” suggests you are completely ignorant WRT the dynamics of trust formation in relationships, and I don’t believe that even for a second.

    If you want to continue, you gotta work with me. I’m not trying to trick you into anything, and I sincerely cannot understand how / why you’d tell me you “don’t know” whether a child would affirm the trustworthiness of their parent in the scenario I described. If I’m missing something, I apologize, but you’ll need to give me a good reason to believe you actually “don’t know” in this case.

  142. Ronin: I think ST leaves the possibility open for God to be good.

    I agree. What I mean, though, is that ST also leaves the possibility open for God to be not good, or even outright evil. I also don’t think that given ST, we have any meaningful way to figure out which one is the case. Thus, we cannot know if God is good (since he could easily be not good), and thus God is not knowably good. (He’s also not knowably evil either.)

    To the degree that Christianity (or other religions) takes God to be knowably good, I think this is damaging to their case.

  143. Ronin says:

    Peter,

    You wrote:

    I agree. What I mean, though, is that ST also leaves the possibility open for God to be not good, or even outright evil. I also don’t think that given ST, we have any meaningful way to figure out which one is the case. Thus, we cannot know if God is good (since he could easily be not good), and thus God is not knowably good. (He’s also not knowably evil either.)

    I would not say “outright evil” if you are using Scripture as a source, which in this case you would be. The ST and “skeptic” would still have to account for other things that are in Scripture. So, you cannot just toss it out or say, “Well that’s that.”

    To the degree that Christianity (or other religions) takes God to be knowably good, I think this is damaging to their case.

    In the sense that God maybe wholly good, maybe. But, not in the sense there is no God.

  144. Adamoriens says:

    You said you “don’t know” in response to #1, but I think that’s blatantly false. I think that you’re hedging for some reason. The answer to the question is clearly yes. We’ve all experienced this. Well, at least all of us who ignored a warning at some point or another, only to have the negative results of the warning come to pass. To say you “don’t know” suggests you are completely ignorant WRT the dynamics of trust formation in relationships, and I don’t believe that even for a second.

    I say that I don’t know because I don’t know the boy’s psychology. If he likes being hit on the head, then he has new incentive to ignore or distort his father’s warning. And so it is with moral evil; having committed it, on Christianity we are at least as likely to find it pleasurable and useful as not. When we find disobedience pleasurable and useful, then, it turns out that ignoring God’s warning has brought about positive results.

  145. @Ronin (on the Implications of Skeptical Theism):

    I would not say “outright evil” if you are using Scripture as a source, which in this case you would be. The ST and “skeptic” would still have to account for other things that are in Scripture. So, you cannot just toss it out or say, “Well that’s that.”

    Account for what?

    To the degree that Christianity (or other religions) takes God to be knowably good, I think this is damaging to their case.
    In the sense that God maybe wholly good, maybe. But, not in the sense there is no God.

    Agreed.

    ~

    @Cl/Adamoriens (Getting Involved in the Debate)

    I’m just a passerby here, but isn’t there something to be said for God just imbuing perfect knowledge within us of what disobedience would be like, thus leading us to trust his confidence? Heck, it can even be imperfect knowledge.

    For example, I have enough imperfect knowledge about batteries and poison that I know not to start eating batteries, despite never having personally tried to eat one (or knowing anyone who has). Likewise for jumping off cliffs, etc. No need to try this. Why couldn’t something be the same for sin?

  146. Adamoriens says:

    I’m just a passerby here, but isn’t there something to be said for God just imbuing perfect knowledge within us of what disobedience would be like, thus leading us to trust his confidence? Heck, it can even be imperfect knowledge.
    For example, I have enough imperfect knowledge about batteries and poison that I know not to start eating batteries, despite never having personally tried to eat one (or knowing anyone who has). Likewise for jumping off cliffs, etc. No need to try this. Why couldn’t something be the same for sin?

    Certainly. I said as much in comment 120 of this thread. But if this sort of knowledge should suffice for moral motivation, then suffering is unnecessary and cl’s theodicy fails.

  147. Ronin says:

    Peter,

    You wrote:

    Account for what?

    Other writings in the Bible which can possibly account for the goodness of God. I used an example from Scripture as indicated above.

  148. Adamoriens: Certainly. I said as much in comment 120 of this thread. But if this sort of knowledge should suffice for moral motivation, then suffering is unnecessary and cl’s theodicy fails.

    Agreed. Sorry I missed that; I was just skimming.

    I’m not sure you gave cl a satisfactory answer to his question “Isn’t empirically confirmed trustworthiness more stable than empirically unconfirmed trustworthiness?” though. The answer I would say is yes, it is more stable. Yet, we can have empirically confirmed trustworthiness without needing to personally verify it.

    And we could have been brains that interpret evidence differently than we do, leading God to be empirically unconfirmed yet still immensely trustworthy. I think those who advocate for an inner testimony of the Holy Spirit come close to this kind of view.

    And the slippery slope — I think it’s kind of silly to adopt an “Wow, you really don’t believe nuclear devices work and can kill millions? Why don’t you detonate one in New York City and see for yourself?” attitude, yet this is what Cl seems to be saying (though I expect he will present a more nuanced view in response).

    ~

    Ronin: [Skeptical Theists still need to account for o]ther writings in the Bible which can possibly account for the goodness of God. I used an example from Scripture as indicated above.

    I’m not sure I follow for two reasons:

    (1) God still could have evil motivations, yet appear to be good for us as far as we know. We don’t have a full grasp of the “higher evils” in play. Notice that this is Skeptical Theism in reverse.

    (2) There’s a large amount of writings in the Bible that I would argue account for some malevolence of God. I list what I consider to be the strongest examples in “The Biblical God is a Malevolent Bully”.

  149. Adamoriens says:

    Agreed. Sorry I missed that; I was just skimming.

    No worries. I’ve only been skimming your conversation too.

    I’m not sure you gave cl a satisfactory answer to his question “Isn’t empirically confirmed trustworthiness more stable than empirically unconfirmed trustworthiness?” though.

    From the outside, it may appear that I waffle and evade, but from inside I’m exercising caution (as I see it). The question you quote is actually fairly complicated. For starters, I should ask whether we’re talking about how trust works between humans, or how it works between humans and God. At first glance, it would seem that empirical trustworthiness between humans is more stable than any other kind; indeed, it appears to be the only way to build rational trust at all. But small children have immense trust in their parents, even though they have little experience to go on, and even though they can’t articulate what beliefs are justified by their experience. Are they irrational?

    This aside, I’m inclined to believe that humans with a positive history have more reason to trust one another, so I’d agree with cl insofar as humans are concerned.

    The answer I would say is yes, it is more stable. Yet, we can have empirically confirmed trustworthiness without needing to personally verify it. And we could have been brains that interpret evidence differently than we do, leading God to be empirically unconfirmed yet still immensely trustworthy. I think those who advocate for an inner testimony of the Holy Spirit come close to this kind of view.

    I take the so-called Sensus Divinitatus to be an expanded empiricism; this sixth sense correctly perceives that God exists and that there is a moral law. If this is true, it follows that we may have sufficient empirical justification without ever needing to use our natural five senses. Thus, suffering (or any natural experience) would be unnecessary for empirical justification that God is trustworthy.

    But would perceiving him through our other senses be an improvement? I’m unsure of how to answer this. Our natural faculties aren’t sensitive to God. We can only indirectly infer from natural features that God exists, whereas the supernatural faculty perceives him directly. How could such relatively weak inferences “stabilize” direct perception? Can my sense of taste stabilize my perception that there are stars? I wouldn’t be surprised if an argument could be made from taste to stars, but I question whether it would add anything of significant worth to what is already sufficient epistemic justification.

    Another problem is that normative commands from God don’t entail that we’ll find non-normative behaviour painful and useless. If so, then we have no guarantee that trustworthiness in God in the sense that cl describes will improve with non-normative acts.

    Now cl has a case if God tells us that some acts are more likely to be painful and useless, and we find them so through experience. But the preceding objection about the Sensus Divinitatus still runs its course.

    But perhaps cl doesn’t subscribe to this sixth sense.

  150. Now cl has a case if God tells us that some acts are more likely to be painful and useless, and we find them so through experience.

    For clarification, you mean God just tells us that such acts exist, without telling us specifically which acts he has in mind?

    But perhaps cl doesn’t subscribe to this sixth sense [sensus divinatus].

    Even if he doesn’t, he would have to provide an account for why giving us a sensus divinatus would not be an improvement. It seems to not only provide a much stronger foundation for such a trust of God, but also does it without requiring suffering. So it’s important to address regardless.

    I agree with you on everything else.

  151. Adamoriens says:

    For clarification, you mean God just tells us that such acts exist, without telling us specifically which acts he has in mind?

    Not exactly. Cl argues that the consequences of disobedience inform us that obedience is in our immediate self-interest (hence the motivational factor). I counter that normative commands (“Thou shalt not” full-stop) entail nothing about what is best for our immediate self-interest, such that there’s no reason to think that obedience is in our immediate self-interest. In matter of fact, given original sin etc. our immediate self-interests tend to be depraved.

    But supposing God did tell us what is in our immediate self-interest, and we acted thusly and found it true, or, doing oppositely, we found that disobedience frustrates our immediate desires, we would have empirical support for God’s trustworthiness. Of course, in this case God wouldn’t be issuing a normative command so much as a hypothetical imperative ie. if you want to gratify your immediate desires, do this… But of course, given man’s depravity, God would inevitably end up advising us to covet our neighbour’s wife and so on. Not where cl wants to go, I think.

  152. Ronin says:

    Peter wrote:

    I’m not sure I follow for two reasons:
    (1) God still could have evil motivations, yet appear to be good for us as far as we know. We don’t have a full grasp of the “higher evils” in play. Notice that this is Skeptical Theism in reverse.

    I am afraid I don’t follow you. First, what do you mean by “higher evil”? “Higher” as used in the OP was used to denote a positive meaning to goodness. Now, it’s possible we might disagree on the essence of evil, but to me, evil is a negative and cannot be “higher” as in having positive attributes. So, your comment seems nonsensical to me. Second, there is no Skeptical Theism in “reverse” that would fall under the category of theism anymore than say “atheism in reverse” that would fall under atheism, such terms and assertions seem silly to me. And, since I am committed to the hypothesis that God is the Greatest Conceivable Being it would be absurd to accept what you are proposing anyways.

    (2) There’s a large amount of writings in the Bible that I would argue account for some malevolence of God. I list what I consider to be the strongest examples in “The Biblical God is a Malevolent Bully”.

    I have skimmed your essay and as I begun I noticed your first example 2 Kings 2:23-24; I am not sure you gave those verses much thought or attention. Where in those verses does it say God cursed or even told Elisha to curse the kids? I’ll save you the trouble—the verses are simply silent in that regard. We can get into a deeper discussion with the theological implication but that’s beside the point. The point is, on the 1st example you cited I am finding you to be exegetically wanting, but this is not to say that you don’t have “good points”. I would have to look at each verse and the context of them. Ironically, you are choosing to cherry pick certain verses and not include others, which is what I objected to.

  153. @Ronin:

    First, what do you mean by “higher evil”? “Higher” as used in the OP was used to denote a positive meaning to goodness. Now, it’s possible we might disagree on the essence of evil, but to me, evil is a negative and cannot be “higher” as in having positive attributes. So, your comment seems nonsensical to me.

    I’m using “higher” in the sense that it’s kind of “one-step-removed” from what’s going on. For example, we might have to cause suffering in order to ultimately cause a net benefit (say, kill one person to save five), and that net benefit may not be readily apparent (thus, skeptical theism would follow).

    Likewise, a malevolent being might want to cause a benefit in order to ultimately cause a net harm (say, save one person in order to kill five), and that net harm may again not be readily apparent to us.

    Just as the hidden net benefit gives rise to a positive skeptical theism where God is ultimately good despite it not seeming to us so (because we’re unaware of the net benefit), it could also be that God is ultimately evil despite it not seeming to us so (because we’re unaware of the net harm). For example, we could imagine that God only saves a certain baby from a fire because God (in his omniscience) knows that baby would go on to be a serial killer.

    Thus, if we adopt Skeptical Theism, I think we have trouble figuring out if God is ultimately good, because he could just as easily be ultimately evil. Therefore, we need a theodicy or theodices that jointly justify all observed suffering or some other account for how we can know of God’s goodness. Sure God could be all-good all along, I’m just denying that we have an epistemic basis to actually know this.

    ~

    And, since I am committed to the hypothesis that God is the Greatest Conceivable Being it would be absurd to accept what you are proposing anyways.

    I think saying that God is the Greatest Conceivable Being (implicitly including moral perfection in the definition of “greatest”) is begging the question when the moral perfection of God is at stake.

    An entity that is like God in every way, except without the moral perfection, is an entity worth considering (even if it ultimately turns out to be logically impossible for one reason or another). Call this entity “Egod”.

    The angle the Problem of Evil gets at is that, if the POE is successful, then God is actually Egod. Thus an omnipotent and omniscient entity exists, it’s just that this entity happens to not be omnibnenevolent.

    If you think that Egod cannot exist because God would always be the greater being we can conceive, then I think our disagreement is more over the merits of the Ontological Argument than over evil.

    ~

    I have skimmed your essay and as I begun I noticed your first example 2 Kings 2:23-24; I am not sure you gave those verses much thought or attention. Where in those verses does it say God cursed or even told Elisha to curse the kids?

    It’s thought to be troubling because it’s a curse done in God’s name with God-granted powers. Where did the bears come from?

    Now let’s say that God actually didn’t endorse this use of bear summoning, yet chose not to stop it for such and such theodicy or what not. Then, fine, 2 Kings 2:23-24 is a bad example.

    But I think that’s a “weak man” fallacy on your part — my examples that I listed go from least convincing to most convincing, so I don’t think you accomplish much by responding to my weakest example. Nearly every example after this first one involves either a direct command spoken by God or an action of God in the Bible.

    ~

    Ironically, you are choosing to cherry pick certain verses and not include others, which is what I objected to.

    I’m not sure what you mean by cherry picking. I obviously picked out only the specific verses from the Bible that I thought were most troubling and contrary to our image of what an all-good God would do.

    If you’re instead suggesting that I cherry pick within the selection itself, as in that I quote the verse without quoting some sort of justifying context, that would be fair. But you would have to follow through and actually tell me the context you have in mind.

  154. cl says:

    Well, I guess I have to do my best to jump back in this one, so here we go…

    Peter,

    In response to #137:

    Empirical? Numerical? What do you mean?

    That the ultimate balance is what counts, not whether each individual instance of suffering has a corollary higher good.

    I do frame the story like that, because that’s what it means for suffering to be justified.

    That’s just your opinion of what it means for suffering to be justified. I don’t share your opinion because it commits one to doubting God’s existence for stubbing their toe (among many other things). Why should the conversation be artificially constrained to your opinion of what “all-good” entails? Aren’t anybody else’s ideas valid?

    …a being who is capable of getting rid of it but does not, then my definition of “all-good” means that being would get rid of that suffering…

    No, I think you actually mean “preventing” such suffering at all. If you actually mean only that an “all-good” God would get rid of suffering, then you’re forced to acknowledge that the God of the Bible is “all-good,” because according to the Bible God will “weed out of His Kingdom anything that causes evil” (Matt. 13:41). God *IS* concerned with getting rid of evil and suffering, and will do so, because God is just. At this point your complaint is reduced to God not working on your time schedule. In fact, I actually typed that before finding the following:

    And that final state of affairs sure is taking its sweet time getting here from my perspective, I might add — any eta on this, or reason why it would take a certain period of time? What could a God be waiting for?

    It is as I said: your complaint is reduced to God not working on your time schedule. What if God is waiting for more people to repent?

    Even if the final state of affairs is better than the current one, why bother to include pointless suffering in this current one?

    First, please be aware that you can ask a haphazard “why” to anything, it’s not a valid objection. Your inability to think of an answer to any “why” question isn’t a valid objection. That said, it is possible that including suffering and allowing evil results in a state of affairs that is preferable to not doing so.

    The idea of suffering requiring justification is implicit in the idea of an “all-good”, “all-powerful”, “all-knowing” God as I would define it.

    I understand, but why should the discussion be limited to your opinion of what an “all-good”, “all-powerful”, “all-knowing” God necessarily entails?

    Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by “all-good”, if you think God is “all-good”?

    We’ve already been over that. For the purposes of this discussion, you could say “not willing to tolerate evil indefinitely,” or “willing to tolerate evil only if there is a higher good.”

    How many different times are you going to repeat this?

    Until you can muster a cogent objection, or at least show that you actually understand the argument instead of supplying non-sequiturs like this:

    a lack of God / telos doesn’t mean we can’t bring purpose to our own lives by valuing states of affairs and being motivated to bring them about.

    I didn’t say anything about the ability of atheists to have purpose in their lives, and I actually agree with you that an atheist can have purpose in their life. Get aware of my actual opinion on that matter and quit scatterin’ straw around the barn.

    This is getting to be frustrating.

    Tell me about it. You’re still accusing me of invoking an argument I’m not.

    :)

  155. cl says:

    Ronin,

    Regarding #141:

    Are you talking about all the suffering or not.

    Yes, all the suffering.

    If you are talking about all suffering (it will include all people who suffer, suffered, and will suffer); then, you need to show how the following is PERTINENT in your argument,

    An eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin is a higher good;

    for those who suffer but do not get to taste this higher good?

    Because the claim isn’t, “God is only all-good if everyone who suffers gets to taste the higher good.” IOW, I’m not committed to a definition of “all-good” that precludes genuine loss. Although, note that an appeal to universalism nips that whole conversation in the bud.

  156. cl says:

    Ronin / Peter,

    I think Ronin raises an excellent point @144:

    In the sense that God maybe wholly good, maybe. But, not in the sense there is no God.

    Even at their absolute best, Peter’s arguments don’t permit atheism as a legitimate response to the POE.

    Adamoriens,

    Regarding #145:

    I say that I don’t know because I don’t know the boy’s psychology.

    And I say that’s bunk. Is it unreasonable to assume that the vast majority of human beings have an aversion to heavy objects bashing them in the head? C’mon man, who wants to get clocked over the head with a skillet?

    And so it is with moral evil; having committed it, on Christianity we are at least as likely to find it pleasurable and useful as not.

    That’s incorrect. Although it is true that a certain immoral act may provide temporary pleasure or serve some pragmatic value, on Christianity, the ultimate effect of committing such an act leads to an undesirable state of affairs. In the same way nobody wants to get hit in the head with a skillet, nobody wants to suffer, die and experience hell. But those are the results of sin on Christianity, so you can’t really appeal to “well some people like sin” here. Yes, some people gain temporary pleasure or value with sin, in the same way the boy is curious and actually likes the temporary rushing sensation of looking in the drawer despite his father’s commands otherwise, but neither boy nor sinner is happy with the ultimate results of their disobedience.

    Peter,

    Regarding #146:

    …isn’t there something to be said for God just imbuing perfect knowledge within us of what disobedience would be like, thus leading us to trust his confidence? Heck, it can even be imperfect knowledge. For example, I have enough imperfect knowledge about batteries and poison that I know not to start eating batteries, despite never having personally tried to eat one (or knowing anyone who has).

    Correct, but your knowledge of batteries and poison is a direct result of people who lacked such knowledge. IOW, it’s only because people were able to eat batteries that you know, for a fact, eating batteries is bad. Had people never been able to eat batteries, it would be impossible for you to know this as a fact the way you do now. Right?

    Likewise for jumping off cliffs, etc. No need to try this.

    Correct, but again, that’s only because other people already tried it. Take that away and your certainty vanishes. Right?

    Why couldn’t something be the same for sin?

    It is the same with sin: disallow people the ability to do good or evil, and you disallow them the empirical certainty that can only result from experiential knowledge.

  157. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    Regarding #147 between you and Peter:

    I’m just a passerby here, but isn’t there something to be said for God just imbuing perfect knowledge within us of what disobedience would be like, thus leading us to trust his confidence? Heck, it can even be imperfect knowledge.
    For example, I have enough imperfect knowledge about batteries and poison that I know not to start eating batteries, despite never having personally tried to eat one (or knowing anyone who has). Likewise for jumping off cliffs, etc. No need to try this. Why couldn’t something be the same for sin? (Peter Huford)

    Certainly. I said as much in comment 120 of this thread. But if this sort of knowledge should suffice for moral motivation, then suffering is unnecessary and cl’s theodicy fails. (Adamoriens, bold mine)

    As I just explained to Peter at the bottom of #157, only the experience of eating a battery or jumping off a cliff can provide the empirical certainty that those things should be avoided. Peter couldn’t know this if others hadn’t already tested. Likewise, only the experience of the ultimate results of evil can produce the certainty that God should always be trusted and evil should always be avoided. Similarly, we couldn’t know this without being allowed to test.

    Peter,

    At #149, you said to Adamoriens:

    I’m not sure you gave cl a satisfactory answer to his question “Isn’t empirically confirmed trustworthiness more stable than empirically unconfirmed trustworthiness?” though. The answer I would say is yes, it is more stable.

    I agree, and I appreciate your straight answer. I really think that clearly delineated “yes” and “no” answers can help center a discussion.

    Yet, we can have empirically confirmed trustworthiness without needing to personally verify it.

    Yes, we can have empirically confirmed trustworthiness that jumping off a cliff or eating batteries will likely lead to death, but it is only because people were allowed to test. Also, this is where your analogy begins to break down. Each person’s individual sin nature is unique. We have no alternative but personal experience when it comes to empirically confirming our own need to obey God at every turn.

    And the slippery slope — I think it’s kind of silly to adopt an “Wow, you really don’t believe nuclear devices work and can kill millions? Why don’t you detonate one in New York City and see for yourself?” attitude, yet this is what Cl seems to be saying (though I expect he will present a more nuanced view in response).

    First of all there’s no “slippery slope” even if that’s what I were saying, but again, you speak with the flippancy of one who *ALREADY KNOWS* detonating a nuke in NYC would kill millions. You take that knowledge for granted, but how do you know it? You can only know it because God allowed the evil of intense hatred that causes malicious explosions. If God never allowed an explosion to take place, you wouldn’t know possess the certainty you display. The only reason you take this knowledge as granted is because of previous, multiple instances of explosions occurring and killing people.

    To Ronin, you said:

    There’s a large amount of writings in the Bible that I would argue account for some malevolence of God. I list what I consider to be the strongest examples in “The Biblical God is a Malevolent Bully”.

    Well sure, but your “higher evils” remark applies: those might have “higher goods” so how can you say? Also, I note that like almost every other atheist I’ve encountered, you completely ignore Scriptures that challenge your “malevolent bully” accusation. IOW, you cherrypick what you need to make your case WRT God’s character. More on that later, don’t want to diverge too much for the ST / POE thing here.

  158. Ronin says:

    Peter wrote:

    Thus, if we adopt Skeptical Theism, I think we have trouble figuring out if God is ultimately good, because he could just as easily be ultimately evil.

    Again, you are talking nonsense if you are using ultimate [as maximal] to describe God’s essence. God as understood by the theist does not ascribe to what you are alluding to. The extent I am willing to go is: I couldn’t know if God was wholly good but not maximally evil, because that would not be God it would be something-else. If you don’t get what I am saying I believe we are at an impasse.

    Therefore, we need a theodicy or theodices that jointly justify all observed suffering or some other account for how we can know of God’s goodness. Sure God could be all-good all along, I’m just denying that we have an epistemic basis to actually know this.

    And, I am saying you have to account for the good things as well for proper inquiry. You appear to ONLY want to account for suffering.

    I think saying that God is the Greatest Conceivable Being (implicitly including moral perfection in the definition of “greatest”) is begging the question when the moral perfection of God is at stake.

    An entity that is like God in every way, except without the moral perfection, is an entity worth considering (even if it ultimately turns out to be logically impossible for one reason or another). Call this entity “Egod”.

    The angle the Problem of Evil gets at is that, if the POE is successful, then God is actually Egod. Thus an omnipotent and omniscient entity exists, it’s just that this entity happens to not be omnibnenevolent.

    If you think that Egod cannot exist because God would always be the greater being we can conceive, then I think our disagreement is more over the merits of the Ontological Argument than over evil.

    Did you read the link(s) (Nagasawa) I posted on the other thread? His paper on A New Defense of Anselmian Theism might inform you of the premises I accept, since you are bringing up premises I don’t adhere to. We might not even agree on how we define what you label as “omni”.

    It’s thought to be troubling because it’s a curse done in God’s name with God-granted powers. Where did the bears come from?

    So? Things that I don’t particularly agree with have been done in the name of God, but that does not mean “God did it!” There are stories in the Bible with men that have “God-granted powers” and they disobeyed God none-the-less, your point? I assume the bears came from the woods, nature, etc.

    But I think that’s a “weak man” fallacy on your part — my examples that I listed go from least convincing to most convincing, so I don’t think you accomplish much by responding to my weakest example. Nearly every example after this first one involves either a direct command spoken by God or an action of God in the Bible.

    You assume I read your whole essay–I did not. I did not know that was your weakest example, since I did not read all of your examples. Which example of yours do you want me to painstakingly analyze for you? Will you also contemplate examples which might need to also be considered? Just as well, will you also mull over examples that are “good” in order to “weigh” your inquiry, or am I wasting my time?

  159. Ronin says:

    cl wrote:

    Because the claim isn’t, “God is only all-good if everyone who suffers gets to taste the higher good.” IOW, I’m not committed to a definition of “all-good” that precludes genuine loss. Although, note that an appeal to universalism nips that whole conversation in the bud.

    Assuming I accept the above, are you still committed to this?

    We *CAN* know about God’s motivations because they are plainly revealed in Scripture. God’s motivation is an eternity of free, creative creatures, without sin. God’s motivation is that we would repent and give up sin so He can welcome us to this eternity. If we refuse, we are hostile to the sinless eternity God desires, and an omnibenevolent, just God could not allow sin to persist indefinitely.

    Under Calvinism God’s motivation could not be that He wants the reprobates to “repent and give up sin” because He knows they cannot do such things. So, I assume when you say “we” you mean only mean Christians and not the whole world [under Calvinism]. Correct?

  160. cl says:

    Adamoriens,

    RE #150:

    But small children have immense trust in their parents, even though they have little experience to go on, and even though they can’t articulate what beliefs are justified by their experience.

    This is an excellent point that strongly supports my argument: I think this is why Jesus said we must become like little children to enter into the Kingdom of heaven. It’s the only way a relationship between an omniscient Creator and a non-omniscient creation can work: by child-like trust. The alternative is doubt, which blocks the trust relationship from working.

    I take the so-called Sensus Divinitatus to be an expanded empiricism; this sixth sense correctly perceives that God exists and that there is a moral law. If this is true, it follows that we may have sufficient empirical justification without ever needing to use our natural five senses.

    I don’t think Sensus Divinitatus constitutes “sufficient empirical justification without ever needing to use our natural five senses.” It simply implies the existence of a normative claim, i.e., “I feel God doesn’t want me to do this,” or, “I feel God wants me to do this.”

    Another problem is that normative commands from God don’t entail that we’ll find non-normative behaviour painful and useless. If so, then we have no guarantee that trustworthiness in God in the sense that cl describes will improve with non-normative acts.

    I’ve replied to this above. Though we may temporarily gain pleasure or pragmatic value from it, we (all humans) will ultimately find non-normative behavior painful and useless because it leads to suffering, punishment and death.

    Now cl has a case if God tells us that some acts are more likely to be painful and useless, and we find them so through experience.

    That’s a decent paraphrase, but:

    But the preceding objection about the Sensus Divinitatus still runs its course.

    How so? I don’t think Sensus Divinitatus constitutes “sufficient empirical justification without ever needing to use our natural five senses.” It just implies or affirms the existence of a normative claim. The existence of a normative claim is not sufficient empirical proof that acting non-normatively entails undesirable consequences.

  161. Adamoriens says:

    And I say that’s bunk. Is it unreasonable to assume that the vast majority of human beings have an aversion to heavy objects bashing them in the head? C’mon man, who wants to get clocked over the head with a skillet?

    I thought you might say that. But then, a significant disanalogy arises; the pain of being hit in the head is not like committing moral evil. Moral evil is frequently pleasurable and useful, whereas the pain brought about by cranial impact is not.

    That’s incorrect. Although it is true that a certain immoral act may provide temporary pleasure or serve some pragmatic value, on Christianity, the ultimate effect of committing such an act leads to an undesirable state of affairs. In the same way nobody wants to get hit in the head with a skillet, nobody wants to suffer, die and experience hell. But those are the results of sin on Christianity, so you can’t really appeal to “well some people like sin” here. Yes, some people gain temporary pleasure or value with sin, in the same way the boy is curious and actually likes the temporary rushing sensation of looking in the drawer despite his father’s commands otherwise, but neither boy nor sinner is happy with the ultimate results of their disobedience.

    The only way to know about Hell in our current epistemic situation is through divine revelation. But if it’s revelation we must depend on to know where our self-interests ultimately lie, then (as I asked in post 76) what good is earthly suffering?

  162. cl says:

    Ronin,

    Assuming I accept the above, are you still committed to this?

    By “this” are you referring to the citation above your original line, the citation below it, or something else? It’s unclear and I don’t want to assume.

    Under Calvinism God’s motivation could not be that He wants the reprobates to “repent and give up sin” because He knows they cannot do such things.

    Why not? Which Calvinist tenet(s) do you think necessarily entail that conclusion?

    So, I assume when you say “we” you mean only mean Christians and not the whole world [under Calvinism]. Correct?

    In the snippet you cited, “we” referred to anyone who reads the Bible. Anyone who reads the Bible can discern what the “higher good” is: the new Heavens, new Earth, new Eden, no more evil, no more death, etc.

  163. Ronin says:

    cl wrote:

    By “this” are you referring to the citation above your original line, the citation below it, or something else? It’s unclear and I don’t want to assume.

    What I quoted from you which was right below my question. Your quote started off with “We *CAN* know about God’s motivations…”

    Why not? Which Calvinist tenet(s) do you think necessarily entail that conclusion?

    This going to be my 3rd or 4th time posting this, but I had quoted Sproul who wrote as follows:

    A cardinal point or Reformed theology [Calvinism] is the maxim: “Regeneration precedes faith.” Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin is so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ. We do not believe in order to be born again; we are born again in order to believe (Chosen By God, page 72).

    A reprobate could never repent or give up sin truthfully; unless, he or she were regenerated by God, and I challenge you to find a Calvinist who would not agree to that.

  164. Adamoriens says:

    Hi cl. Missed this stuff on the first pass through:

    I don’t think Sensus Divinitatus constitutes “sufficient empirical justification without ever needing to use our natural five senses.” It simply implies the existence of a normative claim, i.e., “I feel God doesn’t want me to do this,” or, “I feel God wants me to do this.”

    How so? I don’t think Sensus Divinitatus constitutes “sufficient empirical justification without ever needing to use our natural five senses.” It just implies or affirms the existence of a normative claim. The existence of a normative claim is not sufficient empirical proof that acting non-normatively entails undesirable consequences.

    Two things I’d note. First, Peter and I were talking about whether we could know “empirically” that God was trustworthy with the Sensus Divinitatus, and we couldn’t think of a reason why not. Recalling that establishing God’s trustworthiness has been your goal all along, and given the plausible assumption that this sixth sense would me a more efficient and less painful way of establishing God’s trustworthiness, it seems to both Peter and I that you have a burden to show why a long history of suffering (which has not yet established that God is trustworthy, since Hell has not been empirically verified) is the best logically possible way to establish God’s trustworthiness.

    Second, I agree that “a normative claim is not sufficient empirical proof that acting non-normatively entails undesirable consequences.” In fact, I would argue that, absent some metaethic yet to be articulated, a normative claim does not entail that acting in a contrary manner will result in undesirable consequences at all. Morally undesirable consequences, certainly, but that says nothing about what the parties involved will find desirable personally, which is the issue at stake.

    And so, if God’s normative commands entail nothing about what humans will personally find desirable, I wonder how God’s trustworthiness could be bolstered by fulfilling a promise that was never entailed or implied by the normative command in the first place.

    Now, if you’re correct that God has promised that normative behaviour will be ultimately fulfil our desires (heaven) and deviancy will ultimately frustrate them (hell), then we wait still for God’s trustworthiness in this matter to be verified. And so earthly suffering and moral evil still go unexplained and unjustified.

  165. What Does It Mean to Be “All-Good”?

    That’s just your opinion of what it means for suffering to be justified.

    Yes, it is just my opinion. It’s the definition of “all-good” that I have supplied. That doesn’t mean we can’t have different definitions for the concept. I suppose I’d be fine with saying God isn’t all-good on my definition, but may be all-good on your definition, though I’m still trying to figure out what your definition is.

    ~

    I don’t share your opinion because it commits one to doubting God’s existence for stubbing their toe (among many other things).

    I refer you to “Heaven, Coddling Gods, and Other Theodicies”, specifically the subsection “That Darn Coddling God, Coddling Us With Those Darn Birth Defects!”.

    ~

    Me: Perhaps you should clarify what you mean by “all-good”, if you think God is “all-good”?
    Cl: We’ve already been over that. For the purposes of this discussion, you could say “not willing to tolerate evil indefinitely,” or “willing to tolerate evil only if there is a higher good.”

    I think one place we differ is that I want the higher good to exist in a causal relationship with the suffering — I want the suffering to necessitate the higher good. Is this something you share? Otherwise, we end up with a higher good and some unrelated and seemingly pointless suffering, which is repugnant to me.

    “Not willing to tolerate evil indefinitely” is also wanting for me, personally. It means I would be fine for a couple thousand people to suffer and die from disease, as long as I eventually get around to curing that disease, maybe in a couple hundred years. …or maybe never. It’s hard to tell when we can wait an arbitrary and undefined amount of time.

    I suspect you’d find these two standards wanting as well, but if you don’t, then we’re just at an impasse with two different definitions. I’d be willing to just say “God allows people to suffer from disease without any reason why”, even if Cl doesn’t think this makes God not all-good.

  166. Long Time Tables, Skeptical Theism, and Begging the Question

    If you actually mean only that an “all-good” God would get rid of suffering, then you’re forced to acknowledge that the God of the Bible is “all-good,” because according to the Bible God will “weed out of His Kingdom anything that causes evil” (Matt. 13:41).

    That doesn’t qualify for all-goodness by my standard because it’s based on waiting a long period of time with no reason to wait that long. But sure, if that verse is true and there is a reason to wait, then God is all-good. But I don’t think the verse has been proven yet, nor do I see a reason for God to wait.

    ~

    At this point your complaint is reduced to God not working on your time schedule. [...] What if God is waiting for more people to repent?

    I don’t see why waiting for more people to repent necessitates suffering in the mean-time.

    ~

    Me: Even if the final state of affairs is better than the current one, why bother to include pointless suffering in this current one?

    Cl: First, please be aware that you can ask a haphazard “why” to anything, it’s not a valid objection. Your inability to think of an answer to any “why” question isn’t a valid objection…

    It’s a valid objection because I take an inclusion of pointless suffering to mean God isn’t all-good, and thus God is all-good unless there is a reason why.

    ~

    …That said, it is possible that including suffering and allowing evil results in a state of affairs that is preferable to not doing so.

    This is just Skeptical Theism. Sure it’s possible, but so what?

  167. Skeptical Theism and The Proper Response to the POE

    Well sure, but your “higher evils” remark applies: those might have “higher goods” so how can you say?

    Sure, they might be higher goods. I can’t say. They might also be for the sake of evil. I can’t say that either. That’s why I take God to not be knowably good. I also take God to not be knowably evil.

    ~

    Even at their absolute best, Peter’s arguments don’t permit atheism as a legitimate response to the POE.

    Sure, again. My arguments only rule out knowably good (or knowably evil) gods. Or rather, on the basis of this argument, atheism is only assured if no other gods are possible but knowably good/evil ones. (For example, if something isn’t a god unless it is the greatest conceivable being, and the greatest conceivable being must be knowably all-good, then my argument would rule out god.)

    ~

    Also, I note that like almost every other atheist I’ve encountered, you completely ignore Scriptures that challenge your “malevolent bully” accusation. IOW, you cherrypick what you need to make your case WRT God’s character. More on that later, don’t want to diverge too much for the ST / POE thing here.

    I’ve never denied that there are scriptures that show God in a positive light. I just find the malevolent scriptures to be problematic, and if we’re looking for perfect goodness, then I don’t think counterbalancing benevolent scriptures help.

    But sure, guilty as charged. Should I write a “The Biblical God is a Benevolent Father!” essay to go along with my other one?

  168. That “Atheists Have No Basis for Moral Outrage” Thing

    Me: How many different times are you going to repeat this [claim that "the atheist who is consistent with their worldview shouldn’t even feel any moral outrage about suffering, whatsoever"]?

    Cl: Until you can muster a cogent objection, or at least show that you actually understand the argument

    Ok. I knew that you had said that in the past, but I wasn’t sure if you had changed your mind.

    If you agree that we can value certain states of affairs, then it doesn’t take much far to get to moral outrage about suffering. You’d just have to further stipulate that we can value the states of affairs with less suffering, and we can do this for reasons referred to by the word “moral”.

    I’m still not sure what you’re getting at. Maybe I don’t understand the argument, but operating on the assumption that I’m not stupid, maybe you should re-articulate it so I could try to understand it better?

  169. Does Our Imperfect Knowledge Require Past Suffering?

    Me: Correct, but your knowledge of batteries and poison is a direct result of people who lacked such knowledge. IOW, it’s only because people were able to eat batteries that you know, for a fact, eating batteries is bad. Had people never been able to eat batteries, it would be impossible for you to know this as a fact the way you do now. Right?

    Ok, I suppose that some ways I’m able to avoid suffering now is because it indirectly traces back to some time when people suffered in some ways.

    But still, I think that:

    1.) It’s still possible to empirically derive knowledge about suffering without needing to cause suffering. For a hypothetical example, we can demonstrate that people require oxygen to survive without suffocating anyone, just from observing existing respiration systems. We can then further figure out that you wouldn’t want to be deprived of oxygen, and thus suffocation is to be avoided.

    2.) There is some suffering that exists that does not at all give us empirical confirmation of anything. What do we learn to avoid from noticing that malaria plagues Africa, and why is malaria still around if we’ve learned this thing? Or have we still not learned our lesson? (Why don’t diseases go away after we’ve learned our lesson.)

    ~

    Could a Sensus Divinatus Do The Trick?

    Cl: I don’t think Sensus Divinitatus constitutes “sufficient empirical justification without ever needing to use our natural five senses.” It simply implies the existence of a normative claim, i.e., “I feel God doesn’t want me to do this,” or, “I feel God wants me to do this.”

    I agree with Adamoriens and I think this is a lack of imagination. Consider a sensus divinatus that was much stronger and provided direct evidence just like any other sense.

    ~

    Empirical Confirmation? Where?!

    In the same way nobody wants to get hit in the head with a skillet, nobody wants to suffer, die and experience hell. But those are the results of sin on Christianity

    Each person’s individual sin nature is unique. We have no alternative but personal experience when it comes to empirically confirming our own need to obey God at every turn.

    It is the same with sin: disallow people the ability to do good or evil, and you disallow them the empirical certainty that can only result from experiential knowledge.

    This, however, is the key problem, and the other two are kind of trivial compared to this — you haven’t provided any empirical evidence for disobeying God at all.

    Like Adamoriens said, where is the empirical evidence that disobeying God actually causes things to go bad for me? All I have is the Bible’s word that I will go to Hell, no actual empirical confirmation that I am bound for Hell. (Likewise, elsewhere I think you espouse universalism or annihilationism, so I think we need to sort that out!)

    Where, for example, is the empirical evidence that homosexuality is a sin, and thus disobeying God on homosexuality is going to hurt us?

  170. cl says:

    Ronin,

    A reprobate could never repent or give up sin truthfully; unless, he or she were regenerated by God,

    …and why do you think this poses a problem for my claim that ST is not necessary to defang the POE?

  171. cl says:

    Peter,

    I refer you to “Heaven, Coddling Gods, and Other Theodicies”, specifically the subsection “That Darn Coddling God, Coddling Us With Those Darn Birth Defects!”.

    I’ve already read it. Yeah, that’s what you actually believe: an all-good God should prevent any pain, even stubbed toes. Your definition of “all-good” entails the Cosmic Coddler. Mine doesn’t. That “the suffering on Earth goes quite above and beyond that of stubbed toes” is irrelevant here because there is a knowable higher good, and the suffering related to birth defects and malaria will be eliminated.

    I think one place we differ is that I want the higher good to exist in a causal relationship with the suffering — I want the suffering to necessitate the higher good. Is this something you share?

    You demand that every instance of suffering have a corollary or causally entangled good, in this life. I don’t.

    I suspect you’d find these two standards wanting as well, but if you don’t, then we’re just at an impasse with two different definitions.

    Yeah, those two standards are wanting. That we have grounds to doubt God’s existence because we stubbed our toe strikes me as absurd. Similarly, that we should doubt God’s existence because He doesn’t work on our time schedule also strikes me as absurd. Even if one disagrees to the “absurd” charge, neither constitutes a valid objection to any argument I’ve given.

    I’d be willing to just say “God allows people to suffer from disease without any reason why”,

    I wouldn’t.

    That doesn’t qualify for all-goodness by my standard because it’s based on waiting a long period of time with no reason to wait that long.

    I understand, we’re back to that comfy incredulity: God isn’t “all-good” because Peter can’t think of a reason to wait that long. Alternatively, God is only “all-good” if He operates on Peter Hurford’s time schedule. Surely you can see why I’m not taking those objections seriously.

    But I don’t think the verse has been proven yet,

    It’s silly to imply that it should be. It refers to a point in the future.

    nor do I see a reason for God to wait.

    Okay, so you’re back to personal incredulity.

    I don’t see why waiting for more people to repent necessitates suffering in the mean-time.

    Because sin and the fallen nature persist until Matt. 13:41 is fulfilled.

    It’s a valid objection because I take an inclusion of pointless suffering to mean God isn’t all-good, and thus God is all-good unless there is a reason why.

    Simply asking “why” is not a valid objection. “Why haven’t we discovered what dark energy is” is not a valid objection against the existence of dark energy. You’re reverting to incredulity again.

    This is just Skeptical Theism. Sure it’s possible, but so what?

    So what? That nips your “why” question in the bud. “Why include suffering in the meantime?” Because there’s a higher good. Note this isn’t skeptical theism, because I’ve explained clearly what the higher good is. I’m not just ho-humming and saying, “Oh, there’s *PROBABLY* a higher good, but I have no idea what it is.” That would be ST.

    Sure, again. My arguments only rule out knowably good (or knowably evil) gods.

    Then,

    1) Can you write out a comprehensive list of reasons why you describe yourself as a *STRONG* atheist, since you now seem to concede that your POE arguments are very weak?

    2) Your POE argument doesn’t rule out a knowably good God, unless of course by “knowably good God” you mean something other than a God who only tolerate evil if there was a higher good. My argument shows that we can call the Biblical God “knowingly good” according to the criteria you set forth.

    I just find the malevolent scriptures to be problematic, and if we’re looking for perfect goodness,

    …and what is “perfect goodness” according to Peter Hurford?

    That “Atheists Have No Basis for Moral Outrage” Thing

    It’s not that “Atheists Have No Basis for Moral Outrage.” It’s that atheists’ moral outrage suggests they intuitively accept and understand that the world was not meant to be fallen. If I were an atheist, I’d be a nihilist and I wouldn’t advance any POE. I wouldn’t blog about (a)theism. I’d simply shrug my shoulders and be like, “Oh well, most all organisms eventually suffer, that’s how it is.” I wouldn’t have the strong emotional outrage against suffering that most atheists have. That so many have this strong emotion is suggestive.

    Ok, I suppose that some ways I’m able to avoid suffering now is because it indirectly traces back to some time when people suffered in some ways.

    In “some” ways? No. In *EVERY* way. You are only able to avoid suffering now because previous humans weren’t. If previous humans hadn’t had the risk, you would never know eating batteries or jumping off cliffs had the effects they do. IOW, that flippancy about the nuke in NYC wasn’t very well thought-out.

    It’s still possible to empirically derive knowledge about suffering without needing to cause suffering.

    Your hypothetical example fails. “Observing existing respiration symptoms” cannot confirm anything other than that “existing respiration symptoms” exist. In science, we have to test our observations, right? The scientist can’t just think their way to truth.

    What do we learn to avoid from noticing that malaria plagues Africa, and why is malaria still around if we’ve learned this thing?

    You’re still thinking of short-term, corollary goods. Think of the long term: we learn that disobedience to God entails a whole host of undesirable circumstances, including malaria.

    Consider a sensus divinatus that was much stronger and provided direct evidence just like any other sense.

    So, a spiritual sense that provides “direct evidence?” You’ll have to explain that one, and precisely define “direct evidence” in a way that is substantially different than “empirical evidence” lest you end up inadvertently confirming my point.

    This, however, is the key problem, and the other two are kind of trivial compared to this — you haven’t provided any empirical evidence for disobeying God at all.

    The entire history of the fallen world is and will be the empirical evidence.

  172. Ronin says:

    cl,

    …and why do you think this poses a problem for my claim that ST is not necessary to defang the POE?

    Because you wrote,

    There’s no need to retreat and say, “Oh, I’m sure God has a higher good, I just don’t know what it is.” The Bible says God has given us everything we need for godliness, and that’s why Christians should use their swords.

    It really wouldn’t matter for reprobates if the Bible has information about a higher good and the guidelines for godliness, would it? So, yeah, I think saying God might have a higher good for you but I don’t know–would be justified considering Calvinism could be true; unless, I would want to falsely advertise God’s plan.

  173. I wouldn’t blog about (a)theism. I’d simply shrug my shoulders and be like, “Oh well, most all organisms eventually suffer, that’s how it is.” I wouldn’t have the strong emotional outrage against suffering that most atheists have. That so many have this strong emotion is suggestive.

    LOL! So atheists aren’t allowed to feel compassion without it being inconsistent with their worldview? C’mon, cl. We could replace the term “moral outrage” with “actively pronounced compassion for others” or “humanitarian concern,” and we’d essentially still be talking about the same thing. The fact that you think this bugs me because it suggests you are looking past the human condition that we all find ourselves in regardless of creed, race, socioeconomic status, etc.

    Anyway, you seem to have recanted that assertion or at least clarified what you actually meant:

    It’s not that “Atheists Have No Basis for Moral Outrage.” It’s that atheists’ moral outrage suggests they intuitively accept and understand that the world was not meant to be fallen.

    Perhaps it just suggests that atheists would rather the world be a less unpleasant place? Which is, may I add, suggestive of nothing. Making efforts to improve the quality of living for myself and others wouldn’t mean I intuitively accepted or understood the world was not meant to be fallen. It would just mean that I found the quality of life disappointing, noticed others felt the same way, and came to the conclusion that net happiness may increase if enough people worked toward the end of improving the quality of life.

    Also, I think “moral outrage” is a bit of a misnomer. For one, I’m not exactly sure how we would define such a thing and I don’t think it is applicable to all cases of general outrage. Perhaps you could provide an example of strictly moral outrage?

  174. Crude says:

    LOL! So atheists aren’t allowed to feel compassion without it being inconsistent with their worldview?

    They’re not allowed to speak in terms of justice, good, evil, and various other ways as if they were beholden to an objective morality, when in reality they’re not. And this happens pretty often.

    Well, “not allowed” in that it’s rather dishonest and not consistent. On the other hand, what’s the value of honesty and consistency under a materialistic atheism again?

    Likewise with “making the world a better place”. ‘Better’ by what standard? On materialist atheism, that’s “making a world they prefer, for whatever reason”.

  175. cl says:

    Ronin,

    It really wouldn’t matter for reprobates if the Bible has information about a higher good and the guidelines for godliness, would it?

    Why wouldn’t it? Take it even further: if Calvinism is true, why even have a Bible? Either way, how does it matter for my argument? That’s the part I need you to explain. Whether Calvinism is true or not, the higher good is still there, right? You’ll likely say, “Yes, but can we still call God ‘good’ if nobody has a choice?” Is that what you’re getting at? If not, *WHAT* are you getting at?

    So, yeah, I think saying God might have a higher good for you but I don’t know–would be justified considering Calvinism could be true;

    But you *DO* know. You already know what the higher good is, right? If so, why do you need ST?

    ThinkingEmotions,

    LOL! So atheists aren’t allowed to feel compassion without it being inconsistent with their worldview?

    Yeah, I’d “LOL” too if I came up with something that silly.

    Anyway, you seem to have recanted that assertion or at least clarified what you actually meant:

    I didn’t recant any assertion. A careful reader should have no problems understanding what’s been written. It’s a simple point: if atheism were true, I’d expect people to not be so emotionally involved in suffering that didn’t even affect them. That almost everybody gets up-in-arms about suffering suggests, to me, that atheism is not true. You don’t have to agree, but at least understand what’s being said.

    Crude,

    They’re not allowed to speak in terms of justice, good, evil, and various other ways as if they were beholden to an objective morality, when in reality they’re not. And this happens pretty often.

    Damn straight. Most atheists seem not to realize the betrayals of their language.

  176. Ronin says:

    cl,

    Why wouldn’t it?

    How would it matter to them specifically?

    Take it even further: if Calvinism is true, why even have a Bible?

    Indeed.

    Either way, how does it matter for my argument? That’s the part I need you to explain. Whether Calvinism is true or not, the higher good is still there, right? You’ll likely say, “Yes, but can we still call God ‘good’ if nobody has a choice?” Is that what you’re getting at? If not, *WHAT* are you getting at?

    I think it matters because of how you framed your argument:

    1. A good God would only permit suffering if there was a higher good;
    2. Suffering is temporal and transitory;

    In 1 you are making the claim a “good” God would only permit suffering if “X”. The claim in 1 seems to be vague since you want to cover instances where people suffer but the higher good is not even a possibility for them. Okay, but then we go to 2 where you want the reader to be aware that suffering is temporal and transitory, but this may not be true. There will be an “eternal” suffering in hell for those who God predestined to hell in Calvinism.

    3. The joy God promises is eternal and immovable;

    In your 3 you want the reader to recognize God’s promise of eternal joy. Okay, God promises eternal joy to some, but God will also allow temporal and eternal suffering. What did you accomplish in your 1 by saying a good God will only allow suffering if “X” if He also allows temporal and eternal suffering and denies people the “X” even in possibility?

    4. Eternal joy equates is a higher good compared to temporal suffering;

    In your 4 you want the reader to know eternal joy equates to a higher good. Okay, and what does eternal suffering amount to?

    5. A higher good exists;
    6. It is not necessary to invoke ST to defang the POE.

    In your 5 you want the reader to understand, “Hey there is a higher good!” Okay, but the mere existence of a higher good does NOT defang the POE, because the POE remains as God’s good actions of a higher good does not account for what are seemly “evil” actions on His part. What are these evil actions? Well, He created a higher good but denies the higher good [even in possibility] and at the same time allows suffering that is temporal and eternal, which the higher good does not account for.

  177. cl,

    Yeah, I’d “LOL” too if I came up with something that silly.

    That’s what I’m reducing your statement to. I think morality is a dysfunctional concept, so following from that, does that even mean I can technically experience moral outrage? I might just be mistaken, and that would mean I still could feel moral outrage — similar to how some Christians believe an atheist still retains knowledge of God’s laws in his heart, despite not believing in him or his laws.

    My main problem with your contention, whatever you’re trying to prove with it, is that moral outrage for an atheist like Peter primarily involves the suffering of others. Now, maybe I’m falsely recalling things (if I am, disregard all this), but I swear you’ve previously said that suffering doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with morality; that, in fact, it’s not logical to just overwrite good/bad with doesn’t involve suffering and promotes well-being and happiness/does involve suffering.

    From a rational point of view, you’re correct that it’s not logical to assign such values to those words without significant authoritative and/or epistemic basis. However, it’s also not logical to use these words to describe media we find enjoyable. When I say that Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures is a good album, what I really mean is that I find it enjoyable to listen to and hold it in heightened esteem; I find it valuable, so to speak. I am not saying that it is inherently good/valuable, or that people should listen to Unknown Pleasures. That would be incoherent.

    So, as someone that doesn’t really believe in morality, when I call an action good or bad, I am basically just asserting whether I a) find it reasonable and b) would take the same action if I were faced with identical circumstances. It’s possible that there might be an action A that I find reasonable, but I would not do in identical circumstances. Conversely, there might be an action B that I would do in identical circumstances, but would admit was not reasonable.

    Going back to examples of music, it’s possible for me to believe an album is good or valuable without liking the music involved. The Beatles made so many contributions to music that it’s nearly unfathomable, but honestly, I don’t listen to them because I don’t enjoy their music. It’s also possible to find an album enjoyable, but not valuable. Someone might have a lot of fun jamming to catchy dance music, but admit at the end of the day that the music isn’t valuable or important.

    I imagine you’ll charge me on counts of equivocation and such, but consider the following. Most people have given up the field of aesthetics (for obvious reasons, may I add), but when it was a relevant field, there was much talk of objective artistic goodness — much in the vein of ethics and objective moral good. There is an analogous relationship.

    The very fact that they feel moral outrage about it ['it' presumably being Draper's famous example of gratuitous suffering] suggests that they don’t really believe the universe was meant to be an indifferent atomic billiard dance.

    You can’t really think this, can you? Just because I accept the universe is an “indifferent atomic billiard dance” doesn’t mean I have to like it. In addition to this, not liking it would not entail the world wasn’t meant to be this way. Sometimes, there are events that happen that I’d prefer not happen. Sometimes, there are events that I want to happen that others would prefer not happen. It really is as simple as that; there is nothing implicit within those statements that have any further weight. Then again, I really have no idea what you even mean by moral outrage, which is why I asked for a definition… would a sentiment like, “I can’t believe X happened, that’s so unfair, it’s not right, oh the inhumanity,” qualify as a sentiment of moral outrage?

    A careful reader should have no problems understanding what’s been written. It’s a simple point: if atheism were true, I’d expect people to not be so emotionally involved in suffering that didn’t even affect them. That almost everybody gets up-in-arms about suffering suggests, to me, that atheism is not true. You don’t have to agree, but at least understand what’s being said.

    … so you’re suggesting I am not a careful reader because I’m not understanding you? Isn’t it possible that you just aren’t adequately explaining yourself, or, just maybe, that what you’re saying doesn’t make sense? Don’t take this the wrong way, but it sounds like you’re trying to eschew responsibility for upholding your assertion. You’re entitled to think it’s a simple point, but I’m not inclined to think it so simple. You act as if it’s a given, and that’s not true in my book.

    Why would you expect that to be true on atheism? Does atheism entail that people don’t care for one another? Does atheism encourage indifference toward pain and suffering? If you answer no to either of these questions, then I think your assertion is unfounded. Sure, it’s an indifferent universe, but that doesn’t mean humans are indifferent. When you say things like this, it seriously gives me the impression that you think atheists are morally inferior, and that goes against your existing statements otherwise.

    There isn’t a law in atheism forbidding me to care about others’ suffering or doing something about it. If empathy and compassion can exist within an atheistic universe, then I don’t know why you wouldn’t expect people to get up-in-arms about suffering. People get pleasure out of doing what they believe are good acts, regardless of whether morality or God even exist.

    On a related note, can you please stop acting like the only consistent atheist is a bleak, indifferent nihilist? Nihilism doesn’t entail one to stop helping others or to be less altruistic. Obviously it would be incoherent for an atheist to believe in objective, realistic morality or inherent meaning, but that doesn’t mean people can’t be malicious jerks or altruistic folks.

    What if I said that because Christians think the world was meant to be a perfect, peaceful place, it is suggestive that they do not accept reality as it is? Really, all this is nothing more than circular rhetoric.

    You expecting atheists to not be passionate about suffering if their doctrine is true does not make what you expect the actual case; you base your assumption off of what you think a consistent atheist believes in, and I don’t think the beliefs of your consistent atheist are representative of what consistent atheists actually believe. IOW, you’re mistaken in what beliefs comprise a consistent atheist.

    See:

    The Anti-Nihilist
    Existential nihilism

    Crude,

    They’re not allowed to speak in terms of justice, good, evil, and various other ways as if they were beholden to an objective morality, when in reality they’re not. And this happens pretty often.

    On the contrary, sure we are. In a moral sense, good and evil do not have any real meaning. I have no problem admitting this. Above, I likened this to how good and bad don’t have any real meaning when used in praise or criticism of artistic works. Instead, it’s really just a convenient way for us to express our opinions and preferences. The same is true WRT moral usage of good and bad. See: meta-ethical moral relativism.

    Just because art such as paintings and music have no true objective standards when it comes to evaluating goodness does not mean we aren’t entitled to our own subjective standards and such. It also wouldn’t preclude majority opinions and consensus on certain things. In a moral sense, you could liken this to how almost all people think murder is wrong, and for various reasons. Again, just because there are no objective standards does not permit us from using our own standards.

    Likewise with “making the world a better place”. ‘Better’ by what standard? On materialist atheism, that’s “making a world they prefer, for whatever reason”.

    Better is one of those vague, yet convenient, words to use. What an atheist really means by that might be reducing net suffering, increasing net happiness, etc.

  178. Do We Need to Observe Suffering?

    Cl: “Observing existing respiration symptoms” cannot confirm anything other than that “existing respiration symptoms” exist. In science, we have to test our observations, right? The scientist can’t just think their way to truth.

    No, by observing *how* they function, you can see how they would fail with the simple assumption that these systems aren’t magic. You’d notice that oxygen makes everything go, and thus without oxygen, things stop going.

    I’m thinking back to the atomic bomb example. Yes, my comment about the NYC bomb was premature. However, the atomic bomb is an example of scientists pretty much knowing what would happen if one exploded, without having to explode one. It’s just the specifics that needed to be nailed down on test islands, not the “I probably should stay very far away from this” basic principle.

    And thinking more broadly about falling off of cliffs — I, personally, don’t get any experience about this danger from watching other people fall off cliffs. Sure, long time ago, we probably worked out the danger of cliffs by direct experience of cliff-related deaths, I’ll grant you that.

    But, for me, personally, it’s all trust — I trust my parents that cliffs are dangerous, I trust my scientific education about gravity, and I trust my logical inferences. I never personally needed to watch someone fall off a cliff. Actually, I haven’t needed to see anyone die at all, from anything.

    ~

    Cl: So, a spiritual sense that provides “direct evidence?” You’ll have to explain that one, and precisely define “direct evidence” in a way that is substantially different than “empirical evidence” lest you end up inadvertently confirming my point.

    You know how you get information about the world by seeing it with your eyes or hearing it with your ears? The “sensus divinus” is like that, except it’s more of a supernatural form of super-intuition, where you intuit truths directly.

    And just as you confirm your eyes are (mostly) reliable by confirming it against your other senses over time, you can confirm your senses divinus is reliable the same way. In fact, the sensus divinus is, I’m told, *perfectly* reliable.

    Of course, I don’t think such a sense exists. But it theoretically could — it’s logically possible. And if such a sense is possible, we can get all the reliable information about the world we need without having to infer from suffering.

  179. Have We Proven Disobedience To God Is Pragmatically Bad?

    Cl: You’re still thinking of short-term, corollary goods. Think of the long term: we learn that disobedience to God entails a whole host of undesirable circumstances, including malaria.

    How do we learn that, exactly?

    ~

    Cl: The entire history of the fallen world is and will be the empirical evidence [that disobeying God is pragmatically bad for us].

    That’s just it — you’ve asserted this, without actually doing anything to demonstrate that obeying God makes things better, or that more disobeying will make things worse.

    In fact, the universe seems soul-crushingly indifferent, heaping suffering not on the biggest sinners, but those who happen to live in the developing world and the like. Maybe a conveniently unverifiable Heaven sorts it all out in the end, but then we don’t get to infer from the history of the fallen world.

    And it seems quite clear that such an inference isn’t the case — on the assumption that us atheists aren’t total bonkers, we look at all this fallen world evidence and not see the evidence you’re telling us is right there.

    So there’s multiple lines of argument against you here — first, demonstrating that we actually do need empirical evidence rooted in direct observation of suffering. Second, demonstrating that a sensus divinus couldn’t come in and do the same trick. Third, actually showing that all this empirical evidence does contribute to us inferring that disobeying God is bad news.

  180. Suffering, All-Goodness, and Higher Goods

    Cl: there is a knowable higher good, and the suffering related to birth defects and malaria will be eliminated

    What do you mean by that? Eliminated how?

    ~

    Cl: You demand that every instance of suffering have a corollary or causally entangled good, in this life. I don’t.

    Fine. Then we just have different definitions of “all-good”. So be it.

    Yours involve a god who allows people to suffer horribly without any actual reason why that would be so, but then promises to make it up to them later, eventually, when he finally gets around to figuring out why people are sinning all the time, which takes thousands of years even for an omnipotent/omniscient god. This is absurd to me.

    But right now, we’re just at the clashing intuitions stage. I can’t say that I’ve offered you an argument that includes premises you accept, since pointless suffering doesn’t seem to trouble you.

    So here’s a couple of questions to work out our impasse:

    1.) What is one thing that, if God did it, you would think he was no longer all-good?
    2.) How do you know the promise of Heaven is true?
    3.) Do you think that everyone goes to Heaven? Does this include nonhuman animals?

    I know on your about page you say “Unlike some Christians, I do not believe that everybody receives eternal life.” To me, this would mean that a baby is born, suffers from a birth defect, dies after a couple of months, and then what? If there’s no Heaven for this baby, where’s the higher good?

    ~

    Cl: …and what is “perfect goodness” according to Peter Hurford?

    For each instance of suffering, that suffering would be prevented by a perfectly good agent if (a) the agent was in a position to do so and (b) preventing that suffering would cause the same amount or greater suffering to result.

    ~

    Cl: 1) Can you write out a comprehensive list of reasons why you describe yourself as a *STRONG* atheist, since you now seem to concede that your POE arguments are very weak?

    I wouldn’t call them “very weak”. As for my arguments for the nonexistence of (most) gods, I offer you my “TheraminTrees’s Atheism” series.

    I also offer you “Defining Atheist and Agnostic” to explain what I mean by “atheism”.

  181. Moral Outrage and Callousness

    Cl: It’s that atheists’ moral outrage suggests they intuitively accept and understand that the world was not meant to be fallen.

    No. It’s an understanding that the world is not how I personally want it to be, and I’m in a position to change that.

    ~

    Cl: If I were an atheist, I’d be a nihilist and I wouldn’t advance any POE. I wouldn’t blog about (a)theism. I’d simply shrug my shoulders and be like, “Oh well, most all organisms eventually suffer, that’s how it is.” I wouldn’t have the strong emotional outrage against suffering that most atheists have. That so many have this strong emotion is suggestive.

    That’s only suggestive of your emotional callousness, simply accepting suffering with indifference. Do you really only care about suffering because God exists? I don’t believe that.

    ~

    Crude: They’re not allowed to speak in terms of justice, good, evil, and various other ways as if they were beholden to an objective morality, when in reality they’re not. And this happens pretty often.

    I actually do try to stay away from moral language when I can. But I think it all can be offered by speaking about moral standards like utilitarianism. Such standards do exist, and remain what people morally ought to do, regardless of whether people actually want to do them. (I agree that what we morally ought to do is sometimes not what we pragmatically ought to do.)

    ~

    Crude: On the other hand, what’s the value of honesty and consistency under a materialistic atheism again?

    Moral standards aside, there is a large amount of pragmatic benefit to honesty and consistency in a lot of situations, even if God doesn’t exist. Is the only reason you care about truth because God exists?

    ~

    Crude: Likewise with “making the world a better place”. ‘Better’ by what standard? On materialist atheism, that’s “making a world they prefer, for whatever reason”.

    Sure. It could be better by a moral standard, like utilitarianism, but even if its by a pragmatic standard of what I prefer, then so what?

  182. cl says:

    Ronin,

    WRT #177:

    In 1 you are making the claim a “good” God would only permit suffering if “X”.

    Correct.

    The claim in 1 seems to be vague since you want to cover instances where people suffer but the higher good is not even a possibility for them.

    Actually, no. That assumes I’ve already considered the Calvinist tenet in question, when I hadn’t.

    Okay, but then we go to 2 where you want the reader to be aware that suffering is temporal and transitory, but this may not be true. There will be an “eternal” suffering in hell for those who God predestined to hell in Calvinism.

    Finally, a clear point. Yes, if “eternal” suffering is the case, the game changes. I said as much in the original Evidential Problem of Evil post. Didn’t you read it? If not, what a bummer. All this banter over a point that was addressed last year!

    What did you accomplish in your 1 by saying a good God will only allow suffering if “X” if He also allows temporal and eternal suffering and denies people the “X” even in possibility?

    That a higher good still exists, despite the suffering we observe.

    Okay, and what does eternal suffering amount to?

    Like I said, given “eternal damnation,” the game changes.

    Okay, but the mere existence of a higher good does NOT defang the POE,

    It does if that’s the only stipulation given by the skeptic (that God is only good if a higher good exists). Most skeptics I know don’t frame the argument as, “God is only good if there is a higher good and everybody has a free-willed, equal shot at obtaining it.”

    Well, He created a higher good but denies the higher good [even in possibility] and at the same time allows suffering that is temporal and eternal, which the higher good does not account for.

    True, given eternal damnation, for the lost, but you seem to omit the fact that not all are lost. You seem to think that in order for there to be a higher good, all who suffer will be compensated with joy or something. That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying, there will be a higher good, therefore, the average skeptic’s burden is met.

    Now, if you, *RONIN* want to say, “God is only good if all who suffer are compensated with joy,” well, that’s an entirely different discussion than this one, isn’t it?

  183. Ronin says:

    cl,

    You wrote:

    Actually, no. That assumes I’ve already considered the Calvinist tenet in question, when I hadn’t.

    So, your argument does not cover every single strain of Christianity then, correct?

    Yes, if “eternal” suffering is the case, the game changes. I said as much in the original Evidential Problem of Evil post. Didn’t you read it? If not, what a bummer. All this banter over a point that was addressed last year!

    I did not see you refer to that post in this post, did you? If I missed the reference in this post I apologize. I like your site cl, but surely you don’t expect me to take into account that specific post when considering this post, because I don’t remember all the details of last year’s post. And, if eternal suffering “changes” everything; then, your argument could not possibly cover “every strain” of Christianity, could it?

    The point is, Calvinism, hyper-Calvinism, etc. entail a type of fatalistic divine sovereignty, which logically implies God is the cause of all things, and I do not think your argument accomplishes much in terms of taming the implications of these strains of Christianity; insofar as taking care of the POE. In fact, some forms of hyper-Calvinism assert God created evil. But, I am suppose to believe your argument bulls over the POE and accounts for every single strain of Christianity?

    That a higher good still exists, despite the suffering we observe.

    Which does not matter much in objective terms in Calvinism, and by now if you don’t understand what I am saying-it is what it is.

    It does if that’s the only stipulation given by the skeptic (that God is only good if a higher good exists).

    Okay, so this argument is aimed for those type of skeptics, but you did not make that clear in your post, did you? In fact you are going at the ST as well, but this is why I said you were erecting a straw man, because I have considered the implications of other Christian strains and what the Bible says.

    Most skeptics I know don’t frame the argument as, “God is only good if there is a higher good and everybody has a free-willed, equal shot at obtaining it.”

    Oh, since “most” of the skeptics you know don’t frame the argument as “X” the argument is not valid?

    You seem to think that in order for there to be a higher good, all who suffer will be compensated with joy or something.

    False. I think this “higher good” needs to be implemented objectively. If God cannot be objective, why the hell should we try to be? Especially, when considering “eternity”. I mean, really?

    That’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying, there will be a higher good, therefore, the average skeptic’s burden is met.

    I inclined to question your claim about “that” being the average skeptic’s view. You know this how? You took a survey? Assuming such is the view of the “average skeptic” it takes nothing away from what I wrote.

    Now, if you, *RONIN* want to say, “God is only good if all who suffer are compensated with joy,” well, that’s an entirely different discussion than this one, isn’t it?

    You seem to think so, but there is a problem that I see with what you wrote in the quote above. I did NOT imply all who suffer NEED to be compensated with joy. Rather, I am saying in order to take this “higher good” seriously and to account for the collapse of the POE I am inclined to think this higher good needs to be implemented properly. And, I see your presumption that your argument can defuse the POE in every single strain of Christianity as premature, since you are using this “higher good” to nullify the POE.

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