Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tough Topic Tuesday: The Problem of Evil, Pt. 8

In the post we continue to consider the evidential problem of evil. For review, it is as follows:

Evidential Version: "It's Improbable that God could have Good Reasons for Permitting Suffering."

The evidential version differs from the logical version because the evidential version makes a more modest claim. The evidential version says that it is improbable that God exists when one considers all the apparent unnecessary suffering that occurs in the world.

Thus far, we have offered three responses to this problem.

1. We’re not in a position to say that it’s improbable that God lacks good reasons for permitting the suffering in the world.  See here

2. R
elative to the full scope of the evidence, God's existence is more probable than not.  See here

3. T
he evidential problem of evil fails to call God's existence into question because evil is actually evidence for the existence of God.  See here

Finally, we will argue that suffering makes more sense under Christian doctrine.  It is important to remember that the problem of evil is everybody's problem.  Meaning, that regardless of what your worldview is, if you desire to be consistent, you must account for evil within that view.

As William Lane Craig argues, Christianity entails doctrines that increase the probability of the coexistence of God and suffering.1

1. The chief purpose of life is not happiness, but the knowledge of God.

Craig explains:

"One reason that the problem of suffering seems so puzzling is that people naturally tend to assume that if God exists, then His purpose for human life is happiness in this life.  God's role is to provide a comfortable environment for His human pets.

But on the Christian view, this is false.  We are not God's pets, and the goal of human life is not happiness per se, but the knowledge of God- which in the end will bring true and everlasting human fulfillment.  Much of the suffering in life may be utterly pointless with respect to the goal of producing human happiness; but it may not be pointless with respect to producing a deeper knowledge of God."2

2. Mankind is in a state of rebellion against God and His purpose.

Most even causally familiar with Christianity are most likely aware that Christianity teaches that people are living in rebellion against God.  We need a Savior because we are all sinners (Rom. 6:23). We have made gods of the things in this world instead of worshiping the true God.  As a result, we stand morally guilty before God.

Once more, Craig explains:

"The terrible human evils in the world are testimony to man's depravity in his state of spiritual alienation from God.  The Christian isn't surprised at the moral evil in the world; on the contrary, he expects it.  The Scriptures indicate that God has given mankind up to the sin it has freely chosen; He doesn't interfere to stop it but lets human depravity run its course (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28).  This only serves to heighten mankind's moral responsibility before God, as well as our wickedness and our need of forgiveness and moral cleansing."3

3. God's purpose is not restricted to this life but spills over beyond the grave into eternal life.

Those who place their trust in Christ for eternal life may endure suffering; however, "when God asks His children to bear horrible suffering in this life, it is only with the prospect of a heavenly joy and recompense that is beyond all comprehension."4

Consider the life of the Apostle Paul.  He suffered beatings, imprisonments and numerous other hardships, yet he was able to write:

"We do not lose heart...For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."5

4. The knowledge of God is an incommensurable good.

To know God is the fulfillment of human existence.  One more time, Craig explains:

"...the person who knows God, not matter what he suffers, no matter how awful his pain, can still truly say, 'God is good to me!' simply by virtue of the fact that he knows God, and incommensurable good."6

We will conclude our series on the problem of evil next week when we consider the emotional problem of evil.

Courage and Godspeed,

1. For our purposes, these points will only be summarized.  If you want a more comprehensive explanation of each point, see William Lane Craig's book On Guard, p. 163-169.
2. Ibid., p. 163.
3. Ibid., p. 166.
4. Ibid., p. 166.
5. RSV as quoted by William Lane Craig, On Guard, p. 166.
6. Ibid., p. 167.

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