God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

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God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#1

Post by happycynic » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:09 am

Perhaps I can clear this up a bit, as I'm quite a fan of the problem of evil myself (that's basically what you're getting at, right?).

So, even before we get started on the POE (ironic that it spells "poe" :egeek: ), I should prolly say what kind of deity it argues against. POE works to the fullest on an Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent (all-good) deity. I'll abbreviate this as Omni^3 (omni-cubed).

So, onto the argument.

Two Premises:

1) God is Omni^3

2) The world could be better


From the first premise (Omni^3) we can say that God wants things to be the best they possibly can, and he's got the power to make them that way, therefore they oughtta be that way. From the second premise, we can see that there's room for improvement. They're contradictory statements, so one of them has to be false. Let's look at the Omni^3 one first.

If God weren't Omnipotent, he wouldn't neccesarily be able to fix the problems like, oh, random earthquakes and malaria killing babies. If he weren't omniscient, he might not even be smart enough to use his Omnipotence to grant himself Omniscience, and then things could slip by him cuz he's not smart enough to figure out how to fix them. And if he's not perfectly good, then he could look at the suffering in the world, and say "meh, doesn't hurt me, why should I care?".

Leaving any one of the Omni's out could excuse him from responsibility; on the other hand, if all three are in there he's kinda stuck holding the hot potato. Free will isn't an excuse if he's omnipotent--he could negate suffering and preserve free will if he were omniscient, even if that's impossible by defintion. If he can't, then that means the definition of free will is more powerful than God. Likewise, he can't plead ignorance if he's omniscient, or limiting physical factors if he's omnipotent. Not being able to pay attention to the entire universe at once doesn't work either; if the Omniscience doesn't cover it, he could use his omnipotence to give himself that ability. And omnibenevolent means that he can't say "well, I can do that, I just don't want to."

Alright, enough of that. Moving on to the second premise: the world could be better.

This one is based on our observations of the world. Is there room for improvement? I'd certainly say so. Unless you believe that we live in a perfect world (in which case I have some land in Uganda I could sell you cheap :twisted: ), this one stays firm. I suppose you could try to get there by saying, "well, ok, there's suffering, but that's impossible to get rid of, so the world IS as good as it can be. If we stopped people from getting lung cancer while they smoked they wouldn't learn their lesson, if we stopped Clyde from raping his 4 year old step-daughter we'd be abridging free will and that's worse, if Jim weren't hit by a bus and paralyzed he'd never have found his wife in therapy. The devil causes suffering, God can't stop him. And God can't stop earthquakes and genetic defects." None of which holds water.

If cigarrettes didn't harm you then you wouldn't learn the lesson of "don't smoke", true, but on the other hand there'd be no reason against smoking. There would be no "lesson" to learn.

If Clyde were stopped from raping his step-daughter (or anyone else were stopped from doing a bad thing) that would abrogate their free will, true, but in some cases--like the child-rape--eliminating some free will is by far the better deal. Any person or government who could stop such a crime with no effort and no inuries, but decided not to, would be considered horrifically negligent. If God is Omni^3, he fits that description--he's a person, and probably in charge, he can fix it with no effort, and he doesn't.

As for Jim getting hit by the bus and other such "big picture, larger plan" excuses, none of them hold water. An Omni^3 god could have them run into each other in a diner rather than have one get run over by a bus. Anything gained through pain and adversity could also be gained through sun and rainbows and puppies if an omnipotent and omniscient being decided to swing things that way.

Saying that suffering comes from the devil, and God can't do anything about it, is rather bad too. If satan is an impersonal force, like earthquakes and genetics and famine, then there's nothing stopping our omnipotent god from sticking him in a magic 8-ball so that he's powerless and gets shaken by 10-year-olds wondering about their crushes (satan always answers "not a chance" in those situations, unfortunately). If he's a personal force, a dude with free will, then the same arguments apply to him that would apply to Clyde the Child Rapist in my earlier examples. And if he's powerful enough to stop God from messing with him, then God isn't omnipotent.

The last one, God can't stop genetic defects and earthquakes, is just silly. Omnipotent, remember?




So, in the end, we can't throw out the second premise (world could be better) because we get evidence to the contrary all the time. Even a tiny inconvenience to one person for one millisecond is enough to prove that the world could be improved. The first premise (Omni^3) can't be true at the same time as the second, because an Omni^3 would make the world as good as possible. One has to be wrong, and evidence for the first premise (world coudl be better) is stronger than the evidence for the Omni^3.

So, God isn't Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent. One or more of them is missing. Maybe he's omnipotent and omniscient, but he doesn't feel like interfering (deism, anyone?). Or, the simplest explanation (and the one I go by), God doesn't exist in the first place.


That's the Problem of Evil in a very large nutshell. Perhaps a coconut shell. If you spot any holes in my logic, lemme know. Hopefully you can understand where we're coming from with this a little better now :ewink:

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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#2

Post by ChrisB » Sun Oct 24, 2010 7:51 pm

happycynic wrote:So, in the end, we can't throw out the second premise (world could be better) because we get evidence to the contrary all the time. Even a tiny inconvenience to one person for one millisecond is enough to prove that the world could be improved. The first premise (Omni^3) can't be true at the same time as the second, because an Omni^3 would make the world as good as possible. One has to be wrong, and evidence for the first premise (world coudl be better) is stronger than the evidence for the Omni^3.

So, God isn't Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent. One or more of them is missing. Maybe he's omnipotent and omniscient, but he doesn't feel like interfering (deism, anyone?). Or, the simplest explanation (and the one I go by), God doesn't exist in the first place.


That's the Problem of Evil in a very large nutshell. Perhaps a coconut shell. If you spot any holes in my logic, lemme know. Hopefully you can understand where we're coming from with this a little better now ;)
Hey happycynic. I definitely understand where atheists are coming from whenever they pose this question, since if God is Omni3 then one would expect Him to intervene and repair our broken world by doing away with suffering. At face value the two premises you listed do contradict themselves and seem to indicate that God is either neglectful , limited in what He can do, or simply does not exist. However, there are a few key points that need to be addressed.

First, because God is Omni3 (and therefore perfect), people are quick to assume that a perfect God must create a perfect world, but this is not the case in the creation account of Genesis. In Genesis, God declares the individual aspects of creation (such as plants and animals) to be "good" (Gen. 1:25) and the whole universe to be "very good" (Gen. 1:31), but never "perfect". Because only God is perfect, everything else will have flaws to some extent.

Second, people assume that all pain is inherently evil. This is untrue. Rather pain is necessary as it keeps us from causing further damage to ourselves. Say you put your hand on a stove: because of pain you react immediately, but without it you would not react until you saw the flesh on your hand burning.

Third, all of this is being asked from a purely human vantage point. The ancient Greeks believed the Sun to revolve around the earth because that is what it looked like from their perspective, but today we know that it is the opposite. Likewise, there may be something in this argument that people are missing, because they can’t see it.

The evidence of evil in the world and the thought of an Omni3 God existing does not immediately preclude said God from existing. God actually uses suffering for a myriad of purposes. Suffering makes us aware of God’s sustaining power, for it is in Him that we live have our being. It also makes us more dependent on Him and refines our character by teaching us humility, for without pain we can’t grow. Suffering is also used to demonstrate the love of God. Two examples of this are seen in Luke 13:10-17 and John 9:1-7. The ultimate example, however, is found in Christ. Who, bearing the collective sins of all humanity, along with the incomprehensible agony of separation from His Father, likewise bore mankind’s sorrow in sincere love (Isaiah 53:4). Here we have the Omni3 God, out of His love for us, taking every hardship everyone ever has or will go through with interest, in order to satisfy God’s Law so that we would not have to (Romans 6:23), although this pertains only to believers in Christ, because even though God has forgiven your sin through Christ, one does not get that redemption from sin until he/she makes the choice to receive it in faith believing (Hebrews 11:6).

As for the root cause of all evil… that too requires faith. Satan brought forth evil for the first time through his sin of pride, and then brought about mankind’s fall from grace through his manipulation of Eve in the Garden. Adam followed suit, and God cursed the earth because of him (Gen. 3:17, 18, 19). One day however the whole of creation will be delivered from bondage (Romans 8:19, 20, 21, 22) and eventually made new (Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).

It is also possible that the existence of Hell could be a solution to the Problem of Evil, since whatever a person does to others in hate, neglect, or sadistic pleasure, it will be likewise done to that person in Hell to varying degrees, depending on the person , Luke 16:19-31. Hell and everyone in it will also be cast into Gehenna (the Lake of Fire) at the end of the age.

That’s all I got unfortunately. I recommend When God Weeps by Joni Eareckson-Tada and Steven Estes. I also recommend the Book of Job, which goes through many of the traditional Middle-Eastern solutions to the problem of the “righteous suffer”. God tests Job’s faith by allowing calamity to befall him, and when Job asks God why, for 39 chapters God says nothing. Only at the final chapter does He answer him.
"Materialists and madmen never have doubts." -G.K. Chesterton

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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#3

Post by Kurieuo » Sun Oct 24, 2010 8:46 pm

happycynic wrote:From the first premise (Omni^3) we can say that God wants things to be the best they possibly can, and he's got the power to make them that way, therefore they oughtta be that way.
What is one of the highest if not the highest good we can have towards one another?

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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#4

Post by CeT-To » Sun Oct 24, 2010 8:55 pm

Another thing, what is perfection? in what context? Morally perfect? the maximum limit of a creation? the word "perfect" is such vague concept... you really have to explain in what context. Happycynic you are right, God wants things to be the best they possibly can and this is the process... this universe is the machine that we are in which the process in us is undertaking and the reason it takes so long is because that's how God sees the best results come out of us.
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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#5

Post by Kurieuo » Mon Oct 25, 2010 4:27 am


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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#6

Post by smiley » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:22 am

Free will isn't an excuse if he's omnipotent--he could negate suffering and preserve free will if he were omniscient, even if that's impossible by defintion.
I don't get this part.
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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#7

Post by Canuckster1127 » Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:30 am

smiley wrote:
Free will isn't an excuse if he's omnipotent--he could negate suffering and preserve free will if he were omniscient, even if that's impossible by defintion.
I don't get this part.
That's because it's ridiculous. Omnipotence doesn't mean God can accomplish an absurdity or bring to pass two mutually exclusive circumstances. It's the old conundrum of having one's cake and eating it too. Free will, without choices that are contrary to the will of the creator is by definition, no longer free will.
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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#8

Post by jlay » Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:44 am

Has anyone taken the time to consider if his premise is faulty?
He says these two things contradict. I would disagree, and fail to see where he provides the evidence. And, what does he even mean when he says the 'world' could be better?
Leaving any one of the Omni's out could excuse him from responsibility; on the other hand, if all three are in there he's kinda stuck holding the hot potato. Free will isn't an excuse if he's omnipotent--he could negate suffering and preserve free will if he were omniscient, even if that's impossible by defintion. If he can't, then that means the definition of free will is more powerful than God.
You make a very common fallacy. You are attempting to make God weak where He is actually strong. Limited free will is respected and permitted by God. You are claiming because he won't violate His own character that He is not. It doesn't cut it.
If a parent has the ability to help a child walk, yet out of love stands back and allows the child to struggle, you can't say the parent doesn't have the power to help the child walk. Or, that the parent's desire for the child to grow is more powerful than the parent. It is part of the parent. Not exercising a power is not evidence against the power itself. Fallacious.

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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#9

Post by KBG » Tue Oct 26, 2010 8:04 pm

I do have one answer. God is always 100% perfectly good and 0% evil. That's a simple answer. The hard part is finding a solution to that answer. For example, given the question "if God is perfectly good, do babies that are not baptisted really go to hell? If the answer is "God is 100% good"; then, what is the solution, and how long should it take to find it. A minute, a day, a year, or a lifetime? Can you totally stop your life and contemplate the solution? Do you give up your job, your family, your studies, and your phone to seek the solution?

Another point: if I gave you the must complicate physical equation in nuclear physics, and I ask you to give me an answer in 30 seconds, could you? No. So, how can you expect to find solutions to questions having the answer of "God is always 100% good" by a applying only a couple of hours of college logic?

Here is another question "would people still need to worship God if there was no reward of salvation? Answer: God is 100% perfect. Now, find the solution. You could spend a lifetime on that one question.

Last point: In this world, we have doctors, lawyers, and other professionals. Each specialIzing in an area of study. There are even lawyers that only specialize in the first admendment of the Constitution. That's all they do. The write books, and lecture, and prepare briefs only on the first admendment. Nothing else. Thier whole life in law is didicated to a few words in the Constitution. Yet, people think they can contemplate the whole bible and totally understood every proverb and defined every passage in it. In fact, just take any one sentence of what Jesus said, and spend a lifetime of contemplation on that one sentence. Give up job, family, home, friends, money, technology, and everything else of worldly expressions to contemplate a lifetime upon just one sentence of what Jesus said. And you'll find "truth". But who's willing to do that? We got to eat, we got families. Money is a reality, and money does matter. Pious is at a cost. (forgive me for any spelling errors, thanks.)

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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#10

Post by DannyM » Wed Oct 27, 2010 3:15 am

In an attempt to enlighten this very confused atheist...

To call for an end to suffering would be to call for an end to the material world we inhabit. No one objects to a natural world with an intelligable universe subject to its own laws, correct? To call for an end to suffering would be to call for the suspension of natural law and the intervention of God. Is the atheist really calling for such action? After all, a miracle is just the non-presence of natural law, yes? Is the atheist calling for a God he does not believe in to suspend natural law? This would seem to be a blatant contradiction if ever there was one.

Nice try, bub.
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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

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Post by smiley » Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:09 am

DannyM wrote:In an attempt to enlighten this very confused atheist...

To call for an end to suffering would be to call for an end to the material world we inhabit. No one objects to a natural world with an intelligable universe subject to its own laws, correct? To call for an end to suffering would be to call for the suspension of natural law and the intervention of God. Is the atheist really calling for such action? After all, a miracle is just the non-presence of natural law, yes? Is the atheist calling for a God he does not believe in to suspend natural law? This would seem to be a blatant contradiction if ever there was one.

Nice try, bub.
:roll: No, he's merely trying to argue that the theist's worldview is internally incoherent. If there is a God, then (he argues), we would not expect to see as much suffering in the world. If there was a giant pink elephant floating in my room, I would be able to see it.

God, this is such a common blunder.
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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

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Post by Byblos » Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:24 am

smiley wrote:If there is a God, then (he argues), we would not expect to see as much suffering in the world. If there was a giant pink elephant floating in my room, I would be able to see it.

God, this is such a common blunder.
You do realize those are not the same propositions, right?
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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

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Post by Kurieuo » Wed Oct 27, 2010 5:17 pm

Byblos wrote:
smiley wrote:If there is a God, then (he argues), we would not expect to see as much suffering in the world. If there was a giant pink elephant floating in my room, I would be able to see it.

God, this is such a common blunder.
You do realize those are not the same propositions, right?
:clap:

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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#14

Post by DannyM » Thu Oct 28, 2010 3:18 am

smiley wrote: :roll: No, he's merely trying to argue that the theist's worldview is internally incoherent. If there is a God, then (he argues), we would not expect to see as much suffering in the world. If there was a giant pink elephant floating in my room, I would be able to see it.

God, this is such a common blunder.
I'll keep the cigar on hold.

The amount of suffering in the world is precisely what you'd expect of a material world. No more, no less. Unless there is something very unnatural at work here. When your doctor is baffled by a condition, does he say that there is no explanation in nature for this and thus a kind of anti-miracle is in play, or does he say that for the time being we do not know but take two of these a day and eventually we hope to discover and remedy the problem?

Quite. More suffering than there need be would be a suffering with no natural cause, scientifically inexplicable. Now unless you think, as some Buddhist thinkers do, that it would be better not to have any material world at all, then you really have no case. If you think the pain and agony of the world is more than we should expect then you give up belief in a good God. You also give up belief in the rational scientific intelligibility of the world.

Do you have an inside track on how to make material things that develop over time, and can you negate the acts of material things damaging other material things while perfecting themselves? Can you show me your mechanism for how this can be achieved, given the evolution of life and the constant interaction of material things? While you're at it, could you compose a string quartet for three instruments?

As William Alston, in his "The Inductive Argument from Evil and the Human Cognitive Condition" philosophical perspectives 5: 30-57, says, any logical argument which attempts to show that evil is logically incompatible with the existence and omnipotence of God "is now acknowledged on (almost) all sides" to be completely bankrupt. Yet here we are, in an atheistic time-warp, rehashing fallacious and incoherent arguments.

Not to mention that this 'argument' is no business of the atheist's in the first place.

You need to abandon, or distance yourself from, the premiss, post-haste.
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Re: God's Omnipotence and the Problem of Evil

#15

Post by smiley » Thu Oct 28, 2010 7:35 am

Byblos wrote: You do realize those are not the same propositions, right?
I am not sure what you mean. They're obviously not the "same". It's an analogy.

@Danny: it's possible that my reading comprehension is failing me, but I have no idea how any of what you said relevant as to my objection.

In your initial post, you've accused the original poster of being self-contradictory in arguing that the existence of suffering is incosistent with belief in a loving God. None of what you said is in any way relevant as to justifying that charge.

On a tangential note, Alston is correct in asserting that virutally everyone agrees that there is no logical incompatability beteween the existence of suffering and a loving God. This is why most philosophers stick to the evidential problem of evil. And as far as I know, there are hundreds of scholars who are persuaded by it.
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