Last blog for the night. It’s a long one, but, of course, worth it. 😉
John W. Loftus (studied under William Lane Craig [renown Christian apologist] and earned a Th.M. degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Author of Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity), had a debate with famous apologist David Wood. Bloging apologist Mary Jo Sharp criticized Loftus’ arguments in an article entitled: “Loftus-Wood Round Two: Another Failed Argument from Evil.”
So, Loftus has reviewed her criticisms and posted them on the site Debunking Christianity:
- Another Failed Christian Attempt to Explain Away Suffering: Mary Jo Sharp’s Review of the 2nd Loftus/Wood Debate
Loftus has written at length in his book, and in his articles on DC, on how suffering in the world undermines the existence of the Christian concept of God, makes him implausible at best. The above linked article en toto is very good, but below I’ve copied some of the best passages, ripped out of context and without permission. But, they’re arguments that really resonate with me and are the same criticisms I came up with myself years ago during my slow deconversion. They may make you think (if you daaarrre! Boooooo!) 😉
I also find it very odd that in order to exonerate God they must explain the lack of his revealed goodness due to an “epistemic distance,” otherwise known as divine hiddenness. I find no satisfactory understanding for why God created in the first place such that he wanted any creatures to love him. Theists ask if God is to be blamed for creating this world and for wanting people who freely love him. Yes, most definitely yes, until or unless she can tell me why a supposedly reasonable triune completely self-fulfilled God wanted this in the first place (“grace” is not an answer at all); why libertarian free-will is such an important value to God when compared to the sufferings that have resulted from this so-called gift; whether human beings actually have free-will if God created us with our specific DNA and placed us within a specific environment (an environment that actually obstructs many people from receiving the gospel because of the “accidents of birth”); why God suspends some people’s free choices (i.e. Pharaoh) but not others; why God even cares to have free-willed people who love him, knowing full well the consequences for the billions of people who wind up in hell (the collateral damage), and why God will allow sinners in hell to retain their freedom but take it away from the saints in heaven (and who subsequently completes the sanctification process for these saints without their own free choices doing it).
But even if Wood’s concocted view is correct, he has merely pushed back the problem of evil before the Fall of humankind. Why didn’t God allow Satan into his direct immediate presence to see all of his power and love such that Satan would neither desire to rebel against him or think he could succeed? Because of this divine decision every person who suffers in this world and every person who will suffer for all eternity (along with Satan himself) will do so because God failed to show Satan his love and power. Apologists say God did this to show us his glory and grace, but then that’s using people for his own ends. This is the ethic of consequentialism, again. Why does God hide his love from his creatures, for instance, knowing it would cause such intense suffering? This theodicy sounds much more like an excuse for what God should have done than it offers anything by way of a reasonable justification for a so-called perfectly good God.
Given the suffering that resulted from Satan’s supposed rebellion, why didn’t God simply deal with him and put him down immediately? That’s what a good and reasonable ruler would do. Listen, does a perfectly good God want a peaceable kingdom, or not? A good ruler would not allow such an evil in his kingdom in the first place. Evil like that is to be eliminated as soon as possible by a good ruler. Too many innocents would be hurt if he didn’t do this immediately.
Listen, the argument from evil is only as forceful as the suffering that exists in this present world. If there was no intense suffering the argument would lose most of its force. If there was no suffering at all then it would have no force at all. I have struggled in life, although I have not experienced any prolonged intense suffering. I’ve always had good health, with enough food and money and friends to get by. So if my kinds of struggles are good enough to test me then why couldn’t everyone’s struggles be no more than mine? Why do some suffer for years and years, and a few commit suicide because of their sufferings? Do they need this suffering whereas I don’t? Not everyone suffers the same. Some people are born with a silver spoon in their mouths while others struggle with financial woes and health issues and the loss of loved ones throughout their whole short lives. Why?
Here is but another example of how Christians count the hits and ignore the misses. They do this with prayer too. If a prayer is answered they count that as a hit. If it’s not, they ignore it. With regard to the universe and its form they simply ignore the vast amount of natural evil in it, as I mentioned earlier. One cannot look at this universe objectively and come away believing in the omni-God Sharp believes if she takes into consideration all of the evidence of unintelligent design. At best one should be agnostic about what the evidence can lead us to think. Even if one is to conclude some divine entity created a “quantum wave fluctuation” we don’t have an explanation for where this divine being came from, nor whether he still exists, nor whether he is good, or all-powerful. For her to believe in God she must believe in a historically conditioned interpretation of a selected group of ancient anonymous superstitious writings. And we certainly cannot verify the claims of miracles by the historical method, especially as outsiders looking in. Those beliefs of hers are to be described simply as bizzaro!
I think the more power a person has then the more of an ethical obligation he has to alleviate suffering. If, for instance, a woman is being gang raped, no one would fault me if I didn’t physically try to stop them, for then I would be beaten up and perhaps killed along with her (although I would be held morally responsible if I didn’t call the police). But if I was Superman and did nothing then everyone would rightly fault me if I didn’t stop them. So since God supposedly has all power he is the most obligated to alleviate suffering in our world. Without a suffient explanation for these things I argue that it’s probable such an omni-God doesn’t exist. Wood has not made his case.