Believers in Christianity are not like they were decades and centuries ago. When confronted with harsh biblical criticism, they will not tell you things like "just have faith because nobody really 'knows' anything", nor will they admit "I can't prove the Bible or Christianity, but I believe in them." No, those days of quaint and humble honesty are long gone.
What believers of today will tell you is a minimum of ten ways to explain the days of Genesis 1 and the snake of Genesis 3 as figurative rather than literal. On accepting Jesus, they will present the trillemma, "Lord, liar, or lunatic" and try to buff it up with skewed logic. They will refer to Blocher's Thesis time and again, and wax eloquent quoting Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig on issues of common dispute. Concerning the problem of evil, instead of admitting that the existence of evil troubles them, they shine on asking skeptics to "define evil," as though this somehow helps to alleviate the problem. Looking to score points in a debate, believers want a formal definition, which is fine, though it is unnecessary. I suppose, if someone wanted me to, I could give them a definition of sadness, though we all know what it is! Even so, there is no one alive who doesn't know what evil is. Well, I will accommodate them here anyway.
One of the common denominators uniting so many apostates is their deficient knowledge of Christian theology.
In this respect, Holman is your run-of-the-mill know-nothing. If, say, he were to read The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament by F. F. Bruce, followed by A History of Apologetics by Cardinal Dulles, he could never have ventured such a pig-ignorant statement about the fideistic piety of Christians living decades or centuries ago.
Concerning the problem of evil, what about the Irenaen theodicy repristinated by John Hick, or Augustine’s privative theory of evil, or Aquinas’ commentary on Job, or Calvin’s nuanced discussion of evil and providence*, or the supralapsarian theodicy of William Twisse, or the modal theodicy of Leibniz, or Jonathan Edwards’ analysis of original sin—to name a few?
*Cf. P. Helm, Calvin’s Ideas, chap. 4.
I confess that I’m unacquainted with the “trillemma.” Is that a coloratura apologetic pioneered by Joan Sutherland?
I don’t have ten different ways of explaining the days of Gen 1. What about one or two?
The fact is that modern-day Evangelicals are much more likely to take the days of Gen 1 as calendar days than Christians were several decades ago in the time of Warfield or Bernard Ramm.
As to the identity of the serpent in Gen 3, I’m sorry if it’s inconvenient for Holman to consider the fact that Gen 3 was written in Hebrew rather than English, which is why we need to be sensitive to the possible presence of puns in the original—or that Gen 3 was revealed at a time and place when the cultural frame of reference was not supplied by the local pet store, but by a world immersed in ophiolatry, ophiomancy, and demonology.
What Holman is really smarting from is his frustrated desire to kill him a few Yankees and be home in time for supper.
He’s mad at Christians because we won’t roll over and play dead. He’s mad at us because he was hoping that he could dispatch the Christian faith in three easy steps.
And then he makes the unwelcome discovery that Christian theology is far more sophisticated than he ever was or ever will be.
Continuing with Holman:
What I am needlessly laboring to prove here is one simple fact -- that defining evil in it's many forms was never a problem. It is impossible to turn away from even by the most staunch standards of optimistically warped theists who refuse to see reason on the issue. Evil is all around us, and regardless of which side of the debate on the existence of God our convictions may fall, we cannot help but recognize it when we see it. Yet Christians, in the spirit of trying to blend in with the academic mainstream of western thought, have resorted to making silly formalized arguments against the problem of evil and asininely quibbling over definitions of the word itself! An entire world is losing faith in God over the abundance of evils, and all the while, we are being told by Christian philosophers that we can't even define the term! I can, and just did, but don't have to. I see it every time I see a hospital, a police car, an ambulance, or when I turn on the local 6'o clock news. I see it every time I see a pair of reading glasses, a walking cane, or a sign on the highway that says "Buckle Up for Safety." I see evil, and everyone around me sees it too, even those who swear up and down that it doesn't shake their faith.
The buck of the existence of evil cannot be passed from God. He will never escape his appointment to stand forever convicted in the court of human reason as the most evil and fiendish being ever conceived. The standard by which we convict is that of the senses, the same senses with which we judge all of reality, and who could ask for a more objective standard than that?
i) Consistent with his invincible ignorance, Holman acts as if Christians treat the problem of evil as a semantic problem. No, we don’t—although certain elementary distinctions are in order: ends and means, primary and secondary causality, natural and moral evil.
ii) Holman betrays his philosophical naïveté when he says that our senses supply the standard of right and wrong.
This is especially ironic when you consider that most unbelievers, for whom matter is all, subscribe to radical empiricism.
Is evil red or yellow? Smooth or fuzzy? Does evil have a distinctive fragrance? How much does evil weigh? Is evil long or short? Thick or thin? Round or square? Liquid or solid?
What we see around us are events. The events don’t come stamped with good and evil labels.
That’s a value-judgment we bring to the events, not a sensory impression we read off the events. Moral norms are invisible and intangible.
iii) It wasn’t Christians who resorted to making “silly, formalized” arguments for the problem of evil. No, it was unbelievers like Mackie who proposed the logical problem of evil.
This, again, is another common denominator of apostates. Not only don’t they know Christian theology, but they’re equally clueless when it comes to their own side of the argument.
Christians like Plantinga merely responded to the logical problem of evil in the way it was framed by unbelievers.
If Plantinga’s formulation is silly, then it’s a silly counterargument to a silly argument. And the silliness originates with Holman’s side of the debate.
iv) Is the entire world losing faith in God due to the problem of evil? Does Holman have any statistical data to back up such a sweeping claim?
Rodney Stark (The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success) and Philip Jenkins (The Next Christendom: The Coming Global Christianity) inform us that the demographics are just the reverse.
But that’s one of the fringe benefits of being an unbeliever. You can get away with brazen falsehoods and fact-free claims.
v) Finally, Holman’s real problem is not with the definition of evil, but with a secular outlook which logically leads to moral relativism as well as the dehumanization of man. For a consistent secularist, there is no problem of evil because there is no evil—and even if there were moral absolutes, a meat machine has no transcendent rights.