Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Evil 101

JOHN W. LOFTUS SAID:

“Steve, the problem of evil is stated by me in these words: If God is perfectly good, all knowing, and all powerful, then the issue of why there is so much suffering in the world requires an explanation. The reason is that a perfectly good God would be opposed to it, an all-powerful God would be capable of eliminating it, and an all-knowing God would know what to do about it. So, the extent of intense suffering in the world means for the theist that: either God is not powerful enough to eliminate it, or God does not care enough to eliminate it, or God is just not smart enough to know what to do about it. The stubborn fact of evil in the world means that something is wrong with God’s ability, or his goodness, or his knowledge. Again, the explanation needed if from within what you believe. In fact, even if there were no atheists around to argue for it, you would still have to deal with it.”

Yes, John, we know the drill.

Problems:

1.The *amount* of evil (extent, intensity) is not the issue.

The argument from evil, if is to have any traction at all, is a *qualitative* argument, not a *quantitative* argument.

Not, how *much* evil, but evil of a particular *kind*: namely, *gratuitous* evil.

You need to establish the existence of *gratuitous* evil. I’ve pointed this out to you umpteen times.

2.So, we would need to begin by reformulating argument. The correct formulation would be:

“A benevolent God would be opposed to gratuitous evil.”

I agree.

3.So Loftus needs to establish the existence of *gratuitous* evil. How does he propose to do that?

He claims to be mounting an internal argument. But I have yet to see him even begin to mount an internal argument for the existence of *gratuitous* evil.

What examples of evil in the world would count as *gratuitous* evil *according to Christian theology*? That’s the question?

That’s the question, John.

As I’ve said before, there’s more to an internal critique than Christian *theism*. You need to bring the whole of Christian *theology* to bear.

Not just three divine attributes plus a generic dose of brand-X evil.

4.When Loftus talks about “so much suffering in the world,” or “the extent of intense suffering in the world,” or “the stubborn fact of evil,” he clearly has a number of unspoken examples in mind of what *he* considers to be evil.

Three more problems:

i) Not everything he thinks is evil, a Christian thinks is evil; and not everything a Christian thinks is evil, he thinks is evil.

ii) Indeed, he doesn’t think anything is intrinsically evil.

iii) While I might agree with him that *some*, but not all, of his stock examples count as genuine evils, I would not agree with him that they count as gratuitous evils. He has given me no reason to think that consistent with my theology.

41 comments:

  1. Steve,

    Would you agree that, according to the Christian worldview, belief that humans are not born depraved is, in itself, evil?

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's sinful to deny original sin, if that's what you mean. Indeed, the denial of original sin is, itself, symptomatic of original sin.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Steve, why are you even arguing with me? It's not my argument, in a real sense. I said, even if there were no atheists around to argue for it, you would still have to deal with it.

    You still don't get it. Answer the question as if I never asked it. It arises from within your worldview.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Travis Bigler2/14/2007 10:51 PM

    "What examples of evil in the world would count as *gratuitous* evil *according to Christian theology*?"

    Steve, can you explain what you mean by "gratuitous evil"? Gratuitous evil as opposed to what other kind of evil? What would be an example of what Christianity regards as "gratuitous evil"? Where does the bible support this qualification that you've raised against the argument you quoted from Loftus?

    Thanks,
    Travis

    ReplyDelete
  5. Loftus said:
    ---
    I said, even if there were no atheists around to argue for it, you would still have to deal with it.
    ---

    Of course, it doesn't matter how many times Steve HAS "dealt" with this. I stopped counting long ago. And it's not like Steve didn't "deal with it" in this very post...

    Loftus can try understanding Steve's position for a change. But I don't see that happening.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Travis,

    Gratuitous evil is pointless evil. Much human pain, for instance, serves a purpose, so it isn't gratuitous. Some atheist thinkers have no problem with God allowing suffering that plays some role. And many theodicies are meant to show that there are greater goods that outweigh the badness of suffering.

    The difficulty arises when we think of Bambi (to use a worn-out example). Bambi trips and falls and breaks its leg. Then it suffers horribly for several days, being nibbled on by maggots, etc.

    Now, what is the greater good that could possibly come from this? There doesn't seem to be any (unless we think carefully), so the atheist concludes that there is evil that is totally pointless. A good God may allow suffering that serves a purpose. But surely he wouldn't allow pointless evil. Since there is pointless evil, God must not exist.

    That's how the argument goes, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Travis Bigler2/15/2007 8:02 AM

    David,

    Thanks for the clarification. It is as I thought it might be. The qualifier "gratuitous" is a tag that the apologist can withhold from any instance of evil or suffering cited by the atheist by virtue of his god's supposed use of that evil or suffering for some "greater good" - even if it is nowhere evidenced. This simply reduces the apologist's proposed theodicy to a sham, but what remains is the fact that he worships a being that, according to his own conception of it, willfully uses evil to meet certain ends. He then tries to wiggle out of the problem by saying that his worldview does not consider its god's use of evil as an instance of evil in itself. As you put it, "A good God may allow suffering that serves a purpose." Notice how the word 'suffering' is used as a stand-in for the word 'evil'. So the believer worships a god which views suffering as a means to an end. Any suffering or instance of evil can be said to "serve a purpose," especially if the standard of determining that there is a purpose is the believer's desire not to allow his conception of his god to be besmirched or stigmatized in some way.

    Very nifty!

    Travis

    ReplyDelete
  8. TRAVIS BIGLER SAID:
    David,

    Thanks for the clarification. It is as I thought it might be. The qualifier "gratuitous" is a tag that the apologist can withhold from any instance of evil or suffering cited by the atheist by virtue of his god's supposed use of that evil or suffering for some "greater good" - even if it is nowhere evidenced. This simply reduces the apologist's proposed theodicy to a sham, but what remains is the fact that he worships a being that, according to his own conception of it, willfully uses evil to meet certain ends. He then tries to wiggle out of the problem by saying that his worldview does not consider its god's use of evil as an instance of evil in itself. As you put it, "A good God may allow suffering that serves a purpose." Notice how the word 'suffering' is used as a stand-in for the word 'evil'. So the believer worships a god which views suffering as a means to an end. Any suffering or instance of evil can be said to "serve a purpose," especially if the standard of determining that there is a purpose is the believer's desire not to allow his conception of his god to be besmirched or stigmatized in some way.

    Very nifty!

    **********

    1.I see that Bigler would like to rewrite the history of philosophical theology. So I guess we need to set the record straight. The category of gratuitous evil is not a distinction which the Christian apologist has introduced into the discussion in order to immunize his own position.

    Rather, *both* sides of the theodicy debate employ this distinction to set the terms of the debate.

    2. Moreover, it is not a case of merely *asserting* that a certain instance of evil or type of evil is non-gratuitous. An apologist would need to offer a supporting argument for his classification.

    3. Furthermore, it is Loftus who keeps telling us (without ever showing us) that he is attempting to deploy an *internal* argument from evil.

    Therefore, if an apologist can demonstrate that the evil in question serves a higher purpose, then this is not a *sham*. To the contrary, that's directly responsive to the way in which the *atheologian* chose to frame the issue.

    4. Finally, the apologist comes to the problem of evil with various reasons for believing in God. This creates a presumption against the argument from evil which the argument from evil must successfully overcome.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Travis bigler2/15/2007 12:14 PM

    As I suspected, and as you confirm in both words and action, the standard assumed in your response is your desire not to allow your conception of your god to be besmirched or stigmatized in some way. In the arbitrary arena of your beliefs, this is quite easy to manage.

    Travis

    ReplyDelete
  10. Travis bigler said:
    As I suspected, and as you confirm in both words and action, the standard assumed in your response is your desire not to allow your conception of your god to be besmirched or stigmatized in some way. In the arbitrary arena of your beliefs, this is quite easy to manage.

    Travis

    ******

    As I suspected, you are unable to follow an argument. Loftus is proposing at *internal* critique. Get that? Do you even know what that means? So, yes, the standard of reference would internal to the belief-system.

    And the reason that someone like Loftus tries to take the internal route is that atheism lacks the inner resources to underwrite moral absolutes.

    So it isn't possible for a self-consistent unbeliever to deploy an external argument from evil.

    And you continue to disregard the fact that *both* sides of this debate frame the issue in terms of the existence or nonexistence of gratuitous evil.

    You're just another secular fideist.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Isn’t it true that the 'argument from evil' has no teeth because God is *by definition* not evil? Some Christians are simply impervious to the argument because the only way they’d believe that God is evil is if God were to say so Himself?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Isn’t it true that the gospel is rejected by atheists because the atheist is *by definition* not evil? Some atheists are simply impervious to the gospel because the only way they’d believe that they're evil is if Richard Dawkins were to say so Himself?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Isn’t it true that the 'argument from evil' has no teeth because God is *by definition* not evil? Some Christians are simply impervious to the argument because the only way they’d believe that God is evil is if God were to say so Himself?

    So true for many theists who write and visit here. Then how can their beliefs be falsified? They believe the Bible no matter what they see or experience in this world.

    And if we point out inconsistencies or discrepancies in the Bible itself, there are always ways to gerrymander around it. I know. As a former Christian I've done it myself. [Oh, but they don't believe I was a former Christian because they believe the Bible says differently!]

    ReplyDelete
  14. I don't believe Loftus was ever a Christian because he hasn't got the first clue about what Christianity teaches.

    By the way, if you don't say that God is the standard by which "good" is measured...what is?

    ReplyDelete
  15. travis bigler2/16/2007 7:42 AM

    Steve:

    As I suspected, you are unable to follow an argument. Loftus is proposing at *internal* critique. Get that? Do you even know what that means? So, yes, the standard of reference would internal to the belief-system.

    And the reason that someone like Loftus tries to take the internal route is that atheism lacks the inner resources to underwrite moral absolutes.

    So it isn't possible for a self-consistent unbeliever to deploy an external argument from evil.

    And you continue to disregard the fact that *both* sides of this debate frame the issue in terms of the existence or nonexistence of gratuitous evil.

    You're just another secular fideist.

    ******

    As I suspected, you are unable to follow my points. Your standard is arbitrary. Get that? Do you Do you even know what that means? So, yes, your standard is a desire not to allow your conception of your god to be besmirched or stigmatized in some way.

    And the reason that someone like you tries to protect your religious beliefs from criticism is because you do not want to admit that they lack the inner resources needed to underwrite moral absolutes (even though you claim to possess those resources over and over).

    So it isn’t possible for a self-consistent believer to deploy a defense against the problem of evil by taking into account the actual state of affairs that exists in the world. (Thus you try to hide behind contrived nuances like “is the evil gratuitous?”)

    And you continue to disregard the fact that the standard that your defense continually refers back to is utterly arbitrary.

    You’re just another theistic fideist.

    Travis

    ReplyDelete
  16. Two provocative suggestions:

    If it turns out that it pleases God to see children raped and murdered, then that pleasure is righteous and good because His pleasure is the standard of goodness.

    If the promise of Salvation for the converted is a divine deception, and God actually intends to chuck every last one of us into Hell at the end of time, Christians and non Christians alike, then that would mean that this deception is righteous too. God’s deceptions are okay, since we have no room to judge the One who created us. All that matters is that His actions bring Him glory.

    Thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  17. Anonymous said:
    Isn’t it true that the 'argument from evil' has no teeth because God is *by definition* not evil? Some Christians are simply impervious to the argument because the only way they’d believe that God is evil is if God were to say so Himself?

    ******************************

    Since I've never used that as a counterargument to the argument from evil, this is a staw man argument on your part.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Anonymous said...
    Two provocative suggestions:

    If it turns out that it pleases God to see children raped and murdered, then that pleasure is righteous and good because His pleasure is the standard of goodness.

    If the promise of Salvation for the converted is a divine deception, and God actually intends to chuck every last one of us into Hell at the end of time, Christians and non Christians alike, then that would mean that this deception is righteous too. God’s deceptions are okay, since we have no room to judge the One who created us. All that matters is that His actions bring Him glory.

    Thoughts?

    ***********

    This is another straw man argument. Thanks for reminding us that unbelievers are impotent to deploy a serious argument against the God of Scripture.

    ReplyDelete
  19. John W. Loftus said...

    So true for many theists who write and visit here. Then how can their beliefs be falsified? They believe the Bible no matter what they see or experience in this world.

    And if we point out inconsistencies or discrepancies in the Bible itself, there are always ways to gerrymander around it.

    ************************

    Notice that Loftus can't stick to his own argument. Defeated on his own grounds, he changes the subject.

    And even when he changes the subject, he offers no argument. "Gerrymander" is an assertion, not an argument.

    ReplyDelete
  20. travis bigler said...

    "Your standard is arbitrary. Get that?"

    What I get is that you're subsituting an orphaned assertion for a supporting argument.

    "So, yes, your standard is a desire not to allow your conception of your god to be besmirched or stigmatized in some way."

    Where's your argument?

    "And the reason that someone like you tries to protect your religious beliefs from criticism is because you do not want to admit that they lack the inner resources needed to underwrite moral absolutes (even though you claim to possess those resources over and over)."

    Where's your argument?

    Oh, and I do more than merely make claims. I've often argued for my own position—unlike you.

    "So it isn’t possible for a self-consistent believer to deploy a defense against the problem of evil by taking into account the actual state of affairs that exists in the world. (Thus you try to hide behind contrived nuances like 'is the evil gratuitous?')."

    1.Where's your secular argument for evil in the world?

    2.When you say that *gratuitous* evil is a contrived nuance, you simply advertize to the world your complete ignorance of the philosophical literature on *both* sides of the debate.

    Thanks for reminding us that you can only attack God by being an ignoramus. You don't even know your own side of the argument.

    "And you continue to disregard the fact that the standard that your defense continually refers back to is utterly arbitrary."

    Where's your argument?

    ReplyDelete
  21. Anonymous said:
    Isn’t it true that the 'argument from evil' has no teeth because God is *by definition* not evil? Some Christians are simply impervious to the argument because the only way they’d believe that God is evil is if God were to say so Himself?

    Steve said:
    Since I've never used that as a counterargument to the argument from evil, this is a staw man argument on your part.

    Anonymous replies:
    It is not argument. It’s an inquiry. Don’t you see my question marks?

    Anonymous said...
    Two provocative suggestions:

    If it turns out that it pleases God to see children raped and murdered, then that pleasure is righteous and good because His pleasure is the standard of goodness.

    If the promise of Salvation for the converted is a divine deception, and God actually intends to chuck every last one of us into Hell at the end of time, Christians and non Christians alike, then that would mean that this deception is righteous too. God’s deceptions are okay, since we have no room to judge the One who created us. All that matters is that His actions bring Him glory.

    Thoughts?

    Steve said:

    This is another straw man argument. Thanks for reminding us that unbelievers are impotent to deploy a serious argument against the God of Scripture.

    Anonymous replies:
    Again, not an argument. It’s an opening gambit. I made two suggestions and asked for feedback. Doesn’t that make my purpose clear?

    Frankly, you seem spring loaded to chew people up into bloody chunks…

    ReplyDelete
  22. Anonymous said:
    ---
    Again, not an argument. It’s an opening gambit. I made two suggestions and asked for feedback. Doesn’t that make my purpose clear?
    ---

    Actually, the feedback Steve gave was relevant there, anonymouse. Your "gambit" is a strawman. You're asking a hypothetical that no one believes; therefore, it isn't connected to anything relevant, and thus Steve's pointing out that it is a strawman is the only response warranted.

    If you want a different response, ask a relevant question.

    On the other hand, I can play your game too:

    Atheism leads to alien abductions. If the Colorado Avalanche don't make it to the playoffs, I will consider that to be evil. Therefore, it seems to me that Chevy's are the best vehicles to drive.

    Thoughts?

    ReplyDelete
  23. “Actually, the feedback Steve gave was relevant there, anonymouse. Your "gambit" is a strawman. You're asking a hypothetical that no one believes; therefore, it isn't connected to anything relevant, and thus Steve's pointing out that it is a strawman is the only response warranted.”

    ***
    A gambit isn’t a strawman because “no one believes it”. What is believed *may* not be correct, so a defense is in order. I guess my request, then, is that an answer be given to clarify *why* no one should believe it. Isn’t that reasonable and valid?

    Incidentally, I think William of Okham held to a position not unlike what I’ve described. Not that I think it lends my questions any more validity; I feel they are valid as they stand.

    ReplyDelete
  24. anonymouse said:
    ---
    A gambit isn’t a strawman because “no one believes it”. What is believed *may* not be correct, so a defense is in order.
    ---

    I'm not going to waste my time defending a position that neither I nor anyone who has to date spoken on this subject in the combox actually holds, simply because of something you think "may" not be correct.

    anonymouse asked:
    ---
    I guess my request, then, is that an answer be given to clarify *why* no one should believe it. Isn’t that reasonable and valid?
    ---

    It's about as reasonable and valid (because it is just as relevant) as me asking you to disprove that atheism causes alien abductions, that I consider it evil if the Colorado Avalanche don't make it to the playoffs, or that I consider Chevy to make the best vehicles.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I agree with Calvindude (as usual). Anonymous is challenging me to disprove some wild hypotheticals which he doesn't believe in and I don't believe in.

    I'm under no obligation to disprove a hypothetical which neither I nor my opponent takes seriously. I have better things to do with my time than that, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Steve said, "I agree with Calvindude (as usual)."

    LOL You mean that joke? And I mean he's a joke.

    [Oh, sorry, as an atheist I don't even have a standard for what constitutes a joke....sorry.]

    LOL

    ReplyDelete
  27. Calvindude and/or Steve,

    What is or is not a “wild hypothetical” is a value judgment. Personally, I don’t know that God won’t deceive his followers, nor do I know what criterion will establish that asking if He would is stupid.

    Your labeling it a “wild hypothetical” suggests that you consider it to fall in the same category as evil demons, other minds, brains in vats etc. (reputable philosophers do take *these* ‘wild hypotheticals’ seriously, by the way) , so I’ll take it to mean that you regard it as *possible* to be sure but highly improbable. That’s fair, but if that *is* your position, then since the ‘probability’ is no more accessible to us than the divine deception itself would be, I’d argue that you’re outlook concerning divine deception is fideistic.

    If, on the other hand, you consider divine deception impossible within your system, I’d like to hear the argument.

    By the way, my suggestion that many claim God is good ‘by definition’ is not a wild hypothetical. I’ve heard Calvinists argue something very much along these lines. How does your position differ?

    ReplyDelete
  28. I've already looked into the question of whether divine deception is possible within the Calvinistic system, here. And it most defintely is possible.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Loftus wrote:

    "I've already looked into the question of whether divine deception is possible within the Calvinistic system, here. And it most defintely is possible."

    And Steve Hays wrote:

    "we don’t know who is elect or regenerate."

    In the final analysis, deception and ignorance seem to be the stock and trade of card-carrying Calvinists. Notice how they are exactly what Hays projects on just about any unbeliever who comments here. Pretty funny actually.

    ReplyDelete
  30. cyberwink said:

    "In the final analysis, deception and ignorance seem to be the stock and trade of card-carrying Calvinists. Notice how they are exactly what Hays projects on just about any unbeliever who comments here. Pretty funny actually."

    What's pretty funny is your inability to distinguish between ignorance and deception, as if these were interchangeable concepts. Hence, you do a very nice job of illustrating what I "project" on unbelievers like yourself.

    ReplyDelete
  31. John W. Loftus said...
    "I've already looked into the question of whether divine deception is possible within the Calvinistic system, here. And it most defintely is possible."

    Which was subsequently refuted. Loftus' modus operandi is to give one dumb argument, and then repeat the same dumb argument ad nauseum no matter how often it's been refuted.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Anonymous said...
    Calvindude and/or Steve,

    "What is or is not a 'wild hypothetical' is a value judgment. Personally, I don’t know that God won’t deceive his followers, nor do I know what criterion will establish that asking if He would is stupid."

    Since you don't believe in the existence of such a God, this hypothetical is not a live option according to your own value-judgment, as well as mine.

    ****************************************

    Your labeling it a “wild hypothetical” suggests that you consider it to fall in the same category as evil demons, other minds, brains in vats etc. (reputable philosophers do take *these* ‘wild hypotheticals’ seriously, by the way) , so I’ll take it to mean that you regard it as *possible* to be sure but highly improbable. That’s fair, but if that *is* your position, then since the ‘probability’ is no more accessible to us than the divine deception itself would be, I’d argue that you’re outlook concerning divine deception is fideistic.

    If, on the other hand, you consider divine deception impossible within your system, I’d like to hear the argument.

    ***********************

    Since I've blogged on this subject in the past, I won't repeat myself here.

    "By the way, my suggestion that many claim God is good ‘by definition’ is not a wild hypothetical. I’ve heard Calvinists argue something very much along these lines. How does your position differ?"

    Once again, I'm only interested in defending *my* position and opposing *your* position.

    I've blogged on various aspects of this issue in the past (the argument from evil, euthyphro dilemma), so I won't repeat myself here

    ReplyDelete
  33. Anonymous said...

    A gambit isn’t a strawman because “no one believes it”. What is believed *may* not be correct, so a defense is in order. I guess my request, then, is that an answer be given to clarify *why* no one should believe it. Isn’t that reasonable and valid?

    *****************************************

    No, it's not reasonable because it's a waste of time. You don't believe it yourself, and I don't believe it. Hence, you already have your own reasoning for disbelieving it.

    Why should I disprove something that you disbelieve (and I disbelieve)? I'm not here to humor you.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Steve:

    "What's pretty funny is your inability to distinguish between ignorance and deception, as if these were interchangeable concepts."

    Since I nowhere treat ignorance and deception as if they were "interchangeable concepts," and you provide no argument to support your supposition that I do, I take your statement as an attempt to justify, albeit in a roundabout manner, your own reliance on both as your stock in trade, as I pointed out. Thus your trite repartée merely confirms my point. Meanwhile, you offer nothing substantial to undo the ignorance you admit to in your other piece, and the deception you deploy as Loftus has pointed out?

    What do you think you're achieving with your blog? Do you expect your readers to suppose that you're convincing anyone other than yourself, or those who have already sipped the Kool-Aid?

    ReplyDelete
  35. "Loftus' modus operandi is to give one dumb argument, and then repeat the same dumb argument ad nauseum no matter how often it's been refuted."

    It probably seems that way to believers, who do not take the time they would need to understand the argument raised, even when the opportunity to examine it reasonably is extended to them repeatedly. What's actually happening is that the believer is recycling the same rejoinder to the proposed argument over and over again, even though it does not address the argument on its own terms. Too bad for you, Steve Hays. May you believe eventually, after all.

    ReplyDelete
  36. cyberwink said:

    "Meanwhile, you offer nothing substantial to undo the ignorance you admit to in your other piece."

    I don't need to undo the ignorance I admit to. The fact that I don't know if someone else is elect or reprobate is not damaging to my position. If you think it is, you need to explain why.

    "And the deception you deploy as Loftus has pointed out?"

    You are asserting that I deploy ignorance, not arguing for that proposition. Care to give a reason?

    I've responded to Loftus.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Anonymous said...

    "What's actually happening is that the believer is recycling the same rejoinder to the proposed argument over and over again, even though it does not address the argument on its own terms."

    This is an empty, tendentious assertion on your part. Care to document your claim?

    ReplyDelete
  38. Anonymous said...
    Calvindude and/or Steve,

    "What is or is not a 'wild hypothetical' is a value judgment. Personally, I don’t know that God won’t deceive his followers, nor do I know what criterion will establish that asking if He would is stupid."

    Steve said:
    Since you don't believe in the existence of such a God, this hypothetical is not a live option according to your own value-judgment, as well as mine.

    Anonymous replies:
    I most definitely believe in God. I’ve asked pointed and direct questions because I’m interested in clarity; I don’t give a flip if I’ve offended anyone’s sensibilities. Not all theists are t-blogger sycophants.

    If you don’t consider God good ‘by definition’, then there must be scenarios that would convince you that He is, in fact, evil. Would you be willing to describe such a scenario?

    If you can’t or aren’t willing to do so, I can only conclude that you agree that goodness is defined via divine edict. God, you yourself would claim, is our “universal exemplar” of goodness, so no external standard can be upheld against Him; hence, arguments from evil are doomed to failure from the outset.

    Also, your stubborn refusal to answer the question about divine deception corroborates my suspicion that fideism is, indeed, an essential element of your theology.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Steve originally said:
    ---
    Since you don't believe in the existence of such a God...
    ---

    To which anonymouse said:
    ---
    I most definitely believe in God.
    ---

    I find it ironic, given the above, that anonymous is taking Steve to task for not understanding Loftus's arguments when anonymous cannot even grasp the difference between a specific concept of God and a general God.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Anonymous replies:

    "I most definitely believe in God."

    When you float blasphemous hypotheticals like, "If it turns out that it pleases God to see children raped and murdered, then that pleasure is righteous and good because His pleasure is the standard of goodness," it's clear that you're not an orthodox Christian, so I don't care what particular false god you believe in. Maybe you're a Baal-worshiper. Makes no difference to me.

    "If you don’t consider God good ‘by definition’, then there must be scenarios that would convince you that He is, in fact, evil. Would you be willing to describe such a scenario?"

    I do consider God to be good by definition. But, as I've explained before, I don't invoke that truth as a counterargument to the argument from evil.

    "If you can’t or aren’t willing to do so, I can only conclude that you agree that goodness is defined via divine edict. God, you yourself would claim, is our 'universal exemplar' of goodness, so no external standard can be upheld against Him; hence, arguments from evil are doomed to failure from the outset."

    This is an allusion to the Euthyphro dilemma. I've blogged about that in the past, in detail, so I won't repeat myself here."

    "Also, your stubborn refusal to answer the question about divine deception corroborates my suspicion that fideism is, indeed, an essential element of your theology."

    You have a limited attention span. As I already explained, I've blogged on these issues before.

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  41. “When you float blasphemous hypotheticals like, "If it turns out that it pleases God to see children raped and murdered, then that pleasure is righteous and good because His pleasure is the standard of goodness," it's clear that you're not an orthodox Christian, so I don't care what particular false god you believe in. Maybe you're a Baal-worshiper. Makes no difference to me.”

    I don’t think floating blasphemous hypotheticals to invite discussionl; I think it can be an element of healthy spiritual and intellectual maturation. I think you’re scandalized in the same sense some Americans in the early part of the last century were scandalized by the sight of women in pants for the first time. Standards of piety vary from person to person and from age to age. I’m sorry to offend.

    “I do consider God to be good by definition. But, as I've explained before, I don't invoke that truth as a counterargument to the argument from evil.”

    If the argument leveled is an external one, you can resort to the charge of begging the question against your moral system, or claim the moral system being held up against yours has nothing universal to underwrite it as yours does. You seem to do something like this from what I can tell.

    As for internal arguments, they needn’t *necessarily* terminate in with the claim that ‘God is good by definition’, it depends on what it takes to convince your opponent or to simply make him give up, but if he presses you to justify every answer to every question he asks, which a complete internal defense would require, you eventually bump up against a universal principle of goodness that is treated as a brute fact. Otherwise you’d have an infinite regress or you’d find yourself arguing in circles. I don’t believe you can mount a *complete* rebuttal to the problem of evil without invoking a first principle. Yes, you’ve addressed the problem of evil before, but I don’t believe you’ve drawn out, for your readers, the clear implication of your line of reasoning.

    “You have a limited attention span. As I already explained, I've blogged on these issues before.”

    You’ve posted on possibility of divine deception in the past, but I’ve not yet seen a complete internal defense against it. I’m not surprised, since I don’t think it is possible without assuming what you’re arguing for. Because of this I admit to being a fideist, and I see it in play in theological systems across the board, whether those systems explicitly acknowledged it or not.

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