My recent ebook is now on sale for it’s lowest price at $2.99. Because of the size and volume of content it won’t let me sell it for any cheaper. I’ve begun a recent interest in mental health: depression, anxiety, bipolar, anger, etc. and this is a combination of my work in existentialism for those who are or know someone struggling. I just want the material out there regardless of price.
If you believe you have a special circumstance, please email me: mlandrews[at]sententias[d0t]com. I’m more than willing to correspond and hear your story.
In a debate of mine from this past summer my opponent brought up the problem of hell. His objection was, “There is no moral justification for sending anybody to suffer eternally in hell.” Before defending the doctrine of an eternal hell I need to make clear how far this objection actually goes. This isn’t an objection to the existence of God nor is it an objection to Christianity. This is an objection to hermeneutical principles and, possibly, in a worst case scenario, an objection to inerrancy. Should it be the case that the objection succeeds then we ought to modify our hermeneutical grid by which we understand special revelation concerning the final destination and consequences for the reprobate damned. Should the best hermeneutic affirm the doctrine of eternal hell then the objection brings inerrancy into question. However, I don’t think the objection succeeds at all and below was my response defending the doctrine of an eternal hell:
If everything God does is GOOD, and if God controls EVERYTHING, then it would be BAD had one less child been murdered in Newtown, CT.
This is the argument we find particularly among open theists but I would consider it an important existential question. It primarily focuses on the problem of evil and the hiddenness of God. Here’s the argument in a formal depiction:
If everything God does is Good [and]
If God controls everything [by weak and strong actualization]
Then, it would be bad had one less child been murdered in Newtown.
It would have been good had one less child been murdered in Newtown.
Therefore, either not everything God does is good or God does not control everything.
God is good and everything he does is good.
Therefore, God does not control everything.
It seems like we are posed with interesting dilemma (at least for the Christian who affirms that God’s means of providence is not exclusively causal, but that he controls all things).
Rowe makes a strong positive case for why atheism is true. He supposes that, as especially in the absence of other arguments, anyone who observes the amount of human and animal suffering in the world and the truth of premise 1 in the evidential argument (that there are probably pointless evils) then this person would be rationally justified in believing atheism to be true. He presents two basic forms of the argument: the logical and the evidential problems of evil. The logical problem of evil argues that the existence of God and the existence of evil are logically contradictory claims. However, these aren’t explicitly contradictory—they are implicit (i.e. a married bachelor is an implicit contradiction and a married non-married person is an explicit contradiction). Rowe recognizes that we must abandon the logical problem of evil because the contradiction has yet to be proved (though he states that just because it has yet to be demonstrated doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t one).
The evidential problem is a probabilistic argument, which argues that given the apparent [pointless] evil it is more probable that God does not exist than if God does exist. He uses the example of a fawn suffering for no apparent reason. Given that God would prevent this from happening and the fact that it does happen then God doesn’t seem to exist. Rowe seems to favor this form of the problem of evil over the logical problem.
Today, July 20, 2012, marks the first anniversary of my Crohn’s surgery. I have had Crohn’s for eight years and it has won the battle over a few organs. I was in serious pain for just over a month prior to the surgery. I spent my birthday last year, July 18, in pain. The next day I was going to go out with some friends to TGI Friday’s for a Jack Daniel’s steak to celebrate my birthday. I wasn’t feeling well that afternoon and took a nap. I woke up with a 105 degree fever. Leah rushed me to the hospital. I was not a good patient. I was angry. I refused to take the CT scan at first because I knew what they would find. I gave in. I didn’t know what they would find. I was wrong. They found that my colon was perforated and I needed emergency surgery. They let my body rest for the night in the ICU. It was a rough night…
I remember the nurses pushing my bed into the room where they prepped me for surgery. I was, of course, having fun with all the drugs I was on, but I knew what was going on. My Dad and step-mother drove out from Richmond for my surgery. I’m so glad they did. I saw them before going in thinking, “What if this is the last time I see them?” The staff let Leah back in one more time before I went unconscious. She had to hold on my wedding ring while I was in surgery. I remember asking my surgeon how many times he’s done this surgery and he said that my condition was “pretty bad” but that he has done thousands and this sort of thing was his “bread and butter.” I trusted him. These surgeries happen all the time, so why was I so nervous deep down?
Before Leah came back into the prep area to get my ring, I prayed. Even though I was high as a kite on the dilaudid and Valium it was the most serious prayer I ever made. I prayed for the surgeon and that I’d make it out okay. I felt like I couldn’t even pray for no complications. Even if complications happened I didn’t care, I just wanted to come out on the other side. This was the first time I seriously entertained the thought that I might actually die and these are my last few moments awake. Without the surgery I could have easily died in a short period of time, but I didn’t think that was going to happen. I’ll come back to this in a bit.
If God has a sufficient reason for permitting evil in some possible world then he has a sufficient reason in all possible worlds. Given simplicity, God is perfectly similar in every possible world we can conceive. He never wills differently, he never acts differently, he never knows differently, and he never loves differently. If modal realism is true and evil exists then the probability overall or on balance for justice is precisely 1. Thus, the problem of evil is an insufficient objection given whatever God’s interaction is in this world. It would be morally equivalent to his actions in other worlds with evil. If God is absolutely similar in all possible worlds and if he has a morally sufficient reason to permit evil in some possible world then he is morally justified in permitting evil in all possible worlds (even if some worlds are more bad than good because God would be acting towards the same telos). The following is a modified version of Alvin Plantinga’s ontological argument. In it I include the necessary entailment of a morally sufficient reason for permitting evil.
P1. The property of being maximally great is exemplified in some possible world.
P2. The property of being maximally great is equivalent, by definition, to the property of being maximally excellent in every possible world.
P3. The property of being maximally excellent entails the properties of omniscience and moral perfection.
P4. The property of moral perfection necessarily entails a morally sufficient reason for permitting states of affairs that are overall more evil than good.
P5. A universal property is one that is exemplified in every possible world or none.
Dostoevsky depicts a conversation between two brothers: Ivan and Alyosha. Ivan is an atheist (a weak category, perhaps) and he observes all the suffering going on in the world. Alyosha is a Christian and is attempting to bring Ivan closer to the truth that there can be forgiveness. Ivan has this rebellion against God and doesn’t believe there is such a being that will actually forgive the world of these evils. Ivan makes the distinction between the sufferings of children and the sufferings of adults. It’s the adults that Ivan has little sympathy for since they are the only creature that can practice artistic evil. A tiger maims its prey but it would never even think of nailing the prey’s ears or blowing the brains out of another animal, even if it could. He suggests that the adults, even the elderly, should be damned because they have eaten the apple (participated in conscious acts of sin). However, the children have done nothing wrong. Children have just shown up in existence and have no conscious control or recognition of morality. When these children are bayoneted, shot in the face, or receive long tortuous beatings and those who fulfill these acts take joy in it this becomes an artistic evil and is unwarranted evil against the children because they have not eaten the apple.
The argument wasn’t so much of a conclusion that God doesn’t exist; rather, it was Ivan’s way of expressing his desire to “return God’s ticket.” The world is unjust and this was Ivan’s rebellion against God.
This was a debate on March 21, 2012 at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, VA. It was sponsored by the Freethinkers at Virginia Tech, Leopard Zeus Fan Club, Ask Big Questions at Virginia Tech, and the Department of Philosophy at Liberty University.
Max Andrews, Department of Philosophy Liberty University
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is—limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death—he had the honesty and courage to take his own miedicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone thorugh the whole of human experience, from the trivial irrtations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in dsiagrce and thought it well worthwhile.
From Dorothy Sayers, Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World (Eerdmans, 1969), 14.
This is a legitimate question. The claim that God could have created us in the state of heaven avoiding all this evil and suffering in the world is a nuanced version of the problem of evil. If we are going to heaven and our telos, our purpose and end, is to worship God and enjoy him forever in heaven then why didn’t God skip this earthly step? Surely, one may think that there’s a possible world in which we all exist in heaven. It’s my contention that the instantiation of heaven alone is not a possible world.
Aside from other theodicies and defenses such as soul-making, perhaps the most relevant to this question, I think it’s critical to understand that heaven isn’t some lone possible state of affairs by itself. Heaven is, necessarily, a contingent state of affairs. It’s a consequent, if and only if, there are prior antecedent conditions or states of affairs. Heaven is a result of our choices during this life. In other words, this earthly life is a necessary condition for heaven to be brought about (aside from the salvific will of the Father and saving power of Christ, I’m merely stating that this life must precede heaven.
This also leads to a very important question: How does God guarantee that there will be no evil among the saved in heaven? This is a very tough question and here are a few possible answers to consider.