Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The problem of evil and a better world?

I've just listened to the Unbelievable show from a few weeks back where Christian apologist Clay Jones engaged with atheist philosopher Richard Norman on the question of "Why does God allow evil?"

For the most part, it was fairly standard stuff, but I found the challenge laid down by Clay Jones (about half way through the podcast) to be interesting, and worthy of some thought. He said that he frequently found in his debates with atheists, that they often said that God should have been able to create a world that allowed free will, but also limited the suffering of innocents in some way, yet atheists (in his experience) never seem to be able to define such a world and end up saying "I'm not God, but he should have been able to do this...", which Jones pounces on and uses against the atheist. Its a clever argument, but fails as soon as the skeptic comes up with a plausible world description. So here's my answer:

A world in which free will is retained, but its consequences for harming the innocent are reduced would be a world in which there is no death (or, at least, no premature death for humans) and where there is no such thing as unbearable pain. Pain is necessary and important for people, but I can think of no reason why unbearable pain is necessary, and I can think of no reason why the ability to kill people short of their allotted span (three score years and ten?) should be a required aspect of free will.

So there you go, why couldn't God have created that world?

The odd thing is that as soon as I had that thought, I realised that that 'actually' is the world that the bible says God created. Death and suffering only entered creation as a punishment for the very first exercise of free will (well, depending on which interpretation of the first few chapters of Genesis you adhere to). So not only could God have created that world, Christians claim that he did! The only thing that would need to be different between that world and this, is that death would not be the punishment for sin.

So what do you think? Could an all powerful God have created that world? If not, why not? If so, then why didn't he do that?

Beyond this challenge, Clay Jones relied almost entirely on the 'unseen infinite' solution to the problem of evil, which is really not a solution to anything. At one point Jones said that if someone died young as a Christian, that he "guaranteed" the believer was in heaven now. How can he guarantee any such thing? Sure, he believes it. Yes, it is his future hope. But it certainly falls short of being a guarantee...