Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Evil, Free Will and the Existence of God

John Farrell has some good thoughts on God and free will, inspired by some comments made by an atheist science blogger about the incompatibility of the belief in God and the existence of great moral evils.

Among said science blogger's comments:

By any normal moral standard, however, if you can stop great evil from happening without any harm to yourself, and you consciously choose not to do so, then you are guilty of great evil in your own right. We can not evade this point by arguing that God gave us free will, which implies the freedom to choose evil as well as good. What of the free will of the victims? God could simply have caused the killer's gun to jam, after all. Then everyone would have their free will and thirty-two people wouldn't be dead today.
I don't normally think of myself as some sort of raving libertarian, but am I alone in finding profoundly unappealing the description of how this fellow would like a God that he could believe in to behave?

Think of this in terms of dealing with your kids, or your parents. If this version of God were a parent, he would be the sort of parent who would insist "I always give you your freedom" while at the same time making sure the car was broken when you tried to head out on any date he didn't approve of; that somehow only the college he wanted you to get to received your application (dang postal service...); that your resume "just happened to show up" on the desk of someone he "just happened to know"; etc. That wouldn't be a parent, it would be a puppetmaster.

Perhaps I have a run-away sense of indepence, but I can't imagine wanting to apply the human common law concept of "if you can stop great evil from happening without any harm to yourself, and you consciously choose not to do so, then you are guilty of great evil in your own right" to an all knowing and all powerful being. Indeed, I can't imagine anything worse.

For those willing to give the Christian belief in God the benefit of its own premises, God does not provide a safety net in the from of hidden puppet strings that keep us from hurting each other too much. Instead, He allows us freedom in the knowledge that each one of us has an immortal soul, unique and beloved by Him, which may find eternal rest in His love if we choose to allow ourselves to.


Anonymous said...

The problem with the scenario described by our atheist friend is that his concept of what is good and evil is fatally flawed. He his looking at the world through the egocentric lense of one for whom this life is all there is.

This reminds me of Ignatius of Antioch, who as he was being led to Rome to be fed to the Lions stated:

I am God's wheat, ground fine by the lion's teeth to be made purest bread for Christ.

No early pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire. The time for my birth is close at hand. Forgive me, my brothers. Do not stand in the way of my birth to real life; do not wish me stillborn. My desire is to belong to God. Do not, then, hand me back to the world. do not try to tempt me with material things. Let me attain pure light. Only on my arrival there can I be fully a human being. Give me the privilege of imitating the passion of my God.

For our atheist friend, Ignatius' plight is one of horrible evil. Being fed live to lions. To Ignatius (and the rest of us who understand), his plight was one of the best good he could possibly imagine. Dying for Christ in horrible agony, burning away the last of his attachment to sin to arrive pure to heaven to be one with his God.

So did Cho commit a horrible, evil act? Absolutely. His manifesto points to his malicious intent. Was evil perpetrated on the victims? I don't know. I can't possibly know the mind of a being who sits out of time in the eternal "now".

Someday we may know. Now I know we don't. We need to trust.

Joseph said...

If you could prevent a dangerous criminal from killing again by violating his constitutional rights...

Anonymous said...

God could simply have caused the killer's gun to jam, after all.

Or cause the bullet to enter the body but not do any harm - ever. This is just plain silly because it fails to address the real problem - the effect is has on the soul.

What happens to the soul of a person that practices hatred an a daily basis - firing bullets at people while God protects them from harm, attempting to stab a person while God protects them from harm? The victims are spared, but the perpetrator is allowed to wallow in their anger and hatred and thus there is no incentive to become a better person, to become more holy.

CMinor said...

My gut reaction to that quote was "gee, how childish." Suffering happens. Death happens. Evil happens. Their absence isn't an indicator of God, any more than is the presence of butterflies and flowers. When you accept belief, you have to accept the whole package--joy and suffering--as part of human existence.

It brings to my mind the small kid who, ignoring Dad's warning to slow down, takes a painful spill and is then angry at Dad.

Or, for that matter, the guy who blames society for his tortured soul, and thus resolves to take a few dozen innocent bystanders with him for symbolic purposes when he ends it all.