If you believe in a good, kind, etc God then [[problem of evil]] is to explain away the various obvious features of the world at variance with this belief. People always succeed in doing so, because they want to. A good trick with any form of human badness is to invoke Free Will: obviously God doesn’t want you to be naughty, but he couldn’t very well stop you, could he? But things like death-dealing earthquakes and the accompanying tsunamis are a bit more of a puzzler. However, in a rather daring and novel piece of theology I heard at Thought for the Day, 15 March 2011 the Revd Dr David Wilkinson says

As a Christian I find such a narrative in the conviction that this world is the creation of a good God, who risks giving freedom to human beings and the natural world. Today the people of Japan will take inspiration from picking up corpses from the beach…

(my bold, and of course I made up the ending to that last sentence). Neatso, eh? God of course didn’t want the tsunami to smite the Japanese (even though they are heathens, which in the good old days would have been excellent grounds for a bit of smiting), but it has to be given free will to decide what to do for itself. Errr.

Refs

* Platitude of the day

Comments

  1. #1 Birger Johansson
    2011/03/16

    A much better argument can be found in an old Dilbert strip: Things progress from simple to complex. What if God is not in our past, but our future?

    Which brings me to Charles StrossĀ“ “Eschaton” super-AI: http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Sunrise-Singularity-Charles-Stross/dp/0441012965/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1300285495&sr=1-1

    Obviously bad things in out past and present will not be sorted out by the Eschaton, because that is beyond its light cone, and while time travel is possible, altering the past before the emergence of the Eschaton would threaten its existence.
    Twisting time after this event (the singularity) is allowed, since this means the Eschaton can terraform worlds light-years away and send the surplus population of an overcrowded Earth there as long as no photons from there/then get here before the singularity. :)

  2. #2 pookie
    2011/03/16

    My favorite explanation for the problem of evil goes like this:

    God, being good and all, does not only create the world where there is the most good, but also all other possible worlds where good outweighs evil. So there is somewhere, in an alternate universe maybe, a perfectly good world (Heaven?), but there are also a near infinity of worlds with various quantities of evil. We are in one of those.

    This explanation generally does not go over too well with Christians, since it takes away at our “specialness” and “uniqueness”. I like it because it makes God look like less of an ass or idiot than most other explanations for “natural” evil.

  3. #3 Robert Murphy
    2011/03/16

    “this world is the creation of a good God, who risks giving freedom to human beings and the natural world”

    Where’s the risk for “God”? I’m quite sure we’re the one’s taking all the risk in that narrative.

  4. #4 TTT
    2011/03/16

    Funny how God seems to value the free will of criminals over that of their victims.

  5. #5 Paul Kelly
    2011/03/16

    The natural world, of course, is not imbued with free will. It is imbued with chaos. Natural disasters are not evil. They are random phenomena.

    Whether or not the Creator is good and caring goes in and out of fashion. God in the Bible does not say God is good. God in the Bible says the creation is good.

  6. #7 carrot eater
    2011/03/16

    nature has free will? erm, on a moment’s reflection I guess that’s equivalent to saying that God wrote the laws of physics, then stood back and let the chips fall where they might.

    Which is good if you like both physics and the concept of God. Less so if you think God directly intervenes in every last thing that happens.

  7. #8 Eli Rabett
    2011/03/16

    Of course Nature has free will, they published MBH 98 didn’t they??

  8. #9 carrot eater
    2011/03/16

    no, Mann had that arranged by his trick of predestination.

  9. #10 Birger Johansson
    2011/03/17

    When Tokyo was hit by an earthquake in the 1920s, an exile Russian suggested that God was ten light years distant, since it had taken two decades for God to respond to the prayers during the Russia-Japanese war.

    This is an explanation that gets God off the hook! The time lag rules out any micromanaging of the daily lives of mortals. Of course, this means that the calls for prayer are pretty meaningless…

  10. #11 Ian
    2011/03/17

    The free will argument fails because it lacks imagination. An all-powerful god could have figured out a way to create a world in which free will could exist without evil. He most certainly could have created a world without natural evil.

    In essence, the “free will” argument boils down to “god is lazy/unimaginative”.

  11. #12 ChrisR
    2011/03/17

    Perhaps we’ve got it all the wrong way round?

    God is our enemy, a god of chaos spite and destruction, “A God who smirks and says, “The joke’s on you!” as Nadelman* put it. All that old-testament stuff, fauning to it and trying to win it’s affection obviously failed. We were just too stupid to see the pattern; all the blood sacrifices, all the prayers, merely tickled it’s warped sense of humour.

    Of course the most parsimonious position is that there is no god. I prefer to believe in Russell’s orbiting tea-pot. ;)

    As an ex-Catholic (ex for some 30 years now) it’s amazing how difficult it was to write the stuff about an evil-god. What they sow young they sow deep.

    *Nadelman’s God by T.E.D Klein.

  12. #13 adelady
    2011/03/18

    “What they sow young, they sow deep.”

    Easy to desensitise yourself. Just talk about god, whenever you do, as she. Instant distancing from ye olde bearded patriarchal authority figure. Works a treat.

  13. #14 Hank Roberts
    2011/04/05

    Speaking of evil, full funding for Nehemiah Scudder’s presidential campaign has now been guaranteed. Don’t like the gubmint? You can create a church and donate the money you’d otherwise pay in taxes directly to your church.

    “A Supreme Court divided along ideological lines said Monday that ordinary taxpayers cannot challenge government programs that use tax breaks to direct money to religious activities.

    The court ruled 5-4 in favor of an Arizona scholarship program for private schools that has mainly benefited religious schools in offering a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the income tax bill of people who participate….”
    http://www.freep.com/article/20110405/NEWS07/104050343/Taxpayers-can-t-fight-help-religious-activity

    See, here’s how it works — the church benefits everybody because everybody who is anybody belongs and the rest are going to hell anyhow, and nobody needs those roads and schools and other gubmint stuff if they are Right With God.

    So remember, don’t send your check to the gubmint.
    Send it to the right religion.

    Nehemiah Scudder in 2012.
    The last President anyone will need.

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