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Nightclub Fires and the Problem of Evil

Nightclub fire

In the recent aftermath of the horrific Kiss nightclub fire in Brazil that claimed 235 young lives, people continue to ask what they always ask after a disaster: “Where was God?”

On Sunday, January 27, the nightclub erupted into an inferno after the club’s band set off fireworks that ignited flammable material. The club’s poor design and the even'ts overcrowding were the main factors in the high death toll. Video footage of a similar nightclub fire in Rhode Island (be warned, it’s extremely disturbing) puts us as close as we can be to the horror of these events without singeing our eyebrows.

In videos such as these, the terrifying screams of the victims have the potential to overwhelm our rational thought process. They can send us running to God for comfort and security or running away from him in anger and despair.

I know I can’t satisfactorily answer in a simple blog post why God allows these kinds of evils to occur. But I think it might be helpful to review two ways not to answer the question, as well as how to cope when evil challenges belief in God.

Punting to Mystery

 
After the devastating 2011 Japanese tsunami, MSNBC’s Martin Bashir asked Evangelical pastor Rob Bell, “Which of these is true? Either God is all powerful but he doesn’t care about the people of Japan, or he does care about the people of Japan but he’s not all powerful.”

Bell rambled about God shedding tears and God’s desire to renew the earth, which prompted Bashir to forcefully ask his question again. Bell responded, “I think that this is a paradox at the heart of the divine, and some paradoxes are best left exactly as they are.”

“Punting to mystery” involves the Christian throwing up his hands and simply saying, “God works in mysterious ways” before ending the conversation. Even if suffering is a mystery, or a “paradox” as Bell put it, the pain that people endure and their honest questions about God’s goodness deserve a more rigorous explanation.

Panglossian Optimism

 
The other extreme is to act as if we know exactly why God causes evil and pretend that there really is no mystery. God’s zealous defender might say:

“The Lord gave us free will, and with the opportunity to do good comes the opportunity to do evil. The nightclub fire in Brazil happened because of the owner’s choice to operate a club that lacked emergency exits, had no sprinklers, had no working fire extinguishers, contained flammable stage material, had security that prevented guests from leaving, and had more guests than the fire code allowed. The band freely chose to use cheap pyrotechnics designed for outdoor use instead more expensive ones designed for indoor use. There—not so hard to explain.”

And yet it is hard to explain. God could have caused the fireworks the band used in their performance to malfunction so the fire would never start, but he allowed them to burn. Free will explains some aspects of this tragedy, but we still feel empty inside when this overconfident approach is employed.

This way of answering the problem of evil was lampooned in Voltaire’s novella Candide, which was written in response to another disaster that shook people’s faith. In 1755 the city of Lisbon, Portugal was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami that killed thousands of people on All Saints’ Day.

Candide references disasters like this and critiques heartless, overly philosophical answers to the problem of evil via the character Dr. Pangloss. In one scene, Pangloss tries to reassure the title character, Candide, after their friend dies in a storm that the harbor where he died was made by God so that the friend would drown there.

Echoing the philosopher Gottfried Leibniz, Pangloss says God must have intended the disaster because this is “the best of all possible worlds.” Pangloss tells Candide, “All this is for the very best end, for if there is a volcano at Lisbon it could be in no other spot; and it is impossible but things should be as they are, for everything is for the best.”

Enduring Evil

 
A better approach is one offered by my friend and fellow Strange Notions contributor Jimmy Akin. He once told me, “It is a mystery why God allows us to suffer, but there are truths that can help us endure it.” What might those truths be?

First, the problem of evil for Christians also brings with it the problem of good for atheists. If God exists, we might expect less evil, but if there were no God, we wouldn’t expect so many good things in the world. For example, we wouldn’t expect humans rising above their animal nature and doing noble things like dying for complete strangers. We wouldn’t expect there to be beauty and love that can be seen even in the tears of those who mourn. Evil may make it hard to believe in God, but we can’t forget the evidence that makes it hard to believe in atheism.

Second, we are simply not in a good position to know how God can bring about good from these seemingly senseless acts. When I say this, I am not punting to mystery. I can think of certain reasons that God allows evil (free will, builds our moral character, natural by-product of a universe where free creatures live), but I am not saying I know God’s exact reasons for allowing certain evils.

God is by definition the perfection of being, the summum bonum, the highest good, the infinite, all-knowing sovereign Lord of the entire universe. Because he is so far “above” me, I can no more understand his exact reasons for allowing evil than an infant can understand why her parents allow her to be stabbed with an immunization needle.

Finally, in the wake of the tragic deaths at this nightclub, we should take hope in Christ, who has destroyed death and gives us confidence to trust in God’s mercy for those who perished. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid. I am the first and the last. I was once was dead, but I now I live forever and ever. I hold the keys to death” (Rev. 1:18).

Evil may make it hard to believe in God, but without God evil and its gruesome sibling, “a universe without purpose or meaning,” would make life simply unbearable. We may not be able to explain evil, but God provides grace and strength to help endure it. As St. Paul writes:

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (2 Cor. 1:3-4)

 
 
Originally posted at TrentHorn.com. Used with author's permission.
(Image credit: Addicting Info)

Trent Horn

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Trent Horn holds a Master’s degree in Theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville and is currently an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers. He specializes in training pro-lifers to intelligently and compassionately engage pro-choice advocates in genuine dialogue. He recently released his first book, titled Answering Atheism: How to Make the Case for God with Logic and Charity. Follow Trent at his blog, TrentHorn.com.

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  • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

    “Which of these is true? Either God is all powerful but he doesn’t care
    about the people of Japan, or he does care about the people of Japan but
    he’s not all powerful.”

    I think there is a third option: God views death in a very different way as we view it. Granted, scripture tells us God is not pleased with the death of the innocent, but this still does not precludes a different view of death, only that he is displeased with an undeserved death.

    The fact is we all have to die, how we die is what matters most to us. Most people would like to die of old age, surrounded by loved ones. Others would like to die in their sleep. Very few would like to die like the people in the Kiss Club fire. But to God, who will encounter each one of us after our passing, how we die might be of little consequence. The analogy given in the article is helpful here again. In the same way the pin prick is of very little consequence to a parent taking a child for a vaccination, the way in which we die might not be that important to Him as it is to us.

    We could even venture to say that this is why he allows some types of death over others. Perhaps to give us (the ones who witness or survive these) a chance for reflection and spiritual growth. Perhaps he allows these as object lessons. Who knows, but the fact is we view death as final, God views death as just a passing from one state to another.

    "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
    DHS

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      But to God, who will encounter each one of us after our passing, how we die might be of little consequence.

      This seems to imply that if we could see our deaths from "God's point of view," it wouldn't matter if we died suddenly and peacefully in our sleep or died in extreme pain over the course of months or years of something like bone cancer or cancer of the pancreas. But of course, it is (almost always?) impossible for us to see our own deaths from "God's point of view," especially when the suffering is extreme and prolonged. And if it is possible for a few rare individuals to see "from God's point of view" (or imagine that they do), it is all the more difficult to watch a loved one die in agony.

      I think perhaps the last thing one ought to try to do is to "explain" to someone who is actually suffering a painful death, or to someone who is watching a loved one die a painful death, how it is really all for the best and part of God's plan and the result of the Fall and God's granting human beings free will. As I mentioned in recent message, I just saw the film Schindler's List, and the last thing I wanted in the emotional aftermath of witnessing the portrayal of such horrendous evil was for someone to try to make a case for why it was "right" of God to let it all happen.

      One further thought. Most of the physical evil in the world (fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, cancer, bubonic plague, etc.) can in no way be explained by free will. All of these things (or things similar or equivalent) predated the existence of human beings.

      • Vickie

        I agree with you that in the face of tragic loss platitudes explaining God do not give the comfort that we think it dos. Instead at times it can devalue our experience, our grief and the lives of the ones who were lost. In trying to explain God we instead diminish him and his concern for us.
        It may be so that God sees death as a passage, as a transformation or metamorphosis. As we see the the change of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Even so, it does not necessarily follow that our deaths are insignificant or the manner of our death of little or no consequence. It may be so that God sees beauty in death, as we see beauty in the butterfly. Even so, it does not necessariy follow that God has no knowledge, no understanding, no concern for the impact it has on us. Tragedy hits hard. So hard, sometimes, that we do not think that we can endure it. It shocks our systems whether it is unexpected or we were prepared for it. The loss and grief are profound to us. Tragedy can pull the rug right out from under us leaving us confused, disoriented and questioning everything we know or understand.
        As a Christian, I have often experienced the strength and comfort that seems to be outside of myself. My relationship with they Lord has proven itself through repeated experience so that I can trust it. But it does not help others to tell them to rely on such things when they have no experience of them. When God does not exist for them or has seemed very far away. But as the verse quoted says, having experienced the comfort of God I can communicate it by offering comfort to others. I can offer them assistance, comfort and an acknowledgment of our shared humanity. If, then, others recognize the love and comfort of God through this action so be it. It would be better at these times to reflect God rather than explain him.
        In attempting to explain these things, if we should even attempt it at all, I should also see the difference between what is malicious and evil in its orgin and that which, while still tragic, are more natural in origin.

        • Loreen Lee

          Thanks Vickie. I have also had an 'naturalistic'? thought with respect to a possibility of responsibility, that of being hopefully in such a state of mind, that the 'energy' I release to the world is 'good'! I have also thought that this is a potentially 'dangerous' thought.....And I don't 'really' understand it. This is thus, in a way confessional. May I be so fortunate at my time of death, in any interpretation, religious of natural, that this 'transformation' of being is not found to be a burden to anyone.

          • Loreen Lee

            I'm attempting to delete the above remark. No such luck. Will continue to do this though.

          • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

            L.
            Just edit it and replace the text with "DELETED"

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            DHS

      • Kevin Aldrich

        According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, physical evil can be explained along these lines:

        But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” toward its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection. (310)

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          I see from the footnote that Thomas Aquinas figured that one out. How in the world did he know? It sounds like utter speculation based on absolutely no facts or evidence of any kind. What will creation be like when it has reached perfection? Will it rain only on the grass but not on the sidewalks?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think one thing it means is that the physical world or the "new creation" will not be able to harm anyone.

            I think the statement is a conclusion of reason based on what we know about creation and God.

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      Death is not just a passing from state to state. What a terrible notion! It sounds like these Eastern Religions or new ageism! Christians and most atheists would agree on death.

      Death is not simply a spiritual phase transition.

      Death is terrible. For Catholics it is the enemy. I strongly agree with them on this one.

      "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." - 1 Corinthians 15:26

      "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life." - Paschal Troparion

      • Loreen Lee

        Am I correct in finding analogy within biblical tradition between concepts of 'death' and 'evil'?

        • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

          Hi Loreen,

          That is quite a loaded question. As in scripture the idea of death develops quite a bit. Generally speaking we could say that in scripture:

          death=bad
          life=good

          Although we see examples of death as an eternal rest (Think Simeon in Luke), and life as a worst alternative than death (Think Book of Job)

          The most I would venture to say is that in certain parts of scripture death is considered a great evil, but not always.

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          DHS

          • Boris G

            Evil, being a privation of some good - in this case life - would mean that death (loss of life) must always be in itself an Evil. You cannot have it both ways.

          • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

            B.

            "You cannot have it both ways."

            I was not making a blanket doctrinal or philosophical statement about Catholic belief. I was just answering a question about how death is presented in scripture.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            DHS

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I was just answering a question about how death is presented in scripture.

            I think it is important to note that in the Old Testament, there is no belief in an afterlife as we understand it today—eternal reward for some, and eternal punishment for others. The understanding of death in Old Testament times was to a certain extent ceasing to exist, although there was the creepy and shadowy concept of Sheol.

            So death in the Old Testament would have been regarded quite differently from death in the New Testament. Even Judaism today doesn't have much to say about an afterlife, being more focused on this world than on the possible next.

      • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

        Paul,

        It was not my intention to minimize the reality of death but to give a potential perspective of death from God's point of view. Often we humans fall into judging God's actions as if they were the actions of another man, when in fact He is unlike anything we can encounter in our experience. This is why on everything related to God, we can only speculate, which is what I tried to do. Perhaps I did not reflect this enough in the language I used.

        "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
        DHS

      • Loreen Lee

        New Agism IS misconstrued Buddhism. All 'spirituality', as it was pointed out to me without any idea of the need for 'sanctification' or the search for wholeness/holiness? As I disagree with both, this is a major impetus for my ongoing attempt to return to Catholicism.

      • Loreen Lee

        Dear Paul. Just to let you know, as I understand that you are contemplating leaving this blog, that I am in sympathy with you. However, I have found in all my many years of studying philosophy etc, and living within the modern context, that I have 'never been able to leave' the grounding of my life, within my early childhood education and understanding of Catholicism.. I have thus returned to it in order to make sense of it within this context: to place the past within the present; to attempt to resolve the differences in perspectives and philosophy, etc., to hopefully achieve a 'communality' or 'synthesis' of interpretation. As in Hegel's categories of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, I hope to integrate the many philosophies and experiences of my life within a whole. I, however, wish you great happiness and success in your choice to leave Catholicism. It will be an opportunity perhaps to understand the anti-thesis from a perspective that will seek to integrate from the 'modern point of view your experience and education. In essence, then, perhaps we have the same goals, or purpose. All the best. Loreen.

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          I'm not leaving yet, and probably won't leave anytime very soon, barring unexpected future changes.

          My worry is that most of the intelligent atheists have either been forced to leave or have left out of protest because others have been forced to leave. This vastly reduces both the quality of discussions here and the effectiveness of this website.

          I suspect that this site will change radically, or it will die. If it changes radically, I will want to continue the conversation through the necessary transitions. If it dies, then I and everyone else here will be leaving by default.

    • DannyGetchell

      "God views death in a very different way as we view it"

      I would suggest instead that Christian doctrine implies that "God views "good" in a very different way as he desires that we view it."

      • Kevin Aldrich

        If I understand you, you can't be correct.

        If God views "good" in a way different than he desires we view it" he would not have revealed himself to the world.

        While God does view good in a way different than most of us (because of our ignorance), he wants us to share his view, which is the truth of the matter about the good.

        • DannyGetchell

          So then it is not possible for God to allow something to happen, which on every evidence to us appears to be evil, because his purpose is in fact good?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Every time I look in the mirror I'm shocked at how freakin old I'm getting. That appears evil to me and God is letting it happen; in fact, Genesis 3 tells me that getting old and dying is God's punishment for Original Sin.

            Yet I can detect good purposes behind this advancing decrepitude: A limit to the evil I can do; humility; some wisdom in seeing a human life as a whole; death as the gate to the promise of eternal life with a glorified body.

            So my own, everyday experience is an example of God allowing something that appears to be evil which is actually good.

          • DannyGetchell

            It seems that everyone is missing my point, therefore I may not have stated it clearly.

            If some things which appear "evil" are really really evil, and some things which appear "evil" are deep down intended for good, which evils should we oppose??

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha! I thought this was going to be an easy answer but it has turned out to be more complex than I imagined.

            I think it is clear we should oppose evil which we are convinced is objectively evil.

            But I also think we should oppose evil which we suspect might be good in some way. For example, we should do everything in our power that is reasonable to eliminate every sort of suffering, even if God can bring good out of evil.

          • DannyGetchell

            Yes, you get the point of my original post.

            Your answer implies that what appears evil to us is evil, even if God may intend that it ultimately produce good. Is that correct?

            (And yes, I realize that this is Euthypro restated)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think so if we make the distinction between physical and moral evil.

            Physical pain is a physical evil. It hurts. But exercising requires this physical evil to produce a physical good. (No pain no gain.)

            Being cheated out of money due to me is a moral evil on the part of the cheater. But a good can come out of that for me if it makes me see more clearly that cheating is wrong and I don't want to be that kind of person.

  • Loreen Lee

    I wasn't going to respond to this post. I am feeling some fatigue and thought that I might not have the energy, nor the desire, at this time to deal with the issue of Theodicy. So I went out for a coffee, for the second time, this morning.

    On my way out the door, a waitress was sitting at a table and she called me over. She showed me something that she was writing in her diary. It was only then that I recognized it as something I had said a few days ago: "I noticed your presence in your absence, just like I notice God's presence in God's absence." I was astounded that she had taken so much note of something I had long forgotten. It was for me said, if I may make the analogy, as a analytic statement. It was something that was, for me, without content, perception, precept.

    But she went on to tell me of what it meant to her. I was amazed by the implications she found within it, in reference to her life situation. I then explained, (analytically) how even one sentence, can have possibly generate even infinite ramifications, and interpretations. I thought to myself how Wittgenstein expressed a 'reality' that each of us lives in independent 'worlds'; that your world and mine may be very different. I remembered also, my divorced husband's explanation of something else I had written: that scientists have 'determined' that each of us lives in different 'time scales, referenced, not to a chronological sense, but in the sense another philosopher described, (can't remember his name at the moment, - a senior moment) as duration. This term duration, I note, has also been used to describe the eternal in a sense that we would describe this with respect to heaven or God, I believe. A duration could even be conceived as encompassing all of the temporal, within the context of an 'eternal' now.

    I thanked her for her comments and took my coffee outside where I could indulge in my tobacco addiction with my coffee, and noticed the chap who had given me confidence earlier in the day, standing there. I said to him. "I looked over to where you were sitting in the cafe, and noticed your presence in your 'absence'." It had 'new meaning' for me. I began to think ironically, because new meanings were continuing to come to me. I then this episode of life to my previous reading of the blog.

    I was thinking of the question of 'evil'. Of the definition or description of evil as something which does 'not exist'. As a lack: of fulfillment, of being. You will be able to develop this within your personal contextual meaning, much fuller than this analytic presentation. But is it true, that we can see God in his absence? Does this always hold true for us? Do we sometimes miss the presence of God in his absence? Is this possible? necessary? Is it really 'an actuality' that God is really there?

    I can think of many responses to such disasters. Even on a pragmatic level it demands of us a recognition of purpose: if only the pragmatic purpose of dealing with the physical consequences of such an event. We can see it in relation to our own limitations, and absences perhaps as well. Theist, deist, pantheist, atheist, I believe would certainly be faced with the reality of Aristotle's fourth cause. We have to 'clean up the mess'. There is the challenge that we need to find fulfillment even in the 'absence' of God. We, all of us, see His Presence, a universality, pragmatic or within the dimensions of a practical reason, or faith.. Because of this, I feel a comfort that we are indeed more powerful than even 'the devil himself'......

    Thank you, as I was thankful to the waitress who made these observations, memories, and musings possible for me, and therefore increased the meaning of my life and understanding of 'God's plan'....

  • Peter Piper

    In response to the last article, English Catholic said ` I have a feeling the article was originally intended for Christian believers and reproduced on this site (though I could be wrong)'. I have the same feeling about this article: even the couple of sideswipes aimed at atheism seem more intended to bolster the faith of believers than to make compelling arguments to unbelievers. I personally find this a hindrance to dialogue: if the conversation-starter is not addressed to me, I find it harder to enter the conversation. Nevertheless, I shall do my best to answer the two quick criticisms of atheism.

    First, the `problem of good'. I can see no reason why a nontheist should be surprised by the presence of love or of beauty in the world. As to the extreme altruism of some people, this is no more surprising than the extreme nastiness of others: both are examples of unusual behaviour by humans. We don't have a complete theory of human behavior, so the fact that people do things we couldn't have predicted isn't surprising. Nor is it surprising, given atheism, that we don't yet have a complete theory of human behavior: after all, people are complicated.

    Second, the idea that life as an atheist must be unbearable, because of the lack of meaning. This seemed obvious to me, too, when I was a Christian (not a Catholic). I remember being convinced that if I ever lost my faith in God I would necessarily be driven to despair and to suicide. This turns out not to be the case, and in fact life is full of depth and meaning even without faith in God. I get the impression that most nontheists share my experience that life is not just bearable but meaningful. This is true even given the presence of evil in the world.

    • Randy Gritter

      First, the `problem of good'. I can see no reason why a nontheist should
      be surprised by the presence of love or of beauty in the world.

      It depends what it is. Is love like nausea? I mean is it just the brain reacting to stimuli? If so, then there is no surprise. But most people see love as something more. They see it as a supreme value that we must re-order our lives around. If that is what you discern about love then you do have a problem of good.

      Second, the idea that life as an atheist must be unbearable, because of the lack of meaning.
      It is not unbearable. It is meaningless. It can feel meaningful and even deep but if atheism is true the feeling is an illusion. Most athiests don't follow atheism to its logical conclusion. Life is bearable and meaningful because you don't fully embrace atheism. That is good because it is false. But then really embrace its falseness.

      • Peter Piper

        Love is like nausea, in that it is produced by the brain (and body) reacting to stimuli. But that is certainly not all that can be said about it. It is also a supreme value around which we should re-order our lives. I'm still not seeing the problem for atheists here.

        I'm glad that you agree with me in rejecting the idea from the OP that life for atheists is unbearable. You have presented no arguments for your claim that life for atheists is meaningless, and that this is a matter of logical necessity, so all I can do is repeat that my experience is that life is meaningful.

        • Randy Gritter

          If love is a byproduct of the brain and body then it cannot be a supreme value around which we should reorder our lives. Nausea is something we make some changes avoid but it is not a supreme value. Sometimes our bodies make us nauseous and we need to ignore it and proceed anyway. Changing a child's diaper is an example. If love is like that. That is our body telling us something positive about certain stimuli then we should only trust it so far. We should not be willing to give ourselves to another person for richer or poorer in sickness and in health. That kind of response would be totally out of step with what love is. Now you might believe that. You might think that marriage and the concept of soulmates is a religious idea we want to dump. Not everyone thinks that but some are willing to go there. The argument that atheism implies life is meaningless is trivial. What happens after we die? Everything we have said and done quickly fades to black. Our body rots. If atheism is true what matters at that point? Nothing. Nothing at all. That might be the case but my experience is atheists are unwilling to contemplate the significance of that belief. They are in a sort of denial. You seem to be one of those.

          • Peter Piper

            You seem to be saying that if love is like nausea in some respects (produced by brain and body), then it must be like it in other respects (a mere byproduct, not a supreme value, often worth ignoring, etc.) This doesn't follow, as far as I can see. If there is some reason why the latter properties follows from the former, I would appreciate it if you would give it more explicitly.

            Since you raise the question, I don't think marriage is a religious idea or an idea we should dump. I'm more skeptical about the idea of soulmates.

            You are making a bit of a leap from atheism (lack of belief in gods) to belief that there is no life after death. There are atheists who believe in life after death, reincarnation etc. So what you mention isn't a problem for all atheists. Since, however, I don't believe in life after death, I will try to provide an answer anyway.

            You are right that one day I am going to die, and that if I cease to exist at that point then after that nothing else will matter to me (because I won't be there for things to matter to). But that doesn't mean that the things that matter now will stop mattering. They will keep on mattering just fine without me. They just won't matter to me any more. Is that such a problem?

            Let me put it another way: there was a time in the past when you were not yet born. At that time, nothing mattered to you (I'm not sure if this accurately reflects your beliefs: correct me if I am wrong). But that doesn't stop things mattering to you now. Similarly, the fact that at some future time nothing will matter to me does not stop things mattering to me now.

          • Randy Gritter

            If love is a property of our body then it cannot be greater than our body. So it can't be a supreme value. For example,being willing to die for your beloved would be nonsense. Death kills love because love is limited to your body. If love was some great thing that did not depend on you or I existing then we could sacrifice our bodies for the sake of love. It at least has the potential to make sense. As far as meaning goes, sure the things that matter now can matter. What are those? Are they finite or eternal? If they are finite then you have just pushed the problem back a few years. If they are eternal then you are talking about something supernatural. Something like love or freedom or something non-material that you can find meaning in. That something could be called your god. I would not call you an atheist then. You might call yourself that but I would say you have some notion of a transcendent entity.

          • Peter Piper

            I didn't say love was a property of our body, but that it is a product of our brains and bodies. Of course, there is no absurdity in the idea that one person should sacrifice themselves for another, or that the behaviour involved in this sacrifice should be generated in the brain of the first person.

            You are right that death kills particular instances of love: when a person dies, that person ceases to love. But that is very far from saying that death kills love itself.

            I can't possibly hope to give a decent survey of the rich array of things that matter, so I'll limit myself to just an illustrative example: each individual person matters. Of course, on my view people are not eternal (they are going to die), but I don't see that this stops us mattering. I don't think this is just `pushing back the problem': how does the fact that a person will eventually die stop them mattering right now?

            There are other things that matter, like truth, that are eternal. If you want to call me a theist because I have noted this obvious point, then there's not much I can do to stop you. But you will be using the word in a way which departs radically from normal usage.

          • Steven C.

            "The argument that atheism implies life is meaningless is trivial. What happens after we die? Everything we have said and done quickly fades to black. Our body rots. If atheism is true what matters at that point? Nothing. Nothing at all."

            This argument implies that the lives of those who come after us are not worth working towards making better than ours were able to be. Simply because we won't be around to enjoy the fruits of our labor doesn't make them meaningless. In fact, striving for a better world/life for those who come after us with no hope or belief in a reward for ourselves (since we won't be able to collect it once we're dead) is pretty selfless and the type of thing you'd think Christians would be all about, what with helping thy neighbour and whatnot.

          • Randy Gritter

            But can we make the life of those who come after us better? What does better even mean? We can leave a big inheritance to our kids and they blow it on foolish living. Is there anything we can leave behind that it truly good and does not get used up in a few years? If there is such a thing then maybe you believe in something quasi-supernatural. Such a thing has to be stronger than man's ability to mess things up. Catholics would say that about the church. Protestants would say that about the church too but they would mean something very different by it. Anyway, if you think something is in that category I would like to know why.

          • Randy Gritter

            Thanks for the question Steve. I think it is great if you think some people will enjoy the fruits of you labor after you die. But for how long after? Ecclesiastes talks about smart people working hard and building something good and after they die it ends up in the hands of fools who mess it up. Is there something you can build that can withstand the mistakes of future generations? Catholics believe there is. If you believe there is I would be interested to know more. Is that something supernatural in some way?

          • Steven C.

            I believe that it is possible, given the right mindset and the right teaching methods, to continue to pass on those fruits of labor from one generation to the next without any need for anything supernatural to be involved.

            I'm not saying it would necessarily be an easy process, but if each generation continues to educate the next in the correct way (I.E. to respect each other and everything around them, to continue to strive for something better, etc.) so as to make sure there are no fools t mess it up, then we have a very real chance of continuing to build towards the future, rather than simply saying there's no point because the world is only temporary anyway.

            Just because it would take a lot of effort on the part of a lot of people does not mean that something supernatural is necessary to pull it off, that it is impossible to achieve (even if there may be set-backs at times) or that it isn't something worth striving for.

            And maybe if enough people actually started to see it as something attainable, we might have a better chance of working together towards it.

          • Randy Gritter

            That is an interesting thing to believe. But don't we need at a minimum to know that there is something better? It seems we need to even agree on what that better thing is. That means such a thing must exists outside our minds. If that great society is just a invention of your mind and my mind then why should you idea match my idea? Why should our ideas even be similar to the next generations ideas? If we are constantly changing the goal are we really moving towards anything?

            On the other hand if there is a truly good society we all want for the future of humanity then where did it come from? How can we know that man ought to be something without some greater intelligence designing it?

            Lastly, why should we care? Is this future worth sacrificing for? Why? Why should we not just pursue short term pleasure and let future generations worry about themselves? You might feel a sense of obligation but that feeling is just an artifact of evolution. No need to let it ruin your fun in this life.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        You've got a couple of deep points there, Randy.

        Could you expound a bit more on the first one? Why do you think the atheist has no grounds for reordering his life around goodness, or beauty, or truth, or love?

      • DannyGetchell

        Life is bearable and meaningful because they don't fully embrace atheism. That is good because it is false. But then they should really embrace its falseness.

        A good point, and one that cuts to the core of why "apologetics" claims few successes among the atheist community. (Especially here, so far :-) )

        If John and Jane Atheist see their lives as quite bearable, and sufficiently meaningful, without religious faith, they will of course be inclined to persist with the status quo.

        Showing them "proofs of God" from Aquinas, Anselm, and their contemporary successors is unlikely to be received as much more than an interesting intellectual challenge.

        The task of the Christian evangelist is rather to convince them that they are, in fact, miserable without God.....and that they don't know it.

        • Peter Piper

          The way you are using the word miserable is very different from the usage I am familiar with. According to normal usage, it would not be possible to be miserable without at least recognising that you were unhappy. So: what do you mean by `miserable' here? Could you put it another way?

  • ksed11

    I’d say that the presence of evils (natural or human-made) entails the non-existence of God only if our background knowledge lacked any positive evidence for God’s existence. But since we do have theistic arguments (intended to be persuasive), the theist doesn’t need to concede the non-existence of God. Granted, many cases of evil are beyond our cognitive abilities to understand, but it doesn’t follow at all from this that God doesn’t exist.

    We can provide models for how it might be possible for a good and powerful God to allow evil, without going to the point of saying that the model explains with absolute
    certainty how or why God would allow evil. Perhaps the models are not completely accurate, but if we mere, finite humans can come up with possible reasons for why God would allow various types of evil, then surely god himself has a reason.

    For example, an orderly created world is necessary for moral agents to act responsibly. Moral order requires physical order. If natural objects were to behave unpredictably, deliberate action by humans would be made difficult, if not impossible. We need to know what the effects of our actions will be, and for this we need nature to behave in regular ways. We need to know that pushing your little brother off the fifth floor balcony, or that pushing your little brother’s head underwater for too long, or pointing a loaded gun at someone and firing has serious consequences. Our knowledge of the predictable effects of gravity, for example, keep us (or at least should keep us) from acting in irresponsible ways. These same
    physical laws are the things that cause hurricanes, earthquakes, plagues and
    other natural disasters. Of course, pain and suffering are terrible, but Christianity says that the God who created the universe also allowed himself to suffer by entering the world of human pain. So his response to suffering is not simply a pat answer (like mine :->) but a genuine “I feel your pain.”

    • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

      Granted, many cases of evil are beyond our cognitive abilities to understand, but it doesn’t follow at all from this that God doesn’t exist.

      Evil doesn't say much about whether God exists. It says a lot about whether he's worth our worship.

      • ksed11

        Fair enough. Amend it to read "it doesn't follow that God's not worthy of our worship."

        • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

          If God can stop evil but doesn't he's not worth my worship (or my friendship) because he's not moral enough.

          If God wants to stop evil but can't then he's not worth my worship because he's not powerful enough, but I'll happily be his friend and work with him to make the world a better place.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God can stop evil but doesn't he's not worth my worship (or my friendship) because he's not moral enough.

            If God exists, you have some serious reasoning to do to determine how you can be more moral than the one who created you. I think that reasoning power is better employed in pondering why God lets you suffer the ills you have and will experience.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Because either he is morally deficient, in which case I say non serviam, or he's not powerful enough to have made the world better, in which case I'll be happy to serve him and work with him so we can do what we can to improve things together. Like a father and son.

            Whether God exists or not, I should devote my time to living a better life than I'm living now.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You reduce God to an either or. I'd say that's not legitimate. You are again making yourself better than God. And if he exists, that's impossible.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            How could God be both capable of ending childhood cancer and not capable of ending childhood cancer?

            My worship is indeed contingent on God's moral character. I won't worship a being, no matter how powerful or how much he proclaims himself to be good, if I cannot morally conscience his actions.

          • Randy Gritter

            There are many revolting things in the world. Childhood cancer is not the only one. You want a world where nothing causes you pain? the first thing God would have to eliminate is love. Why does childhood cancer bother you? Because you love children. Love always implies pain when something bad happens to the beloved. Should God eliminate that? What about those working hard to cure cancer? God eliminating suffering means we can't eliminate suffering. So how can we do good in the world when God has already done every good thing directly?

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Why not just get rid of the cancer?

            There are ways to do good in a world without cancer. There would be ways to do good in a world without suffering.

            Or are you claiming that there will be suffering in the new heavens and new earth? Or maybe that no one will do good there?

          • Randy Gritter

            I am really wondering if you are being intentionally thick or trying to be funny or what is going through your mind.

            Anyway, in the new heavens and new earth there will be no sin. We won't need pain and death to be able to identify something as bad and to point us to something good. Cancer here is doing you good. It is telling you that this world is not what it should be. That is a good thing for you to know.

            Jumping to the conclusion that God does not exist is a bit strange. Why can't God rid the world of evil but not now? Why can't He use fallible humans to do good rather than doing it all perfectly Himself?

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Jumping to the conclusion that God does not exist is a bit strange.

            When did I jump to this conclusion?

            Anyway, in the new heavens and new earth there will be no sin.

            I've asked you repeatedly what evidence you have that sin is linked to, say, childhood cancer. So far, you haven't given any.

            I am really wondering if you are being intentionally thick...

            Instead I get insults. Is this the total substance of your argument? Assertions defended by insults?

          • Steven C.

            "Jumping to the conclusion that God does not exist is a bit strange. Why can't God rid the world of evil but not now? Why can't He use fallible humans to do good rather than doing it all perfectly Himself?"

            A better question would be how could the perfect, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being that God is supposed to be have created an imperfect universe to begin with, and why would he/her/it be satisfied with creating something that was less than the sum of his/her/its abilities to create?

          • Randy Gritter

            That question was answered already. The answer is love. If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you it is yours. If it does not it never was. God loved us enough to set us free. To see if we would come back.

            Beyond that we have the emotional questions. Why this much evil? Why is this person in pain? Why does life have to be so hard for so many? That is a question of degree and not so much of why does God allow any evil. The answer is that we don't get how evil our sin is. We think sin is no big deal. Then we can't fathom why it causes so much devastation.

          • Steven C.

            I dunno, I just have a problem with that; primarily being this: If we accept your proposal that evil exists because God loved us enough to set us free, that still doesn't answer the question of how a perfect, entirely good being could create evil in the first place. In order for him to be capable of creating something, then surely he must have the capability to be that himself, correct? If that is the case, we are left with two possibilities that I can think of off the top of my head:

            1. That God must be at least partially evil, in order to be able to create the concept of and ability to perform evil.

            or 2. That evil is somehow a necessary thing that existed outside of God, who is supposed to have created everything.

            Otherwise, evil should not even be an option, only good.

          • Randy Gritter

            I would take option 2. Evil is a corruption of good. It is not really a thing in itself. So the fact that God created the world good means He opened the possibility for the world to be corrupted.

            The question then became should God allow any being in that world enough freedom to actually do it. Most don't have the freedom. A tree does not have the freedom to be a good tree or not. Humans were given that freedom. We can sin and we can love. They are two sides of the same coin.

            God does more. He allows Satan to make his case. He allows him to tell us that pride and selfishness are really the road we want to be on. Then He shows us the road of self-sacrificial love is truly the right road. Yet He lets us choose. He does not force the choice by showing us undeniable evidence.

            True love trusts the word of the beloved without proof. You can see that if God took the suggestions of the "problem of evil" guys that we would quickly be reduced to trees. Only able to make one choice. God wanted more for humanity. We get to make huge choices. They can have very good consequences or very bad consequences.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The either/or you posed was morally deficient/insufficiently puissant.

            Neither is correct. If you don't even believe in God, please don't talk about your conditions for honoring him.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Evil doesn't disprove God's existence, but it does provide a strong argument against worshiping him. The argument has convinced me.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So you believe in God but you believe you are morally superior to him?

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            If we are talking about the God of the Old Testament, no I don't believe in him because I don't see any good reason to.

            But if the God of the Old Testament existed, yes, I believe I would be morally superior to him. I think some murderers would be morally superior to him.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Forget about the "God of the Old Testament" as you conceive him for a sec.

            If God does exist and he is omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, the creator of the universe and you, and offers you eternal life, would that be enough to convince you that you had some duties toward him?

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
            Then he is not omnipotent.
            Is he able, but not willing?
            Then he is malevolent.
            Is he both able and willing?
            Then whence cometh evil?
            Is he neither able nor willing?
            Then why call him God?” - Epicurus

            I can conceive of a God that is morally perfect and far more powerful and knowledgable than I am, although not powerful enough or knowledgable enough to put a stop to human suffering. I would deeply desire to have a relationship with this God and to serve him.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Then look at the God who can be seen in and through the person of Jesus Christ who said, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father" (John 14:9).

            Still, I would say that God is knowledgeable and powerful enough to stop all human suffering but he chooses not to for a good reason.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Do you know what that reason is?

            If not, can you think of a hypothetical reason?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. Here are some (just my opinion and in no coherent order) why God might choose not to stop all human suffering.

            >Human beings would cease being vulnerable and interdependent
            >We could do good but not evil (since evil causes suffering in oneself or others)
            >Music would cease (harmony depends on dissonance, inducing a painful joy which is resolved harmonically); maybe other forms of beauty would also be handicapped
            >The compassion and action which is called up in us by witnessing the suffering of others would end
            >God intends all human beings to be in solidarity and so everyone is involved in everyone else's sin and its consequences
            >God respects us so much that he lets our good and evil actions to really affect others in both wonderful and horrific ways
            >This world is a testing ground for us and nothing tests people like hardship
            >Given our fallen nature which sins and our propensity to attempt to create counterfeit heavens on earth, nothing reminds of our condition like suffering.
            >God wants suffering to be salvific, so our own suffering and that of every other person can contribute to our redemption and sanctification.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Human beings would cease being vulnerable .and interdependent.

            God is incapable of keeping humans as vulnerable (if that is such a good thing) and interdependent if he eliminates childhood cancer?

            >God respects us so much that he lets our good and evil actions to really affect others in both wonderful and horrific ways.

            What does this have to do with childhood cancer?

            This world is a testing ground for us and nothing tests people like hardship

            God is incapable of testing us as effectively without childhood cancer?

            And so forth... (if there's a specific hypothetical you'd like me to respond to in this way, bring it up again).

            Each of these responses seem to involve that God is limited in what he can do (or seem unconnected to natural evil). I don't think my responsibility to such a God is to worship Him, but if He's good and loving, then He will have my constant friendship and help.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you only wanted to account for one kind of suffering, you could have said so.

            I could speculate about why God permits childhood cancer but I think silence is the best response.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I truly intended to make this clear, and failed. I'm sorry for leading you town this rabbit trail.

            I think the problem of natural evil is in many ways more difficult than the problem of moral evil.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Still, I would say that God is knowledgeable and powerful enough to stop all human suffering but he chooses not to for a good reason.

            I think one of the problems is that the Christian belief is that God stops some suffering, and the question then becomes, why did someone else's mother recover when she was prayed for but not my mother. I am sure I have mentioned that when I was a teenager, the pastor in my parish started a tithing program, and we got all kinds of stories about people whose kitchen appliances, or furnaces, or roofs needed replacing, but when they started tithing, everything started working just fine! So the pastor is pushing the idea that God intervenes (for money) to fix somebody's furnace, but he didn't do anything about the furnaces at Auschwitz.

            For me, it it is much easier to believe that God does not intervene at all.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Everyone has to die sometime, even Lazarus.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Everyone has to die sometime, even Lazarus.

            Not to be too dramatic, but say that to someone who is upset about a relative dying in a concentration camp, or in the World Trade Center on 9/11, or being stabbed to death on the street. Of course everyone has to die, but when someone dies horribly, it is not a consolation to say, "Everyone has to die sometime."

            Of course, poor Lazarus had to die twice. Assuming the miracles in the Gospels are true, everyone Jesus healed of something eventually died of something, too.

            I always thought one of the great episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was when Willow (in full agreement with everyone else) brought Buffy back from the dead thinking it was a good thing, but Buffy had been at peace, presumably in heaven.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, I would never recommend saying that to a grieving person!

          • jakael02

            "If God can stop evil but doesn't he's not worth my worship (or my friendship) because he's not moral enough."
            Would a child who just got punished for misbehaving, look up at their parent and say, "If my parent can stop this but doesn't, he's not worth my love because he's not moral enough."
            The answer is no, because the child is too young to fully understand how the parent will bring a greater good from the punishment.

          • DannyGetchell

            A large family in which the parents strictly punished some misbehavior on the part of some children, but openly allowed similar behaviors on the part of others to go unpunished, and then on random occasions imposed severe random punishments upon all, would probably not result in well-behaved young adults.

          • jakael02

            You make a good point. I don't have a response to that. I can only say that I should have not used a child being punished, but rather a child experiencing discipline (like a child being forced to go to school, or not use a knife, or go to bed ontime). But I'm sure that analogy is still not bullet proof. :)

          • Randy Gritter

            You do punish children differently. Some you expect better and you think someone might respond to a severe consequence. Others respond to just a stern word and anything more is counterproductive. Kids are all different.

            Random punishments on all? No but sometimes you do something everyone hates for bigger reasons they don't understand. It might feel like a random punishment.

    • Loreen Lee

      "Moral order requires physical order." This is a thesis that I found, within my experience of the tenets or rather some interpretations of Marxism which placed materialism 'before' rationalism with respect to practical reason. I do believe that people can rise above the context of 'evils', for want of a better word. In this sense I 'believe' that moral order is of a 'higher nature?', than 'physical order'. We need not be 'economically' determined, for instance, in our moral decisions.

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

    A few thoughts:

    First, Rob Bells response sounds a lot like the one the pope gave when answering a Japanese girl's question about the tsunami. "I don't know," is really the most honost answer that Christians can give to this question. Compassion is the best response.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/apr/22/pope-benedict-stumped-japanese-suffering

    Second: The so-called "problem of good" is not an issue for the atheist, and pointing fingers at atheists is a horrible and shallow response to the problem of evil. Good is a problem for the person who believes in an almighty evil God, who made the world and humans in his evil image. Atheists don't believe in an almighty evil God nor an almighty good God, so the existance of either phenomena poses no problem for our worldview.

    Finally, in Catholic teaching the sin of omission is the failure to do something one ought to do. It's the failure to prevent evil when it is in one's power to do so, and it is the failure to do good when opportunity prevents itself. I took this idea very seriously as a Catholic, examining my conscience to see where I fell short. At some point I started framing the problem of evil with this idea. If God is all powerful, then He CAN do something to prevent evil, but failing to do so is the sin of omission. It's like a person with CPR training watching another person collapse with a heart attack, without even trying to help--instead he watches the person die. We (rightly) condemn the man who lets another human die when he can at least attempt to help, but God gets a free pass on his own sins of omission. "Mystery" and "greater good" are both poor responses to God's sins of omission. Outrage is more appropriate.

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      If God is all powerful, then He CAN do something to prevent evil, but failing to do so is the sin of omission.

      I certainly agree that the problem of evil if a very difficult one for theists to explain away, but still, it has to be pointed out that if, say, Catholics are right, the worst suffering imaginable in this world must be seen in the context of eternity. A few hours, days, months, years—even a lifetime—of suffering would certainly fade into insignificance after a billion years or so of ecstasy and unalloyed bliss, would it not? And, of course, a billion years is insignificant compared to eternity.

      Also, everybody dies. Nobody wants to die in a nightclub fire, but a poll that was released just yesterday reported the following:

      According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, by 2050, one-in-five Americans will be 65 or older and at least 400,000 people will be 100 or older – but a majority of U.S. adults say they would not want to live to see 120 years old.

      The possibility of 120-plus year lifespans has many in the science, medical fields very optimistic about the future. But even though life expectancy is steadily increasing, a majority of American adults reported to a Pew Research Center poll that they would rather die.

      I personally disagree with the majority, and wish to live indefinitely as long as I am in good health, but clearly the majority of people in the survey don't look upon death as the ultimate evil. And according to Christianity, it most definitely isn't.

      I respect the opinion of people who conclude that the evil in the world is so inexplicable that they cannot believe in an all-good God, but if I believed in life after death and eternal bliss, I don't think I would find the suffering of this world so horrific that I would conclude there was no God.

      As I said, I think the problem of evil is a difficult one to explain away, but I suspect that if most people who lose their religious faith over the problem of evil have significant problems accepting at least some of the rest of the "package" Catholicism tries to sell. I don't think it is possible to fully explain why there is suffering if God is all-good. But I think if one believes in eternal bliss in heaven, I think the problem of evil doesn't need to be fully explained. Guarantee me eternal bliss, and I will say, "I don't really understand the suffering of this world, but if it ends at death, and if eternal bliss follows, I am willing to regard what suffering I can't explain as a mystery." (It does not help at all, in my opinion, to point to the suffering of Jesus and say that God's own Son—or God himself—suffered terribly, and therefore suffering is somehow not so bad. I think the suffering of Jesus just makes the problem of evil even worse.)

      Outrage at God for not preventing suffering in the world seems pointless and irrational to me if there is no God, and rather unwise if there is! Voltaire is reported to have said, when asked on his deathbed to renounce Satan, "Now is not the time to start making new enemies." But there is at least one worse enemy to have.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        Brilliant post, as always.

        However, could you explain why you think the Passion of Christ makes the problem of evil worse?

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          However, could you explain why you think the Passion of Christ makes the problem of evil worse?

          It depends very much on one's theory of how and why Jesus was a redeemer. But if it is the case that God required a "perfect sacrifice" to make up for the sins of humanity, and the only sacrifice that was acceptable was that his own son be tortured and killed, then God moved from requiring animal sacrifices to a human sacrifice.

          This is from Jesus; An Experiment in Christology by Edward Schillebeeckx, the most difficult book I ever read:

          In a post-medieval theory of Christian redemption as penal substitution (offering a thoroughly false interpretation of Anselm's doctrine of satisfaction), man really was condemned by Gods transcendent righteousness to blind submission and barren culpability: God demands the sacrifice of an innocent Jesus in order to release mankind from its guilt in the sight of God. It is just what the aeroplane hijackers do nowadays with their innocent hostages in order to expose at the bar of world opinion the guilt of society as a whole.

          Now of course Schillebeeckx would insist that what he is describing is not true Catholic thought, but it sounds very much like what I was taught.

          • Randy Gritter

            Penal substitution is a protestant doctrine. Catholics typically reject it for the same reasons you do. Jesus' death was an act of love so great it satisfies the need for justice to be done. Try this: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2010/04/catholic-and-reformed-conceptions-of-the-atonement/

          • Vickie

            I was thinking the same thing. I am also wondering if examining the Crucifixion totally apart from the Resurrection gives us only a partial picture.

          • GreatSilence

            I struggled a lot with the crucifixion in isolation, and the minute I started to view that in conjunction with the resurrection I was done with the problem. Then it makes sense. A bit of a "duh" moment, but that's me : one of God's slow learners.

          • GreatSilence

            Penal substitution has (quite rightly) had a torrid time of it in recent years. I would suggest that it is irretrievably broken.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That block quote sounds like what Calvinists believe, certainly not Catholics. Who was he referring to? Schillebeeckx is a problematic figure so far out that his right to teach theology in a Catholic university was removed (something extremely rare in the past 50 years).

            According to the New Advent article on the Atonement, not the bare fact of the Atonement, but it's deep significance, is a matter of theological speculation, which Anselm resolved in an extraordinary way.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Schillebeeckx is a problematic figure so far out that his right to teach theology in a Catholic university was removed (something extremely rare in the past 50 years).

            This is not correct. He was required to appear before the CDF three times, but he was not disciplined in any way. He taught at a Catholic university until his retirement.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Oops. I mixed him up with Hans Kung!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Since that is *not* Catholic thought and you might have been taught something defective when you were a kid (or picked it up wrong), how does the Passion of Christ make the problem of evil worse?

      • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

        You make a good point about putting suffering into an eternal perspective when considering it from the Catholic point of view. Part of the reason I couldn't accept this as a Catholic was because I was told that Catholics do not believe in moral utilitarianism, and I see this argument as a type of eternal utilitarian framework in which suffering is ultimately cancelled out in the sum total of everything. The problem comes because Catholics believe that some things are "intrinsically evil" and "objectively wrong." If this is true, then wouldn't it be wrong to watch someone suffer, when you can do something to alleviate the suffering.
        I also agree that the Passion doesn't help the problem of evil. God writes the rules of the game, which include killing his son. Why such heinous rules?

      • Boris G

        This doesnt answer Kacy's question.There is still the question of what is meant by God allowing or permitting evil.
        The Catholic church teaches that the ends do not justify the means or that we cannot do evil either by omission or comission in order to acheive good.
        So the question of God getting a pass on this still remains and Kacy is right.
        I am a Catholic and would not want to live with a God who allows the suffering of innocents or anyone else for that matter.
        I think there are better explanations offered in the writings and talks of recent Popes that do not fall into the error of diminishing Gods goodness.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          So the question of God getting a pass on this still remains and Kacy is right.

          It seems to me that Kacy and others who object to the apparent fact that God intervenes only very rarely to prevent evil are understating their true objections. In reality, they don't object to God's nonintervention. They object to the very nature of the world as it exists. If death is evil, and it is wrong of God not to intervene to prevent death, there should be no death in the first place. It makes no sense to create a world in which there is death and then to prevent everyone from dying!

          If it is wrong of God not to intervene to cure people of cancer, there should be no cancer in the first place. The same would be true for any disease. If it is wrong of God not to intervene to prevent one person from harming another, God should have invented a world in which it is impossible for one person to harm another.

          On the one hand, I don't really buy the explanation that it is because of free will that there is evil, and therefore God is not responsible for evil. But I think we need Kacy to tell us not how wrong it is of God not to intervene every time an evil is about to be perpetrated or to befall. We need them to tell us what kind of world they think should exist, because in reality they object not to God's nonintervention, but to the very world God created (if indeed there is a Creator). It appears we need a world in which a hammer can be used to drive in a nail, but in which it is somehow impossible to miss the nail and hit your thumb. We need hammers that will smash open a piggy bank for the owner when it is full but will not smash open a piggy bank that doesn't belong to you. Or perhaps we need a world in which it is impossible even to contemplate stealing the money from someone else's piggy bank.

          How would all of this work?

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            My objection is not to death, but to suffering. You are right in that it is not just an objection to God, but one to the "design" of the world. If God made the universe, you'd think He could come up with laws of nature to allow less suffering. I'm not sure what this would look like, but I can't believe this is the best an omnipotent and omani-belevelant God could create.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If God made the universe, you'd think He could come up with laws of nature to allow less suffering. I'm not sure what this would look like, but I can't believe this is the
            best an omnipotent and omani-belevelant God could create.

            If you are not sure what this would look like, how can you be sure even God could do this?

            But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world “in a state of journeying” toward its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain
            beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection. (Catechism of the Catholic Church 310)

            God's plan seen this way is an imperfect world journeying toward ultimate perfection.

          • Boris G

            Thanks David..I agree that it is hard to envision how this universe in its present state can be ordered in such a way that all suffering be avoided....and yet we desire such a world.

            My problem ,however, is that the standard response given for the apparent contradiction between a Good God and A world deprived of many goods is that it implies that God is somehow complicit in the evil.By saying God 'allows' or 'permits' or even 'causes' evil for a greater good we diminish God with the result that many Atheists are repulsed and outraged and I dont blame them.

            I dont believe that it is the intention of Apologists in general to diminish Gods goodness but I do think we need a new way of expressing the Churchs teaching that avoids this error.

            I only say this because I recently came across an article called 'A line in the Sand' on the 'New Apologetics' (part of Caritas in Veritate International) website which states that : 'We must remember that God is the conqueror of evil, perfectly opposed to it in every respect. He neither causes evil, nor fails to oppose it fully. If God is good, then he is opposed to evil. If he is perfectly good, then he is perfectly opposed to it. All of the truths of the faith, to be themselves and not distortions of what the Church proposes for our belief, must never compromise God’s goodness in any degree.

            AndFather Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household writes:

            “God does not tolerate evil, but reacts to it with all the power of his holiness… Woe to us if he didn’t! A compromise with evil at that level would destroy the very ethical foundation of the world.” (Father Raniero Cantalamessa, “Where Love and Justice Meet”)

            And so, appearing to be logically impossible, explanations of theodicy in terms of a “perfect opposition” between God and evil have not been attempted. Instead, we have opted for explanations in terms of God holding back his opposition because of there being some “purpose” to evil.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Boris G,

            Do you think part of the problem might be that there is too much "respect" for the case that has been built so far? Job, for example, may be a masterpiece of world literature and religious literature, but also it may not be helpful to try to fully incorporate it into a modern answer to the problem of evil.

            How is it possible to reconcile God's treatment of Job with Jesus saying, "For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish?" How is it possible even—taking the words of Jesus at face value—to reconcile them with reality?

            Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that the Bible is interpreted to be exempt from certain kinds of interpretation or reinterpretation, and consequently believers find it necessary to justify God's treatment of Job, or God's commanding the slaughter of Amalekite men, women, and children. There is a surfeit of date to be shoehorned into the theory of God's goodness. Maybe part of the solution is throwing out some of the data and starting at square one, or in any case, stating not from the case as it has been made for the past 2000 years, but discarding old theories. There are a lot of pat answers trotted out that apologists think solve the problems, but the problems don't go away. Or if they seem to be adequately dealt with in theory, when people are actually suffering terribly or seeing their loved ones suffer, what seemed to be answers in better times no longer seem adequate.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Maybe you need to write that book?

    • Randy Gritter

      Christians do get outraged at God. Have you read Job? The Psalms are full of anger. But that is the world we live in. There is evil. There is pain. Yes, it comes from out free will. No, God is not obligated to remove the consequences of out sin. Sometime He does. Sometimes He does not. The wages of sin is death. We sin. We die. It feels so so wrong to us. It is wrong. It is not the way God meant the world to be. It will be fixed. In the meantime we should have strong feelings about the wrongness of it all.

      Do atheists have a problem of good? They have a problem of good or evil. They have no basis for either. So the death of a child is not evil because the life of a child is not good. IT just is. Most atheists don't go there. They say the life of a child is good. Why?

      • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

        "Christians do get outraged at God. Have you read Job?"

        Job is a great story to prove my point about God's sins of omission. He makes a bet with the devil, then stands by and watches the devil destroy Jobs life, kill his family, lose his friends, and become ill. Why? Because God wanted to win a contest of egos. If a human did this, we would say that person was a sociopath, a maniac, an evil person.

        "Yes, it comes from our free will."

        Suffering and evil doesn't always come from free will. There are natural ailments like cancer, and there are natural disasters, like the tsunami.

        "The wages of sin is death."

        No death is the natural end of life. Animals die, but they do not "sin." Trees die, but they do not sin.

        "Do atheists have a problem of good? They have a problem of good or evil. They have no basis for either. So the death of a child is not evil because the life of a child is not good. It just is. Most atheists don't go there. They say the life of a child is good. Why?"

        The life of the child is good because of the value we place on her as humans living in community. The values of good and evil don't need to go above the human community standard, but that is just my thought on the matter. Other atheists will respond differently.

        • Randy Gritter

          Because God wanted to win a contest of egos. If a human did this, we would say that person was a sociopath, a maniac, an evil person.

          God wanted to show how Job loved. He loved not because there was something in it for him. He loved God even when God seemed to treat him badly. Yes, he struggled with it but knew God had a greater good. He showed that love is stronger than the worst the devil can throw at us. Like a father refusing to help a child so the child can learn its own strength. Yes, even learn to be strong in the face of extreme pain.

          Suffering and evil doesn't always come from free will. There are natural ailments like cancer, and there are natural disasters, like the tsunami.
          All of creation has fallen. We not longer live in the paradise God created. So all suffering is indirectly related to man's choice to sin.

          The life of the child is good because of the value we place on her as humans living in community. The values of good and evil don't need to go above the human community standard, but that is just my thought on the matter. Other atheists will respond differently.
          So what happens when a community does not value a child? Then its life ceases to have value? That sounds quite scary?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            All of creation has fallen. We not longer live in the paradise God created. So all suffering is indirectly related to man's choice to sin.

            Let's set aside for a moment the fact that nobody can explain "original sin" any more, since belief in Adam and Eve is no longer tenable, and belief in two "first parents" is no longer tenable. We know that "nature red in tooth and claw" is not the result of something human beings did, because that is the way nature was long before humans ever came on the scene. Predators killed their prey. There were injuries and infectious diseases in animals before humans evolved. Disasters caused whole species to die off. Dinosaur remains show that some dinosaurs had cancer (as do many non-human animals today).

            It strikes me that the story of Adam and Eve is a fable, and to read it as a roman à clé which allegedly says that a man and a woman, although not named Adam and Eve, did something, although not the eating of forbidden fruit, that spiritually corrupted themselves, passing down their spiritual corruption to all their progeny, the entire human race, is not a matter of faith but credulity.

          • Randy Gritter

            I am not sure what your point is. Are you saying the problem of evil is resolved by the Adam and Eve story but you just don't like the story? If so, we can talk about that.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            No, I am saying the story of Adam and Eve should not be taken seriously. Or, in any case, the idea should not be taken seriously that there were two first humans who damaged their human nature and then became the parents of all of humanity, passing along to the human race a damaged nature.

            The Catholic story of God is one of failure at every turn. God creates angels, and some rebel against him. God creates two humans, and the very first two disobey him. (Why doesn't he destroy them and start over???) God's creation is so disappointing that he drowns all of humanity in a great flood, saving only Noah and his family. God selects a "chosen people" who are constantly disappointing him to the point where he is depicted as a faithful husband with the Israelites being an unfaithful wife. God prepares his chosen people to receive a savior (his son, Jesus), and they kill him. The followers of Jesus still try to enlist the Jews in the movement Jesus started, and they fail to such an extent that the Jesus movement gives up on the Jews and recruits Gentiles. Then Gentile Christianity constantly splinters to the point where there are thousands and thousands of denominations today. Something is very wrong when the plans of an omnipotent and omniscient God play out so badly.

          • Randy Gritter

            Not sure why the story should not be taken seriously. Yes it is a story of sin and redemption at every turn. That just does not sound implausible to me at all. In fact, it lines up with my experience and my intuition. That we are made for something great but are prone to fail at it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't know to what extent Genesis 3 is to be taken literalistically. I am certain, however, it contains many deep truths about human nature.

            Your review of history from the Catholic point of view is fascinating (although you conveniently leave out the various victories, most notably the Resurrection).

            But why are you so sure that these failures are not precisely accounted for in the plan of an omnipotent and omniscient God?

            I think they are completely consistent with God giving human beings freedom. The examples you cite of God's "failures" all involve people who are in privileged positions to know God's plan, but even they often rejected it.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Your review of history from the Catholic point of view is fascinating (although you conveniently leave out the various victories, most notably the Resurrection).

            By the way, I left out some of the failures of the plan—the Tower of Babel, for example.

            But in any case, it is not God who fails to do his part (so to speak). The Resurrection is totally under his control. It is his plan for humanity that repeatedly fails, to the point where he is on the verge of ending it all:

            When the LORD saw how great the wickedness of human beings was on earth, and how every desire that their heart conceived was always nothing but evil, the LORD regretted making human beings on the earth, and his heart was grieved. So the LORD said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them. But Noah found favor with the LORD.

            Drowning every human being on earth (not to mention all the land animals) makes a nightclub fire seem like a minor misfortune in comparison! What is it about human beings that makes them sin right off the bat, and then makes them grow so evil that their Creator regretted making them and decided to drown them all?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have no idea how to interpret the Flood.

            My question is why are these discussions always about Judaism up to about the time of the Davidic Kingdom?

            Why are they never about the Beatitudes?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Why are they never about the Beatitudes?

            Because the problem of evil, proofs of the existence of God, science versus religion, and the other issues generally discussed here don't involve the teachings of Jesus. The farthest we've gotten with Jesus to date is whether or not he actually existed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            And why is that?

            The people who have attacked Christianity on this site (most of whom who have fled) have attacked Judaism, not Christianity.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Well, I think their main objection was to the "God of Philosophy" and also to the Christian conception of the God of the Old Testament. It is my impression that Jews are not particularly interested in coming up with "proofs" of the existence of God and are also not nearly as prone as Christians to formulating doctrines and dogmas.

            And God the Father is almost entirely offstage in the Gospels. He appears once and speaks one line—You are (or this is) my beloved son. Aside from that, he is talked about but never says or does anything himself. It is kind of a stunning contrast, when you think about it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is the Baptism of Christ and the Transfiguration, but you're right about how little God the Father directly speaks in the New Testament.

            The answer to this stunning silence, I think, is Christ's own words, "When you have seen me you have seen the Father" (Jn 14:9). Seen in this light, every page of the Gospel is God the Father speaking and revealing himself.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Seen in this light, every page of the Gospel is God the Father speaking and revealing himself.

            It is very difficult to point to any resemblance between the God of the Old Testament and Jesus. There is a mildly interesting piece over on First Things about why the Presbyterian Church has removed a hymn called In Christ Alone (My Hope Is Found) from their hymnal. Here is the offending stanza, with the offending verses in bold:

            In Christ alone! who took on flesh
            Fulness of God in helpless babe!
            This gift of love and righteousness
            Scorned by the ones he came to save:
            Till on that cross as Jesus died,
            The wrath of God was satisfied -
            For every sin on Him was laid;
            Here in the death of Christ I live.

            I have given the link if anyone wants to know what the fuss is about, but the point I wish to make here is that God the Father is the God of wrath, and Jesus is the "suffering servant." God the Father was angry, and Jesus had to "satisfy" him. God the Father wants Jesus to die, and Jesus begs not to, if possible. (“Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.”) It seems very much like God the Father is in charge, and Jesus must bend to his will.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What about all the OT verses here about God's mercy?

            http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/God,-Compassion-Of

            And then add in Christ's teachings on judgment and hell.

            "Not my will but yours" reveals the two natures of Christ. As human, no. As divine, yes.

          • Tezcatlipoca

            More like left in disgust. But carry on lyin for jesus.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Way to open a dialogue.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            Not really "fled". More like "expelled". From what I can tell, they were banished for arguing their position clearly.

            Their absence has been a great blow to this project. Much of the interesting responses and passionate conversations have been lost from the discussion. Unless Brandon gets them back, I fear the conversation here will reduce to Catholics talking to each other about atheists. The project would then be a failure.

            I hope this project doesn't fail. Dialogue like this is sorely needed.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Fled" is a poetic way of saying "departed." I didn't mean to say they left because they felt or were defeated. Quite the contrary.

            To the best of my knowledge, only epeeist was banned from commenting--the rest left in protest, although others my have been banned, too, I dunno.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            To the best of my knowledge, only epeeist was banned from commenting--the rest left in protest, although others my have been banned, too, I dunno.

            To the extent that it should be a topic of debate, I think it is important to note that Rick DeLano was banned at the same time (or approximately the same time) as epeeist. DeLano was at least as strong and effective an advocate for "theism" (and Catholicism, as he understood it) as all the "atheists" who departed were for atheism or skepticism combined. While I miss the "atheists" who left, it seems to me that they all had exactly the same point of view and, as a bloc, tried to influence every discussion to be held on their terms: "Got evidence?" It is a very good question, but it more or less meant, "Do you have anything we would consider sufficient evidence that would convince us of what we believe to be impossible in principle." While I am quite willing to admit that they may have been right, and there may actually be no God (especially the kind of God the theists believe in here), there is a limit to how long it is productive to go on having a discussion on those terms. If "management" here wants to determine the shape and tone of the debate here, they have a perfect right to. And the fact that Rick DeLano got banned is evidence that they weren't discriminating against atheists.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I didn't know that about Rick DeLano.

            I agree with your analysis of most of the atheists and I appreciate your articulation of it (I was too lazy to!).

      • stanz2reason

        There is evil. There is pain. Yes, it comes from our free will.

        A reassuring thought I'd imagine to a Japanese father discovering the broken bloated body of his daughter who drowned in a tsunami. How she exercised her free will to end up a corpse is beyond my ability to explain. Perhaps you'd take a shot at it...

        God is not obligated to remove the consequences of our sin. Sometime He does. Sometimes He does not.

        Sounds like God's a bit of a prickly jerk. That he can and doesn't is sadistic.

        It is not the way God meant the world to be.

        An error in design? Sounds like a better estimation of God's powers are then 'semi-phenominal nearly cosmic'...

        It will be fixed.

        I wouldn't hold your breath waiting.

        Do atheists have a problem of good? They have a problem of good or evil.

        What?? I'm inclined to say that the notions of good and evil are not at all a problem for us.

        So the death of a child is not evil because the life of a child is not good. It just is. Most atheists don't go there. They say the life of a child is good. Why?

        That there is no inherent objective 'good' & 'evil' does not prevent anyone, atheist or otherwise, from assigning a subjective value. I assign the 'goodness' of a child's life. 7 billion people, 7 billion different versions of 'goodness' (or not), many of which invoke similar behavioral responses and a fair sense of mutual understanding creating the illusion of an identical objective sense of 'goodness'. When I (or anyone) says 'the life of a child is good', it is conveying the subjective goodness I have assigned to that life.

        • Randy Gritter

          A reassuring thought I'd imagine to a Japanese father discovering the broken bloated body of his daughter who drowned in a tsunami. How she exercised her free will to end up a corpse is beyond my ability to explain. Perhaps you'd take a shot at it...

          It explains why people die. Once we understand that we all must die then we are still left with questions. Why this death? Why now? Why her? These are still hard questions but the core question of why things like this happen at all is answered by the fallen nature of all creation.

          • stanz2reason

            It explains why people die. Once we understand that we all must die then we are still left with questions. Why this death? Why now? Why her? These are still hard questions but the core question of why things like this happen at all is answered by the fallen nature of all creation.

            What in the world does a person getting killed by a natural disaster have to do with free will? What sin were little japanese children committing that warranted being struck by debris and pulled under a mountain of rushing water? You're hiding behind nonsense that isn't nearly as deep as the water that drowned all those people.

            What if God removed all the consequences of sin? ... It would prevent our good acts from having consequences as well as our bad.

            Let's say for a moment I granted your imaginary God, and granted that said imaginary God can prevent things like rapes and murders, but has determined that allowing this is the unavoidable cost of free will. This still speaks nothing to the thousands of people who suffer and die as a result of natural disaster and disease. Is said imaginary God so incompetent that he can't come up with a better way to demonstrate the value of life than via the infliction of suffering in whatever he sets his mind to? Needless pain and suffering is evil, more prevalent that the evils of man and it's existence is a problem for you that I and others will continue to trot out.

            So anyone can choose not to assign subjective goodness to any child's life? Nothing good or evil about that either?

            In a sense, yes. There are natural inclinations that play a part in determining our values along with environmental and experiential influences that make it difficult to draw a line where they end and your conscious deliberate willful decision making begins. Were we to say a person is the summation of natural inclinations, experience & will, then yes anyone & everyone chooses what they assign value to and such values are subjective.

          • Randy Gritter

            You seem to be stuck on the notion of death. We all die. That does not disprove God. Yet if many people die in one event that does. Death is a horrible thing. Our death might not be tied to a specific sin. So good people die. Sometimes they die young and they die painfully. That is a detail. The big picture is everyone dies. Why? Christians have an answer.

            Atheists just basically deny the question. That actually makes sense. Why should we see death as so wrong? Everything breaks, why should human bodies breaking be remarkable? The truth is death does strike us as something that should not be. The reason is because it really should not be. We are meant to live.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The big picture is everyone dies. Why? Christians have an answer.

            Remind us again of that answer? Because of sin? But children suffer and die who are too young to commit sins. Slightly over 5% of children in the world currently die before the age of 5. Why should everybody die because, allegedly, the first man and woman committed a sin? Where is the fairness in that?

          • stanz2reason

            A few things... My point is that the person who suffers and is killed by natural means has absolutely nothing to do with their free will. The notion that the problem of evil is solved somehow by some nonsense about free-will is just a lie, and not a particularly well thought out one either. The notion that the problem of evil is limited only to matters of man is utterly ridiculous.

            It is a HUGE problem, not for the existence of God so much as the existence of your God. Omnibenevolent, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient. Christian's claim their God is all four. The existence of evil (again all evils, not only man-made) means that God might be 3 of 4, or 2 or 1 or none or non-existent altogether, but he is most certainly not all 4.

            What question do atheist deny? Why people die in general? Why good people die? Who sees death as wrong? Atheists, believers or people in general? I'm not sure what you're saying.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You seem to be trying to reduce the answer to the problem of evil to free will alone. Not even the OP (poor as it is) reduces it to that.

            I think free will is very important but there are other factors (all just my opinion):

            >The dangerous nature of the physical universe.
            >The fallen nature of human beings (we lie, cheat, steal, murder, commit adultery, you name it).
            >Human ignorance and the fact we are born knowing nothing.
            >The immortality of the soul and the promise of the resurrection of the body.
            >The communion of the human race (we are one human family all in this together, including suffering the consequences of the evil our "family members" do).
            >God's respect for human choices, meaning he not only respects free will but he lets the consequences play out even if they harm the innocent.
            >The good that can be unleashed in us when we witness and respond to evil.

          • Randy Gritter

            Free will is the answer to how evil got started. If everything was created by a good God then how did any evil ever get in the system? The answer is God gave us the ability to choose. We chose evil and He didn't immediately wipe us out. Why not? Love. He want to continue to love us and call us to love Him.

            Now once you have an world with good an evil in it then it changes the question. Why does this world have disease and volcanoes and such? Given that the world has sin in it, God gives us suffering and death. They are not actually evil in themselves. They are a typical result of evil but God can use them to do good. But they are also ubiquitous. Even if you lock yourself in a monastery and nobody commits any sins you will still have pain and death. Everyone suffers. Everyone dies. That is the new normal since sin came into the world.

            How does this violate God's omni-benevolence? It does not. A world of sin without pain and death would be a world that could not see good and evil. But God gives us victory not just over sin but also over death and pain. Even death and pain that makes no sense to us.

          • Randy Gritter

            then yes anyone & everyone chooses what they assign value to and such values are subjective.

            The trouble is that gives you nothing to say against racism or sexism or any other form of discrimination. The value of the human person can legitimately depend on anything we feel it should depend on.

          • stanz2reason

            That's just silly. Ever said 'That movie was great' or 'That pizza wasn't very good'? It's no different. Do you ever say 'That was a good hamburger... but I really have no ground to stand on to say that.' Absurd. We have no problem expressing and accepting most other subjective values. Yet when it starts to delve into the moral sphere you insist on deluding yourself that your ability to think one way or another about something must be divinely ordained. Give yourself a little more credit than that.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            stanz2reason: "That burger was delish."
            Pol Pot: "That genocide was awesome."

            How do you distinguish those two statements?

          • stanz2reason

            One is a mundane example of subjective taste, the other an extreme example of subjective morality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'd say, subjective morality is worthless.

            I'm watching a debate now in which Shelly Kagan is arguing for an objective moral order and he's an atheist!

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That there is no inherent objective 'good' & 'evil' does not prevent anyone, atheist or otherwise, from assigning a subjective value. I assign the 'goodness' of a child's life. 7 billion people, 7 billion different versions of 'goodness' (or not), many of which invoke similar behavioral responses and a fair sense of mutual understanding creating the illusion of an identical objective sense of 'goodness'. When I (or anyone) says 'the life of a child is good', it is conveying the subjective goodness I have assigned to that life.

          Not to dismiss your other (non-trivial) points in your comment above, but this one is a problem for me, one I saw when I was a teenage atheist. As you say, you subjectively "assign" something value, and because many other human beings see things in a similar way, we have the "illusion" of an objective sense of goodness.

          To me, that is just play acting. You assign something but don't have any valid grounds for doing so. If the good is not intrinsic (say, to human nature) and objective (demonstrable to human beings with the capacity to see it), then morality actually comes down to power. If I do something you don't like and you have more power than me, you can punish or kill me. Many tyrants and whole societies have done this, and I don't see how in your scheme of things we have any right to condemn them for doing so.

          • stanz2reason

            I feel morality is a subjective phenomenon, an individual preference of sort like food tastes or film tastes. As violations to ones moral sense prompt action, specifically those that have near universal condemnation, there is this need amongst believers, but also among non-believers who don't wish to admit it, that events have a rock solid 'rightness' and 'wrongness' about them that justifies their actions. I disagree with and reject this notion. Differences in moral tastes between people are subtle, to the point that for practical purposes they're often indistinguishable and appear objective. This does not, (dare I say should not) prevent moral judgement or praise/condemnation for certain acts nor action from being taken to remedy when warranted. It just makes said judgement & basis for action a subjective one rather than objective.

            Were all the world lacking empathy with no understanding of someone else's pain & suffering nor the subsequent compassion that follows then perhaps might would make right, at least in a more overt way than it does now. But people generally and as a whole do have an understanding of someone else's pain & suffering and over time our collective sense of right & wrong evolve.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In the first twenty minutes of this video, Shelly Kagan an atheist philosopher, lays out an objective basis for morality based on reason.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiJnCQuPiuo

            If morality is merely one's personal taste, how is it ever rationally warranted to take another to task for violating that preference?

      • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

        Randy, I think if you had taken Trent Horn's article to heart, you might have replied differently.

        The problem of evil cannot be wholly resolved by invoking free will. Trent gives good reasons why free will is not enough in his article.

        • Randy Gritter

          Not really. I know there are still questions. I do think they have answers. Why this death in this way by this method? Mostly saying death is to ugly and too painful. What that comes back to is the notion that our sin is not all that bad. So our free will is the answer to how any evil can get into the system. The rest becomes a matter of quantities and proportion. Emotions cause us to see some things as huge. So it is complex but it is more of a pastoral question than a philosophical question at that point.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            I don't find free will to be a satisfying answer for natural evil for three reasons.

            1) There is no evidence to support Adam and Eve ever having existed.

            2) Even if Adam and Eve existed, there's no apparent link between anything they did and childhood cancer.

            3) A God who would allow children to suffer from cancer because of what two people did 6000 years ago is not worth my worship.

            If childhood cancer is a consequence of sin and God can't stop it, that's fair. I can't stop it either. I would happily work with or work for such a being to bring about a better world.

            If childhood cancer is God's punishment for Adam's sin then I'd rather go to hell than serve such a God. I suppose that might be more a pastoral problem than a philosophical problem.

          • Randy Gritter

            The punishment for sin is death. We all sin we all die. Childhood cancer is just one way people die but sure. It is part of that punishment for sin. Cute kids are not immune.

            Remember that death is not just a punishment. God made death a quarantine for sin as well. So death becomes a blessing because it allows for resurrection. Still the problem of sin is serious and requires a serious consequence. It means anyone can die anytime.

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            What evidence is there that what you say is true?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The punishment for sin is death. We all sin we all die.

            Although I personally have said we ought not to take the story of Adam and Eve seriously, many people do. It does not appear that Adam and Eve were created to be immortal. The reason they are banished from the garden is not because they were disobedient. It is so they won't eat from the Tree of Life:

            Then the LORD God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever? The LORD God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken.

            Certainly we know that death was the rule for all living creatures from the dawn of life on earth, far, far prior to the existence of human beings. Why should we assume that humans were meant to be immortal and that the reason we die is sin? I don't see any hint in Genesis that had Adam and Eve not sinned, they would have eaten from the Tree of Life and become immortal. Immortality for physical beings is quite problematic.

            Also, if Christ conquered death, why do we still die?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Why should we assume that humans were meant to be immortal and that the reason we die is sin?"

            That is two different questions.

            One reason I know I am meant to be immortal is because I exist and I know I exist and I know death is the real negation of the most primary good. Death is the utter ruin of me!

            On the other hand, I'm speculating that death puts a limit on the evil that human beings can do (eventually Castro and Mugabe will disappear), and a life-time is enough time to figure out the meaning of life for particularly obtuse human beings, like me.

    • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

      Kacy,

      " If God is all powerful, then He CAN do something to prevent evil, but
      failing to do so is the sin of omission. It's like a person with CPR
      training watching another person collapse with a heart attack, without
      even trying to help--instead he watches the person die."

      Aren't you always going to judge God using incomplete information? After all if he is eternal and we are not, doesn't this imply knowledge we do not have? What if, unknown to us, this heart attack event happens in a concentration camp and the person watching knows that tomorrow this fellow prisoner will be subjected to a painfully slow death?

      The sin of omission can only be judged by the one who commits it. We can not judge others omissions as we will never have complete information. This principle is even codified in our "Good Samaritan Laws"?

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
      DHS

      • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

        I suppose it's judging based on incomplete information, but from my understanding of Catholic morality, some acts are "intrinsically evil." I was always told that Catholic morality was never to be confused with utilitarianism, and that some things (murder, contraception, stealing, abortion, et.) are never ok.
        Perhaps, I've expanded the categories to say that watching someone die when you can help is NEVER right. Allowing a powerful person to murder your follower's family, destroy their home, and make them extremely ill--all for a little wager--is NEVER right (Job). Commanding a man to murder his son, even if you take it back at the last minute is NEVER right (Abraham).
        Allowing suffering when you can prevent or stop it is never right, but since God is working with more complete information, he must play by different rules. It's theological moral relativism.

        • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

          If you want to see it that way but...

          - Job recovered his health, treasure and family.

          - Abraham trusted God and at the end God sent him a "scape goat".

          "Allowing suffering when you can prevent or stop it is never right, but since God is working with more complete information, he must play by different rules. It's theological moral relativism."

          Please forgive my presumption, since I do not know you or your story, but you do not sound like one who does not believe in God. You sound more like one who are mad at God for not behaving like you would like Him to behave.

          "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
          DHS

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            If God killed my two kids because of a bet with the devil, and then made up for it by giving me three more, I don't think it would help much. It makes me think of the deadbeat dad who runs over his son's dog, buys him a new one and wonders why he's sad. "Hey, why are you sad? I replaced the dog."

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            There is this line in the play J.B. by Archibald MacLeish in which God says: "I will give you new children--BETTER children."

            I find this perfectly reflects the story in the Book of Job. It makes me wonder how Catholics can claim the moral high ground on "life issues." If life is valuable in and of itself and each individual of infinite worth, then why does God get away with murder?

          • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

            K.

            " It makes me wonder how Catholics can claim the moral high ground on "life issues."

            Unlike Protestants, our morality does not come exclusively from scripture but from, scripture & tradition (Natural Law).

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            DHS

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Unlike Protestants, our morality does not come exclusively from scripture but from, scripture & tradition (Natural Law).

            I don't think it is correct to equate tradition with natural law, if that is what is intended here. Also, the position of many Protestants (especially Evangelicals) on "life issues" such as abortion is very nearly identical to the Catholic position. This appears to be a bit of crowing about the superiority of Catholicism over Protestantism. While I realize that the Catholic Church considers itself the "one True Church," and even denies that Protestant churches are actually churches "in the proper sense," still the above statement sounds like something from the 1950s.

          • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

            D.
            The aplication of Natural Law to Christian thought is part of the tradition of the Church. Aquinas was quite good at this, as evidenced in his Summa.

            "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
            DHS

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The aplication of Natural Law to Christian thought is part of the tradition of the Church.

            When a Catholic says "scripture and tradition," I assume it tradition means Apostolic Tradition;

            II. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN TRADITION AND SACRED SCRIPTURE

            One common source. . .

            80 "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal." Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own "always, to the close of the age"

            . . . two distinct modes of transmission

            81 "Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit."

            "And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching."

            82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, "does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence."

            You seem to be referring to tradition with a lowercase t—what the Catechism calls "ecclesial tradition."

          • http://star-www.st-and.ac.uk/~pr33/ Paul Rimmer

            From Scripture it seems that God gets away with murder. That's what Kacy argues, anyway.

            How does Tradition help answer Kacy's argument?

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            From Scripture it seems that God gets away with murder. That's what Kacy argues, anyway.

            I think the question of what it would mean for God to "murder" someone must be answered.

            Also, Kacy says:

            Allowing suffering when you can prevent or stop it is never right, but since God is working with more complete information, he must play by different rules. It's theological moral relativism.

            I just saw a bit of an online interview with the actress Rita Moreno, saying that Jerome Robbins worked the dancers almost to death preparing for the filming of West Side Story. She said he made her dance until her feet bled. She also said that Robbins got the best out of her, and for that she would be eternally grateful. She won an Academy Award for the role. If allowing suffering you can prevent or stop is never right, what about imposing suffering? Did Jerome Robbins do something evil?

          • Guest

            I think that Rita Moreno would be justified in refusing to worship Jerome Robbins as a dance god, because if Jerome Robbins were really a dance god worthy of the name, he wouldn't have had to have put her through that sort of suffering for her to dance as well as she did.

            I think you make a good point. I'm happy being friends with God or following God if God's doing his best. Maybe God will put me through great suffering because I will be better for it. This sort of God would be a good friend and father to me, but not worth my worshipping him as "all holy" or "all powerful", etc. If he really was worth that, he'd have done a better job at step one.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            Do you think if the Dance God Jerome Robbins had used his omnipotence to make Rita Moreno give a flawless performance with absolutely no effort on her part, she would have had any reason to take pride in the performance? It would have meant that Dance God Jerome Robbins could have chosen any person at random and used his supernatural powers to cause that person to give the same performance.

          • Loreen Lee

            Just like my equating Kant's Categorical Imperative with Catholic. natural law Cannot both be placed within the theoretical context, defined by Kant 'define' Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, as being similar to the concept of 'Word of God' interpreted as Logos, which characterizes Christ as distinct to a Creative power, i.e. Will of the Father.. (Except for the beatitudes, etc. the law suggests to me natural law, even with respect to the l0 commandments.) Surely it is the Will that icould be more readily associated with 'Creative Power' and with the conception of a Love which could be a uniting Trinitarian concept.

            What about the golden rule. Love with all your heart, and your neighbor as your self for the love of God. (even interpreted as a universal necessity, as per Kant.). Goodness is understood even in Kant's context to be based on the will and not on such things as sentiment (Hume) or pragmatic as distinct from 'moral' consequences, (as he defines them) as in Utilitarianism, Consequentialism, etc. etc. Kant merely stressed intentionality (which he deemed to be 'objective') in contrast to Aristotle's (subjective?) basis of morality in virtue ethics? (Just 'speculating' here). By the way, do not the beatitudes 'imply' the 'acceptance of evil' or 'resisting not evil'.

          • http://exconvert.blogspot.com/ Kacy

            No, I don't believe in the Christian God because I see his actions, spelled out in the Bible, incompatibly with truth, beauty, and goodness. I'm no longer Catholic because I see God's actions as incompatible with Catholic morality.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      In Catholic teaching the sin of omission is . . . the failure to prevent evil when it is in one's power to do so . . .. If God is all powerful, then He CAN do something to prevent evil, but failing to do so is the sin of omission. . . . We (rightly) condemn the man who lets another human die when he can at least attempt to help, but God gets a free pass on his own sins of omission.

      To this I would offer St. Augustine's response:

      "For almighty God... , because he is supremely good, would never allow
      any evil whatsoever to exist in his works if he were not so all-powerful and good as to cause good to emerge from evil itself." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 311)

      Just because you can't see why God would permit every human being to suffer, you are not justified in condemning God.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I think we should not attempt to explain another person's suffering to them or to try to account for the suffering of one of their loved ones. As someone said below, just try to comfort them and positively help them if you can.

    On the other hand, every one of us has suffered and every one of us is facing death. So those of us who believe in God, we can offer our own witness to those mysteries in our own lives. Each of us has had our nightclub fire.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    "It is a mystery why God allows us to suffer..."

    Resolved: occurrences of "mystery" should be replaced with "contradiction that we choose to ignore".

    • Randy Gritter

      Mysteries are not contradictions. They are things we don't understand. One God in 3 persons is a mystery. One person and 3 persons is a contradiction.

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        As usual, Randy, you misunderstood. I did not propose a redefinition. I proposed a functional gloss, i.e. words that you can substitute for a clearer understanding of the relationships between the ideas involved.

        • Randy Gritter

          Actually I did understand you. I was just pointing out that you misunderstand. We do believe in the law of non-contradiction. We also believe in a God so amazing we can't possible comprehend Him. There is a difference. One is a mystery. The other is an impossibility.

    • http://www.DeaconHarbey.com/ Dcn Harbey Santiago

      Noah,

      "Resolved: occurrences of "mystery" should be replaced with "contradiction that we choose to ignore"

      I rather live with mystery than with contradiction. Mystery invites me to a journey of discovery. Contradictions just make me face my inability to comprehend deeper.

      I rather live with mystery.

      "Viva Cristo Rey!!"
      DHS

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Mysteries *do* involve unresolvable contradictions but we *don't* ignore them. We hold the various truths up and affirm our belief in them without being able to resolve how they can all be true. In this case, that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-benevolent despite the existence of physical and moral evil and finally death.

      • Randy Gritter

        You seem to use the term "contradiction" in a different way than I do. Can an omni-benevolent God love man even though his heart is evil? Is that a contradiction? I guess my math training makes me say No. Contradictions are impossible, God's love is incompressible but not impossible.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't understand you.

          • Randy Gritter

            I guess I think the same about you. To me saying we accept "unresolvable contradictions" makes the faith unintelligible. Mysteries are hard to understand but they are not unresolvable contradictions. They must have a resolution because the truth exists and the truth has no contradictions.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I mean I didn't understand your comment, not that I can't *fathom* your way of thinking!

        • Linda

          Hey Randy,

          I always felt that imaginary numbers are a contradiction. How can you have the square root of a negative number?

          Linda

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        Heh, OK. You're right that affirming a contradiction isn't technically ignoring it entirely. It is, however, destructive of all truth claims unless it's ignored for the purposes of reasoning about other truth claims.

  • Loreen Lee

    I believe I need take a break from this blog, because of the risk of developing obsessional tendencies at this time. Thanks all, especially Vickie, my friend and confident on Facebook, (not here, yes!) and Paul and Dcn for coming to my aid today.

  • stanz2reason

    Problem of Good for atheists? How you run out of bad arguments to make, you'll resorting to laughable ones? I thought this was a place for serious discussion. My mistake.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      The author certainly didn't develop an argument for why the existence of good is a "problem" for atheists - I think he is assuming we know what this argument is. I don't, but I don't see why the idea is laughable.

      I would frame a problem for all of us in regard of the superabundance of goodness, truth, and beauty in our lives and the same for their opposites.

      There seems to be way more goodness and moral evil than are necessary for passing on one's genomes. Why do we so delight in truth that we search the secrets of everything and why do we lie so much to get what isn't really good for us? Why is the world so filled with beauty when it doesn't seem to have any evolutionary purpose, yet we are so revolted by ugliness?

      I'm putting this badly.

  • GreatSilence

    I must say that in my own faith, and struggles therewith, I have managed to make some sort of peace with the problem of evil in certain instances. When I look at say the nightclub incident I can find some answer in a reply whereby the owners are to blame, or building regulations or something along those lines. I can find that place of comfort with a lot of bad that we see in the news : free will, people failing in their duty toward God and man.
    Then there is a big middle ground, where the struggle is a more complex one. Birth deficiencies, cancer and so on : the causal link between man failing in their duty and such incidents become very tenuous.
    Lastly, there is a group of incidents that I simply have given up trying to understand, or justify. Here I can mention animal suffering (so-called Darwinian problem of evil/suffering), and several other daily examples of gratuitous suffering.

  • Boris G

    The writer mentions 2 errors(extremes) that we should avoid when discussing the issue of evil in the world. These seem reasonable enough but isn't perhaps the greatest error made in stating that God "allows" evil? In what sense does God allow evil?
    The implication always seems to be that God allows or even orders evil so as to justify it for some greater good as if the ends Justify the means.
    I dont see how this squares with Catholic teaching that has always maintained that God is infinitely good and infinitely opposed to evil.
    It is one thing to go along with the 'no pain no gain' concept when we are simply dealing with challenges in life that can help us grow but when it comes to horrendous evils involving innocents how can you say God "allows" it?Is this not simply bad Apologetics?

  • DannyGetchell

    It appears that there are two cases of perceived evil posited by Christians.

    (A) - perceived evil which is the result of sinful man exercising his free will. In this, God takes no part.

    (B) - perceived evil which is in fact directed toward a deeper, good purpose. In this, God takes an affirmative part. The sufferings of Job would be the canonical example.

    My question is this. From the perspective of humanity here on earth (not the deity's eye perspective we are given in reading the book of Job), how can we determine into which case a perceived evil falls?

    For it seems to me that God should desire us to know what is good and what is evil, and in order to construct such a taxonomy we should be able to distinguish the two cases I have described above.

    • ziad

      Number two is incorrect because Christianity affirms that God is all good and nothing evil can come from God. The notion is that God allows evil to happen (since he is all powerful, he could stop it at any time, yet evil still exists so he must just let it happen). No one really knows why God allows evil to occur, but theologians believe that it might be because he can draw a bigger good from it. An example is Jesus suffering and death. While it was barbaric and greatly evil and killing of innocent man, the whole world benefited because Jesus offered us or salvatio

      • DannyGetchell

        That's why I used Job as my example. God invited Satan to go ahead and have a good rip at Job to test his faith.

        From Job's point of view, evil things were most assuredly happening to him, and they were happening with God's express permission.

        Job 2:10, if we have received good things at the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?

    • Randy Gritter

      There are a lot more than 2 reasons but maybe most reasons can be put into one of these broad categories. The answer is that it is very hard to tell exactly what God's reasons are. Some seem clear at first and then you wonder later if you were wrong. Often there are many reasons and you only understand a few very poorly. God tells us what we need to know. We just need to trust that we are walking through this for a reason and it is a good one. When it is a punishment for a specific sin we have committed God will tell us. We should not go looking though our conscience for some sin that God might be zapping us for. He does punish for sin but like any good parent makes it really obvious what the sin is when he does it.

  • 42Oolon

    The author has presented no reasons why an all-loving all powerful god would allow seemingly senseless evil to occur, like children getting raped by priests.

    All he does say that he thinks he can explain it by the need for free will. This is ridiculous and is easily debunked by a simple thought experiment.

    In the end, Christians need to admit that either the God they believe in is not as powerful as they think, or not as good, OR, that they have a desperately bad understanding of good and evil, or that there is no such god.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I don't see any evidence you have read the OP (as poor as it is). And your one example is an insult to Catholics, including the vast majority of priests, who have never done anything so heinous.

  • Roger Hane

    Though Trent protests that he is not punting to mystery, it sure sounds to me like he is. He may think "a universe without purpose or meaning" is unbearable, but maybe he's living it and bearing it without realizing it. Maybe he just latched on to a religious explanation that would make it bearable to him, in order to avoid facing up to the non-religious explanation that it's all about the struggle for genetic reproduction. The truth doesn't have to be comfortable. The truth just is.

    • Boris G

      It does indeed sound as if Trent is punting to mystery.
      Whether or not this is a bad thing depends on how you understand mystery.

      If it is understood to simply mean unintelligible or totally shrouded beyond our comprehension then this is a real problem.

      However,it is my understanding that mystery when referring to God does not mean any of the above but is actually meant to refer to the fact that the whole problem is super intelligible or better yet - 'infinitely intelligible'.The more answers we get the more questions there will be that could be asked and so on.
      Or to use an anology.The mystery is so full of light that to understand it all at once would be like trying to look directly into the sun.

  • Boris G

    I've continued to follow the arguments here and...wow...what a tough question.
    How do you reconcile the notion of a perfectly Good God who then seemingly allows or even uses evils for some good end. I dont think you can.
    The challenge being given is that if God were perfectly opposing evil,which a perfectly good God must be doing do with all the fullness of his being, he would surely be more successful.
    And so, appearing to be logically impossible, explanations given in terms of a “perfect opposition” between God and evil have not been attempted. Instead Catholics seem to have opted for explanations in terms of God holding back his opposition because of there being some “purpose” to evil.

    I once heard a great analogy regarding the state of this world and Gods action in it that I think goes a long way to demonstrating how we can best view God in relation to evil and especially personal suffering.

    Imagine a child trapped in a small room in the middle of a burning building.The child knows nothing of the impending danger surrounding it and presently feels safe though alone.Along comes a fire fighter whose sole purpose is to do good and rescue the child but in doing so he must break down the door to get to the child and remove it from harm.
    How do you think the child would feel during this ordeal and what would we say about the rescuer?
    I know this analogy like most is imperfect and raises a whole other lot of questions but it helped me to understand what is often termed in Moral Theology as the principle of double effect.

    And so in fact The Church teaches that ,'All evil is infinitely offensive to the infinite goodness of God, and while he unfailingly draws greater good out of every evil, his act of “permitting” evil is not to be understood as involving any degree of approval. Rather, God’s permission of evil is the endurance of that which is infinitely offensive to him.' (quoted from NewApologetics.com)

    Thoughts please :-}

  • Miguel Adolfo.

    "Felix culpa", "happy fault", wrote an ancient catholic commentor about the original sin, because thanks to that sin Jesus Christ would come to us.

    The same Savior who didn't rejected suffriment, but passed through it -even if not as a light thing. He didn't want to suffer- and shared suffering and the feeling of abandonement of God to us, like any human. Even if that response -which I haven't invented- fits with the definition of "mistery", I think is right.

    I know other perspective, which again I didn't invent: It comes form Teilhard de Chardin, so could be wrong for some to read. Be aware.

    We don't live in a "Cosmos", or already ordered Universe, but in a "Cosmogenesis", or the process of creating, through an ever increasing level of -differenciating- unification performed by God, the Cosmos as the realization of Creation. From this point of view, the Universe hasn't been completed and the "Original Sin" is an spiritual, not a historical truth. But at least, God isn't guilty of the evil He shoud be avoiding, because the concept of "allmigthiness" is misunderstood: God can not, for example, do that something which happened in the past already, didn't ever happened.