Wednesday, May 13, 2009

How Can a Good God Allow Suffering and Evil? MP3 Audio by William Lane Craig

William Lane Craig presents a talk on the challenge of evil and suffering entitled: How Can a Good God Allow Suffering and Evil? This talk is followed by about an hour of Q&A. The text outline of this talk can be found here, and the original audio can be found here.

Full MP3 Audio here.



Lee said...

Maybe God just doesn't exist - Good or bad?

Just a thought... :-)


Leslie said...

That's not really the question at hand though ... the question is whether one can consistently believe in a good God given suffering and evil. Whether or not such a God exists is a different question.

Lee said...

Hi Leslie,

I was just trying to give a different option.

the question is whether one can consistently believe in a good God given suffering and evil. Of course you can believe this - maybe God just isn't all knowing or all powerful.

The problem comes when the Christian wants to believe in all 3 at once.

It fails - the best WLC does is to try and pass the answer into another world, after death, and say with cannot understand God.

That's cheating, and it still fails.

Why couldn’t God just create heaven without all this messing about with unnecessary suffering? Who is God trying to impress?


emmzee said...

Though the ultimate home that a Christian believes in is not heaven per se but the Kingdom of God, perhaps it is not possible for God to create beings who freely choose Him but already exist "in heaven". If that, people freely choosing to be in heaven, is God's purpose, not merely having people existing in heaven, then it may be necessary?

Alvin Plantinga's short book "God, Freedom, & Evil" is considered a classic on the philosophical problem of evil. Personally, since I have no formal training in philosophy, I found it a bit tough to get through, but it's generally considered to be at least a potential answer (not an air-tight refutation but a possible option) to counter the "If evil exists God cannot be omniscient and omnipotent" problem.

Of course, pain/evil will remain troublesome even if the philosophical problem were to be solved. I remember one of my profs telling me that of the 100's of funerals he's spoken at as a pastor, only once has a philosophical problem re evil come up in discussion. Every other time, it was "I hurt: Is there hope?"

Anonymous said...

there's almost no philosopher today who believes that the following 4 propositions are incompatible:

- God exists
- God is omnipotent
- God is benevolent
- Evil exists

As Craig always points out, you can prove they are compatible if you simply add:

- It's possible that God has reasons for allowing evil

And atheists and theists alike agree that this proposition is true, which is why no virtually no one think that the logical problem of evil is sound.

What people do discuss, however, is what's called the evidential problem of evil. To quote the famous argument from William Rowe:

(1) There exist instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

(2) An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

(3)There does not exist an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being. (MT from 1,2)

This is called evidential because a theist isn't comitted to the truth of (1). And the theists doesn't have to accept it if he/she has good reasons for thinking God exists. You can simply run the argument the other way around:

(1*) There exists an omnipotent, omniscient, wholly good being.

(2*) An omniscient, wholly good being would prevent the occurrence of any intense suffering it could, unless it could not do so without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse.

(3*) There are no instances of intense suffering which an omnipotent, omniscient being could have prevented without thereby losing some greater good or permitting some evil equally bad or worse. (MP from 1*,2*)

Rowe calls (1) the factual premise and (2) the theological premise. Both have been challenged.

Lee said...

Hi Matthew

I might not disagree with you on your first point but it wasn't the argument I was trying to make.

I think (but with no evidence, so I can swing either way) that you would find it rather difficult to find a professional philosopher (who was not a theist) that will state that an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving god exists in our universe.

That was my point - all 3 at the same time.

Not only are the observations just simply against such a belief in my view, but by maintaining such an opinion would make them a theist of course (so I have stacked the deck on this one). Oops

On the subject of philosophers and the ‘all-good god’ – take a read of this blog post by Stephen Law, a professional philosopher, who by arguing for an all-evil god highlights the philosophical silliness of both arguments of an all-good or all-evil god. You might find it interesting. Oh, and Stephen is an atheist in case you cannot guessIt's the ‘trinity’ of all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving - that I am using to define god here. It is this type of god that has a problem with evil I think.

If you want to change this definition fine, please define another to discuss

So how is this ‘trinity’ god resolved by the theologians?

I recall the argument from William Lane Craig, which I will have to paraphrase here, that goes along the lines that this world (with all the good and bad we observe) is the best possible world to get as many people to freely choose god.

On the surface this argument sounds good – until you dig below the surface and it still fails for me. (“The problem of heaven and hell” is enough to show WLC is holding contradictory ideas and gives me reason to doubt his arguments on this matter. I will have to add that WLC answer in the Q&A to hell and suffering for all eternity was silly. He says that in hell, while being tortured by God, it would be the victim’s fault for not loving God and hence will be stuck in hell forever. Sorry, would you love your torturer?)

WLC also makes an argument that the purpose of life is not happiness, but to ‘know God’. Thus WLC has switched the argument – suffering is no longer a problem because God might require suffering for people to know Him. (Erm – I wonder if this was what the torturer in the Spanish inquisition was thinking as they turned the screw on those poor people – “just a little more suffering and you will know God”.)

WLC also argues along the lines that we cannot know the mind of God or His reasons so how can we, mankind, be any judge. Well this is a poor argument on many levels.

Firstly it seems to be circular (nothing new with theologians) in that it assumes first God is Good and has a good reason, therefore anything that happens or is observed has to be good and for a reason because it was done by God.

Or worst still, passes the ‘evidence’ for the solution of the ‘problem of evil’ to the afterlife – without evidence for the afterlife or heaven. No one should accept that as evidence for anything.

It would be like if I was to try and sell you some beans, and I claim they are magical beans.

When you ask me to prove they are in fact magical, I would merely reply that you have to buy them first for $10,000, plant them and after a few weeks you will clearly see how magical the beans really were. (In the mean time of course, I have plenty of time not to be around should you feel the need to complain for whatever reason - $10,000 will get me a ticket to somewhere else)

You would not trust the magical beans claim with such a response, so why should anyone accept “in the afterlife everything will be revealed” or such the like that WLC is pushing?

I will not go any further on WLC since I might have ‘misremembered’ the WLC argument on this lecture so do not want to attack a strawman any further than I already have done (Brian has picked me up on that before.)

So, if you believe in an all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful god (as I think you do as a Christian) how do you resolve ‘the problem of evil’ – or, as I rather put it… the unnecessary suffering in the world (that is beyond the control of man)

Passing the problem to "the greater good" doesn't work does it?

Take care.

During this lecture - did WLC define God once? Who or what God is.

Can anyone quote his defintion. thanks

Unknown said...


You are a gifted person who likes to find answers and argue with evidence (that can be seen - known as fact universally) and that is great as our culture and well, throughout our entire history of enlightenment, has chosen to acknowledge such an approach as rational, reasonable and ‘sound’ – a better argument. What we must remember though is that those that are truly trying to explore the answers to this question, 'How can a Good God Allow Suffering and Evil?' already are theists in some way... they must believe first in order to make the query/investigation weighted as reasonable.

If you look into and try to answer the question from the point of view that you need (universal) sound evidence, then you are stripping off the whole 'faith' element which is ultimately how you understand God and communicate with him... learning his ways and answers for our (human) questions.

(see next msg)

Unknown said...

I used to ask such questions with not much belief… and trust me, I thought that there was no way that a loving God can exist because there is too much suffering in this world. But then I opened up to Him and really, truly sought for him and well... now I know that he is loving, all knowing and all-powerful. Some people think that if He is so powerful... then why does He not stop all the evil and suffering?

He is not a dictator God and does allow us free will to make choices and decisions. Unfortunately, just like the first of humankind (Adam), we consistently choose to live a life thinking we know it all and make up our own answers based on the things we choose to call rational and logical from our own experiences and knowledge (we choose to be separated from him, have our own judgment of what is right and wrong regardless of what we feel in our heart). We also do actions according to these conclusions we have manifested from our experience and knowledge. All such actions have consequences and does impact the world on a much larger level than we can possibly understand. If God takes a life, I trust He knows what He is doing with it and He can make Good from the most worst evil ever! But again, we think small scale... because us humans are born fallen and egocentric. Hardly any of us think how such happenings (immediate to our own individual context and environment) play a part on world on a global and temporal level every minute of every day. We cannot do that because we are not God... but He can (after all He created us and the whole time and space we live in).
To give an example, I’m not sure if you are a father or not but, if your teenage child chooses to do something that you know will hurt them – you cannot stop them from doing it if they truly want to make that action. You can advise them, order them even (although this might not shed a good light on your part), but if they choose to take a particular action, it will happen and there are consequences… sometimes affecting people that your child does not even know. Now, many people can blame the parent ‘Where were this child’s parents in all this?’, ‘They clearly do not love this child, have neglected them, that is the root of why this child has done such things!’ But how much can you really blame the parents? If the parent is a loving one, surely they will allow the child to make choices and learn from their mistakes. They will advise them, tell them about what are the likeliest outcomes of their decisions (if had experience themselves) but ultimately, it is the child’s choice. If the parent, ‘orders and dictates’ hence, ‘making’ the child do as he/she alone desires then would that be a loving parent? Also, would the child genuinely feel for their parent and want to do the things that are ordered for them to do?
God does not ‘make’ us do what he wants (otherwise, we will all be living in the Kingdom of God right now – but as robots). What God does is He allows us free will (the freedom of choice to do His Will or not) and works with the consequences of that. He cannot stop us from choosing to do things that are not of His Will… but will work with the consequences to make better provision for all his loving children.
I trust that His Will, including all the evil that He allows (because He wants us to make our own choices and does not want to dictate our love for Him)... is one that we will see (when we choose to) is always about His love for us. I pray that one day you will too Lee. I pray that God places in your heart the need to draw close to Him. He will show you what you are looking for… all you have to do is ask with an open and honest heart.


Lee said...

Thanks Kelly,

I'm out of time on the internet tonight, so cannot reply much.

I am a father, 2 little boys - and this causes me a problem with the whole Adam and Eve story even IF I assume it to be true.

Another time though. I will return, if I don't. Remind me to come back here and finish of my reply.

Thanks again, and take care


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