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A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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Mother T.


This post was published on this blog in Feb of 2006. I am recalling it here in answer to "Callmeirresponsible's" question "why doesn't God heal everyone?" The answer is because the need for everyone to be healed is outweighed by other considerations, ie the need to preserve the search for truth since that manifests internalizing the values of the good.


The Free Will Defense is offered by Christian apologists as an answer to any sort of atheist argument such as the problem of pain or the problem of evil. The argument runs something like: God values free will because "he" ("she"?) doesn't want robots. The problelm with this approach is that it often stops short in analysis as to why free will would be a higher value than anything else. This leaves the atheist in a position of arguing any number of pains and evil deeds and then charging that God had to know these things would happen, thus God must be cruel for creating anything at all knowing the total absolute pain (which usually includes hell in most atheist arguments) would result from creation.


The apologetic answers usually fail to satisfy the atheist, because in their minds noting can outweigh the actual inflicting of pain. Sometimes atheists evoke omnipotence and play it off against the value of free will, making the assumption that an "all powerful God" could do anything, thus God should be able to cancel any sort of moral debt, make sin beyond our natures, create a pain free universe, and surely if God were all loving, God would have done so.


The better twist on the free will defense would be to start from a different position. We should start with the basis for creation, in so far as we can understand it, and then to show how the logical and non self contradictory requirements of the logic of creation require free will. What is usually missing or not pointed out is the necessity of free will in the making of moral choices. This is the step that atheists and Christian apologists alike sometimes overlook; that it is absolutely essential in a non-self contradictory way, that humanity have free will. Thus, free will must out weight any other value. At that point, since it is a matter of self contradiction, omnipotence cannot be played off against free will, because God's omnipotence does not allow God to dispense with Free will!


Before moving to the argument I want to make it clear that I deal with two separate issues: the problem of pain (not a moral issue--tornadoes and disesases and the like) becasue it doesn't involve human choice. Pain, inflicted by accident and nature is not a moral issue, because it involves no choices. Thus I will not deal with that here. I am only concerned in this argument with the the problem of evil that is, the problem of moral choice. The free will defense cannot apply to makes where the will does not apply.


Basic assumptions


There are three basic assumptions that are hidden, or perhaps not so obivioius, but nevertheless must be dealt with here.

(1) The assumption that God wants a "moral universe" and that this value outweighs all others.

The idea that God wants a moral universe I take from my basic view of God and morality. Following in the footsteps of Joseph Fletcher (Situation Ethics) I assume that love is the background of the moral universe (this is also an Augustinian view). I also assume that there is a deeply ontological connection between love and Being. Axiomatically, in my view point, love is the basic impetus of Being itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to me that, if morality is an upshot of love, or if love motivates moral behavior, then the creation of a moral universe is essential.

(2) that internal "seeking" leads to greater internalization of values than forced compliance or complaisance that would be the result of intimidation.

That's a pretty fair assumption. We all know that people will a lot more to achieve a goal they truly beileve in than one they merely feel forced or obligated to follow but couldn't care less about.

(3)the the drama or the big mystery is the only way to accomplish that end.

The pursuit of the value system becomes a search of the heart for ultimate meaning,that ensures that people continue to seek it until it has been fully internalized.

The argument would look like this:


(1)God's purpose in creation: to create a Moral Universe, that is one in which free moral agents willingly choose the Good.

(2) Moral choice requires absolutely that choice be free (thus free will is necessitated).

(3) Allowance of free choices requires the risk that the chooser will make evil chioces

(4)The possibility of evil choices is a risk God must run, thus the value of free outweighs all other considerations, since without there would be no moral universe and the purpose of creation would be thwarted.



This leaves the atheist in the position of demanding to know why God doesn't just tell everyone that he's there, and that he requires moral behavior, and what that entails. Thus there would be no mystery and people would be much less inclined to sin.

This is the point where Soteriological Drama figures into it.
Argument on Soteriological Drama:


(5) Life is a "Drama" not for the sake of entertainment, but in the sense that a dramatic tension exists between our ordinary observations of life on a daily basis, and the ultimate goals, ends and purposes for which we are on this earth.

(6) Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probalby all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.

(8) therefore, God wants a heart felt response which is internationalized value system that comes through the search for existential answers; that search is phenomenological; intetrsubective, internal, not amenable to ordinary demonstrative evidence.



In other words, we are part of a great drama and our actions and our dilemmas and our choices are all part of the way we respond to the situation as characters in a drama.



Objection:

One might object that this couldn't outweigh babies dying or the horrors of war or the all the countless injustices and outrages that must be allowed and that permeate human history. It may seem at first glance that free will is petty compared to human suffering. But I am advocating free will for the sake any sort of pleasure or imagined moral victory that accrues from having free will, it's a totally pragmatic issue; that internatlizing the value of the good requires that one choose to do so, and free will is essential if choice is required. Thus it is not a capricious or selfish defense of free will, not a matter of choosing our advantage or our pleasure over that of dying babies, but of choosing the key to saving the babies in the long run,and to understanding why we want to save them, and to care about saving them, and to actually choosing their saving over our own good.

In deciding what values outweigh other values we have to be clear about our decision making paradigm. From a utilitarian standpoint the determinate of lexically ordered values would be utility, what is the greatest good for the greatest number? This would be determined by means of outcome, what is the fianl tally sheet in terms of pleasure over pain to the greatest aggregate? But why that be the value system we decide by? It's just one value system and much has been written about the bankruptcy of conseuqnetialist ethics. If one uses a deontolgoical standard it might be a different thing to consider the lexically ordered values. Free will predominates becaue it allows internalization of the good. The good is the key to any moral value system. This could be justified on both deontolgoical and teleological premises.

My own moral decision making paradigm is deontological, because I believe that teleological ethics reduces morality to the decision making of a ledger sheet and forces the individual to do immoral things in the name of "the greatest good for the greatest number." I find most atheists are utilitarians so this will make no sense to them. They can't help but think of the greatest good/greatest number as the ultaimte adage, and deontology as empty duty with no logic to it. But that is not the case. Deontology is not just rule keeping, it is also duty oriented ethics. The duty that we must internalize is that ultimate duty that love demands of any action. Robots don't love. One must freely choose to give up self and make a selfless act in order to act from Love. Thus we cannot have a loved oriented ethics, or we cannot have love as the background of the moral universe without free will, because love involves the will.

The choice of free will at the expense of countless lives and untold suffering cannot be an easy thing, but it is essential and can be justified from either deontolgoical or teleological persective. Although I think the deontologcial makes more sense. From the teleological stand point, free will ultimately leads to the greatest good for the greatest number because in the long run it assumes us that one is willing to die for the other, or sacrifice for the other, or live for the other. That is essential to promoting a good beyond ourselves. The individual sacrifices for the good of the whole, very utilitarian. It is also deontolgocially justifiable since duty would tell us that we must give of ourselves for the good of the other.

Thus anyway you slice it free will outweighs all other concerns because it makes available the values of the good and of love. Free will is the key to ultimately saving the babies, and saving them because we care about them, a triumph of the heart, not just action from wrote. It's internalization of a value system without which other and greater injustices could be foisted upon an unsuspecting humanity that has not been tought to choose to lay down one's own life for the other.


Objection 2: questions
(from "UCOA" On CARM boards (atheism)



Quote:

In addition, there is no explanation of why god randomly decided to make a "moral universe".




Why do you describe the decision as random? Of course all of this is second guessing God, so the real answer is "I don't know, duh" But far be it form me to give-up without an opinion. My opine as to why God would create moral universe:

to understand this you must understand my view of God, and that will take some doing. I'll try to just put it in a nut shell. In my view love is the background of the moral universe. The essence of "the good" or of what is moral is that which conforms to "lug." But love in the apogee sense, the will to the good of the other. I do not believe that that this is just derived arbitrarily, but is the outpouring of the wellspring of God's character. God is love, thus love is the background of the moral universe because God is the background of the moral universe.

Now I also describe God as "being itself." Meaning God is the foundation of all that is. I see a connection between love and being. Both are positive and giving and turning on in the face of nothingness, which is negativity. To say that another way, if we think of nothingness as a big drain pipe, it is threatening to **** all that exits into it. Being is the power to resist nothingness, being the stopper in the great cosmic drain pipe of non existence.

The act of bestowing being upon the beings is the nature of God because God is being. Those the two things God does because that's what he is, he "BES" (um, exists) and he gives out being bestowing it upon other beings. This is connected to love which also gives out and bestows. So being and love are connected, thus the moral universe is an outgrowth of the nature of God as giving and bestowing and being and loving.


Quote:
Thus the question isn't really answered. Why does god allow/create evil? To create a "moral universe". Why? The only answer that is given is, because he wants to. Putting it together, Why does god allow/create evil? Because he wants to?


In a nut shell, God allows evil as an inherent risk in allowing moral agency. (the reason for which is given above).

There is a big difference in doing something and allowing it to be done. God does not create evil, he allows the risk of evil to be run by the beings, because that risk is required to have free moral agency. The answer is not "because he wants to" the answer is because he wants free moral agency so that free moral agents will internalize the values of love. To have free moral agency he must allow them to:

(1)run the risk of evil choices

(2) live in a real world where hurt is part of the dice throw.

22 comments:

Thanks for the repost. I know I've gone through this reasoning in my head before, but it's nice to see a concise version of it.

Thanks for the repost. I know I've gone through this reasoning in my head before, but it's nice to see a concise version of it.


Thanks. I know when I realized the missing piece was internalizing values I was amazed. i thought man that puts it all together. It's so simple and so obvious but really eluded me for years.

Two objections:

1) Ignoring pain and suffering caused by natural disasters, disease and other causes which are not affected by moral choices is a bit of a cheat; that suffering is just as real as the other kind and if your explanation can't account for it than it isn't of much use.

2) If free will is the all-important consideration here why is it limited in so many other ways? Our choices are restricted rather severely by our physical limitations; why should the option of causing pain and suffering be the exception to that restriction?

CallMeIrresponsible said...

Another objection: do all the considerations you mention apply to the situation in heaven; and, if not, why not?

I should also point out that in my experience as a parent I have had a lot of success in passing on moral values to my children by example, not by hiding in the shadows and leaving them to suffer the consequences of bad decisions with no intervention from their parents. I don't accept the idea that suffering somehow promotes greater internalization of values...in fact it seems to me that it often has the opposite effect.

Another objection: do all the considerations you mention apply to the situation in heaven; and, if not, why not?

Everyone in heaven has already internalized the values of the good. they have already done the search and found the answer, it's not necessary.

1) Ignoring pain and suffering caused by natural disasters, disease and other causes which are not affected by moral choices is a bit of a cheat; that suffering is just as real as the other kind and if your explanation can't account for it than it isn't of much use.


Consolations abound in Christ. It's not ignoring it's consoling.2) If free will is the all-important consideration here why is it limited in so many other ways?

Not. you are confusing will with knowledge.Our choices are restricted rather severely by our physical limitations; why should the option of causing pain and suffering be the exception to that restriction?

Our choices are not limited, our understanding of them are limited,but only temporarily. that comes with the search.

I should also point out that in my experience as a parent I have had a lot of success in passing on moral values to my children by example, not by hiding in the shadows and leaving them to suffer the consequences of bad decisions with no intervention from their parents.

Jesus is our example but we would not have that without the search. We would not see Jesus in conditions requiring forgiveness and love in response to pain and suffering if there was no pain and suffering.I don't accept the idea that suffering somehow promotes greater internalization of values...in fact it seems to me that it often has the opposite effect.


I've answered you this before:

suffering doesn't (remember? I said suffering is not the teacher). suffering is a side effect. Searching is the teacher. But searching would not be possible in a world where answers where obvious and pre conceived.

searching is only possible where doubt is possible.

CallMeIrresponsible said...

JL, thank you for your answer. I have one question of clarification. "Internalizing the values of good" sounds to me like it could mean that

1. one understands intellectually that X is good;

2. one believes (accepts?) that X is good;

3. one behaves in accordance with X (perfectly?).

Is it one of the above, two or all of the above, or something else?

CallMeIrresponsible said...

"Consolations abound in Christ. It's not ignoring it's consoling"That we may be consoled about our pain through natural disasters doesn't speak at all, it seems to me, to how they are accounted for (why should they occur, how do they fit into the larger scheme, etc.) in the first place.

"Those who suffer will be consoled" is literally not an answer to the question "Why does God permit natural disasters?"

Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices. If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probalby all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.
It seems that this explanation for divine hiddenness is inconsistent with the resurrection of Jesus. After all, this event, for those who were supposedly witness to it, was about as hard, definitive evidence as could be imagined.

Why is it essential that some not have hard evidence but its OK for the apostles and 500 (or more) other witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus?

And, while some might only pay lip service it does not seem plausible that all would (as you seem to be saying).

but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.
You seem to be saying no one would follow God from the heart if they had definitive evidence of his existence. Or do I misinterpret you? That seems implausible and, again, it does not seem to have been a problem for the witnesses to the resurrected Jesus so why should it be a problem for the rest of us?

"Those who suffer will be consoled" is literally not an answer to the question "Why does God permit natural disasters?"
Not to mention that it is simply not true in any sense of those who were unsaved at the time they died in a natural disaster (this objection, of course, only being applicable to christians who aren't universalists---I don't recall if you're in that camp or not).

" Consolations abound in Christ. It's not ignoring it's consoling."What does that mean? You're the one ignoring the problem of non-moral suffering. What does consolation have to do with this gaping hole in your argument?

"Not. you are confusing will with knowledge....Our choices are not limited, our understanding of them are limited,but only temporarily. that comes with the search."No confusion here; our will to act and our choices are limited by our by our physical capabilities, by the laws of physics, by the actions of other people, by all kinds of factors beyond our control..this relates directly to the problem of natural disasters, disease and other suffering not brought on by our moral choices. Our free will is limited on all sides; why would removing suffering from the equation be the fatal limitation to God's alleged plan?

"Jesus is our example but we would not have that without the search. We would not see Jesus in conditions requiring forgiveness and love in response to pain and suffering if there was no pain and suffering."This still doesn't explain why suffering is necessary; why not just have the love? I didn't have to suffer to love my children...and I didn't love my arents becasue they relieved my suffering; I loved them for the good things they did for me, for the love they showed me.

"suffering doesn't (remember? I said suffering is not the teacher). suffering is a side effect."Side effects are generally seen as undesirable aren't they? Especially when, as I've observed with suffering, they can often be counter-productive to the desired effect...

"Searching is the teacher. But searching would not be possible in a world where answers where obvious and pre conceived...searching is only possible where doubt is possible."But doubt is not suffering...like I said before, the only natural, necessary consequence of not searching is continued ignorance. Suffering doesn't have to enter into it.

JL, thank you for your answer. I have one question of clarification. "Internalizing the values of good" sounds to me like it could mean that

1. one understands intellectually that X is good;

2. one believes (accepts?) that X is good;

3. one behaves in accordance with X (perfectly?).

Is it one of the above, two or all of the above, or something else?


Values refer to priorities and commitments. The refusal to kill for example, or the belief that people are basically good and deserve primary consideration above profit motive or economic cost, those are values.

Values of the good would mean the value system that guides ethical and more decision making.

"Consolations abound in Christ. It's not ignoring it's consoling"That we may be consoled about our pain through natural disasters doesn't speak at all, it seems to me, to how they are accounted for (why should they occur, how do they fit into the larger scheme, etc.) in the first place.


I've explained why they have to occur. Someone brought of a value consideration comparing the cost in terms of suffering to the cost in terms of denying free will. I said the consolation factor makes up for the cost in suffering."Those who suffer will be consoled" is literally not an answer to the question "Why does God permit natural disasters?"

that answer is implied and directly addressed in my original essay on soteriological drama.

this is it: we have to live in a real world if the search is meaningful. Real world meaning it runs on its own and can go either way (naturalistic or as creation of God). Thus, God just can't go around interveeing everytime something painful happens.

Pain is the product of having a central nervous system and living in a universe of solid objects.

Blogger David B. Ellis said...

Clearly God wants us to seek on a level other than the obvious, daily, demonstrative level or he would have made the situation more plain to us

(7) We can assume that the reason for the "big mystery" is the internalization of choices.

values If God appeared to the world in open objective fashion and laid down the rules, we would probalby all try to follow them, but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.
It seems that this explanation for divine hiddenness is inconsistent with the resurrection of Jesus. After all, this event, for those who were supposedly witness to it, was about as hard, definitive evidence as could be imagined.

I said the answer is in plain sight. Its' not hidden its' not made obvious. I also said there are zones in which God does interveen but one has to be "in the zone" so to speak. But even the Res, atheist find reasons to doubt don't they?

Or are you admitting its obvious that Jesus rose form the dead?
Why is it essential that some not have hard evidence but its OK for the apostles and 500 (or more) other witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus?


why do they have to have evidence? Paul told the Greeks "you already worship the true God I'm just here to expalin more about him (Acts 17). And, while some might only pay lip service it does not seem plausible that all would (as you seem to be saying).

It is to me. I think you are just not thinking about what we all know of human nature. Do you like being dictated to? but we would not want to follow them. Thus our obedience would be lip service and not from teh heart.
You seem to be saying no one would follow God from the heart if they had definitive evidence of his existence.


do you like to do what you feel forced to do? the desire to follow God comes from the values of the good.Or do I misinterpret you?

I think you get that. But you are not thinking about the way people really are. That seems implausible and, again, it does not seem to have been a problem for the witnesses to the resurrected Jesus so why should it be a problem for the rest of us?

they did the search. those guys were already committed to God and to Jesus, living a holy life, they believed he was at least a prophet and they were seeking to follow God. They already the values of the good even before the res.

look how few of the Sanhedrin followed Jesus even after they heard the guards tell them he rose from the dead.

do you like to do what you feel forced to do? the desire to follow God comes from the values of the good....
Knowing that God exists with indisputable evidence does not force me to either love or not love him.

Some might react to the knowledge with lipservice paid out of fear of God's power....while others might react with deep and genuine love.

What I know best about human nature is that different people react in different ways.

And you demonstrate one of the prime practical objections I have to most varieties of religiosity:

in order to makes its theology work it sometimes forces one to hold bizarre and flatly ridiculous views (in this case about human psychology).

do you like to do what you feel forced to do? the desire to follow God comes from the values of the good....




Knowing that God exists with indisputable evidence does not force me to either love or not love him.


It would if it was really indisputable. But love is the point. neutrality is not good enough.Some might react to the knowledge with lipservice paid out of fear of God's power....while others might react with deep and genuine love.

What I know best about human nature is that different people react in different ways.


doesn't cut it. not an answer.And you demonstrate one of the prime practical objections I have to most varieties of religiosity:

in order to makes its theology work it sometimes forces one to hold bizarre and flatly ridiculous views (in this case about human psychology).

O I see you are psychologist now. where did you study psychology? I have a BA in sociology I think know more than you do about it.

that is so bizzar Ellis. not to know that people rebel against things they are forced to do when they dont' want to do them. that's crazy.

who doesn't know that?


if any atheist could ever be honest about his motivations he would see immediately I'm right ton the money.

remember sex? you are just really happy about being celibate until your married?

"if any atheist could ever be honest about his motivations he would see immediately I'm right ton the money."Some of us are more complex than you think, remember...;-)

I realize it's easier to just dismiss or ignore stuff that doesn't fit your neat little drama, but questioning our honesty and our motives instead of addressing the questions we raised doesn't go a long to way to convincing anyone...

Let me get this straight, if God were to show his existence with undeniable evidence. Perhaps, as an example, by releasing the inhabitants of heaven (both loved ones who have died and angels) to visit earth at will and tell us about the reality of God and heaven....if this were to happen, Hinman believes that the reaction of the human species would be:

universal resentment??!!

No one would fall to their knees in wonder and worship and praise---hearts filled with joy that today, in their generation, God chose to reveal himself?

Again, the pretzel logic with which the understanding of natural human responses and psychology are distorted in order to make your apologetic argument work is astounding.

Not so sure... said...

David,
That's an interesting scenario. A universal revelation from God to all people at once, alongside the return of loved ones should bring about an increase in faith worldwide, right? I'm assuming that our assumption is that people would remain human and still have human frailties, correct? If so, then there are a few scenarios where I think might hinder this utopian view:

1. Some religious and non-religious people would be overwhelmed assuming they had gone crazy...possibly resulting in actual psychological disorders. Much less dramatic shocking events (good and bad) have produced people with lifelong psychological issues.

2. Upon realizing that either their cafeteria religion or outright disbelief was wrong...some would fear the probable coming judgment and kill themselves, rebel, or possibly even take out their fear/angst on others.

3. Many religious people would rebel. If Allah were to reveal himself to humanity and return lost loved ones to me, I might follow, but would not be pleased...I would probably rebel. I've lived throughout the Middle East and SE Asia for much of my life, know Islam very well, and do not want Islam to be true.

4. There are plenty of religious groups who would see this as a false revelation and attack those who claimed it to be true. There would also be plenty polytheists who see it as an attack upon their personal gods. I would expect fundamentalism to increase from this scenario.

5. I've heard too many atheists say that even if they were presented with a personal revelation from God they would rebel for his "cruelty" toward humanity, his previous "hiddenness" or whatever. This is sort of the Bertrand Russell scenario...I'm not so sure that they would actually respond this way though.

Anyways, it's a very interesting scenario. As a Christian I'm torn over whether or not I would actually like for it to happen because it has the potential to create as many problems as benefits.

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