The Problem of Evil and Wishful Thinking

I've raised this question in various forms and forums elsewhere in days past, and thought I would present it again (somewhat reframed) here and now:

As mentioned in a recent post, a purely good and powerful God creating a world in which evil temporarily emerges is illogical only if two or more of the propositions below are logically incompatible:

1. God is all good
2. God is all powerful
3. Evil exists

But as Alvin Plantinga and others have observed, to derive a contradiction (from an inconsistent set) we would need an additional premise that negates at least one of the others, such as

4. God is not all good (or, God is somewhat evil), or
5. God is not all powerful (or, God is somewhat weak), or
6. Evil does not exist

In short, the logical problem of evil is a failure. Whatever evil is, it does not explicitly contradict Christian theism (and it certainly doesn’t contradict Scripture, which addresses the reality of evil at length). For atheists and other skeptics determined to argue from evil, that leaves only some form of the inductive or evidential argument. For them it is the sheer intensity and degree of apparently pointless suffering that undercuts Christianity. Life in this world is simply too brutal to be the product of an omnipotent and benevolent creator.

Yet Christian theology also posits a comprehensive solution to the problem of evil, one "built in" to the creation from the beginning. That solution begins with the work of atonement and subsequent resurrection of Christ, and culminates in everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven. Surprisingly enough, many of the same skeptics who endorse the argument from evil tell me that the promising, hopeful aspects of Christian eschatology are just wishful thinking, a failure to squarely face the harsh realities of life.

It appears, then, that for many skeptics gratuitous evil undercuts theism as something God could easily prevent, while promises of excessive, eternal joy in the kingdom of God are simply unrealistic. But clearly the joys of heaven are realistic if God exists. And that's just the question before us, isn't it? We cannot rationally propose Christian faith as a serious hypothesis to demonstrate its incompatibility with temporary evil in a passing world, but then refuse to consider its ultimate victory over evil in an eternal heaven because it's not a serious hypothesis.

 

Comments

Joe Hinman said…
good article Don. Someone told me this piece really helped them in arguing yesterday.
Don McIntosh said…
That's great to hear Joe. Thank you for that.

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