Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Problem of Evil Part 2

The Intuitive Problem of Evil


While the logical problem of evil can be evaluated on the basis of a deductive argument, the intuitive problem is a little trickier.  On the one hand, it can be expressed much more simply: “How could God allow so much pain?”  It could also be expressed by lining up every individual instance of suffering, pain, and difficulty that one can think of, making it a very long, drawn out argument indeed.

The intuitive problem of evil is truly the form of the problem that every Christian must come to grips with.  This is no invention of the atheists.  This is a question that goes to the heart of faith in God.  Is God really good?  Is He in control?  Couldn’t he have prevented that car accident? That rape?  That birth defect?  What about cancer?  Starving children?  Who’s responsible for natural disasters?

As we begin to evaluate the problem, keep in mind that there really are two directions from which people approach it.  On the one hand, you have the Christian, or anyone who believes in an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good God.  The Christian has to reconcile that belief with the existence of suffering and pain.  He must approach the problem of evil as his own problem.  The solution must be faithful to what he believes about God and His purpose in the world.

On the other hand, you have the atheist or skeptic, who sees the problem of evil as confirmation of his unbelief.  Often, he’s been made an unbeliever in God by his own inability to solve this problem.  To him, this is often his most powerful weapon.  In some cases, he sees evil as a real thing that is out there and screams that there is no God.  In others, he thinks that there’s really no such thing as good or evil, and that this is just an enormous inconsistency in the life of the silly theist.  What the atheist believes about the existence of evil will have a profound effect on how he sees the problem of evil.

As I pointed out in part 1, many critics of belief in God will use the problem of evil without much consideration about which form they’re using or whether their arguments are consistent.  This will become very important when evaluating the intuitive problem of evil.  The atheist, I believe, will be put in a very uncomfortable position if he intends to keep using the problem of evil against Christians.


The Christian’s Problem


Before addressing the atheist’s contentions, I want to spend some time talking about the problem as it is put by the Christian.  Christians, of course, don’t present the problem of evil as if it really does destroy belief.  They do pose the question, though.  And it can be expressed as simply as, “Why, God?”

For particular sufferings in our lives, it looks as though Scripture does not give an answer.  There’s no verse on why a particular person is diagnosed with diabetes, or why another person has car trouble on a given day, so there can be no answer that gives a reason for every single pain and grief that each person goes through.  That would obviously take a book of ridiculous length, due to the sheer number of difficult things people go through, and the probably very complex reasons that could be given for each one.

So, does the fact that the Bible does not meet this unquestionably high standard mean that it is inadequate to teach us how to approach the question?  I don’t believe so.  In part 1, we looked at a couple of instances that showed how God’s purposes were behind even sinful actions to achieve His goals.  Joseph was sold into slavery by sinful motives as it concerned his brothers, but by righteous motives as it concerned God.  Also, in Acts 2:23, Jesus was delivered up both by “the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” and by “the hands of lawless men.”

There are many other cases that could be examined.  Enough, along with explicit statements of Scripture (Isaiah 46:9-11, Ephesians 1:11), to make a universal case for the position that no evil whatsoever falls outside of the purposes of God, and that all events fit perfectly into His plan.  There is one I’d like to examine more closely, however, as it actually poses the question of suffering as Christians often articulate it.  The passage is John 9:1-7.


As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:1-2)


The question is asked by the disciples, not any detractor or opponent of Jesus.  An answer is genuinely requested.  One can tell from the question that the common belief, at least among the disciples, was that when someone is born deformed, it must be a judgment for some sin.  Whose sin, though?  They don’t even ask about anyone other than the parents and the man, I would guess because they have a sense that it would be completely unjust for the judgment to be a result of some other party.  The question then narrows to these two possibilities: the parents or the man.  How would we answer the question?  I imagine that it would be difficult for anyone to blame the parents, since that seems unjust, too.  Why should the man suffer for his parents’ sin?  But the alternative has its own problems.  What could the man have done in the womb to be given this harsh judgment that he should be born blind?  The traditional answers for seemingly pointless suffering were lacking, and the disciples hoped that Jesus could shed some light on the question.


"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

 Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. (John 9:3-7)


The first thing you should notice here is the manner in which Jesus answers the question.  On many occasions, Jesus chides the disciples for their lack of wisdom or faith.  When they ask about who will be greatest in His kingdom, he is rather harsh in His response.  I don’t see that same harshness here.  The “either/or” question of the disciples is certainly one asked from an ignorant belief, but Jesus does not answer their question by asking another one, or pointing out how far from the mark they are.  Rather, he answers plainly. “This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”  This is nothing less than the view I and many Christians throughout history have put forth as the answer for why God would allow, or even ordain suffering.  Jesus points out that the suffering of the man was to provide Jesus with the opportunity of showing God’s glory in His healing of the man.

Does this mean that we should expect that every suffering should be healed and made right in order to show God’s glory?  I don’t believe so.  Just how God glorifies Himself in each situation is somewhat unique and up to God.  The main thing is to understand that Jesus’ answer to the disciples is that, in this world, suffering has a purpose and that there are opportunities to do the work of God presented by every suffering we come across as Christians.


The Atheist’s Weapon


So now I turn to the atheistic form of the argument.  This is where we will see the dilemma that any atheist who wants to use this problem against the Christian must face.  The atheist, in order to be consistent, must first decide if he believes that there really is evil.  This will affect everything down the line in the argument.  We’ll follow the two choices the atheist has and how each one turns out.

First, we’ll look at the atheist who believes in objective morality.  On this view, the existence of God is irreconcilable with the evil that the atheist sees in the world.  This argument could take the form of rejecting God because there’s just some evil at all, or because there’s just such a great deal of it.  This argument often takes the form of listing atrocities, natural disasters, and diseases to show just how bad things are.  

The basic problem with this view is that there is no consistent way, on an atheistic worldview, to account for objective morality itself.  Many have attempted to do so, such as appealing to maintaining physical well-being or happiness, but no non-theistic view can go any further than to say what sorts of actions typically result in physical well-being or happiness.  No reason is given for the “oughtness” of moral activity.  Why ought one, morally, to maintain physical well-being or happiness, for oneself or others?  It’s been said by Hume and many philosophers since that you can’t derive an “ought” from an “is”.  That is to say, you can’t create an argument whose premises contain no moral imperatives that concludes that one ought to behave any certain way.  You simply have to start with some premise that contains an imperative, a command statement.  

Do any of the classic ethical systems succeed for the atheist?  The easiest answer is to ask the question, “Why ought I...?”  For Plato and perhaps Aristotle, the beginning of ethics was found in objective moral truths that were not derived from the material world around them, but stood on their own.  Plato still believed that he had to appeal to something higher than his four virtues, Justice, Temperance, Wisdom, and Courage.  He appealed to the “Good”, something higher than virtue itself, about which he could say little.  It is generally accepted that Plato rejected the Greek gods of his day, and many believe that he held to some form of monotheism, couching his “God” with the term, “Good”.  Whether this is true or not, we can at least see that he did not believe that the virtues themselves stood simply on their own nature.

Kant gives us his “categorical imperative”, which states that the only things that can count as morally good actions are those that one can will to be a universal law.  This would put things like theft, murder, and suicide outside of the morally good.  For Kant, there are three categories: good, amoral, and evil.  If one can will that everyone should do a thing, then it is good.  If one can will that everyone should refrain from a thing, then it is evil.  If a particular action cannot be willed to be universally done or refrained from, then it is amoral.  As you can imagine, there are a lot of things that Kant classifies as amoral.  Because the categorical imperative leads to classifications that go against the conscience of man so often, most people do not hold to it.  Now the question arises, “If it’s a true moral code, isn’t it immoral to reject it?”  The answer, of course, is yes.  Unfortunately, Kant gives no reason to accept his moral code as opposed to others.  His ethic is grounded in nothing, and so is easily rejected.

The two most common ethics I’ve encountered from atheists, at least those who claim there really are objective moral standards, are hedonism, in some form, or utilitarianism.  Hedonism is the belief that purpose of man is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.  While this meant for some that we should chase momentary pleasures and try to ignore the consequences, Epicurus, hedonism’s most prominent supporter, believed that overall pleasure enhancement meant avoiding many momentary pleasures that may lead to greater pain in the long-term.  Utilitarianism is basically the extension of this principle to others in addition to oneself.  One’s actions should lead to the greatest happiness and well-being of the greatest number of people.  Conversely, they should also minimize the pain and injury of the greatest number of people.

There are two problems with this pair of views as it relates to a truly objective morality.  The first is that on this view, no action is ever good or evil in itself, but only with respect to its consequences.  An action’s rightness or wrongness cannot be found, therefore, in the action or even in the person doing it, since motives are not taken into account.  I would only say at this point that this is where the consciences of most people would not line up with this view.  Personal motivating factors like selfishness, greed, envy, laziness, or love, honor, wisdom, or charity are all irrelevant and play no part in the moral character of the action.  Indeed, these traits are not seen as good or evil  themselves, but as only insofar as they tend to lead to the consequences that utilitarianism/epicureanism says are good.  When love hurts, therefore, it is evil, and when selfishness leads to benefit, it is a virtue.  These traits can never be judged in themselves.  

The second problem, and I believe the more serious one, is that these views give no real support for why one ought to behave a certain way.  Why should we limit moral evaluations to a calculation of what’s going to make more people happy?  To separate the views in question for a moment to make this point clear, why should I be a utilitarian as opposed to an epicurean?  Why should I not make myself happiest first?  Why should I hold to this view as opposed to Plato’s, or Kant’s, or the Bible’s?  Epicureanism and utilitarianism cannot answer these questions.  They do not contain the answers within their systems, and are therefore inadequate systems of ethics.  While on some levels they speak things that almost anyone would accept is true, especially Christians, they cannot do the whole job that an ethical system should do.  They cannot give us the “ought” if they don’t contain it to start out.

Christianity holds to the belief that God is perfectly good, that He has made everything else that exists, including man, a moral creature, and has given commands to man that reflect His perfect moral nature.  This is how Christianity accounts for objective morality.  It is grounded in God’s moral nature, which even God cannot change.  He is who He is necessarily, so He cannot do evil.  He cannot make a mistake.  He cannot fail.  This is why the frequent charge that Christians who ground morality in a personal being do not have an objective morality is spurious.  Morality is ultimately based, not on the commands of God, but the nature of God.  Its details are made known through commands, but those commands are not the source.  Any time an atheist makes the charge that Christians have a “subjectivist” worldview, or that we do not really believe in objective morality because our morality comes from a person, or repeat the common charge that “God could have commanded that child-murder is good” or some other silly statement, they aren’t taking the whole Christian belief into account.  At best, they haven’t done their homework.  At worst, they’re being dishonest about Christianity in order to support their argument.

To sum up, the atheist who believes in objective morality must account for that belief.  If the universe is naturalistic, and if we are simply products of random, impersonal events, then morality cannot be anything but a conventional construct of our minds, binding on no one.  The atheist, if he wants to bring any proposed moral evil, including the allowance of suffering by God, to bear on the Christian, must give an account for why that proposed evil is, in fact, evil.

It’s important to note that this cannot be a mere description of what most people do.  Morality, by nature, is prescriptive, not merely descriptive.  If the atheist thinks that morality is objective, he must give a reason why that morality governs man’s actions and judges them to be right or wrong.  If all it does is give an account of why most people do things, such as appealing to happiness or well-being, but does not say what people ought to do in order to be considered good, then it is not a moral system.  It is merely a system of behavior description, nothing more.

Now, suppose that our atheist rejects objective evil.  What this means is that, while he may believe in suffering (who doesn’t?), he attaches no moral evaluation to it, meaning that, for himself, whether someone suffers or not and whether that suffering is justified or not are inconsequential.  There is no such thing as objective morality.  From this it follows that there is no problem, on his worldview, with reconciling suffering with the existence of God.  Suffering has no moral value, so it cannot reflect whether or not there could be a God, at least of an amoral sort.  Most atheists, though, who do reject morality do so because they’re atheists first.  They see the world as nothing but naturalistic systems and processes, and nothing has moral value on this view.

How, then does this type of atheist bring the problem of evil to bear on the Christian?  The only answer open to him is one that is functionally equivalent to the logical problem of evil we examined in part 1.  The atheist who rejects morality must phrase the problem in such a way as to say that the Christian is committed to belief in good and evil, and that the existence of evil is inconsistent with belief in God.  

Of course, the Christian knows the biblical answer to this question.  We saw it in John 9:3.  The man was born blind so as to display the power of God at the time of his healing.  God had a purpose for the suffering that is sufficient, on the Christian worldview, to account for that suffering.  In addition, God has the right, as Creator, to do what He wishes with His creation.  When God uses evil for the ultimate benefit of His people (Rom. 8:28, 9:20-24), and for His own purpose and glory (John 9:1-7, Isaiah 10:5-19), He has the right to do so because He has created it all and is bringing about a greater good.  This then applies to all evil, even those particular instances (and there are many) when we don’t know what God’s purpose is.  It is sufficient to know He has one.

How is the atheist to respond to this?  Now we have come to the uncomfortable dilemma faced by the atheist who chooses to use the problem of evil as a weapon against Christians.  The atheist cannot affirm that his examples of evil are real without having to give an atheistic account of evil, which he cannot do.  And the atheist cannot reject the existence of evil without having to allow the Christian account of evil to stand.  No example or collection of examples, however large, of suffering or evil is sufficient in itself to show any inconsistency within Christianity.  In order to bring any example to bear on Christianity, that example cannot be considered only within the Christian worldview.  All examples thus considered are consistent with Christianity.  The only logical way an example of evil could succeed against the Christian position is for that example to be a real fact, describing a morally evil suffering in the world that the Christian worldview cannot account for.  If the atheist believes that his example is such a fact, then he must give an atheistic account of evil as outlined above, or his position will be defeated just as soundly by his example as he had hoped it would defeat the Christian.  If the atheist wants to escape this by saying that it’s a problem within the Christian worldview, then he must allow the Christian worldview to define itself, and as it does so, it accounts for all evil, nullifying the atheist

The atheist is in an inescapable dilemma when it comes to the problem of evil.  The dilemma itself is not one that destroys atheism.  It merely destroys atheism’s weapon against Christianity.  Or put more precisely, logically, the weapon could only hope to destroy Christianity by also actually destroying atheism.

13 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

Here is a partial response to what you said.

Drew Lewis said...

Thank you for the partial response, Mr. Loftus. As it doesn’t address the whole article, I won’t treat it as if it must. It may interest you to note that in preparation for my article, your articles on the problem of evil were among those that I sought to take into account. This particular article from the beginning of this year is one that I had read and I wanted to make sure that what I wrote dealt with its points.

Points, it has. I agree completely that if a theist’s only response to an atheist’s proposal of the problem of evil is to say, “You can’t even pose that question because you have no ground for believing in evil,” then he is being simplistic and is not dealing with the problem at all. Also, I agree completely that the problem is not, primarily, an atheist’s attack. It is a real problem that every Christian must face. Even if everyone was a Christian, suffering would still need to be addressed.

Now, since you said that your article was a “partial response”, I’d like to go through it to see where it responds to what I posted.

C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, argues from the start that there can be no evil without absolute goodness (God) to measure it against. "How do you know a line is crooked without having some knowledge of what a straight line is?” In other words, I need some sort of objective moral in order to say something is morally evil.

So here is the “asinine” argument. When C.S. Lewis, or any Christian, says that the atheist must have some objective morality in order to call something evil, he is making the “asinine” argument. Why is it asinine? You give us several reasons:

But the word “evil” here is used both as a term describing the fact that there is suffering, and at the same time it’s used as a moral term to describe whether or not such suffering makes the belief in a good God improbable, and that’s an equivocation in the word’s usage. The fact that there is suffering is undeniable. Whether it makes the belief in a good God improbable is the subject for debate.

Maybe someone is equivocating, and I should be clear. In my own philosophical training, when we discussed the problem of evil, we used a very broad definition of evil, so as to include all suffering, human and non-human, whether caused by “evil” human actions or not. I made this clear in my first post on this subject when I said in reference to the free will defense, “This means that one cannot point only to those actions that are the direct result of a purposefully evil action of man and say that evil human purpose accounts for all evil.  Remember, the problem is greater than that.  A solution must account for all suffering.  Even, arguably, non-human suffering.  Since there are many instances of suffering that is not a result of deliberate human action, the free will defense is inadequate to answer the logical problem of evil.”

The important issue regarding your statement about evil and suffering is that appealing to the near-universal belief in suffering doesn’t accomplish anything without also affirming a belief that suffering is a moral issue. As I pointed out, an account of evil is only asked of the atheist who, himself, believes in objective morality. This would include, of course, the atheist who believes that suffering is evil.

You affirm that your article is an expression of, if not the simple logical problem of evil, then at least one that only critiques the Christian position within its own system:

The dilemma for the theist is to reconcile senseless suffering in the world with his own beliefs (not mine) that all suffering is for a greater good. It’s an internal problem for the theist and the skeptic is merely using the logical tool for assessing arguments called the reductio ad absurdum, which attempts to reduce to absurdity the claims of a person.

Right away, though, you’ve committed either the minor fallacy of poisoning the well, or the major one of begging the question, when you use the term “senseless suffering”. If you are formulating a true reductio, you can’t start with a premise that the Christian needs to explain what is “senseless”. You must establish that it is senseless. On the Christian worldview, as I wrote before, nothing is actually senseless/purposeless/meaningless/gratuitous, etc. This is not to say that all events have a direct explanation available to the Christian. It is only to say that a sufficient moral explanation exists for every event, and that Scripture gives us many examples of what the purpose of God was for some events, in order to give us hope in our situation.

But for now, let’s just assume that “senseless” was a slip of the keyboard and evaluate your article on the best possible grounds. As you claim to be using a reductio, I would not put to you, as a response, that you must explain how you can believe in evil. I said this in parts 1 and 2. However, my point that if you challenge the Christian on grounds that he’s being inconsistent with himself, you must give an example of internal inconsistency.

If you’re confused at this point, let me put it this way. There are only two ways to show a worldview is false: (1) Show an internal inconsistency, that the worldview itself and all of its own explanations of things results in a contradiction (reductio ad absurdum). Or (2) bring external evidence to bear that is so obvious that it must be affirmed by both the challenger’s world view and the defender, showing that the defender’s worldview’s inability to explain it falsifies the worldview. While a worldview may be vulnerable to both kinds of attack, each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. Option (1) must limit itself to the worldview in question’s own definitions and explanations. No external evidence can be used for (1). If external, mutually agreed upon evidence is used, then option (2) is now being used, and it is no longer a reductio, but a challenge from external evidence. The weakness of (2) is that such evidence must also be explainable in the challenger’s worldview, or it cannot count as “external” evidence. Now, since your partial response doesn’t claim to be option (2), and the only possible sneaking in of external evidence is the term “senseless”, I’ll treat it simply as a reductio, since that’s what you call it.

You say that the Christian challenge to the atheist to give grounds for his belief in objective morality is “asinine” because it skirts the issue, an issue which, on your view, is an internal problem within Christianity. Since my articles did not skirt that issue, my challenge is not, according to your article, asinine. When I challenged the atheist to account for objective morality, I was only challenging the atheist who believes in objective morality. If the argument is of type (2) above, then both sides must account for the external evidence. The Christian position does account for it. The atheist position does not. I agreed that to make that challenge would be inappropriate as a response to the reductio type argument. I didn’t do so. For that reason, I’m puzzled as to why you think linking to this article is a response to mine, partial or otherwise. I didn’t commit the red herring fallacy that you accuse others of committing. Of course, since your article was written back in January and doesn’t directly respond to me, I’m only guessing that you were accusing me of the same fallacy.

I’d like to take this opportunity to point something else out, as a response to all I’ve read from you. You claim in this article that whenever the skeptic uses the problem of evil, that he is “merely using...reductio ad absurdum.” As I’ve pointed out in my articles, there really are two kinds of problems of evil: one a reductio, which only requires some evil to exist on the Christian worldview; and the other an inductive stacking up of atrocities and sufferings. I said that it is inconsistent to try to use both at the same time. As I’ve read your articles, most of them do not appear to be reductios. They all look like the second type of argument. You stack up example after example of pain and suffering in an attempt to challenge the Christian belief in God. As I said in this article, that can still be done within the context of a reductio, and if it is, then no explanation for evil is needed by the atheist to support the argument, but in order to make the judgment that all those sufferings are morally evil and “senseless/gratuitous”...etc., one must give an account for why that is the case or allow the Christian’s judgment as to why they are not senseless to stand, defeating the reductio. So you seem to be trying to use both arguments at once, showing just the inconsistency I alluded to in both articles. You stack up evidence of suffering to show how it couldn’t all possibly be explained, which is type (2), but when the appropriate challenge to type (2) is raised, namely an explanation of the evil accompanied by a reciprocal challenge for an explanation from the atheist, you call it asinine and retreat to type (1), which must limit itself to logical evaluation of Christian claims, but doesn’t carry the weakness of having to explain your own belief in objective morality. You can’t have it both ways, Mr. Loftus.

My challenge to you, then, is to answer just a few simple questions.

1) Do you, yourself, believe in objective morality?

2) If you do, how do you account for it on a naturalistic worldview? You must be able to answer this in order to use external evidence.

3) If you don’t, then where is the internal inconsistency in the Christian account of evil, as I've outlined it above? You must be able to answer this question without appealing to external evidence in order to use reductio ad absurdum.

I ask these questions on the invitation you gave in your partial response to me:

Christians must deal with their internal problem. Atheists must do likewise. I will not skirt my specific problem by claiming Christians have one. I adjure them to do the same.

I’ve done the same already, Mr. Loftus. Now what will you do? I look forward to a full response.

John W. Loftus said...

When it comes to evaluating worldviews in my book I wrote:

I consider this book to be one single argument against Christianity, with each chapter as a subset of that one argument, and as such it should be evaluated as a whole. Each chapter of this argument depends upon the others for its force since no single one of them alone can bear the whole weight of showing that the Christian worldview is false. In evaluating this one argument of mine, it’s proper and fitting to do so as a whole, especially since this is the only way to properly evaluate worldviews.

Other than that, I can't always take the time to respond in detail, but see this.

Cheers

Drew Lewis said...

Thank you for your responses.

I appreciate the invitation to evaluate your "Atheistic Ethic. Look for a post on that in the future.

I did want to make a few observations about the quote from your book. In your partial response, you said that the problem of evil was "an internal problem for the theist and the skeptic is merely using the logical tool for assessing arguments called the reductio ad absurdum..." So, your assertion is that the problem of evil is a Christian problem, not necessarily a part of the atheist worldview.

But this quote from your book says that "each chapter of this argument depends upon the others." and that one reason it's "proper and fitting" to evaluate the whole book as a whole is that this is the only way to evaluate worldviews.

Since I haven't yet read the book, I'm going to have to guess that the problem of evil is in there, or this quote wouldn't be very relevant to this discussion.

The problem is that your "asinine argument" article and your book seem to be at odds with one another. Is the problem of evil a part of your worldview or not? You seem to be saying both. And in each case, you have an excuse for not answering the questions you've been asked. On the one hand, if someone asks you to give an account for evil, you retreat to "I don't have to, I'm just using a reductio, and by the way, you're just skirting the issue." But on the other hand, when someone does not skirt the issue, and then puts the question simply, as I did in the three numbered questions at the end of my last comment, you say, "well, you can't just evaluate the problem of evil as if it's not part of my whole worldview/argument. You have to address everything or I don't have to respond."

From what little you're giving me to work with, you're being inconsistent. If the problem of evil is part of your worldview, then you're not "merely using...a reductio." If it isn't, then this quote from your book isn't relevant to this discussion. It seems to me that you're just looking for ways not to answer simple questions. Show me I'm wrong on this, Mr. Loftus.

John W. Loftus said...

I answered the questions directed to me in "an Athiestic Ethic." I did not answer those questions by merely saying, as you do with the questions directed to you, that "you have a problem with evil too." That, my friend, is skirting the issue.

I answered my questions.

Now you answer yours.

What's problematic about this?

Nothing at all that I can see.

If I asked you whether you know the child you claim is yours is truly your child, then it is no answer to that question to respond, "yeah, well how do you know the child you claim is yours is truly yours.

Drew Lewis said...

I answered the questions directed to me in "an Athiestic Ethic."

Because you've now made this claim, one of my chief purposes in evaluating your ethic will be to openly seek the places in those articles that answer my three questions. I note that you haven't made my task any easier by giving a citation or even reiterating a single part of that collection of articles, but I'll do my best to find your answers.

I did not answer those questions by merely saying, as you do with the questions directed to you, that "you have a problem with evil too." That, my friend, is skirting the issue.

I know you're busy, but did you even read the article? I did not "merely" say that you have a problem, too. I dealt carefully with the issue and how to handle it from a Christian perspective, showing from Scripture that God has a purpose for the evil in this world, and that purpose is morally justified.

When you make an accusation like this, when people can read its refutation in the article you're responding to, it hurts your credibility. When I made the charge of inconsistency in my last comment (which has gone unchallenged), it was based on how it "seemed" to me. I don't know your entire thinking process, Mr. Loftus, so I'm not going to say something I know is false. Your credibility is on the line, and you're making such factually false accusations as this?

As I've said before, I completely agree with you that to "merely" challenge the atheist to account for evil is simplistic and evasive. I didn't do that. I dealt with the problem, and then issued the challenge, which I said was only to those particular atheists who really do believe in an objective standard of right and wrong. I'm still reading your ethic and haven't found a clear, unambiguous answer to that question, so I don't know if the challenge applies to you. That's the purpose of question 1.

I answered my questions.

Now you answer yours.

What's problematic about this?

Nothing at all that I can see.


I'll be reading your ethic to find those answers. Now, I'd like to answer your questions, but the only one I see is confusing. What is the "this" that I'm supposed to find the problematic aspects of? Is it your ethic? I'll be doing that in another post in the near future. Or is it the problems I brought up in my last comment? If so, you haven't actually addressed it, so I'm a bit at a loss as to what you mean. If you just meant the "Atheistic Ethic", then look for an upcoming post.

mikey said...

Yay for dissenting posts! okay, I have some reading to do, now. Thank you Mr. Loftus.

John W. Loftus said...

Drew, from the beginning I said my response here was a partial one. I don't think you should've included a discussion of the atheist problem at all. It is simply not addressing or answering the problem you have with evil. I've addressed the problem I have with evil. If you ever get my book you can see the full extent of your problem.

John W. Loftus said...

Take a good look at this. Don't think for a second that because David Wood uses your same argument that it puts you on solid ground. It doesn't. You're both misguided.

Drew Lewis said...

I don't think you should've included a discussion of the atheist problem at all. It is simply not addressing or answering the problem you have with evil.

As I've said before, I agree with your second statement. Bringing up your problem doesn't solve mine. I never claimed it did. The article I wrote was about "The Problem of Evil" not "The Christian Problem of Evil". I'm sorry if you don't think I should've brought up your problem, but the only reason you've given me so far is one that does not apply to my article.

Let me see if I can make this clearer.

The Incorrect Way: What Mr. Loftus appears to be accusing Drew of.

John: You believe in the Whatnot? But look at all the badicles! Surely you don't discount them. The Whatnot wouldn't allow all these badicles to run around!

Drew: Yeah?, well if you don't believe in a Whatnot, how do you even know they're badicles?

John: You didn't answer my question. Don't run away from the problem.

The Correct Way: The way Drew actually wrote his article and comments.

Drew: Badicles are definitely a problem for those who believe in the Whatnot, but the badicles make betterbutter, and so that explains why the Whatnot allows them to live. Sometimes they hide the betterbutter, but since we see it from time to time and the Whatnot told us that this is why he brought the badicles here, we still have confidence in the Whatnot.

Morover (in addition/also/on top of that point/here's something else entirely that's related to the subject at hand), the Whatnot provides the only satisfactory way of explaining what's so bad about the badicles. So, if someone says the Whatnot doesn't exist, they remove their own way of explaining the badicles.

John: You didn't answer my question. Don't run away from the problem.

Drew: ???

John: You shouldn't bring up my problem at all! You can't challenge me without dealing with the problem of the Whatnot and the badicles.

Drew: Um, were your ears turned off before I said, "moreover"? Why not bring up everyone's problem?

As for your debate with David Wood, I'm studying it right now, too.

You're both misguided.

Ok, bald assertion with no argument.

Do you have anything else you'd like me to read that you haven't mentioned so that my upcoming response is more full? I welcome anything to help me understand the atheist position better. I'd hate to write a full article just to have you say, "But you didn't deal with this...(insert text or mp3 that I don't know about yet here)."

John W. Loftus said...

I'll tell you the truth. Someone came over to my blog and asked (almost begged) someone from DC to respond to your essay. I merely glanced at what you read and saw the same old tired argument against an atheist having an objective morality. So without really reading all of what you said I linked to something in my first comment.

Sometimes I feel like a chess player who is playing 20 people at the same time and sometimes I don't give each person the needed time and respect he or she deserves, and I slip up. I hope you understand. My time is limited. Most authors won't even respond, you know.

If my links have been off topic surely you can learn a few things by reading them.

But if you want to read more of my thoughts try this, which was my opening statement against Wood, and then try this.

A much fuller discussion of the problem of evil can be found in my book. I doubt very much you can answer it.

Cheers.

Drew Lewis said...

Mr. Loftus, thank you for your time. I am aware that you definitely see more argument come your way than I do. It's easy to make mistakes, and when that's all they are, I don't fault you for it. I make plenty myself. If you find time, I would appreciate a fuller response to what I actually wrote at some point.

Thank you for the additional reading. Also, I have your book now. I hope it has something in it to flesh out the "Atheistic Ethic" a bit more. We'll see.

Cheers

david said...

What I wrote at DC:

Drew has recently posted an article related to this topic and the problem of evil in general. He would love for some of the philosophers over here to interact, but so far he has been largely ignored when commenting at DC.