Friday, March 3, 2017

Theodicy Introduction

As I explained in my last post, part of my writing is to help myself to learn how to write.  This whole post though is very similar to a video posted in Crash Course Philosophy (the video can be found at the bottom of the post).  If you would prefer to watch the video (or read and watch!), feel free to do so.

As a scientist who also loves studying ancient scripture through the lens of scholarly work I often come in contact with those who adamantly disagree with God's existence.  There are countless arguments for and against God, but one that has rung throughout time is the problem of evil.  To sum it up essentially it asks if God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent (all knowing, powerful, and good/loving) than why does God allow evil in any form from the big things like Hitler down to small things like a bad hair day.  Opponents of God essentially say that if God has all these characteristics then He would know when evil would happen, have the power to stop it, and do so because of His goodness and love.  Since He does not, either this view of God is wrong or God does not exist.

A theodicy is an attempt to explain the existence of the omni-God (what I will call the view of God all the omni-attributes), especially despite the problem of evil.  A common one used in Mormon circles and among others is the Free-Will Defense.  That God allows and wants each of us to be free moral agents, and so He allows us to make choices that may cause harm due to His love.  He may have the power and knowledge to stop someone from doing something, but loves us enough to allow this to happen.

This brings up another key definition, the difference between moral evil and natural evil.  Moral evil is the evil caused by humans and their choices.  Natural evil though is the evil we have no control over like natural disasters or illness.  The Free-Will Defense only addresses moral evil, but does not answer why God allows natural evil in our lives.  Mormons again offer a common defense to this saying that natural evil is key to our growth and learning.  The point of life is to one day become like God, and we could not do that without facing natural evil leading to scriptures like, "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." (Hebrews 12:6)  This is not alone to Mormons, as it is expressed quite well by John Hick as the Soul-Making Theory.

Most find this answer sufficient as to answer the problem of evil, but those who are not satisfied take the problem of evil a step deeper.  They will admit that things like the Free-Will Defense and the Soul-Making Theory explain the logical problem of evil, or why logically there is evil in the world.  They will argue however that it does not explain the evidential problem of evil, or the fact that there is SO much evil that often seems pointless, that does not actually prepare us to become as God is.  This evidential problem of evil is an epidemic in Israel.  Many many believe there that if there truly was a God then He would have stepped in before the Holocaust, and it is unconscionable that something as evil as the Holocaust was needed to bring about God's greater purpose.  They take it even a step further that if God can justify the Holocaust for some greater good, than they do not want to worship such a God even if He is real.

Having seen and secondarily felt the pain and anger these Jews feel, I simply cannot dismiss what they say.  There is an evidential problem of evil that makes it hard to answer how an omni-God could exist.  My hope however is my next few posts to address this very problem, step by step, and build my own theodicy.

Further, it is my hope in doing so that I can share some of the simple truths (dew of Heaven) I have been given in the process of understanding this myself.


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