Picking and Choosing
If you were to ask most apologists, Christian philosophers or theologians what the most difficult objection was to Christianity, they would mostly give you the same answer. The Problem of Evil. Some might refer to this as the “Problem of Evil and Suffering” or some such thing, but it usually involves the same idea.
Briefly, the Problem of Evil is the argument that says that if God is all loving and all good and all powerful, why is there so much pain and suffering and evil in the world? That is a very over-simplified explanation, but it should be enough to at least get us on the same page for now.
I’d like to point out, if I may, a problem I see with this type of objection that I have not seen covered yet by anyone else. Someone probably already has, but since I had not come across it, I thought I would offer my own thoughts. There are a number of reasons that this argument falls flat, but I would like to focus on one specific one.
The way this argument works is that the person employing it is essentially saying something like this; “Let’s just say that this ‘god’ of your exists. If he is the way you say he is (omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, etc.) then how could he allow all this pain and suffering that we see in the world.” So, what is happening is, they are granting the premise that the Christian God exists for the sake of making this argument.
The problem with it, however, is that if you are going to grant that God exists for the sake of your argument, you cannot then argue against His existence on the basis of only part of the definition. So, you cannot grant God’s existence and then not allow for everything that goes along with it.
Before I go further, let us take a look at how most people would view certain adversities, trials, pains, etc.
Many people in the world today have children. Even those who do not will probably understand this illustration. When raising our children, there are times when we must allow them to experience pain in order to help them grow in character and/or experience. In those situations, we recognize that there is a morally sufficient reason to allow pain and suffering.
We also can see that there are other situations in which there is a morally sufficient reason to allow pain and suffering. When resetting a broken bone, doctors know that it will be painful, but as the saying goes…”the ends justify the means.”
Now, I do not want to go too far down that road as analogies are very limited things and cannot be pressed too far. My point here is, how does anyone know that God does not have a morally sufficient reason for allowing the pain and suffering that we see. If God truly exists as the Bible describes, the eternal glory of heaven far surpasses any temporal suffering that we may experience in this world.
We know from Romans 8:28 that God will bring about good things for those who love Him and put their trust in Him. You cannot grant the existence of God for the sake of argument unless you take the entire contents and teaching of scripture into account and scripture tells us over and over again that God has a plan and that there is a reason for suffering and pain and evil. Scripture continually tells us that all things will work out, in the end, exactly as God planned and it will be glorious.
If you are going to grant a proposition such as “the Christian God exists,” if you are going to remain intellectually honest, you have to account for all of the heavily loaded meaning that comes with the concept of the “Christian God.” That means, you have to grant the Word of God, the Son of God, the creation of God, the will of God, the power of God, the knowledge of God, the plans of God, the promises of God and all that comes with those things. You simply cannot just pick out a couple attributes and then argue against them as if those attributes represented God in His entirety.
With all that, what have I missed? Where might I have gone astray in my reasoning, here? Is it intellectually fair and honest to take God’s attributes separately and out of context to argue against them?
Grace, love and peace.