Tom Gilson

On Christian Evidences (A Side Note)

Almost two weeks ago I posted an introductory blog entry on a series I was beginning, “What Is Evidence to Christians?” The discussion on that has now run to 269 comments, which is great, I love discussion like that. But in the meantime I also posted an entire series on the genocide in Rwanda and the remarkable reconciliation that some of the killers and survivors have found with each other through Jesus Christ. It’s a stunningly strong contemporary demonstration of the reality of the Gospel, related to one of the most significant world events in our generation.

Someone in the long discussion recently complained that Christians there weren’t presenting much evidence in support of their claims, a complaint that I think was answered within the context of that discussion. At the same time I would point out that they took no note whatever of the long defense I was posting at the same time of one of Christianity’s evidential claims: that Jesus Christ changes lives. They took no note of the discussion we posted with the author of the book on that subject, or of the research she did herself on the topic in Rwanda. She presented lots of evidence. I covered it pretty thoroughly. No response.

I just find all that very interesting.

So to the atheists and skeptics reading here, I ask, what do you make of the reconciliation in Rwanda?

There was also very little response from Christian readers, I might add. To Christians reading here, I have the same question for you that I asked the others, but for entirely different reasons: what does this mean for each of us in our quest to live reconciled lives?

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33 thoughts on “On Christian Evidences (A Side Note)

  1. Do we want to say that “Jesus Christ changes lives” or rather that “belief in Jesus Christ changes lives”? I suppose that an atheist might accept the latter. Does the evidence point to anything incompatible with atheism?

  2. Personally, I’m not particularly sure I find the idea of forgiveness toward a person who murdered your family a very worthwhile idea.

    While I certainly wouldn’t endorse a cycle of murder, revenge and counter-revenge, I’d be happy to see the murderers of a family member(s) put in prison.

    I haven’t read the entire series of posts but I’ll try to get to it.


    At the same time I would point out that they took no note whatever of the long defense I was posting at the same time of one of Christianity’s evidential claims: that Jesus Christ changes lives.

    I’m not sure why you would consider the fact that a religion can change lives evidence that this religion is true.

    And do you consider it evidence that other religions are true when they change lives?

    Or do you deny that changed lives occur in other faiths?

  3. I’m not sure why you would consider the fact that a religion can change lives evidence that this religion is true.

    Because it is predicted by the beliefs of the religion. Hypothesis testing in real life: hypothesis, prediction, testing.

    And do you consider it evidence that other religions are true when they change lives?

    See my original post on evidences. Yes, of course it’s evidence. It must be weighed among other facts.

    Or do you deny that changed lives occur in other faiths?

    What would be the point of that? There are changed lives in other faiths, yes. Do you have examples that point to the kind of changes that take place in other faiths?

  4. Did you read the Rosaria story, by the way? You said you didn’t see the value of forgiving a murderer. I lifted out one story of many in that book. In general, as you read all of them, what you find with forgiveness is a renewal of love, freedom of anger, communities working as communities should work. Literal nightmares literally come to an end.

    Psychologists are pretty well agreed that forgiveness is a health-giving move to make. Your personal opinion on this runs counter to knowledgeable opinion.

    And with respect to other religions, I don’t think you find forgiveness being central to any other major world religion besides Christianity. The closest you might come is some kind of resignation or acceptance in some forms of Buddhism, perhaps; a denial that the hurt is real or that it matters. That’s a pale imitation of reality, and a pale imitation of real forgiveness.


  5. And with respect to other religions, I don’t think you find forgiveness being central to any other major world religion besides Christianity. The closest you might come is some kind of resignation or acceptance in some forms of Buddhism, perhaps; a denial that the hurt is real or that it matters. That’s a pale imitation of reality, and a pale imitation of real forgiveness.

    I don’t know. Let’s see what google has to say about that:

    “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”—The Buddha

    “To be angry is to let others’ mistakes punish yourself.
    To forgive others is to be good to yourself.—Master ChengYen

    -Visualise all Buddhas and enlightened beings above and around you
    – They shine their compassionate, blessing upon you
    – Imagine in front the person you want to forgive
    – In the presence of the enlightened beings, say what you have to say
    – Tell them what you really feel and why you want to forgive him/her
    – Imagine this person looking at you with compassion and understanding
    – While telling him/her about your anger and regret, radiate out all your love and compassion to this person
    —-comments on forgiveness from Sogyal Rinpoche

    The book “Chop Wood, Carry Water” relates the well-known poignant Tibetan Buddhist story about two Tibetan monks who encounter each other some years after being released from prison where they had been tortured by their captors. “Have you forgiven them?” asks the first. “I will never forgive them! Never!” replies the second. “Well, I guess they still have you in prison, don’t they?”

    Just about one year ago the world renowned Tibetan monk, Palden Gyatso visited the Rime Center,. He spent 33 years in a Chinese prison. When he spoke here he told about the unimaginable conditions in prison. He explained how 70% of the inmates died of starvation and those that did survive were subjected to nearly daily torture. After being released, His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked him what was the one thing he feared most during those 33 years in captivity. Palden Gyatso replied, “What I feared most was losing my compassion,” So, His Holiness asked him to write a book detailing his experiences in prison which is entitled, “Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk.” It is an incredible book and difficult to read but it is ultimately about forgiveness.

    In the Buddhist sutras the Buddha spoke of forgiveness many times, but none so dramatic as in this verse: “Monks, even if bandits were to carve you up savagely, limb by limb, with a two-handled saw, he among you who let his heart get angered even at that would not be doing my bidding. Even then you should train yourselves; ‘Our minds will be unaffected and we will say no evil words. We will remain sympathetic, with a mind of goodwill, and with no inner hate. We will keep pervading these people with an awareness imbued with goodwill and, beginning with them, we will keep pervading the all-encompassing world with an awareness imbued with goodwill – abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill-will.’ That’s how you should train yourselves.”

    And now to Hinduism:

    O beautiful one, one should forgive under every injury. It has been said that the continuation of species is due to man being forgiving. He, indeed, is a wise and excellent person who has conquered his wrath and shows forgiveness even when insulted, oppressed, and angered by a strong person.—From the Mahabharata, Vana Parva, Section XXVIII

    a wise man, whether strong or weak, should ever forgive his persecutor even when the latter is in the straits. It is for this that the virtuous applaud them that have conquered their wrath. Indeed, it is the opinion of the virtuous that the honest and forgiving man is ever victorious. —From the Mahabharata, Vana Parva, Section XXVIII

    And now Islam:

    “Those who spend (freely) whether in prosperity or in adversity, who restrain anger, and who forgive (all) people, for God loves those. who do good.” (the Quran describing the righteous man)

    “Your Lord commands you to forgive those who harm you, pardon those who deny you and visit those who sever their relations with you.”

    “I can swear on three matters: no wealth is undermined by giving for charity. The more a person is forgiving the more dignity he (or, she) attains and the more a person is humble the higher his rank is raised.”


  6. Psychologists are pretty well agreed that forgiveness is a health-giving move to make.

    This is probably true. But my health is low on the list of factors that I consider relevent to the issue of whether I should forgive someone who murdered, or raped, or tortured those I love.

  7. RE: Comment 6: Research by Google (TM). Context by … ???

    It’s so incredibly easy, isn’t it, to do a web search and find a point that seems to disprove something someone says. What’s lacking is overall understanding of what those religions teach. It’s data, not information.

    It’s also incredibly easy to take one or two points from a four-part series, pick the one that seems easiest to respond to, and ignore the rest.

    In other words, so far, David, I consider your response here to be trivial. A handful of context-free quotations, found by googling (as if that were learning) says nothing.

    You didn’t answer my question: did you read the Rosaria story? Do you have any response to the response I gave you about the value of forgiveness? Or when someone answers a point you raise, do you just move on to the next easiest one you think you see? Even a simple acknowledgment would be better than what you’ve done so far here.

  8. Okay, now I see you’ve responded on the forgiveness question. Thanks.

    Now, has your family experienced murder or rape? Just curious.

    And did you notice that of several things I wrote on the value of forgiveness, you only responded to one, as if answering that one small aspect, if successful, could invalidate everything that was written? I’m seeing a pattern here.


  9. And did you notice that of several things I wrote on the value of forgiveness, you only responded to one, as if answering that one small aspect, if successful, could invalidate everything that was written? I’m seeing a pattern here.

    I haven’t responded to “everything you’ve written” on the subject so far.

    For one thing, I’m of two minds on the subject of forgiveness. While, in general, I see value in forgiveness, I also see certain particularly heinous acts as little warranting it.

    Sometimes, it seems to me, anger is quite the appropriate response.

    As to the Rosaria story, again, I’m of two minds on the issue. I’ve never been in such a situation as that so I can only speak from my comfortable position in a rather safe environment as a complete outsider to such suffering—and therefore must be rather tentative in my opinions—I simply don’t have the personal experience to speak with any authority on the subject.

    That said, there are some crimes I’m not particularly inclined to consider forgiveness the best response to. The murder of children seems to me a deed for which a harsh justice, rather than forgiveness, is the most appropriate response.

    But again, I have not been in these peoples shoes so I’m in little position to judge the matter.

    Which may be, come to think of it, why this series of posts have so far received so little response—-it deals with a subject so far from the experience of most of us that it’s difficult to know what to make of it.

  10. What are the conditions under which forgiveness is warranted? David Ellis has very helpfully drawn our attention to this question. The sorts of considerations Tom Gilson raises (e.g., that forgiveness is health-giving, beneficial for communities, reduces anger, etc.) may not be the rights sorts of considerations, given that we’re looking for things that warrant forgiveness. Just as blame is not warranted simply by the benefits gained from blaming, forgiveness isn’t obviously warranted by the considerations that Tom Gilson offers.

  11. Tom,

    what does this mean for each of us in our quest to live reconciled lives?

    We were made for a particular kind of relationship with each other and with God. Forgiveness is one side of the equation that helps us get back into alignment with those relationships.

    Our quest is to extend the branch of forgiveness to those who have hurt us because we are obligated to seek out that proper, loving relationship we were created for. Choosing not to forgive is essentially saying you don’t want to have a proper, loving relationship with the other person. This turns creation on it’s head and is not something we should seek after.

    The other side of the equation is recognizing that our acts of transgression require a response of a different kind – a sense of humility and the desire to be forgiven so that the relationship can be restored. Choosing to remain prideful in our transgressions has the same effect as choosing not to forgive – a broken relationship.

  12. Good. Public school classrooms are not an appropriate place for evangelizing for or against religion.


  13. Choosing not to forgive is essentially saying you don’t want to have a proper, loving relationship with the other person.

    Why should one think one ought to have a “loving relationship” with someone who, for example, hacked their child to death with a machete?

    We aren’t talking about the sorts of offenses that play a role in the everyday lives of middle class Americans. We’re talking about some of the most heinous acts imaginable.

    And I just don’t buy that forgiveness is the most appropriate response to such acts.


    The other side of the equation is recognizing that our acts of transgression require a response of a different kind – a sense of humility and the desire to be forgiven so that the relationship can be restored.

    As to the other side of the equation, I don’t think someone who murders a child even has the right to ask forgiveness of the child’s parents.

  14. David,

    Why should one think one ought to have a “loving relationship” with someone who, for example, hacked their child to death with a machete?

    Under Christianity, you ought to seek that out as your ultimate goal because we were made for an ultimate purpose. Under naturalism, you ought not do anything.

    I don’t think someone who murders a child even has the right to ask forgiveness of the child’s parents.

    Opinion noted. I’m taking about Christianity so your comment doesn’t really apply.

  15. David,

    And I just don’t buy that forgiveness is the most appropriate response to such acts.

    Forgiveness is but one piece of the puzzle. It’s a necessary part of the restoration process though.

    Would you say that God’s forgiveness was the appropriate response to sin if in fact he created us to eternally commune with him?


  16. Would you say that God’s forgiveness was the appropriate response to sin if in fact he created us to eternally commune with him?

    Actually, I’d say you have it a bit backward. God, if he exists, is responsible for vastly more suffering than any human who ever lived. I see little reason why we should ask his forgiveness. Quite the contrary—he should ask ours.

    Of course, since I don’t think he exists its rather a moot issue.

  17. Besides which, I’m far more interested in the practical and obviously real issue of how to respond to the sorts of extreme suffering people in Rwanda have suffered and what role forgiveness ought (or ought not) to be expected to play in their healing process— not in the theoretical question of human relations with a being I have little reason to think even exists.

  18. David:

    It’s amazing that someone like you, who demands empirical evidence for the existence of God and then interprets anything proposed as not sufficient, relevant, or efficacious, doesn’t demand the same of himself:

    God, if he exists, is responsible for vastly more suffering than any human who ever lived.

    Since you prefer and demand empirical evidence, please provide referenced and confirmable numbers/data to support your claim. Since you believe the Bible is myths, you will not be permitted to use it to support your position. (I can point to lots of data for the suffering Stalin and Lenin–atheists, by the way–inflicted on others.)

    “… not in the theoretical question of human relations with a being I have little reason to think even exists.”

    Again, please provide empirical evidence that supports your position that God does not exist. Please make sure you justify your personal criteria of what does and does not count as evidence… and why.

    Apart from these, your latest comments (generally speaking) focus upon methodologies or their components (data, hypotheses, confirmation/testing). This means you’re focused NOT on the things themselves (the ontological question) but on certain methodologies for knowing the things (the epistemological question). Failure to distinguish this is why (among other things) you make so many errors.

    … Or, you can ignore these problems like most atheists do…


  19. Since you prefer and demand empirical evidence, please provide referenced and confirmable numbers/data to support your claim.

    Its a simple logical consequence of the properties the being is claimed to have: that he is omnipotent, that he has complete power over the universe; that he is creator of the universe and that it has, and can only have, such properties as he chooses for it to have.

    That being the case how would he not be responsible for the suffering directly caused by hurricanes, tsunamis, disease and other examples of what are referred to as “natural evils”?

    What would you or I, morally imperfect as we are, do if we had the powers of a God?

    I know what I would do: feed the hungry, heal the sick, reorder nature so that natural disasters no longer occur.

    Any person with a modicum of compassion would do the same.

    Tell me this, how would you judge the values of a human being who had been granted God’s power and who did none of those things?

    Can you honestly say you would think him a decent person?

    And why should we give a pass to supernatural beings for a lack of compassionate action which we wouldn’t to supposedly less moral human beings?


    Again, please provide empirical evidence that supports your position that God does not exist.

    You just quoted my position and then manage to misrepresent it in the very first sentence of your response.

    My position was (as you should know since you just quoted it) that God is:

    “a being I have little reason to think even exists.”

    One is not obligated to provide empirical evidence for thinking there’s no good reason for thinking a particular being exists (or do you demand empirical evidence of the nonexistence of vampires and werewolves). One simply has to point out the lack of decent arguments or evidence to the contrary.

    If you disagree with my assessment that there is a lack of credible evidence for God you are welcome to show me mistaken by presenting such evidence.

  20. David:

    Wrong answer: YOU are the one who is judging to a very significant extent God based on suffering in the world. YOU see suffering, and the STRONG implication you make(which IS an admitted formal reason for MANY atheists not to believe in God) is that God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying it’s the ONLY basis you have, but it’s clearly a large part of your reasoning.

    I’m calling you on at least this point: provide the empirical evidence which YOU yourself demand of others. Provide us with empirical evidence (that is referenced and can be confirmed) upon which you assert, “is responsible for vastly more suffering than any human who ever lived.” Logically speaking, qualifier “if he exists” does not release you from the onus for justifying the assertion. Also, the “properties” (as you incorrectly term them) of God are secondary to the main point: YOU must FIRST provide the empirical evidence (again: referenced and comfirmable numbers), then correctly distinguish between “attributes” vs. “properties” (there IS a difference) for not just a being but the Being (Beingness itself), then apply correct contextual hermeneutic to Scriptures as well as taking into account theological reflections upon Scriptures, and then finally put all that in a sound argument to justify your claim.

    Your quick-and-easy–yet quite flawed–personal interpretation of what YOU believe God must be like in order to satisfy YOUR a priori judgment of God and hence His existence, while interesting, is nothing more than presuppositional mental masturbation. (Sorry, Tom.)

    And, this is all aside from the 800-lb. gorilla that gets in the way of another one of your presuppositions: in the interests of intellectual integrity, you’re going to have to provide an objective basis for the moral judgments you impose upon God. If it’s personal preference or Darwinian froth or subjective opinion, then (in the context of obtaining truth) none of these matter a bit.

    I’ll be charitable, David: you’re out of your league–the errors bear this out. I have no problem with that, and in fact invite it as an opportunity for you to leave your arrogance (“belief in God is irrational”), your ignorance (of the philosophical and theological arguments), and your errors (noted above, including the fallacies) behind. We’re not asking you to agree, but to admit there’s probably a lot you don’t know. Making a decision based on a privation of knowledge is not a sign of intellectual rigor.

    Finally, I note you have NOT addressed any of my previous points–including the distinction between arguing over methods vs. arguing over ontological considerations.

    Perhaps you should challenge your beliefs?

  21. David

    An assertion for your consideration: Rightly understood, the incredible thing about God is not that he permits so much pain in the world, but that he permits so little.

    Justification: Mankind as a whole, having rejected God, also necessarily rejected Truth, Righteousness, Freedom, Joy–you name it. Take those away and you are left with error, evil, slavery, and pain. Sounds a lot like our backward little world.

    Anyway, you and God are agreed on at least one point: great evil demands great justice. Someone who tortures and kills your dear ones is asking for retribution. Now we have here a world of people who are in active rebellion against the King. They hate his character, and express it in practical, life-altering hatred of his truths, his morals, his creations, his Son, and even one another. Why expect forgiveness from God and not from yourself, when he has been wronged and offended more than you ever could be?

    🙂

  22. David,

    Tell me this, how would you judge the values of a human being who had been granted God’s power and who did none of those things?

    It’s a mistake to judge different things as the same thing. A human can never be the same as God so what you say here doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    And why should we give a pass to supernatural beings for a lack of compassionate action which we wouldn’t to supposedly less moral human beings?

    There’s a simple principle that we all understand and live by. We understand that like things should be treated/valued as like, whereas different things should be treated/valued as different. God, humans and animals are all different beings so it makes sense that each one should be treated/valued differently.

    How should God treat/value humans? How should humans treat/value God? The answers are rooted in the grounding source of all reality, God. Fortunately, God doesn’t force a response from you and he doesn’t keep you guessing. He tells you what you need to know and then lets you decide what to do.

  23. david,

    I know what I would do: feed the hungry, heal the sick, reorder nature so that natural disasters no longer occur.

    To some extent this is happening. We are told that it will eventually be completed according to God’s plan. Why it is this way for a relatively short time is mystery to me. Not a complete mystery but lets just say I have questions just like you.

    Still, my questions don’t change the fact that God has a plan and we get to play a role in that plan. And to some extent God lets us choose the role we play.


  24. in the interests of intellectual integrity, you’re going to have to provide an objective basis for the moral judgments you impose upon God.

    The problem of evil does not depend on the existence of objective morality (which I point out you have no more demonstrated than I). It can as easily be stated as an inconsistency between his loving nature and the callousness of his actual behavior rather than as an inconsistency between his moral perfection and the immorality of his actual behavior.


    YOU see suffering, and the STRONG implication you make(which IS an admitted formal reason for MANY atheists not to believe in God) is that God doesn’t exist.

    I do think its a devastating problem for traditional versions of theism. One that reduces the plausibility of the existence of such a God to negligible levels.


    I’m not saying it’s the ONLY basis you have, but it’s clearly a large part of your reasoning.

    I would call it the second most important problem for theism. The first, and the main reason I came to stop believing in God, is the simple lack of credible evidence or good arguments for his existence.


    Your quick-and-easy–yet quite flawed–personal interpretation of what YOU believe God must be like in order to satisfy YOUR a priori judgment of God and hence His existence, while interesting, is nothing more than presuppositional mental masturbation. (Sorry, Tom.)

    We are, I think, all familiar with the problem of evil. And you clearly do not have a solution to that problem. Feel free to show I am mistaken if you can.


    Preston: An assertion for your consideration: Rightly understood, the incredible thing about God is not that he permits so much pain in the world, but that he permits so little.

    A statement of amazing callousness. I leave it to speak for itself.


    david,

    I know what I would do: feed the hungry, heal the sick, reorder nature so that natural disasters no longer occur.

    To some extent this is happening. We are told that it will eventually be completed according to God’s plan. Why it is this way for a relatively short time is mystery to me.

    The ugly truth is that this world is a torture chamber for many of the beings born into it. We westerners can sit in our comfortable homes with our, mostly, relatively easy lives and dismiss the suffering so many endure as insignificant if we like—to our great discredit as persons who supposedly value compassion. But the problem this raises for theism persists none the less.

    Holopupenko, I am getting a bit fed up with the snide tone of discussion you persist in maintaining. If it continues I’ll be ignoring any further comments from you—there are others here willing to have a decent and productive discussion. Something you seem to be uninterested in.

  25. David,

    Its a simple logical consequence of the properties the being is claimed to have: that he is omnipotent, that he has complete power over the universe; that he is creator of the universe and that it has, and can only have, such properties as he chooses for it to have.

    You are perhaps unaware that the vast majority of philosophers knowledgeable about this have agreed that this is not “a simple logical consequence.” See my summary here.

    I know what I would do: feed the hungry, heal the sick, reorder nature so that natural disasters no longer occur.

    Any person with a modicum of compassion would do the same.

    And God has ordered the universe so that you can experience what compassion means. If he had done it all for you, then what would you have known about it? This is, by the way, representative of many things that are true of a mixed universe, where good and evil both can be expressed, that would not be true in a universe where nothing bad could ever happen. There are many, many more of these.

    Tell me this, how would you judge the values of a human being who had been granted God’s power and who did none of those things?

    Think very, very broadly, please about what “granted God’s power” means. It means the ability to ensure justice beyond what is visible on earth, for one thing. What you see as pain and inequity is really a very small aspect of reality.

    It means the ability to grant your creatures moral freedom and moral significance. It does not mean the ability to contradict yourself; so that even if you had the powers of God, you would not be able to grant moral freedom and significance while at the same time making certain they could never do anything ever with any negative consequences to it.

    One is not obligated to provide empirical evidence for thinking there’s no good reason for thinking a particular being exists (or do you demand empirical evidence of the nonexistence of vampires and werewolves). One simply has to point out the lack of decent arguments or evidence to the contrary.

    This “lack of decent arguments or evidence” that you are pointing out: is that an empirical reality? Is there not perhaps some level of interpretation regarding those arguments involved?

    It can as easily be stated as an inconsistency between his loving nature and the callousness of his actual behavior rather than as an inconsistency between his moral perfection and the immorality of his actual behavior.

    But you’re still not telling us where you get this judgment of “callousness” from! Don’t you see your logical inconsistency here?

    I do think its a devastating problem for traditional versions of theism. One that reduces the plausibility of the existence of such a God to negligible levels.

    Thank you for letting us know what you think. Do you recognize that you’ve never explained to us why you think it? Not with any substance, at any rate. You are arguing billboard-style: your responses to each point are just about the right length to read, speeding by at 70 mph.

    This is no less trivial than your prior research-by-google (TM).

    We are, I think, all familiar with the problem of evil. And you clearly do not have a solution to that problem. Feel free to show I am mistaken if you can.

    I think I have demonstrated here that you are not as familiar with it as you think you are. And you cannot argue “the problem of evil” simply by stating, “we are all familiar with it.”

    A statement of amazing callousness. I leave it to speak for itself.

    I could have read that at 90 mph. Have you thought about this at any length, ever? For example, consider two possible worlds, neither of which can communicate with the other. One of them has the same level of pain and suffering as the one in which we live. One has exactly one-tenth that level of pain and suffering. Do you suppose the person in that second world would look at life and say, “It’s not perfect here, but thank God it’s only one-tenth as bad as it might have been!”

    Now, ask yourself whether you might be living in the world that’s one-tenth as bad as it might have been on some hypothetical third world. Question: how do you know how bad it is, with respect to some objective standard of judgment? You can’t know. All you can say is that you don’t like the way it is. Of course you can say that; I’m not denying you that privilege by any means. But Preston was posing a hypothetical question, which you have tossed aside at 90mph-slogan speed.

    You accuse Holopupenko of a “snide tone.” Yet you are the one who thinks you can answer with these slogans, accusations of callousness, sneering remarks of “feel free to show I am mistaken if you can,” telling God he needs to ask our forgiveness, and so on. Recognize that even if Holopupenko disagrees with you, he is at least affording you the courtesy of explaining what he thinks, not just tossing out slogans.


  26. And God has ordered the universe so that you can experience what compassion means. If he had done it all for you, then what would you have known about it?

    We can manage to understand the concept of compassion without others having to suffer horrible agonies.


    It does not mean the ability to contradict yourself; so that even if you had the powers of God, you would not be able to grant moral freedom and significance while at the same time making certain they could never do anything ever with any negative consequences to it.

    Which does nothing to solve the problem of evil since it doesn’t even address half the issue: natural evils.


    Is there not perhaps some level of interpretation regarding those arguments involved?

    Of course there is. I never claimed otherwise.

    Which brings up the biggest concern with the problem of evil (for those arguing either side of the question): how are we to deal with the question of unknown factors and the evaluation of their plausibility or lack thereof? Particularly, in regard to the POE, to the question of the plausibility of the claim that God has some morally sufficient reason for allowing suffering that we simply don’t know.

    No easy question to be sure.


    Now, ask yourself whether you might be living in the world that’s one-tenth as bad as it might have been on some hypothetical third world. Question: how do you know how bad it is, with respect to some objective standard of judgment?

    Do you actually dispute that our world contains vastly more suffering than a compassionate person would allow if he had the power to alleviate it?

    Finallly, a question:

    What convinces you that God is morally good? On what is this opinion based?

  27. david,

    Do you actually dispute that our world contains vastly more suffering than a compassionate person would allow if he had the power to alleviate it?

    There isn’t anything inherently wrong with suffering per se. There are situations where the end is justifiably reached by means of suffering. Christ’s suffering is one example. The suffering of child birth is another.

    Is there too much suffering in the world? Possibly, but then again maybe not. Maybe there is just enough to bring about the most good, and no more. The answer is a matter of faith for both you and I. Omniscience is best left to the One who knows.


  28. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with suffering per se. There are situations where the end is justifiably reached by means of suffering….Is there too much suffering in the world? Possibly, but then again maybe not. Maybe there is just enough to bring about the most good, and no more.

    Of course there are situations where we must inevitably endure suffering for a long term benefit (since we are not omnipotent).

    But whenever possible we alleviate pain if there is no outweighing benefit that cannot be achieved without that suffering.

    Would you not, for example, alleviate the pain of terminal cancer patients to the best of your ability?— no theoretical matter for me—my mother died of cancer.

    Do we not, in actual practice, judge their pain to be an intrinsically bad thing, a terrible thing, in fact, to be eliminated whenever possible?

    Can you honestly say you disagree with that simple statement?


    Is there too much suffering in the world? Possibly, but then again maybe not. Maybe there is just enough to bring about the most good, and no more.

    What reason do you have for thinking so?

  29. david,

    Would you not, for example, alleviate the pain of terminal cancer patients to the best of your ability?— no theoretical matter for me—my mother died of cancer.

    Do we not, in actual practice, judge their pain to be an intrinsically bad thing, a terrible thing, in fact, to be eliminated whenever possible?

    I would attempt to alleviate the pain, and I do judge it to be something to be avoided. However, the question I asked before remains: is this a situation where suffering is justified, or at the very least, allowed to occur, in order to acheive a greater good?

    Ultimately, this is a morality question. If morality is grounded in God, as the bible teaches, then there is the possibility of an objective answer even I don’t know what it is. An answer that is objectively good. If there is no grounding then the answer is whatever you want it to be.

    I don’t know the answer, but I can see how love, compassion and the restoring of relationships is given the chance to blossom as a result of suffering. Something that might not have happen otherwise. Bitterness and anger can also take root, so it’s clear that we play a role in how all this works out.

    Do we get angry and blame God for the suffering, or do we get angry and then cry out to God and others to help us through the emotional pain, and in the process grow spiritually more like Christ?


  30. However, the question I asked before remains: is this a situation where suffering is justified, or at the very least, allowed to occur, in order to acheive a greater good?

    Yes, but only because we lack the power to do otherwise. Surgeons, before anesthesia, had no choice but to allow their patients to suffer terribly. Of course, as soon as we had it we gladly used it to get the benefits without inflicting agony on the individuals who needed their services.


    Ultimately, this is a morality question. If morality is grounded in God, as the bible teaches…..

    Is this, in fact, taught in the Bible? I honestly don’t remember for certain. It might be. But I don’t recall any passage in the Bible which claims that there would be no such thing as moral truths if God didn’t exist. I’m not saying it definitely isn’t in there. But I know even some christian theologians of quite conservative views who have said that they believed there would be moral truths even if God didn’t exist (Richard Swinburne, for example, admitted that rape would be wrong even if theism is false).

    Though somewhat of a side issue, this is an interesting question. Can anyone think of any passages in the bible supported the contention that there can’t be such a thing as moral truth if there were no God?


    I don’t know the answer, but I can see how love, compassion and the restoring of relationships is given the chance to blossom as a result of suffering.

    There are better ways to make love, compassion and relationships blossom than making some individuals endure massive prolonged agonies.

    There seems to be some variety of a “best of all possible worlds” argument being suggested by some of the theists in this discussion. If I’m correct in interpreting their comments that way I think some of the people here need to reread Candide.

  31. The problem with suffering is that many suffer without redemption. Many suffer greatly without any “restoring of relationships.” Every day in my work I interact with those whose entire lives have been filled with suffering, and who are greatly damaged as a result, who have no sustaining relationships in their lives and no ability to engage in a sustaining relationship. It takes exceptional skills for someone to transcend suffering.

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