First, it requires the Improvement Principle: The principle motivating the arguers thought about what God would do here usually reduces to:. The Improvement Principle : For any given world, if God exists and could improve that world making it better then God in his goodness would opt for that. By way of response however, there is no best world. Any would-be choice is improvable, so the principle requires that God be perpetually and irrationally deadlocked and unable to choose.
God and Evil
So the improvement principle is unacceptable then. God, in virtue of his reasonableness and goodness, at most would ensure that the world is, on the whole, good. And the world is on the whole good. Second, greater goods can justify permitting evil : The arguer needs to provide a reason to think God lacks a morally justifying reason for permitting the evil or evils in question.
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Often, the belief is grounded in the non-believer not seeing any reason which he considers sufficient, but there are two challenges to this. Remember, for one to not see a reason is not automatically the same as it appearing to one that there is no reason. However, many individuals surveying these goods find that they are very plausibly sufficient, like the good of child-birth that willing mothers accept. Two things to keep in mind here:. One should not be too confident, then, that one's values are perfectly calibrated.
For example, relative to you, God may value moral development more and value comfort less. To put it more loosely: 1. If taking away disease, why not slight back pain?
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A good God would! If taking away slight back pain, why not emotional pain?
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If taking away emotional pain, why not take away boredom? If taking away boredom, why not make all food healthy and taste better than it already does? But if that,… [insert an unending string of improvements]. Does any one of us know whether a fawn is self-aware and in possession of a concept of itself as a persisting entity that remains self-identical through time? Does any one of us know that a fawn desires the experience of perfect happiness for itself like a person desires this experience for himself?
Does any one of us know whether or not a fawn's existence ends with its death? Seeking fellowship with God is a great good especially in the context of eternity. This theodicy is relevant because, with less suffering, fewer would seek God. It is good for us to make free choices which result in deliberate courses of action, courses that really matter for ourselves and others especially in the context of eternity.
This article analyzes four evidences, So what if a moral arena is good? Maybe humans could be created who would always freely choose the right? Every slight addition to our freedom and responsibility increases slightly the probability of sadness and pain; every slight diminution of the probability of sadness and pain resulting from human actions diminishes slightly our freedom and responsibility.
Not if he has a good reason for not preventing the evil, and that good reason may involve these greater goods that he is aiming at. Zaspel: Just briefly, what are some biblical considerations that support this approach? Welty: As a philosopher of religion, I first came at the problem of evil through the normal sort of textbooks and articles that you read about it.
Three people in Scripture who have really suffered — that would be Job, Joseph and Jesus. And these themes are intertwined with each other. When you put them together, my conclusion was that they really do support a greater good theodicy. God is a God who aims a great goods. God often intends these great goods to come about by way of various evils. His ways are inscrutable. Starting with those three narratives, I then try to license this greater good theodicy as a kind of general response to the problem of evil.
And, once again, I find these three themes coming to the surface again, and again. Explain for us the relation between God and evil and the distinction between primary and secondary causality. Welty: Yes, this is language that has a particular sort of theological, historical, heritage, right?
If God, Why Suffering?
The same thing with ultimate causality, approximate causality, remote causality. The difficult part, really, is that in some sense these pains and sufferings are part of his plan, because the greater good theodicy says God pursues great goods by way of great evils and that seems to be his modus operandi, his way of working again, again. All of that is still there, but what you have is something like the classic line in Genesis Think of the intentions of Pilate and the Jewish leaders at the time in the case of Jesus and his cross. These intentions are wicked. He is meticulously sovereign over evils; he works them out to a greater good.
So, these various evils that take place are means that God uses. They are the actors, the doers of sin.
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From the back of that, you do have God as primary cause. Now these are theological terms of ours. The way God works in providence is presumably more inscrutable, less discernible by us than that, but there does seem to be a biblical case to be made.
Zaspel: Yeah, God does not stand behind evil in the same way that he stands behind good, right? Welty: Yes, that can be another point that is made, as well. So, when God intends for goods to come to pass, he has good intentions. His intention is to bring about great good out of these situations. Zaspel: How can we answer the objection that the greater good argument is just another way of saying that the ends justify the means? Does God do evil that good may come? Welty: That does have an echo of an actual passage in Scripture, which is Romans , and Paul is very clear that God forbids doing evil that good may come.
He says we are slanderously charged as apostles of teaching this, because we teach that God uses our wickedness as an occasion to glorify himself in the judgment of that wickedness.
God and Evil: The Case for God in a World Filled With Pain - Sermons & Articles
And does that mean we should do evil that good may come? By no means. In each of these passages, human beings are the ones who are doing evil. God is the agent who ordains that the evil shall be, but he is not the agent who is doing the evil. And I would say that even in human case, of course, the very limited cases, we might have enough knowledge and enough power to bring about our greater good by way of suffering. Think about how parents discipline their children, right?
But our knowledge and power have great limits. If we tried to bring about great good in the world by way of sufferings, we would just be bumblers, we would just be fools, we would not have the kind of knowledge and power we would need to bring off our intended end.
Zaspel: For further answers our listeners will have to get your book; but highlight for us the kinds of questions and objections raised against the greater good argument that you address in your book. Welty: Well, I tried to stuff those in, I think, in the last chapter.