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The God, Evil and Suffering Paradox.

  1. Dec 20, 2005 #1
    I have run across this so many times that I've lost count, two times in the last 5 days or so. One from a source that surprised me. "How can there be a prefect omnipotent, omniscient, loving caring God when there is so much evil, human suffering and disease in the world?"
    This has bee a theological question for centuries. The Christian churches have handled it by saying that mankind has fallen from Grace because of the sin of Adam and Eve and the Original Sin. It makes a good story but is not an answer nor very reasonable. Here, I am going to attempt to reason my way through this apparent paradox.
    For the sake of argument, I have to accept some assumptions:

    God exists and is the creator and master of the universe.

    God is perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, loving, caring, rational, sane ,logical and reasonable.

    God is capable of creating perfection.

    Accepting these assumptions as valid, I argue as follows.

    There is ample evidence that mankind is an evolved animal and not created 6000 years ago in the same form that he is today.

    There is no reason to conclude that this evolution is complete and ended though we have somewhat removed ourselves from survival of the fittest.

    God can and has created perfect beings which we call his servants and/or angels.

    We are not perfect; therefore, not created perfect, but evolved.

    There must be a reason or purpose that God choose not to create perfection on earth but allows evolution to take place.

    If the revolt of Lucifer and Satan and the Sin Of Adam and Eve did actually take place God knew that it would happen and allowed it to happen. It must have been part of his plan for this world.

    If it was part of his plan Lucifer, Satan, Adam and Eve were doing God's will and thus there was no sin, original or not. Or, if not his actual will them operating as independent agents doing their will which was known and allowed by God.

    This still does not explain why God allows such horrible suffering and disease.

    It is not God's fault, but our fault, our responsibility. Again, given free will and individual responsibility it is up to us to make the world and ourselves right. We are born knowing all that we need to know and there is a cure for every disease here available on earth. We allow and toerate evil to happen here. We even make excuses for it and say that it is not their or our fault. We blame God for our own sins.

    If the world or we were created perfect there would be no way for us to grow, evolve, mature or learn anything. God can create all the perfection that he wants so he must have a reason for creating evolution and for us being evolved beings.

    Neither a sword nor a plow shear can be formed without repeated heating and hammering, quenching and tempering. We therefore must be some tool that God is making for himself. Some self reliant being capable of learning and growing to perfection, a being that has experienced all, the bad and good, that life has to offer.

    The image of perfection that we see before us is not evidence of our shortcoming nor criticism of our miserable state but a goal, a signpost, a lamp to show us the way and the eventual goal.
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  3. Dec 20, 2005 #2


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    This is the nub of your theodicy, everything else is just curlicues around it.

    And what basis do you have for this statement? If your god is omnipotent then why can't he have created an evolved species (indeed ALL evolved species) that is sin-free and able to learn and change in a sin-free manner? Because he's OMNIPOTENT he should be able to do this.

    Then if he didn't it must be that for some reason he didn't want to, and we're back to Yahweh's reply to Job: "My ways are above your ways".

    But the only criterion for goodness we have is our human one, based on what we think good parents would do for their children. "Would a Father, when his son asked for bread, give him a stone?" And by this standard your god is not good; He could have given us bread but handed us a lump of coal instead.

    Merrry Christmas.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2005
  4. Dec 20, 2005 #3

    Les Sleeth

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    I know this answer isn't within Royce's assumptions but . . . it could be that the creator did the best it could. I am grateful to exist, perfect or not.

    Plus, why assume creation is completed?
  5. Dec 20, 2005 #4

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    This sounds like one of the Greater Goods arguments. When I think of these I associate them with Richard Swinburne, but I'm sure the ideas were around a long time before him. Basically, they all go like this: God allows evil in the world because there is some greater good that comes from it. The particular one you mentioned tends to be shot down with the counter argument that God doesn't need to "create an obstacle course.” He could have made us in heavenly perfection from the get-go. Why put his precious children through the suffering of striving for perfection (the evils of the world) if there was no need for it? Seems cruel. Any wonderful quality that could have been instilled in us through suffering could have been just zapped into us by the almighty OOO creator. I've also heard the GG arguments that

    --God allows suffering/evil in the world to allow the counter experiences of patience, bravery, compassion
    --Evil is necessary for free will
    --There is some greater good that comes from the presence of evil in the world, but we don't know what it is.

    The last one, I suppose, goes along with SelfAdjoint's quote "My ways are above your ways". That is the one I think I lean to most strongly. It must be something beyond comprehension. It's got to be a greater good that is so good, that it justifies the most horrific things that happen in this world.
  6. Dec 20, 2005 #5
    This is only one small part of my Theocracy and my philosophy of life.

    Part of my assumptions is the He is logical and rational. ?Creating a perfect evolved species is an oxymoron; I.E. a contradiction; therefore, not logical.
    A lot depends on your definition of sin and sin free. Most of the time we sinners sin against ourselves and not God. A sin against God it to knowingly go against, act against or defy the will of God.

    This is like the question; "If God is omnipotent can he make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?" It is meaningless and contain as self- referential contradiction.

    I do not pretend to know the ways of God or his reasons. I only assume that he is omni-everything and that he is rational and logical and that there is a reason for everything.

    By the same token would a good parent keep his infant from learning to walk so that he would not fall down and hurt himself. Sometime pain and hardship is the price we pay for knowledge and skill. If its free it ain't worth much.

    As stiff necked as we humans are, we are determined to do things and learn things the hard way for ourselves. Obviously we think it worth the price.

    Merry Christmas to you and all and to all a happy and prosperous New Year.
  7. Dec 20, 2005 #6
    You said it, Les, assumptions. We only assume that a creator would be perfect and omni-everything. But, then he would have to be to have created us, wouldn't he. I am forever amazed at the arrogance and audacity of mankind.

    It is my assumption that creation is like the Creator (esse, the universe, the One, the Universal Consciousness, the 10,000 names of God, ?) is eternal and ongoing. Creation is one of his attributes. Why would it have a beginning and an end?
  8. Dec 20, 2005 #7
    See my answer to SelfAdjoint. He can and has made all of the perfect beings that he needs and wants. Assume that one of his reasons is to experience life from birth to death, good and bad. If He is part of us and we part of him then does he not too suffer and feel pain?

    Are you a parent? Have you ever experienced the joy of learning to do something? Can you swim or ride a bike. How many times did you sink or fall down learning. I'm 64 and can still remember having to pick the gravel out of my hands and knees. God, I hated to have to do that. It hurt like hell and yes I can remember the pain. It didn't stop me. Nor did my parents stop me. I also remember the pure joy that I experienced when I first rode my bike all alone without help. Obviously it was worth it and yes I and billions of other would do it again.

    I don't think that is beyond comprehension at all. I may be over simplifying it or this may be only a small part or it. To be strong we must endure and to be self reliant and stand on our own two feet we must learn by and for ourselves. As Les said I am grateful to exist and grateful for the beauty and elegance of creation. At my age, everyday I wake up, I have a new or returning pain; but, it beats the hell out of the alternative.
  9. Dec 21, 2005 #8


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    And what evidence have you that it's illogical to assume a happy unconflicted intelligent evolved species? I have never heard any logician assert this. If the only reason you assert it is to save us from the "God is good but life is evil" paradox then your argument is petitio principi and has no force at all.

    How would you ever know the will of your god?! Most of the people who are not shy about accusing others of defying the will of god seem to confuse his will with their own.
  10. Dec 21, 2005 #9


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    If he's Christian, the will of God is written in the Bible. The Bible is, literally, the Word of God. If he's Muslim, the will of God is written in the Koran. The Koran is literally, the Word of God, etc.

    (Nevermind whether you think they are the Word of God, the point is that) those who act in His name can rest assured they know without a doubt what He wants.

    (Don't misinterpret my submission as weighing in on the Believer side, I'm just picking off some of the easier discussion points.)
  11. Dec 21, 2005 #10
    I'm sorry. I didn't make myself clear enough. The oxymoron lies in the terms "create" and "evolved" Even God can't do the impossible or self contradictory. It is impossible to create and evolved being, It is ether created or it is evolved. I assume once we evolved human being evolve to the point that we are civilized and a mature species the we will be all that you say we should be.

    Agreed and it isn't always accidental confusion but intention misrepresentation. One learns and knows the will of God for him or her by looking within and listening with ones soul. Of course if you don't believe in a soul or in a God, it is hard to listen to and hear nothing.
  12. Dec 21, 2005 #11


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    Royce, I like the fact you tried to list the assumptions at top:

    I'll try to adhere to these in responding.

    These assumptions line up well with typical Christian beliefs, but the one assumption I'd like to see clarified is if we should, for the sake of argument, assume god is not governed by any natural law. Saying he is the creator of the universe could be taken as him being the cause that started what we call the big bang, but do you want to suggest God created nature? Or is he a part of it?

    I think you also need to make some assumption about hell and 'souls' being tortured in such a place for eternity. Obviously, any pain and suffering here on Earth is insignificant to such pain and suffering upon death, so one should create an assumption regarding hell if we're to make reasonable conclusions about an allegedly loving deity. Any thoughts on that one?

    If we assume God created the universe, we might also assume there must be a reason (a "plan") as you point out. If that's true, he not only had a plan but assuming he is omniscient, he also knew the outcome of the plan. If he is also omnipotent, then he also could have created the end result without implementing creation so there would seem to be no purpose in having the universe created and progress if he could have simply created the end result. Perhaps this suggests that the universe evolving over time IS the plan, as opposed to a means to an end. Do you see anything wrong with that logic? This might be called the "Means to an End" (ME) problem because if God were truly omnipotent and omnicient, then the end result is not the reason for our creation but the actual time evolution of history is the reason for creation and thus all of the good and bad is also part of that reason for creation.

    If the ME problem is correct, it sheds a slightly different light on the issue you raise about evil and suffering. Obviously, there is no need for evil and suffering or any such negative if god could have created the end result without it. It would seem to imply that he wanted to see this universe evolve with all the good AND bad simply for himself, simply for ME. He could have avoided our suffering by simply creating the end result if the end result is what he was after. Hence it would seem to contradict the assumption that god is good.

    There's another problem with this concept if we make the assumption that hell exists as given in most religions. Why would any deity that knew before hand, which one of us would suffer in hell for eternity, create us only so that we might suffer in hell for eternity? That would seem to contradict your assumption that god is loving and results in another ME problem.

    On the other hand, if god were not omniscient and omnipotent, if he were actually part of nature and not supernatural, I think one would find some interesting conclusions which are not so self contradictory.
  13. Dec 21, 2005 #12


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    I very much agree with the latter. For it would partly answer what created God in the first place.
  14. Dec 21, 2005 #13
    As long as we are making assumptions, why not assume that we created 'god' to 'justify' some rather bazaar albeit irrational assumptions, (rather than the other way around)?
  15. Dec 21, 2005 #14
    I am coming to believe that God is nature and the universe. The Universal consciousness that I refer to as God is eternal as is the universe. The physical universe may not be eternal and may have been caused by the big bang. As I have said so many times in the past; God said; "Let there be light." Big bang.
    I have the idea that once set up and put into motion, God had very few options as to the physical laws and values. I don't know. How many ways are there to create a stable evolving physical universe that leads to conscious sentient life?

    As there is only One, then, of course, God is nature as he is everything else.

    I don't believe that there is a hell (unless this world is it.) nor a devil as commonly thought of. There is no mention of Hell and eternal damnation in the five gospels of the new testament nor of the devil. I think that this was part or Zoroasterism that was incorporated in early Christianity to provide the stick to go along with the carrot.

    No, this is one of my assumptions that I did not list. There is a reason for everything. Why is there evolution and creation? Why is there free will and the will of God? Why is there cause and effect and uncertainty or non-determinacy. While he may know all in the eternal moment is must be played out in physical time in the physical universe.

    God did not create evil and suffering. We persist in blaming God for our being evil. Saying that it is all God's fault is as ridicules and saying that the devil made me do it. There is free will. If not then what would be the point, as you say. With freedom comes accountability and responsibility.
    Either we have free will and are accountable and responsible for our own actions or there is no free will and it is all God's fault. The latter, in my mind, makes God insane, a sick, twisted, evil mind. Therefore the assumption that God is sane, rational and logical and as agents of free will most of the evil and suffering in this world is our fault or a result of the fact that we are not yet fully evolved and civilized.

    This is why I don't believe in Hell and eternal damnation. The entire concept is irrational and illogical.

    He may still be omnipotent and omniscient and be nature. There is no supernatural just as there is nothing outside of the universe if "universe" is defined as all that is, all that exists.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2005
  16. Dec 21, 2005 #15
    My assumption is that God is the Universe and is eternal not created.
    Again ether something is eternal or something came from nothing. Something coming from nothing without cause or reason is, to me, absurd.
  17. Dec 21, 2005 #16
    There is no doubt in my mind that we created the myth of the Judeo-Christian God. That there is an entity that is the universe and universal consciousness and is eternal is something that I am learning about.
  18. Dec 21, 2005 #17


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    Sorry I don't see your premise here. The Catholic Church, for one, is cool with evolution guided by god, or necessarily fulfiling his plan, or something along thse lines (they await their Thomas Aquinas). So I don't see the dichotomy. If evolution is thus the expression of god's will "by other means" then he still has responsibility for the way they turned out, I think.
  19. Dec 21, 2005 #18
    As God set up the rules, within limits if any, and set it in motion then, yes, he is responsible. I just don't think that we are done yet, done evolving that is. If he wants created perfection he creates it. If he wants evolution then in the physical universe it takes time. We're still evolving toward perfection in my opinion.
  20. Dec 21, 2005 #19


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    Royce, It seems to me you've reverted to arguing your own personnal beliefs about god at this point.
  21. Dec 21, 2005 #20
    Your stated certainty is encouraging. I am however curious as to who/what told/informed you that anything is eternal and why do you believe them/it? Also, perhaps of greater importance is; are you suggesting that the universe as a whole, (or something beyond the universe), possesses consciousness? If so, do you have a particular entity in mind, and on what basis do you justify this belief?
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