Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gratuitous evil and God . The Athiest's misconception .

If there actually is a God who is all knowing and wise then , Why did God allow Satan in to the garden of Eden ?where was God during the temptation in the garden ? Why does. God allow so much evil and suffering in the world.?
It is like the question often asked by the Nigerian Atheist :
Despite the fact that Nigeria is ranked one of the most religious countries in the world, why does God allow for the prevalence of so much corruption especially among church folks? This question is  akin to the atheist question on the issue of gratuitous evil and discernment. 
The average atheist position is that the problem of gratuitous natural evil seems to create a problem for people who want to be moral. They perceive a baby dying of a painful disease as a moral evil and then judge God to be an immoral monster for allowing that to happen. But the theist's view of God's sovereignty suggests that the athiest's judgment is in error: The the questions often asked by atheists is, how do we know God does not have some greater reason for allowing that suffering? But doesn't that mean that all of our moral judgments are possibly in error? If we lack the knowledge and scope of cognition to judge God as immoral for allowing a baby to die of a horrible disease, are we not similarly unqualified to judge a human who can cure a dying baby, but chooses not to? Going even further, if we see someone about to die in a burning building , should we try to save them? What if God is trying to accomplish some greater good by allowing that person to die?

In short, if we are in no position to judge the morality of God's actions or inactions, how are we in a position to judge each other's moral actions or to even make moral decisions in the first place? As the disease-stricken baby shows, our moral judgment can err. How can we know, then, when our moral judgment is in error? If we assume the theist's response to the problem of evil is correct, then our moral sense errs quite frequently, usually in response to all the horrible natural evil surrounding us. Does this not render attempting to behave morally absurd?


It is the absence of an argument whose premises are attested even more powerfully than the existence of objective moral values and duties that makes the  atheist a moral sceptic and anti-realist. The atheist would need to put himself/ herself  in the shoes of the theists and ask if they confront the same problem as the Nietzschean (Nie·tzsche   (Friedrich Wilhelm 1844-1900 German philosopher who reasoned that Christianity's emphasis on the afterlife makes its believers less able to cope with earthly life. He argued that the ideal human, the Übermensch, would be able to channel passions creatively instead of suppressing them) . After all, it was the death of God that led Nietzsche to proclaim the advent of nihilism ( the belief that traditional morals, ideas, beliefs, etc., have no worth or value: the belief that a society's political and social institutions are so bad that they should be destroyed ). But the theist has the resources to establish objective moral values and duties. The atheist can recognize that the argument from apparently gratuitous evil in the world will not do because of the infeasibility of proving that the evil we see is, indeed, gratuitous. So what justification is there for being an atheist and, hence, a moral sceptic?
Given our historical and cognitive limitations, it is clear that we are simply not in a position to say with any sort of confidence that the evil we observe in the world is pointless or unnecessary.

This ofcourse is not in defence of consequentialism as a theory of ethics. According to consequentialism, the moral rightness or wrongness of an action is determined solely by its consequences. This is a laughable theory of ethics. On consequentialism if your torturing and raping a senior citizen would somehow ultimately redound to the benefit of mankind, then not only is this action morally permissible for you, but you are morally obligated to do it! Rather the theist holds that we have certain obligations to fulfill even if no good consequences result and certain prohibitions to obey regardless of the benefits that might ensue from flouting our duties. As a theist, I see our moral duties as grounded in God’s commands, which are reflections of His holy and loving character, not in the consequences.
As for God’s own actions, I don’t think that God has any moral duties to fulfill, since He presumably doesn’t issue commands to Himself! So it is meaningless to speak of the moral rightness or wrongness of God’s actions. What we can ask is whether His acting in a certain way would be consistent with His character. Would it be consistent with His character, for example, not to intervene to save a baby from dying of a horrible disease or someone from perishing in a burning building? And for the theist the answer is, yes, God can have good reasons for not intervening in such situations and so does not act contrary to His character. This is against the backdrop of the theist's philosophy of  an afterlife which can be scientifically proven through the law of conservation of energy(for matter cannot be totally destroyed but can only be changed from one state to another. )

So suppose that I am a person who wants to do his moral duty. I am a doctor who can save a baby from dying of a disease. Do I have an obligation to do so? Of course, all things being equal. For God has commanded us, to love our neighbour as ourself  ,I would violate this command if I did not try to save the baby. Of course, all things are not always equal: suppose I am in the middle of critical surgery and cannot leave to save the baby without losing the patient. Then love of my neighbor does not require me to abandon the patient for the baby. This is why moral decision-making can sometimes be so challenging .
Again, all things being equal, you should try to save the person threatened by the burning building. (But if that means, for example, abandoning your own children to be drowned in order to do so, then you are not so obligated.) “What if God is trying to accomplish some greater good by allowing that person to die?” It doesn’t matter! You have an objective duty to fulfill which God has laid upon you. You do your duty and leave it up to God to work out the consequences. After all, He knew in advance whether or not you would try to save that person and factored that into His plan. It’s not as if you’re going to mess up His providential plan by intervening!

Now all of what’s been said so far is preliminary to the atheist's real question: “how are we in a position to judge each other's moral actions or to even make moral decisions in the first place?” The answer is that we do not discern our moral duties by trying to look into the future and determine whether the consequences of our action are on balance good or bad. Rather (i) God has written His moral law upon our hearts (Romans 2.14-15), so that we have God-given moral intuitions to direct us; (ii) God has revealed to us His moral law in Scripture, e.g., the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount; and (iii) God has created man in His image, so that every person is invested with intrinsic moral worth and therefore to be treated as an end and not a means. While these guides do not make moral decision-making always easy, I find that it is more often than not pretty clear what my moral duty is in most everyday situations. It’s obeying the command not discerning it  that is hard to fulfill .

Conversely ,if consequentialism were true, then you would be absolutely right that we could never determine our moral duties. Some action which appears horrible in the short run could turn out to be a great boon to mankind( for example ,the humiliating death of Christ ), and an action that appears to be beneficent could turn out to be disastrous in the long run. We can be thankful that God has not abandoned us to such moral chaos but has given us resources to help discern His moral will for our lives.

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