Tag Archives: Free will

The Problem of Evil, Part 5b…

The last post was about Free Will as a solution to the “Problem of Evil.”  In this post, I’d like to delve into another aspect of this solution.  Most of the time, when people talk of the Problem of Evil, the focus is on moral evil.

Remember, moral evil is that evil that is directly caused by humanity; torture, murder, rape, etc…  There is that other type of evil to take into account as well, and that is natural evil, as I mentioned before.  Natural evil comes about from “nature” and the various laws of science operating.  If you fall, gravity will pull you down and perhaps aid in breaking a bone, or even result in death from things like head injury.

Free will isn’t just a solution supported or put forth from Christian philosophers.  The interesting thing here comes in when it becomes clear that most people that support the free will solution are focusing in on only moral evil.  It is pretty obvious that our wills, whether they are free or not, play into moral evil…that’s the whole point.  Mankind contributes evil to this world all the time; we lie, cheat, steal, kill, etc…

Now, from a Christian perspective, the Free Will solution also covers natural evil.  From our perspective, God created a good world for us to live in; a safe world, one in which we didn’t even have to worry about death.  Again, Adam’s free will choice of not faithing on God brought about natural evil in our world.  God gave charge over to Adam over this world of ours, and Adam’s choice impacted not only humanity but also the rest of physical reality here.

We believe that all creation groans under the weight of sin, not just humanity.  This is one of the few explanations that I’ve come across that can and does account for both kinds of evil.  It is true that we can now try to yield to righteousness, instead of to sin, in the realm of moral evil, but we must also put up with a fallen creation, not just a fallen humanity, in the realm of natural evil.

Natural evil can be anticipated, but in most cases of huge natural disasters, we are unable to “fight” it directly.  We have to anticipate and then respond.  So, the characteristics of the two kinds of evil are different, but the ultimate responsibility still lies with mankind.  The ultimate outcome, again according to scripture, will be a restoration not only of mankind, but also of all creation.  Both moral and natural evil will be taken care of.

One common question that come up is something along the lines of, “So, you believe if Adam shimmied up a tree and fell on his head that he would have survived prior to his eating of the Tree of knowledge?”  My answer is “yes.”  God clearly has the power to sustain…not only life, but also inanimate matter as well…

Deuteronomy 8:1 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers. 2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. 3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live. 4 Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.

What we have here is a clear example of God maintaining the state of even inanimate matter; their clothes lasted forty years whilst they trudged about in the wilderness…they never needed knew robes, shoes, etc… because God intervened, apparently at the molecular level, in order to maintain their clothing.  He is quite capable of sustaining that which He wishes to sustain.

Again, I wrote this post mainly because I do think it is important to touch upon both kinds of evil, moral and natural, and also to show that Christianity does indeed account for both through the free will solution.  I hope to give a brief overview sometime soon of the Arminian vs. Calvinistic position on the whole free will issue.

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The Problem of Evil, Part 5a…

Ok, here are the other “Problem of Evil” posts: Part 1, 2, 3, and 4.  As I’ve been discussing, “The Problem of Evil” is one argument that is used against the idea of there being a God, and now I’m going to make an intro post on another main “solution” to the “problem;” Free Will.

I’m breaking this discussion of Free Will up into several parts, because anyone who has looked into this knows that whole books have been written about this very topic.  I’d also like to eventually talk about the debate in light of Christianity as well; Calvinism vs. Arminianism in particular.

Ok, so this “solution” centers around mankind’s responsibility in bringing about evil in the world.  Free will is a condition for morality; for true right and wrong…for true righteousness, there must be choices available.  Why?  Because morality, to be truly meaningful, must have a split between a “right” action/choice and a “wrong” action/choice just by sheer definition.

The question arises, “Could God have made everyone where they would freely “choose” the good, no matter what?”  The answer is “no” because it is a logical contradiction.  If no one could do otherwise than choose to do good, then there is no meaningful choice involved at all.  The focus in this solution shifts from God to mankind.  The idea can kind of be summed up like this, “God made evil possible, man made it actual.”

In this solution, God is not responsible for evil in that He created it, rather mankind is responsible because he made a wrong choice.  If God desired robots He very well could have made them, but He did not.  He desires us, for various reasons, and He desires us to freely choose Him.

Does this solution line up with scripture?  Sure.  We only have to look to the account of Adam and Eve for one clear example.  As I’ve blogged about before, The Tree of Knowledge and the command not to eat of it was there as a choice.  Right choice and behavior was available; don’t eat of the tree.  Wrong choice and behavior was available as well.  Of course, as I mentioned before, this choice is about faith; trust God and follow what He says, or react with lack of faith and go against Him.  We also see in scripture that Adam’s act, his choice, has major repercussions for the world.

I’ll continue on in part 5b…

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The problem of evil? Part 4…

Well, I lied.  In part 3 I said I would cover free will in this post, but I’m saving it til later.  I wanted to discuss another POV that will wind up connecting with free will first.  Please do read my other posts on “the problem of evil” here: part 1, 2, 3.

This “solution” to the problem of evil sees evil as therapy.  The idea here is that evil is a tool that God uses to help mankind learn and mature as a species.

I always explain this POV to my students like this; we all know kids who have been raised by extremely overprotective parents.  These kids are not allowed much freedom, nor are they allowed to experience the consequences of any mistakes that they happen to make.  They are protected from the world in many ways that actually hinders their maturity.

Now, oftentimes what happens when these kids do manage to get out into the world?  Usually one of two things; either they go nuts with their new freedom and wind up committing really bad mistakes because of a lack of decision making and self-control, or they wind up being overcome by the world completely; real life is simply too much for them.

This solution to the problem of evil is kind of based on that idea.  God allowed evil…he allowed mankind to make choices and suffer the consequences, not because He Himself caused the evil, but so we will learn what evil is, and why it is a good idea to pay attention to what He has to say.

John Hick is pretty well known in the philosophy field for supporting this idea, but it really can be traced back to Irenaeus’ teachings.

Mankind as a whole is learning from our interactions with this world, including both natural and moral evil.  It serves, so the idea goes, to purify, and ultimately bring about spiritual healing in time.  Now, this solution rests on the idea of free will too, which I will indeed get to.

Leaving that to the side for a minute, how does this solution line up with scripture?  Some of it does indeed line up with what we are taught.  First, God’s Law, and everything that comes with it is indeed teaching one main lesson…the lesson that is being drilled into humanity; for sin comes death.  This teaching is everywhere throughout scripture and in human experience.  Death entered in through Adam’s sin, and continues on throughout current human history.

Also, the idea that hardship and suffering teach us things is also included in scripture…however, so is the idea that suffering should be defeated, that death should be, and will be, done away with.  Evil isn’t something we are to embrace in the least, it is more presented as a fact of life.  This “solution” then makes sense on one hand (suffering does shape us), but I don’t find the idea that mankind was created immature in scripture…quite the contrary.

Again, free will is an important component that I will get to soon…

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Doctor Who; Turn Left Review…

As I alluded to before, when I do reviews here at The Christian Scribbler, I have two aims in mind; the first is just a plain review…was the book/movie/show/CD a good one from my perspective?  Is it worth the money/time?  The second aim is to share any “sacred” I find in the “secular,” anything theological, philosophical, or spiritual that makes me ponder aspects of Christianity, or other belief systems.

Let’s “turn” to the review.  Turn Left is a Doctor Who episode, that I did enjoy, written by Russell T. Davies (RTD).  First I have to say that I must have Joss Whedon’s Firefly on the brain, because that is all I could think of as the show started in an alien type of Chinatown…  Anywho, Donna and The Doctor are in a market doing a bit of touring and shopping when Donna gets “pulled” into a fortune teller’s booth.  I could have told her, from a Christian perspective, that no good could come of this, if she’d only asked (ha)…  We, the audience, quickly realize that this isn’t a nice woman we are dealing with here, it takes Donna a bit longer.  By the way, this is where an aspect of Doctor Who that all of us fans know and love makes an appearance — a really cheesy “monster,” this time a gigantic, obviously fake beetle that gets a bit friendly with Donna’s back shows up; it latches on to her shoulders like a parasite.

The main theme of this eppy is an idea that I believe we’ve all kicked around at one time or another; do the smallest action and choices we make affect our futures in some profound way?  They do with Donna at least…the “bug” takes her back into her past and influences her to make a right turn when she originally made a left turn…literally.  She is at a crossroads in her car…thanks RTD…yes, we get it, the scene brings to mind the important crossroads in life.

The whole span of universes go down hill from there; Donna’s change in choice sends major ripples through the multiverse…and Catherine Tate’s wonderful acting is supposed to send ripples through us.  I think she pulled it off really well.  Choice and consequence, what-if’s, is there really coincidence, do we have free will in our choices?  Yes, RTD’s plot is set up to make us think.

Eventually Donna is able to return to her past again, and “right” the wrong; making herself turn left once more.  The universe is righted, the cheesy parasite insectoid falls off, and The Doctor finally finds her in the fortune teller’s shop.  The Doctor soon freaks out a bit himself, as Donna passes on a message from a certain blonde ex-companion, the message consists of two words, “Bad Wolf.”  Which, sets Tennant up to beautifully emote the Doctor’s internal feelings to us via facial expression.

So what stood out to me in this episode?  First, the central role of Christmas in the Doctor Who universe (yes, I understand that’s when the execs want a Who special on TV, but nevertheless…it was featured in this eppy as well).  Big alien invasion time?  Christmas.  Time to evacuate London? Christmas.  Pivitol character introduction or development for The Doctor? Christmas.  It’s amazing how the celebration of the Lord’s birth (notice I didn’t say, the actual date of the Lord’s birth, but rather the celebration of it) has such a high rate of “coincidence.”

Moving on; the messiah-like quality of The Doctor, as discussed in a previous post, was actually shared this time with Donna.  I both liked and disliked this plot device; at first I thought RTD was trying to make the very deep, very true point that all humans, regardless of station in life are pivotal (as The Doctor himself has alluded to in the past)…but then RTD changes track a bit and makes sure we know that Donna Noble is really really special, not like the rest of us ordinary slobs.

I, as a non-Arminian, non-Calvinist Christian have my own ideas about choice, free will, etc… and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the most important Cross-roads of everyone’s life…that point, or points, where we each, with our own free will, answer the question posed by Christ in Matthew 16, “13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? 14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?”  That choice, that answer, really does have world changing implications for each of us.  I do realize that it can come across as “cheesy” for me to mention that, but when terms such as “crossroad” and “life-changing choices” comes to mind, that’s what my thoughts turn to.

The philosophical questions RTD brings up through the storyline are really interesting, and he does such a good job balancing the story; if you want to read something deeper and ask those deep questions because of the plot…well and good.  If, however, you just want to kick back, relax, and enjoy an hour long sci-fi show with the fam without giving it too much thought, it works just as well.  It was a fun, but serious episode and well acted by Tate; worth watching and mulling over.

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