THE SEARCH FOR THE MOST VIRTUOUS VERSATILE BLOGGER — PART 9

presentation1.pngIf you really want to know what this post is about, check out THE SEARCH FOR THE MOST VIRTUOUS VERSATILE BLOGGER — PART 1. Otherwise, just read on and enjoy.

What Is Evil?

What inspired this post? I try to finish what I start. What did I start? THE SEARCH FOR THE MOST VIRTUOUS VERSATILE BLOGGER — PART 1 explains the project in more detail and links to the other posts in the series.  Thus far I have published a series of posts on the seven deadly sins:  wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. What this post will do is tie up the previous posts with a discussion on the nature of evil.  Hopefully, we will also address sean samis‘ question.

I advocate nothing about God; about God I have only questions.  For instance, I see no logical argument against the idea that God is Evil.  I see many reasons to WANT God to be good, but no logical requirement.  One can–and many do argue that God is good, and he allows evil for reasons that are ultimately mysterious; likewise one could argue that God is evil, and he allows good for reasons that are ultimately mysterious.  It’s easy to see which of these is more likeable, but I don’t see how logic can determine which of these possibilities is more likely.  If you think you know how logic can do that, I would genuinely love to see it. (from  here).

There are various definitions of evil. In fact, we have a tendency to define evil as a characteristic or some thing.

evil

adj 1: morally bad or wrong; “evil purposes”; “an evil influence”; “evil deeds” [syn: wicked] [ant: good]
2: having the nature of vice [syn: depraved, vicious]
3: tending to cause great harm [syn: harmful, injurious]
4: having or exerting a malignant influence; “malevolent        stars”; “a malefic force” [syn: malefic, malevolent, malign]

n 1: morally objectionable behavior [syn: immorality, wickedness, iniquity]
2: that which causes harm or destruction or misfortune: “the evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”- Shakespeare
3: the quality of being morally wrong in principle or practice: “attempts to explain the origin of evil in the world” [syn: evilness] [ant: good, good]

These definitions tend to define evil rather narrowly. In Evil, Wikipedia reviews the various cultural explanations of evil. This discussion goes so far it reaches a seemingly absurd point. We are asked to consider: Is evil a useful term? On the other hand, the Catholic Encyclopedia provides a more theological discussion. In its version Evil, the Catholic Encyclopedia observes that God permits evil for the sake of a greater good.

Christian philosophy has, like the Hebrew, uniformly attributed moral and physical evil to the action of created free will. Man has himself brought about the evil from which he suffers by transgressing the law of God, on obedience to which his happiness depended. Evil is in created things under the aspect of mutability, and possibility of defect, not as existing per se : and the errors of mankind, mistaking the true conditions of its own well-being, have been the cause of moral and physical evil (Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite, De Div. Nom., iv, 31; St. Augustine, City of God XII). The evil from which man suffers is, however, the condition of good, for the sake of which it is permitted. Thus, “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist” (St. Aug., Enchirid., xxvii). Evil contributes to the perfection of the universe, as shadows to the perfection of a picture, or harmony to that of music (City of God 11). (from here)

R. C. Sproul provides an interesting series of videos. He begins by defining evil as nothing.

Near the end, Sproul echoes the Catholic Encyclopedia by saying something that at first sounds rather strange.

Evil is not good, but it is good that there is evil.

To make his point, Sproul cites this bit of scripture.

Romans 8:28 Good News Translation (GNT)

28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose.

Why evil exists we do not really know. It baffles us that a perfect and holy God would allow evil. Nonetheless, we can see that some how, some way evil often does turn to good. What we also know is that without good evil is a meaningless concept. What we define as evil is harm that subtracts from perfection, that is, the good.

Consider the significance of the fact we know the difference between good and evil — how we define good and evil. These observations address sean samis‘ question. If God were evil, then evil would be perfect, and what would be good? A loss of evil?

So what then is the essence of evil? Christianity defines evil as disobedience to God.  It goes all the way back to Genesis, to the sin of Adam and Eve.

Romans 5:19 American Standard Version (ASV)

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the one shall the many be made righteous.

When Adam ate the forbidden fruit, we all became sinners. Yet when Christ Jesus lived in perfect obedience to God, even to death on the cross, we were all redeemed. Even as the first man sinned, God already knew how He would turn evil to good.

So what is evil? Consider again the seven deadly sins. Each represents the absence of a specific virtue.

wrath: Patience allows us to think and overcome our excesses. Instead of raging, we take the time to contemplate our lives.

greed: What we call charity we derive from our love for others. When we love, our reward is love, something of far more value than we could ever steal.

sloth: Why are we slothful? As odd as it may seem, some do not understand that work is a gift. A purpose for living is what motivates the virtue of diligence.

pride: Humility serves as the counterpart to pride. It comes from the simple recognition that only God can be God.  At the root of every human sin is self-centered pride.

lust: Because lust leads to sins against one’s own body, Chastity is synonymous with purity. This is a virtue that says we care for the gift of our life.

envy: The virtue of kindness allows us to see others and ourselves more clearly. When we have compassion for others, we began to see people instead of possessions and superficial attributes.

gluttony: What we define as gluttony stems from a lack of temperance. Gluttony turns what should be a simple pleasure into punishment.

Are you worried that God does not care? Check out DOES GOD CARE?

About Citizen Tom

I am just an average citizen interested in promoting informed participation in the political process.
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11 Responses to THE SEARCH FOR THE MOST VIRTUOUS VERSATILE BLOGGER — PART 9

  1. lowlywhisper says:

    I’ve actually given the concept of Evil some thought. Evil is something detrimentally opposed to us and ours. Anti survival, if you will, for ourselves, and those we care about.

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  2. Biltrix says:

    If God were evil, then evil would be perfect, and what would be good? A loss of evil?

    I think that pretty much reduces Sean Samis’ objection to the absurd.

    Another way to look at it would be (hypothetically) that if there were a God, that God would have to be all-powerful and all-knowing. Now if that God were to defy justice with regard to lesser beings (say, creatures), he would do so knowingly and would have the power to do other wise. We could thus certainly conceive of something greater than that God, namely, a just God, and we ought to agree that that would be a better God than the one Samis proposes. By virtue of the latter notion of God being better than the former, the former is no longer all-powerful, for it is not even great, since we can all fathom something even greater than that God, namely, an all-powerful, all-knowing, benevolent God.

    So not only does Samis’ God contradict itself, it isn’t even God, because if we can come up with something better than Samis’ notion of God, and the God that exists outside our limited conceptions is certainly better than what we can conceive, then God has to be better than the miserly God of Samis.

    Surely someone can poke holes in my rationalism, but it just goes to show that with regard to what Samis calls god, we can do better than that; and if God exists (which I believe he does), He can too.

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    • Citizen Tom says:

      Biltrix – I think Sean Samis’ objection weak, but I don’t think he does. The idea that evil exists at all bothers people. We all have difficulty accepting the notion that evil is the consequence of sin (Genesis 3:14-21).

      I am not sure I follow your other way of looking at it, but it is probably not your fault. I think I have heard this argument before, but I am not sure I understand how the logic works. Let me see if I can explain how I think your other way of looking at it works.

      From my perspective, God is whatever He is. Most people define God based upon His power, not His goodness. While God cannot do something just is plain illogical, His values are whatever He thinks makes sense, and He is by definition powerful enough to get what He wants. Nonetheless, if God is evil, then He would have to believe being evil makes sense. Therefore, if I understand you rightly, what you are saying is that for God to believe being evil makes sense He have to be a lesser God that one we can imagine. In which Case, God would not be perfect and thus not God. Is that the argument?

      Then the effective argument is that God cannot be evil because doing evil is by definition illogical, self-destructive and ultimately senseless. Does Sean Samis believe evil is by definition illogical, self-destructive and ultimately senseless? That depends how Samis defines evil. Does God have to holy because being holy is logical? Does God, as you suggest, have to be just because it is logical to be just? Since the universe is surprising orderly and logically obeys physical laws, our Creator certainly seems to value logic. Nonetheless, many people see only the evil and they ignore the causes that preceded it. Because any evil exists, they refuse to accept the existence of a Holy God. Are they being absurd? Well, what does the Bible call an atheist?

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  3. I find that sloth is like superstition and wrath: evidence of a fearful attitude, showing a lack of faith. The existence of doodling, fidgeting, video games and puzzles demonstrates that putting out effort is not unpleasant. Why then do we all shy away from effort toward a purpose, even our own purposes? Because we are afraid of getting it wrong, and afraid ti won’t be worthwhile even if something does go wrong. How often have you done three times as much work to avoid work as the amount of work you avoided? why did you make that choice? Because if you made a mistake in the avoidance-work, no one would know and nothing would happen and it would be worth it somehow. If we just believe that we are capable of doing an adequate job at our responsibilities, and that our mistakes will not lead to catastrophe, sloth will be far easier to conquer.

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  4. Pingback: THE SEARCH FOR THE MOST VIRTUOUS VERSATILE BLOGGER — PART 9 | theraineyview

  5. sean samis says:

    Biltrix,

    I propose nothing about God. I merely ask questions. I don’t think God is evil. Please remember how this thread came about:

    – Tom proposed two fears: that God exists, and that God does not exist.
    – I suggested a third fear: that God exists but is evil. I don’t think this is so, but it is as much a possibility as God’s existence or non-existence.
    – Tom replied something to the effect that logic requires God to be good.
    – I replied that I don’t see such a logical argument.

    Biltrix, you seem to be on Tom’s side, that logic requires God to be Good. To this end, you offered what seems to be a variation on Anselm’s Ontological Argument. Anselm argued that God is “that than which nothing greater can be conceived”.

    If I understand your argument correctly, Biltrix, it can be summarized by the following syllogism;

    1. Justice is greater than injustice.
    2. God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived.

    Therefore:

    3. An unjust god would be inferior to a Just God.

    Therefore:

    4. God must be Just.

    Biltrix, you may wish to tweak this syllogism, but I think I it is fundamentally faithful to your argument. This syllogism works only if one accepts items 1 and 2, that justice is greater than injustice and the Ontological Argument.

    However, the first one is an unfounded assertion. If there is a logical reason why justice must be greater than injustice, I am not aware of it. It’s also not clear what “greater” means in this context. More powerful? More fundamental?

    Surely justice is preferable to injustice, Justice is “good”; injustice is not. But preferable and good do not mean the same things as greater.

    If justice and injustice do not have a greater than/less than relationship, the logic falls apart.

    The Ontological Argument has its own problems you’d need to overcome.

    So you have some work to show before the argument gains any force.

    I await a reply or correction.

    Tom asked the question: “If God were evil, then evil would be perfect, and what would be good? A loss of evil?

    If God is evil, God’s evil would be “perfect” in the sense of pure and complete. Dishonest, or deceptive, indifferent at best, cruel at worst. In my mind, good is good; evil is evil.

    For that, I have another comment …

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  6. sean samis says:

    I think this thread boils down to a question about the meaning of “good” or “evil”. A well-chosen definition can make any proposition appear absurd given the definition. But that merely shifts the question from the logic of the proposition to whether the helpful definition is reasonable.

    So it is that in this thread there are several attempts to define the meaning of “good” and “evil” and then build arguments about God based on those definitions.

    Examples are that evil “is harm that subtracts from perfection, that is, the good.” This seems plausible until we realize that the same comment also said that “The evil from which man suffers is, however, the condition of good, for the sake of which it is permitted” and “Evil contributes to the perfection of the universe, as shadows to the perfection of a picture, or harmony to that of music.”

    … sooooo–evil subtracts from good but is the condition of good’s existence? Evil, as it subtracts from good contributes to perfection? Sooooo–perfection is not purely good, but a mix of good and evil? These seem confused.

    What makes “good” perfect but evil not? Why not a “perfect” evil?

    Another pair of proposed definitions is that evil is “disobedience to God” and that evil is “detrimentally opposed to the salvation of our souls.”. These are better, but they cannot tell us anything about the possibility of God being evil. If (AND ONLY IF) God IS Satan, then this God/Satan would not disobey himself, making this God/Satan “good” regardless of its behavior. And an evil god might not actually offer any salvation of souls, making everything evil.

    Another proposed definition is that evil “is something detrimentally opposed to us and ours.” I like this one even more because it distinguishes Good and Evil from God. It offers us an “independent” definition that we could use to look at God if we try to decide if God is good or evil. A problem is that by this definition, we are evil for those creatures of God whom we live off of. And if some species kills us to survive, tho’ we will call it evil, it is pursuing its own survival and so is not evil. Since predation is the norm in the world, if this definition of evil holds, when God created the world, he built all life on the death of others, he built evil into it, putting it at the core.

    Finally, Citizen Tom asked if “doing evil is by definition illogical, self-destructive and ultimately senseless.” I don’t think that is necessarily true. An evil act may make perfect sense to the one who benefits from it, and horror to those who are its victims. I think that which is good is logical, but that which is evil can be logical too. This is because there’s more to goodness than just logic.

    So let me join this game. In my opinion, something is “good” to the extent that it is honest, compassionate, and involved. “Evil” is not so much the absence of “good” but the perversion of it.

    If someone acts without regard to the truth, that is less evil than insane or stupid. Instead, evil is often be done with the knowledge of the truth and the intent of perverting the truth, to deceive or conceal. Even Satan has to know what the truth is and act in accord with that to get what Satan wants; Satan is more likely to use the truth to pervert honesty into deceit and deception than he is to simply disregard the truth.

    Likewise, compassion is a deep awareness of the lives of others coupled with the wish to benefit or support the others. The mere absence of compassion is more like indifference. Indifference can be evil or just neutral, but hostility or hatred (the perversion of compassion) is always evil.

    Involvement, when absent, may indicate apathy or passiveness. Goodness without works is dead. But what about someone who was deceptive and cruel, but also passive? Are they evil? Would they become less evil if they were more actively evil? I think not. Involvement is necessary to make either good or evil meaningful. A passive saint is no better than a passive demon, nor any worse.

    To the extent that someone is honest, compassionate, and involved in the world, they are a good person regardless of their religion, sexual orientation, race, gender, age, etc. “Good” and “evil” are about intent and conduct. Period. Intent without conduct is nothing. Conduct without intent is stupidity.

    If I apply this definition to the seven deadly sins (as listed by Citizen Tom), I don’t think they are hard to fit; and Tom’s definitions generally are very similar.

    Wrath is dishonest and uncompassionate. We are all sinners, we all make errors. Wrath is the perversion of Mercy and Patience. As Shakespeare wrote, “… in the course of justice none of us should see salvation; we do pray for mercy, and that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.” — Merchant of Venice; Act IV, Sc. I.

    Greed, Gluttony and Envy are perversions of Compassion and Honesty, they are self-aggrandizement at the expense of others; they place material wealth and satisfaction or social status above life itself–especially above the lives of others. They repudiate Humility; they are Prideful and self-entitled. Conversely, Charity and Temperance (or Kindness) place the lives of others above one’s own material wealth or satisfaction, and reflect an honesty about one’s place in the world as part of a community of more-or-less equals.

    Sloth is akin to passivity, it is self-indulgence at the expense of one’s other responsibilities; it is the failure to be Diligent.

    Pride is principally dishonest. Humility is a direct consequence of honesty: we are all fallible, frail, ignorant creatures. Even the best of us owe a debt of gratitude to God, Chance, Fortune, parents, mentors, teachers, neighbors, and society. There are no self-made men, unless they were raised by wolves; and even then they owe something to those wolves.

    Lust is in my opinion, a bodily version of Greed or Gluttony. It is the pursuit of one’s own bodily gratification at the expense of concerns for others. Tom compares this to Chastity, but I think Chastity can be a sin too if pursued to prideful excess. Loving, deeply passionate sexuality between consenting persons is not an evil if it is merely an extension of their love and compassion for each other.

    That’s my rough-hewn definition of “good” and “evil”. To be honest, no one need agree with me; it’s far from complete.

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    • Citizen Tom says:

      sean samis — As I said, very interesting, but this part worries me.

      Finally, Citizen Tom asked if “doing evil is by definition illogical, self-destructive and ultimately senseless.” I don’t think that is necessarily true. An evil act may make perfect sense to the one who benefits from it, and horror to those who are its victims. I think that which is good is logical, but that which is evil can be logical too. This is because there’s more to goodness than just logic.

      We do not do evil because evil is logical. We do evil out of willful ignorance. See http://citizentom.com/2008/07/07/i-stand-corrected/.

      There are a couple of issues in your comments.

      Why Must Justice Be Greater Than Injustice?

      To say that justice must be greater than injustice is probably not the best choice of words. Greater how? Consider one of your own statements.

      Surely justice is preferable to injustice, Justice is “good”; injustice is not. But preferable and good do not mean the same things as greater.

      Rather than justice and injustice, I think the terms good and evil might be better. Nonetheless, since justice is an important aspect of good and injustice is an important aspect of evil, it is not a bad word choice.

      What the issue boils down to is what makes justice better than injustice. Justice is constructive. Injustice is destructive. Because God is the Creator, he would logically value the constructive nature of justice. Where there is justice, God’s creations are greater in wisdom, power, and beauty. Where there is justice, God’s creations give Him greater glory.

      Why Is Evil Nothing?

      “Evil contributes to the perfection of the universe, as shadows to the perfection of a picture, or harmony to that of music.”

      Is the statement above about evil true? No. Evil is not good, but it is good that there is evil. Because there is evil, we learn the value of good. We learn how evil detracts from the good.

      Let me borrow an analogy from another post. http://citizentom.com/2009/01/23/god-versus-science/

      Consider the definition of heat. Heat is real. Apply heat and we raise the temperature. Similarly, if we apply cold, we lower the temperature. However, what is cold? It is simply the absence of heat. When we apply cold, what we are really doing is using mass with relatively little energy to drain the heat from a warmer object.

      Good and evil are similar to the hot and cold. Love is analogous to heat. When we want to increase the good, we add love. When love dissipates, what replaces love is indifference. That is because hatred is not any more real than evil. Hatred stems from pride, a preoccupation with one’s self, an overly protective, misdirected self-love. If there is any such thing as perfect evil, then it stems from an infinite pride, a pride that makes the bearer of that pride indifferent to anyone’s welfare save his own.

      Is Evil Illogical, Self-destructive and Ultimately Senseless?

      To assert that Evil is not Illogical, Self-destructive and Ultimately Senseless will probably offend many atheists, atheists who argue that logic, not God, dedicates that we be good. I don’t disagree with those atheists, but I believe that while our spirits may be willing our flesh is weak. To be good, we need God’s help. That’s why societies of atheists do not work well.

      As I explained above, each of the seven deadly sins stems from the absence of a certain virtue. Instead, of exercising self-control, we do not. Why do we exercise self-control? We do it out of love. That is why even a prideful soul, because he loves himself, is capable of virtue.

      Who achieves the greatest virtue? Those who love God. These souls find it easiest to love others besides themselves. Because they love God, they learn to love God’s creations, including their neighbors. Instead of living in strife, those who love God love each other. Those who love God can trust and cooperate with each other.

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  7. sean samis says:

    I appreciate the comments and questions asked on this thread. Here is my reply.

    First thing: let me say again I am not advocating any idea about God. Early in his post, Tom wrote that I find “the assertion that God does not sin unsatisfactory. ” This is incorrect. I find the assertion that God CANNOT SIN unsatisfactory. Whether God does sin is entirely different.

    I keep coming back to this thread because I object to the use of faulty logic. To me, truth is the most important thing, and reason is the best tool we have to search-out the truth. Misuse of reason not only fails to find truth, it damages the credibility of reasoning itself.

    It seems to me that there are two Questions critical to the discussion in this thread. The first Question is: Is God All-Powerful and All-Knowing? The second Question is: Is God really a Person? Let me tackle those one-at-a-time.

    God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience

    It is standard Christian doctrine that God is All-Powerful and All-Knowing; God did, after all, create our Universe from nothing. An all-powerful and all-knowing God can do anything.

    Tom objects that “We really do not know what God can do. We can only hazard a logical guess.” Actually that’s not true. If God is all powerful and all knowing (standard Christian beliefs) then we, in fact, DO KNOW generally what God can do. We do know that God can do anything. An all-powerful God is capable of doing anything a human can think of. If I or anyone can think of something that God cannot do, then God is not all-powerful. The only barrier to us saying specifically what God is capable of is our lack of sufficient information, we don’t know ALL that God is capable of, but we know that anything we think of, God is capable of that.

    One must be wary here; I am not referring to what God prefers or wants to do. I refer merely to what God is capable of doing. There may be many things God does not want to do, but there is nothing God is unable to do. The only alternative is to say that God is not all-powerful or all-knowing.

    I am aware of one logical objection to the preceding: can God do things that are logically contradictory? Could God make a circle with corners? Could God create animals who are their own ancestors? These questions make for interesting conversations over beer, but these are irrelevant here.

    Tom raises an objection he thinks is of this type. I wrote that God is capable of making all humans “rational, morally informed, and conscientious, and actually free”. Tom objects that “If we love God because our nature gives us no choice in the matter, would we still have a free will? Logic suggests an answer of ‘NO.’” If I read this correctly, Tom’s point seems to be that if you are a fully informed person, your no longer have any free will. Information negates freedom. Huh?

    This is interesting because in the conduct of human affairs, the opposite is held true, a person unaware of pertinent facts is treated as having been deprived of a free choice.

    Is an informed decision an unfree decision? No, it is not. Informed free will is not a logical contradiction. Knowing the implications and consequences of a choice does not mean that a particular choice is “an unavoidable necessity”. It just means you know what your choice means. It means you know the unavoidable consequences of any choice. A free person may choose to accept those consequences. An uninformed person has been deprived of that choice.

    Informed decisions do not transform free will into determinism, a point Tom seems to acknowledge elsewhere: Tom wrote, “Imagine if we did [agree as to what is good and what is evil]. Would the mere fact we agree as to what is good and as to what is evil mean world peace? Would men stop sinning? I doubt most would think so …”. Free will does not preclude being an informed person. God could give us informed free will; it is not a logical contradiction.

    There is a lot to this that I am going to leave for another time; especially how the withholding of information affects moral accountability for a choice.

    If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, then God has the power to do anything, including the power to choose to do evil. Objections to that make up the next topic.

    Is God Really A Person?

    If God is all-powerful and all-knowing, and yet cannot choose to do evil, it is reasonable to doubt that God has volition: the ability to actually choose what to do. This is an odd thought because it would mean that God would lack a power humans have (the free will power to choose to do evil).

    If God simply cannot do evil, it brings God’s personhood into doubt. Instead of being a person, God is transformed into a mere “force of nature”. Ironically, this is typically an atheistic view of God: a force of nature as impersonal as gravity and just as subject to scientific verification or disproof.

    I realize that this would be an extraordinary conclusion, but it follows logically from attempts to prove that God cannot do or be evil. If logic tells us that God cannot be evil, then God would have to be under the power of predeterminism. The idea transforms God into a mechanism.

    Logic simply cannot tell us anything about the choices of a person having free will. The whole point of free will is that it gives a person the ability to make choice unbound by anything including logic. When choices are logically predetermined, volitions of any sort is foreclosed. If God logically must be only good, God’s volition is foreclosed. God would lack a power mere mortals are thought to have.

    There are many reasons to object to determinism as it applies to humans; the one that moves me the most is that determinism dehumanizes people, it disrespects their humanity. It transforms them into mechanisms instead of persons. Declaring that God logically cannot do evil does pretty much the same thing: it degrades and disrespects God. In my humble opinion, when God is good, it is by choice. A God who is helpless and must be good because he cannot do otherwise is unworthy of the title “God”.

    Tom and others have offered definitions of Evil which are intended to make evil acts by God impossible. I am sure these are well-intended, but unintentionally they disrespect and degrade God, unintentionally making God seem like a mere force of nature. In their zeal to protect God’s reputation for goodness, they quite accidentally adopt an atheistic view of God.

    I am sure this is unintentional, but the fact remains: if God is unable to choose evil that makes God inferior to humans: we have volition, a power God would not. Unlike us, God could not help but be good. Because of this, the moral basis of any gratitude to God would be erased; it would be pointless. God did not do good because God chose to; God couldn’t help himself; God could not choose otherwise. Gratitude to God would be as pointless as thanking your excel spreadsheet for correctly balancing your checkbook.

    If God is a person (or three) and all-powerful and all-knowing then God must have complete volition. As Mark Knox pointed out, God’s volition would be so great that even the term “free will” might be objectionable as too limiting. God is then, in my humble opinion, good by choice, not by logical compulsion. God is not helpless. Just as logic cannot “prove” that any human is necessarily good, logic cannot prove that God must be good, or that God could not be evil. If logic could do that, logic would have greater power over God than it has over us.

    I reiterate, I am not advocating any view of God as good or bad. I object only to faulty reasoning. If there are things that God is incapable of, then God is not all-powerful and all-knowing. If God is incapable of doing evil, God is not even a person. If those two conclusions are objectionable (as I think they are) then the arguments that propose them must be defective.

    And I will repeat another thing I wrote earlier: I believe that faith does not require one to ignore these hard questions or to fashion answers to unanswerable questions. I believe that faith requires trust in God’s goodness in spite of those questions. One who cannot have such trust just does not have faith. I believe that faith is not belief in God, it is belief about the character of God; it is TRUST in God’s goodness.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

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  8. sean samis says:

    I want to reply to the argument Tom makes about evil.

    Tom wrote that “Consider also that evil is nothing. Thus, creating evil would create nothing. Evil is nothing more than disobedience to the will of God. When we disobey God, that disobedience is evil. The one does evil creates the consequences that we call evil.”

    This is an incoherent definition of evil. If evil creates nothing, then evil creates no harm or consequence; evil creates no damage or barrier. If evil is truly nothing, then it is nothing. Punishment for “evil” would be punishment for nothing.

    If evil “serves a greater good” then it is not “nothing”. If it is “necessary for free will” it could not be “nothing”. If evil has consequences, it creates something (consequences) and is not “nothing”. As you can see, this whole line of thought is incoherent. It has a lot of work and consequence being done by something that is “nothing”. For “nothing” there’s an awful lot going on.

    Consider Love and Hate. Is Hate merely the absence of Love? If so, what is Indifference? Is Indifference the same as Hate? Isn’t it more plausible to see the absence of Love as Indifference? But then, what is Hate?

    Hate is clearly more than lack of Love, it is something much more. It is definitely not “nothing”.

    A better alternative is to define evil as the opposite or the perversion of good.

    Consider again Love and Hate.

    Love is an intense feeling of deep affection for someone; a deep attachment to someone. Love connects the lover’s happiness to the happiness or welfare of the one they love.

    Hate is an intense dislike for someone; a deep abhorrence or detestation for someone. Hate connects the hater’s happiness to the unhappiness or distress of the one they hate.

    Love and Hate are opposites, not merely the presence or absence of something. Hate is not a “nothing”; it is not just an absence of love; hate is distinctly something; it is the presence of something evil.

    With only a little effort, it can be seen that all the deadly sins Tom has written about at length can be better understood as perversions of virtues, or opposites of them.

    Evil is not nothing, evil is something.

    One could reply that my definition of evil is not necessarily true. Perhaps so, but since my definition is as plausible as any, it proves that Tom’s logical “conclusion” is not necessarily true, that it is not a “proof” but merely at tentative conclusion.

    If there are two logical, plausible conclusions to a question, and neither one is “necessarily true” then that logical question has no answer. That is what is happening here: this question has no logical answer.

    Logic, properly treated and used, never comes to a false conclusion. But often it simply comes to no conclusion at all, and this is the case with regards to evil. There is no logical necessity to select any particular definition of evil, and certainly no logical basis to claim a “proof” based on one of these uncertain logical definitions.

    Therefore, Tom has not shown a logical argument that “proves” God must be good. Obviously I have not shown any logical proof that God is evil; but that is not my goal; I don’t believe God is evil. I do believe logic is powerless to tell us anything about the nature of God.

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

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