Thursday, May 08, 2014

A Philosophical Error by Tim Keller


(Someone asked me about Tim Keller's book Reason for God, and what I thought of it. I like Keller, but here's a philosophical error he makes. I'm reposting this.)

I'm reading philosopher Bryan Frances's recently published Gratuitous Suffering and the Problem of Evil. "Gratuitous suffering" means "pointless suffering"; viz., suffering which God does not need to allow for a greater good to happen or need to prevent an equal or greater evil from happening. In the philosophical discussion about the argument from evil against God's existence, the existence of gratuitous suffering (if it does exist) seems to be a mark against the existence of an all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing being by which we mean God.

Early in Frances's book he mentions Tim Keller's The Reason for God. Keller writes that the effort to demonstrate that evil disproves the existence of God "is now acknowledged on (almost) all sides to be completely bankrupt." Keller quotes philosopher William P. Alston here, but inaccurately. Frances points out that what Alston wrote is rather: "It is now acknowledged on (almost) all sides that the logical argument is bankrupt..." (Emphasis mine.)

What Alston says is true. The logical argument from evil against God's existence is a failure. But the evidential argument is not, at least when it comes to being taken seriously and not dismissed as casually as Keller does. Keller misquotes Alston to make a philosophically illegitimate point. The importance of this for those of us who are theists and Jesus-followers is that, at least at the moment of Keller's handling of the very important discussion of evil, he fails to defend theism.