Monday, August 24, 2015

The Existence of Evil in the World Presents No Objection to God's Existence

Monroe County
This week I begin (for my 15th year!) teaching three philosophy courses at Monroe County Community College - two Logic classes, and one Philosophy of Religion class. So my mind is gearing up for what, for me if not all the students, will be a lot of fun. A significant portion of my classes will engage issues of morality and God. In Logic we'll look at applying logic to ethical reasoning, looking especially at the strengths and weaknesses of utilitarianism and Kantian ethics. In Philosophy of Religion we will spend one-third of the semester on te argument from evil against God's existence.

So I'm gearing up for the semester, and thinking philosophically again. Here's some thoughts I have today to add to the evil and God discussion.

One reason the existence of evil in the world seems to present theists with an unresolvable problem is that God is portrayed as someone whose goal for humans is "happiness." It's true that if there is no God, and the only ethical system we are left with is amoral utilitarianism whose goals are the acquiring of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, then happiness, while not an objective goal, is to be desired. But this is not what Christian theism claims. So the atheist who argues this way is fundamentally misguided:

1. If God exists then God's goal is to make humans happy.
2. There is overwhelming unhappiness in the world.
3. Therefore, probably God does not exist.

Premise 1 is false. This is not, and never has been, the Christian worldview. Yes, the heretical "prosperity gospel" makes it sound like premise 1 is the Jesus idea. But it's not. Premise 1 sets up a straw man argument; thus, it is informally fallacious.

I repeat this: Premise 1 is not and never has been a core belief of Christianity. Therefore to use it against Christianity is like accusing atheists of praying to God (which, BTW, 6% of them do - see here, and here). 

So if God's great purpose for you and I is not to make us happy, then what is it? It is:

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, 
for this is the whole duty of man.” 
Eccesiastes 12:13


"To glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever."
Westminster Shorter Catechism

If you are an atheist you will of course not agree that these things are the purpose of your life. Just as I, as a theist, do not agree that life has no ultimate meaning and purpose (= atheism). But let's not accuse the Jesus-follower for believing in a God who is not making everyone happy. That would be like me complaining to a baseball fan that, in the game of baseball, no one is ever allowed to kick a field goal which would make me, a football fan, happy.

Not only is the theistic God's goal for us not to make us happy, thereby eliminating evil, but the very complaint that there is evil in the world serves as a premise in a moral argument for God's existence. 

1. If there is no God then objective moral values do not exist.
2. Evil exists, objectively.
3. Therefore, God exists.