Rebutting Reasonable Faith: Free Will and Evil

A correspondent to William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith column writes in with a very good question, one that atheists have often raised:An acquaintance of mine recently asked me why it is necessary that we be able to choose evil for us to have free will, while it is not necessary that God be able to choose evil for Him to have free will....I cannot explain why, if God could create us free without the capacity to choose evil, He did not do so (especially given the fact that we are created … [Read more...]

Thoughts on the Soul-Making Theodicy

In "All Possible Worlds", I wrote about the various religious responses to the problem of evil. Today, I want to say some more words about one of the common theodicies, the "teaching" or "soul-making" theodicy, as it's defended in the Christian tradition. This theodicy holds that experiencing and resisting evil is the only way to produce the kind of genuine moral development and strength of character that God desires.In the Christian view, one could imagine that the universe is like a testing … [Read more...]

Poetry Sunday: Design

This month's Poetry Sunday features another classic by a famous poet who's already made an appearance: Robert Frost, the skeptical New Englander whose work has become iconic of the American experience.Frost's views on God are complex. In some of his letters, he calls himself "an old dissenter", "secular till the last go down", and said there were "no vampires, no ghouls, no demons, nothing but me". In others, he expresses belief in and even fear of God, whom he usually identifies as the … [Read more...]

Evolution and the Problem of Evil

In the opening chapter of The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins penned the following words:An atheist before Darwin could have said, following Hume: "I have no explanation for complex biological design. All I know is that God isn't a good explanation, so we must wait and hope that somebody comes up with a better one." I can't help feeling that such a position, though logically sound, would have left one feeling pretty unsatisfied, and that although atheism might have been logically tenable … [Read more...]

The Arrogance of the Miraculous

This past Tuesday, a DC-9 jetliner crashed on takeoff in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After failing to lift off, the plane crashed and burst into flame on the ground. Among the passengers were the Mosiers, a family of Seventh-Day Adventist missionaries. With the help of other passengers, they forced open a door and escaped as smoke filled the stricken plane's cabin. The Mosiers' 3-year-old son Andrew suffered a broken leg, but other than that, they got out with only bruises. … [Read more...]

On the Possibility of Perfect Humanity

Last month, in "An Impoverished Infinity", I wrote about the strange limitations that many Christian believers impose on God. These theists believe that God was not wise or powerful enough to create a world with intelligent beings that did not also include earthquakes, diseases and other disasters - as if the infinite space of possible worlds was somehow foreclosed.The discussion in the comments thread centered largely around the issue of free will, which is the most common example of these … [Read more...]

An Impoverished Infinity

In Christian theology, God is presented as the omnipotent creator, able to bring about literally any world it is possible to imagine. His power has no limits, he never suffers from weakness or fatigue, and he possesses the omniscient knowledge necessary to shape the world according to his overarching plan.Or so Christian apologists say, anyway. Yet when we atheists challenge them with the problem of evil, asking why a benevolent creator would bring about a world where disease and disaster … [Read more...]

A World in Shadow V

A while back, I came across the moving story of an individual calling himself Real Live Preacher, whose faith was shattered when he saw a young mother die while working as a hospital chaplain:30 something. Cute. New mother with two little kids. Breast cancer. Found it too late. Spread all over. Absolutely going to die.Jenny had only one request. "I know I'm going to die, chaplain. I need time to finish this. It's for my kids. Pray with me that God will give me the strength to finish … [Read more...]

Inexplicable Justice

"Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay To mold me Man? Did I solicit thee From darkness to promote me, or here place In this delicious Garden? As my will Concurred not to my being, it were but right And equal to reduce me to my dust, Desirous to resign and render back All I received, unable to perform Thy term too hard, by which I was to hold The good I sought not. To the loss of that, Sufficient penalty, why hast thou added The sense of endless woes? Inexplicable Thy justice … [Read more...]

Open Thread: The Problem of Evil

I'm creating a thread to address this comment by Mollie:I've only been familiar with your site for a few days, so I'm not sure if this is the right place to discuss what I'm about to say. If not, please direct me to a more appropriate place.My husband thinks it's a bad idea to debate with you guys because we come from two totally different backgrounds of thought- I believe that God exists and that the Bible is totally true and you do not. Therefore, you will not convice me of anything and I … [Read more...]


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