Let me begin by admitting that, like most people, my sense of the best arguments in any field is limited. There is only so much time to listen to podcasts and read books and blogs. I try to stay up to date on what passes for compelling arguments in Christian apologetics, but I’m sure I’m missing some good stuff.
Two kinds of apologetics
Nevertheless, the Christian arguments that I come across are of two sorts. One category is the earnest statement of a weak argument. I’ll provide an example shortly. The second is the deep and convoluted “No, I can’t make this any simpler” philosophical argument.
I’ve tackled a few of the philosophical arguments (see the list at the end). I haven’t found any compelling, but one of the fallbacks for the apologist with this kind of argument is to say that I’ve only responded to some of the variants of that argument. They’ll point to a stack of books and demand that I respond to all the new ’n improved versions, despite the fact that even within the philosophical community these arguments aren’t widely accepted. Only the most popular interest me, because a boring, esoteric argument doesn’t make for an interesting blog post.
The bigger obstacle for me is the idea that a loving god who desires a relationship with humanity would make his presence known only with these vague and esoteric arguments.
Christian slapdown of the Problem of Evil
What prompted this post was a recent article by Mikel Del Rosario, the “Apologetics Guy.” He says that he’s a Christian apologetics professor, speaker, and trainer. He has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola and is working on a Master of Theology at Dallas Theological Seminary, so you’d expect a substantial argument.
You’d expect wrong.
I come across articles like this frequently. I’m eager to respond, but there’s just not that much to say. Either the points that come to mind are already out there in a few of my posts or I can deal with it in just a paragraph. My response becomes nothing more than a comment, not a blog post. Take a look at the argument, and you may see what I mean.
Del Rosario raises three points.
1. The Problem of Evil Isn’t An Argument for Atheism
Del Rosario says, “[The Problem of Evil] really isn’t an argument for atheism. It’s not even a challenge to the existence of God.”
He supports this claim by quoting atheist Sam Harris: “If God exists, either he can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities, or he does not care to. God, therefore, is either impotent or evil.”
If I may paraphrase Del Rosario’s response, he says, “Aha! You said, ‘If God exists’! If God exists, then you lose, Mr. Atheist.”
No, Harris doesn’t think that the Christian god exists; he’s simply arguing that evidence shows that any god in charge is impotent or evil, which conflicts with the Christian claims of omnipotence and omni-benevolence. Conclusion: the Christian god doesn’t exist.
If Del Rosario wants to accept Harris’s hypothetical, I don’t think it takes him where he wants to go, so this word game fails.
Del Rosario continues:
But some still insist that all the evil and suffering in the world, especially the stuff that seems totally pointless to us, must mean there’s no God.
2. The Problem of Evil Doesn’t Mean There’s No God
Del Rosario gives the example of pain and fear in a child during a medical procedure. The adults understand the importance of the procedure, but they can do nothing beyond supporting the child through it. The problem with this popular analogy, of course, is that the adults are limited while God isn’t. If God wanted to help a child with a medical issue, it could be done immediately and painlessly. If God wanted to terraform Indonesia, he could find a dozen ways to do it without the 2004 tsunami and without inconveniencing a single person. And yet he doesn’t.
Dr. Glenn Kreider said, “If God is good and evil exists, then God will one day do something about evil and … we have an eschatological [end times] hope that evil and all of its effects will one day be removed. So there is a redemptive work of God and he is acting redemptively in a fallen world.”
So there are problems in the world, and God will address them in his own sweet time? I await the evidence for this incredible claim.
The atheist view sounds far more responsible: some problems in this world we can fix, and some we can’t. Let’s not wait for some supernatural something-or-other without any obvious existence to pick up the pieces. Rather, let’s join together to make the most progress we can.
Next time: “The Hypothetical God Fallacy + The Problem of Evil.”
Here are a few of the posts I’ve written that respond to philosophical apologetics.
- Is This a Powerful New Apologetic Argument?
- Sean Carroll Slaps Down Fine Tuning Argument
- Sh*t Christians Say
- Why is the Universe Comprehensible?
- A Dozen Responses to the Transcendental Argument for God
- Rebutting the “God is Simple” Argument
- Plantinga’s Unconvincing “Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism”
- Kreeft’s Argument from Absolute Conscience Fails Absolutely
Rational arguments don’t usually work on religious people.
Otherwise there would be no religious people.
— Dr. House in House (season 4, episode 2)
Photo credit: Demarquet Geoffroy