As many of you know, I’ve recently been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As is my wont, I would like to see how this works within the light of some theology and philosophy of religion, especially in the context of the problem of evil. The problem of evil it is, of course, how we understand the nature of suffering in terms of an all-loving, all-knowing and all-powerful God. Here are the options as I see them:
- God does not exist.
- God exists but is the philosopher’s God, the God of the deist. This means that he does not get involved in the goings-on in the earthly dimensions. That I have multiple sclerosis or people die of cancer or people die of malaria or in wars is seemingly irrelevant to him. It’s hard to see how such a god could have the personal characteristic of being all-loving. This is not the g/God of classical theism.
- God exists, but it appears that he doesn’t like me very much. This might be because I am a bad person or because I don’t believe in him, and am thus a bad person (or both). Either way, he has knowingly allowed me to develop this condition. The condition developed naturally but he didn’t see it as necessary or good to stop it in any way.
- This is very similar to the last one but he has knowingly planned for me to develop this condition. This differs in that it is not omission but explicitly willed action. Take that, Pearce!
In both option 3. and option 4., it appears that the development of the condition can be seen in one of three ways:
- a) I deserved it and, therefore, it is some form of retribution or punishment.
- b) I deserved it inasmuch as the conditions serve to bring about a greater good. Something about me getting MS means that the universe is or will be a better place.
- c) I didn’t necessarily deserve it, per se, but the existence of MS in the world offers a benefit in some capacity. There is a greater good that comes about as a result of having MS in the universe as opposed to not having it. I’m just one of the unlucky ones who happens to have developed the condition. It’s nothing personal, it’s just a case that I am being used instrumentally for the greater good of the universe. In some way. Over some time period.
Of course, the confusion comes in with much of this if we see God as being omniscient such that he has full divine foreknowledge of all future events, irrespective of free will. If I deserved this, as in option a) above, and he designed the world with the full foreknowledge that I would be who I would be for whatever reason there might be for this, then there is little sense to be made of the whole scenario. It appears to be a case of setting a test for humanity, but has full knowledge of the results of that test. So what, I wonder, would be the point of setting such a test?
Another issue in the case of deserving this is that there appear to be far worse people on Earth than me who don’t get any kind of ill health or just desserts in this earthly life. This appears to be a case of double standards. Now, I know this sounds like I’m being conceited because I am placing myself morally above an atheistic mass murderer who has never been caught and has lived an enjoyable and fulfilled existence, but I think am not the worst person in the world… As I have mentioned many times before, you cannot use heaven to balance the books. At least, it cannot be used as moral justification unless the theist wants to adhere to moral consequentialism. That’s fine by me, it’s just not what almost any theologian would espouse because there is no need for a god in this moral value system.
Are there any other options that I am missing and I will add them in? Of course, God could be evil, etc, but, like the philosopher’s god, this version does not qualify as the one classical theism.
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