Advertisements
Hell, philosophy, Theodicy

What if? The “Job Answer” to the Problem of Evil

“Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me.” Job 41:11

There are many different kinds of theodicy or defenses to rebut the problem of evil. As I read the Bible I see a few different answers, but one extremely important theodicy in the Scriptures is what I shall deem the “Job Answer,” which is found in the book of Job, although a similar idea is touched upon by Paul in Romans.

Job was known as the most righteous of all the people on earth. Yet God allowed terrible things to happen to him, as part of a test to show Satan that Job was indeed as faithful and righteous as was thought.

But why? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is it that Job, who God Himself called blameless and upright (1:8) has so many bad things happen to him?

Job’s friends gathered around him and offered various explanations. Job must have done something to deserve it, he must have erred in some way, etc, etc. Yet all of these, Job says, are wrong. He is indeed without blame, and he remains faithful. Yet despite this faith, he cannot help but complain to God. And in this defense of himself and appeal to God, he again points out that he is righteous (see Job 31).

God’s answer to this complaint is where I draw the “Job Answer.” God responds, basically, by saying “Job, you don’t know how I operate, but don’t you think it’s reasonable to conclude that I know what I’m doing?”

Is this a satisfactory answer? Can Job demand another answer? Should he?

That is often the route taken by atheists and even Christians when they investigate the problem of evil. They demand that God provide an answer they themselves find suitable. They act as though God owes them the answer, as if God cannot possibly be good unless the answer is found acceptable in their own eyes. But what does God say to that? In Job chapter 41, He says “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.”

Is that easy? Is that the answer we Christians like to see? Not really. It would be so much easier if God just said “You know, I gave you guys freedom of will, so given your sinful nature (which you chose, by the way), wouldn’t you expect to see some pretty awful things happening?” That’s the kind of answer I find more appealing. That’s easy.

But that isn’t the answer God gave. He said “Everything belongs to me. Who must I repay?” Does that mean God is not good?

Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle’s recent book Erasing Hell has had me reflecting on these very questions. Hell is a tough issue, and it has some serious implications for the problem of evil. In a particularly intriguing part of this book, the authors quote Scripture and follow it with a few questions. Specifically, they are reflecting on the idea that God knows who is going to hell before they themselves choose to do so. Check it out:

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory?” (Rom. 9:22-23)

…What if God, as the sovereign Creator of the universe, decided to create ‘vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”? …And what if it’s His way of showing those He saves just how great His glory and mercy is? What would you do if He chose to do this? Refuse to believe in Him? Refuse to be a ‘vessel of mercy’? Does that make any sense? Would you refuse to follow him? Really? Is that wise? (p. 130, cited below)

The passage quoted is from Paul, writing to the Romans. Note how he phrases it: he starts it with what if. He’s not saying this is what God does, or that God does operate in this way, but he’s offering it as a possibility. Chan and Sprinkle continue this line of reasoning: What would we do if this is how God works? Would it make sense to rebel… to become a vessel of wrath just because we know they exist? Does it mean that God is doing wrong if this is how He operates?

Again, we turn back to Job to find the answer. God’s ways our not our own. God answers Job by listing things Job cannot do, and cannot even comprehend. ‘These things,’ God implies, ‘are outside of your comprehension… yet you expect to understand something even more incomprhensible?’ But that is not where God leaves it. He also tells us that ultimately, He will bring justice to all. Those who are now downtrodden will be lifted up, and justice will reign. How can Job respond? By repenting “in dust and ashes” (42:6).

So the “Job Answer” fits in a unique place among various defenses and theodicies for the problem of evil. Instead of using human nature and free will or a greater good to justify evil, the answer given to and by Job is that God, being good, has a reason, even if that reason is inscrutable for us. It is a response of faith.

But this does not mean the “Job Answer” is the only answer given in all of Scripture. Jesus is the ultimate answer to the problem of evil. He came and took our pain and suffering upon Himself, which in turn defeats evil ultimately and for all time. There are other Biblical answers to the problem of evil, but the answer Job gives is simple: Have faith. It does not promote an unphilosophical or unreflective faith, but points out the obvious: If we have good reasons to believe in God, and reasons which point to God as good, then we can simply trust that the apparent problem of evil is solved, ultimately, by God.

Thus, the “Job Answer” implies a second version of theodicy. Namely, that the evidence for the existence of God provides a rebutting defeater for the problem of evil. If we know that God exists and is good, then the problem of evil simply cannot be coherent.

In either case, the “Job Answer” provides a powerful, Biblical, answer to the problem of evil.

Source cited: Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle Erasing Hell (Colorado Springs, CO: 2011, David C. Cook).

Response to an attack on this post found here (Search for “On Job.”)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Advertisements

About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.

Discussion

25 thoughts on “What if? The “Job Answer” to the Problem of Evil

  1. The problem of evil has nothing to do with the limits of human understanding. It has to do with the meaning of ‘good’ and ‘loving’. We don’t have to know as much as God to know whether he is good. We only have to agree on a definition and read the news.

    The Job story is a depiction of an abusive relationship. Dad turns his child over to a sadist to test his love. When the torture stops, the child reaffirms his love of father, thanking him for not hurting him even more. Abnormal Psych 101.

    Exonerating God relies on forgetting God has options. Even if God knows what he’s doing, he could accomplish his ends without torturing Job. Yet he does not. What reason could there be? Perhaps God’s hands are tied. If so, he’s not much of a God. He’s just a special cog in a hideous machine that grinds up children. Dozens have died of starvation since you started reading this.

    >If we have good reasons to believe in God, and reasons which point to God as good,

    Even if we have reasons which point to God doing good, even one instance of unnecessary, undeserved suffering vitiates the possibility of God being good, unless he is weak or absent.

    >then we can simply trust that the apparent problem of evil is solved, ultimately, by God.

    You can, but it would be irresponsible and callous. We can’t sensibly commit to a God we don’t know better than this. We already possess three, known, plausible solutions to the problem of evil: God is weak, evil or absent. There is no good reason, other than motivated reasoning to salvage God, to insist that a fourth, unknown one exists.

    If you come up with a fourth option, we must consider it. Until then, holding out hope that God knows what he’s doing is morally and logically insufficient to account for the human condition. It is an affront to all those who have suffered.

    Posted by donsevers | August 24, 2011, 7:03 PM
    • A very thoughtful comment, Don! Thanks a lot.

      I think that many of the various defenses/theodicies do well to answer the problems you bring up. As always, you focus on specific instances of suffering as opposed to suffering per se. That’s not a negative for your argument, but it does make it a different kind of problem of evil. We’ve gone through the circles on this issue, and I’ll note that elsewhere you granted that there is at least one argument which allows for an omnibenevolent deity. You wrote, “[J.W.’s] argument only shows that an omnibenevolent, omnipotent god is not contradictory.” This is an exact quote from your comment here. (You’ll have to search it or scroll down to the bottom to see it.)

      So I am curious about whether you simply forgot that you’ve already conceded this point, or if you’re simply trotting it out again because it seems to be one of only two objections you level against any post I make. (The other being pluralism.)

      But regardless of what you said in the past, and, again, you conceded this issue already, I would just point out that I think there are at least 3, if not 4 viable options to solve the problem of evil. I’ll list them quickly because I’ve addressed a few of them in detail elsewhere (one of them being the comments wherein you conceded I showed the consistency). 1) Human free will means evil will occur. Humans aren’t free if God controls their actions, therefore, if human free will exists, there can be evil. 2) God is infinitely good to each and every human being, such that their lives are good to them on the whole, regardless of what finite evils happen. 3) If we have good enough reasons to think that a: God exists and b: God is good, this serves as a defeater for the belief that evil disproves a and b.

      1 is particularly hard to deny, as pretty much all modern philosophers, theistic and otherwise, have discovered. Hence the death of the logical problem of evil within philosophy. 2 requires some development, and interested readers should check out Marily McCord Adams’ work on the topic or read some of my summaries of her position. One can be found here. 3 is even harder to deny because that’s just the way epistemology works. If I have a good reason to believe a and b, but there is something, c which contradicts a and b, I have a defeater for c.

      And I am still interested in why you press this problem so much when you literally write that there is actually no such thing as evil. If there is no such thing as evil, then why do you press the issue so much. Again, as I have quoted elsewhere (and you’ve still yet to respond to this question): You said, “I’ll grant that ‘evil’ doesn’t exist under atheism.” In your comments here.You also say, later, “I’m not saying suffering is wrong.”

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 24, 2011, 10:32 PM
      • Wow! This is a very thoughtful post!
        I am very impressed that you kept your patience with Donsevers even when he is obviously antagonizing you. I wish he had continued to respond so that we could open up this conversation even more!

        I also wish that more Christians developed a Christian attitude in the face of criticism and argument. Too many people explode in anger instead of love. No matter how good your argument is, you will never win someone over by arguing. People always think that they are right, even if they can’t think of a good reason for it. In fact, when they see they don’t have a good reason for it, that just makes them even more upset.

        Thank you for your thoughts.
        May the Lord cause his face to shine upon you.

        Posted by Joseph | December 7, 2015, 3:30 PM
    • What is evil? What is the definition of easy? Is war evil or a consequence of it?

      Posted by Terik | May 20, 2016, 5:06 PM
  2. Great post and thoughtful post on a topic that is extremely difficult and in much need for believers who struggle with the question of evil. Thanks for the post.

    Posted by youthguyerik | August 24, 2011, 7:46 PM
  3. I think skeptical theism has merit given our finititude in comparision to God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. However, I have a hard time coming to terms with how far we can take this skeptical theism. We may as well ask “What if God was indistinguishable from the works of Satan?” and claim that we are in no position to question such a “God’, if we can even call Him that. Furthermore, if God did make vessels for destruction then we are sure not responsible for what God determined us for. What kind of glory would a God get by working contrary to the ultimate good of all humans (namely Himself) by creating them in such a way that they are prepared for destruction? This is not going to give Him maximal glory, it is inferior and objectively unjust no matter how finite our knowledge is. I do not even consider it a real possibility, at best it is just as possible as asking “What if God did not exist?”.

    I do agree that we ought to trust in God’s wisdom, especially because we know God must exist and must be all good. I just think we need to be careful not to conflate the imagination with the intellect. It is possible to imagine any act, no matter how horrid, as good simply because we label this being as “God” but it is certainly not true of the intellect insofar as we can grasp the nature of things and understand what it entails. If we can form a coherent intellectual idea of a God who would do Satanic deeds and yet be called “good” then perhaps we have something but otherwise, the fact that we can “imagine” this does not make it coherent to the intellect. The intellect is limited, sure, but an explicit contradiction is a contradiction no matter what kind of “super knowledge” we can appeal to through the powers of our imagination.

    Posted by Gil S. | August 24, 2011, 8:29 PM
  4. Again, a theoretical discussion, concerning imaginary entities. The fictional characters of “god”, “satan”, and “job” do not exist anywhere except in the minds of statistically small number of humans (statistically small, including those alive today, and throughout written history and before). Human suffering does exist. In my experience, debates about primitive superstitions don’t lessen it. This entire thread seems highly narcissistic.

    Posted by Jeff "Jeff" Weiss | August 25, 2011, 6:46 AM
  5. Two questions:

    1. How do we know God is good?

    2. How can God have a plan for humans, and be unable to control human actions? Doesn’t a plan necessitate at least some control to avoid just being ‘hopeful’ for a particular outcome?

    This may be taking it back a step, but if you have a good god with an assumed reason and an ultimate plan, the problem of evil doesn’t get much purchase. The real question is whether you have any of those things.

    Thanks,

    Lee.

    Posted by Lee | August 25, 2011, 8:40 AM
  6. Congrats on your wedding, J.W. Good to see you back in the saddle again.

    I’ve been pondering the POE a bit myself lately, and I can’t help but wonder if the “Job answer” might undercut the moral argument. We want to tell the atheist that God has given us the ability to recognize good and evil, but on the other hand when something that is evidently bad happens we tell them “God’s purposes for allowing this are inscrutable”. Does this at all pose a problem, in your mind?

    Posted by Erik Manning | August 25, 2011, 10:01 PM
    • I’m not sure how it would undermine the moral argument. The moral argument, in the most basic form, is:
      1) If there are objective moral values, then God exists.
      2) There are objective moral values.
      3) God exists.

      The “Job Answer” basically says “I know that God is good and that God exists, so I trust that for any evil, there must be a good reason for it.”

      I don’t see how that would contradict either premise of the moral argument. The moral argument itself is a good reason to move towards the “Job answer,” because it shows us both that God is good and that God exists.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 25, 2011, 10:57 PM
      • I have to agree with Erik on this one, This argument seems to undercut the existence of evil itself. If there is a “good” reason, then it really isn’t evil. If all evil is really good, then the moral value of evil is undercut, because there is no real evil only good that looks evil from our perspective.

        Posted by John | May 25, 2012, 5:58 PM
  7. >I trust that for any evil, there must be a good reason for it.”

    If God is omnipotent, there can’t be a good reason for evil because he could accomplish his ends without evil. Being pawns in his schemes is bad enough, but then we realize God had other options. This should be heartbreaking for his followers, but they simply dig deeper into their faith. Theodicies are the pitiful rationalizations of victims who need their abuser so much the fall in love with him. To them, he simply must be good, evidence be damned.

    >And I am still interested in why you press this problem so much when you literally write that there is actually no such thing as evil.

    We have covered this. There are many ways to establish morality without theism. But that is irrelevant in this case because I am arguing on theism. On theism, God is weak, evil or absent. Your 3 points:

    1) Human free will means evil will occur.

    Even if we have free will, much suffering has nothing to do with human choices.

    And even in instances where human free will causes evil, God did not have to allow the strong to prey on the weak. It is unjust and sadistic to place little kids in a world and leave them to their fate. Original Sin falls in this category. People who say sin flows down the generations make it sound like God had no choice in the matter. When loving humans can protect the weak and innocent, we do so. God always can, but does not.

    2) God is infinitely good to each and every human being, such that their lives are good to them on the whole, regardless of what finite evils happen.

    Greater Good doesn’t erase even a little evil.

    God has choices. He could give us Paradise without any suffering in this life and still accomplish all his purposes. Human suffering is always unnecessary for God.

    3) If we have good enough reasons to think that a: God exists and b: God is good, this serves as a defeater for the belief that evil disproves a and b.

    Because of God’s special role, we don’t have good reasons to believe he is good. He may be good some of the time to some people, but we know too much about the human condition to say he is all-good. Even one instance of unnecessary, undeserved suffering is enough to convict him. If Gandhi killed one man, he should go to jail.

    This discussion is another example of faith making good people think bad things. To say God is good against the piteous background of human suffering is incredibly callous. I’m afraid Christians are selfish in their need for a loving God, to the point that they discount the agony of children and defend the only being who could help them all.

    Posted by donsevers | August 26, 2011, 11:07 AM
    • “If God is omnipotent, there can’t be a good reason for evil because he could accomplish his ends without evil.”

      Your conclusion is correct, except that the concept of free will which is given by an omnipotent God assumes that God has limited His power by his own decree. Free will is the only answer to this problem.

      “Even if we have free will, much suffering has nothing to do with human choices.”

      What makes you so sure of that statement. If we assume a free will defense, then we must assume that it is human choice which creates all evil. That hasn’t been proven, only assumed by you. While you may not think that free will choice creates all suffering, you have not proven that point. It is beyond the scope of this discussion, but the Bible states that ALL of the world was changed by Adam’s choice. But, this is what the Bible states. If you believe that a bunch of stone age, goat herders dreamed up the precise and only answer to the problem of evil, even before they knew that the problem of evil existed all by themselves, then be my guest. I understand that you don’t accept it, but at least admit that if it is true, then it is the correct answer to the issue.

      “And even in instances where human free will causes evil, God did not have to allow the strong to prey on the weak. It is unjust and sadistic to place little kids in a world and leave them to their fate.”

      You are wrong about God not having to allow all of the actions that a free will being chooses. If God has given free will for moral choice, then God cannot then determine which acts can be freely chosen and which acts can’t. That is not free choice. Thus, a Good God who cannot lie would be a liar because he did not give free will when he said he did.

      “Greater Good doesn’t erase even a little evil.”

      It is hard to comprehend how you can make this statement. The Nazis tortured, murdered, and conspired to enslave all men under them. While it is wrong to kill, we went to war and stopped them. The greater good of stopping all of this insanity certainly did erase the evil of having to kill them to do it. Or, a surgeon does harm to the body (cutting it open, etc..) but this is for the greater good that the patient may live. Some patients die due to the surgery itself, but the greater good of more having longer, happier lives makes the choice to provide medical treatment good. Every moral choice we make in life is for “the greater good” and is decided upon that basis.

      “God has choices. He could give us Paradise without any suffering in this life and still accomplish all his purposes. Human suffering is always unnecessary for God.”

      Once again taking the free will position as I have laid it out, one can only conclude that God only had two choices, create free will beings and suffer the consequences of some of them choosing evil or simply not create them at all. If the final conclusion of this will be a greater good than no creation at all, then God could make the choice as a good God.

      “3) If we have good enough reasons to think that a: God exists and b: God is good, this serves as a defeater for the belief that evil disproves a and b”

      As I have defined the issues, this conclusion doesn’t stand. There is an answer and it is the free will response. While you may choose not to believe it, (that is of course your free will prerogative) It is a completely logically consistent and valid position.

      Lastly, the idea that your can establish moral standards without theism. True you can create a system of beliefs and then if you have enough power behind you enforce them on others, but in no way is this a “moral” standard.

      If there is no good, then there is no morality. Why help the weak? It may have some potential personal benefit i.e. If I help others when they are weak… they will help me when I am weak. But, there is no reason for it other than personal benefit. To establish moral standards is simply arbitrary. The Nazi’s weren’t wrong, they just were just beat in a war. Ants fighting on an ant hill don’t need morality only territorial ambitions.

      At one point in my life I was an atheist, but at least I didn’t believe the drivel that I could believe in moral standards. If you want to be an atheist, then be one and simply admit that you there is no right or wrong based upon a materialistic close system. This is the only true position that an atheist position has any legitimate basis to make. But, don’t then try to say that somehow you have a superior moral position to theist. If all is chance, then chance is the only moral standard. There is no wrong or right, only what is.

      This is the only logical conclusion you can make as an atheist. Any other belief simply shows that either, you haven’t freed yourself of your own religious influences in your life or that there is an innate moral sense built into you from some other source beyond the material universe. But, don’t claim that you are “good”, because within your system, no such concept exist.

      Posted by John | May 25, 2012, 7:10 PM
      • >While you may not think that free will choice creates all suffering, you have not proven that point.

        Suffering existed for eons before humans arrived on the scene. It’s hard to see how future human choices could have caused it. That hasn’t kept a megachurch pastor in our area from trying. He claims that there was no suffering before Adam. Lions ate grass, then The Fall caused their teeth to become sharper and predation began. That’s a pretty high price to pay.

        >It is beyond the scope of this discussion, but the Bible states that ALL of the world was changed by Adam’s choice.

        Even if this were true, that the lion lay down with the lamb in the pre-Cambrian, it would not be a fair system. God could cause suffering to accrue to each sinner. And he could have set things up so that less suffering followed from The Fall. After Eve’s sin, women didn’t start exploding in childbirth. Why? Because God didn’t set things up that way. But he did choose to multiply their pain in childbirth, including frequent death. It seems he could have set things up so that LESS pain followed The Fall. There are many horrors absent from life on earth. As creator, God determined what was possible and what was not, including what could follow from The Fall.

        >If God has given free will for moral choice, then God cannot then determine which acts can be freely chosen and which acts can’t.

        We can’t kill with our thoughts, yet we still say we have free will. I can’t kill a billion people, or a million. Is this because I am not free to do so? No, it’s because God didn’t give me the power. It seems God could have set things up so that it was harder to beat children to death. Give God some credit. He could have done better.

        >”Greater Good doesn’t erase even a little evil.” It is hard to comprehend how you can make this statement.

        Granted. A more careful rendering is this: “Allowing more suffering than is necessary to achieve a Greater Good doesn’t erase even a little evil.” EVEN IF suffering were necessary to reach a goal, God would not need the spectacular amounts we observe. To say God REQUIRES suffering to reach any goal is to admit he is not omnipotent. An omnipotent God could reach anyt logically possible end end via any logically possible means. He really could.

        >This is the only true position that an atheist position has any legitimate basis to make.

        This is a good discussion to have, but has no bearing at all on God’s goodness. We can evaluate God’s goodness without offering an alternative.

        >But, don’t claim that you are “good”, because within your system, no such concept exist.

        Even if this were true, I’m arguing on Christianity. Under Christianity’s own principles, God does not seem to be as loving as he could be. Besides, the failure of other systems does not mean Christianity wins by default. Perhaps moral values are contingent. In that case, there might be no possible system of absolute morals at all.

        Posted by donsevers | May 28, 2012, 3:06 PM
  8. Great post and thoughtful comments and discussion.

    Posted by drwrl4jesus | September 5, 2011, 1:28 PM
  9. This a an essay on the problem of evil. So a basic question is what evil has occurred in the Book of Job? There has clearly been suffering. But evil is not synonomous with suffering. At least in the popular use of the word, evil implies an intentional act that results in injury, suffering or some other damage to a sentient being.

    Let us postulate that Job was afflicted with a bacterial infection that caused much of his misery. There is strong physical evidence that most strains of bacteria have been present from before the Fall, so it doesn’t seem that the presence of harmful bacteria can be attributed to Original Sin. I doubt that many would find that the bacteria was evil, after all it is only doing what it evolved, or was created, to do. There were thieves that took Jobs livestock and other possessions. They were conscious agents that understood that they were wrongly taking another’s property, so we can clearly agree that they were committing an evil act. We can find other acts, such as Eliphaz and Temanite speaking ill of God. But this evil act seems incidental to Job’s suffering, which is the central theme of the story.

    Were Satan’s acts evil? He willfully causes suffering in Job, causes the death of Jobs children and (probably) incited the thieves to steal Job’s belongings. So it certainly appears that he has wronged Job, and therefor has done an evil action. However, this essay begins with God’s statement, “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” So we know that everything, including sentient beings like Job’s children, belong to God. Before embarking on his experiment to test Job, Satan asked permission to put Job to the test. God, to whom everything belongs, consented as long as Satan agreed not to kill Job.

    If the owner of a vessel agrees to destructive testing of the vessel, is the technician who performs the test held responsible for the destruction of the vessel? No. So by this reasoning, Satan’s test of Job is not an act of evil against Job, as even sentient beings belong to God. And God has not only allowed the test, but has set the conditions that Satan must follow. Satan is no hired technician, but a willing instigator; even so, he is acting with God’s permission.

    God is omnipotent, omnicient and benevolent, which is usually understood to imply that any action of God would not be evil. At least in the case of Job, God rewarded/blessed Job for his loss with more sons, the hottest daughters in all the land and more wealth than he had before this grand experiment. So, in the end, Job actually came out ahead. So from Job’s perspective, it seems that Gods actions were all for the best. The same cannot be said for his original children, who were sacrificed to prove a point about Job’s steadfastness under adversity.

    So other than the thievery of Job’s belongings and other sins by minor characters in the story, what acts of evil have occurred in the Book of Job?

    If this story were told with Satan replaced by Stan, God replaced by Gordon and Job by Jill, a judge would have no trouble convicting Stan and Gordon for the murder of Jill’s family, the theft of her property, and for the willful torture of Jill. Gordon would not be able to avoid then hangman’s noose by claiming that all of the actions were performed by Sam, since the judge would find that Gordon was an active partner in the conspiracy. Even if this action would have occurred in the antebellum South, with Jill being Gordon’s slave, Gordon’s actions would be seen as cruel. Stan may have committed the sins of commission, but Gordon is at least guilty of sins of omission. If Gordon told the judge that she was lucky to have lived as long as she did, because he was so strong that he could have killed her at will, it is unlikely that the judge would have been more lenient.

    In verse 42:11 of the RSV, we read of Jobs brothers and sisters, “… they comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him.” So indeed it is the case that God can do evil, at least in the words of this translation. So even when God can does evil, He cannot be held to account for the evil that he causes. This is not a Panglossian response – Job was not told that he lived in the best of all possible worlds where only the minimum possible evil is permitted. His suffering was real and the evil inflicted upon him was not a punishment for his actions. But he must not complain because he is puny and powerless.

    So is the solution to the problem evil that God alone cannot be held to account for evil actions? From Job, we learn that not only does God allow for a world in which evil occurs, he actually bring evil upon people (in the words of the RSV). Is the definition of sin to be “any act of evil not committed by God?”

    I am stating this in a way that tries to bring my essential points into strong focus.

    I believe that there is a moral bond between any two sentient beings. Any sentient being that causes excessive suffering, pain, injury or material loss to another sentient being has performed an evil action. By a study of neuroscience, it may someday be possible to quantify suffering. In this way, we may even be able to engineer a society that minimizes suffering.

    But this view is inconsistent with the Story of Job. In Job, there is no mutual obligation. Man is obliged to serve and God is inscrutable to Man.

    Posted by Robert Folkerts | January 30, 2012, 10:56 PM
    • There are any number of issues you raise in this response, but I’d like to focus in only on a couple.

      First, you wrote about the fact that Job was succumbed to illness. Now you attribute that to a bacteria, which may indeed have been the case. However, assuming we’re going along with the narration, the evil came because of Satan. “So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head” Job 2:7. Thus, to take Satan out of the equation as a causal agent begs the question.

      You wrote, “If the owner of a vessel agrees to destructive testing of the vessel, is the technician who performs the test held responsible for the destruction of the vessel? No. So by this reasoning, Satan’s test of Job is not an act of evil against Job, as even sentient beings belong to God. And God has not only allowed the test, but has set the conditions that Satan must follow. Satan is no hired technician, but a willing instigator; even so, he is acting with God’s permission.”

      This is a set of highly contentious claims. First, combined with the previous paragraph, in which you draw seemingly deterministic conclusions, you utilize the idea that Satan is “a willing instigator.” I admit that I have difficulty analyzing your claims. Thus, I find it hard to respond to this point. I believe Satan is a free creature, and it seems you agree–and if you disagreed that would be mostly irrelevant because here you’re challenging my view. Now, part of my confusion is with the combination of the notion of “Satan must follow” certain actions with the notion that Satan is a “willing instigator.” Indeed, to me these seem contradictory. Because I deny theological determinism, I do not think there is such a set of conditions that God determines such that Satan “must follow” them. And because you’re attacking my position, this challenge is off the mark. Perhaps it would work against a Calvinistic or Reformed view, but I hold to neither and have indeed attacked this position on more than one occasion (for example, the latest here).

      Perhaps I misunderstood what you’re argument is–it seems a bit disconnected to me–but even so, it seems you’re attacking a position I do not hold. And of course the section following this builds off the previous one. But I think it is also off the mark, because in no way do I hold that God determined the actions of Satan. Hence the “What if?” clause in the Romans passage quoted.

      Now, you wrote, ” So indeed it is the case that God can do evil, at least in the words of this translation. So even when God can does evil, He cannot be held to account for the evil that he causes.”

      Right, and this is a simplistic reading of the text which comes through because it’s an English gloss of the Hebrew. Now the Hebrew literally says they comforted him “for all evil which came LORD upon Him.” This is of course lacking in meaning in English, but in Hebrew it is idiomatic and could just as legitimately be translated “for all the evil which the LORD allowed to come upon him” why? Because the word for “came”, bo, is in the hiphil, which has a causative sense that makes bo mean “to come about” or “to come to pass.” Thus, this is a more legitimate translation for the passage. Its idiom can be lost in English. Not only that, but ra’ah- “evil” can also simply mean “bad.” I don’t want to go on too much of a tangent here, but it seems that bad probably fits the passage better, because “bad” doesn’t necessarily imply moral oughtness. For example, a parent can bring about the “bad” of punishing a child, when in fact it is a moral “good.” “Bad” things in many cases are indeed good or morally good. So another reading which I think is closer to the text is that God brought about bad. But of course this bad is not moral evil. There is a distinction between bad and moral evil. In either reading, the point pressed against the text fails.

      Side note from that paragraph–I don’t think this is the “best of all possible worlds” because that very notion seems incoherent. In fact, it is rejected in most theistic philosophy today (see for example Robert Merrihew Adams’ “The Virtue of Faith”).

      In short, I deny theological determinism, which undermines most of the first points in this comment. Second, I deny that God causes evil, which undermines the latter points.

      In conclusion, I’d like to point out three final things. First, the use of “problem of evil” in your first sentence is a bit distinct from how you use it later. The “problem of evil” I was addressing here is not the problem of whether God causes evil, but the problem of evil in its philosophical sense. Thus, your argument doesn’t actually detract from my points in the post. I was arguing against a different problem of evil–the philosophical one.

      Second, the argument presented in your comment is against, perhaps, the truth of various points in Scripture. My argument was to support theism. Now of course if theism is established, the probability of Scripture being true increases (this increase in probability applies to not just the Bible, but other Scriptures as well–independent arguments would have to be given for the Christian Scriptures specifically). Thus, if my argument in this post succeeds, then Scripture is more probably true. Of course, one could debate individual verses and the like, which leads into my final point.

      Third, I am uninterested and will not debate specific verses or “Bible Difficulties” here. It is a topic I am only vaguely interested in because I have found time and again that supposed contradictions or difficulties in the Bible are resolved with only the slightest research. I’m not saying those who raise them are unintelligent or dogmatic, but I am saying that it lies outside my area of interest. Those interested in Bible difficulties can either debate the specific ones I cite in my posts on the topic (see some here) or look at any one of the thousands of free resources online or several books on the topic (I recommend Geisler’s work “The Big Book of Bible Difficulties”). Thousands of years of Christian thought has provided sound–and often variant depending on the tradition–answers to any Bible difficulty I’ve run into. I suggest those interested or disturbed by these supposed contradictions or difficult passages do their research. These topics are outside of the area I specialize in, so I am only too happy to refer people to other sources.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 31, 2012, 6:40 PM
  10. I don’t have to worry about evil so I think, I am just one of billions around the world that for some reason evil does not enter there lives. But that does not mean that my soul is saved. For evil will have my soul far more easer than the person that has evil in there lives daily even when I am a true believer in Jesus. ,http://Thefightforoursouls.blogspot.co.uk

    Posted by william McDowell | October 15, 2012, 7:21 AM

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Pingback: Fallacious Arguments, Proof of Unicorns, and Cathy Cooper, oh my! « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - September 11, 2011

  2. Pingback: The Presuppositional Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - July 9, 2012

  3. Pingback: If a Good God Exists: Presuppositional Apologetics and the problem of evil | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" - April 29, 2013

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Advertisements

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,341 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason
%d bloggers like this: