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Letters to a Doubting Thomas 7-8: Theism and Evil, Naturalism and Evil


Page 179-

Suppose God creates intelligent finite beings. Such creatures would be “puppets” responding to God’s love and goodness in a predetermined fashion.

With God as all knowing, all powerful, and our creator, it seems that “puppets” although probably too strong a term, is all we can logically be. Even given incompatibilist free will, that just adds some randomness to the mix. It adds no ‘good’ to the system.

Page 180- Layman bizarrely asserts that a free choice is only free if we are tempted in more than one direction. Therefore perhaps God tempts us with self interest only to make our choice to choose him ‘free’. This adds more incoherence to his view of free will. The incompatibilist sense of free will would seem to necessitate that even without any reasons to do x, I am still ‘free’ to choose x. If only the desires for x gives me the freedom to choose x, it would seem that those desires are the causal factor in the system. Layman starts to sound sort of like a compatibilist who says we are free insofar as we can pursue what we desire.

Page 182- Layman states the views of Augustine and Irenaeus on the sins in Eden. Augustine says that humans were morally ‘pristine’ but fell from God’s graces anyway, lacking any desire to do so. Irenaeus believed that at creation we had the capacity for moral and spiritual development, with desires that could lead us into temptation. Layman agrees more with Irenaeus.

Page 184- A good God has good reasons to provide significance, and suffering adds significance. Does Layman’s view take into account all the lives that are led in insignificant fashion, by no choose of the agent? I’m talking children dying alone of starvation, with no means of escape. It would seem to me that this is predicted better by Naturalism than Theism.

Page 185- Deepest loving relationships include mutual vulnerability. God shows his vulnerability by allowing people to harm those he loves. Really? Do I show my new wife love by allowing her to abuse my child? Sounds like we are holding God to a different standard than we hold ourselves, rendering the very idea of a morally perfect God meaningless.

Chapter 7 offer’s cheap apologetics for the problem of evil, mostly relying on the free will defense. For reasons including that free will doesn’t exist, I find the rationale unsatisfying. Chapter 8 makes the case that naturalism doesn’t explain evil because it doesn’t explain the existence of conscious beings in the first place. I am not sure if this is valid. We’ll add this to the question box.

If naturalism cannot account for contingent beings, then does it on that same note fail to account for evil?

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