A Brotherhood of Man

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
But that's my point, an omnipotent God could fulfil or deal with that good reason without allowing smallpox.

In any case, you're speculating.
But you're equally speculating that God could not have a sufficiently moral reason for allowing smallpox? How do you know that smallpox doesn't play an important role in the world's ecosystem? Furthermore, I'm not entirely sure why God would have a moral obligation to stop the origination and spread of smallpox if it developed naturally.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
No-one believes that, as evidenced by the lack of anyone opposing its eradication by claiming we would have been interfering in God's plan.
But that assumes what God's plan is. What if it is part of God's plan to have humans work together out of love to eradicate smallpox?

My general points would be regarding matters of natural evil are these:
(1) I don't see why God would have a moral obligation to remove them.
(2) There are earthly goods that result from natural evils that would be lost (e.g., differentiation of species and propagation).
(3) There are moral goods that result from natural evils that would be lost (e.g., fraternity, courage, etc.).
(4) We couldn't possibly know what role these kinds of natural evil play in the short and long term.
(5) Some forms of natural evil have a right to exist in themselves (e.g., bacteria).
(6) From a specifically Christian perspective, the purpose of life for human beings is not to live suffering-free but to draw closer to God. Natural evils might help in this.
 

Whatsisface

Well-known member
But you're equally speculating that God could not have a sufficiently moral reason for allowing smallpox?
So you admit you're speculating when you wonder if God has moral reason for allowing smallpox.
Care to speculate further on what that moral reason might be?
How do you know that smallpox doesn't play an important role in the world's ecosystem?
Really? An omnipotent God could set up the world any way He wanted.
Furthermore, I'm not entirely sure why God would have a moral obligation to stop the origination and spread of smallpox if it developed naturally.
Really? Because he has the power to stop it, and the appalling suffering that comes with it, that's why.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
So you admit you're speculating when you wonder if God has moral reason for allowing smallpox.
Care to speculate further on what that moral reason might be?

Really? An omnipotent God could set up the world any way He wanted.

Really? Because he has the power to stop it, and the appalling suffering that comes with it, that's why.
Of course, I'm speculating. How are we supposed to know what God knows? Here's one possible reason: the existence and emergence of smallpox might have increased love and courage in human beings over the centuries in ways that it wouldn't have if there wasn't such a threat.

Sure, God could have set up any kind of world. But He set up this one. Why does God have a moral obligation to not set up this kind of world? Yes, there is appalling suffering that comes out of natural evils but a world without them might be worse. Also remember that from a Christian perspective the telos of humanity isn't natural bliss on earth (if it was, I'd agree with you) but rather becoming like God for eternity.
 

Whatsisface

Well-known member
Of course, I'm speculating. How are we supposed to know what God knows? Here's one possible reason: the existence and emergence of smallpox might have increased love and courage in human beings over the centuries in ways that it wouldn't have if there wasn't such a threat.
Again I have to ask, really?

Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century alone and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence. As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year. Here is a picture of someone with smallpox, have a good look at what you think God might have thought worthwhile for increased love and courage, when if those traits were important to an omnipotent God He could have just increased them in our nature to start with, and avoided all this. This is what you're incredibly asking me to believe. And I'm just talking of smallpox, which is not the worst of many diseases that kill in great numbers and cause great suffering before death. I for one do not think that's a moral or acceptable way to increase love and courage where it could be done by an omnipotent God in the first place without the suffering. Do you?




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Sure, God could have set up any kind of world. But He set up this one.
Where he didn't have to.
Why does God have a moral obligation to not set up this kind of world?
Because of the suffering it entails, of course.

Yes, there is appalling suffering that comes out of natural evils but a world without them might be worse.
Really? An omnipotent God could set up the world any way He wanted, not with the constraints you're speculating about.

Also remember that from a Christian perspective the telos of humanity isn't natural bliss on earth (if it was, I'd agree with you) but rather becoming like God for eternity.
Ok. Go and tell a smallpox sufferer that, you never know, they might say, oh, well, that's alright then.
 

5wize

Well-known member
Of course, I'm speculating. How are we supposed to know what God knows? Here's one possible reason: the existence and emergence of smallpox might have increased love and courage in human beings over the centuries in ways that it wouldn't have if there wasn't such a threat.

Sure, God could have set up any kind of world. But He set up this one. Why does God have a moral obligation to not set up this kind of world? Yes, there is appalling suffering that comes out of natural evils but a world without them might be worse. Also remember that from a Christian perspective the telos of humanity isn't natural bliss on earth (if it was, I'd agree with you) but rather becoming like God for eternity.
What you are really addressing here is the "hiddenness" of god. You are correct in that he might have sufficient reason for the existence of suffering - all hidden from us, but what you cannot assert is some coherence regarding his hiddenness from the world that he created for us, us exclusively, thus binding us to him as a child to a father. This temporal hiddenness under such a temporal experience granted us is reason enough to disregard all your speculations concerning his potential nature and justifications for anything he does because we obviously require more guidance than he is giving. Unless of course you are telling me that his hiddenness is one of those hidden mysteries as well..... well that sure is convenient now isn't it?
 
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Nouveau

Well-known member
But that assumes what God's plan is. What if it is part of God's plan to have humans work together out of love to eradicate smallpox?

My general points would be regarding matters of natural evil are these:
(1) I don't see why God would have a moral obligation to remove them.
(2) There are earthly goods that result from natural evils that would be lost (e.g., differentiation of species and propagation).
(3) There are moral goods that result from natural evils that would be lost (e.g., fraternity, courage, etc.).
(4) We couldn't possibly know what role these kinds of natural evil play in the short and long term.
(5) Some forms of natural evil have a right to exist in themselves (e.g., bacteria).
(6) From a specifically Christian perspective, the purpose of life for human beings is not to live suffering-free but to draw closer to God. Natural evils might help in this.
Then why was there not a single Christian anywhere standing up against the eradication of smallpox? No-one argued that the benefits of smallpox outweighed its harm. No-one was concerned that we would be upsetting God's plan by getting rid of it. At a practical level, everyone acknowledges that there are natural evils in this world that we would be better off without.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
Again I have to ask, really?

Smallpox is estimated to have killed up to 300 million people in the 20th century alone and around 500 million people in the last 100 years of its existence. As recently as 1967, 15 million cases occurred a year. Here is a picture of someone with smallpox, have a good look at what you think God might have thought worthwhile for increased love and courage, when if those traits were important to an omnipotent God He could have just increased them in our nature to start with, and avoided all this. This is what you're incredibly asking me to believe. And I'm just talking of smallpox, which is not the worst of many diseases that kill in great numbers and cause great suffering before death. I for one do not think that's a moral or acceptable way to increase love and courage where it could be done by an omnipotent God in the first place without the suffering. Do you?




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Where he didn't have to.

Because of the suffering it entails, of course.


Really? An omnipotent God could set up the world any way He wanted, not with the constraints you're speculating about.


Ok. Go and tell a smallpox sufferer that, you never know, they might say, oh, well, that's alright then.
I'm not asking you to believe anything. The claim was made that the existence of a disease like smallpox is logically inconsistent with the Judeo-Christian God. My point was that it isn't logically inconsistent. To say that God could have made us inherently courageous and loving I don't think fully understands what being courageous and loving are about. As Aristotle noted, these qualities are developed in the doing, not just in the mind. We need opportunities to exercise such virtues to grow in them.

Is it valid to cry out: "Look how awful smallpox is and how much people suffer"? Sure, it's true and nobody's denying it. However, it doesn't contradict the point that there are goods that come out of great evil and suffering which we frankly don't know (and couldn't know).

If you want a pastoral approach, though, that's different. I'd show them to cross and talk about that. That is the cause of some relief to many people - at least more so than saying: "There is no God, you're stuffed, you're gonna die and that's it, oh and your life has no real meaning or purpose."

If you want to discuss this with regards to arguments, we can. But if you want to bring emotive elements to bare, I'm not sure this is the correct forum for it.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
What you are really addressing here is the "hiddenness" of god. You are correct in that he might have sufficient reason for the existence of suffering - all hidden from us, but what you cannot assert is some coherence regarding his hiddenness from the world that he created for us, us exclusively, thus binding us to him as a child to a father. This temporal hiddenness under such a temporal experience granted us is reason enough to disregard all your speculations concerning his potential nature and justifications for anything he does because we obviously require more guidance than he is giving. Unless of course you are telling me that his hiddenness is one of those hidden mysteries as well..... well that sure is convenient now isn't it?
I'm not saying that the sufficient reason for suffering is hidden from us as much as we don't have the intellectual faculties to know and understand them (we're not omniscient). I don't really understand what you mean by "temporal hiddenness". Do you mean, that God has no morally sufficient reason for not explaining precisely why every aspect of suffering we experience, individually and collectively, is permitted?
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
Then why was there not a single Christian anywhere standing up against the eradication of smallpox? No-one argued that the benefits of smallpox outweighed its harm. No-one was concerned that we would be upsetting God's plan by getting rid of it. At a practical level, everyone acknowledges that there are natural evils in this world that we would be better off without.
I don't think you understood what I was saying - it's in standing up together against such diseases that we exercise virtues. Perhaps God allowed smallpox precisely because He know people would band together to work to overcome it. Please note my six points.
 

Whatsisface

Well-known member
I'm not asking you to believe anything. The claim was made that the existence of a disease like smallpox is logically inconsistent with the Judeo-Christian God. My point was that it isn't logically inconsistent. To say that God could have made us inherently courageous and loving I don't think fully understands what being courageous and loving are about. As Aristotle noted, these qualities are developed in the doing, not just in the mind. We need opportunities to exercise such virtues to grow in them.

Is it valid to cry out: "Look how awful smallpox is and how much people suffer"? Sure, it's true and nobody's denying it. However, it doesn't contradict the point that there are goods that come out of great evil and suffering which we frankly don't know (and couldn't know).

If you want a pastoral approach, though, that's different. I'd show them to cross and talk about that. That is the cause of some relief to many people - at least more so than saying: "There is no God, you're stuffed, you're gonna die and that's it, oh and your life has no real meaning or purpose."

If you want to discuss this with regards to arguments, we can. But if you want to bring emotive elements to bare, I'm not sure this is the correct forum for it.
I will probably answer more fully later, but here and now i despair at what being a Christian can lead you to. Here you are defending God allowing smallpox on the grounds that some unknown good might come of it. Where is that good in this world that God couldn't achieve without the smallpox, that would be the equivalent good to the evil of smallpox and all the other, often worst, diseases? Here we are having this complex philosophical/logical exchange about this, when the simplest answer is obvious. The world is acting as it would if there were no God. That's why there's smallpox etc and you're bending over backwards to accommodate this dreadful disease into your worldview.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
I will probably answer more fully later, but here and now i despair at what being a Christian can lead you to. Here you are defending God allowing smallpox on the grounds that some unknown good might come of it. Where is that good in this world that God couldn't achieve without the smallpox, that would be the equivalent good to the evil of smallpox and all the other, often worst, diseases? Here we are having this complex philosophical/logical exchange about this, when the simplest answer is obvious. The world is acting as it would if there were no God. That's why there's smallpox etc and you're bending over backwards to accommodate this dreadful disease into your worldview.
Okay, let's assume you are right. Why is the alternative any better? In that case, smallpox is a terrible thing that kills people and causes suffering and there's no redeeming reason at all. That seems to be a more despairing scenario.

However, as I think I said before, since I believe God is the ground of morality, He cannot by His very nature commit a moral evil. Therefore, allowing natural and moral evils must not be morally evil acts. Okay, how can that be the case? It can be the case if (a) there is no evil intention, (b) the act itself is not intrinsically evil, and (c) the circumstances are not such that make it evil. So, in evaluating God allowing a natural evil like smallpox, I do not think he would do so because He wants people to suffer and die - so (a) doesn't apply - and I don't think allowing an evil is in itself an intrinsically evil act (as opposed to causing an evil), so (b) doesn't apply. I think (c) is the trickiest. And it's where I think we just don't have enough knowledge. For instance, any person X in the circumstances where smallpox is allowed might contract it and indeed suffer terribly and die, but those circumstances might also bring them closer to God and save their eternal lives, which would be an overwhelming good. I'm not claiming that's always the case, only that it's a possible circumstance. And so, knowing what kind of God exists, I'll give Him the benefit of the doubt.

How do you know what the world would be like if there were or were not a God? It's very possible there would be no world if there were no God. Additionally, there are aspects of the world - such as morality - that point to some kind of transcendent grounding.

I can see where you're coming from but I'm not convinced by the existence or extent of evil as counting against God. As a Christian, I've seen the great evil human beings can commit, as well as the great love, so I'm quite open to the world being like anything. Christians also believe that evil has affected the natural world too.
 

5wize

Well-known member
I'm not saying that the sufficient reason for suffering is hidden from us as much as we don't have the intellectual faculties to know and understand them (we're not omniscient). I don't really understand what you mean by "temporal hiddenness". Do you mean, that God has no morally sufficient reason for not explaining precisely why every aspect of suffering we experience, individually and collectively, is permitted?
Not having the intellectual faculties to know and understand his reason and divine hiddenness is a distinction without a difference.

No, I am not saying god has no morally sufficient reason to for not explaining precisely why every aspect of suffering we experience, individually and collectively, is permitted. Even our own loving mothers and fathers cannot do that, and they often witness and experience our suffering in their own way, tangibly, first hand, right along with us. I am saying that it is the Christian who has anthropomorphized god into a loving involved father.... yet he is not... all is hidden, much unlike our mothers and fathers who are slugging it out right here with us in meaningful ways, and what we think we know about a god is speculated by a natural revelation without guidance, which in no way leads to a god concept without heavy philosophy not reachable by the majority of humanity and obviously not instilled in us by a creator to some common conclusion because there are so many conclusions about him.

God seems nothing more than a concept of a clean canvas for our human exercises of personal, and if collective - localized, analogy and metaphor , mixed in with a desire for eternity, of what is really a self contained and temporal existence. All of the attributes you give him short of omniscient and omnipotent (which is a dicey belief given circumstances), are anthropic.
 
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Nouveau

Well-known member
I don't think you understood what I was saying - it's in standing up together against such diseases that we exercise virtues. Perhaps God allowed smallpox precisely because He know people would band together to work to overcome it. Please note my six points.
Oh please. A loving God does not send devastating diseases to children just so the rest of us can experience a bit of comaraderie and teamwork in treating and eliminating it. I don't think a single Christian anywhere who had to fight smallpox thought it was all worth it in the end because of how much fun they had fighting the deadly illness. I can't believe you would really worship a God who has us exercise our virtues at the cost of the suffering of children.
 

treeplanter

Well-known member
See, this is a good example of many atheists (and secularists?) holding to utilitarianism. "Not causing harm" is not equivalent to "loving someone". In fact, there might be many occasions when harming someone (or, at least, what looks like "harm" - depending on how we define the term) is actually the loving thing to do. The "harm" that God causes might be a result not of God but the instrument with which he is dealing, like a blacksmith necessarily must heat and hammer steel before he can shape it into a useful tool.
The blacksmith, if he is to fashion a tool from a piece of steel, has no other choice except to hold it to the fire and hammer it

Such are the limitations of the human race
We, sometimes, have no other choice except to cause harm in the course of achieving a greater good!

God, on the other hand, is not limited
God always has choice
God is never compelled to cause harm in the course of achieving a greater good!

When God burns us, it is needless
When God hammers us, it is needless

And to consciously and purposefully inflict needless harm upon another is immoral
 

treeplanter

Well-known member
I pretty much agree with you, Treeplanter. A moral sense and faculty is something that is part of human nature and we abstract from our experiences to reach general principles regarding moral values and obligations.

I'd say differences come in when we try to ground morality and with regards ethical systems; this is a bit generalised, but I think theists tend to be more drawn to deontology and virtue ethics, whereas atheists (secularists?) tend to be more drawn towards utilitarianism and pragmatism.

With regards to special pleading for God, I think this is another key difference. There are at least three ways that this might run (and I tend to subscribe to the last two): (a) God has no moral obligations; (b) God has moral obligations but they aren't always the same as human beings; and (c) God is the ground of Being (and, as such, the ground of morality), therefore, anything God does is ipso facto good, so if something appears immoral it is likely we are mistaken when applying it to God
"God is the ground of Being" is just a more palatable way of saying that 'might makes right'

"God has moral obligations but they aren't always the same as human beings"???

You would never accept it as good and just that a human authority figure hold you to a moral standard that he, himself, is not willing to conform to so why accept it as good and just when God does the same?

Oh yeah, you've already provided the answer to this question...

God is the ground of Being / morality {i.e. might makes right} and so, therefore, He doesn't have to play by the rules

Well, in as much as there is nothing any of us can do about it, that may well be true - God doesn't have to play by the rules, but if He wants to be regarded as a moral being then He DOES have to play by the rules!

If He wants me to respect Him, then He DOES have to play by the rules!

If He expects me to glorify Him, then He DOES have to play by the rules!
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
Not having the intellectual faculties to know and understand his reason and divine hiddenness is a distinction without a difference.

No, I am not saying god has no morally sufficient reason to for not explaining precisely why every aspect of suffering we experience, individually and collectively, is permitted. Even our own loving mothers and fathers cannot do that, and they often witness and experience our suffering in their own way, tangibly, first hand, right along with us. I am saying that it is the Christian who has anthropomorphized god into a loving involved father.... yet he is not... all is hidden, much unlike our mothers and fathers who are slugging it out right here with us in meaningful ways, and what we think we know about a god is speculated by a natural revelation without guidance, which in no way leads to a god concept without heavy philosophy not reachable by the majority of humanity and obviously not instilled in us by a creator to some common conclusion because there are so many conclusions about him.

God seems nothing more than a concept of a clean canvas for our human exercises of personal, and if collective - localized, analogy and metaphor , mixed in with a desire for eternity, of what is really a self contained and temporal existence. All of the attributes you give him short of omniscient and omnipotent (which is a dicey belief given circumstances), are anthropic.
I'm still unclear by what you mean about the purpose of evil being permitted in the world being "hidden". Or God hidden generally.

With the former, I really do think that it's not so much hidden as ultimately unknowable to the human mind, like trying to explain algebra to an infant. It's our natural limitation that means we cannot comprehensively know the purpose why God would permit any singular or collective evil events. However, it doesn't mean that we can't understand how they might be allowed or the purpose for them and why this matters.

As for the second point, I don't think God is especially hidden. I think specific theological truths about God might be difficult to attain or understand but that a God exists and has certain properties is something that most human beings have believed in, with little or no theological knowledge. I would argue that while theology is important, God is probably more concerned about what people do with what they have to develop themselves and reach out to Him.

I disagree about ascribing to God anthropic properties. When we speak about God in an anthropomorphic manner, we are trying to understand God analogically. Attempting to provide a psychological account for why people believe in God isn't the same as dealing with the arguments for God's existence and how philosophy and theology can illuminate understandings of God.
 

jonathan_hili

Well-known member
Oh please. A loving God does not send devastating diseases to children just so the rest of us can experience a bit of comaraderie and teamwork in treating and eliminating it. I don't think a single Christian anywhere who had to fight smallpox thought it was all worth it in the end because of how much fun they had fighting the deadly illness. I can't believe you would really worship a God who has us exercise our virtues at the cost of the suffering of children.
Who said God sent anything? I'm saying that God permits the world to be the world and (a) He has no moral obligation not to and (b) there are good reasons why He does. From the Christian worldview, the world is fallen and not as it should be or as God ordained it to be. It is in statu viae or "in a state of journeying". I worship a God who was willing to enter into the ugliness of the world and suffer alongside us and for us.
 
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Bob Carabbio

Well-known member
If you wanna prove me wrong

I have no interest in attempting to Prove you wrong. You're completely welcome to your opinions.

What I DO know is that your only hope of life after death is FAITH in the SIN OFFERING of Jesus on the cross. Nothing else really matters.
 
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jonathan_hili

Well-known member
The blacksmith, if he is to fashion a tool from a piece of steel, has no other choice except to hold it to the fire and hammer it

Such are the limitations of the human race
We, sometimes, have no other choice except to cause harm in the course of achieving a greater good!

God, on the other hand, is not limited
God always has choice
God is never compelled to cause harm in the course of achieving a greater good!

When God burns us, it is needless
When God hammers us, it is needless

And to consciously and purposefully inflict needless harm upon another is immoral
I agree that God is never compelled to cause harm in the course of achieving a greater good. That is different, though, from allowing harm to occur because of the inherent limitations and choices of created reality (both physical and spiritual).
 
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