Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Negating the Negations: My Objections to Stephen Law’s Evil-God Challenge

In his recent debate with William Lane Craig and in his paper “The Evil-God Challenge” Stephen Law, an atheist philosopher from Heythrop College in London, concedes, for the sake of argument, that arguments like the cosmological arguments and fine tuning argument show that a creator God is possible. However, he asserts that these arguments don’t tell us anything about that god’s character and that these arguments could be in support of an evil god. This observation is quite obvious and wouldn’t be refuted by most apologists, including myself, as these arguments were never intended to show all of God’s attributes. That’s why apologists like William Lane Craig advocate the moral argument for God. While Law’s twist on the classical problem evil is ingenious I will show that his argument falls short by using a twist on Craig’s moral argument.

First of all, I’m not even sure that evil is really a thing—it seems like evil is an absence of good much like coldness is an absence of heat and darkness is an absence of light. Aquinas, in his Fourth Way, argues that, “Since all existent things can be compared to such qualities as degrees of goodness, there must exist something that is an Absolutely Good Being.” So, evil god would just be an absence of goodness.  

Law argues that you can turn all the usual theodicy arguments such as the free will argument and character argument into theodicies for the evil god. He argues that evil god would allow free will so that people could freely choose to do evil even though this means that people could also choose to do good. I think there is a slight problem with this reversal because theists usually argue that a major reason why God would choose to give humans free will is so they can choose whether or not to love and worship him. Free will is necessary for authentic relationships. I’m not sure that it follows that evil god would give us free will in order to be in relationship with us. It seems that evil god would just want people to torture—he wouldn’t care about how we feel about him.

However, I don’t want to focus on the theodicies for the good and evil god that seem to make each god plausible—I want to focus on objective moral values. In his debate with Craig, Law concedes that it seems that we intuitively know that objective moral values exist and that it would take a very powerful argument to challenge this intuition. We all just seem to know that killing innocent people is wrong. If we intuitively know that objective moral values exist then wouldn’t we intuitively know that evil objective morals would exist if evil god existed?

  1. 1. If evil god exists then evil objective moral values exist.
  2. 2.     Evil objective moral values don’t exist.
  3. 3.    Therefore evil god doesn't exist.

If evil objective moral values existed then we would intuitively know that killing innocent people is good. We would know that torturing, raping and killing little children is virtuous. If evil god existed then the golden rule might read, “Hurt others before they can hurt you.” This is clearly not what we see in the real world.

Law argues in his paper that this argument would get gored on the horns of the Euthyphro dilemma. He writes in his paper, “Suppose we say that God, as divine law-maker, decrees that certain things such as stealing and murder, are wrong. Does God decree this because He recognizes that certain things are wrong or because He decrees them to be so?” This is a false dilemma because objective moral values are grounded in the nature of God. So, evil objective moral values would flow out of that god’s evil nature.

Since we can rule out evil god we can see God’s character in Craig’s moral argument.
  1. 1.    If God exists then objective moral values exist.
  2. 2.    Objective moral values exist.
  3. 3.    Therefore God exists.

You combine the cosmological arguments and fine tuning argument to the moral argument and an omnipotent, omniscient, eternal and good God emerges. To get the Christian God we would need to add the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since a good God seems necessary to explain the world we live in we can use theodicies to explain why a perfectly good, omniscient and omnipotent God would allow evil to exist in the world.

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