God's ways are mysterious -- but I repeat myself! (A semi-review of Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer)
No one responded to my last post, so hopefully this one makes a little bit bigger of a splash. Unfortunately, this one probably isn't as funny as a lot of my other posts. Furthermore, I'm super-angry at Christian "logic" right now, so this is kind of a therapy for me. Also, I suppose anyone who doesn't want to know about the book mentioned in the title, by Todd Allen Gates, should probably not read this post.
I've been thinking about the "Problem of Pain", as C.S. Lewis states it. I have not read his book, but my Christian friend keeps telling me about it. My understanding of it is basically taken from Lee Strobel in various of his Case for Shite books.
Problem of Pain: Since pain (and suffering, etc) exist, God must not be omnibenevolent or not omniscient or not omnipotent. Either He is not omnibenevolent and hence may not want to stop suffering. Or he is not omniscient and can't think how to stop the suffering. Or he is not able to stop the suffering because he isn't quite omnipotent enough.
The following is actually taken from Todd Allen Gates' Dialogue with a Christian Proselytizer, but only what Kreeft says. In The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, Peter Kreeft, a famous modern-day Catholic philosopher, says:
"How can a mere finite human be sure that infinite wisdom would not tolerate certain short-range evils in order for more long-range goods that we couldn't foresee?
Look at it this way...the difference between us and God is greater than the difference between us and, say, a bear...Okay, then, imagine a bear in a trap and a hunter who, out of sympathy, wants to liberate him. He tries to win the bear's confidence, but he can't do it, so he has to shoot the bear full of drugs. The bear, however, thinks this is an attack and that the hunter is trying to kill him. He doesn't realize that this is being done out of compassion. Then, in order to get the bear out of the trap, the hunter has to push him further into the trap to release the tension on the spring. If the bear were semiconscious at that point, he would be even more convinced that the hunter was his enemy who was out to cause him suffering and pain. But the bear would be wrong. He reaches this incorrect conclusion because he's not a human being...how can anyone be certain that's not an analogy between us and God? I believe God does the same to us sometimes, and we can't comprehend why he does it any more than the bear can understand the motivations of the hunter. As the bear could have trusted the hunter, so we can trust God....when he sends us the sunrises, we thank him for the sunrises; when he sends us sunsets and deaths and sufferings and crosses, we thank him for that...
In heaven, we will do exactly that [Thank God for giving us bad things]. We will say to God, "Thank you so much for this little pain I didn't understand at the time, and that little pain I didn't understand at the time; these I now see were the most precious things in my life."
Gates' attack on this is, as usual for him in this book, quite accurate and painful for the Christian: If we accept the above logic, then all other religions can be read the same way. He had previously made use of the same argument when the Christian in the book (named Chris) referred to various parts of the Bible as metaphor; that, if we accept that as true, then why can't all other religions be true in the same parabolic (parable-ish?) way? They can be, so we've opened the door too wide. The atheist in the book says, "Duh, this points to Christianity being man-made, just like we decided for the other non-Christian religions." The Christian struggles with it through some painful logic; in any case, I'll get to my point.
While Gates' argument is valid, powerful, and funny, it strikes me as less direct, or at least not the most powerful argument that can be made against the Kreeft-spew.
I could be wrong, though, because it's hard to judge just how powerful arguments are (for me to do that, I mean). My argument against it would be this: If God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, then how is it that he can't explain his reasoning to us? The bear analogy is FALSE. We are not like bears in any sense, because we are rational. Bears are not (as far as we know). We have the ability to think, to weigh outcomes, to decide, to make value judgements, whereas (again, as far as we know) bears cannot. And anyway, if God is so omniscient and omnipotent, then he not only CAN explain it to us if he so chose, he would have the power to make us understand. Further, he would be able to do it without removing our free-will, which is an argument for another post. I'll be making that post in the Kill 'em with Kindness forum shortly.
My question to Christians (and other theists) is this: Why is it that when we have used reason to come to a conclusion that God must not exist, suddenly God is mysterious and therefore not subject to reason? My Christian friend is guilty of contradicting himself when it comes to a question like this: He says that we HAVE to use reason to understand things and choose between them, including God. But we just can't understand God. If he expects me to believe in God (and he does), how can he expect me to use reason to come to a positive conclusion about God's existence as true, when fundamentally reason cannot be used to understand God?
Another thing that has been bothering the crap out of me is the thesis that Christians have that positive outcomes can come from negative events. This is basically the, "We can't know that your spouse (or whatever) dying in that car accident didn't have a positive outcome for you. You can overcome it and become a better person for it, stronger emotionally, spiritually, and closer to God."
Two words: BULL FLOP. This comes back to my previous argument that God COULD explain these things to us if he's really omniscient and omnipotent. Furthermore, the answer, of course, presupposes God's existence. This argument is most often used in an attempt to disprove God's omnibenevolence (that is, the argument from pain/suffering). You cannot answer it by saying it brings you closer to God. If we conveniently leave that part out, then it makes more sense. That would, according to my Christian friend's belief in God, disprove God's existence.
I hope to come back with another post on here and continue reviewing more and more of the book. I highly suggest it to everyone. Todd Allen Gates does a superior job of cutting Christianity to gibbons -- that is, he makes them look like stupid, small apes. However, I fear I may not do it justice, for it is that good. Thanks for listening, or not.
"Jesus -- the other white Moses" - Me.