Conversation with a knowledgable apologist


#1

This is my aim here. To find someone who is able and willing to conduct a dialog about some important questions. Two of them are the “problem of evil” and the “existence of hell” (but there are others). The question is how can anyone reconcile these two problems with the existence of the omnimax God.

I am hoping to find such an apologist - someone who is intellectually honest. I am NOT interested in books, essays, blogs. I read many of them, and all of them were loaded with incorrect arguments. It is impossible to have a conversation with books. Anyone willing to step up to the podium and participate?


#2

The bloggers at Strange Notions dialogue on this topic regularly!

https://strangenotions.com/index.php?s=problem+of+evil


#3

One on one? You could call Catholic theologian Dr. David Anders at EWTN’s “Called to Communion”
Bearing in mind that Catholics have a fairly wide latitude on any number of subjects - as long as we remain within the bounds of the sacred deposit of faith. And, in receiving or hearing those differences, some confusion may result - although all can be correct.

Professor Peter Kreeft is excellent on evil, as is Fr. Robert Spitzer, but 1 on 1 would be difficult to achieve.


#5

The short answer is “free will.” For love to be love, it must be freely chosen. If people are truly free to choose, then that means they can choose to reject God and to do evil things and that choice is respected. This is how people end up in hell (i.e. eternally separated from God) and is also the source of evil and suffering. If God swooped in to spare us from the consequences of evil choices, we wouldn’t be completely free.

Now, I know you brought up examples in another thread about small children (who aren’t yet capable of sin) who still suffer. That is certainly a difficult thing to experience and to wrap our minds around. I wouldn’t say there is an answer out there that someone could give that would make us think, “Oh, now I realize why innocent children suffer. Now I no longer have to feel bad for them.” It’s part of living in a fallen world that suffering doesn’t always get meted out on the merit system. Creation itself has been affected by that Original Sin. And this plays itself out in ways that aren’t always easy for us to see or understand.

You may find these answers unsatisfactory, and that’s fine. I don’t put myself forth as an articulate, shining beacon of Catholic apologetics. My ability to respond is going to be limited as I am unlikely to be on CAF that much for the next few weeks. So don’t take it personally if I am unable to participate in a lengthier discussion with you.


#6

The word “love” has many meanings. Which one do you have in mind? As far as I am concerned, the purest love is the love of small children toward their parents. Innocent, all encompassing, not forced… but is unable to do (or even think about) something evil. It is not “freely chosen”, toddlers cannot “choose”. They do not have the necessary “free will” to choose “evil”, and that makes the alleged value “free will” nonsensical.

And that would infinitely preferable.

Well said. There is no explanation.

Nope. The creation was affected by God’s curse, which was an “overreaction” to the assumed disobedience.

Moreover, the “free will” cannot explain all the natural “evils”. Anyhow, thank you for your input. It is much appreciated.


#7

I’m not sure if I can help or not, but I do know in order to even try I we would need to be on common ground.

Could you give a brief explanation of why you believe evil is a problem?

Why the existence of Hell is a problem?

What is an “omnimax” God?

Thanks,

God Bless


#8

I’m not sure where you are going with this? Is this how you would define the type of Love we should have towards God and God should have towards us?

Why would you prefer not to be completely free?

Also, why do you believe the fall is God’s fault?

How did God overreact and why do you believe this an overreaction? What response would you have had?

Why is the disobedience “assumed”?

To be honest I really wouldn’t even know where to start this conversation without knowing where you are coming from with these questions.

God Bless


#9

I’m willing to bite, with a slight caveat. What exactly about these two “problems” seems to you to be problematic to the concept of God’s existence?


#10

Yes, let’s try to build a common ground.

The word “omnimax” is a short form to express “all-knowing, all-powerful and all-benevolent”. Of these the “all-knowing” and “all-powerful” are problematic, but we can just accept the usually accepted meanings (at least for the time being). The “all-benevolent” is easier, it just means that God acts in a manner that is beneficial to all the affected parties. There is again some problem with this if the act has different ramifications for the people involved.

Hell is the worst, most evil concept ever developed. To subject someone to unending, everlasting torture is directly contradicted by the concept of benevolence. Some apologists try to argue that people “choose” hell, but that is ridiculous. No sane person would knowingly “choose” eternal torture.

Evil is a problem because it is contradicted by love. Again, some apologists argue that without evil there can be no love, but that is also nonsensical.

All these are simply “bullet-points”. All of them can be discussed in detail, but I don’t want this thread to degenerate into a question-and-answer session, where you all ask the questions and I provide the answers. Be proactive. :slight_smile:

I am interested exactly in these definitions. What does love mean in the proposition “we (humans) love God” and conversely “God loves us”. The word “love” is so loosely defined that it is next to impossible to use it in specific instances without specifying what kind of “love” we talk about.

If I would have to choose between freedom and heaven I would choose heaven.

It was what we call “entrapment”, like putting a candy to an easy to access place, tell the kid not to touch it, knowing full well that he will touch it, and then punish him for disobedience. And the punishment was not a slap on the wrist, rather a full-blown punishment (curse) for not just the perpetrators, but also their progeny.

Cursing the whole creation for the disobedience of Adam and Eve is overreacting. If someone misbehaves, you do not punish others for his deed. I would never present an opportunity for disobedience. When I don’t want my child to play with a loaded gun, I hide it so she cannot get to it. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

Because there is no historical evidence of the events in the Garden, and it is not required to accept it literally.


#11

The problem is the same as the alleged existence of a “married bachelor”. The omnimax attributes are internally inconsistent - and they are contradicted with the observed reality.


Here are some definitions for all of you to ponder:

Justice is when someone gets what she deserves. (Either punishment or reward)
Mercy is when someone does NOT get what she deserves. (In the case of punishment).
Grace is when someone gets what she does NOT deserve. (In the case of reward).

Please think about this.


#12

The apologists on catholic.com are all great. I am willing to help as much as I can. I can only promise you one thing, which is that I will say nothing that I am not sure is true.


#13

Undoubtedly. :slight_smile: The problem is that they seem to be very busy, and don’t have time for an ongoing conversation. At least that is my impression. In the days of yore we could present a question, and when the answer was given, the thread was locked. And the answers were frequently just links to other answers, or books or essays. As I said, I understand their reason. But I still would like to have a conversation, either openly on in PM-s.


#14

I am not a CAF apologist, but I’m willing to discuss the problem of evil. I’m sure we both have busy schedules, so I may not be able to make multiple replies a day. To help me keep focus, I don’t plan to read this entire topic and what other people are posting.For my own sanity, I can promise only that I’ll read at least what’s said between you and me. Is that fair?

My understanding of the problem of evil is as follows: Christians claim that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. They admit there is evil in the world. But that is illogical. If God is omnipotent, and there is evil in the world, He cannot be omnibenevolent, because an omnipotent God would not permit evil if He was omnibenevolent. If God is omnibenovolent and there is evil in the world, He cannot be omnipotent, because an omnibenevolent God would remove evil from the world if He were omnipotent. Therefore God cannot be both omnibenevolent and omnipotent.

Please let me know if you wish to put that in your own words or add to it.

The “omni” words in question are as follows:

  • Omnipotent: All powerful.
  • Omniscient: All knowing.
  • Omnibenevolent: Perfectly good.

I would like to add further thoughts to the terms omnipotent and omniscient. The use of the word omnipotent for God among most Catholic apologists does not entail that God has the power to create a logical contradiction, such as a square circle. Rather, what they mean is that God is the cause of all things (other than Himself) that have been, are, or could possibly be. Omniscient refers to God’s knowledge of all things that (from out perspective) have been, are, and will be. Some theologians posit that God only knows what is (according to the previous sentence), others hold that God knows every possible world. It’s my understanding that the latter is more common.

Before continuing, I’m interested in your own thoughts on what omnibenevolent means, and if you have any additional thoughts or concerns with how I explained omnipotent and omniscient.


#15

Very promising start. :slight_smile: For the sake of agreement, I will accept the omnipotence and the omniscience as you stipulated. I see some problems, but I don’t want to derail the conversation, and besides, they are fine (as first approximations). Omni-benevolence is a bit tricky. I would suggest that it means that God acts in the best interest of everyone. And that might be problematic. If an act is in the best interest of “A”, it is not certain that it is also in the best interest of “B”. Interests can conflict. But I also suggest that there is something that is in the best interest of everyone: namely to be in heaven and enjoy the beatific vision.

Would this be acceptable?


#16

Post 1 of 2

The Church has traditionally supported approaching God from a classical theist perspective, and that is my position as well. Just to be clear it’s not the only position added by Christians or theists, but I find the recently popular position of “theistic personalism” to have its issues. I won’t delve into that now, as it’s currently tangential, but those issues may come up organically as we continue. I digress.

With that said, I reject your definition of omnibenevolence with respect to God. The term is not a reference to God’s moral qualities, and indeed attributing a moral conscience to God in that manner is to make a categorical error in regards to what God is, as He is not a moral agent. Rather, it’s a reference to God as actus purus, that is, something which is simply actuality (as opposed to a being who is a potential being actualized), as being Subsistent Existence, not a being but Being Itself, something which just is necessarily.


#17

Post 2 of 2

Classical philosophers have long seen the transcendentals (being, goodness, truth, and some say beauty) as being convertible with each other. Existence in itself is therefore good (not a moral quality, though human morality is a subset of this view), and it’s the privation of being which is evil. Insofar as a triangle better instantiates the triangularity in itself, the better (or more good) is the triangle, and the more deficiencies it has the less good it is. Insofar as a dog is healthy he is instantiating part of what it means to be a good dog, functioning as it’s supposed to be. Insofar as a human acts according to what human nature should be, he is acting morally. The better something “be’s” what it should be, the more good it is in itself (though this isn’t always a reference to a moral good and doesn’t mean everything that results is good for everyone. For example, a good lion might prey upon a gazelle, but the gazelle has suffered an evil for itself).

So, insofar as God is Subsistent Being Itself, without privation or potential being actualized, God is perfectly good, or omnibenevolent, and while I can certainly see some follow up questions here regarding God being personal and His relation to man, God as omnibenevolent has first and foremost been used by classical philsophers to refer to the fullness of perfection in His Being (actus purus, and its convertibility with goodness), as discussed above.

[Edit: Consider a hypothetically perfect triangle. This would be a perfectly good triangle, insofar as it is a triangle. When we say God is perfectly good, we do so without qualifier, because He is just Being Itself, not a thing that falls under a genus or species.]

I’ll wait for your response to see where we go next. I’d prefer not to go one hundred directions at once. And there are a hundred different directions we could go from here…


#18

Or locking your two year old in a two by two with a puff adder but instructing him to just remain in one corner in order to be safe or else…


#19

This is my aim here. To find someone who is able and willing to conduct a dialog about some important questions. Two of them are the “problem of evil” and the “existence of hell” (but there are others). The question is how can anyone reconcile these two problems with the existence of the omnimax God.

Hello. Peace and warm regards.
Firstly, I admit, I’m far from an expert. But I have wrestled with these questions;
with heartache and tears for the unearned suffering that children go through.
And in my daily prayers, my heart does ache during the intentions for helpless
unearned suffering children and people.
~
Anyone in touch with reality and does not put their head in the sand recognizes
evil exists; and tremendous unearned suffering exists. Most avoid thinking about
it for various reasons; but many of good will because it is heart wrenching.
~
I’m sure you are familiar with points of causality and contingency.
With those arguments; do whatever degree we understand them, we are
obviously here; and each of us had a beginning. And nature & cosmology,
lately even made it more clear that there was a beginning to all we see.
I really do not wish to address the modern ideas on what some call
‘the hard problem,’ of consciousness. We do know that we have consciousness;
but with pure physical sciences; especially with historically, and much more
widely known today; that some people die, even rarely for more than a day;
cold as the ambient environment; with no oxygen to the brain; and survive.
Some have have given detailed descriptions of things like a shoe on a ledge;
or give detailed accounts of what someone was saying in another room or place.
So the preponderance of the evidence is that there is more than what we see.
~
Where does consciousness come from, seems to be a valid question to help
work at the hard questions of ‘the problem of evil,’ and ‘the existence of hell.’
~
Inside ‘time,’ it is difficult to conceive of what is outside ‘time’ as we know it.
Where did time, space, and matter come from? This reality exists, and it had
a beginning. The idea of oscillating existence of this reality or realities of realities;
and things of that nature still begs the question; how did it all begin?
The only way to attempt to fathom this; is to think transcendentally to attempt
to fathom beyond physical reality; with a consciousness that by it’s very nature
will ask, ‘what is the source of my existence and consciousness?’
~
OK. How do we reconcile the idea of an all powerful, all knowing, omni-present
benevolent God? For me, having seen hope and hopelessness; and we all have
an innate hope to find the best way to exist and help others live in peace,
health, and well being — transcendentally speaking; is there a fulfillment
of hope? What virtues help live in hope, and help others live in hope;
to share with others for them to live in hope to give hope to others & so on?
If we describe ‘love,’ as willing the good of the other; then how do we arrive
transcendentally at objective good, in a world that has evil and suffering?
With my natural inclination to hope; I think it is best to start with the premise
of ultimate benevolence.
cont…


#20

When wisdom is described as knowing others exist; and I exist with hope;
then I should not think, speak, or live in such a way to damage someone
else’s hope or reality of attaining the things for which we hope; peace,
health, and well being. Will I be selfless or selfish? Will I live in such a way
that brings hope or hopelessness in the confines of the power I personally have?
OK, from where did consciousness with hope arrive?
If the source of this consciousness has the same hope;
is this source, having allowed freewill and all that entails;
giving us the natural desire to hope for what is best for everyone;
leading us through a long arduous journey from inside time’s point of view;
to heal; make whole; to an ultimate reality where there is no pain of evil?
Does this source, truly suffer every last bit of all the extremes of helpless
unearned suffering, while at the same time see the end result; of granting
Eternal peace, joy, and happiness?
From all I have learned from those who came before me; those who
live now; is that this source does exist. This source is The Lord God Almighty;
Who Exists outside of time; always suffered unearned suffering with the helpless
unearned suffering; and while still existing outside of time; entered into
time in the Form of a man; to prove God is not only Benevolent; but takes us through
the suffering that freewill brought about; to rescue those who choose benevolence.
That Creation hasn’t ended; God is still creating; that the reality we live in is an extremely lucid dream compared to the ultimate reality we are still being created
for where we will exist… what is described as a new Heaven and a New Earth.
And Jesus CHRIST showed the meaning of selfless willing the good of the other;
true always existing LOVE, the True Nature of God.
~
I can only offer my own limited understanding. And at this time, I do not have the time with my own duties in hope to go back and forth much on this.
As for hell; in this creating creation; the Adolf Hitler types; those who chose
to ultimate decide that serving one’s ego and importance as their god;
I think they decide to be lonely forever. Where as we will have rivers of living
water flow through us in Eternal Life; as living stones in God’ temple, always
willing the good of the other;
Desire/[Fire] for Goodness; [Fragrant] with sharing;living [Stones]
they chose to be;
Desire/[Fire] for ego, with [Smoke] of selfishness [Brim]ing; lonely[Stones]
kept from revelry forever and ever.
~
One last thing that gives me hope. The Psalmist says, pain lasts for a night,
but joy is in the morning. And, a thousand years pass as a day in Your Sight O Lord.
When it is all said and done; there will be every lasting joy and happiness;
and from that vantage point, everything healed; with all things new;
we will not remember the pain; but live and bask with complete companionship
with one another and God.


#21

Now talking of time,(1000 years=1 day and vice versa) … Eternity? How long will it be? An instance? When some states are described from this side of death, it seems as if death is answering many questions. Had Christ not come back from it, we’d have an extremely hard time reconciling our existence with our non-existence.


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