General Problem Swinburne

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1 General Problem Swinburne Why God Allows Evil Why would an omnipotent, perfectly good God allow evil to exist? If there is not an adequate theodicy, then the existence of evil is evidence against the existence of such a God Theodicy: an explanation of why God could allow such evil to occur 1 2 Existence of God Deeper Goods Swinburne says he is not assuming God exists Rather, if God exists, what might this God allow? Swinburne wants to argue that if God were to exist, then God would have to allow certain evils to exist So, existence of evil is not evidence against God s existence Swinburne asks us to imagine what good things a generous and everlasting God [might] give to human beings God will give us deeper goods than pleasure and contentment God will give us: Great responsibility for ourselves, others, and the world A share in the creative activity of shaping the world we live in God will try to make our lives valuable 3 4

2 Deeper Goods and Evil Two Evils Moral Evil: evil caused by humans doing what they ought not to do Evil is necessary for these goods The problem is that God cannot give us these goods in full measure without allowing much evil on the way. Natural Evil: all evils not deliberately caused or allowed by humans What kind of evil is it when a baby suffers in an accidental house fire? 5 6 Free Will Defense Nature of Free Will Human s free and responsible choice is a great good A consequence of having free and responsible choice is the possibility of moral evil Once God grants free will, then God no longer has control over the occurrence of evil This implies (i) that God is not all-powerful once free will given to humans, (ii) that God will not enter into the natural world to change the course of events Free and responsible choice is...free will (of the kind discussed) to make significant choices between good and evil, which make a big difference to the agent, to others, and to the world. Humans can give pleasure and pain affect others change the world build personal relationships form their own characters through their actions 7 8

3 What God Gave Free Will and Harm God is like a father The father who gives a son responsibility over another but watches his son s every move has not given his son much freedom Why does Swinburne appear to think that having free will leads to evil or even the possibility of evil? Likewise, a God which has given limited powers has not given much Might God have given humans free will but have created it such that the expression of free will would never result in evil? A good God delegates responsibilities What about the evils of natural disasters? How can free will account for these kinds of evil? The price of sharing in creation brings the choice of helping or hurting others 9 10 Preventing Evil Victims of Free Will Swinburne also seems to think that God does not limit human freedom because any limits would undermine the great good given to us By analogy, a serial rapist lives next door and I know this Surely, I am justified in trying to prevent the rapist from acting But, according to Swinburne, if I restrict the rapist, then I have kept him from thinking he s in control of his actions and a free agent--i have prevented him from expressing the possibility of great good If this is true, then I have harmed the rapist by restricting his God-given freedom and his opportunity to act in the right way Should we all sit passively and watch evil and suffering in the world and do nothing? Should we all rejoice in our suffering and the suffering of others? Swinburne thinks that being a victim of moral evil is good And now note another great good--the good of our life serving a purpose, of being of use to ourselves and others...being allowed to suffer to make possible a great good is a privilege, even if the privilege is forced upon you. I am fortunate if the natural possibility of my suffering if you choose to hurt me is the vehicle which makes your choice really matter. Likewise, the belief that I am vulnerable to suffering at your hands, and that that is a good thing, can only be a good thing if being vulnerable to suffering at your hands is itself a good thing (independently of whether I believe it or not). Why is it undesirable to prevent evil, harm, and suffering? 11 12

4 Victimization as a Moral Good God s Limits to Admitting Suffering and Harm Swinburne argues that we should rejoice in our suffering and victimization God allows our suffering and victimization ultimately to benefit the one who caused you harm The victim of rape suffers to benefit the rapist Here is the point to recall that it is an additional benefit to the sufferer that his suffering is the means whereby the one who hurt him had the opportunity to make a significant choice between good and evil which otherwise he would not have had. And there are limits even to the moral right of God, our creator and sustainer, to use free sentient beings as pawns in a greater game. Yet, if these limits were too narrow, God would be unable to give humans much real responsibility; he would be able to allow them only to play a toy game. Still, limits there must be to God s rights to allow humans to hurt each other; and limits there are in the world to the extent to which they can hurt each other, provided above all by the short finite life enjoyed by humans and other creatures... God as father has a right to let his children suffer and suffering was the possible outcome to allowing free will But, God created us with finite lives so that our suffering would not be infinite This is the limit God placed on himself and his right to allow evil and suffering Other Limits? Purpose in God s Creation Are there other limits that an all-good God might have placed on evil? Swinburne assumes that creation serves a purpose and that purpose is supposed to be toward some divine-ordained good Could God have created a world of humans who thought evil but whose moral sentiments kept them from acting wickedly? Could God have prevented humans from actually performing evil even though they might be given the ability to think and desire evil? If so, then there is no greater good served by God actually allowing evil to exist as opposed to implementing evil restrictions But why assume purpose? If Swinburne s account for greater goods is true, then the only purpose need be that humans are given free will The assumption that there is a purpose to suffering and evil seems to beg the question by justifying suffering If the greater good just is free will, then there need not be any greater purpose served by one s free acts 15 16

5 Free Will and Natural Evil Natural Evil and Choice Assume Swinburne s free will argument is correct 1. Natural evil provides humans with knowledge of how to bring about evil It still does not explain natural evil, or evil that arises independent of human agency (e.g., hurrican Katrina) God could not give us the required knowledge independent of natural evil because then humans would know God exists and would not make significant choices Swinburne recognizes this and asserts that natural evil exists to be an example for human s moral evil Its [natural evil s] main role, I suggest, is to make it possible for humans to have the kind of choice which the free-will defence extols, and to make available to humans specially worthwhile kinds of choice. Knowledge of God s existence would make it hard for someone to do evil because we all have a natural inclination to wish to be thought well of by everyone...without which we would be less than human. 2. Natural evil gives humans a certain choice with respect to the evil Natural evil increases the range of significant choice --either endure it with patience, or to bemoan his lot Problems with Justifications for Natural Evil Problems with Justifications for Natural Evil Problem with natural evil being necessary to give us knowledge of evil If this is true, then God creates natural evil as an exemplar for moral evil It s not clear that God giving us ideas of how to create evil would entail that one believe God exists Free will may explain moral evil but not this version of natural evil; libertarian free will is still left unexplained Max the dog wants to be thought well of but he s not human Why assume that being thought well of makes us more human? Problems with natural evil allowing choice If choice in the face of natural evil is good, then we ought to seek suffering, pain, and evil (both moral and natural) Why think humans are at our best and interact with our fellows at the deepest level only in the face of natural evil? Surely, humans are capable of love and compassion without evil Development of heroes: if natural evil develops heroes and being a hero is a good, then one ought to seek as much (natural) evil as possible 19 20

6 Hero Worship Swinburne s Thought Experiment Swinburne denies that God wants too many heroes It would, of course, be crazy for God to multiply evils more and more in order to give endless opportunity for heroism... Why? i) It seems consistent with Swinburne s notion for God to increase opportunities for heroism ii) The assumption that there is a limit is necessary only because without a limit the logic would conflict with our notion of an allgood God Before your existence in this world you are given a choice as to the type of life you will live in this world: your life will be short, it will be as an adult Either i) you will have a short life of considerable pleasure benefiting only yourself or ii) you will have a short life of considerable pain which will benefit others Which choice will make your own life the best life for you to have led? But, this begs the question Thought Experiment and Moral Choice Swinburne s Account and Johnson Swinburne thinks the choice is obvious and one SHOULD choose the second option Swinburne s account uses many of the same excuses Johnson addresses for the existence of evil Swinburne implies that there is a moral choice to be made But, this assumes that this choice is a moral choice and even that all choices are moral choices. Is that true? Further, the problem highlights an assumption at work throughout E.g., free will, moral urgency, building character, benefiting others, etc. Does Swinburne s account adequately address the problems Johnson identifies? Is Swinburne s account dependent on a certain Abrahamic conception of God? That is, there s a morally correct way to view the response to suffering and evil and this response is tied to assumptions about God s existence Does Swinburne s account ultimately rest on the payoff one is to receive after undergoing suffering? Does his account differ in substance from Pascal s wager? Is this account unfalsifiable? Is there any event that cannot be explained as good because of the imagined payoffs? If not, then this account reflects an ideology and provides no positive evidence for God s existence

7 Christian Paradox of Predestination Swinburne argues that free will is a great good given by God But, Christian tradition speaks of God s predestination According to many NT passages, humans goals and actions are predestined by God before creation. If God predestined human actions, then humans are not the authors of their own destiny. Biblical predestination conflicts with biblical conceptions of free will and moral responsibility The paradox of predestination has been a highly debated issue in Christian theology, with Augustine being one of the key figures 25

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